MARCH 2021 – On Friday, Feb 19, Bio-Med teachers and staff had the opportunity to get the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This was a digital day, so students could work from home while staff received their vaccinations.
“The process was smooth and convenient,” Mrs. Borcoman, the Interventionist Specialist for grades 9-12 commented. “It was a great bonus that we were able to do it here in our building. In many other districts they have to travel outside of their district to have it done.”
Mrs. Mihalik, College, Career, and Finance teacher, shared her experience with the vaccine as well.
“The staff was called back in alphabetical order by first name, so I was in the last group called. I was anxious because I was afraid they would run out by the time they got to me,” she explained. “When they called me back, I sat with a nurse as she explained which vaccine I was getting and what side effects I might experience. Afterward, I had to sit in a room for fifteen minutes to make sure I had no adverse effects.”
Staff members had a choice of choosing to be vaccinated or not and shared their reasoning behind their decision.
“While I was wary about the vaccine considering the rapidity within which it was created, I am a proponent of the benefits of vaccination as well as the professionalism and expertise of our medical community,” Mrs. McLaughlin, Bio-Med principal stated. “I had to practice what I preach, so to speak. I also think that mass vaccination will be the best way to work towards a sense of normalcy in our daily lives. I’m willing to do my part.”
“I am scared that there is a possibility of bad side effects but I know in the end it will be for everyone’s good,” Ms. Brook commented. When being asked about her decision to get the vaccine, she responded that “I would hate to have my loved ones wonder why I didn’t get the vaccine if I possibly died from Covid.”
Many teachers felt a sense of morality when it came to getting vaccinated. Ms. Hisey, the sophomore language arts teacher stated, “I got the vaccination not only to protect myself, but because I feel that vaccination in general is a moral duty that we all owe to our neighbors and communities. Not everyone is medically able to get vaccinated, so it’s important that we protect the vulnerable among us.”
“As an immunocompromised person, I feel much, much safer knowing that I will have some protection. I’m grateful to all the researchers who worked night and day to get this to us,” Ms. Hisey concluded.
After receiving the first dose of the vaccine, staff members were asked to fill out a survey, with questions about the severity of side effects, along with their blood type. It has been speculated that there could be a link to the severity of vaccination side effects and the blood type of the recipient.
As for COVID-19 itself, studies have speculated that people with blood type A were likely to get a higher risk of infection than those with blood type O, which was the least likely. The results of the survey were used to see if this was the case with staff members.
Out of the 17 responses in the survey, 31.3% had a blood type of A+, 18.8% had O+, 6.3% had O-, B-, and B+, and 31.3% did not know their blood type. Staff members were asked to rate the severity of their side effects on a scale of 1-10, with one being little to none and ten being really severe.
All participants of the survey answered a number below six, with the average being 2.4. The average for people with blood types A- and A+ was 2.4, for B- and B+ the average was 3, and for blood type O- and O+, it was 2.25. Out of this sample population data, the group with the highest severity of side effects being blood type B, which contradicts what was speculated previously. With the data collected, there was no direct correlation between the severity of symptoms and blood type.
While not severe, most staff members still experienced side effects after the vaccine.
Mr. Martau, the sophomore history teacher, shared his experience with the vaccine.
“I did have mild side effects after getting vaccinated,” he wrote. “On Friday afternoon, I had some general soreness in my shoulder. Into Saturday evening, I felt fatigued and had chills, though my temperature never went high enough to be considered a fever. By Sunday morning, I was good as new.”
Ms. Huffman, the Bio-Med Receptionist shared that on top of having a sore arm she “ also had a headache the first day and was very tired too.”
Mrs. Borcoman explained that her side effects did not last more than a couple days after the vaccine.
“The only side effect I had was some tenderness in the area of the injection,”she stated. “It felt a little bit like someone punched me in the arm and walked away. The tenderness was gone within 48 hours.”
Soreness in the arm was the most common side effect and experienced by almost all staff members that filled out the survey. The overall side effects included sore shoulders and arms from where the vaccine was injected, headaches, fatigue, itchiness, chills, and tiredness. However, most side effects went away after 48 hours.
“As the vaccine becomes more available to people (especially younger folks), employers/schools/parents need to understand that this vaccine can cause some decently rough side effects,” Ms. Fusco, the Biomedical Engineering teacher wrote.
“I’m very very VERY grateful Bio-Med was able to have the vaccine given on a Friday, so we had the weekend to rest and recover. If not, I’m pretty sure I would’ve fallen asleep at some point during the day, since fatigue was my worst symptom,” she concluded.
The Bio-Med staff is scheduled to receive the second dose of the vaccine on March 19th next month.
MARCH 2021 – The 2020-2021 school year at Bio-Med went through many schedule changes. The year started off with everyone learning virtually, and then switched to the hybrid schedule on Sept. 28. With hybrid, students were broken up into two groups; purple and green, and would alternate going to school physically and digitally every other week.
Starting on Feb. 1, both purple and green cohorts attended school every week, while students opting to complete the year virtually remained home. The schedules themselves remained the same, with the only difference being double the number of students. Classrooms still implement their safety precautions from the beginning of the year, like keeping distance, wearing masks and sanitizing desks after they were used.
Mady Cross, a seventh grade student, shared her thoughts on the new schedule: “Going back every week when you’re being virtual, it’s like, it’s harder to do your work. Because you’re distracted by so many things but then being back in person, you’re less distracted because the teachers will tell you if you’re getting distracted and stuff,” she explained.
Cross emphasized her preference for the new schedule, and how it helps her stay focused for longer periods of time. When being asked which schedule she preferred, she responded, “being in person.”
She explained that while she felt more productive, she also felt that being in person was less stressful than hybrid.
“I think that me being at home is more stressful because if you have a question, and the teachers are busy, like if you try to email them they won’t email you back right away,” she said.
Along with this, many students noticed class participation increasing.
“I guess I do better at physical school,” Irene Scherer, a freshman, commented. “It’s brought my grade up some. But like the actual switch I guess is — there’s just more answers. People are participating a bit more.”
Other students shared similar thoughts on the schedule.
“I like being in the classroom learning than in my room,” commented Braden Antonelli, a sophomore this year. “ Really doing in person school kind of motivated me because I was being watched by people and at home they couldn’t really monitor me and what I was doing, so it really gave me a reason to do it.”
Many students shared that being in a classroom with a teacher present makes them less likely to get off task, because they are being monitored in some capacity.
While most students seemed to agree that they enjoyed going to school in person some students shared their concerns on the subject. Sophomore Aidan Veney shared his thoughts on the safety precautions in place while combining the cohorts.
“I think it’s a bit too soon,” Veney said, referencing the switch from hybrid to all in person. “I’d rather wait until the vaccine’s out before we have everybody back. I thought hybrid was working pretty well, so it’s a bit weird.”
Veney commented that “in theory I like all back better, but lately I’ve been kinda missing hybrid a little,” and shared that he liked both in person and hybrid equally, and that they both had their perks.
The most notable split of opinion amongst students was the safety. Keira Vasbinder, a sophomore, commented that while they felt more productive during the new schedule, there was also “a lot less distancing” and that “people are a lot more lenient with cleaning things.”
When talking about her social life, Keira mentioned that it improved because of the new schedule: “Well, I have friends again so that part is nice. I actually get to see people and I’m actually using slang again.” Keira elaborated on this by saying that the social benefits could have an impact on the safety: “You know more people but that also means less distancing. So do you want to get sick or do you wanna have a friend?” This was reference to what she felt like was a choice between prioritizing one’s social life or their health. Keira stated that having more people benefited their life socially, but made her feel like the safety precautions had been impacted with more people in the building.
In an interview, Antonelli talked about his thoughts on the safety precautions.
“I think they did change but not a lot,” he said. “They did combine more people into a classroom, but they kept the sanitizing and all that the same, and the feet and distance we need the same. But, I think the only thing they really changed was putting more people into the classroom.”
Despite the health concerns, most people interviewed agreed that Bio-Med was doing everything they could to keep things safe, and seemed to feel more uncomfortable with the situation itself as opposed to how the school was handling it. Out of all the people interviewed, 71.4% of people said that they thought the safety at school was not negatively impacted by the change in schedules.
So far, the cases have not majorly increased at Bio-Med since the start of hybrid, and students have continued to learn in a familiar and welcoming environment this month.
“I really prefer one hundred percent in person. It just feels like school,” Antonelli concluded. “It didn’t really feel like school before. We had the work but it just didn’t feel like it,”
by Serena Gestring and Kaden Starkey, staff writers
FEBRUARY 2021 – Education is an essential part of our society, and it is the vital job of teachers to provide that to students. However, the current pandemic has been a devastating and strenuous experience for the entire world, including our community.
The Bio-Med Science Academy school district went to 100% virtual learning back in March of 2020. While Bio-Med normally implements a few “digital days” each school year, where students complete one assignment from each of their classes at home for the day, moving to being completely digital every day was a major change.
Ms. Brook is the 9th grade Integrated Math instructor. She has been teaching for 16 years, four of which have been spent here at Bio-Med. Overall, she says things were not too bad. The worst part for her was figuring out the technology, and once that happened, it got easier. From a curriculum perspective, however, it was much more difficult and strange because of the procedural way she taught math.
“I really struggled with how to not have questions that they can cheat on on a test knowing real well that they could just copy and paste it onto the test,” Brook said. “So trying to come up with ways to ask the questions was difficult last year.”
This year, Brook’s class switched to using a data science approach to teach 9th grade math. This approach involves group-based investigations and analyzing sets of data.
“My midterm this year was: What’d you learn from Unit 1? Use all the investigations and vocabulary to support your explanation,” said Brook. “So, how do you cheat on that? There’s no way you can cheat on that.”
Math is not the only subject that is challenging to teach in a virtual environment. Mr. McDonald is BMSA’s 9th grade Integrated English Language Arts instructor. He has been at Bio-Med for eight years, and has been teaching for a total of 15 years. He had many words to describe teaching in this new situation, such as suboptimal, frustrating, inconsistent, strange, annoying, and difficult. In short: “It is not good,” he said.
McDonald has been struggling to teach his subject in a way that resembles how he normally would. “We would read together in the class and we’d pause and stop and handle, like, nuances, and questions, and you could see where kids were struggling,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine reading on a Zoom or something, like reading chapters of a book like that. That sounds awful!”
Because of this, McDonald doesn’t know if he is going to have his students read any books this year. “I know if I select a book to read at the ninth grade level, and I expect students to read at home as homework, I just know that at least a fifth or a quarter of those students won’t do it. They just won’t do it, because no one is there making them do it,” he said. “It’s a motivation problem but it’s also a class management problem.”
Another major challenge of teaching virtually is being able to control the learning atmosphere. Students are in many different places, some with their siblings or other relatives around.
“There’s all these things happening that I have no control over, and it’s frustrating because I want to be able to control my learning atmosphere, and I can’t,” McDonald said. “I’m a believer that to get a good education, you need to first be comfortable in the classroom. That’s gotta come first, and it’s really hard to establish that when you don’t have control over the atmosphere.”
McDonald has also had problems with establishing relationships and human connections in his classes. “The team-building and community-building aspect of Bio-Med has almost completely vanished. We would do circles, we would go outside and we’d throw the ball around, or we would work with partners, we would have clock buddies,” he said. “You cannot do that now. We can’t, you just can’t.”
Experienced teachers are not the only ones grappling with the present situation. Ms. Tubbs is the 8th grade Math instructor. This is her second year teaching and her second year at Bio-Med. She describes teaching during this time as hectic and having a lot of moving parts. “Being a first-year teacher last year, I was already kind of learning how to teach and getting into the groove, and everything kind of flipped,” Tubbs said.
Tubbs also thinks her specific subject presents some challenges. “I think I’m struggling sometimes to teach math just because in the classroom I love to do more hands-on. I like to see the written work, and online sometimes that just doesn’t transfer as well,” she said.
However, there is some optimism. Ms. England is BMSA’s 7th grade Social Studies instructor. She has been teaching for ten years, and this is her fourth year at Bio-Med. She thinks that while this situation has been interesting and challenging, it is also workable. “You had to just be innovative in how you’re teaching and what you want to teach, and I think a little bit more selective in what you are presenting,” she said.
England thinks the technology-prominent aspect of Bio-Med has helped. “We were lucky that every student had their technology already and that we had already done those Digital Days. That really helped to flip that switch,” she said. “Canvas is the best thing we had throughout this thing also. Everything is housed all in one place.”
While trying to find what works best for everyone, the administration of Bio-Med Science Academy has been diligently working to enforce proper precautionary measures according to CDC guidelines. All students must wear a mask, and teachers are being offered air purifiers as well as KN-95 masks. The Academy enforces social distancing in the lunchroom and students are assigned to a cohort (a group of the same students following the same schedule everyday) that allows for any contact tracing to be easier.
The Academy created what they call the “COVID Committee” to help reinforce the rules and regulations to keep students and staff safe.
Ms. England is one of the teachers a part of the COVID Committee. She said that it is a group of teachers and staff members from all of Bio-Med’s buildings. Their function is to be, “the liaison between Stephanie Lammlein [Chief Administrative Officer of Bio-Med] and kind of the rest of the staff.” They make sure that all the staff understand the information given by the Portage County Health Board and that teachers and staff’s voices are heard by the admin and the same with the admin to them. The Committee also makes sure that the school days can be safe while still keeping Bio-Med’s core learning experiences, whether that be at home or in the classroom.
The Academy began the 2020-2021 school year as 100% digital. On September 28th, 2020 the school launched its blended learning program where students were given a choice to remain 100% virtual or return back to school. The students who opted to return go one week in person and the next virtual; they are divided into two groups by last name. One group is in-person while the other is digital for a week and the next week the groups will switch, so the in-person group goes virtual and the virtual goes in-person. This rotation continues throughout the year, unless Coronavirus cases exceed a level 3 threshold in the surrounding counties, where the school would return back to 100% virtual until it is safer to return.
The blended learning model allows for teachers to continue teaching all of their students, whether they are in the school building or online.
When asked about how she feels Bio-Med as a district is handling the pandemic, Tubbs said, “I think they’re doing a really great job, …. it’s the best that we can do given our situation.” She felt that “other districts are looking at what we are doing” due to Bio-Med’s Upper Academy location being on the Northeast Ohio Medical College (NEOMED) Campus. Tubbs added that there are “hand sanitizer stations everywhere” and “our admin has been really supportive.”
In the classroom, Tubbs felt that, “a huge positive of the hybrid or the blended learning is the smaller class sizes.” She said that, “we’re really getting to know some of my students in a way that is just not possible when there’s 20 or 30 kids in a room.” She added how the class size, “allows some deeper learning opportunities that wouldn’t always happen in a normal class size.”
Brook’s praise is about the schedule: “I really like how they’ve done the schedule, it’s completely manageable.” She said, “the block scheduling has made it so it’s not overwhelming to have all seven classes every single day,” and that “it’s allowing you to go deeper …. and taking the time to really understand what you’re doing before moving on.” She added, “ I love that they picked one schedule regardless of home or 100% virtual, blended, or 100% back, we’re gonna still keep the same schedule.”
However, there are some drawbacks. Brook commented that seeing students two times a week compared to the previous five times a week has given rise to a retention problem, where students have trouble remembering what they did the last time they had class. Brook also thinks she is not getting to know her students as well as she would have seeing them every day.
Brook, too, said that for in-person classes, “It’s nice having a smaller class size.” She sets up her classroom so that the students are “all doing the exact same thing at the same time, regardless of at home or in person,” Brook said.
Overall, Brook said the way Bio-Med Administration is handling the pandemic is, “Awesome. I fully support how admin has done this.” She continued, “From people I’ve talked to in other districts, I think our school has handled it really really well.”
England expressed similar sentiments. She felt the whole community had come together, from the teachers and students to the administration, to figure out how to be successful. “I think we did an amazing job,” she said.
She also likes the hybrid model as an alternative to 100% virtual for her students. “I think the hybrid is good because I see a big difference in the weeks that they’re here and their engagement to the weeks that their home and their engagement,” England said. “It has helped me become more organized because you have to have everything to go. There’s not that spur of the moment changing things up because it has to be ready for those kids at home, too.”
McDonald struggled to formulate words when asked his opinion on the subject matter, as he holds a high degree of hesitation and worry towards easing things back to “normal.”
“I appreciate the caution of the hybrid model,” McDonald started off. He then commented on the smaller class sizes, “the fact that we only have eight to ten kids in a class is, is safe.” Wrapping up his comments about the hybrid model he said, “it’s doable.”
McDonald went on to talk about the virtual learning that Bio-Med utilized previously.
“I appreciated when they went to the virtual [model] because that’s the safest model,” he said, adding that this model probably “saved a lot of people from getting this virus.”
On February 1st, 2021, the academy’s plan to resume full in-person attendance, aside from students who opted to be 100% virtual. This means that the two groups of students who were going in-person every other week will be in one group and attend school weekly, together.
McDonald said that he does not understand the rush to resume full attendance. He also shared that he is, “shy about going back to full attendance,” due to the potential risks involved. McDonald commented on his comfort level, saying, “I can’t imagine teaching twenty, twenty five students right now. I would not feel safe.”
From a healthcare side of things, Ohio is beginning to wrap up Phase 1A of COVID-19 vaccinations for frontline healthcare workers and people who work or live in residential facilities.
“I think for their peace of mind, they need it,” Brook said about the general public receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, the week of January 19th, Ohio is planned to begin administering the first round of phase 1B vaccinations. On February 1st, the third week into Phase 1B, the vaccination will be available for K-12 Educators to receive. Teachers Brook, Tubbs, and McDonald all said that they would receive the COVID-19 vaccine when the time comes.
Ms. Brook, who caught COVID following Thanksgiving, said, “I’m afraid of getting the vaccine too early when they really haven’t been tested.” Nevertheless, she would have gotten it even if she hadn’t already been infected.
“I’m looking forward to being vaccinated,” stated Ms. Tubbs. She mentioned how teachers are near the top of the vaccination list: “To know that we are valued, that we have the opportunity to receive the vaccine before the general public.” Tubbs said some of her friends, who are nurses, are receiving the vaccine as well.
Mr. McDonald firmly believes that, “all teachers should be mandated to get vaccines.” He brought up a requirement in order for Ohio educators to receive the vaccine: the school must resume in-person classes or be using an in-person/online hybrid system. McDonald shared his thoughts on this: “you’re mandating that these people put themselves in a dangerous situation in order for them to be eligible to get the thing that is going to save them from a dangerous situation.”
Ultimately, McDonald stated, “I want the vaccine!” He had been approaching the pandemic with caution as he fears for the health of his family; McDonald said that getting the vaccine is “going to help me and my family’s situation.”
England did advise that, “the biggest thing is everybody that is making the decision on the vaccine just needs to make sure they’ve done their research and talked to their primary healthcare physicians.”
She also ends on a note of gratitude, “I am glad that we’re able to be able to have the chance to be protected so we can focus on teaching and not that background worry of COVID.”
While the past several months have not been ideal, Ms. Brook believes being at Bio-Med has made it easier for her. She thought if she were still teaching in California or at the prison she previously taught at, she would be struggling much more.
Brook’s mother was an elementary teacher, and Brook thinks if she was still teaching she would have quit immediately after the start of this situation. “A lot of teachers I know would just not have ever been comfortable with it and so, the fact that I have been at Bio-Med for four years, I’m just grateful because this has pretty much been a seamless transition to just 100% virtual,” she said. “I’m so grateful I work at Bio-Med.”
Ms. England agrees, and believes teaching has gotten easier as time goes on. Attendance and working with technology has gotten better for her. “I think we’ve figured out how to still do Bio-Med schooling to a point, so that got better too,” she said.
Mr. McDonald thought this has been a learning experience for how to teach children who cannot come to school. He gave the example of a student who has a bad health condition, or one who needs to stay in the hospital for a long period of time. “It’s letting the light in on how we might do that for a kid who needs it,” he said.
Despite the hardships, Ms. Tubbs was glad to have students back in the classroom, as interacting with the kids is why she became a teacher. She also expressed gratitude that she is still working and teaching, even though it is not the same.
“I think teachers are really flexible people and we make it work when we have to,” Tubbs said. “We’re getting there. Eventually we’ll be all back and it’s just something that we have to get through.”
FEBRUARY 2021 – Ms. Erin Bradley, a recent addition to the Bio-Med Science Academy staff, teaches two senior-level classes: Human Pathophysiology along with Biotechnology of Health and Disease. Becoming a teacher was not her original plan. She instead nurtured a secret passion for numbers.
“I’m kind of a closet research nerd and love working with numbers,” she said. Bradley initially went to school to become an accountant, but she quickly learned that that career path was definitely not for her.
After some time, Bradley discovered that she wanted to become a nurse instead. She went to Kent State University to study nursing. Not long into undergraduate studies did Bradley realize that she also had a love for teaching. That was when she decided to go back to Kent State to become a teacher. Bradley became a nurse and graduated in 2013 and earned her Masters of Science and Nursing with a Nurse Educator emphasis (MSN-Ed) about a year ago.
With her nursing degree, Bradley found herself working in various fields doing a variety of tasks. She also used to work for Cuyahoga Falls City Schools as a teacher, along with some undergraduate teaching at Kent State University. Bradley’s goal was to teach undergraduate students how to become nurses themselves, but she stumbled upon the job opening at Bio-Med and, in her words, “I love it and I’m really happy to be here.”
Bradley is drawn towards the STEM program that BMSA offers along with the passion that its students have towards their learning. She is excited to be able to take her experience in the field and share it with her students. Fifteen years ago, Bradley says she would have not pictured herself where she is now. Despite only being at Bio-Med since September, she feels she has learned and grown a great deal.
Growing as a teacher isn’t all that Bradley has made progress with. Bradley opened up about her anxiety tied with public speaking. She says that she enjoys speaking in front of people, but she just can’t shake the fear and anxiety that sometimes comes with it. When graduating with her bachelor’s, Bradley gave the graduation speech, and she said that, “I was terrified to do it, but I wanted to, I was really excited to do it.” She says that she’s come a long way with it, and luckily Bradley does not get nervous in front of her students. Most people don’t know about her nervousness and public speaking. Bradley says that in a way, becoming a teacher has helped her face this fear.
Outside of the classroom, Bradley can be found out in nature kayaking, hiking, or being with her family and friends. She also loves to take part in different races from 5k’s to half marathons and is always trying to find a new race to do. Bradley also enjoys watching sports and is an avid Star Wars fan. When she’s not participating in one of these activities, Bradley is most likely found spending time with her four children.
FEBRUARY 2020 – For Senior APEX, students are required to complete either a research project or internship in order to graduate. This allows students to pursue an interest that could lead to a career or gain actual experience in a field they may end up working in.
As the year progresses, seniors are now preparing to share what they’ve learned. One student, Steven Gaffney, is interning with Tthe University of Akron’s Aero Design team to design and build model aircraft. He and the team of college students he works with will eventually submit their designs in a competition against other teams from different colleges.
When asked what led him to choose this internship, Gaffney replied, “I had initially planned to intern with a company, but after going to another meeting at the university, I decided that I wanted to join the team.” He had previously been to several team meetings with his brother which let him know it would be a good fit for his interests: “I had known about their excellent teamwork [and] I knew the team was incredible at applying their knowledge to problems that face them in the field.”
His responsibilities consist of both working physically with the planes and editing footage for them. He said, “ Most days are pretty work-oriented, and we rarely will have a time where we aren’t altering pieces on the plane or filming, if not editing footage. On the other hand, we do have days where the work is slow, and that typically involves editing down pieces of footage that range hours in length.”
His favorite part about his internship is the environment and experience he receives, specifically in CAD and video editing. He explained, “I have been in a great position, as my advisors have been really helpful and understanding, guiding me through their processes and allowing me to film their progress for my apex assignment.”
On the other hand, COVID has created road bumps for many students, including Steve.
“Our team had been following restrictions in the months prior to the mid November lockdown,” he explained. “I had to immediately try and increase my hours to suffice for the time that I would be missing during the lockdown.” Thankfully, however, he was able to keep his internship and stayed caught up with his hours despite temporarily not being able to be at the university in person.
OCTOBER 2020 — Millions in the United States will be casting ballots Nov. 3 to elect a president for the next four years. This year, a number of Bio-Med Science Academy seniors will be eligible to vote for the first time. While many high schoolers have had the opportunity to vote in a presidential election in the past, this year is no ordinary circumstance. The current election has put many Americans at odds as strong opinions have formed about the potential candidates and issues at hand.
Seniors at Bio-Med are choosing to vote for multiple reasons. Some feel that they are fulfilling their civic duties while others hope to sway the course of the election. Madison Gibbons says, “I think it is important. Our country has fought hard for the rights we have and I’m going to make sure I use them.”
Being eligible and making the choice to vote does not mean that every senior is comfortable voicing their opinions. Each senior interviewed stated that they were only willing to detail their views in the right situation.
For Jacob Fergis, this is mostly due to his political leaning: “I only talk about my political beliefs when asked, and only in smaller groups of people. Among people my age, conservatives are often just automatically viewed as racist, sexist, and insensitive. I’d rather not be seen that way, and I think that it’s ridiculous how political beliefs can divide people. I’d rather not be known for my politics.”
When asked why others are choosing not to vote even though they are eligible to do so, many believed that it was partially due to dislike of the candidates. Suzie Krauss also suggested that some have actually been silenced by those with opposing views: “One of the presidential candidates has an extremely aggressive following and other voters could be targets for harassment. “
A few seniors strongly felt that others should be voting regardless of their apprehensions. Jacob Fergis explained that, “People will say they dislike both candidates, and so they just don’t vote at all. You’re surrendering your say in the matter. If you want things to change, you have to pick, even if that decision is the lesser of two evils.”
As the election nears, the candidates are making their final efforts to sway voters. Most recently the televised presidential and vice presidential debates allowed millions of Americans direct access to the perspective of the major party candidates. Third parties were excluded. Many viewed the presidential segment as a particularly chaotic display, including Stephanie Kover.
When reflecting on the debates she stated, “I watched some of the debate, but eventually decided to turn it off as it wasn’t really worth watching. Just by the way the candidates talked to each other, I knew nothing beneficial was going to be talked about. I feel as though the vice presidential debate was a lot more informational on how each candidate felt on certain topics.”
The debates were not the first time that the presidential election was covered through the media. For many months, there have been dozens of news segments, magazine articles, and radio shows put out daily to give Americans the latest updates. For some, these interactions have altered their political beliefs and decision making. Many of the seniors expressed that they try to steer away from mainstream media due to bias.
When asked if the media impacted his decision to vote, Kevin Akers replied, “No, I’ve purposefully only done my own research and found my own beliefs…”
Madison Gibbons acknowledged the impact of bias on her personal views: “I would say I normally lean one way no matter what, but I’m sure the information I receive from the media makes me feel positively or negatively towards certain political beliefs.”
Although the seniors were in general agreement on various topics, their political leanings and candidate choices are wide ranging. Some did not feel comfortable naming their candidates of choice while others got straight to the point.
Jacob Fergis, for example, plans to vote for the re-election of Donald Trump. He explained, “I’ll be voting for Trump. First, he’s the Republican choice. Being Republican/conservative, my stances align with his more. Not only that, but I’ve seen all of the great things Trump has done in his time as POTUS already. I support what he’s done in Israel, as well as his Middle Eastern peace treaty. I also believe he’s done very well for the economy. Biden on the other hand is in clear support of leftist ideas that I disagree with, and it seems clear to me that Biden is really just a puppet. When you get sheltered in your basement for the whole campaign and only speak with the help of scripted questions and teleprompters, I don’t trust you to be president.”
Other students, such as Stephanie Kover, are choosing to vote for Democrat Joe Biden: “I will be voting for Biden. Not necessarily because I support him, but because I don’t want Trump to get re-elected. I hope in future elections there will be a candidate that aligns with my views more, such as Bernie Sanders.”
Two of the seniors have yet to decide who will earn their ballot, but have very different perspectives. Kevin Akers is presumably deciding between the two major party candidates, “waiting for the final debate” to make a decision. Suzie Krauss on the other hand, is considering third parties. She stated, “I’m not sure who I will be voting for just yet, but it will absolutely not be Donald Trump. I feel he threatens many of America’s core values and should not be in office.”
Regardless of their choice, each of the seniors is embarking on a new journey. Many feel nervous to be given such a responsibility. Others are disappointed given the current political climate but hope for something better. Stephanie Kover says, “For this being my first time voting, I am disappointed in the candidates that are running. The choice is between a very moderate Democrat and a far right Republican. I’m just hoping next election I will be able to vote for a candidate I’m actually proud of.”
Even though there may be downsides, there are still positives to find in the experience. Each of the seniors is excited to be opening a new chapter into adulthood. Some also feel that voting will allow them to learn more about the government, politics, and even themselves. Madison Gibbons looks forward to the experience, stating, “I feel nervous yet excited and proud to be voting.”
No matter the outcome of the election, each of the voting seniors can be proud of the fact that they fulfilled their civic responsibilities and took part in a moment of American history.
OCTOBER 2020 — For students attending Bio-Med Science Academy, Sept. 28 was the first time they physically attended school since last March. In response to safety guidelines and an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the school implemented what is known as a hybrid schedule.
The hybrid schedule separates students in two groups: purple and green. The groups run on a rotation in which one week, the green group goes to school, and the next, the purple group does. On the weeks they aren’t school, students attend virtually.
Each color group is broken up into smaller groups called cohorts. Each cohort consists of about 15 students who all share the same schedule. This way, the number of people students come in contact with is limited. While at school, students are required to wear a mask and keep at least a minimum of three feet distance from their peers. Desks are also cleaned after every class to prevent the spread of the virus.
After students were given the option to return, many shared their excitement upon their arrival. When being asked about their first week, many students initially felt unsure how things were going to operate due to the safety protocols in place.
However, students were pleasantly surprised by the welcoming and collaborative environment the school had to offer. “It’s been very fun and very interactive lately, and I think to be honest, we are going to have a lot of fun,” said Natalie Hammerschmidt, a current 9th grader at Bio-Med Science Academy.
From a teacher standpoint, the cohort system is also appreciated for the most part. When being asked about it, Mrs. Mihalik commended, “The cohort system, I actually really like. Before when they were trying to do hybrid with our original schedules, it was all mixed up and this way I can at least try to make it even.”
Despite the safety protocols, students still feel that they are receiving a good educational experience. When asked about her opinions on the new schedule, Chloe Cook, a current 8th grader, offered some insight on her first week back. “Being here on Monday definitely did feel like the first day back at school, even though we had been in school for like three weeks already,” she said.
When asked about the hybrid schedule, Cook responded, “I like being back at school. It’s definitely easy to learn that way, and I love the new building. And just like being here; it’s a great environment but I mean I am pretty sad I won’t be here next week. But I understand why and how they are doing it.”
While students are generally pleased with the in-person weeks, online weeks are a different story. Many students shared their concerns about struggling while completing assignments online.
Hailey Mills, a 10th grade student, said of her first few weeks at Bio-Med, “They have been good at school, but at home it’s hard to understand what the teachers expect from us and it’s hard to stay focused.”
Despite their concerns with the digital weeks, students at Bio-Med are happy to be back in school, and are enjoying the positive community it brings. By implementing the hybrid schedule and following these safety precautions, people attending school are able to receive a learning experience that is enjoyable, while also staying safe.
The college application process is underway for the current senior class of 2021. As deadlines approach, the students are tying up any loose ends, with the hopes that it is good enough for acceptance into the college of their choice.
A college application is a sort of form that one fills out when they are planning to attend college in the next year or so. The application can be filled out on what is known as the common app (short for common application). Some universities have their own application that the student has to fill out and submit directly to the institution.
Applying for college can be a lengthy and stressful process because there are many different sections and components to an application. The timeline to start this process also varies widely from person to person.
Chloe Boyden, a 2020 Bio-Med Science Academy alumna and freshman at Kent State University said, “I think you should start trying to apply around fall, November at the latest.” Another 2020 BMSA alumna, pre-med freshman, Skylar Cole, who attends the University of Cincinnati, started her essays and personal statements the summer before and had her applications submitted by late October.
The application requires personal information about the student, their parents, and their sibling(s). It also asks what the student plans to attend that college for.
“The common app had a bunch of standard questions that I already had the answers to,” Cole explained.
There are also academic sections with places to fill out grades, classes, teacher recommendations, and test scores and extracurricular activities such as clubs, sports, jobs, volunteering, and internships. To wrap up the application, there is an optional student essay section that they write on one of the few given topics.
The academic section can be the source of some anxiety in the process. Some schools are strict with GPA, ACT, and SAT acceptance numbers. Schools, too, could be vague on the accepting scores, giving only an average range. High school transcripts are usually a mandatory part of the college application. Because of recent circumstances with COVID-19, a handful of colleges are becoming test-optional. This means that the student does not have to submit their ACT or SAT score when applying. Whether or not one chooses to submit a score, it will not make or break the student’s application. The score, in the end, can help to make one’s application stand out more than before.
Aside from scores and grades, there are also teacher recommendations that most schools require. The letter does not have to be from a teacher. It could be from a counselor, someone a student has volunteered with, a family friend, or a coworker or boss. More often than not, that letter is written by an academic teacher or adviser. It is up to the student’s discretion as to which teacher(s) or other personnel they choose to write the letter. Cole states that “the teachers that I had gotten to know and teachers that had gotten to know me past the classroom” were the key factors in choosing the teachers to write her letter of recommendations.
When asking a teacher to write you a letter of recommendation, asking in person is usually the route to go, but email works fine as well. Considering the current Coronavirus Pandemic, most students do not have the ability to ask their teacher in person. So they have to email the teacher. One should aim to give them as much time as possible to write the letter. Usually around the first couple months of senior year students reach out to their teacher of choice. Be sure to inform them when the letter needs to be completed by. If the students do not, the letter might not be completed in time for the application deadline. Something most students do not realize is the person that they ask, does not have to accept the student’s letter request.
Often, people are unaware of the financial factor behind college applications. It can be quite surprising for many.
“You definitely have to plan for how much each application is going to cost because some of them are only going to cost twenty bucks; some of them are eighty,” explains Cole.
On top of application fees, students also have to pay to have their ACT scores sent to individual colleges, as well as any prior transcripts from any CCP classes (such as Stark State). Although it could be financially challenging for families, there are multiple ways that one could be assisted. There are a plethora of independent scholarships out there for students to apply to. Alongside the independent scholarships, there are scholarships that the university gives out to students. Some high schools also offer scholarships for their prospective college students.
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a form that all college students are urged to fill out. It opens every year on October 1st of the year before one plans to attend college. It is a free application that is a government assistance program for the financial portion of college, usually referred to as financial aid. The funds in this program are determined by one’s financials, such as income and federal taxes. Funds are given out on a first come first serve basis. The funds given can be seen as a grant, a government loan, or a work-study opportunity for the student.
The amount of schools that one applies to is specific to the individual. Some people apply to only one school while others apply to over ten. The schools that one applies to varies among the student and their future outlook. Many apply to schools that their family approves of while some apply to colleges abroad or one that sits close to home.
When asked what advice she would give to current seniors going through this process, Cole responds with, “For seniors specifically, what you want is going to matter most in the end because you are the one going to that school.”
Fifty-nine percent of teenagers plan to attend a four-year college course after high school, according to 2020 statistics. A lot of careers do require a college degree, but that is not the only option. Community college, technical or trade school, apprenticeships, the military, mission trips, and gap years are all paths that can be a better fit for some people.
At a community college, students can earn an associate’s degree or a certification in only two years. The programs at community colleges are often directly related to the needs of the current job market. Sarah Sipek, author for careerbuilder.com, says students can get a degree or certified “as a veterinary technician, a dental hygienist, web designer or even a winemaker,” as well as many other possibilities. Receiving an associate’s degree also gives students the option of transferring to a university to get a bachelor’s degree.
Take Taleah Cline for instance. Cline is a Bio-Med Science Academy 2020 graduate taking a gap semester to work and save money. In the spring she plans to take an EMT class at Stark State College.
“I did originally plan to go to Med school, but I quickly realized that’s not the best idea,” Cline said. “But I still wanted to go into the medical field.”
Then Cline met Andy Miller, the husband of Bio-Med ELA 11 teacher Ms. Bates, when he came into their lunch one day to tell them about his job as a firefighter/paramedic.
“I was instantly interested,” recalled Cline. She talked to Ms. Bates about volunteering with the Tallmadge Fire Department. “After volunteering for just a day, I knew that was something I wanted to do,” said Cline. However, before someone can become a paramedic, they have to be an EMT. “So that’s where I started,” Cline concluded.
Technical schools, also known as trade schools, are another career avenue, especially if a person already has a career that they want to go directly into. These schools specialize in courses that teach skills applicable to specific careers, such as carpentry, electrical work, culinary arts, etc. Unlike a four-year university, “you aren’t required to take classes that aren’t related to your career focus,” according to Sipek.
Apprenticeships are a way to learn a trade and skills relevant to an in-demand field while also getting paid from day one. These programs consist of on-the-job training from experienced professionals and classroom instruction. Apprenticeships are available for many different occupations, such as health care, internet technology, manufacturing, and construction. To learn about apprenticeship opportunities in Ohio, visit ohio.gov.
Joining one of the five branches of the military is another option. According to Sipek, there are several benefits: competitive salaries, free health care, little-to-no living costs, retirement with benefits after twenty years of service. If you choose to go to college after your service, the GI Bill can be used to pay part of your tuition.
The five military branches include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The first step to joining is researching and deciding which branches are most interesting. Then contact a recruiter for those branches. The recruiter will provide information about that service.
To enlist, report to a military entrance processing station (MEPS), where pre-enlistment steps will be completed. This includes having a physical exam and taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test to determine what job specialties would be best for an individual. Once accepted, orders for basic training will be given. To learn more about the military branches and how to contact a recruiter, visit usa.gov/join-military.
According to volunteerhq.org, mission trips are “an international volunteering opportunity focused around collaborating with local communities to provide support where it is most needed.” Short-term mission trips can range from one week to twenty-four weeks long, and there are several travel destinations around the world to choose from. Some churches also have their own mission trip programs for an added religious component.
According to gapyearassociation.org, a gap year is defined as “a semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.” This can involve expanding your comfort zones, having a cross-cultural experience (such as traveling), reflecting on your experiences and possible career interests, and working to save up money (possibly for school). It should be noted that the purpose is not to do nothing for a year.
For example, Ben Morgan is a BMSA 2020 graduate who is taking a gap year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and has kept himself busy. He’s currently studying French with a tutor, practicing carpentry, working part time, and hopes to begin studying astronomy.
“More or less I’ve put together my own college curriculum taught by friends or associates,” Morgan said.
In addition, Morgan has also been working with Staughton Lynd, a historian and social activist. Lynd has been assigning readings on social movements, labor history, economics, and moral injury to Morgan. The two also collaborated on an article that was published in Dissent magazine last month.
“It feels very satisfying to have that piece published. Since my freshman year at Bio-Med when I participated in National History Day, I’ve wanted to get an article published,” said Morgan.
This time before college has allowed Morgan to grow as a student and as a person and has given him many valuable opportunities and experiences. Morgan had this to say on the topic: “I believe that there’s a lot to be said for not jumping into the world of higher education at this specific point, as it seems one learns just as much from their peers and from the experience of being on a campus as from the actual taught information.”
Jacob Rude is another BMSA 2020 graduate who is taking a gap year to work and determine a best-fit career for himself. So far, he has had three jobs in food service where he has learned important lessons.
“Taking accountability for mistakes or misunderstandings [that] may not even be your own fault is an incredible tool that is refined by those who work in jobs such as these,” said Rude. Also, one of his life goals is to write books, so Rude has been using his free time to write whatever comes to mind in order to nurture his creativity.
Rude has been looking into many possible careers. Teaching, movie making, entrepreneurship, and skilled trades such as carpentry and masonry have all gone into consideration. However, he is still undecided, and he wants to take his time in order to avoid making what he believes is a common mistake.
“When they prioritize return on investment over any and everything else, they tend to get stuck in an occupation they have no passion for and lead a dull, unfulfilling life,” Rude stated.
Rude gives his respect to his peers in college who are struggling during these difficult times. He also recognizes that he needs to sort out his own thoughts before he can make a final decision. On the topic of his gap year, Rude offers a final thought: “I knew that I just needed more time to figure out what I want to do with my life and what I want to give back to the world, and that’s okay too.”
Note: This article was written prior to the state’s stay-at-home order.
Senioritis is a common phenomenon in students nearing graduation. It’s typically classified as a lack of motivation and occurs because students get caught under the false assumption that they don’t have to try as hard since they are so close to the finish line. Other times, students just stop caring because they’re ready to move on to the next step of their lives. Because of this, they often fall behind and miss out on opportunities their senior year.
Other symptoms of this “affliction” may include procrastination, loss of interest in class subjects, a drop in grades, and a lack of effort. Students here at Bio-Med are already noticing and feeling the effects, which is why it’s important to learn how to ward it off before it becomes too late.
According to senior Gage Kuszmaul, “Come March, April, May, these kids are accepting offers to colleges and then think they are in the clear, but they are not. They may lose out on many scholarships just because they blew off their last few months of school, tanking their GPA.”
If this affliction can’t be kept under wraps, the consequences could cost students. Gage also explains, “If I do not get a scholarship because of [senioritis] I will quite literally be ‘paying’ the consequences.”
Colleges can take away scholarships and even acceptances if the applicant no longer meets the requirements upon graduation.
Senioritis can be a serious issue if not dealt with, but not to worry as there are plenty of ways to avoid it. It isn’t always easy staying motivated, but a simple first step is for people to remind themselves of their goal and the progress they’ve made. With an objective in mind, it’s much easier to stay on track and avoid slacking off.
For example, Eryka Lund says, “There are a lot of important things I need to do and I’m going to do them, but I just have such a strong sense of apathy at this point.”
She gets by with short bouts of motivation, but if motivation can be better maintained, stress can be minimized and students will be less likely to fall behind.
Even teachers feel the effects of senioritis and want to see their students succeed in their final year. Ms. Berry describes how it drives her “absolutely crazy” because, especially in her math classes, students spend the year “building their toolboxes” so that they can understand the complex topics towards the end of the year. However, students are checking out before the big finish and they’re unable to properly fit the pieces together at the end of the year. It causes students to be unprepared because they haven’t fully grasped the building blocks of math. Ms. Berry advises that students be mature enough to have personal agency over their schoolwork, saying, “It’s hard to completely ignore the feeling of senioritis because you’re ending a stage of life and entering a new one which is something to be celebrated and enjoyed, but you need to stay on topic when necessary.”
If a student is struggling, it can also be helpful to talk to teachers or a guidance counselor who will help students set goals and give tips on how to follow through with them. One strategy is to create a reward system and set up checkpoints so that a student is always incentivized to keep going. Taking breaks is also important if seniors are feeling overwhelmed, but be sure that students hold themselves accountable and don’t allow small breaks to develop into procrastination.
Gage offers this piece of advice: “It seems fun to blow off school and just have fun but you have made it this far; just hold out a little longer and then you can have fun. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun now, just know when to be serious and when not to be.” A healthy balance between school and recreational time is yet another essential piece in avoiding burnout so close to the end.