MARCH 2021 – On July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage was raised to $7.25 from $6.55 per hour. While the federal minimum wage has not been raised in almost twelve years, the longest stretch without an increase since its creation, twenty-five states raised their minimum wage earlier this year. Among those states, Ohio’s minimum wage increased by ten cents to $8.80 per hour for non-tipped employees beginning January 1, 2021. Despite the incremental progress, advocates for a $15 minimum wage remain committed to the fight of raising the wage.
A living wage is defined as the lowest wage at which a worker and their family can afford the most basic costs of living. Before Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 passed as part of New Deal legislation and effectively created the minimum wage, he expressed his strong support for a living wage. In 1933, during FDR’s statement on the National Industrial Recovery Act, he explained that “no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.” This statement essentially created the framework for the battle between the living and minimum wage. During that year, the minimum wage was established at 25 cents. To put that into perspective, according to several online inflation calculators, $1 in 1938 would be equal to $18.55 today.
People have been pushing for a rise in the minimum wage for years. The fight for $15, a grassroots movement, began in 2012 when two hundred fast-food workers walked off the job to demand increased wages and union rights in New York City. It has since grown into a global movement in over 300 cities on six continents. The support for a $15 minimum wage has shifted from a protest movement to legitimate political action. President Biden has become one of the main proponents of a $15 minimum wage by 2025.
The topic of raising the minimum wage has been highly debated by both politicians and top economists. When asked about the minimum wage, Bio-Med students shared some varying opinions.
Two Juniors expressed their support for raising the minimum wage.
“The minimum wage is too low; people cannot live on it, let alone provide for a family,” said Maddy Ross.
“There are people at my job, who have been there for 16 years and only make $9 an hour,” said Kaitlyn Davis. “That is not enough money to live on so they are forced to pick up a second job. It’s so sad that people have to work all those hours just to barely survive.”
According to researchers at MIT, the living wage in the United States was $16.54 per hour, or $68,808 per year, in 2019, before taxes for a family of four. Statistically, the minimum wage does not provide a living wage for most American families. A typical family of two working adults and two children needs to work nearly four full-time minimum-wage jobs to earn a living wage. Single-parent families need to work almost twice as hard, which is nearly the equivalent of working 24 hours per day for six days, to earn a living wage. The minimum wage only currently accounts for a portion of what it would take to earn a living wage.
Opponents of raising the minimum wage cite inflation and job loss to support their differing views. Juniors Adam Lang and Nick Wholwend believe the minimum wage should remain the same.
“The minimum wage is not meant for a career wage. As it gets higher, so does the cost of living. It would also make it harder for businesses to pay their employees,” said Adam Lang.
“The big thing that I think about when talking about the minimum wage is job sustainability,” said Nick Wholwend. “McDonald’s pays around $9 an hour, but if they got a machine to start taking orders and flipping burgers, they wouldn’t have to pay all of their employees $15 an hour. Instead, they would just have to spend a couple thousand dollars on the machine. In the long run, hiring a machine would save them money.”
A report published by the Congressional Budget Office describes many of the positives and negatives associated with raising the minimum wage. It states that an increase would offer raises to 27 million people and lift 900,000 people above the poverty line, but it would also cost 1.4 million jobs while adding $54 billion to the budget deficit over the next decade. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports efforts to increase the minimum wage but indicates that $15 may be too high.
Two current seniors are unsure about the efforts to raise the minimum wage.
“Based on what I’ve heard compared to the rate of productivity and other living expenses it is too low, said Drake Duncan.
“I think the minimum wage should be raised slightly, but the current plans that are being pitched seem a little extreme,” said Zane Price.
Junior Maddy Ross expressed a need for compassion: “People have many excuses for not wanting to raise the minimum wage, but honestly, at the end of the day, it’s about your care for other people that are struggling. If you care about other people and their issues then you would not mind paying an extra dollar for a gallon of milk.”
FEBRURARY 2021 – Originally, Valentine’s day was created to celebrate St. Valentine, according to the History Channel. However, there is controversy about which St. Valentine the holiday celebrates and is based on. The most popular legend of St. Valentine comes from Christian and Roman tradition, with Valentine being a priest during 3rd century Rome in a time when the emperor believed single men made better soldiers and outlawed marriages for younger men. In response to this, Valentine allegedly held marriage ceremonies in secret and was caught and sentenced to death.
Other versions of the story include Saint Valentine of Terni, who supposedly fell in love with a woman while he was in prison. According to legend, he sent a letter to the woman saying it was “from your valentine.” Then he died. According to Smithsonian magazine, the holiday could have also originated from a feast that celebrated a Christian martyr’s decapitation. It is also believed that there were multiple people named St. Valentine’s who died on February 14th, and while some gained more popularity than others, no one seems to be quite certain on the topic.
Regardless of the origins involved, Valentine’s day had been celebrated for many years, and was a celebration of love in Rome where it was otherwise outlawed. Since then, the holiday has transformed from a feast of celebration, into a more intimate celebration of love and relationships in a general sense.
The Valentine’s Day Debate: Why Do We Celebrate It?
Through being interviewed, each Bio-Med student was asked the same question: “Do you think Valentine’s Day is an important holiday?” The responses varied between students.
Dante Duluc believes Valentine’s Day is an important holiday. This year, he is going to spend Valentine’s Day with his girlfriend watching movies. When being asked about if the holiday was important to him, he responded “well the reason that we’re doing plans for Valentine’s day I guess it’s just it’s important to show how you care for one another.”
Generally, when being asked about what they liked about Valentine’s Day, the majority of students shared that they liked the fact they were able to show that they cared and spend time with important people in their lives. Mostly, students that were in a relationship thought that Valentine’s Day was more important than those who didn’t.When asked if the holiday was important, Kaytlin Haylett, a junior, responded that “my only reason to say yes is because it’s my first year being in a relationship so it’s like a big deal, but no.”
Other students, like Keira Vasbinder, stated they liked Valentine’s day because of “how happy it can make other people when you give them something even if it’s small.” In previous years, Vasbinder shared that she would attempt to get small gifts for her friends and family, and really only celebrated it if her friends planned events. While most people associate it with romantic relationships, Vasbinder noted that “it doesn’t necessarily have to be a romantic holiday, and it’s fun to make others happy.”
Some people view the holiday a bit differently, and see it as less important than other holidays. When being asked if he thought Valentine’s Day was important to him, Emmet Bakos replied that “I’ve never really been a big fan of Valentine’s Day.” He then elaborated to say that “It just seems, pressuring to say the least. Especially for people who aren’t in relationships.”
While some students may feel pressured to buy expensive gifts, or plan a date, others revealed they did not really think Valentine’s Day was that important to celebrate. Tessa Wood, another sophomore, noted that “it’s not super important,” as other holidays. “I like to text the people in my life to remind them that they are important to me. I like the holiday, but I think it’s kinda insignificant,” Wood remarked.
Mayla Bregant is a 7th grader at Bio-Med, and shared that she was generally a fan of the holiday. “I really like Valentine’s Day because obviously you get a lot of candy and chocolate and teddy bears and that’s good and stuff.” She elaborated on this by saying that “I just wish people would be more open to loving everybody everyday.”
Instead of just showing our affection to others on one holiday, Mayla thinks Valentine’s Day should be celebrated, yet parts of it should be practiced every day. “We should still remember to love everybody everyday and not just on holidays,” she concluded.
Ella Wright, a freshman this year, is planning on spending the holiday baking and giving gifts to her neighbors. While she has plans for the holiday, she stated that “to me, it isn’t a super important holiday,” and shared similar thoughts to Mayla as to why she didn’t think the holiday was that important. “I think we should be appreciating people all of the days of the year, and not just one,” Wright concluded.
A Disease Free Valentine’s Day: Safe Ideas to Spend the Holiday
By Alyssa Cocchiola, Staff Writer
FEBRUARY 2021 – Instead of boxes of chocolates and heart shaped cutouts, most people recommend prioritizing items like masks and hand sanitizers for this Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is a holiday typically associated with spending time with others. However, with safety precautions regarding COVID-19 in place, the holiday is likely to look a lot different than previous years. Members of the Bio-Med Science Academy community shared their ideas on safe ways to spend the holiday.
“So far this year, we’ve used Zoom a whole lot of times so that’s one way,” Nicholas Cross, an 8th grade student, commented. Zoom has been commonly used to host events in the digital space, with Bio-Med, and other schools in our area using it to aid in virtual lessons. “If you already have most of the family you wanna spend Valentine’s Day with around you, with the people you don’t you can just like facetime them and stuff like that,” they concluded.
Skyler Earl, a sophomore at Bio-Med, noted that “sometimes my friends would have parties or get-togethers, but this year I most likely won’t attend any of them.” She described the alternative of “zoom parties,” where her friends would get together on zoom and host events that way.
Other students shared that Zooms are not a new concept for spending time together on holidays.
“As someone who has family all over the country, family Zoom calls for the holidays have been the thing for quite some time,” Emmet Bakos commented. “They’re a fun and easy way to reconnect with people you haven’t seen in a while.”
Even if students don’t have family out of state, most students agreed that doing something with others in person is not the safest option. Bakos continued by saying, “If you really wanted to do something for Valentine’s day, the safest thing to do is call them on any video chat software and talk for awhile.” Other video chat softwares could include things like Skype, Facetime, and Google hangouts, all of which provide a way of communicating in times where in-person is not a viable option.
“Seeing someone virtually is much better than risking the chance of giving them covid for Valentine’s day,” Bakos concluded.
Tessa Wood is another sophomore, and shared her opinions on Zooms as well. She commented that “movie Zooms are always fun! They are easy to execute and you can talk during them.” The ability to screen share, and use features like Netflix Party are enabling people everywhere to enjoy different media with their peers in the digital space.
Dante Duluc is a freshman this year and shared his plans for the holiday. When being asked about his plans, he said “for Valentine’s day me and my girlfriend are going to the movies.” However, it was not an actual movie theatre he was referring to. He followed this up by saying that “for the movies what we’re actually doing is we’re just sitting in my room watching movies on TV and like eating snacks.” With watching movies either via Zoom or another socially distanced way, it still allows others to spend time watching movies with those they love, and in a way that reflects the safety regulations in place currently.
Virtual Dinner Dates
Kaytlin Haylett is a junior and plans on spending Valentine’s Day with her boyfriend. When being asked about ideas for socially distanced dates, she brought up the idea of “a dinner date over Zoom.” With this, it would enable others to go on dates and eat food together in the virtual space. “I did one of those with my boyfriend while we were actually quarantining,” she concluded.
With the safety guidelines in place for COVID-19, most people will not be able to celebrate Valentine’s Day the same way they did the year prior. While some people celebrated the holiday with some sort of party, Ella Wright, a freshman this year, stated that she likes “bringing cookies or something to school to share with people.” However, due to contact tracing, social distancing, and other guidelines, sharing treats in school is likely not an option this year.
To find a solution to this problem, she suggests that one way to show our appreciation for others is to “make something, and leave it on someone’s front porch.” This idea would enable people to share their gifts and treats like most years, while limiting contact with others.
Wright added on to this by saying, “I am planning on making some cookies, or cupcakes, or something and taking them around to my neighbors.” Even if students do not live close enough to friends and family where they can give them gifts, mailing them is always a viable option as well.
“I think others can do things for the holiday if they want to, as long as they are staying safe and doing their best to distance,” Keira Vasbinder, a 10th grade student advised. Whether it’s a Zoom meeting, virtual movie party, a virtual dinner date, watching movies, baking for others, or simply sending a thoughtful text, there are many ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day safely, and follow the guidelines in place. “You’re still connecting,” Vasbinder continued, “just in a different way.”
FEBRUARY 2021 –The phrase “Black lives matter” was first shared by Alicia Garza in a Facebook post on July 13, 2013. Her post was in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. The phrase was instantly turned into a hashtag and spread to every social media platform. Alicia Garza was joined by activists Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi to create a network of community organizers dedicated to fighting racism and police brutality.
In 2014, Black Lives Matter protested against the deaths of numerous people at the hands of the police. This rallying cry garnered national attention and further cemented itself as a movement. Six years later, a new peak was reached in the Summer of 2020. The death of George Floyd on Memorial Day set in motion a global reckoning that amassed millions of protesters fighting against police brutality and injustice.
The calls for racial justice within the policing system have brought attention to other systems and institutions that may contribute to inequality. The education system has been the focus of some of these investigations. Over the summer, Bio-Med Science Academy released a statement detailing its commitment to helping students “develop a broader and deeper understanding of the long-standing inequities that are present in our society and to work to solve our country’s inequalities through a moral, humane and challenging curriculum and culture.” With Bio-Med being a predominantly white school, some Black students have expressed their thoughts on the racial environment surrounding them.
Two students have felt an extra burden placed on them in the classroom. “At times I feel that other people think it is my responsibility to educate them on race or slavery,” said Junior Marinna Atanmo.
Taylor Brown, an 8th-grade student, expressed a similar view: “Sometimes I feel that my classmates expect me to know everything about Black history, but I don’t and that’s mainly because it isn’t taught in schools.” The United States does not have federal requirements for teaching Black history in school curriculums, and only a few states have mandated it. Ohio is not among those states.
According to the Civil Rights Data Collection, Black students are more likely to receive suspensions or be placed into special education programs. Cedric Sarfo, a current senior, discussed overcoming judgment: “People definitely have set low expectations for me in the past. However, I tried to prove them wrong in any way I can. Particularly academically people did not believe I would be where I am today,” he said. Cedric went on to express what he hopes people consider going forward: “I wish people understood how hard it is to change preconceived notions about a person and that sometimes they need to leave their biases and prejudices at the door and examine someone for who they are.”
Blessing Mupinga, another senior at Bio-Med, has been the only Black girl in her grade for the past nine years. “I feel like I have to be on my best behavior at all times and hold myself to a certain standard, so I don’t get labeled with certain negative stereotypes,” she said.
When asked about how the Black Lives Matter movement affected her school life she said, “When the [Black Lives Matter] movement was at its peak, I felt mentally distracted because I was constantly trying to refute the false attacks that people were making. It made me stop focusing on school for a little so I could figure out what I could do to spread the movement in a positive way.”
According to the students who were interviewed, the education system, like many other institutions, still has a long way to go to fully address and correct its errors.
Cedric Sarfo said, “While I feel Bio-Med has layers of diversity in its own way, a more ethnically diverse environment would be amazing to experience. The more backgrounds one can reach from can ultimately enrich your total experience. This applies not only to school but life in general. I believe that diversity in anything will always result in something positive, what that positive aspect is will be dependent on the situation one may find themselves in.”
NOVEMBER 2020 – The month of November is recognized as Native American Heritage Month, also referred to as National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, in the United States. This is a time to celebrate the diverse and substantial ancestry, culture, and traditions of Native Americans and their communities through education and events.
The early 1900s saw an effort to secure a day of recognition for Native Americans who made important contributions to the establishment and development of the United States, according to National Native American Heritage Month. Around this time, Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian and the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, New York, convinced the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans.” The organization did so for three years.
A more unified plan concerning American Indian Day was formally approved in 1915 during the Congress of the American Indian Association’s annual meeting. On September 28, 1915, Reverend Sherman Coolidge, the president of the association and an Arapaho, issued a proclamation that declared the second Saturday of May to be American Indian Day. The proclamation also included the first formal appeal for recognition of American Indians as U.S. citizens.
New York was the first state to declare American Indian Day on the second Saturday of May in 1916 and other states began celebrating the day on the fourth Friday of September. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution that designated the entire month of November to be National American Indian Heritage Month. November has since been proclaimed some variation of National American Indian Heritage Month every year after 1994.
Native American Heritage Month is a time to show respect, appreciation, and recognition for the indiginous people who were the first inhabitants of the North American lands. The following are ways for people of all backgrounds to celebrate, honor, and be involved in this important month.
Supporting Native-Owned Businesses or Charities
Utilizing the services of native-owned businesses also supports native communities’ economic well-being. There are many environmental, education, economic, health, and rights groups that advocate for Native American people and their communities. Here is a list from Diversity Best Practices.
An Ohio-specific organization is the Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio, or NAICCO. NAICCO has recently launched their Bigger & Better NAICCO Campaign. The goal of the campaign is to raise money in order to purchase more land and a new building for the NAICCO organization and the community.
Ty Smith, the NAICCO Project Director, described this campaign as “a meaningful initiative on behalf of the Native American people here in Ohio today.”
Contribute to this cause by donating to NAICCO and by sharing the Bigger & Better NAICCO Campaign with family and friends.
“To achieve this goal would not only be a dream come true, but also the foundation necessary for writing a new, successful chapter of the highest magnitude in modern-day Native American history,” said NAICCO Leadership.
Attending an Educational Event
Many institutions host events in honor of this month. In fact, the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have joined together to create nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov. The website features a collection of exhibits, collections, historical records, and other educational resources from each of the listed institutions in a “tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans.”
Some local institutions and organizations, such as schools, libraries, and cultural groups, will also host events. Examples of events include webinars, dance performances, and puppet shows.
Experiencing the Works of Native American Artists
Reading, watching, and listening to work by Native American artists not only provides entertainment, but also a new or different perspective. There are a plethora of Native American artists; to start, here are lists from Artcyclopedia and Culture Trip. Rick Williams, whose artwork is featured in this article, is a Native American artist in Seattle, Washington, and comes from an entire family of woodcarvers. Some of his art is available for purchase online.
Some celebrated Native American authors include Tommy Orange, Louise Erdrich, Stephen Graham Jones, and Joy Harjo, though there are many more. Explore 10 Great Films About Native Americans and Native American filmmakers from IMDB.
Bear Witness and 2oolman are two Canadian DJs of native heritage. Together they are A Tribe Called Red and produce electronic powwow music. Their work combines electronic dance music with traditional native drum circles.
“There was a really quick realization that we were doing something much bigger than we thought we were,” Bear Witness said in an interview with Sound Field. “When we first started making this music, it was to make something that everybody could enjoy and everyone can appreciate, but that would be instantly recognizable and identifiable to indigenous people.”
Check out other Native American musicians from PBS.
“Decolonizing” Thanksgiving Dinner
Many American children are taught that the pilgrims and Native Americans shared a friendly meal together, and this is considered the first Thanksgiving. However, according to Alaa Elassar of CNN, many Native Americans consider this to be a “Day of Mourning.” This is in recognition of the actual tragedy that European colonization had on indiginous communities in the Americas.
In a video published by the YouTube channel Cut as part of its One Word series, Native Americans were asked to respond to one word: Thanksgiving. Some responses were positive, such as “family,” “warm,” “celebration,” and “thankful.” However, some were less optimistic: “lies,” “sadness,” “inaccurate,” “colonization,” and “massacre” were all words used by Native Americans to describe Thanksgiving. Watch the entire video here.
Some Native American groups and their allies have been calling on Americans to “decolonize” their Thanksgiving traditions. This can include getting rid of Native American decorations and tropes, introducing some native foods and dishes to the dinner table, and discussing Native American history with family and guests over dinner.
Visiting a Native American Reservation or Museum
First it should be made clear that reservations are homes for Native American tribes and communities; they are not tourist attractions. Alaa Elassar of CNN says many Native Americans live, work, and raise families on reservations. Some are actual land remnants of native tribes, while others are federal government creations for Native Americans who were forcibly removed from their native lands.
That being said, some reservations do welcome visitors, and have built their own museums to educate the general public about their specific history and culture. For example, Cherokee, North Carolina has the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. There are no federally recognized Native American reservations in Ohio at this time according to Jessie Walton of midstory.org. However, there are many Native American Heritage sites throughout Ohio where visitors can learn about the ancient culture of the state.
November 2020 – As we move into the holiday season, we prepare to embrace the cold air of winter and gather with those most dear to us. While Christmas may be the first holiday that comes to mind, there are a plethora of holidays and festivals during this time of year. However, as many of us are aware, the COVID-19 pandemic is changing many of our traditions as we tackle celebrating this year in a more safe and socially-distanced way. A number of students at Bio-Med Science Academy will feel this impact directly.
Eighth-grader Chloe Cook said, ”Some of my best memories with my family come from around the holidays, but I am willing to sacrifice them for the safety of everyone. I may love Black Friday shopping and running around stores, but in the end, it is just not worth it with all the crowds and high risk for getting the virus.“
Although COVID-19 may limit the festivities, there are still a number of ways that you can celebrate.
Starting November 12, millions worldwide celebrated a five-day Festival of Lights known as Diwali. Because it is a lunar holiday, based on the full moon, the date may change from year to year. While the holiday is primarily recognized by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains also partake in the festivities.
Diwali is a truly joyous celebration, encouraging light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair as many prepare to enter the winter months. While celebrations may vary person to person, common activities include going to temples, lighting fireworks, and distributing treats.
The most recognizable symbol of the holiday is the diya. Diyas are handmade clay cups that are then filled with oil and lit similar to a candle, extending the theme of light.
Typically the large festival is focused on the gathering of communities and families. However, because of COVID-19 many were forced to keep their celebrations solely in the home, not even being able to visit temples.
In late November, we just wrapped up observing Thanksgiving day. Given that this is such a popular holiday for many Americans, officials were largely concerned about compliance with COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines. Although there are no national statistics on how many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, 98.2% of 221 Bio-Med students who responded to a survey stated that their families typically recognize the day.
Last year, the American Automobile Association (AAA) reported that 55 million Americans traveled over 50 miles for Thanksgiving. This trend, if followed this year, would have been in conflict with COVID-19 precautions and procedures for gatherings.
The CDC offered a number of recommendations for Thanksgiving gatherings. Low risk activities were small gatherings with only household members present, virtual dinners, preparing dishes for family and friends ahead of time, and shopping online. Activities with a moderate risk included: having small outdoor dinners, visiting orchards and pumpkin patches while following COVID-19 precautions, and attending small outdoor sporting events. Partaking in any larger, crowded activities was highly discouraged, although early estimates predicted that 38% of Americans would attend large gatherings.
On Thanksgiving day, the Transportation Security Association (TSA) reported that more than 560,000 people travelled via plane throughout the country. This is a significant decrease from last year, when nearly 1.6 million travellers were reported. However, this year, in the days leading up to the holiday, roughly one million people still traveled per day. Although in years previous there were over twice as many travellers, these numbers are still concerning given the current pandemic.
More than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported the day after Thanksgiving despite 20 states withholding data. In a Cable News Network (CNN) article, Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University stated, “In a week, more likely two weeks, we will see a surge upon a surge.”
Entering the winter months, there are still many holidays to come. Last year, AAA reported that an estimated 115.6 million people traveled between December 21 and January 1. To put the numbers into perspective, that is over a third of the United States population. With travel being discouraged amidst the pandemic, it is evident that many will need to rethink their plans and traditions surrounding this time.
The most widely observed winter holiday in the United States is Christmas. Annually on December 25th, many gather to exchange gifts under an indoor tree, eat a large meal, and celebrate the birth of Christ. While many of the festivities are standard from household to household, senior Blessing Mupinga’s family does something rather unique.
She stated that, “Instead of going to sleep early on Christmas eve to wake up to all of the presents that Santa dropped off overnight, we stay up until about 2 a.m. When the clock strikes midnight, we start to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus and it’s followed by a series of praise and worship for all that he’s done for us.”
It is not uncommon for non-Christians to take part in the religious holiday as well. A 2017 study by the Pew Research Center found that nine in 10 Americans celebrate Christmas, and less than half of those who do actually recognize the day as a solely religious festivity. A similar trend was also seen at Bio-Med, as 88% of 221 students reported that they celebrate the holiday.
Because of the prominence of Christmas festivities in America, it is clear that some changes may need to take place in order to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.
In late December, neopagans, wiccans, and druids will celebrate Yule and the Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice is the longest night and shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. While the solstice itself is always on December 21, Yule festivities will continue on until January 1.
The festival is meant to celebrate the return of the sun and the welcome of warmth and light as the summer months approach. Given the wide array of people that recognize Yule, there are differing histories and traditions stemming from both Germanic and Ancient Nordic peoples. While pagans and druids typically focus solely on the return of life, many Wiccans associate the celebration with mythology. It is believed that on the day of the solstice the Holly King will give up his throne to the Oak King after they battle one another, signifying a transition from the cold and dark into the light and warm year to come.
Overall, the celebrations differ from person to person. However, it surprises some to learn that many Christmas traditions were actually influenced by Yule and pagan traditions. In the past, pagan communities would bring live trees into their homes to be decorated with candles, symbolizing the sun and stars. Druids were also known to cut down mistletoe as a symbol of life in the dark winter months.
Another common tradition is the burning of the Yule log. For this, a log may be decorated with natural items such as berries. Some also choose to write wishes for the new year onto paper, which can then be placed into the log. Then the log is burned in a fireplace or outdoors.
Although celebrations are similar between the different pagan groups, there are some minor differences. Within the Germanic tradition it was more common to light candles throughout the home and on the tree. The Ancient Nordic people commonly had bonfires, burned Yule logs, and decorated their live trees with orbs to represent solar energy. Currently Wiccans may choose to draw on many traditions. It is common for them to decorate trees with natural objects such as orange slices, cinnamon sticks, popcorn, and cranberries, and other objects to represent stars.
Another popular winter holiday is Hanukkah, also commonly referred to as Chanukah, taking place from December 10 to December 18 this year.
Traditionally, the eight-day festival is celebrated by Jewish communities through nightly lighting of the menorah, eating fried foods, and partaking in special prayers. Additionally, gifts are given on each night of the celebration. It is common to play many games during this time, one of the most popular involving the dreidel.
While estimates of how many Americans partake in the holiday are unclear, one news site reports that for every 14 people that celebrate Christmas one person will celebrate Hanukkah. One of the main reasons for the confusion is that within the Jewish community Hanukkah is a rather minor holiday, because it holds more cultural value than religious meaning. Additionally, it is a common misconception that Hanukkah is the Jewish equivalent to Christmas. Many blame this on commercialism in America, as stores sensationalize the holiday and advertise products.
Bio-Med senior Suzie Krauss says, “Chanukah is the Festival of Lights, which celebrates the miracles of God. Specifically, how the oil for the lantern lasted eight days instead of just one. It is a beautiful holiday and it means a lot to me and my family.”
A holiday celebration unique to only the United States is Kwanzaa. Started in 1966, the holiday takes place from December 26 to January 1 every year.
Unlike the two winter holidays previously mentioned, Kwanzaa is a purely cultural holiday. According to the University Of Pennsylvania – African Studies Center, the founder of the celebration, Dr. Maulana Karenga, ”created this festival for Afro-Americans as a response to the commercialism of Christmas.” Additionally, the festival was intended to unite African-Americans and to bring them closer to their African heritage.
Each of the seven days focuses on different principles (the Nguzo Saba): Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work & Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. Every day of the celebration, an additional candle is lit on the candelabra called the kinara. On the kinara there are three red candles, three green candles, and a black one in the center.
Aside from the candles there are six additional symbols of Kwanzaa. The first is the mat or mkeka, symbolizing the tradition and history of the African-American community. Next are the crops or mazao, which represent African harvest celebrations. Another symbol is the corn or muhindi, that symbolize children within the community and their futures. The unity cup or kikombe cha umoja reflects the principle of unity. The last symbol is the gifts or zawadi, which are given on the last day as a representation of the fruits of the parents’ labor and rewards for their children.
Lunar New Year
On February 12, roughly 1.5 billion will celebrate the Lunar New Year, commonly known as Chinese New Year. Despite the name, many other nations and people of Asian descent partake in the celebration, including Vietnam, Korea, Singapore, and Laos.
While the Solar New Year is always on January 1, the Lunar New Year will begin on the first new moon that falls within the Solar New Year and February 20th of the given year. After this day, the celebration will extend 15 days, each day corresponding to a different element of the presentation. The length of the celebration makes it the longest national public holiday in the world.
Similar to Thanksgiving, this holiday is a time to spend with family and friends. In Asia the main celebrations will span several days to allow people to travel home. Nearly everyone in China is allowed seven to twelve days off of work, while children will get the whole month off of school.
A lot goes into celebrating a holiday of this scale. In preparation, many will deeply clean their homes and communities in hopes of washing away filth and sickness for the coming year. Once the day has arrived, towns and homes will be decorated with red lanterns. Additionally, children will receive red envelopes filled with money from their elders. Then the celebration will begin with large gatherings, many lights, and lightning fireworks, all in hopes of fending off evil spirits. Due to the number of people typically involved in the festival, changes will ultimately need to be made in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in many nations.
In the United States, Lunar New Year looks a bit different as adults and children may not get nearly as much time away from work and school. However, there are still many large celebrations throughout the country, some extending for the entirety of the month.
While many holiday traditions have to be sacrificed or amended this year due to COVID-19, with talks of upcoming vaccinations, many are hopeful that some normalcy will return by next year’s holiday season.
November 2020 – According to Ohio.gov, only 2.6% of enrolled students were of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in the 2018-2019 school year. So, what is it like to be a racial minority of Asian descent in a predominately white school? While the exact statistics for Bio-Med Science Academy are unknown, three Biomed Students of Asian descent went on record about their experiences. Generally, all three of them said that although they haven’t experienced any discrimination at Bio-Med, they would like to see more diversity in the student population and in the curriculum.
One of the students interviewed was Marina Levy. She is of mixed heritage; her grandmother is Taiwanese, and the rest of her family is white.
“People don’t normally aim [jokes] towards me unless they know I am Asian, usually because they make a joke and I tell them it’s offensive. I am also Jewish so there is a mix of jokes surrounding being smart as an insult. Sometimes because since I do not look Asian they think I will join in on stereotyping until I don’t,” she says.
Another student, Lucas Hagen, who is Japanese, also says that he hasn’t experienced any discrimination at Bio-Med. Actually, being the only racial minority in the room makes him feel special, he said. Any discrimination he’s previously faced was mostly about his eyes, or how he looks different than most people. While he is fine with the racial representation in the curriculum, he thinks “it would just be cool to see a lot more people from different backgrounds and cultures.”
Mona Bondoc is Filipino, and new to Bio-Med this year. “I used to feel pressured to speak when my schoolmates were having discussions about race, as I was one of the only minorities there,” she said.“My old classmates thought that I was super smart and knew everything, so when I didn’t know something, I felt a little guilty.”
One story of discrimination she shared was of her and an old friend who was Indian. People would get them confused, despite the two of them looking “nothing alike.” She’s also had her achievements undermined due to being Asian, getting told that she only got a good grade on a test because she was Asian.
Overall, at least according to the students who were interviewed, Bio-Med seems to be a friendly environment for people of Asian descent, despite the general lack of diversity in the student body. There seem to be far fewer issues regarding racial discrimination for these minorities, and the students said that the curriculum is generally more inclusive than other schools.
During fair week this year, students had to figure out how they would address the fictional scenario of a federal law limiting cattle numbers being passed. In a study conducted by Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast in 2005, a genus of seaweed called Asparagopsis has been shown to reduce the amount of methane produced by cattle by an astounding 98.2%. The seaweed has other potential benefits as well, but there’s just one problem: we haven’t done anything to utilize its unique properties.
The authors of the study suspect that some kind of secondary metabolite is what gives the seaweed its remarkable property. Secondary metabolites are small molecules that plants release as a defense mechanism, like the toxins that milkweed plants produce to deter insects from eating the plant’s leaves.
A variety of other compounds have been studied for their gas-inhibiting effects, including other varieties of seaweed, zinc, and garlic, but none so promising as Asparagopsis. In addition to practically eliminating bovine methane emissions, this seaweed has the potential to improve diet digestibility and the overall efficiency of cattle. Cattle lose 12% of their gross energy intake to producing methane, so eliminating preventing methane production also prevents that energy loss, which in turn results in more efficient cattle. The USC study and other more recent studies also analyzed the impact of the seaweed on the production of volatile fatty acids, or VFAs, which are what the cow uses to create energy. Decreased VFA levels are an indicator of inhibited digestion, but all the studies have shown that quantities of seaweed that inhibit methane do not impact VFA levels.
Many countries like New Zealand are trying to reduce methane emissions by proposing legislation to reduce the number of cattle in the country. However, they are facing massive backlash, because farmers (understandably) don’t want to lose profits or their jobs. This seaweed could be a solution that lets us eliminate methane while allowing farmers to maintain herd sizes and profits.
It’s pretty clear that this seaweed has remarkable potential, so why isn’t it already being used in cattle feed? After all, the Sunshine Coast study that revealed Asparagopsis ‘s potential was published in 2005. It’s been 14 years since then, but the seaweed is yet to be made commercially available. Part of that time has been devoted to further research confirming and expanding our knowledge of the seaweed’s effects, but the main obstacle to actually using it is that we don’t have the funding to develop the methods and equipment needed to mass produce it. Not a single politician or entrepreneur has taken the initiative to use this amazing discovery to solve our methane problem.
That’s where we come in. It’s important that we, as students, learn about things like this so that in the not-so-far-off future, when our generation is the one doing research and creating laws, we can use ideas like this one to create real change. We will be the engineers that develop ways to sustainably produce enough seaweed to feed cows everywhere, the politicians that support its implementation in the farming industry, and the farmers that choose to feed it to their cows. We will have to be the ones to take responsibility for the damage we are doing to our planet. That’s why what we do here in school is important: we need to acquire the skills and knowledge to accomplish what the current generation hasn’t.