Respecting Personal Pronouns

Respecting Personal Pronouns

by Serena Gestring, staff writer

May 2021 – Bio-Med Science Academy strives to foster an environment where students, staff, and community members are respected, connected, and inspired. This type of environment creates a sense of community, one of the six Bio-Med attributes. One of the necessary pieces required to reach this goal is respecting personal pronouns.

Oxford Languages defines “pronoun” as “a word that can function by itself as a noun phrase and that refers either to the participants in the discourse (e.g., I, you) or to someone or something mentioned elsewhere in the discourse (e.g., she, it, this).”

Personal pronouns are used when referring to a person being talked about. There are many personal pronouns with which individuals can identify, and while some are more common than others, they are all valid. Below is a guide on how to use different pronouns from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s LGBTQ+ Resource Center.

A guide to pronouns from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
A list of pronouns and the different forms that they come in.

One step towards accepting personal pronouns, especially ones that may seem new or unfamiliar, is to recognize that pronouns and their usage have not always stayed the same; they have changed throughout history. Dennis Baron is a professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois, and for decades has studied the history of pronoun usage. He has compiled his research into his book “What’s Your Pronoun?” Beyond He & She.”

So far, Baron’s list contains over 200 coined gender-neutral pronouns, the earliest being from the late 18th century. He believes these words failed for a variety of reasons, such as not being adopted by enough people, not reaching a wide audience, and being too strange or difficult to read or speak.

One exception to this is the singular “they.” Those who are opposed to the use of the singular “they” claim it is grammatically incorrect. However, according to Merriam Webster’s website, people have been using “they” as a singular pronoun since the 1300s.

People today use singular “they” all the time in everyday conversations. For instance, Oxford Languages lists one definition of “they” as “used to refer to a person of unspecified gender,” and gives an example sentence: “Ask someone if they could help.”

Using the singular “they” as a gender-neutral pronoun for someone who does not identify with the pronouns he/him/his or she/her/hers is a more recent development. Nevertheless, Oxford Languages lists another definition of “they” as “used to refer to a person whose gender or sexual identity does not correspond to the traditional binary opposition of male and female.”

The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary also gives a definition of “they” for this usage. The 2017 Associated Press Stylebook includes guidance on using singular “they” as well. The APA Style Guide also accepts this usage: “Use of the singular ‘they’ is endorsed as part of APA Style because it is inclusive of all people and helps writers avoid making assumptions about gender. Although usage of the singular ‘they’ was once discouraged in academic writing, many advocacy groups and publishers have accepted and endorsed it.”

Also, “you” used to only be used as a plural pronoun, along with “ye.” “Thee” and “thou” were used as singular pronouns instead. “You” was not widely used as a singular pronoun until the 17th century, and the use of the singular you is not disputed today. This is an example of how a pronoun’s usage can change and become generally accepted, which is now being seen with the singular they.

So why are there those who are still adamantly against individuals identifying with pronouns other than he and she? That comes down to not a grammar issue, but an issue of respect.

Matthew Fowler is a senior undergraduate student studying public health and sociology at Kent State University. He also interns at the Kent State LGBTQ+ Center, where he advocates for pronoun usage across the campus.

Pronoun pin provided by Kent State LGBTQ+ Center.

“Even though I’m cisgender and I use he/him pronouns, personal pronouns is something that I have been made aware of. Throughout my years growing up on the internet and trying to educate myself about queer issues in queer spaces, pronouns have been one of the earliest things that I learned about in terms of gender identity and respecting others,” Fowler said.

Fowler has friends and has met many people through his internship who are not out or whose personal pronouns are not completely validated in other parts of their life. He believes that by respecting pronouns, he is helping to validate and create a safe space for those individuals.

“[Pronouns] have a lot of personal weight in them when you use it to validate or unfortunately invalidate someone. I totally understand that, in the grand scheme of issues with gender identity, and within the trans and gender nonconforming community, pronouns are not the only thing to be worried about; however it is that baseline of decency and respect. When we talk about issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc., first unfortunately we have to aim for the baseline. [To] me, pronouns is [the] least you can do when you’re fighting against transphobia and general gender discrimination,” expressed Fowler. “Furthermore, it’s just a personal piece of respect, because if you identify a certain way I should respect that. That’s not my life. That is not my thing to judge or to critique or comment on.”

However, not everyone feels this way. In public places especially, Fowler has seen many people be directly misgendered, or the wrong pronouns used in reference to someone outside of the conversation. He explained that while he has never personally been triggered by these instances, he sympathizes with those who have and understands the feelings of sadness, frustration, and anger that come with it.

“At this point I’m used to it. I’m used to seeing it and like I said, as a cis person, it’s not as if it is a personally traumatic experience for me. However, I do respect the trauma that it does promote and…that it creates for people who are not cisgender,” said Fowler.

In those moments, Fowler has pushed himself to step in and correct and educate someone, providing it is a safe space to do so and he has permission if the misgendering was towards someone in particular.

“I often try to assess the situation and see if I, with my cis privilege and the respect that I may have from certain people that I talk to, if I can insert myself in that moment and try to make a change, even if it’s just temporary,” stated Fowler.

Depending on the circumstance, he will try to give the person doing the misgendering the benefit of the doubt.

“Maybe they just don’t understand. Maybe they never looked [for pronouns] if it’s an online thing. Maybe they just need [to be] educated on how to be respectful of that person,” Fowler said.

“Sometimes there are people you can’t talk to. No matter what, there’s nothing you can do that will change their mind, change their attitude, make them feel bad for what they did and try to get them to apologize,” Fowler explained.

In those specific instances, his thought process is: “If I’m going to be mad about it, if I’m going to feel resentment and frustration, how can I funnel those feelings into something productive?”

Fowler does this through his advocacy work at the Kent State LGBTQ+ Center. If there is a frustrating update within the university, or something on the news or online, he gets together with another LGBTQ+ Center intern and they discuss their feelings, thoughts, and ideas of what they can do.

“It’s really nice to be able to funnel that energy now into a specific project that we’re doing that is contributing to the overall topic of personal pronouns, gender identity, and stuff like that. So it’s really nice to have an outlet,” said Fowler.

On a more personal level, Fowler opened up about a cousin of his who uses he/him/his pronouns and a name different from the one he was given at birth. Unfortunately, the cousin’s parents and the majority of his family were unsupportive, and this led to him giving up on trying to get them to use his correct name and pronouns.

“I just couldn’t imagine having to go through that; going home and just accepting the fact that you are going to be misgendered, you are going to be called by your dead name, and you just have to exist as an invalid person there,” Fowler stated.

This is a widly different reaction from when Fowler came out as gay to his family and was met with lots of support, especially from his aunt, the mother of his cousin.

“It’s so hard because I’ve always loved my aunt to pieces. She’s been my number one supporter,” Fowler said.

Fowler learned of his cousin’s coming out during a conversation with his aunt about the situation and her feelings in regards to it. He offered to provide some resources to help with understanding, and to revisit the conversation in the future.

“I try to stay close with her just because I know these conversations aren’t over yet. I have hopes that I can do something meaningful and impactful when the perfect time arises,” said Fowler.

Fowler pointed out that sometimes people make mistakes, and that is okay. He gave the example of Kent State’s Vice President of Student Affairs, Lamar Hylton, using the wrong pronouns while talking about someone during a virtual meeting Fowler had attended. Immediately after, Hylton apologized, corrected himself, and then continued the conversation.

“That’s nice to see what we describe as the perfect scenario of someone messing up, correcting, and moving on. That was, you know, nice to be like, “Oh, well one of the top heads at Kent State University made a mistake, which sucks, but then immediately realized that they made the mistake, fixed it, and then just moved on,’” he described.

Fowler is grateful to say he frequently sees people being respectful, or making an effort to be respectful, of others’ personal pronouns in the circles he is in. When someone he knows comes out online by readjusting their pronouns, he is happy to see the vast amounts of support shown to that person.

“It gives me hope that there is a future where it just becomes normalized. That is the fight for everything. Pronouns aren’t a legal issue, we’re not talking about name changes, we’re not talking about gender identification, we’re talking about informal verbal communication,” Fowler said. “How can we shift the mindset of a culture to not always assume and to not be afraid to ask and to make mistakes and to readjust your own language? And so when I see these good things happening it gives me hope.”

Theo Peppeard is a senior at Bio-Med Science Academy who uses any pronouns at any time, including she, he, and they. Peppeard believes when people are respectful of others’ pronouns, it means they are respectful of who those people are.

“It makes me happy that other people are willing to acknowledge that I’m not just a ‘she’, but that in my case, I am fluid in my identity,” Peppeard stated.

Peppeard praised BMSA on creating a comfortable and respectful environment for its students.

“[Bio-Med] is definitely a school that accepts students for who they are compared to me walking into Ravenna or Southeast schools. There are some students who either don’t understand, which I am happy to help them understand, or just flat out refuse to use preferred pronouns and names. I can’t ever force them because if they are set on their beliefs, they are set on their beliefs. I believe in a way, [Bio-Med] is far up there on the understanding scale,” said Peppeard.

Kaden Starkey is a BMSA senior who uses he/him/his pronouns and is a female to male transgender individual. When he started high school four years ago, he was not out to anyone. Being at a new school and having a fresh start but remaining in the closet was very difficult.

“Whenever someone would refer to me with she/her pronouns, it felt like I was being stabbed in the chest, frozen in time due to the extreme emotional pain. I knew it was because they had no idea I was trans and that they didn’t intend to do it on purpose or cause any harm…but, it still didn’t help the extreme dysphoria that I would feel due to it,” explained Starkey. “I would spend hours, days, weeks trying to figure out what it was that told them I wasn’t male. It was an extremely negative and hurtful way of thinking, but it was a thought process I could not get out of…one that literally almost killed me.”

Starkey recalled the first time someone referred to him as a male, during his eighth grade school trip to Washington D.C: “I was going into the Smithsonian and the security guard gave me my belongings (after checking them for security reasons). As he’s handing me my bag, he says “Here you go sir,” and the engulfing amount of euphoria that poured through my body was an experience I have never experienced. I will never forget that moment because it was the single thing I held onto for that year. It was the thing I kept reminding myself of to make it through the day. Even though at the time, I could not envision a life where I was not hiding my identity from all but a select group of people, this moment gave me hope.”

Unfortunately, the idea of coming out still left Starkey terrified. He was concerned he would be kicked out of the house, alienated from his family, and lose his friends. Fortunately, he was attending Bio-Med, and eventually became comfortable enough to begin coming out.

“Compared to my homeschool and experiences there, Bio-Med made me feel like a human, one that wasn’t a nobody. I was out to all my teachers and a handful of classmates before I even came out to my family all because of how safe and comfortable I felt with the environment. Going into the school, I knew that they had a decent reputation for being LGBTQ+ friendly. But coming from a city school district, it was an entire atmospheric change, a positive one, that I was not expecting. Attending the school’s GSA, specifically freshman year, really helped me come to terms with myself and learn to accept my gender identity,” said Starkey.

Several months later, Starkey had a goal to legally change his name before the start of his sophomore year. Due to legal restrictions, this was not possible until a few weeks into the school year.

“On the first day of school, as I went to each class, I told all of my teachers that the name on the roster is incorrect and that I was going to be getting it legally changed soon, and that I would like you to call me Kaden and use he/him and stuff. I remember Mrs. Rickle was really excited and she would ask me almost daily, ‘Did you get it done yet?!’ All the other teachers were also really supportive and understanding,” stated Starkey. “Overall, the teachers in this regard are highly supportive and immediately started calling me Kaden and using the correct pronouns. There were a few slip ups at first, but that’s because we’re human and it wasn’t on purpose.”

However, Starkey believes there is always room for improvement. He suggested allowing spaces for gender markers and preferred names to be made available to all staff and on rosters, though he acknowledged that legal names can be difficult due to paperwork and legalities. He also described activism as being an important yet simple thing to do.

“[Teachers] could talk to their students and bring awareness and education to the topic. Inform them of the proper respect and ways to go about things. Offer more support to those that are struggling with these kinds of things; though, I know it’s hard when there’s not really ‘certified officials’ on campus to help with gender identity issues and things related. When students go to administration or a teacher about a student disrespecting one’s pronouns, that adult could be more supportive and understanding. And if this happens continuously, that the student [who’s] being disrespectful will actually be held accountable for their actions,” Starkey explained.

Today, Starkey has been doing hormone replacement therapy for two years, and gives himself weekly shots of testosterone.

“The changes that have occurred from taking it has allowed me to become more masculine presenting, and because of this people refer to me by the correct pronouns. Being referred to with the correct pronouns, has allowed me to feel more aligned, comfortable, and even a bit confident with myself. And because of that, it has helped my mental health tremendously,” said Starkey. “Just this year, I have finally been able to say that I felt comfortable in my own skin, and I would not have gotten here without people respecting my pronouns. Sure, there’s still some people here and there who misgender me, but I try my best to shake it off.”

Starkey believes being respectful of personal pronouns is a simple act of human decency.

“If you’re saying ‘During the summer she likes to ride her bike,’ all you have to do is replace she/her for he/him or they/them or another pronoun that one may identify with. I truly don’t understand why people feel the need to purposefully call someone by the wrong pronouns. What do they get out of it? Because if the tables were turned, they would be butt hurt if someone called them another gender. I honestly do not see the reason or need as to why people choose to attack another, verbally or physically. It’s not like they can change those things. People don’t just choose to identify as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth. If they did and that’s how things worked, the mental health of transgender individuals would be drastically better. Some people think, “Oh it’s just some stupid words. Boohoo what if someone doesn’t say the ones you want?” But words are really powerful and more meaningful than what’s on the surface. If we could all just learn to accept people for who they are and not ridicule them over differences that one cannot control, that would be wonderful,” expressed Starkey.

culture general Uncategorized

TikTok’s Impact on Mental Health

TikTok’s Impact on Mental Health

by Havann Brown, staff writer

Tik Tok is a social media platform that was released in 2016. Tik tok has exploded in popularity in recent years.

APRIL 2021 – In 2017, a Beijing-based tech company called ByteDance acquired Musical.ly for $1 billion before moving its users to a new platform.  A year later, the popular video streaming app, assumed a new name: TikTok. It is a social video-sharing app that allows creators to record, edit, and post videos up to sixty seconds in length. The app has amassed over six hundred million monthly active users worldwide and has been downloaded over two billion times on the App Store and Google Play.

TikTok users can create a variety of content ranging from challenges, dancing, artwork, comedic videos, and many more. On the app, every user has the opportunity to go viral, and many experts have raised concerns about TikTok and its growing popularity. A 2017 study of 8th to 12th graders found that high levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33% between 2010 and 2015 and has connected the results to overwhelming social media consumption. Increased technology use has been linked to mental health issues for a variety of reasons, including triggering content, social isolation, and a need for validation. 

TikTok saw a rise in users at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. During quarantine, more individuals had to remain at home and find new ways to occupy their time. As stated by the Philadelphia Inquirer, “the platform has viral memes where teenagers use self-deprecating humor to talk about anxiety, sexuality, insecurities, depression, and relationship abuse.” Given the wide array of content available on the platform, its users, teens and young adults in particular, have been recommended to exercise caution when using the app.

According to a survey completed by students in grades 7th through 12th, many students at Bio-Med use TikTok. Of the 112 students surveyed, 72.3% are active on the platform. When asked why they downloaded the app, answers ranged from “wanting to keep up with trends” to “needing something to help pass the time.” 

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you use TikTok?. Number of responses: 112 responses.

Aside from the various reasons for downloading the app, students have many different opinions on the possible effect the app has on the mental health of its users. 

Two students shared some of the positive aspects of TikTok.

Eighth-grader Sophie Wiley said, “I think that the app has a very positive environment with strict guidelines for learning, and growth, making an accepting community.”

“I think TikTok has a positive effect on the mental health of users. My sister started using the app this year and has not only connected with more friends, but gained confidence doing something she loves,” said Freshman Mallory Butcher. “Any social media is bound to have some negative effects on users because interacting with people is stressful, but the way I see people use the app, it has helped to keep safe in quarantine and gain social skills.”

Other students shared alternative opinions.

Junior Alex Hale-Hartman said, “I feel that just going through and using TikTok like any other social media isn’t bad, but creating and putting actual care and effort into joining a fad and making TikToks can have a negative effect.  It puts the want for social acceptance and the want to conform into a need for the individual and that’s never good.”

“The content is totally fine, but it’s the easy scrolling and short videos that damage our mental health. Our attention spans are being shortened and our threshold for instant gratification goes up and ultimately puts us at a disadvantage,” added Senior Suzie Krauss.

A study conducted by JAMA Psychiatry reported “spending more than 3 hours on social media per day puts adolescents at a higher risk for mental health problems.” In the survey responses, many students noted their concerns about the amount of time people spend on the app. TikTok use of more than five times a week was reported by 45.5% of students, with some using it every day. 

Junior Biomedical Engineering teacher and new TikTok creator, Miss Elissa Fusco (@miss.fusco) shared her experience with the platform. After being persuaded by some of her students, Miss Fusco downloaded the app. 

“I personally just needed a creative outlet for the crazy things that happen in the life of a teacher. Most of it is satire and just humor because honestly this year has been wild. That humor and creativity have been really helpful to let go of some stress,” said Fusco.

She also commented on the time concerns, “If you don’t manage your time [TikTok] can be very harmful because you get stuck into this rut and addiction in which you just keep watching videos. I do have a social media time limit set on my phone to help with this. Another potentially negative thing is the satisfaction from likes. When you don’t get as many likes as you hoped for or you don’t have that resilience to be okay with that, it can really cause someone to falter a bit along with their mental health.”

When asked how to establish healthy social media habits, Dr. Gary Maslow, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, told CNN, “It’s a balance, because there are benefits to engagement with media. There are so many ways in which social media is important and has positive features, but there’s also ways in which social media can replace social support and connection from people you are living with in person,” he said. “So it’s finding that sweet spot.” 

culture

Stress Levels at Bio-Med Science Academy

Stress Levels at Bio-Med Science Academy

by Alyssa Cocchiola, Staff Writer

APRIL 2021- With due dates, state testing, and pressure to decide a career path in the midst of a pandemic, life for students can be stressful. A total of 102 students from grades 7-12 participated in a survey conducted by The Hive rating their stress. When asked to rate stress levels they experienced on a scale of one to ten, Bio-Med students answered an average of seven (with one being no stress and ten being extremely stressed).

After the results were recorded, it revealed that 89.2% of students were stressed because of school, and 56.9% were stressed because of mental health. 

Pictured Above is a graph representing the stress levels of Bio-med students.

In an attempt to reduce future stress levels, students shared ways that help them relax

“I give myself time to step away from my school work and responsibilities when I become overwhelmed,” Autumn Groen, a senior at Bio-Med wrote. “Some things I do to relieve stress are going on walks, spending time with my dog, and listening to music.”

She also noted that while being able to step away from her school work helps her de-stress, there are activities the school offers that help as well.

“Cyber Patriots has been a club that has helped me to step away from school assignments once a month, and although stressful at times due to its problem-solving aspects, it is a lot of fun to work through the images, chat with teammates, and eat good food,” Groen concluded. 

Virtual Versus In Person:

Out of the students that filled out the survey, only 21.6% were completing school virtually. When being asked if attending school in person was less stressful than attending at home, 74% of in-person students answered “yes.” Alternatively, exactly 52.4% of virtual students stated that being at home added more stress to their day. 

“I think it is more stressful,” Dakota Rennecker, an 8th grader, commented. “When you are in person you can go up to a teacher or friend and ask questions or show them problems you are having. When you are at home it is different.”

Communication was brought up frequently as a stressful part of virtual learning. With a lack of face to face communication and instructions, some students felt like it was more stressful with the only forms of communication being Zoom calls and emails. 

“You have to email your teachers which sometimes they can take some time to respond and when you do ask for help or are having an issue it is hard to show them or for them to understand your problem,” Rennecker continued. “You also can’t get much help after 4 pm and it makes me feel scared or anxious that I don’t understand what I am doing or I am going to do it wrong,” she concluded.

Haily Baer is a 7th grader who was virtual for the first half of the school year. During the second half, she switched to going in-person. She compared both her experiences and shared that virtual school added more stress to her day. 

“It changed my perspective a lot actually, ‘cause I used to love working at home; everybody loves being able to do whatever they want when they want to. But that changed after being so isolated from people,” she shared. “Being a social person who is stuck at home causes mass stress. You don’t have anyone to help you work, and you don’t have your friends. Now everytime we can go to the building, I make sure to go ‘cause no one wants to feel so lonely.”

While completing school work at home adds stress to some people’s days, others did not see an increase in stress caused by school. For some students, they noted it was beneficial for them to be able to work at their own pace. 

“It’s been less stressful for a few reasons,” Caroline Brunn stated. He is an 8th grader attending school virtually, and says that being at home does not add stress to his day. “A) I can take naps and eat food and stuff;  B) In all honesty, I spend a lot of time playing video games and not doing school so it’s pretty ‘chill.’”

“Either option comes with its own stresses,” Emma Aguliar, a 10th grade student completing school virtually, noted. “I do not think that attending school virtually is any less stressful than attending school in person. It’s just a different kind of stress. Attending school virtually comes with the stress of not knowing exactly what is going on inside of school. This makes communicating with people in school harder and more stressful.”

Just Dance Breaks

Dance parties are held in the commons as a fun way to help alleviate stress.

Lillian Ijoma is a junior this year and noted that she was often stressed about the future. When being asked about whether or not she thought it was more or less stressful to attend school in person, she responded “When I’m at home, it’s much harder to be motivated. Also, especially with math, when you actually have to learn instead of just completing projects or assignments, it’s so much harder to understand material when you can’t ask questions.” 

One thing that has helped her de-stress while attending school has been the Just Dance sessions offered at school. “When I’m at school, me and my friends can be stressed together and that’s very helpful. Also, Mino and Hisey hold daily Just Dance sessions in the commons and doing those with my friends are extremely wonderful and good.” 

When asked, only 23.1% of students attending school in person have attended the Just Dance Breaks are held after the last lunch period around 1:16 PM. Out of those students, 43.2% of people who attend felt less stressed afterwards. 

Students at Biomed Upper Academy participating in a dance party.

The dance breaks themselves were started by a group of sophomore students and now happen daily. Aidan Veney, a 10th grade student, helped organize the dance breaks by creating a google form where students had the opportunity to request songs and have them played. 

“I realized I really liked them so I tried to keep them going and keep people going to them,” he commented.

Along with enjoyment, they also provide him with a way to de-stress. “I look forward to doing them every day,” he explained. “It’s just like a little thing to look forward to every day. Especially with the hour and a half long classes, it can be a bit of a drag, so it’s nice to just have even a couple of minutes to do something else.”

Mindfulness Activities

Another way some students de-stress are through mindfulness activities. Mindfulness activities are anything that encourage someone to be aware of their senses and in the moment, like yoga or meditation. They can also be helpful for students to de-stress at home. 

Some students at Biomed participate in meditation or related mindfulness activities to help relieve stress.

“Meditation and yoga really help me center myself,” Emma Aguilar mentioned. “Mindfulness activities are extremely important for me. They help me stay composed during my daily activities whether that is implementing breathing techniques into my daily life or using the yoga I do to improve my soccer playing. “

Out of all the students who took the survey, only 7.9% of people regularly do mindfulness activities, while 42.6% never do. Opinions on mindfulness activities were split, but revealed to be calming for some students. 

“I think everyone can get some kind of benefit from things like meditation, but how much it helps changes from person to person,” Trevor Baldwin, a freshman, commented.

They also provide a way for in-person students to reduce stress as well.

Blessing Mupinga is a senior attending school in person and shared her thoughts on mindfulness as well. “I think that they are very helpful to give your brain a break and get some clarity and make conclusions about your life,” they said. “These may oftentimes influence you to change some of your behaviors to make yourself better so that you are able to partake in more eye opening, restful experiences.”

However, mindfulness is not for everyone. Sitting still and being in the moment can be more stressful for others, and can be harder to do if they are not used to them. 

For students like Grace Watters, an 8th grader attending school in person, mindfulness is not the most effective in relieving stress. “I don’t really understand them,” they said. “I’ve tried, but it doesn’t really work out for me.”

Other students noted that some forms of mindfulness are beneficial, but not all. 

 “I think they’re good but not something effective for me all of the time,” Skyler Earl, a sophomore, commented. “ If it’s something like meditation I can actually get more stressed because I have room to think about what’s stressing me out, but other things like yoga are better because they’re more active.”

Some students like Trevor Baldwin participate in baking to relieve stress.

Baking:

“It just isn’t worth it to be stressed,” Trevor Baldwin commented. He recommended finding a hobby in order to reduce stress. “Mine was baking. It is challenging and fun and the outcome is always something to be proud of.”

Trevor talked about the loaf he baked over the weekend. “The flavor was interesting to say the least. It was a strange recipe that didn’t need to be kneaded and it was very tasty, and goes well with soup or hot pepper cheese,” he said. 

For students, life can be stressful at times. Whether it is school, social life, public health, family, mental health, or career planning, there are ways that can help reduce stress.

culture

Saving the Planet: Earth Day and Recycling at Bio-Med Science Academy

Saving the Planet: Earth Day and Recycling at Bio-Med Science Academy

by McKenna Burchett, staff writer

Photo by McKenna Burchett
Earth day is recognized all over the world and helps demonstrate support for environmental protection.

APRIL 2021 –  Most students at Bio-Med Science Academy report that they don’t do anything particular to celebrate Earth Day. Sophia Wood, an eighth grader, believes that Earth Day is important, as it “stresses the importance of preserving our Earth and informs us about many actions to prevent and slow the impact [of climate change.]” 

Conner Lucas says, “I think it’s important that we are always thinking about the Earth instead of on one day.” 

Bio-Med students seem to be doing this. For example, Mady Kohout says, “I’m always recycling to reduce my trash thrown away. I also went strictly vegetarian just over two years ago and I try to eat vegan or use dairy substitutes as often as I can. I also try to buy as much as I can from environmentally-friendly businesses;  however, that’s more difficult to do regularly since they are hard to come by.” 

Junior Kelsea Cooper is thinking of starting a club that revolves around sustainability efforts “to make more students aware of ways they can make their lives more sustainable to benefit our community and the Earth.”

Earth Day is on April 22, and is the 51st celebration of the event. Earth Day began in 1970 after decades of mass consumption of leaded gas and unchecked factories spewing sludge into the atmosphere. However, in 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, which began to bring awareness to the importance of taking care of our planet through her discussion of adverse pesticides. After a devastating oil spill in Santa Barbara, Senator Gaylord Nelson started a series of teach-ins at college campuses with Congressman Pete McCloskey as his co-chair and Denis Hayes as the organizer of the events. They held it on April 22, which eventually became the international event we know today as Earth Day.

As for the much-debated issue of recycling at Bio-Med, many students and teachers report hearing that the school combines their recycling bins with their trash bins, and only 6.7% of students always used the recycling bins at the school (according to a survey conducted by The Hive.) 

This is not the case though. Neo-Med and Bio-Med have a thorough recycling system. 

Jerry Bergstrom, Neo-Med supervisor of Physical Plant Campus Operations, clarifies this: “We have regular garbage, and we have stations out in the hallways with paper recycling, and then we have the bins that you can open the lids on for plastics and bottles. Cardboard is picked up separate. Portage County Recycling takes all of our plastics, bottles and glass, and then our paper gets shredded and is picked up by Portage industries, which is used for animal beds. Palettes are recycled also; they pick them up and reuse them.”

The New Center, and by extension Bio-Med, works slightly differently. 

“They’re basically the same program we are; we just run two different contracts. It’s picked up by different companies.”

culture

Raising the Minimum Wage

Raising the Minimum Wage

by Havann Brown, staff writer

Minimum wage workers everywhere are advocating for an increased pay to meet basic living requirements.

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.”

culture

The Importance of Valentines Day

The Importance of Valentines Day

by Alyssa Cocchiola, staff writer

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. 

St. Valentine, A holy Roman priest.

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.

culture Uncategorized

A Disease Free Valentine’s Day: Safe Ideas to Spend the Holiday

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.

Zoom Parties

“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. 

A laptop with Zoom open, a digital communication application.

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. 

Watching Movies

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. 

Baking

Kitchen equipment for baking Valentine’s day treats.

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.

Reaching Out

“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.”

culture Uncategorized

Black Students Matter

Black Students Matter

by Havann Brown, staff writer

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.

Black Lives Matter protest in New York on June 9th, 2020. 45% of Black students attended high-poverty schools, compared with 8% of white students.

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. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pasted-image-0-1.png
Among Black students from families living in poverty, 64% have parents whose education level is less than high school. 45% live in mother-only households. 35% live in father-only households.

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.”

culture Uncategorized

November is Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month

by Serena Gestring, staff writer

Pictured is a traditional Native American totem hanging on a wall. These totems represent rich Native American history and culture.

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. 

culture

Navigating the Holidays in 2020

Navigating the Holidays in 2020

by Christine Whyde, staff writer

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.

Diwali 

Candles burning for the festival of lights know as Diwali. Diwali is celebrated in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka although it is celebrated all around the world.

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. 

Thanksgiving

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. 

Christmas

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. 

Yule 

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. 

Hanukkah

Pictured are traditional Jewish items for the Holiday of Hanukkah. Hanukkah is celebrated all around the world and lasts eight days.

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.”

Kwanzaa

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. 

Traditional decorations for the Vietnamese holiday of Tet

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. 

Moving Forward

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.

culture Uncategorized