Educating the educators: HPDA club and the Schoology course for SPPS teachers

By: Caroline Crosby (Vice President of Disability Alliance club at Highland)

Highland Park Senior High School, as well as similar learning establishments around the Twin Cities, display great student body diversity. It may be inferred, then, that a variety of individuals and ranging abilities demands a variety of accommodating instruction and environments.

Inclusion and accessibility are crucial in any working facility, especially in academic settings catered towards young adults and adolescence. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics dictates that the current 7 million students with disabilities in the U.S. comprise 14% of national public school enrollment. No small number!

With this significant information in mind, HP’s own Disability Alliance club (known to many Scotties as “DA club” for short) has been collaborating with the Office of Equity, and other district staff members, to create a comprehensive Schoology course on ableism. The course is described as an asynchronous educational training tool for SPPS faculty and teachers.

The goal? To prompt reflection and growth with attitude, bias, and experiences regarding education and ableism in schools. It may* include informative content on student perspective, the history of disability rights and laws, implicit bias, inclusive suggestions for the classroom, and much more.

As the VP of Disability Alliance, my hope is that this project will prompt lasting, progressive, change for faculty and students alike. Our club has been working closely to provide an in-depth understanding of academic encounters from middle and high schoolers’ perspectives.

From April 21 to May 9, DA opened a survey recording student experiences with accessibility in school. It was available to 6-12 graders anywhere within the district, and collected written and recorded accounts that may be used in the course material.

By the time submissions closed, the survey had collected a whopping 712 responses! Members of the club’s executive board were reportedly ecstatic with the volume of data that the survey received. 

When asked about her time working with the project, HP Junior, Founder, and DA Club President Rui Rui Bleifuss said, “I’m so excited for the impact of the Schoology course, and everything that comes with it. I look forward to seeing the change, and hope it raises awareness around the topics of inclusion + accessibility!”

It appears that enthusiasm for their work was shared across the board! Fellow Junior, and Club Treasurer, Samara Hickle stated, “I love working with Sherry Kempf and the other administrators! I hope this course will educate teachers and give them a better understanding of our experiences as students.”

As those involved move forward with the Schoology course and its illuminating information; students, teachers, and faculty can work day by day to promote a more inclusive environment for all. Positive change is often founded both by organized contribution, and individual participation!

*As a disclaimer: discussed/listed aspects of the Schoology course material in this article are not indicative of the final product. Finalized features and course details are subject to change. For questions or concerns, contact the DA club directly at hpdaclub@gmail.com.

For additional statistics on education and persons with disabilities, please visit:

Why live action adaptations are bad

By: Bijou Kruszka

Live-action adaptations are getting out of hand. It seems like there’s always a new film that has everybody on the internet talking, and it’s hardly ever people saying, “Oh wow, look at this cool new idea for a movie.”

No, the discussion usually goes along the lines of, “Oh wow, I can’t believe that they’re adapting this movie, and it looks like garbage.”

How did we get here?

Technically, this trend started in 2010, with the remake of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. This movie is genuinely good, and it did what adaptations are supposed to do: stay somewhat faithful to the story in tone and plot, while adding some fun changes and fixing anything that needed to be fixed.

This continued in 2015, when Disney released ‘Maleficent’, which also follows what adaptations are supposed to do. This was the film that started the never-ending train of remakes.

After that, Disney started to release 1 or 2 live-action remakes every year. Why? Because of the money. For example, 2017’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ made over 1 billion dollars in the box office.

All Disney had to do to make money was use the nostalgia to get parents to take their kids to see it, get a few celebrities in the cast, and boom, 1 billion dollars. They think that because some live-action movies were good, all of them would be. So, they don’t put much effort into it, leaving the terrible movies we’re getting.

Now, because Disney only has a limited amount of movies that deserved the remake treatment, they started adapting the good movies, like ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Aladdin’. Though these movies are nowhere near perfect (like the issues with ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and Stockholm Syndrome), most of their problems are embedded in the plot, and can’t be removed without heavily changing the story. Plus, the originals have added charm because of the magical elements, which are elevated because of the animation. When you take the animation away, it feels flat and dull.

Because Disney is a media giant, others are following their lead, like the ‘Sonic’ movie. Although it isn’t an exact adaptation, it is a live-action movie using a name almost everyone knows with a few celebrities in the cast.

If more movies are made like this, it does not bode well for the film industry. Not only does it feed the idea that movies don’t have to be original, but it also just means that companies like Disney will get millions of dollars for something they didn’t put effort into because people will still want to see how terrible the movie is.

In the end, live-action remakes, though fun in concept, create a lot of problems, especially with unoriginality.

Daily life during Ramadan

By: Mohamed Ahmed

Hello this is an article about my experiences in Ramadan and what I do every year. This is not an article about Ramadan, explaining what you could do, it is more of an experience article.  

Starting off, I have reached the age where it is mandatory to fast. That age differs per person but when you reach 14 years and 8 months of age you must start to fast. I will be starting earlier than that though. 

When I was younger, I would see my parents, cousins, and older siblings all fast. The effect this had on me was that I wanted to fast as well. So, when I started fasting I only did a half day, like 7 or so hours, then I would break my fast. 

When I was in fifth grade I would fast the whole day and the whole month. 

In the morning, typically from 3AM to 5AM, I would wake up and eat until prayer. After doing so, I would return to sleep but some people go to the Mosque to pray and there is a quote from the Prophet saying the time after morning prayer is a great time to read the Quran. 

When I wake up for the second time, I would go to school and then go to work. 

The no water, or eating, continues until the sun sets, then you can break your fast. At the table there is normally too much food and a lot of cultural delicacies. 

After this, there is another prayer that is one of the five mandatory prayers, but after this, there is an optional but highly recommended prayer. This prayer goes on until 12:30AM, or so, then everyone returns home. 

In the last ten days (the day is random), there is an opportunity for complete repentance, but this is if after sundown you participate in all the prayers beforehand and leave after the following sunset.

Pfizer vaccine for kids

By: Alexandra Rimbu

On Monday, May 10th, the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) made the critical decision to expand the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 12-15, making it the first vaccine in the U.S. authorized for this age group. Previously, the Pfizer vaccine was authorized only for persons ages 16 and up. The two other COVID-19 vaccines, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are still only authorized for persons ages 18 and up.

The authorization of this vaccine came after the FDA’s review of a clinical trial, conducted by Pfizer, involving 2,260 12-to-15-year-olds, which showed the vaccine’s efficacy to be 100%.

The FDA also took into consideration the immune response of these persons aged 12-15 in comparison to the immune response of persons ages 16 and above who were vaccinated as well. Results yielded that the response to the vaccine was good, and, in fact, the younger age group (12-15 years old) had better responses than those in the older age group.

With the vaccine authorized, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and its Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, met on Wednesday, May 12th, to advise the CDC on whether to recommend use of the vaccine in this age group. CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, decided the agency will recommend the vaccine’s use in the new group.

Following this recommendation, the Biden administration quickly mobilized to get vaccinations ready for 12-15 year olds through the federal pharmacy program, pediatricians, and family doctors. 

However, states make the decisions on who gives the vaccine and when, so there is no fixed date on which 12-15 year olds may begin to be vaccinated. As of now though, state licensing boards are discussing the distribution of the vaccine, and hopefully soon, the vaccine will be approved to be distributed throughout the whole state, a decision which will strive towards the eradication of COVID-19.

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Benefits of learning a new instrument

By: Joxery Mezen Camacho

Reduces Stress 

Music itself is known to be a great stress reliever! And according to San Antonio Music Schools, music helps reduce our blood pressure and our heart rate; it also releases happy hormones which helps us feel more relaxed. 

Improves Memory 

When you learn all the different aspects that come with your specific instrument, you’re giving your brain a workout which helps improve your ability to remember things.  

Enhances Patience

Patience is a very important skill to have. It helps us stay relaxed and ultimately leads us to enjoy life a little more. While learning a new instrument, you must make use of that patience through continuous practice and pushing through despite making mistakes. When trying to play new pieces of music, you’ll be learning how to take things slow which you can then use in other areas of your life. 

Improves the Immune Response 

Making music strengthens the immune response, which allows us to fight diseases, as shown in a ‘Live Science/ article! 

Boosts Confidence 

Learning a new instrument shows you that you’re capable of learning new things. With practice, you’ll be able to see your improvement as a player which helps boost your confidence and that confidence boost can slip into other aspects of your life. You can also try to play in front of some friends/family or others in order to feel more confident speaking/performing in front of a group of people. 

Improves Coordination 

With any instrument you play, you will most likely use two or more parts of your body in order to be able to play it correctly. Your mind is also used as it tries to be aware of whether or not you’re playing the right notes. This all comes to play with coordination; practicing all the different movements with your instrument will improve your ability to coordinate. 

Enhances Focus 

In order to learn a new instrument, you must be able to focus. Concentrating on everything you need to work on and your practice sessions makes the brain work on its ability to concentrate which enhances your entire ability to focus. 

For more information, please visit: 

Elon Musk’s SNL feature

By Caroline Crosby

I’ll begin with a confession. I watched the SNL episode that featured Elon Musk on the night it aired, May 8. However, “watched” may not be the most appropriate term for my experience. 

For context, it was technically Sunday. That evening, I had participated in every IB student’s favorite recurring nightmare: furiously writing an overdue English essay until ungodly hours of the night. For reasons still unknown to me, I decided to reward myself (after its completion) by watching the entire program at 4 am rather than sleeping. 

So, in a delirious, half-conscious haze, a few extreme opinions were formed. To clarify, I’ve never been a devote supporter of Elon Musk. Nor am I particularly familiar with his life’s details. Most of my thoughts on his content made little sense then, as you may have guessed. 

After some thorough reflection though (and thorough re-watching), I’ve returned to share!

Surprisingly, the “lovable billionaire’s” appearance as a celebrity host on the widely popular ‘Saturday Night Live’ was a bit mundane. For someone who spends their free time manufacturing flamethrowers and sending cars to space, I’d have thought that Musk would be more adept with simple jokes and public entertainment. 

To expand on that, SNL’s celebrity host changes episode to episode. They appear in “sketches” throughout the show and act as announcers for the regular act changes and assorted commercial breaks. You can think of the weekly guest as one of those charismatic hosts on ‘Jeopardy’, but make them moderately political and multiply their contractual salary by 1000. 

Many of these featured, famed individuals consistently use SNL’s opening monologue to connect to fans. This usually consists of a heartwarming, comedic, or down-to-earth routine that hosts write and perform themselves.

Elon, however, broke the mold – as he has many times before (though usually with the aid of inane sums of money), and somehow achieved to be neither down-to-earth, comedic, or heartwarming. 

This isn’t to say that nothing good came of his performance, though. 

After all, I, a middle-class high school student, can now proudly support the space cars and hieroglyphic named children (all due respect to little X Æ A-Xii), with the knowledge that I would absolutely demolish Elon Musk in a game of ‘Apples-to-Apples’. Or any other terrible, serialized, and humor-based activity for that matter.

Getting down to the specifics, the sketch capitalized on a very exhaustive comedic narrative. Namely, that Elon is rich; you aren’t.

But fear not! He also unearthed the time, in September of 2018, when he “smoked weed on Joe Rogan’s podcast”. I admire the guts it takes to bring up something that publicly embarrassing, but…why? What did it add? The only line I found outwardly laughable was what he said about OJ Simpson. Which speaks for itself, I feel.

In any case, SNL has always been famous for its lighthearted satire of celebrities and superficial social stereotypes. However, it can prove difficult to land a punchline about the “hilariously” unfathomable economic gap between people like Elon Musk and everyone else, when you are Elon Musk. The man, the myth, the legend: could pay his way into a class or two on writing standup comedy, preferably before performing in front of a live televised audience. 

To no one’s surprise, the most notable extent of his social media influence is economic.

Perhaps the raging sea of devoted fans would argue that “You could buy, demolish, and rebuild an entire country from the ground up with his pocket change alone! Elon Musk doesn’t need to be funny, he’s rich!” To these individuals, I might admit that such a controversial statement merits a degree of truth. Do wealthy people really need to be good at everything they do? In Elon’s case, I believe we have our answer.

Scathing criticism aside, I would like to clarify that any and all critique is directed only towards the content of his routine, not the delivery and performance. I’ve noticed a circulation of comments on social media that target Musk’s monotonous tone and use that to dehumanize him. Jeers like “I like the way he tries hard to host the show like a human does,” or “Him and his mom talking sounds like 2 robots trying to simulate human emotion,” under the YouTube clip of the SNL appearance (linked below) are uncalled for.

As someone with Aspergers, Elon Musk may struggle with public speaking and anxiety. Prosody has long been a source of difficulty for people with autism. Individuals on the spectrum may speak in a monotone way, or do the opposite and exaggerate their intonation. The first instance seems likely here. Attacking Musk for something beyond his control is callous, to say the least.

Though, he is an adult and an accomplished CEO who has addressed and spoken to national audiences before. Numerous times, even. It’s not impossible to handle.

Entertaining a live audience, however, in addition to writing and performing a stand-up act using a medium you’ve never experienced before, is an entirely different matter. 

Really, it’s important to remember that the man is by no means a professional comedian, and a creative medium of this scale is difficult to pull off even for those with years of experience. Regardless of all questionable punchlines, I applaud him for taking a break from running a company and launching things into space, and setting out to try something new.

To watch the performance in question, please visit: 

Echira Oda is the creator of the number one bestselling manga in history

By: Mohamed Ahmed

Echiro Oda is the creator of the number one best selling manga in history. He is in the top 15 best selling authors of all time. That means Oda has only had his work outsold by fewer people than the number of your toes and fingers. He is also the best selling Japanese writer of all time.

What legendary series could make one man so prolific in history you might ask? The name of the series that has generated billions of dollars in revenue, has had over ten movies based on it, and managed to dominate the manga sales chart for over a entire decade is the franchise: ‘One Piece’. 

Echira Oda was born in the 1970s, January 5th, 1975, to be exact, in Kumamoto, Japan. Ever since he was only four years old he resolved to become a manga artist in order to avoid getting a real job. Little did he know that he was going to have a permanent impact on this world and that his name would forever be remembered. 

He was influenced by Akira Toriyama. The TV show, ‘Vicky the Viking’, sparked his interest in pirates, while Akira Toriyama the creator of the ‘Dragon Ball’ franchise, sparked his interest in anime.

He was only 17 when he submitted his work ‘WANTED’ and received an award. That’s how he was able to get a job at the weekly ‘Shonen Jump’, a manga magazine, as an assistant to an assistant for a couple of series.

When he was 19, he won an award, and even was in an article about the hottest up and coming young mangakas. From there he went on to outsell other series and climb vigorously to the top of the list outselling incredibly big names like ‘Death Note’, ‘Naruto’, and ‘bleach’.

‘One Piece’ was not dethroned for over ten years, until recently when ‘Demon Slayer’ took the top spot for one year, breaking the streak but not the legend.

He is currently still writing ‘One Piece’ to this day, and has managed to stay humble as well as stay out of a career ruining scandal, like many other mangakas, for two decades. 

Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’ review

By: McKenna Nutter

On April 23rd, 2021, Netflix released an 8 episode series called ‘Shadow and Bone’. ‘Shadow and Bone’ is based on the young adult fantasy novels by Leigh Bardugo, of the same name. The Netflix adaptation is a mix between two series, ‘Shadow and Bone’ and ‘Six of Crows,’ both series by the same author, and taking place in the same fictional universe, known as the Grishaverse. Adaptation writer Eric Heisserer worked very closely with original author, Leigh Bardugo, to bring the character and world to life.

‘Shadow and Bone’ follows orphaned Alina Starkov as she uncovers long-awaited, extraordinary power. Her struggle to stay with childhood best friend, Maylen Oretsev, or Mal, becomes a lot harder when they are seperated due to an incident dealing with the land of complete darkness and dangers that runs across the country of Ravka, called the Fold.

The show also follows other stories, only for them to come together in the end. Kay Brekker, the leader of the Crows, leads Inej Ghafa and Jesper Fahey in a dangerous, million kruge (form of currency) heist, creatively bringing ‘Six of Crows’ characters into the ‘Shadow and Bone’ plot. 

According to many original fans, who have read both book series, Netflix’s adaptation is a fan favorite, and one of the most well-done adaptations ever made by Netflix.

The show was shot in Budapest, and stars Jessie Lei Mei as Alina Starkov, Archie Renaux as Mal Oretsev, Ben Barnes as General Kirigan or the Darkling. Freddy Carter stars as Kay Brekker, Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa, and Kit Young as Jesper Fahey.

Fan favorite characters, such as Nina Zenik, Matthias Helvar, and Genya Safin also make multiple appearances played by Danielle Galligan, Callahan Skogman, and Daisy Head.

After the announcement of the cast and release of the trailer, book fans had been highly anticipating the release of the show, and many were not disappointed. 

My experience with the Pfizer vaccine

So, over the day of the fifth, of the Cinco de Mayo of May, I celebrated my Latina heritage by going to get Bill Gates’s purple flurp injected into my arm. That’s right, I had the big ol’ 2nd vaccine. It was, the Pzifer or however you spell it, but nonetheless, I managed to get it finally, and now I’ll never have to wear and mask, and can slurp vomit off the sidewalk if I do feel so inclined.

generic vaccine stock photo from getty images

But honestly, I can’t imagine being one of those people who say that vaccines are filled with baby eyeballs or whatever and it’ll make you Animorph into a starfish, or something like that, because I really am the dictionary definition of a “hypochondriac”.

Which, according to the Oxford dictionary is: “A person who is abnormally anxious about their health”, and I couldn’t describe it better myself. I’m hearing about this virus that’s collapsing people’s lungs like a fourth grader sucking the juice outta a Capri Sun pouch out here, and honestly, I don’t care if there’s snail urine in that thing, I am getting that shot one way or another.

So, anyway, I’m at El Wallgreens as the Spanish say, waiting in line to get my 2nd shot, observing all the new mystical types of beef jerky on the shelves, and they finally call my name, and I finally get my shot. I try to make conversation with the person by making the same 3 jokes they’ve probably heard 87 times in the last hour, and I was on my lil way.

Afterwards, I went to a lil family owned mom and pop shop known as Chick-Fil-A, even though I know the evil corporation is gonna get an extra $0.003 from the restaurant tax, I still couldn’t help myself.

But honestly, after the whole ordeal, I was feeling pretty good that I was one step closer to finally being able to go out to all the crazy high school parties I would always go to before this, because you know how much of a social person I am. But yeah, everything was perfectly fine just like after the first shot.

Anyone else remember reading Animorphs in 3rd grade? Crazy stuff

Until like 3am when I woke up feeling like someone just landed a plane on my bronchi. I mean like my whole upper body just felt like a wet sponge that somebody was slapping against a corner of a wall (that being the best way I could describe it). Honestly, it was like every time I’ve ever been sick with like a flu or anything, just all simultaneously came back to kick me in my cardiac notches.

So, I did the usual standard practice of writhing in pain while laying down trying to fall back asleep to no avail until about 1:30pm when I finally decided to go into the kitchen and make myself a massive pot of rice and beans while drinking 37 Tom Brady style glasses of water throughout the day.

Did you ever hear about this? Like this guy Tom Brady requires himself to drink THIRTY SEVEN glasses of water in a day, that’s half his body weight in ounces, like how is he still alive?

Anyway, I was slowly chowing down on that bowl of rice and beans for about five hours straight, because honestly, lifting up the spoon was enough of a workout as is, and I just sorta felt like, the peak of when you’re about to throw up, but for the entire day. Just like the worst feeling you get the moment right before you’re about to throw up, but haven’t yet, and while usually that lasts about, I dunno, 8 seconds, but for me it lasted about a full day.

So, that was pretty great.

And with me being a hypochondriac, for a second I almost was like, “Aye wait, are those anti-vaxxers right? Am I now on Bill Gates’s tracking app so he can come into my house any time he wants and eat Trolli gummy worms on my couch while catching up on new episodes of Brickleberry’”?

But after that long arduous day of eating from the same bowl of rice and beans, and drinking my elephant suitable water supply, I woke up next morning with a lil’ headache, and by the day after that I was perfectly fine again, but now having this shot in my immune system.

So, that was like what, a day and a half of feeling like this? Honestly, if I wouldn’t have had this vaccine, instead I’d eventually have that virus, and feel this way for about whatever many days right? So, if I just had to take one day of that versus like, a month or whatever for symptoms to subside, like honestly I’d be the first one in line to take every vaccine they grind outta the vaccine kitchen.

So yeah, if you take anything from this article it’s that PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING GET VACCINATED. DOCTORS KNOW MORE ABOUT MEDICINE THAN A GUY ON REDDIT WHO STILL THINKS TRUMP CAN WIN IF THEY RECOUNT ARIZONA FOR THE 73RD TIME. PLEASE JUST GET YOUR SHOTS AND LISTEN TO PEOPLE WHO WENT TO COLLEGE THANK YOU.

“Tone Tags” and how to use them

By: Caroline Crosby

I will preface by saying that this article may be a bit opinion-heavy in some places. The goal is to be as clear and concise as possible with this information, but personal bias can be hard to exclude regarding social accommodations such as tone indicators

But what exactly are tone indicators, and why are they used?

The short answer is as the name suggests. They are indications or “tags” that are used to convey tone. Specifically, they clarify the meaning of messages or written posts that could be interpreted in more ways than one. Tags are intended for casual interactions (social networks, SMS, emails, etc.) and were first made popular on text-dependent social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Reddit.

Now that the “what” has been briefly established, we examine the “why” and the common application. 

Tone can drastically influence the meaning of a sentence. For example, let’s say that you and a friend were communicating via a standard messaging system. You send them an uproariously witty comment (in your own humble opinion), and they respond with “I hate you.” 

But what did your friend mean by that? Do they really hate you? Were they joking?

For those who struggle to perceive tone through text, these types of situations can be challenging to navigate. Many people (myself included) struggle to pick up on the intention of a message in written form. For neurodivergent individuals, the lack of indications outside of the words themselves (e.g., physical body language, voice inflection, facial expressions) can make it hard to decode the meaning of a text or post.

That’s where the tags come in!

A few of the more commonly used tags. Image taken from: https://tonetags.carrd.co/

For example, if your friend wanted to convey that their comment was a joke in response to your own, it would read as: “I hate you. /j”.

Alternatively, if your message made them seriously despise you, they would say, “I hate you. /srs”.

Indicators are easy to use and prevent distress from missed social cues. When applied correctly, miscommunication and misunderstandings caused by ambiguous tone in text can always be avoided.

In a day and age where this particular medium of conversation is commonplace, clarity is essential. As non-face-to-face communication, in general, has grown and changed, our syntax, grammar, and sentence structure has adapted as well. 

Likely, you’ve never heard of these fabled “tone tags” before, but they were conceptualized long, long ago. An informative carrd.co site explains:

The tone indicator ‘/s’ has a well-precedented use, spanning years on Reddit. As early on as the 1580s, there have been tone indicators; Henry Dunham, an English printer, created a backwards question mark, ‘⸮’, which he dubbed the ‘percontation point*. It was meant to indicate rhetorical questions”.

In the modern context, they’ve evolved into a form of accommodation.

However, some believe that these devices are “stupid” and/or a form of “babying neurodivergent people”. Pushback also stems from those who think that the indicators are inconvenient or ruin punchlines. If I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase “but /j ruins the joke”, I would be a formidable customer at the dollar store. But that’s neither here nor there.

Lastly, it’s essential to recognize that not all neurodivergent individuals need these accommodations. Cognitive disabilities come in all shapes and forms, and just because some struggle with identifying tone does not mean that all struggle with it. I’d advise not to push or assume that every neurodivergent person needs to use these. Ask!

As a disclaimer, choosing not to use them on social media or in other contexts does not make you a bad person. It’s up to you whether you want to employ tone indicators or not, but if someone asks you to clarify a message or use the tags when conversing with them, give it a try! 

For more information, please visit: