Category Archives: School Life

The block schedule: How it’s affecting students and teachers 

by Erin M. Moore

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In December of 2021, the Saint Paul Board of Education decided to make the change from Highland’s typical seven-period bell schedule to a four-period block schedule, alternating classes every other day. 

This new schedule provides more elective opportunities, less time spent transitioning between classes, more focused class time, and more time focused on a singular subject.

However, this new schedule decreases break time, classes are no longer daily, and you have to spend more time in classes where you have nothing to do or don’t enjoy. This has been an exponential change for all involved, though staff will be impacted most of all. 

Teachers have had to completely rearrange their typical plans and scheduling for assignments, lessons, and summatives due to this new version of scheduling. “Planning for block scheduling was one of the things that kept me awake at night this summer,” Mr. Martin commented to his class of Algebra 2 students on the schedule for math assignments this school year. 

I’ve had the privilege of talking to many students, all with varying opinions on the change. For example, while Jo Knorr, a freshman, finds the longer class times makes it harder to focus on the topic being discussed, Ash and another student, wishing to remain anonymous, found the longer periods made it easier for them to focus. 

“So I’ve had time to adjust to the block schedule as my previous school also used it, but before that, I had a schedule consisting of seven classes per day. That schedule felt so much better because classes were shorter, everything felt more fun, and it felt like things were completed more quickly. Now, our lunch is shorter and there’s no free time. It feels like way too much,” said Ava Bird, another freshman that recently moved into the area. 

Overall, opinions are mixed on the topic, though from those I’ve talked to on the topic an overwhelming majority is against the change. It’s only been a week of this new schedule so far though, so opinions may change, and both pros and cons will become more apparent. It is likely that by the end of the year, the school will have managed to adjust to this change and will be more comfortable with the 8/2 schedule. Hopefully, by then, it will be easier for students and teachers alike. 

Ag Day

By: Carla Tizcareno

On Friday, May 27th, Highland Park Senior High hosted Agriculture Day. The weather was lovely but the sun was strong. There was a nice breeze too.

At the event there were so many stands, like a spot where you could make a tiny flower bouquet and many different stands to learn about nature and wildlife.

Even our lovely club Union Latina had a stand with different Latino snacks and drinks. They had chicharrones, bags of chips, and Valentina and lime to add to the snacks. They were also playing some great music on a loudspeaker.

There was also a mini petting zoo with chickens, a lamb, three snakes, two horses, and lots of adorable dogs. One of the horses was wearing a cute little unicorn horn. At one point, one of the chickens escaped, but thankfully they got it back in the cage. The snakes were circling around on peoples shoulders and passing them around to the high schoolers, it was really cool. The lamb was really calm and super friendly to everyone. The dogs were very well behaved and so lovely.

There were lots of students running the stands and telling lots of info about their nature topic.

We also welcomed the middle schoolers and elementary schoolers to join for a bit to see all of the cool sites. Some of the high school students were helping keep track of the younger kids. I had a lot of fun and I ended up going with almost all of my classes. Ultimately, the whole event was a lot of fun and I think many people really enjoyed it.

If you are interested in participating in Ag day in the future, Ms. Wedger is the teacher in charge. She helps manage the students organize the event and planning took place in her Ag leadership class.

Senior Year

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As we gear up for our final moments in high school, many of us are excited and nervous about the next chapters of our life whether we decide to go to college, take a gap year, or do other things. There is a lot to think about during your senior year in terms of classes, careers, and colleges. It’s also an important time to make memories and have fun. Here are some things to look forward to for your senior year.

  • Prom – Prom is the most exciting event that most high school seniors look forward to, after graduation. As prom comes around we are excited to show our friends what we are going to wear and the pictures we are excited to take with our friends. Prom allows us to celebrate and create memories with our friends.
  • Freedom – Senior year provides a lot of freedom, most seniors take easy classes during their final year and get the opportunity to leave early, or arrive at school late, if they are all caught up on their credits.
  • Senior skip day – Senior skip day is celebrated in most schools in America. It’s when seniors get to skip a day of school and do something with their friends.
  • Senior all night party – After graduation, and after you go out with your family to celebrate, you come back to school one last time and hang out with your friends all night at school.
  • Graduation day – Graduation day is what you have looked forward to since your freshman year. After working hard in your classes and applying to colleges, you’ll be able to graduate with a clear mind!

My senior year of high school was fun. It was great to make memories with my friends that may go their separate ways after graduation. I enjoyed all the fun things we did during the year and I look forward to walking across the stage to get my high school diploma and go on to the next chapter of my life. Congratulations class of 2022!

Why do students’ mental health improve over the summer

By: Mila Hart

After a long school year of stressing over grades, cold and dark winter weather, and little to no time to relax, summer is the perfect antidote to not so great metal health. After talking with several students from Highland Park Senior High I can confidently say that the majority of students’ mental health improves over the summer.

One reason for this could be that everyone’s taking in more vitamin D from the sun over the summer (I have a vitamin D deficiency so I can speak on it). Because we are getting more vitamin D our energy levels rise and it just generally makes us feel happier.

This also means that in the cold dark winter months, we aren’t absorbing as much vitamin D, and this can negatively affect us in a few different ways. Many people in colder areas can end up developing vitamin D deficiency in the winter. Vitamin D deficiency can cause you to feel fatigued, muscle weakness, and you can experience symptoms of depression. This also means that anyone with seasonal depression are definitely in their happier months of the year over the summer.

Another reason that students’ mental health may greatly improve over the summer is because they don’t have to stress out about school anymore for the next three months. There are many different reasons why students may be stressed during the school year, some of them being: homework, tests, projects, clubs, and athletics.

Every Highland Park student I talked to agreed that they basically don’t feel any stress at all over the summer compared to during the school year. Stress can very negatively impact your mental health. If you have so much stress to the point where it is overwhelming, and it’s been going on for a while, you can potentially develop anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.

Students’ health also improves over the summer because they have more time to do the things that they enjoy the most. Whether it’s doing athletic activities, playing video games, or hanging out with friends, there is significantly more time for students to enjoy these things over the summer.

Boat Dance

By: Carla Tizcareno

The Boat Dance this weekend wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be. Last weekend, Highland Park Senior High hosted a Boat Dance for any high school student that had the chance to buy a ticket for $20-25 during either lunch.

That Friday, it was pretty chilly, but most of the students were wearing shorts or summer dresses. A lot of people didn’t dress very interestingly. It was mostly jean jackets and khakis. There were a few people that showed up in gorgeous dresses and dress shirts like it was prom.

It was made clear that the boat departed at 7pm but it didn’t end up leaving until about 7:30. By 6:50, the lines were super long so it took a while to board the boat.

After departing, the karaoke in the back of the boat began. People grabbed their friends and sang songs by Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and even some Disney songs came up. The karaoke side definitely wasn’t as popular as the front of the boat, where there was a DJ and tons of lights. People were jumping along to the music and shaking the whole boat.

There were some students on the top level of the boat that were throwing chairs overboard. Other than the chairs being thrown, the top level and middle of the boat was pretty calm.

There were two spots to buy snacks and drinks. There were candy bars, nachos and cheese, chips, and Pepsi products. Thank god the water was free because I wouldn’t have survived the night without it.

After a few hours of cold lake air, dancing, singing, and musty teenagers jumping around aimlessly we got back to shore. The DJ played some closing songs as we all got off the boat. People loved stopping at the middle of the sidewalk causing a lot of hold ups.

The parking situation was even worse. There were cars stopping randomly in the lot and in the street to pick up some other students. It took me 20 minutes to even get out of the parking lot. Everyone was pretty much gone by 11pm. Overall, the dance wasn’t all that great in my opinion, but a lot of the underclassmen really enjoyed it. I truly felt like the night was cut short. Was it worth $25? Meh, not really.

Different types of college degrees

By: Salman Said

College degrees, or undergraduate/graduate degrees, come in many different forms. You can obtain many different degrees from different institutions locally, and out of state. Each degree provides a special value and depending on what field you choose, a degree may be very important. 

When people hear the words “college degree” they think of an undergraduate degree, specifically a Bachelor’s Degree. A Bachelor’s Degree is a 4-year undergraduate degree that introduces you to your major and career. This is usually the entry-point degree for most fields, and many jobs require one.

A Bachelor’s Degree requires, roughly, 120 credits and consists of 40 classes. Most of these classes are general classes or liberal arts classes. These classes are prerequisites for the degree and designed to cultivate an “all-around” student. There are many different types of Bachelor’s Degrees, some of the most popular are: Bachelor of Art (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS), and Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). These degrees are broad and include a wide variety of jobs and fields. 

Master’s Degrees are a little different. These degrees are much harder to obtain than a Bachelor’s and you generally need a Bachelor’s degree in order to obtain a Master’s. Master’s Degrees are more field-specific and have unique requirements in obtaining a Master’s. Master’s programs blend fieldwork, project, research, etc. Many go back to school for their Master’s in order to make more money, get better jobs, or are required to have one in their specific field. Master’s programs typically last 2 years but can be completed in 12 months. Popular Master’s Degrees are: Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Education (M.Ed.), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), Master of Law (LL.M.), Master of Public Administration (MPA), and Master of Science (MS). 

Doctoral Degrees are the highest level of formal education available, and require the most extensive coursework, comprehensive exams, and in-depth research requirements. This degree is the postliminary to the Master’s and generally takes 2 to 10 years to complete. Some take longer than others due to the nature of the research and completion of the dissertation. Many institutions require a Ph.D. to teach at higher education institutions and Ph.D.’s generally make the most money out of all the degrees. Popular Doctorate Degrees are: Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), Doctor of Medicine (MD), and Juris Doctor (JD) (doctor of law). 

There are many more degrees like an Associates Degree, Professional Degree, etc. These degrees vary prerequisites and time and each degree has specific values. Depending on the field you’re pursuing, learning and getting familiar with each degree and field requirement is important.

Hardest quarter for high school students

By: Mila Hart

High school can be very stressful for students. With all of the assignments, projects, and presentations, all quarters can be a generally overwhelming time for students. But some factors make some quarters more difficult than others.

Some juniors at Highland Park Senior High say that the third quarter has been the most stressful, and hardest to get through, for them. They say this for many different reasons including, studying and taking the ACTs; many are affected by seasonal depression as well.

A sophomore at Highland Park Senior High said that the first quarter was the easiest. They said this because they believe that they start off the year with the most motivation and it’s easier to stay on top of things.

Many students that I talked with agreed that the weather and seasons have an impact on how well they do in school. When it’s warmer and brighter they tend to be much more motivated to do school work and the school work doesn’t seem so hard anymore. Based on this take, that would make the second and third quarter the most difficult overall.

Some students also agreed that the third quarter is hard to get through because it’s the only quarter that doesn’t start right after a break and doesn’t have a break in the middle of it. When a quarter begins after a break (first and fourth quarter) students have a bit more motivation after having a chance to fully relax without any school work. And the same goes for second quarter, that has winter break in the middle of it.

An English teacher at Highland Park Senior High says that she notices that the fourth quarter tends to be one of the hardest for students to get through, especially for juniors and seniors. She says this because at this point in the year juniors have taken the ACTs and are burnt out. And after four years of high school, seniors are especially burnt out and just want to focus on all of their lasts of high school instead of doing school work.

How can tragedies affect students’ mental health?

By: Grace Blumer-Lamotte

According to Oxford Languages, tragedies are classified as “An event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe”.

During the past couple of years there have been many tragedies. Here are a couple of them: the murder of George Floyd, the Ukraine war, and the pandemic. These are only some of the many tragedies that have happened. 

Each tragedy affects everyone differently. 

When George Floyd died, many people from around the world were outraged. They began to protest for the “Black Lives Matter Movement.”

When the pandemic hit, most people’s mental health had plummeted. They were unable to see their friends or family.

Another couple of tragedies that can greatly impact people, especially students and staff, are school shootings and drunk driving accidents. 

School shootings are unfortunately common in the United States. According to Sandy Hook Promise, “The U.S. has had 1,316 school shootings since 1970 and these numbers are increasing. 18% of school shootings have taken place since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.”

There are students that are interviewed on the news around the topic of school shootings. You can hear the fear and ache inside their voice. If you want to watch some interviews check out this website:

I interviewed one student from each grade here at Highland Park Senior High. 

I asked them these questions:

  • Do you know of any world wide events that have affected you or your family?
  • If they did affect you, how did it affect you?
  • How did it affect your mental health?

The freshman responded, “The pandemic affected me directly. My step mother was pregnant during the pandemic so at one point we had to live with my mom for a whole month. School was really affected during it, it hurt my grades. It affected my mental health by not being able to socialize and not having my 8th grade year. It also affected my grades again.”

The sophomore responded, “There haven’t exactly been any big tragedies in my life. I could say the pandemic. It affected my mental health poorly by being isolated from my friends and family.”

The junior responded, “The pandemic and the murder of George Floyd really affected me and my family. The pandemic affected me by making my mental health just plummet. During the whole ‘prime time’ of the pandemic my mental health was horrible. I wasn’t even getting out of bed. The murder of George Floyd made me realize that the police system is corrupt and needs to be revised. People should not be getting murdered, primarily the black community, because it was a ‘mistake’ from the police officer. Or they were trying to ‘protect themselves because they saw the person as a threat.’”

The senior responded, “The pandemic has affected my mental health a lot because I was stuck in a house for so long. Also, I couldn’t see my friends or hangout with anybody and started feeling very lonely.”

How does a student’s homework load affect their mental health?

By: Grace Blumer-Lamotte

Throughout a student’s high school years, freshman (9th), sophomore (10th), junior (11th), and senior (12th), they will experience some type of stress, whether it be physical or mental. It can also vary if they are experiencing other things outside of their academic life. 

Some ways that stress affects the brain is by shrinking the prefrontal cortex. According to Touro, “Chronic stress has a shrinking effect on the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. While stress can shrink the prefrontal cortex, it can increase the size of the amygdala, which can make the brain more receptive to stress.” 

A few symptoms of stress to the human body include a headache (referring to the image provided), exhaustion, sleep deprivation, stomach problems, and weight loss. 

The grade that the student is in normally depends on the homework load. Every grade is different. All grades have important tests or other events going on. Especially juniors. Juniors commonly have to take the ACT during the year. 

When students get more homework, they are generally a lot more stressed out. At Highland, we currently have 7 classes a day: 4 core classes and 3 electives. If every class gives you homework, that is a lot of homework in one night for the student. 

I interviewed 4 students. One from each grade. I asked these questions:

  • How many hours do you spend on homework a night?
  • How does your homework load affect your mental health?

The freshman answered, “I usually spend an hour and a half or until I eat dinner. My homework load can affect my mental health greatly. I hardly ever have time to do anything I actually enjoy anymore. Whenever I procrastinate it gets even worse.” 

The sophomore answered, “I spend only around two hours on homework at night. Since I don’t have much homework, it doesn’t really bother my mental health.”

The junior answered, “I spend around two to three hours on homework if it is an easy night. If it is a hard night, I spend around four to five hours. The homework load destroys my mental health. On weekends, when I don’t have homework, I am extremely happy. But when I do have homework, I relate to the senior. I have no energy to do anything else afterwards.” 

The senior answered, “I spend no hours on homework. I finish most of it at school. But put into account that I also have 2 study hall hours. I’d say when I do have homework at home it’s the most draining thing ever. Once I am done, I have no energy to do anything else.”