What happened to the school lunches for SPPS?

By: Elsie Olive

Most students have already noticed, but if you hadn’t already, the lunches served at St. Paul Public Schools have severely gone downhill between the 2018-2019 school year and this one.

In the years prior to the 2019-2020 school year, SPPS had provided a variety of nutritional foods. In fact, in 2013, TwinCities.com said SPPS lunches had gotten national attention for the incredible and healthy foods the schools were providing.

However if you look at the lunches served now, almost always the options are either some variant of chicken, hamburgers, gyros, or Italian dunkers, and every lunch is served with a side of fries.

So, what changed in the few months between these two school years?

Unfortunately, there is hardly any information that explains exactly what happened, but, by checking some of the links on the SPPS lunch menus page, there is one that takes us to Nutrislice.com. Here, at spps.nutrislice.com, it gives us a message which suggests that SPPS no longer uses Nutrislice as a means of supplying their lunches. The newest and working links on the SPPS page take us to SchoolCafé.com, where you can view current school lunch menus.

It could be that this is the only reason school lunches have decreased in value this much, but it is hard to believe that such a small change could completely offset the school’s menu. It is likely that there were some staff changes in the Nutritional Services and Wellness department of SPPS.

At this point, there isn’t much other information available, and the lack of information provided on the SPPS website about it’s staff members or exactly what changed between this school year and the last one doesn’t help with that.

However, it probably has much more to do with the relaxing of regulations for school-provided meals by the Trump Administration according to BusinessInsider.com. This particular article also mentions that the billions of dollars cut from the education budget has deeply affected the ability for schools to provide enough nutritional food for all of their students.

The PLP course

By: Vivian S

Schoology screenshot

If you are anything like me, when you returned to Schoology for Quarter 4, you received a big unexplained surprise. All of a sudden there was a new course labeled “PLP” in my listing.

I was sent into a spiral of panic, wondering what new class had been thrust upon me, and it took a few weeks for me to read through all the schoology updates and find out what it is. So, if you were confused like me, hopefully this will help.

PLP is an extra course – not required. It was created to help students plan for their futures. There are assignments to help one consider possible careers, necessary education, and internships. 

The course may be extra, but that does not mean it doesn’t offer credit. If you complete the course, having all assignments finished and turned in, and all quizzes passed, you can apply for a Career Seminar elective credit. Your work would be looked over by Mr. McCann, who would decide whether or not to give you the credit.

Completing the PLP course opens up internship opportunities for when you reach 11th or 12th grade. 

To find out exactly what this course is, I decided to go try out one of the assignments.

The first assignment is a self-exploration one, which isn’t really an exploration of your self but rather your career opportunities. This is, and drumroll please, a career survey! To start this assignment, you take a career survey, and the rest of the assignment is reflecting on the results you receive. 

I was actually a bit surprised by the results I received, as most of them were jobs I’d never really thought about going into (and some I’d never even heard of). So, if you want to check out some different job opportunities that you might have never thought of, then this assignment is for you.

And if you are just here to figure out if this is something for you to do for the credit, this assignment did only take me a bit less than an hour, so it’s pretty doable. 

It does appear you need to do the assignments in order though. The Career Research Assignment requires information you get from the Self-Exploration assignment, so I’d advise you do them in order.

Remember to focus on your actual classes first though! Then you can do this for an extra credit!

Online school

Recently, it was announced that Minnesota schools will be finishing out the 2019-2020 school year online. This means we will all be checking Schoology until June 9, doing various assignments, discussions, and tests for every class. Here are a couple of positive and negative things about the distance learning program.

One of the main benefits of doing online school is having flexibility for whatever tasks, and things that need to be done, while in quarantine. Instead of having one class after another in a timely manner at the school building, during online learning you can decide to eat lunch or walk your dog in between classes because it isn’t as structured as normal school.

Along with that, school most likely does not take you seven hours per day, as it normally would. Hopefully, this leaves everyone with more free time to go outside, relax for a little bit, or get other things done.

In addition to those benefits, another positive thing is that you do not have to do classes in the order of what your normal school day was like at school. This means you can choose to start with an easier class to just warm up your brain, or get harder assignments done earlier so that you can take on small, maybe even fun, assignments at the end.

But when there are positives, there are usually also negatives.

One of these cons is that it is harder to stay motivated and on task. Unlike at school, there are many more distractions and challenges you may face at home including: pets, electronics, and even the nice weather outside. This means that there is more responsibility on you to check Schoology often and to make sure work gets done and turned in on time.

Another negative effect of online school is that the internet and technology is the foundation of distance learning. The program is heavily reliant on the internet and using devices, such as your school iPad, to be checking and sending in responses and assignments daily.

Not only that, but when school is done online, you don’t have friends sitting next to you as they normally would in some classes, maybe making it lonelier, and even harder for some people.

Seniors missing graduation

Since the start of COVID-19 seniors have been a bit on the depressive side. Many seniors, including my own brother, have been in a panic when it comes to long distance graduation. My parents and my brother have been on the spectrum of trying to get prepared for the day of his virtual graduation.

When it comes to it, most of the seniors I know are really hurt right now. They’re upset that they are not able to have the graduation that they have been longing for their whole lives; the day where they are finally free from the whips of high school and are on to their new lives going on to be adults.

Not only are the seniors upset, but so are their parents and siblings. As a sibling, I’ve always awaited the time where I got to record my older sibling walk across the stage in their cap and gown. But since COVID-19, I am not able to have that experience. It’s also upsetting to my parents because they’ve longed for the day they were able to send my brother off to prom, and to see him walk across that stage.

Not only are seniors upset about graduation, but they were also upset that they weren’t able to have their prom. I’ve spoken to a couple of the 2020 graduates themselves and asked for their input on the matter.

Willie Wright Class of 2020 graduate 

I first had a conversation with none other than the man himself, (my brother) Willie Wright, a graduating senior at Como Park Senior High. Willie is a 2020 graduate with a football scholarship to Minnesota State University.  He said, “It’s so crazy because every other class year such as 2001-2019 got to walk across the stage, and I’m not able to. Those are the most memorable moments in our life. Even prom, and I wasn’t able to have that, hopefully this will all be over soon.”

Chaniyah Fenner Class of 2020 Graduate 

I then had the opportunity to speak with Chaniyah Fenner, a senior also at Como Park Senior High. She said that, “I am upset about the virtual graduation. I don’t like it at all, I understand that there’s a virus going on and everything, but they already took away our prom and senior night, and now they’re taking away our graduation. It’s just messed up.” 

William Albert Class of 2020 Graduate 

I then reached out and spoke to William Albert, who attends Gordon Park High School. He said, “I hate the thought of not being able to walk across the stage, but knowing there’s a strong system of people behind me who are willing to bend for my education, it drives me to do better and prosper moving forward.”

With all of this going on, at least the seniors have something good to look forward to. They get a graduation speaker, who is none other than the man himself, Barack Obama (which is something really amazing).

But I just hope that all the seniors aren’t too upset about this, and I hope they still have a great graduation at home.

Teenagers and sleep

It is common knowledge that sleep is important. A good-night’s rest can enable the body to repair and be ready for a new day. Sleep can even prevent excess weight gain, heart disease, and increased illness duration. 

Sleep is especially important for teenagers. Sleep helps fuel the brain and body. Teens need more sleep because their minds and bodies are growing quickly. According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, teenagers need about 9 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep.

However, teenagers do not get even close to enough sleep. 

One reason is a shift in sleep schedule. After puberty, there is a biological shift in a teen’s internal clock of about 2 hours. For example, a teenager that used to fall asleep at 9:00pm will now not be able to fall asleep until 11:00pm. It also means waking up 2 hours later in the morning. Another reason is early high school start times. Some schools start as early as 7:00am, meaning some teens need to get up as early as 5:00am to get ready for school. Another reason is other social and school obligations. Teens have homework, sports, after-school activities, and socializing through social media often lead to late bedtimes.

As a result, most teens are sleep deprived. 

A lack of sleep can affect mood, behavior, cognitive ability, academic performance, and for those that rive, drowsy driving. Sleep deprivation will influence teens to be moody, irritable, and cranky. It also increases the likelihood of them engaging in high-risk behaviors (like drinking, smoking, driving fast, etc.). Inadequate sleep will also result in problems with attention, memory, decision making, reaction time, and creativity. A lack of sleep can also result in poor grades. When driving, a lack of sleep increases the risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. 

Well, how can teens get more sleep without sacrificing anything?

One way teens can get more sleep is by maintaining a sleep schedule. Choosing a bedtime and a time to wake up can help teens get enough sleep. Maintaining a sleep schedule also applies to weekends. Oversleeping on weekends can make going back to school on Monday incredibly difficult. Early afternoon naps are another way to get more sleep. Even 15-20 minutes of sleep after school can make an incredible difference. And as hard as it is, turning off screens before going to bed can make falling asleep easier as well. 

Importance of the school counselors

I’m sure everyone has seen the counselor’s officer banner hanging in the hallway on the first floor. But why is it important to provide counselors at school? What are the benefits? Here are several reasons to consider when wondering about the importance of school counselors. 

Academic success. Counselors can help students who may be struggling with certain classes or have lower grades. They can provide advice or even connect you to teachers to help solve problems that are the most challenging. Not only that, but if you want to switch out of a class and change your schedule, the counselors are able to figure it out with you. Over time, they want to make sure you are earning credits towards graduation and building your high school transcript and GPA. 

Well being of the students. Although counselors are provided to help with academics and choosing a career path, they also are present for personal issues that may be interfering with school. If this is ever the case, you can schedule a one-on-one conference with your counselor to help get guidance or advice on something that may be occurring outside of school. They also provide an individual focus to students who may be struggling from mental health or are just overwhelmed and stressed about something at school or home. 

Future success. Lastly, counselors work with students to help determine what the future might look like. Especially for upperclassmen, they can help with scheduling, transcripts, and college applications. Most importantly, they want to make sure that all students are ready for the college and/or career path ahead of them.  

In the end, counselors do many important things for the school and the students in it. They provide a support system for students who may be struggling and offer solutions to help them. 

Thoughts on Personal Project

Personal Project was due just a week ago. Even though the project was a way for you to do something based on your interest, and it was supposed to be exciting, I think the Personal Project was just a waste of time. I don’t see the point of writing a paper and doing a process journal of what you accomplished. It just had a lot of stress, so there wasn’t really a point in doing it.  

Not everyone shared my opinion about Personal Project. Here are some opinions from others and why they thought it was a good thing:

“I think it’s really good for students to make a project about things they like versus being forced to do essays on certain topics in school. It gives us the opportunity to explore our own interests.”

“I think it’s a great way to explore things we like and a good way to be productive. I trained my dog which was helpful for him and my family. I do think the project felt more like a chore than being fun. This was mostly because of the paper which was really long and repetitive questions. But overall a good exploration of my teaching skills.”

“I got to spend time learning something new. Gain new skills. And also getting time to reflect on my process.”

“The Personal Project definitely helped me explore something I was interested in, it should be worth more. I didn’t feel motivated to do it.

“Well, I think the Personal Project is a great way to be creative. I think it’s great we can decide on what we want our project to be, I also think that it’s a great way to show others what we’re most interested in and show the process of it.”

“Although I have heard some of my peers say they feel that there is no purpose to the Personal Project, I disagree. I feel like the Personal Project can be used to enhance interests that we already have. For example, I have always been fascinated by pianists and how they are able to memorize so many keys. The Personal Project motivated me to make my first step to playing a song. Overall, I think the Personal Project had a purpose.”

“I think it was ok, not really exciting.”

While there were people who saw value in the Personal Project, others shared my thought on it being pointless. Some said the following:

 “I think it’s a waste of time.”

“I think it’s dumb.”

“It was a waste of time, to be honest.”

“I kinda don’t see the point. I didn’t think that it was needed and it doesn’t make a difference if a school makes you do it or not.”

“It’s a pass or fail. It’s not terrible because of how flexible it is but it is dumb.”

“I feel like it’s okay but useless at the same time because we as students express ourselves through our work already so we shouldn’t have to do a whole project to express ourselves.”

“It was a waste of time and there’s no point in doing it because it’s supposed to be something we enjoy doing but end up hating.”

“I think the Personal Project was a waste of time. There wasn’t really a point in doing it. I didn’t really see the purpose of writing a whole paper about it and explaining how it’s personal to me. I wish it was a different assignment than writing a whole essay about a dumb project.”

“I think it’s mostly unnecessary because it is worth no points so students don’t have a lot of motivation to do it unless it’s something they like. Even then though, most people don’t like to journal the whole process or write a paper and that ruins the motivation.”

So overall, there were mixed reviews and thoughts about the Personal Project. It’s done though now, and so we can move on.

Yoga for the young

Yoga is a physical activity that calms the body and the mind. Many people use it for different reasons like flexibility building, strength building, and anxiety reduction. Studies have shown that yoga is a great stress reliever. In 2012 a survey went out to a group of people that practiced yoga and 86% of the surveys said it helped reduce stress. 

Young people from ages as young as 5, all the way up to 18, in America, are required to go to school. As each year goes by it gets more and more stressful with classes getting harder and stricter. High schoolers are constantly complaining about stress and the workload piling up each day. Balancing home life, sports, clubs, programs, and homework is certainly hard on students. If young people started to take yoga how would the stress and anxiety levels decrease? 

In the article, “Yoga for the Young” by India Currents, a high school student started doing yoga at age 5. It taught her discipline, focus, and she lives almost stress and anxiety free as she breathes in and out calmly. It is stated that because she’s calmer and knows discipline, it helps her with getting good grades.

Many believe that yoga is only done by adults, but it can also have a great impact on teens and children if they learn to focus on focusing on their inhales and exhales. According to WebMD, studies show that yoga can work certain areas that will help students, and those areas are involved in thinking clearly, decision-making, memory enhancing, and regulating emotions. 

Schools don’t have many classes teaching yoga but at Highland Park Senior High, Kathleen Kramer teaches a class called Stress Management. In class they practice mindfulness, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, improving flexibility, and improving strength.

Ms. Kramer has seen many changes in her emotional, mental, and physical state before and after she started teaching the class. As a teacher, Ms. Kramer has seen improvements in her behavior at work saying, “I feel more calm after leaving this class. When I go to move on to teach my next class I feel that I am able to handle curveballs that are thrown at me daily.”

Many of her students also started seeing changes in themselves like Conor Gregg Escalante. Conor enjoys having this class in the middle of the day because it allows him to reset and regain his energy for the rest of the day. He has seen himself become more open minded after taking this class, improving his focus and engagement in class, and he’s been more open and flexible in his relationships.

From both the teacher and student perspective, there was great improvement in many areas. Yoga is a highly recommended activity that is proved to increase strength, flexibility, and decrease stress and anxiety. If youth all around the world were to practice this activity, it would impact them positively.

Eating in class

We have all been in that position where you have to run out the door in the morning to make it to school on time. But, if you don’t have time to eat breakfast, or choose not to, it may leave you rather hungry during class. Depending on the time, lunch might still be a class or two away. That’s why many students have turned to snacking during class. Should you be able to eat in class? Is this a habit with negative effects?

According to experiments and studies, we should have the ability to eat in class. It is important that we don’t have big distractions in class, but an empty stomach can completely change your focus. Instead of learning, all you’ll consider in how much longer till lunch.  

Through research, it has been proven that a student who has not eaten, is less likely to succeed than a student who has eaten. This research helps to support why it is important that students can eat in class, because hunger can be a distraction that only keeps you counting down the minutes instead of paying attention to what you are doing in class. 

That being said, what snack is the best to have to get you to lunch? The best snack is one that isn’t messy, isn’t candy, and isn’t loud. This makes the least amount of distractions for you and the people around you. So, pretzels are one good option. 

Lastly, what do students think about eating in class? Well, I asked a couple of students and they all seemed to agree that eating in class should be allowed. One explained that everyone should be allowed to eat when they feel it is necessary to eat, and another student described how early lunch affected how hungry they feel at the end of the school day.

But does eating in class distract them? They say no. One student explained how eating in class doesn’t make them fidget or look at their phone. They also described a pattern they developed of grabbing their snack and writing notes in a cohesive system. 

If you do eat in class, please be sure not to leave behind any trash or crumbs. No teacher wants to pick up wrappers or residue from the floor or desks. Also, if you leave behind a bunch of garbage it may deter the teachers from allowing you, and all the other students, to eat in class. 

Why do students procrastinate?

Why do students procrastinate? Students often procrastinate when homework or a specific project is not due immediately, if it is not important, or if it is difficult. Other causes of procrastination are no motivation, low self confidence, or not understanding the concept in school.

Procrastination could affect not only students’ grades but also their health. If a student procrastinates on a big project, it is clear that they will not put a lot of effort into it, and this might cause them to get a bad grade on it. Or, if a student procrastinates on studying for an important test because they didn’t know how to study for it or do it, they might do poorly on the test and get a bad grade.

Procrastination usually tends to affect college and high school students because of the fact they have more homework, projects, and work loads.

For example, a student at HPSH has 7 classes, with work assigned in each. With having more than one class to pay attention to, the student who procrastinates, then waits until the last minute to do their work, and receives lower grades than their classmates who didn’t procrastinate.

Procrastination can be avoided with helpful tips to guide people. Making a schedule and actually sticking to it will help because you can see how your day plays out smoothly once you have a solid schedule. Buying a planner to write down homework and deadlines will help. Also, setting reminders on your device will be just as helpful.

A couple of other things can help can include creating a dedicated study place, breaking the homework and projects into smaller tasks, eating healthy, and getting lots of sleep. 

Procrastination may seem very hard to stop doing but with routinely following these tips, you’ll gradually stop being a procrastinator in no time.