by Seoyeon (Amy) Lee and Grace Shim
On a normal day at school, the entire student body heads to the cafeteria to eat lunch and talk with their friends during the lunch periods. After school, that same cafeteria functions as the PPHS Dance Team’s practice studio.
Despite not having the best dance studio nor the most high quality speakers, the team has brought our school many first place trophies at local competitions. In addition to those trophies, the dance team has also won the following over the past few years: Best Choreography/Highest Score of the Day at Montclair State Invitational, 2019 Regional Champions (along with Best Costume), 2020 Tri-State Champions, and placed in the top 10 consistently in the past three years of the teams participating in the National Championships in Orlando, Florida, receiving Best Musicality honors in 2019.
However, with the sudden coronavirus pandemic, things have come to an unexpected halt for the PPHS dance team. All practices and performances were cancelled in the spring of the 2019-2020 academic year due to the CDC guidelines, and the team had just been able to practice outdoors again this last September. More recently, the team has moved to indoor practices almost everyday, from Monday through Thursday, with safety precautions in place. The team is currently finishing their dance choreography and learning new dance tricks for their upcoming competitions. Most of this season’s competitions will be virtual, so each team will live stream their performances. The National Championships is one of these virtual competitions.
Regardless of these setbacks, the team has persisted in their efforts to continue to try to grow as a team by getting used to practicing in masks outside. The dance team’s coach, Ms. Morgese, has stated: “I am doing my best to keep things as normal as possible during practices so we can be as prepared as possible for whatever this competition season may look like. The expectations I have for them and the expectations they have for themselves have not changed even though this year looks a lot different.” Even with these unexpected changes, the team has mentioned how they have already come up with a great mix of music and choreography for the upcoming season, but translating these performances virtually “will definitely be a learning experience!” added Ms. Morgese.
It is unsurprising that many dance members stated that they were disappointed to miss out on the energy of in-person performances that have previously punctuated their competition experience, such as Nationals in Florida, Six Flags, and the Bergen County Teen Arts Festival. They will also miss going to competitions and making new relationships with members of teams from different schools.
These changes aside, many members of the dance team have expressed gratitude for what they can enjoy this season— how their favorite parts of being parts of the dance team are dancing itself, and the ability to bond with their team. Ms. Morgese has confirmed that she enjoys seeing members grow both individually and with one another, and appreciates the hard work that each and every member puts into dance practices.
The Dance Team takes a break for a quick photo op.
by Jenny Bang
Despite the current situation due to COVID-19, the students of PPHS have found ways to continue club activities in an engaging way. This year, new clubs have been formed by students and advisors which includes the Stock Market Club, TedEd Talks, Resolve Club, Our Minds Matter, Debate Club, and FUSE. These clubs have been created by students and advisors in an attempt to broaden opportunities, speak to current interests, and tempt students into being more involved in PPHS activities.
The Stock Market Club was created by senior Haig Emirzian, and the advisor is Ms. Dellosa. This club was designed to educate students about how to trade stocks and options by using fake currency to trade in the real market. The meetings are being held every Thursday at 1:15P.M. for those who are interested.
TedEd Talks, initiated by Kristen Kim and advised by Ms. Mancini, is designed to utilize Ted-Ed’s official curriculum as a guide to help students become the next TED-talk speakers and leaders. Students are encouraged to make projects and present ideas in TED-style talks to submit them, and have them shared on the TED-ED channel. The meetings are being held every Tuesday at 1:00P.M.
The Resolve Club, also founded by Kristen Kim and advised by Ms. Graf, was created for students to be able to practice their leadership skills by discussing and addressing issues in the school and community and making their voices heard. The meetings are held every 2nd and 4th Monday at 1 P.M., for those who are interested.
Our Minds Matter was founded by Kaila Huh and advisor Ms. Rudolph. The goal of this club is to facilitate a positive atmosphere that focuses on the well-being of PPHS students’ minds through the normalization of seeking help and looking out for each other. The meetings are being held every month; join the club on Google Classroom for specific dates (access code: axjqljx).
Debate Club, also founded by Kaila Huh, is advised by Mr. Mascolo and was created to help students learn how to improve their public speaking skills through discussing current events, forming arguments, preparing for competitions, and being engaged in meaningful conversations. The meetings are being held once a week on Fridays.
FUSE was organized by seniors May Joh and Jiwon Lee and is advised by Mrs. Perez. The goal of this non-profit organization is to focus on bringing awareness to gender equality and women’s rights through the making and selling of jewelry which is then donated to organizations that support women. Please join for the first open meeting which is scheduled to take place on Friday, March 12th. Join the club on Google Classroom for additional information (access code ujjn3mn).
These students of PPHS have worked hard to be able to form new, interactive clubs even during these difficult times when students are not able to physically attend clubs. They have managed to run these clubs remotely and tap into ways to exercise their passions and interests. Even though we are mid-way through the year, the students of PPHS are invited to participate in these new organizations and the numerous other clubs offered to expand their knowledge further. Discover the right club for your interests by visiting the Club Page of the PPHS Student Central website.
by Juyoung Kim
On February 3rd, 1987, President Ronald Reagan signed Proclamation 5606, declaring the 4th of February, 1987, National Women in Sports Day. Since its origin almost 35 years ago, many public schools have started to select one annual student for the honor of being chosen as their National Girls and Women in Sports Day representative.
On February 4th, Palisades Park Junior/Senior High School continued this tradition by selecting Angelina Kasparian as the 2021 PPHS National Girls and Women in Sports Day honoree.
Angelina Kasparian is a senior at Palisades Park Junior/Senior High School. She entered the school when she was an 8th grader and has always had an interest in joining a high school sports team to represent PPHS.
As a middle school student, she was unable to join any high school teams. But to Angelina, this was only a minor setback. Even at a young age, Angelina showed the unrelenting determination to improve in her field. Her efforts would not go unnoticed. In just her freshman year, she was selected for the Varsity basketball team, and in her sophomore year, she was appointed to the Varsity volleyball team.
By her Junior year, Angelina was someone who was described by her Volleyball coach, Ms. Dellosa, as a “fine asset to the team” who not only “pushes herself, but can also constantly be seen pushing her team forward.” Angelina’s peers also hold her in extremely high regard, as many describe her as a “pleasant and friendly teammate who uses her ability to help her team improve with her.”
Entering her final season of high school sports, Angelina Kasparian faces an unprecedented, unexpected situation. Despite a senior year of sports competition that resembles no other year, many people, including her coach, Mrs. Dellosa and her teammates are still looking forward to what her senior year will bring. Angelina is as determined as ever.
“I feel proud of myself when I do something beneficial for the team, whether it be scoring a three pointer or getting up a perfect pass to the setter. It really makes me feel like I am still improving,” Angelina said.
Her unrelenting will to improve, one step, one play, one game at a time has now paid back its worth in gold tenfold: she went from a petite, awe-struck eighth grader watching high schoolers perform to being named Palisades Park High School’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day honoree.
If her persistence continues past high school (and there is no evidence implying that it won’t), we can expect more great honors in Angelina’s future career.
After almost a year in quarantine, students and staff have discovered new interests
by Eva Ahn, Class of '22
It has been over 300 days since quarantine first began back in March, 2020, giving both students and staff more time to spend at home. Being cooped up inside for so long has led some people to revisit old hobbies, or even explore new interests. In a survey of PPHS students and staff, 94% of participants agreed that quarantine has given them more time to spend on their hobbies. So, aside from virtual learning, what has the PPHS community been up to?
The most common activities amongst the student body and staff include spending time with friends and family, watching shows and movies, and browsing social media. But that is not all. About 60% of the respondents have started a new hobby during quarantine, and in some cases, several new hobbies, like Mrs. Bellottie, an English teacher at PPHS. She started drying herbs for cooking, solving 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles with family, and needle felting, using wool and specialized needles to make ornaments and figures. She also started baking bread, which she explained was too time consuming before quarantine. “I tried my hand at baking a few different types of bread using homemade sourdough starter. It went well and was a fun experiment, but I stopped because I was eating too much bread!,” she commented.
One sophomore student said that he started working out from home. “Exercising was a hobby of mine before, but due to school days it was discouraging and almost impossible to cram in a workout with everything else at hand.” With the restrictions of quarantine and the student’s desire to become healthier, he was able to start a workout routine and “saw some results over time.” Mr. Garcia, a history teacher, added jogging to his routine and said, “this has helped me stay active and serves as a type of mindfulness for me.”
Several students and teachers also expressed that they started reading for pleasure outside of schoolwork. Amy Lee, a junior, said, “Although I read a lot when I was younger, I stopped once I came into high school, and I have been trying to get back into the habit of reading.”
Others have found a creative outlet during quarantine, such as Mrs. Voorhis, the Vice Principal, and Mrs. Hali, the Supervisor of Special Services. After a long day of work, Mrs. Voorhis builds models of tiny houses. “This hobby allowed me some quiet time to be creative and work with my hands after everyone else has gone to bed. Each one takes me a few weeks to finish. It's super detailed and very meticulous work, but I really enjoy it!” Similarly, Mrs. Hali has been getting creative, but hers is not a solo activity. “I have started creating crafts with my children to document our time together and how young they are during this time.” With her one, two, and four-year old kids, they have created “artwork focused on found objects and my children's handprints.”
Last spring, Mrs. Perez, an English teacher, and her children began to front-yard birdwatch from the comfort of their home. After coming across an illustrated image of the “Backyard Birds of New Jersey,” they filled their bird feeder and began to watch as Cardinals, House Finches, Mourning Doves, and Robins came to visit. “It was really cool to see my kids run to grab their sheet to reference when we saw a more rare type of bird,” Mrs. Perez said. “There's no way we would have done this if life hadn't come to a stand-still last spring. We spent so much time just looking out the window, wondering when we'd be free to resume our normal lives. The silver lining of the whole quarantine experience was the ability to slow down and enjoy little things that we normally ignore.”
Original artwork by Eva Ahn, Grade 11.
By Kristen Kim
Principal of PPHS, Mr. Nuñez, has recently confirmed that all the school’s students will be exempt from taking this year’s midterm exams. The midterm exam is usually taken at the end of the first semester, towards the end of January, but this year, students will be focusing on learning material and teachers will be going forward with the curriculum.
“There are so many changes stemming from the pandemic, we decided that midterms would not be an effective measurement of student learning this time around. There are too many extenuating circumstances that would hurt the students’ performance in that assessment,” Mr. Nuñez stated.
Students have similar opinions; when asked why they think the exam was eliminated this year, many mentioned the difficulties that come with virtual learning and the fear of not being able to do as well.
Instead, Mr. Nuñez suggested project assessments to replace the midterm exam and believes the method could be even more effective than the usual standard of writing answers and filling in dozens of bubbles on a scantron sheet. He sees the opportunity to make change under the current circumstances and sees that this year’s exam elimination can ultimately raise the question of midterm assessment efficiency in the future.
“I think we ultimately will move in that direction,” Mr. Nuñez stated.
Besides student performance, many other factors are presumed to have led to the elimination of this year’s midterm exam. In a survey, students mentioned “losing motivation,” “stress,” and “the inability to cope with testing circumstances at home,” as additional factors that may have contributed to the decision. With the ongoing pandemic, many students are dealing with a great deal of stress and anxiety. After hearing that midterms were cancelled this year, the majority of students gave positive feedback.
“I was surprised; it was very unexpected but welcomed,” David Tellez from the junior class stated. “On one hand, I am worried because I don’t think I am getting the proper education I would normally get, but also relieved because I don’t need more stress.”
Similarly, a third of students surveyed expressed concern that without formal exams or tests, they might “forget how to study” and are worried about their performance in the future. To this, Principal Mr. Nuñez gave constructive feedback.
“If you ever feel that you are struggling or don’t understand something, please reach out to your teachers, guidance counselors, or administrators. Students sometimes feel that it’s the wrong move, but we have a lot of systems of support and really want to help you be well.” Despite the current situation, PPHS teachers, staff, and administrators are working hard to provide the best educational environment for their students.
Juniors and seniors have also expressed contrasting feelings about the elimination of midterm exams this year and its impact on their college applications and/or processes. Lois Son, a student from the junior class shared, “No, I do not think it will have a large effect because I think that admissions officers will be more understanding of the barriers of online learning in a pandemic.” On the contrary, other students believe that without the exams, they may not be able to show their potential as high school students.
Many juniors and seniors at PPHS, who, by now, are veterans when it comes to exam testing, have questions regarding college preparation, and about the different ways the pandemic may have somewhat both of a positive and negative effect on their academic achievement. “I think that because we don’t have these assessments there’s little to separate the students who genuinely have a firm grasp of the information. It’s been easier to get higher grades which is inevitable, but as a student who works hard to achieve and maintain them, it would be nice to have something to show for my efforts,” responded Kaila Huh of the junior class.
It is important to know that everyone is facing hardships during the pandemic and the elimination of midterm exams are only one of the many changes that will occur in the future.
“We know that this year is a challenging one and that student performance will take a turn for a lot of students,” Mr. Nuñez expressed. “What I would say to students is to not falter on your expectations for yourself, but be aware to seek the help when needed. I also believe that flexibility, understanding, and patience are important when measuring student performance.”
At this time last year, students were wrapping up midterm exams in a series of half days featuring two exams per day. Photo courtesy of pixabay.
PPHS Senior Passes National EMT Test
By: Julian Herreria, Grade 11 & Lazaro Peyro, Grade 12
The global pandemic has highlighted the importance of healthcareprofessionals, and doctors, nurses, and other essential workers have been receiving extra support these last few months. EMTs— Emergency Medical Technicians are often on the frontlines of Coronavirus response. They are the individuals who respond to 911 calls and are the first to treat individuals having a medical issue. Senior Jiwon Yi is PPHS’s own EMT.
Jiwon Yi was an average PPHS student until he found something that he thought was perfect for his type of character. He's read Shakespeare, passed Algebra, and written research papers. Now, he can assess and appropriately treat conditions ranging from simple fractures, stroke, and chest pain to critical trauma, cardiac arrest, and childbirth.
Jiwon, who is currently a senior at PPHS, always had a passion to become an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) because he loves to help people and sometime in the future he would love to be called a hero.
New Jersey EMT training is a study-intensive course equivalent to the work of a 6-credit college course lasting a minimum of 190 hours, according to RWJ Barnabas Health. Jiwon was very dedicated when it came to pursuing this dream of his because of the long nights of studying, lack of sleep, lots of homework, and finishing a day of high school to then practice EMT techniques right after. Jiwon successfully passed the EMT test during his Junior year.
Jiwon says that his biggest motivational support along the way was his mother because she has been a nurse in the medical field for 26 years and dealing with emergencies had been something he was around growing up. “My mother would always ask me if I wanted to become a paramedic but an EMT caught my interest at the highest point.”
Before the pandemic, Jiwon got his first EMT experience as a volunteer on the Edgewater Ambulance Corps. After high school, Jiwon plans to continue in the field of emergency services. He plans to join the Palisades Park Fire Department, and hoped to attend fire school over the summer, although the pandemic interrupted these plans. “My mindset is all about helping people and firefighting is something I want to pursue as well.”
Jiwon is a very motivated student who has approached his high school career with a positive attitude. After successfully completing his EMT certification, Jiwon is physically and mentally ready for the challenges that lay ahead with this demanding and essential career choice.
By: Jenny Bang, Grade 11
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the education system, and this impact was immediately felt. In September, the majority of students decided to learn remotely instead of attending school. 75% of PPHS students opted to remain fully remote while 25% of PPHS students opted for a hybrid learning environment. This quarter of the student population split time in the building: the blue cohort attended school on Mondays and Tuesdays, while the orange cohort attended on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays were 100% remote for all students and teachers so that there can be a deep cleaning of the school between the blue and orange cohorts which allowed for extra safety precautions.
The number of students who opted to remain home was surprisingly high, but there were many factors that contributed to this majority opting to remain home rather than going to school. One of the main reasons is the fear of contracting the Coronavirus and spreading it to their family unknowingly. Grace Shim, a junior at PPHS, stated, “I chose to stay home for the sake of my family members’ health. This pandemic is unpredictable and I wouldn’t want to take any risks that can hurt me or my loved ones.”
Ann Bang, a senior at PPHS also stated, “I live with my grandparents and I don’t want to risk getting the virus and I thought if we all stayed home the cases would drop.” The nature of the virus has created a complex situation— not everybody who has Coronavirus shows symptoms, and students such as Grace Shim and Ann Bang are two of many students who feel that it is best for the sake of their family and their own safety to learn remotely while remaining home.
The arrival of the holidays created additional conflict; in the week just before and following the Thanksgiving holiday, cases continued to rise and people felt uneasy about sending their children to school and potentially intermingling with family during the holidays.
Remote learning has, so far, been convenient for the students who are unable to attend school due to the ongoing virus, but it is also convenient for students who find learning online easier.
The most recent adjustment made to the anticipated date of in-person return to school was announced by Dr. Cirillo recently. The school district is set to re-open for in person learning on January 29, 2021
Photos courtesy of Irene Kwon