OPINION: Apocalypse Preoccupation

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

abbey column

Everyone’s so focused on the apocalypse.

A group of doomsday preppers in Kansas established a militia and a complex safehouse, waiting for the zombies to rise. An Arizona man has a plethora of food and weapons set up in his garage, ready to be hitched to his car at a moment’s notice. Bloggers of all sorts have overrun the internet with information on how to survive: where to go, who to band together with, what sort of supplies to pack. It seems as though everyone worldwide is fretting for the end.

It makes sense if you think about it, really. Hollywood forces entertainment like “The Walking Dead” and “Planet of the Apes” upon every American simply to delight them. Though the writers and producers may not have had any intention to send viewers into a panicked craze, they definitely instilled the idea that humans can easily be wiped off the earth by brain-dead zombies or butt-scratching primates. Fans of these sorts of shows and movies want to be like the characters, dressing up and attending all sorts of conventions. They prepare for the apocalypse the way the characters would; some because they think it’s fun to act like the these fictional people, and others because they’re truly afraid of what can happen during the apocalypse after watching these shows.

The fact of the matter is, there are some things that simply won’t happen. Pigs will never sprout wings, Christmas will never fall in the calendar month of July, and despite how much you may want to, you will never forget those horrid middle school fashion choices. The impossible poses as a challenge and an inspiration to the daring few. There’s a sort of excitement that surrounds the word “unlikely”. There will be speculation and criticism awaiting any “impossible” idea (yes, even the apocalypse). So sure, maybe doomsday preppers are wasting their time.

But do you know what, doomsday preppers? I applaud you. You’re doing your part to stay busy and defy the critics. So keep on stuffing your bomb shelter with canned goods and AK-47s because you never know what may happen.

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OPINION: Identity Crisis

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

abbey column

Everyone has utilized meaningless things to shape an image of what they want others to view themselves as. Maybe it’s the sport you play. Maybe it’s the people you surround yourself with. Maybe it’s the clothes you wear.

Recently, I spent the weekend secluded in the woods with my church youth group and my youth pastor, Josh, posed this same question. My friends’ voices overwhelmed me, hollering out things like, “relationships” and “clubs” and “looks”–all things we had let others define us as. In his hands, he held up a full length mirror, scribbling down everything that the middle and high school students could think of. The list was devastatingly large, encircling the entire perimeter of the mirror. All these things weren’t necessarily bad (I happen to like my job and my hobbies and my friends), but I didn’t like the idea of my entire person being identified by one of these single things.

As we all stared blankly into the mirror smudged with black ink, Josh revealed a red permanent Sharpie marker. Uncapping the lid and promptly placing the tip on the glass, he scrawled out two words in particular that stuck out to me.

Beautiful and complete.

Bright red bold letters written right in the smack dab of the mirror, exponentially larger than the chicken scratch surrounding it. Suddenly, all the other things seemed meaningless. As we all were mesmerized by our reflections in the marked up glass. We’d used these simple things in our everyday lives to let others define and judge us, forming a mold of ourselves based on what others think. We determined our self worth from the number of likes on a picture, the number of friends who sat at our lunch table, the number of compliments we got on our outfit, when really, all along our self-worth should’ve been coming from ourselves. If we know we’re beautiful, it doesn’t matter what people think. If we know we’re complete, then don’t give others the power to say we’re wrong.

Pulling his sleeve over his hand, Josh revealed one final secret to us. He began feverishly wiping away all that black that was encompassing the mirror and as if some sort of magic trick had been done, poof, it was gone (when really we just hadn’t noticed it was a dry erase Expo marker all along). All the words that we had let others tag onto us our whole lives dissolved, leaving behind only the bold red print.

I am beautiful and I am complete.

 

OPINION: 8,397

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

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8,397.

That’s roughly the number of miles from Mason, Ohio to the Philippines.

Now don’t worry; I’m not going to give a geography lesson. That number just happens to be very special to me.

Since I was a young girl, my parents have trained me to help anyone in need. At the age of seven, I was handed a crisp photo of a girl named Myrna from a village in the Philippines. My parents enthusiastically told me that we would be helping her with things she couldn’t afford — school, clothes, food, books (the list goes on). They also informed me that I would have the opportunity to write her letters back and forth. Imagine my seven-year-old self: bouncing up and down in my sky blue Crocs at the very thought of an international pen pal.

But over the course of my lifetime, as years matured both Myrna and I, we became more than pen pals. I became more than her sponsor. She became more than the girl whose photo was carefully hung up with a magnet on my refrigerator. We became friends. She trusted me enough to write about the great sorrows in her life. She faced so many hardships, such as her brother being killed in her village, but her faith was unwavering and her spirit never broke.

After years of flying hand-written notes and cards across the sea to a foreign country, I finally received the final one.

My fingers trembled as I gripped onto a letter telling me that Myrna was no longer eligible for me to sponsor her because she was dropping out of school to go to work in order to support her family. Her heart breaking words sunk into my skull very slowly at first, until it hit me like a brick wall. Just like that, she was gone — out of my life forever. I would never again hold a loose leaf sheet of paper addressed to my house from a small island. I would never again get to bond with Myrna and discuss things so foreign and amazing to me. I would never again talk to my friend.

All this was very selfish of me. I would never get to talk to her again, sure, but she would also never complete her education. She wouldn’t get to live the life that she had hoped to live. So, yet again, I delved into the letter, this time, trying not to focus on myself. The last phrase her pen ever wrote to me caught my attention; she asked me one thing: a request to keep doing what I was doing. Help someone in need.

I skidded across my tile floor to hop on the nearest computer in search of another poverty-stricken girl that I could help. As I sealed shut my first letter to Nessie, a realization hit me. Myrna wasn’t just asking to pay a monthly fee to get a child through school. She wasn’t asking me to make some sort of worldwide difference. She was simply asking me to help anyone, no matter where and no matter when.

Change doesn’t need to exist 8,397 miles away. It can exist anywhere.

 

Lunch landfill

Mandated meal requirements taking a toll on cafeteria food waste

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

IMG_4151Photo by Photo Editor Madison Krell

Students are biting off more than they can chew.

According to a study conducted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, around 24 percent of the total trash in schools comes from food waste. It’s the number one contributor.

Food waste has always been a problem in lunch rooms, but some of the blame can be placed upon the regulations mandated by national nutrition programs, according to junior Carrie Lipps.

“Most of what people throw away, as much as I hate to say it, is the healthy stuff because that’s what we have to get,” Lipps said. “(Not all) kids like carrots. I’m not saying that they should give us Pop-Tarts and make that a requirement, but kids would rather have Pop-Tarts than carrots.”

Child Nutrition Supervisor Tamara Earl pointed out that students can’t blame the manufacturers or those who cook cafeteria food; these changes are nationwide.

“The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act contained a lot more advancement, criteria, and standards largely resulting from the increase of obesity among children in this country,” Earl said. “The statistics (in 2010, when the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act was put into place), were saying that one in three children were obese and that there had been an increase in diseases such as diabetes and high-blood pressure.”

Since these changes have gone into place, there has been a four and a half percent decrease in school lunch sales. This can most likely be attributed to the dislike of the fruits and vegetables that students must put on their tray in order to make their lunch a meal, according to Earl.

“We’ve had some good conversations with students and many are challenged to like fruits and vegetables,” Earl said. “Research does show that if you can provide incentives or education, you can often help that challenge of students eating fruits and vegetables and I think our goal has been to get in front of the students to help them understand what it’s about.”

According to junior Cassidee Cavazos, there are many factors to students wasting their food, including the time restraint within the lunch period.

“I don’t feel like we have enough time at lunch to fully eat all our food,” Cavazos said. “I don’t like eating fast.”

For the student who has to take a fruit or vegetable but doesn’t want to, they’ll most likely end up tossing it. The student has a responsibility to not do this in order to reduce food waste, according to Earl.

“Food waste is one of the most challenging topics of what we do,” Earl said. “I do feel the individual selecting the food has the responsibility to not waste. I also feel that some of the waste we see is a reflection of people’s habits.”

Nonetheless, the school district must do their part as well to educate and put out the very best product they can. According to Earl, it must be a collaboration between students and the nutrition department.

“What can I do on my end about it?” Earl said. “That’s one reason why we try to do a lot with the nutrition education hoping that people can understand the value of a fruit or a vegetable with  a meal and that it has a payoff with our health. I would assume that’s probably the item people target the most when they think of waste. Students are offered two fruits and two vegetables and we ask that you take one to make your lunch a meal. We try very hard to offer a lot of fresh choices and a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in the sincere hope that everybody can find one that they can eat at least half of. It’s quite the challenge.”

In order for this union of students and the nutrition department to take place, Earl proposed that a committee is formed.

“Basically (we want) a committee of students that (would) meet regularly,” Earl said. “I need to have students give me feedback on what is currently happening in the lunchroom and where their challenges are, likes and dislikes, but I also need support in sampling new products. I would say to you in this district I do have some great relationships with our manufacturers…and so it’d be a great opportunity for me to bring some of those things to students and find out new directions we could go in.”

With the district and the students working together, Earl said she is hopeful to decrease the amount of food waste in the cafeteria.

“In my opinion, the food waste has two aspects,” Earl said. “It has my responsibility to make sure I’m putting out the very best I can and it’s also the responsibility of the individual taking it to do everything they can to eat it.”

 

Mason cross country athletes overcome sickness and tough home course

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

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Photo by Sheila Raghavendran

The cross country team may have had runny noses all week, but that didn’t stop them from sprinting towards the finish line at the Mason Invitational on Saturday.

The Mason Invitational, which brought in 3,600 runners and 160 teams from the tri-state area, was held at Corwin-Nixon park on Saturday morning. Races started at 9 a.m. and continued throughout the morning and into the afternoon. High school runners raced a 5k (3.1-mile) course and middle school runners raced a 2-mile course. There was even a kids’ “fun run”.

According to girls cross country coach Chip Dobson, many of the runners were experiencing sicknesses throughout the week, making the race difficult.

“I think that a lot of the girls were under the weather, so they were just feeling pretty ragged,” Dobson said. “It’s hard to race hard when you’re taking Nyquil the day before.”

Junior Maegan Murphy, who was the first Mason finisher in the girls’ varsity race, experienced this sickness first hand.

“I was very sick on Monday,” Murphy said.  “I thought I had a fever. Then, towards the middle of the week, I had a nasty cough. I thought I was over it today, but then the cough came back in about the third mile.”

According to junior Justin Koehler, there were those on the team with injuries as well.

“We have a lot of people on the mend, so we were just trying to take it easy this week,” Koehler said.

According to senior Delaney McDowell, there’s a psychological aspect to it as well.

“It can be mental, too,” McDowell said. “Once you think you’re sick and not going to do well, you might not.”

The team, however, tried to push through the uncontrollable factors and race well together at the meet, according to McDowell.

“I think we tried to have a positive attitude throughout this week and some days, you just don’t have your best race but I think overall, we worked together well as a team,” McDowell said.

The course itself is a very difficult one, according to Murphy, whether you feel sick or not.

“It’s a very challenging course,” Murphy said. “You go out in a big field — very hot — for the first (kilometer), then you go through the woods, come back, then you run through more woods. Finally, you run down in a creek, up the mulch hill, cross another creek, and go back into the big field.”

Despite the challenging aspects, the team is always excited for the Mason Invitational, according to McDowell.

“We always look forward to this meet because there are so many people and it’s such a fun atmosphere,” McDowell said. “It’s so fun to be here on your home course and seeing a lot of people come out.”

 

Students embrace coexisting through creation of interfaith room

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

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Photo by Abbey Marshall

Coexist (verb): to exist in a mutual tolerance despite different ideologies or interests.

On Thursday, May 22, a group of students with varying religious beliefs gathered together to demonstrate this idea of “coexisting”. The first interfaith group meeting took place: a discussion lead to inform and educate others about the various types of faiths that the students of Mason High School have.

This interfaith meeting was organized by the Muslim Student Association (MSA) in attempt to learn more about other religions and how to respect others, according to junior Yara Khalifa, who was one of the founders of MSA.

“I went to Carmel High School in Indiana and we had an MSA there but it was not interfaith,” Khalifa said. “It was strictly, ‘Let’s learn about our religion’. I feel like that isolated a lot of people since there aren’t a lot of Muslims in the school and there are a lot of people I know who want to learn more about Islam. I wanted to open it to not just be about Islam because that’s sort of self-centered…I really want to know what all these people around me believe in and how I could best respect them.”

According to junior MSA member Hira Qureshi, the first meeting was a huge success with a large turn out and plenty of great conversations.

“I think the interfaith question and answer went even better than we could’ve ever imagined,” Qureshi said. “We were just praying at least ten people would come, but it put a huge grin on my face when every single seat was filled and some even had to pull extra chairs in. People were engaged and asking questions on a whole spectrum of religion. What was even better was the fact we had such diversity in the session varying from Christians to Muslims to Jews to Atheists to Hinduism and it was awesome to hear everybody sharing about their own faith.”

This discussion included a wide array of religions and according to Qureshi, it was a great opportunity to learn things about those different faiths.

“What I got [out of the discussion] is that religion shouldn’t be a taboo topic,” Qureshi said. “So many people had buried questions and itching curiosity that it’s a shame they have to put it away, afraid to be looked down upon if they ask a faith-related question. Today I saw that people really are interested and do have questions and all they need is an outlet to do that which is why we wanted to do this session in the first place.”

This was the first and last meeting of the year, but MSA is planning to hold the interfaith group once a month starting next school year, according to Khalifa.

“We definitely want to continue our group MSA and reach out to an even bigger audience where we hold sessions like this and start chipping away at the barriers of different faiths,” Qureshi said. “This was only to get the ball rolling but next year we want to have even more events where we customize events to what the student body wants to explore and give them a chance to do so.”

According to Qureshi, it doesn’t matter where one’s faith may lie because that’s the beauty of the club: diversity. Anyone is welcome to come as long as they are respectful of others and want to learn.

“I want others to have the chance to take advantage of the diversity here at Mason High School,” Qureshi said. “What we have is a real opportunity to learn about those around us who we inevitably interact with every day. I want to remove any ignorance that may exist and be part of shaping an environment where people can ask questions without feeling like they’re offending somebody and learn something new.”

 

Holocaust survivor visits MHS and speaks to freshmen

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

holocaust survivorPhoto by Abbey Marshall

Hate and prejudice are with us today.

These words were spoken by Holocaust survivor Werner Coppel, who is more familiar with hatred and prejudice than most people can fathom.

Coppel spoke to a group of Honors World History students on Tuesday, April 29, to share his trials and tribulations of being a forced labor slave, being held in a concentration camp, and ultimately escaping it all to reconstruct his life.

Being born in Germany as a Jew and growing up in the 1930s, Coppel experienced firsthand the rise of Nazism and its wrath. He recalled being ostracized by his peers after the passing of the Nuremberg laws that stripped Jews of their rights then having his synagogue destroyed by Anti-Semitists.

After experiencing this discrimination, he applied to travel to Palestine, now known as the state of Israel, to where Jews were originally from. A year after being accepted and starting his training, the training centers were closed and all those in the program with him were shipped to a forced labor camp in Berlin. He was granted a brief hiatus from the camp to visit his family in December of 1941, which was the last time he ever saw them.

April 8, 1943, was a date seared into Coppel’s memory: it was the date he was shipped to the concentration camp known as Auschwitz.

“We were packed in a railroad car like sardines,” said Coppel. “If you died, you couldn’t have fallen over.”

Upon arriving, Coppel immediately took note of the terrible conditions.

“557 old folks, women, and children out of 1,200 were gassed,” Coppel said.

After Coppel’s later escape of the concentration camp, and then following the war, he settled down with a family and had the opportunity to come to America.

“I remember thinking [when I got to America], ‘Now you have reached the shore. Now you have left hate and prejudice behind in Germany,’” Coppel said.

According to Coppel, however, that wasn’t necessarily true. When he arrived in Ohio, discrimination still existed; an article was published in the Cincinnati Enquirer denying that the Holocaust had ever happened. According to Coppel, the same sort of prejudice that led to the Holocaust still exists.

“When you go into the world… You will have setbacks,” Coppel said. “Stand up [to those setbacks], don’t walk away.”

Coppel’s story touched the students and was important for all to hear, according to freshman Samantha Winkler.

“I think it’s really important for all of my friends and peers to hear [Coppel’s presentation] because a lot of them are unaware of the Holocaust and they don’t really know how severe it was,” Winkler said. “I think it’s important to understand what they had to go through.”

Coppel’s presentation was also relevant for what the freshman students are learning in the classroom, according to Winkler.

“We kind of touched a little bit on the Holocaust [in history class] and we’re learning about World War II,” Winkler said. “We haven’t really learned how severe the Holocaust was yet, so the speaker started us off on the Holocaust unit with the conditions and everything that happened in Germany.”

Freshman Brooke Suddleson, along with Winkler, helped organize the event.

“[Winkler and I] are both Jewish and our Sunday school teacher survived the Holocaust,” Suddleson said. “So, when we found out we were learning about it, we thought it would be cool if she would come in and talk. Then plans changed and we ended up going through the Holocaust Center for Humanity and they set us up [with Coppel] and arranged everything.”

According to Coppel, he enjoys sharing his story with the young people at Mason High School.

“[The students] were wonderful,” Coppel said. “They were one of the better, if not the best, audiences I’ve had in a long time. This school always has been for all the years I’ve been coming here.”

Coppel ended his speech with one final piece of advice that he finds to still be relevant and important even after all these years following the Holocaust.

“Stand up to hate and prejudice even if it doesn’t affect you,” Coppel said. “Always respect others the way you want to be respected.”