The Totem Online The School Newspaper of Shawnee Heights High School Tue, 11 Feb 2020 21:13:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Totem Online 32 32 Johnson making strides on the court Tue, 11 Feb 2020 15:45:49 +0000 Breaking out of his shell, Isiah Johnson is sneaking up the list of the cities top scorers. Johnson,  a junior on the basketball team this year, has been more and more productive with his playing time recently. Johnson did not start in a varsity contest last season, but has had twelve games this season where he has scored double digits. 

“This season has been fun for me, and what you could say is a breakout year for me, my teammates and coaches help me everyday in practice. We are all working towards one goal and that is to build a winning program here at Heights,” Johnson said. 

In addition to Johnson, senior Nasier Anderson was granted eligibility to play basketball at the start of the second semester. Anderson was an immediate impact for the T-Birds, starting his first game ever wearing red and blue. 

“Nasier has played a great role on our team. We can count on him to rebound and block every shot that comes inside, we’re a lot smaller than most teams so he has been good for us,” Johnson said.

Before attending Heights, Anderson attended Kansas City Washington High school. Anderson’s first experience of high school basketball came at Shawnee Heights. 

“It’s been a great experience at Heights. The coaches are great, my teammates are supportive, and the support I get from the students and parents is amazing,” Anderson said. 

Anderson’s best game so far this season came against Highland Park. Anderson scored 13 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, and blocked 5 shots. 

“We fought the whole game and it was my best performance of the season even though we came up short,” Anderson said.

]]> 0
Wrestling in Holton Fri, 07 Feb 2020 21:30:47 +0000 Brock Ferguson wins a wrestling match in Holton as he continues his dominating season.

]]> 0
The Pressure of Perfection and the Fear of Failure Fri, 07 Feb 2020 16:01:44 +0000 In any area of education, homework affects everyone: the teachers whose jobs consist of assigning and grading homework, the parents of the students who can attest to the hours their children spend agonizing over homework, and the students themselves, whose lives are wrapped around the obsession of perfect grades and fear of failure.  

There has always been controversy around the idea of homework. Homework’s earliest origin dates back to ancient Rome, according to College-Homework-Help, as a way for students to develop skills in an informal atmosphere. In 1905, homework was formally “invented” by an Italian teacher as, ironically, a form of punishment.  

Since then, homework and education systems have changed. Teenagers today face increasing expectations, along with the pressure of grades and stress to be  successful in school. While some homework can be beneficial for a student’s learning process, teenagers are facing the increasing problem of, “When is too much, too much?” When does constant stress over homework assigned every night go over the edge, resulting in more harm than good?

It is reported that kindergarteners are assigned twenty-five minutes of homework a night – according to a 2015 study by the American Journal of Family Therapy – when ultimately, they should have none. Additionally, 85% of children in kindergarten are enthusiastic and compliant towards learning, but this number decreases drastically at the high school level where forty percent of students are chronically disengaged with school, as an Oxford Learning article reports. These statistics highlight just the first layer of this complex issue – that increasing amounts of homework today start at even earlier ages. As younger and younger students are assigned more homework, there is a rapid increase of discontempt and disinterest towards schoolwork as they get older. 

Our “job” as teenagers is to attend school and receive our education. To get good grades and prepare us for the next education in college. From 7:45 a.m. to 2:35 p.m., receive the knowledge presented to us so we can pass our next quiz, our next test, to achieve what most students spend so much time obsessing over – as close to perfect of a grade we can get. The idea of failure, to most students, is unacceptable. Here lies the problem, as discussed heavily in a high school student’s feature about the detriment of perfection while learning, I’m a Loser Because of School

Here, the author toys with the idea of what it means to learn independently in self-fulfillment, rather than sit in a classroom and memorize the topics given; that failure teaches teenagers more than perfection does, and that this knowledge of failure better prepares us for life. The author discusses how society in general values the education of knowledge and encourages perfection of grades, rather than the education of development into human beings.


Arguably, teenagers thirty years ago did not have the tremendous amount of pressures today’s teenagers confront on a daily basis – this pressure being to  achieve high grades. An article from the New York Times, School vs. Education, discusses the old-fashioned methods of education, where a child is taught that they are either “smart or dumb” based on expectations and discourages students who do not meet high expectations. Furthermore, the expectations regarding education for most students is to prepare for college, then attend college, and then prepare for graduate school. There is an influence for students to take honors and AP classes to prepare for and appeal to colleges – to perform well in classes to achieve high grades. Anything less is failure. Today’s schooling system pushes the agenda that to succeed in life, students have to succeed in education first. 

As a result, this pressure is having an increased mental health effect on teenagers. A 2013 study conducted by Stanford University reports seventy percent of students felt stress due to school, while 56% of this group said it was because of homework. One in five students experience rising levels of stress, depression, and anxiety from homework (Oxford Additionally, homework affects other parts of a teen’s physical health, such as lack of sleep, weight loss, stomach problems, and fatigue, according to the Atlas of Science

While homework is the origin of several health issues for teenagers, there are beneficial effects of homework that impact students’ grades. According to a study found in the article Down with Homework, Say U.S School Districts by Wall Street Journal, high school students show improvement by doing up to two hours of homework a night, while giving more does not show any change. Nonetheless, our society will come, if it has not already, to question when the increasing amount of homework is too much for teenagers to handle. 

After all, we are kids – still young – yet our social lives are compromised at the expense of the obsession of perfection in school. Teenagers should be able to enjoy their youth and freedoms, be able to experience the absence of extreme responsibilities. Students should be able to pursue extracurriculars without having to stress about homework. Work-life balance has always been significant, yet this balance is getting lost in what many view only the beneficial impacts of homework. This impact cannot exist without a balance, and as education progresses, this balance is losing its value in education.

What teenagers need to succeed in life are the skills to develop into human beings.  Reliability and self-motivation are such skills that would benefit students in future careers and struggles, taught through schooling by assigning homework that is not graded. Failure is another one of these skills – vital to a person’s success in life – but the practice of failure in school is blindsided by the ingrained obsession to be perfect. As I’m A Loser Because of School quotes from Let’s Get Rid of Grades (a The Washington Post article), “‘What would happen if students were free to experience classes, retain information and build connections without fear that their futures hung in the balance of a single imperfect product?’’ Teenagers should not be educated with this knowledge presented to them, rather allowed to learn without the fear of failure shadowing over them. 


One of the methods Shawnee Heights uses to consider to help develop these skills is the “Eight Keys of Excellence,” a mantra ingrained into the minds of students from first to twelfth grade. This method, hypothetically, attempts to solve what most schools fall short on – developing skills to be more than a student – but exists to a point where the words are nothing more than meaningless. Shawnee Heights is starting to recognize the current issue of mental health with their addition of a new school counselor, a focus that has potential for the benefit of Shawnee Heights students. 

Outside of Shawnee Heights, a “ten minutes per grade” rule is suggested to help buffer the increase of homework. This “rule” proposes that each student be assigned an amount of homework coordinating to their grade – ten minutes for each grade level. This would mean first-graders would have ten minutes of homework, while seniors in the twelfth grade would have two hours. While this method sees benefit, some schools have even banned homework altogether. Schools in states such as Connecticut and Louisiana have begun regulating homework, whether this includes placing a nightly time limit, or not allowing homework to be assigned on certain days. Even so, critics argue that without homework students lose motivation and will not have enough knowledge about the topic. However, this break, sometimes short but significant, allows students a minute to step back and find a work-life balance.


An extreme change to homework altogether would call for a national change in educational customs – a difficult endeavor for what could have questionable outcomes, but at least beneficial to the homework issue. But here, at Shawnee Heights, we can decrease the pressure of homework and encourage skills such as  failure – ones that will be valuable to success in our future careers and in life.


]]> 0
Jake Hudson Masters Library Rubik’s Cube Challenge Thu, 06 Feb 2020 20:58:30 +0000 A mosaic portrait of Rosa Parks was created by Rubik’s Cube master Jake Hudson, a junior at Shawnee Heights. 

Ms. Leslie Weishaar, the library media specialist, announced the project on Jan. 10. Students had the opportunity to go in the library during their free time and create a picture of Rosa Parks using only Rubik’s Cubes. A key showed the students what pattern to create, with the final portrait being composed of 100 cubes.

“I had seen this project online, where you can check out these Rubik’s Cubes and you can do all sorts of different things with them. I chose the first image of Rosa Parks to be in kind of conjunction with Black History Month,” Ms. Weishaar said.

One student in particular found this challenge as a highlight of his school day. Junior Jake Hudson felt accomplished after he solved the first mosaic.

“It took me approximately an hour and thirty minutes. I came in on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday during my lunch period,” Hudson said. “I just like doing Rubik’s Cubes because I like to see what people can create with them, and I just wanted to see what the experience would be like for me to create a picture.” 

Hudson said he has a handful of cubes at his house and wishes to get more in order to create pictures at home. Since he has solved many Rubik’s Cubes in his life, he is able to work around them fairly quickly.

“There was some that I messed up on so I had to go back and fix them but it was easier than expected. For a newcomer it would probably be harder, because they don’t have the experience that I do,” Hudson said.

Hudson has already started the second picture, a portrait of Anne Frank. He finished section one of the picture, composed of 25 cubes, within one lunch period. Ms. Weishaar plans to continue finding new pictures for students to create throughout the rest of the year.

“This part is not a competition but maybe in the future we can have one. It is a collaborative project where any kid can work on it so we just have different kids come in during their free time and they can kind of collaborate on it and work on it just as they come in,” Ms. Weishaar said.

Canvas messages from Ms. Weishar will update students when new mosaics start. The library plans to allow some students to check out a single Rubik’s cube to learn how to solve at home.


]]> 0
The Effects of Antidepressants Fri, 24 Jan 2020 20:35:04 +0000 Antidepressant: 

  • used to alleviate depression.
  • anything, and especially a drug used to prevent and treat depression.
  • medications that can help provide relief for symptoms of depression, social anxiety, seasonal affective disorder, anxiety disorders, and dysthymia. 

These are three definitions of what an antidepressant is. To break it down, it is a medication or drug used to relieve and treat anxiety and depression. While the first thing that may come to mind is a prescription, among teenagers, illegal drug usage is a popular alternative. Many addiction specialists have reason to believe that teens turn to drugs and alcohol by self medicating their mood disorders. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “6 in every 10 substance abusers also have a mental disorder.” As  teens turn to this, they face the grave danger of the many serious side effects that come along with it. 

In early August, junior Valeria Cervantes-Carrillo started a prescription dosage of Nortriptyline to help with her migraines and depression. Like many others on medications, independent research was believed to not be necessary due to the fact that the doctor covered the possible side effects that come with her certain medication.

Though Cervantes has not been faced with one of the tragic consequences that may come with taking antidepressants, she does say she often experiences fatigue, so she has resulted to taking her dose at night before bed. She also added that she experiences drowsiness and blurry vision sporadically over time. As a result, she took a break which didn’t end up pleasant as it made her mental state very unstable.

“When I stopped taking them the first day, it was the worst. I felt like an emotional wreck, anything would trigger me into feeling like I wanted to cry and I was so anxious I almost had two breakdowns in the restroom – it was bad.,” Cervantes said. “I went from happy to sad very fast, I felt emotionally exhausted.”

Antidepressants can be a lifelong medication for some, as life without them after taking them for so long seems useless to some. Freshman Gracie Chavez spoke out about her experience with taking antidepressants since she was 13.

“I started taking antidepressants because my depression and anxiety was putting me in a suicidal state,” Chavez said.

Since starting she has been put into a better state of mind but still struggles with depression and major anxiety. Her day to day life hasn’t changed, she still experiences her ups and downs just as she did before. At one point, Chavez stopped taking her pills and noticed her depression worsening.

“I was getting back to the point where I didn’t want to do anything but sleep, I was always home, isolating myself, and I wasn’t expressing my feelings to anyone,” Chavez said.

For some, antidepressants mean a bad thing, but to Chavez it gives her hope.

“Knowing you’re on your way to recovery gives you hope, and makes you believe that you are going to be okay and your season of depression is almost over,” Chavez said.

An anonymous student also spoke out about their battle with depression. In this case, they used non-prescription drugs and illegal substances to self medicate their depression. When confronting their symptoms head on, their initial reaction was denial and shaming themselves into feeling weak for their feelings that they couldn’t control. 

“It was a few months after my 16th birthday, I just felt alone I guess,” the anonymous student said. “The only way I could fill my emptiness was with drugs, so that was what I did.”

Contrary to popular belief, many people do not have access to prescription medications, or in some cases they aren’t as effective for someone, and instead they revert to self-medicating with illegal substances such as cocaine, heroine, and the most popular among teens, marijuana. 

When given the factual evidence of the damage each drug does to an adolescent’s brain, this individual had already known the side effects of each drug.

“On cocaine you can go psycho and with ecstasy, pretty much the same thing, you burn holes in your head,” they said. “Of course, with ecstasy you take it and you wake up and feel like shit, you can’t breathe, and then like on cocaine you’re whole head and body hurts and it feels like you lose sensation in your fingertips.

But it doesn’t end there. They said once you begin to abuse drugs it only gets worse from there. Taking the drug is the only way to make it stop, and that is only temporary.

Another anonymous student reached out about their battle with depression and how they’ve handled it.

“I was 12 when it started hitting me, had many thoughts going through my head about why I wasn’t good enough, that no one would care if I wasn’t here, that I don’t even have a future so there’s no point in being here. And only being 12 feeling like I was too “young” for depression, therefore not feeling open to talk about my feelings,” the anonymous student said.

Throughout their four years of battling depression, rather than using a prescription pill, they use THC to calm themselves and bring them to a more level state of mind.

“I do smoke weed to cope with it instead, it mellows me out, it opens my brain up. I think a lot more when I have THC in my system,” the anonymous student said.

Though both of these teens use THC and additional forms of illegal drugs, research has proven marijuana to be a depressant. In addition, it slows the speed of thinking and processing your thoughts, and is a memory loss drug. As many teens turn to solutions like this, there is a fine print that is calling to be read for the sake of their health. 


If you or a loved one is suffering from symptoms of depression or anxiety, please text CONNECT to 741741, a hotline which connects you to professionals. It is never too late, people care and love you.

]]> 0
Episode 2- The Fighting Situation Fri, 24 Jan 2020 20:17:02 +0000

]]> 0
The Toll of Birth Control Fri, 24 Jan 2020 16:19:41 +0000 64 percent of all women of reproductive age are using a form of contraceptive in the United States. 37.2 percent of those are teenage girls ranging from ages 15-19. Among teens, the usage of birth control is increased due to varying reasons, from sexual interaction to acne. Within Shawnee Heights High School, a teen using each form of medical contraceptives was interviewed.

Using the pill form is Freshman Ruebee Buckholtz, to suppress how frequently she needed to change her feminine products and due to the effects of her medical condition, anemia, or iron deficiency.

“Before I started birth control, I had an experience when I was at Walmart with my family and passed out because my iron levels were so low and my period was so heavy,” Buckholtz said.

After that troubling incident, her mother took her to her doctor and she was diagnosed with anemia and offered the solution of taking iron infusions as well as birth control. This helped slow down the flow of her period which had been inconvenient in her day to day life.

“I would have to change my pad or tampon in less than 30 minutes each time,” Buckholtz said.

Having started birth control, it has helped Buckholtz be more steady on her feet and control the number of times she has to change her feminine product. Buckholtz did not research the side effects, but has faced some as far as weight gain and altered  cycle timing. 

Another form of contraceptive is an IUD. An IUD is a device placed into the uterus for up to 5 years. Junior Katelynn Thomas has had her IUD in place since Dec. 26, 2018. Her initial decision to begin was due to her period. She would often times not be able to get up from bed because of the excruciating cramps that partnered her period.

“I would not be able to go to school, and not only because of the pain but I couldn’t wear clothes without bleeding on them,” Thomas said.

Her choice of an IUD rather than another contraceptive comes from her mother, who is a midwife at Lincoln Center and proposed this to be the most effective for Thomas’ circumstance.

“After reading through all the details, my mom and I picked the IUD,” Thomas added.

Within the first few months irregular bleeding would occur before eventually ceasing completely. Thomas says she still experiences the mood changes as an indicator of what time of the month it is.

1 in 1,000 women with an IUD experience an ectopic pregnancy, or pregnancy outside of the uterus, which usually results in the termination of the pregnancy for the mother and fetus’ sake, as the fetus would be unable to survive and get the correct nutrients. 

When told this fact, Thomas had full knowledge of the risks and side effects from her mother’s experience and plans on continuing her usage of birth control.

Another form of birth control is Nexplanon, or more commonly known as the arm bar. Senior Izzy Erickson has had hers in place for 14 months. Erickson has also used the pill form but decided to switch for convenience and effectiveness.

“I switched to Nexplanon in August 2018 because I had read that it could entirely stop periods and I kept forgetting to take the pill,” Erickson said.

The side effects that come along with Nexplanon are typical side effects, but with research, it has also been found to increase the risk of blood clots, which in some cases can be fatal. Being a young, active teen, Erickson’s chances are very low. Besides that, Erickson did research on the best choice and consulted her doctor for further professional opinion.

“I did a lot of research and it helped that my older sister had gone through most of the different types so she helped me make a choice,” Erickson said.

Though this was Erickson’s best choice for her, the side effects still followed, with a weight gain of 45 lbs, which she suspects may be from the mixture of metabolism slowing with age and her birth control use. This has been the only noticeable side effect. 

During the procedure, the only sensation Erickson had was the numbing shots beforehand, and mild bruises after.

“I turned my head away while they inserted it because I didn’t want to watch and my mom had to tell me that it was already done because I couldn’t feel anything,” Erickson said.

The last choice of medical birth control is the Depo-Provera, or depo-shot. This is an injection of birth control in the hip. A student at Shawnee Heights has been using this form of birth control after finding it to be more convenient than the pill.

“I started birth control freshman year because I was having two periods a month,” the anonymous student said.

The depo-shot may interfere with bone mineral density. Prior to hearing this, they had no knowledge of this and thought this may be concerning, however they didn’t find it convincing enough to outweigh the pros of this contraceptive.

In the opinion of Nurse Jennifer Quanstrom, cons outweigh the pros in the case of using birth control as a support for menstrual cramps, acne, and period regulation, which are the leading reasons teens have begun their prescriptions of birth control. 

“I support people’s desires to use birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancies but I don’t think birth control should be taken if you’re not at that point in your life,” Quanstrom said, “In general, I think it’s best to not put artificial things in your body unless you’re at a point where it is necessary for your lifestyle.”

The side effects of birth control are not only known to be temporary, on the surface effects, but they even expand as far as cancer risk and to Quanstrom, it is not worth the risk.

“I do not think it is something people should make a decision on casually and lightly, and not take into consideration the other risk factors like hormone imbalances, maybe cancer, weight gain, mood destabilization. There is a lot of other side effects that need to be considered and you need to weigh your pros and cons with that,” Quanstrom said.

]]> 0
Boys Wrestling with the Win Wed, 22 Jan 2020 16:37:10 +0000 0 President Trump Facing Possible Impeachment Fri, 20 Dec 2019 15:50:55 +0000 President Trump is facing possible impeachment due to a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. President Trump is said by a whistleblower to have tried to make a deal in order to help him win the next election. 

Many people understand impeachment as being a decision as to whether or not the president loses or keeps his job, however, it is much more complex than that. . 

“Impeachment is the process of having the president or another elected official go through a trial process after Congress has determined they have committed some sort of crime,” Mrs. Regan Jones, a history teacher, said.

This process can get a bit complicated and can take an extensive time period to figure out. 

“It could probably last for a year, I mean simply to impeach him would be ‘what charges can you bring that are a high crime and misdemeanor?’ And the House being the prosecuting attorney vs the Senate being the jury of that particular case. If you want to call it that, a criminal case against the president, so it could take a while,” Mr. Patrick Buchanan, a government teacher, said.

For a president to be impeached, they first have to break the law in some way. In this case, President Trump has been accused of breaking a campaign finance law. The official page for Federal Election of Commision states, “Campaigns may not solicit or accept contributions from foreign nationals. Federal law prohibits contributions, donations… from foreign nationals in connection with any election — federal, state or local.”

Currently, The House of Representatives is proceeding with hearings and trying to find evidence so that they can go on with the process of impeachment. But it doesn’t end there. 

“There have been two presidents that have been impeached, but then they were later found not guilty by the Senate,” Mrs. Jones said. 

If the House of Representatives votes to impeach the president, then the decision moves to the Senate, where they decide whether or not he is actually guilty of said crime. A president can be impeached by the House of Representatives but still remain in office if the Senate finds him innocent. 

“If they are guilty then they are kicked out of office and typically they go to a civil court- so a court of the people- and that’s when they can have a sentence put on them.” Mrs. Jones said. 

President Trump has recently reffered to the situation as lynching

“So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights,” he wrote on Twitter. “All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!”

The House began its second week of the process with hearings, starting with testimonies from Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Alexander Vindam, a National Security Council official who heard the phone call. The House also listened to hearings from Kurt Volker, a former special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, senior director of European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council. 

On Dec. 4, the inquiry moved to the House Judiciary Committee, where lawyers testified whether or not Congress has grounds under the Constitution to impeach the President.


]]> 0
Winter Driving Tip Wed, 18 Dec 2019 03:25:03 +0000

As the weather gets colder, young drivers dread driving in the snow because of the dangerous conditions. The first thing to know before hitting the roads is what kind of weather you’ll be driving in. Snow is usually more manageable, but freezing rain or sleet is more dangerous. Experiencing it is the only way to get over the fear and to know how to deal with any emergencies that could happen. Knowing tips and tricks for safe winter driving is an essential when driving on ice or snow. Here are some tips to drive safely and some tricks to get unstuck from snow.


  1. Drive slowly – Always adjust your speed  because of the lower traction when driving in snow or on ice.
  2. Accelerate and Decelerate slowly – Accelerate slowly to regain traction and avoid skidding. Start to decelerate earlier than usual to make sure you stop in time.
  3. Increase your following distance –  Increasing your following distance by five or six seconds will provide more distance for emergency stops.
  4. Don’t power up hills-  Trying to power up will just make your wheels spin, try to get a little more speed when approaching the hill.
  5. Turns – Brake before you turn, then accelerate when the turn is ending.
  6. Cruise control- Avoid cruise control at all times to maintain acceleration and deceleration control.

Tips to get unstuck from snow

  1. Forward backward technique- Accelerate forward slowly, then accelerate backwards slowly until you create a path to get out. If you hear your tires spinning, take your foot off the gas immediately.
  2. Use people- Find a group of people that could push your car out of the snow. If pushing from the back, put your car in a forward gear. As they push, have someone slowly accelerate on the gas.
  3. Add traction with sand, kitty litter, or cardboard- If your tires are spinning, put sand underneath them to give your tires more traction.
  4. Shovel a path around your tires- Keep a small shovel in your car to clear the snow around your tires.
]]> 0