Death By Graduation Project

It’s coming. The day seniors have been dreading since they first stepped foot in Penn Manor High School this year.

In a mere two weeks, Penn Manor seniors will be presenting their graduation projects. But do any of them really know what they’re doing?

In Brian Gorski’s case, no, he doesn’t.

Brian Gorski stresses over the upcoming graduation project for seniors.
Brian Gorski stresses over the upcoming graduation project for seniors.

“I’m not prepared for it,” Gorski says.

Gorski only started his project two weeks before it was due, and still hasn’t finished it. He claims that this project isn’t going to help him in life.

“I think it’s pointless,” Gorski said, during a Tuesday homeroom.

But the point of this four-year project was to help students explore different career paths, and point them in the right direction, according to high school counselor, Jess Minko.

However, senior Ryane Hillery, feels differently. She also hasn’t finished her project and she feels that it was a terrible experience.

“You’re expected to pick your life’s work while you’re in high school, which is unrealistic,” Hillery says.

Although, many students feel this way, the counselors want to send the message that the project was never intended to be portrayed that way.

Minko explained that the students were not expected to pick a career and be stuck with it for the rest of their lives. They were supposed to explore different career paths so that they can learn a little about many different careers.

Guidance counselor, Kim Marsh, clarified that no matter how many students decide not to do their project, it will still be a requirement to graduate.

Marsh explained that every state must have a graduation project and Penn Manor cannot change that.

This year’s senior class had a different project than any other class. The classes that graduate after them aren’t required to collect any papers, which eliminates the problem of losing papers and folders. The freshman, sophomore and junior classes got the advantage of having their entire project online.

However this isn’t the  only a problem for this year’s seniors; it’s an adjustment for everyone. The teachers, counselors, and principals had to learn how to teach and grade a project that was also foreign to them.

This project change was not completely up to the staff at Penn Manor either. The state had changed the requirements for the graduation project, so Penn Manor had to do the same. The project at Penn Manor was also intended to be similar to other schools in the county, according to Minko.

Students like senior Kayla Drexel just felt that the project had been disorganized, but not completely pointless.

“It’s not going to help with my life. It was good to research colleges, but I would have done that on my own…I didn’t need a project to help me do it,” says Drexel.

Minko explained that the students that have taken the initiative to ask questions about the project haven’t had as tough of a time with the project and have realized that the project is not as confusing as it may sometimes be portrayed.

But was asking questions always very helpful?

In senior Katie Trout’s case, it doesn’t seem so.

“Guidance counselors couldn’t even help us because they didn’t know what was going on,” Trout says.

Trout is finished with her project, but feels that everything seemed impossibly hard to do and she doesn’t feel as though this is going to help her with her life.

Marsh acknowledged that yes, the projects are definitely getting better by grade and fewer problems have arisen.

Seniors this year who didn’t have their projects finished weren’t able to get a parking pass at the high school in August.

“Typically most students wait until it’s due,” Marsh says, however this year’s seniors were required to hand their project in last spring, “that threw a curve ball in some people’s plans to do it later.”

Marsh has seen several problems with this graduation project. Marsh said that many students just don’t know what’s required of them.

“I just feel like I wasn’t informed enough on exactly what to do,” senior Taylor Coulton says of his graduation project. Taylor’s guidance counselor had to walk him through his project and now he’s mostly done, except for the three-page paper.

Other students either lost their folders or claimed their folders were lost by someone in the school. Some students just didn’t get their community service done.

Lynn Torbert and Lexus Embry can definitely relate to these statements.

Torbert’s papers were lost but she did finish her project and she says that the project did its job. It helped her figure out what she wanted to do as far as a career.

Lexus Embry is still having trouble getting her community service hours done. She still has twelve hours to finish. However Embry’s project wasn’t all bad.

“I already knew what I wanted to do but the project helped me realize it was exactly what I wanted to do,” says Embry.

However there is a solution to many of these problems. Mrs. Minko holds sessions during homeroom to go over the requirements of the project and to help walk the students through the process.

There had also been a senior class meeting where a video was shown of a sample interview, and a grading rubric had been handed out that had some examples of questions that may be asked to the students. There are samples of graduation project work at the circulation desk in the library, if any students are interested in looking at an example.

The senior’s presentations are scheduled for the 11, 12 and 13 of November.

By: Abby Wilson

The Practice of Texting; A Deadly Toll

Nicholette Pomon, of East Brandywine Township, Pennsylvania, was only 17 years old when she and her nearly full-term baby were pronounced dead. The cause of their death: distracted driving.

The driver, Meghan L. Obendorfer, 18, was speeding on a winding, slippery road when she misjudged a corner and collided head-on with a school bus. Meghan was charged with homicide by vehicle. The worst part of her ruling was being charged with the murder of her best friend and her best friend’s child.

During the investigation, police found that Obendorfer had received 39 text messages and calls up until the accident.Avoid-texting-while-driving

Laws are being put into effect to help contain the problem. Currently there are 18 states that have banned texting while driving.

Pennsylvania currently has no state-wide texting laws enforced. However October 5 through the 11 was “Heads up Driving Week.” This was a “protest” to support a  no-texting while driving law. People were asked to drive distraction-free for one week.

Texting was first used in 1992, it has recently become the main mode of communication between teenagers. Unfortunately it’s being done while driving.

In 2008, nearly 6,000 people were killed by distracted driving.

Penn Manor teens admit they participate in this risky activity.

“It’s really bad, but still I know people do it,” said Zach Buterbaugh a Penn Manor senior.

CTIA- The Wireless Association is an international industry trade group, originally known as the Cellular Telephone Industries Association, reported that 158 billion text messages were sent in the USA in 2006.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2006 that 78 percent of crashes were from a driver being distracted within three seconds of their crash. Of those crashes, at least 6 percent were from a driver talking or dialing on their phone.

“If a driver’s eyes are away from the roadway for two seconds or more in a six-second window, their risk of being involved in a crash is two times higher than an alert driver,” said Charles Klauer, a senior researcher at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

Lynn Torbert, a Penn Manor senior,  said, “Passing this law is actually, probably a good idea, it’s (texting while driving) dangerous yet many people do it.”

A recent poll of 110 juniors and seniors at Penn Manor High School revealed that 75 percent believe that the law should be passed, and only 25 percent said that they think banning texting while driving is a bad idea.

Sophomores Michael Schneider and Joel Diffendarfer agreed they text at inappropriate times.
Sophomores Joel Diffendarfer, on left, and Michael Schneider, agreed they text at inappropriate times. Photo by: Lyta Ringo

According to a Nationwide Insurance study, nearly 20 percent of drivers are sending or receiving text messages, while driving.

Though she has never had an accident, one Penn Manor student who wants to remain unnamed said, “I’ll be driving and looking down at my phone, and when I look back up, there will be a car right in front of me and I’ll have to slam on the brakes.”

Abby Newport, a Penn Manor junior said, “I text while driving, but I’m trying to stop. It’s really bad and dangerous.”

According to an online poll,, 37% of teenagers think that texting while driving is extremely dangerous; yet 50% of teenagers admitted to texting  while driving.

“It’s my car, they’ can’t tell me that I can’t text,” said Penn Manor senior, Terrence Milligan.

Program Principal, Matt Sundeen, of the National Conference of State Legislatures said, “Certainly, texting is the issue du jour this year in the legislatures.”

Currently, president Obama has endorsed a minor texting law. Federal employees cannot have their cell phones in use, while on the road. The ban will also include sending e-mails, using instant messaging programs, and obtaining navigational information, while driving. The order will impact nearly three million civilian employees.  Some law enforcement and national security workers will be exempt.

Another Penn Manor student who wishes not to be named said, “even if the law is passed, I’m still going to text and drive; I’ll just learn to hide it better.”

Abby Newport agreed.

“I’d still text and drive, I mean it’s not like I’m going to get caught every time,” she said.

By: Lyta Ringo

Janitor John to the Rescue

Vomit in the halls, stopped-up bathrooms, iced tea plastered to the floors, and locker rooms completely engulfed in mud. Whether it comes to cleaning up bodily functions or just paper and plastic, that’s a day in the life of “Janitor John.”

John Wealand, school custodian for 14 years, has been tidying up the halls to make them sparkle and shine. But does he feel appreciated?

“In some cases, everyone feels unappreciated. I personally feel appreciated,” said Wealand.

Janitor John straightens up Penn Manor every day with a smile on his face.  Photo credit Alex Blythe
Janitor John straightens up Penn Manor every day with a smile on his face. Photo credit Alex Blythe

Wealand said, more teachers have been grateful for the custodians throughout his years here than the students. As they grow older, more and more students start to become more mature and they don’t always take things for granted.

“(I feel) appreciated by teachers, but not the student population, they got mommy to look after them,” joked Wealand.

Whenever people from other schools or parents visit the school, they comment on how neat and clean it is. But some students deliberately make messes just so they can have the custodians clean it up, Wealand explained.

“When you see someone deliberately make dirt, it makes you feel like you could crush them,” said Wealand

A lot of students may think that school custodians do most of their work during the school year, but it’s the opposite, according to Wealand. They do most of their work in the summer. The janitors have to strip every room down so that nothing is in it and then make them as clean as possible. It may sound like it’s not much work, but there are tons of rooms in the school and they can’t skip a single one, Wealand explained.

Most of the work done during the summer break and during the school year is done alone; however he doesn’t mind it, sometimes he even has a partner in crime.

But he doesn’t mind working by himself.

“I find it’s the only way I can have an intelligent conversation,” Wealand laughed.

Some benefits to being a school custodian, according to Wealand, are when former students come back to visit and they stop and have a chat to see how everything’s doing.

“That makes you feel appreciated.”

By: Jake Shiner and Alex Blythe

Minority Report: the state of race relations at PMHS

Jonny Fernandez, a Hispanic student, said he came to Penn Manor to get away from the fights and racial violence in his urban high school.

So far he hasn’t been disappointed.

“I feel more comfortable here than at my old school,” he said.

Many other minority students expressed similar sentiments, although  some expressed the complete opposite after transferring to Penn Manor, a mostly white, mostly suburban and rural high school that has experienced racial incidents in the past.

Laronn Lee, an African American student who transferred here this year, says he’s never felt uncomfortable either, “everybody’s pretty friendly.”

That leads to the question, is racism still going on in Penn Manor?

“Yes to the tenth  power,” said Lashaya Baker a minority, “but it doesn’t matter because ya’ll can’t get me outta here.”

“There’s a difference in being afraid of being jumped in the hallway and being called a name,” said Quay Hanna, a race-relations consultant hired by Penn Manor in 1997 when tensions here reached a boiling point. “Sometimes it’s a matter of different cultures rather than different races,” Hanna  said.

“Sometimes I hear people talk about their parents being (racist),” reported Alyssa Figueroa.

Hanna said some fears of racism at Penn Manor are based on the past, widely publicized,  incident but it’s also based on stereotypes people have put on different school districts, deserved or not.

“I’ve actually had a student say that he heard that the gym was used on the weekends for klan meetings,” said Hanna.   “Many students are told to watch their backs when they come here, especially if they’re coming from different cultural backgrounds.  All of this is untrue, but rumors are powerful and hard to dispel unless one is here and able to speak against the lies.”

Many of the views observed here contrast with each other and many echo the same tune.

“Its not that it’s so much racial tension here, just uncomfortable,” said Natasha Fletcher, although Fletcher said she has never had a racial incident here in Penn Manor school district she still feels that not everybody is showing their true colors.

In 1997, some Caucasian students wore all white t-shirts in support of a fellow classmate suspended for initiating a fight with an African American student.

Now more than 10 years later there hasn’t been another major racial incident and students seem to be heading in the right direction even though the number of minorities attending the high school has more than doubled.

Minorities represented 5 percent of the total school district population in 1999-2000 and they now make up 13 percent, according to official state records.

The Hispanic population has grown fastest.   According to the Pa. Department of Education statistics, in 1999, there were 109 Hispanic students in Penn Manor.  That population has more than tripled  since then to 361 students.  Likewise, the white student population has decreased in the past eight years.  White students numbered 5,161 in 1999.  Now there are 4,536 white students.

Number of Minority Students in Penn Manor School District

Many students of color say that they do not really feel tension here, but are uncomfortable, not just because they are the minority but because they are misunderstood.

“People are afraid of what they don’t know,” Marcos Rivera said.

However, more and more students from the most polar of backgrounds are becoming more accepting and more aware of unjust stereotypes.

More than a dozen students, mostly minorities, were interviewed at Penn Manor on this issue, among them were several white students.
“I think it’s great, we need more diversity,” proclaimed Abby Newport, a white student.

“It’s a good thing because all of the minorities will become the majority,” said Josh Herr, another white student.

“It’s the 21st century and I think it’s time everyone is accepted,” said Morgan Fletcher.

“I think Penn Manor has more to offer than (my old school),” said Ariela Contreras, a minority student.

In every story there are two sides, two views, but one truth. Although it has become clear that racism has not quite left from this school, or from this world for that matter, it is evident that it’s getting the hint from students who go to school here.

By: Robert Henry

Quay’s club makes a difference

Will Penn Manor always be known for its racial problems of the past?

Maybe not.

Although the number of minorities has doubled in Penn Manor over the past decade, racial incidents have decreased since the high school enlisted the help of reformed racist Quay Hanna.

“Penn Manor is unique,” said Hanna.  “It’s hard to measure how more or less racist someone is, but we are progressing.”

In 1997, racial tensions broke out at Penn Manor resulting in what today many  Penn Manor students refer to as “the whiteout.”  That  incident of racial violence occurred after an African American student was stabbed by a white student with a pencil, recounted Hanna.

When the accused student who stabbed the African American student returned from his suspension,  he was greeted by several white students wearing white t-shirts in his support.

Penn Manor called Hanna and arranged for him to speak with their student body. Upon hearing about Hanna’s book “Revelations of a Redneck,” discussing his change in views on race, administrators thought he would be the man for the job.

After Hanna addressed the whole school, a select few involved in “the whiteout” were angered and wanted to speak to Hanna privately. Hanna agreed to speak with the students the next week.

Following Hanna’s first meeting with the students, they asked him to return the next week. This continued for the rest of the year and by the end of the year, the racial tension had subsided so much between the the African Americans and the white students, that the students involved in the “whiteout” asked the African American students to join their club.

Thirteen years later, Hanna still meets with Penn Manor students on a weekly basis discussing issues of race. This club has helped open the eyes of both white, African Americans and Hispanics and allowed them to understand each other and speak to each other freely, he said.

“I’m not trying to create a bunch of little Quay’s I just want people to think,” said Hanna.

Hanna was not always as open minded.  In fact he was  a self-proclaimed racist. All that changed when he took a bus trip throughout the U.S. where he was seated next to an African American where he was forced to listen to him and interact with him.

“It’s easy to be racist from a distance but hard to be that way to an actual human’s face,” said Hanna.

The bus trip changed Hanna’s life and made him change his ways. He decided  to spread his new-found respect for other races to other people.

As for Penn Manor, racist remarks and racial tension have  greatly decreased over the past thirteen years,  Hanna said, and he hopes to keep this going.

By: David Mohimani and Miriam Karebu

Making Ends ‘Meat’ Early On

The difference between ‘involvement’ and ‘commitment’ is like an egg-and-ham breakfast: the chicken was ‘involved’ – the pig was ‘committed’.

Kaleb Long, a committed and involved 16-year-old hog raiser, says that “some pigs are hard to get rid of ‘cuz you like ‘em.”

Long, one of the top hog showmen in Lancaster County, started showing hogs at the age of 8, when he decided to raise hogs himself instead of having to buy other people’s hogs.  Now he has 32 sows of his own that he breeds, and sells the piglets to butchers or other hog raisers or FFA members.

Kaleb showing one of his hogs at the Lampeter Fair.
Kaleb showing one of his hogs at the Lampeter Fair. source: Sarah Nagy

Recently at the Lampeter Fair, Long, was ranked a top hog showman after showing his two hogs.  He and his brother, Cameron, have made it to national levels with their show hogs.

Long will be showing his market hogs, which are butcher hogs, at the Pennsylvania Farm Show this January.

During competitions, the hogs are judged on a few different things,  including the amount of muscle, and how they walk, Long explained.  He also shared that the best part of the fairs is just having fun with the other FFA members.

Only about 25 percent of the Penn Manor FFA students show animals at fairs.  The rest go to support their friends and have fun, as well as participate in the other community events, such as the pig chase and orchard freeze.

The brothers started their business when Kaleb was 14-years-old.  Long says that most of the money they make goes back into the business to buy supplies that they need in order to keep their business up and running.

Long said that they started by selling their hogs to neighbors, who told other people, and “word spread fast.”

Long explained that he has to get up by 5:30 every morning to make sure the piglets are warm, and to feed them.  Once he gets home from school, Long needs to feed them again, check on all the equipment, and even give shots to some of the piglets.

The hogs for show typically have less fat, so they look trimmer, whereas the hogs sold to butchers have more fat and are less eye-appealing, Long explained.

Females are mostly for showing because of the way they walk.  They are also kept longer for breeding purposes.  Males aren’t needed as long, so they are sold to butchers.

Long says that his family only butchers one or two a year for themselves, so they sell most of them.  The average hog weighs about 250 pounds, and they make about 50 cents per pound.  That works out to  about $125 profit per hog.

Long plans to continue his business throughout high school, and maybe after.

Another FFA member is also a determined business owner.  Chris Cook and his brothers are the founders and owners of “Cook Brothers Lawn Care,” located in Mountville.

Cook switched from Hempfield High School to Penn Manor for it’s outstanding agricultural program, to help his business.  Hempfield is paying tuition for Cook to come to Penn Manor, because agriculture classes are not offered there.

He does not show animals, but he helps at the fairs by working at the FFA’s Orchard Freeze stand, which sells all natural slushies, “for all natural people,” Cook said.  He also helps with the kid’s fair.

The 18-year-old is taking business management courses in hopes of furthering his business knowledge, along with classes such as agricultural equipment and floriculture.

There are ups and downs of his career, the most rewarding being meeting new people and having the satisfaction of completing a job, he said. However, Cook shared a story about how after completing a job, the customer’s wife sprayed the plants and killed everything he worked so hard on, and then blamed him for it.

Despite those problems, Cook plans to continue his career in landscaping.

These ambitious business managers already have a head start on their productive futures.

By: Brittany Burke and Alyssa Funk