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

Dig Pink

For the Penn Manor girl’s volleyball team, the term “believe” is what they go by.

On October 13, the girl’s volleyball team played Warwick  during a fundraiser called Dig Pink to help support the American Cancer Society’s “Fight Against Breast Cancer.”breastcancer

“We use the word “believe” because it’s a word that has many meanings: believe we can win, and believe that we can make a difference with Dig Pink,” said Kirsten Bechtold.

Each player had a personal goal of raising $50, with a total goal of $10,000.

“We raised around $4,500 dollars for the fundraiser, which is great,” said coach Jarod Staub. “All of that money will be donated to the American Cancer Society.”

The volleyball team chose to do a Breast Cancer Awareness fundraiser because, “both coach Jarod Staub and I had friends lose their mothers to breast cancer, and I lost my dad to lung cancer, so it’s something we were thinking about,” said volleyball coach Tim Joyce.

In addition, gift donations were auctioned at the event. Raffle tickets and a Chinese auction helped the team toward their goal.

Coach Staub said, “We are hoping to make a tradition and do it again next year.”

Dig Pink!

The girls volleyball team wore pink shirts to promote their fundraiser.
The girls volleyball team wore pink shirts to promote their fundraiser.

By: Lyta Ringo

Comets are Still Rolling: Ranked Number One in Country

The bulls-eye on the Comets’ backs just got a lot bigger for teams trying to overtake Penn Manor field hockey.

PM Field Hockey 4
Number 16, Renee Suter marches up field staying focused. Her goal this year is to contribute to a Pennsylvania state championship.

“Every team out there wants to beat us or even just score on us,” said All-American Renee Suter.

The Comets were recently ranked number one in the nation by a high school field hockey national-ranking website, www.topofthecircle.com. The Comets are currently 15-0-1

Lancaster is one of the top counties in the nation for field hockey according to Suter. “This makes it not very unusual for a team inside central Pennsylvania to be ranked number one,” Suter said.

Last year the Comets won the state championship and hope to have the same results this year.

“We have very high expectations and truly do hope to have similar situations as last year,” said head coach Matt Soto.

The team is lead by Jill Witmer, who is being heavily recruited by the University of Maryland, the number-one, college-ranked team in the nation. Witmer is trying to take the role of some of the key seniors who were lost from the previous season.

“Some players think it’s best to be totally under the radar, and to not be familiar with their rank,” she said.

However Suter doesn’t have a preference either way.

“I mean Lancaster County is such a good area for field hockey that they know most teams in the area are good and they expect it,” said Suter.

“It’s just now it’s public that we are number one in the nation,” she said.

“For us as a team, it doesn’t matter who knows or not, we are going to play hard no matter what. Last year we weren’t ranked number one and it didn’t matter, we still played hard and won states. We haven’t changed because we will continue to play hard no matter what rank we are.”

The Penn Manor Comets will continue to attack their goal of another state championship.

By: Connor Rowe

Suiting Up Next Season

It’s the question that girls suiting up for both soccer and field hockey want answered.  At the start of the fall sport season next year, will Penn Manor junior, Katie Breneman, be putting on a soccer jersey or a field hockey jersey?

Yet this is just one of the problems that have emerged from the PIAA’s decision to move the girls’ soccer season from spring to the fall.  Fortunately for many seniors, they will not have to make the decision before they graduate.  Soccer will be moving to fall but the move has been postponed until 2012.

“It puts them on equal turf,” Penn Manor Athletic Director, Jeff Roth, who commented on this recent decision.

While many Susquehanna Valley schools were playing their girls’ soccer in the spring season, the remaining schools were playing in the fall. But it won’t be like this in two years, thanks to the 22-7 PIAA ruling that brought this “split-season play” to an end.

In 2005,  four girls from three different high schools represented by the Women’s Law Project filed Federal Civil Lawsuits against the PIAA claiming that the two different seasons (fall and spring) as well as not having a unified statewide championship placed them at a disadvantage.

Coaches were able to vote in the decision, where eleven voted in favor of the change in season, and eleven voted against the move.  Two coaches however did not vote; one of them being Penn Manor head soccer coach, William Zapata.

Zapata claims that those who voted were under the impression that this move would not be taking place until the 2012 season, which would provide two years for students to prep for the change, not the 2011 season, only allowing one season’s notice.

Now, the additional voting session has pushed back the move until 2012 season.

Eventually, however, these questions will have to be answered: where will these games take place and where will officials be found to manage those additional fall season games?

“We don’t have the fields to support all the fall sports,” said Roth, and Penn Manor is a decent sized school that was placed in the middle of the problem.

Commenting on the situation of a crowded fieldhouse that will “make it a nightmare, but we will just have to deal with it,” said Coach Zapata.

Fall sports teams including football, boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, and field hockey will all be competing for access to the fields, leaving those fields all to the lacrosse teams in the spring.

According to Roth, the varsity and junior-varsity soccer teams would have to play back-to-back games. With afternoon games, the varsity games would take place first, most likely around 4:00, and the junior-varsity game to follow at 5:30. For a night game, the junior-varsity game would be played first, probably at 5:30, with the varsity game to begin at 7:00.

And for all those fans of the girl kickers on the football team, this year may be the only year that it takes place.  With soccer in the fall, the girls would not be able to kick for both the soccer team and the football team.

But probably the biggest issue coming from this decision is that now placed on the girls who play in were used to playing both field hockey and soccer, or both volleyball and soccer.  They will now have to choose just one sport.

However, girls wanting to play both soccer and track and field, or soccer and lacrosse will now be able to.

Breneman is currently a junior at Penn Manor and would have been forced to choose between playing soccer or field hockey.

“It’s a bummer,” Breneman added.

She also believes that both sports teams will go very far during her senior year.  However, if she had to make the choice Brenneman said she would be putting on the field hockey jersey come next fall.

“You can go farther in field hockey.”

So is the decision for the overall good?  The answer to that question will not become evident until the 2012 season, when all the fall sports take the field.

By: Tyler Barnett

Powder Puff Poofed?

Girls start gearing up. Boys throw on your blue and gold skirts because Powder Puff is on!

Despite the many rumors that have been floating around Penn Manor High School about Powder Puff, Principal Philip Gale has confirmed that the Powder Puff football game is still on.

Fall of 2006 powder Puff game
Fall of 2006 powder Puff game.

“I’m almost disappointed I didn’t start that rumor,” Gale said with a smile at the controversy that came about with these rumors that were really just rumors.

Many students have heard the rumors and are misinformed about the game.

“I heard that it was banned because someone was drunk and knocked over the senior pyramid,” Hunter Paulson, a Penn Manor senior said.

Gale indicated that there were some problems at last year’s Powder Puff game but the administration is taking precautions to prevent similar incidents at this year’s game.

“Appropriate behavior, being there in the appropriate state of mind is the most important thing,” said Gale.

Gale has concerns not only about the Powder Puff game but about all school activities where students may arrive in an inappropriate fashion.

This year an event is to be scheduled before the Powder Puff game, similar to Penn Manor’s tailgating for football games, to ensure that students are behaving appropriately before they participate in this school-organized event.

Gale explained that he doesn’t know if this is going to be a requirement to play in the game, because the actual event is still being organized.

Gale is meeting with the varsity club advisors to discuss this event.

Learning Support teacher Michelle Wagner, one varsity club advisor, said she also isn’t sure what they’re planning for the event before Powder Puff.

Concerning the incident last year, she said that she really just wishes that students will respect all school rules if they are attending.

“It’s (Powder Puff) kind of a rite of passage when you get to your junior or senior year. It’s important to carry on the tradition,” she said.

The Powder Puff game has been a much-loved event by many Penn Manor students for more than thirty years, although it’s difficult to pin down the exact date it started.

Social studies teacher, Joe Herman, can remember back to 1969 when his wife played in the Powder Puff football game.

“It became a knockdown drag-out fight like they always are up here…but we just had fun with it,” Herman recalled.

“There is not a single event that is more intense than the Powder Puff football game.” Streeter Stuart, social studies teacher and the head referee, commented about the game.

The only other requirement for the Powder puff game is that the girls must attend their practices if they wish to participate in the game, according to Wagner.

It is also up in the air whether the boys will be used as cheerleaders this year, but Wagner believes that they should be allowed to participate as long as they follow the school rules and respect everyone around them.

However if students do not follow the school rules and show up intoxicated the police will be called, she said.

As of now, the Powder Puff game does not have a set date, but members of the Varsity Club and Gale are looking at the end of November into the first two weeks of December for the event. The fall sports need to be over before Powder Puff has a set date.

By: Abby Wilson

From Shin Guards to Shoulder Pads

Starting forward and defense on Penn Manor’s soccer team, Ashley Vellucci and Ambria Armstrong had to make a slight adjustment to their kicking game when Jeni Dellinger brought a football to club soccer practice one day.

Vellucci and Armstrong await their chance to make extra points in the game against Exeter
Vellucci (left) and Armstrong await their chance to make extra points in the game against Exeter.

The day after soccer practice, Vellucci and Armstrong decided to go out for the kicking position on the football team.

Ever since, they’ve been part of the team. The teams record stands at 6-1

Scott Lackey, a member of the football staff, said “Initially they (the team) thought it was going to be a distraction but as they came around more and proved they could do it, they accepted it.”

At first people around school made jokes and comments about it but on the football field they “welcomed us with open arms,” Vellucci recalled.

On the first day, Vellucci and Armstrong practiced kicking field goals with coach Bill Beck all day.

The game against Exeter was the first time the girls got to experience and feel the hype and excitement of being a part of a football team and standing on the sidelines.

During that game, Vellucci made a 31-yard field goal and a pair of extra points.

Vellucci said, “I like being on the sidelines more than sitting in the student section.”

Vellucci said she was “really nervous and shaky” when she finally got her chance.

Not having a physical was the downfall for Armstrong when game day came around and she was ineligible to participate in the game against Exeter.

But she was allowed to stand on the sidelines with Vellucci and help her practice her kicking game, and be there to cheer her on.

There’s no competition between the girls due to the friendship they’ve been sharing for many years, they have class together everyday, help each other at football practice and hangout on weekends they said.

Armstrong has a good memory of her first time on the field.

“When a little girl walked up to me and Ashley with a little Nerf football and asked for both of our autographs,” said Armstrong with a smile, “I was surprised. It was really cute and exciting to see that the community had a positive reaction to us.”

By: Damien Oswald and Alex Geiger