By Sophia Kim
As 2020 comes to a close, we are all looking for some holiday cheer to raise our spirits after such an exhausting year. Amid efforts to distract ourselves from the suffering that surrounds us and the boredom that overwhelms us, it can be difficult to shift our focus away from ourselves.
However, this year more than ever, it is important that we try to build each other up and help others in our community. You may be wondering, How can I help my community in the middle of a pandemic? It certainly can be a challenge to find ways to help out when it is unsafe to leave our homes. Nevertheless, many CRN students have found ways to brighten our community through volunteer work.
One local community service organization called SHARE, or Students Helping Area Residents Effectively, recently worked with Urban Promise Trenton (UPT) to create a gift drive for children living in low-income households in Trenton, New Jersey.
SHARE is made up of CRN students and is led by parent advisors. The organization partners with UPT each year around the holiday season to provide Trenton children with gifts of their choice.
CRN junior Megan Moriarty recently took part in this volunteer work. Moriarty helped organize the gift drive this year alongside other students, advisors, and UPT advisors. She enjoys contributing to this event each year:
“I have always loved to see how CRN kids really put a lot of effort into the gifts. It was nice to see how some students would buy multiple gifts for only one kid, especially in a year like this and especially when these are likely the only gifts the UPT kids will get for the holidays.”
SHARE organizes volunteer work all year round; the organization puts together many events and projects throughout the year that serve our local community. In addition to Urban Promise Trenton, SHARE often works with Langhorne Gardens Health and Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home in our area.
The Jewish Community Club is another local service group that comprises CRN students. In cooperation with The Friendship Circle of Newtown and CTeen of Bucks County, the club organizes volunteer work aimed at supporting the local Jewish community and works to inform students about Jewish culture and history.
Club President and North junior Claire Pave is currently organizing a project that will distribute food baskets to seven local families. Pave expressed that the value in participating in the club’s projects is that students are given the opportunity to help and become connected with people they have never met:
“I have never met these families, however I will help them get through this difficult time by providing them with food.” The Jewish Community Club is open to all students regardless of religion, which demonstrates that “despite people’s differences, they may still unite under the common cause of charity.”
During the lockdown, CRN junior Logan Saifer participated in community service in the Philadelphia area. He volunteered for a Philadelphia chapter of the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Under normal circumstances, the organization would work to provide housing for the families of children staying at local hospitals; however, due to the pandemic and the many job losses that resulted, the organization began to focus instead on delivering food to those in need in Philadelphia.
Each time he volunteered, Saifer would pick up about 750 prepackaged boxes of food from the Ronald McDonald House, load them into a van, and deliver the boxes to various locations around the city. The experience was fulfilling and eye-opening for Saifer as he made a positive impact on the Philadelphia community.
“[The experience] made me realize how fortunate I was...because I could see all of the less fortunate people and how much they were struggling due to the pandemic.”
Similarly, North junior Avery McLaughlin also volunteered for a Philadelphia-based organization to deliver prepared food to those in need. McLaughlin volunteered her time to Caring for Friends, an organization that provides food and prepared meals specifically to senior citizens who are not able to leave their homes or cannot financially support themselves.
McLaughlin assembled meal trays that would later be frozen for delivery. She also collected and packed donated food from around the community that would be delivered to the organization’s warehouse. The experience evoked mixed feelings in McLaughlin. She was shocked to see the number of seniors that struggled to eat on a daily basis, but was inspired by the dedication of those who made the meals each week.
McLaughlin remembered, “When we brought the boxes and boxes of meals made by people in our area to the warehouse each week, I felt so happy hearing the large numbers of meals donated.” McLaughlin’s experience shows us that in a time when we are inclined to think of ourselves, reaching out to others can bring out unexpected joy in our lives.
It is inspiring and so extremely admirable to hear about the work that my fellow classmates have done to support our community in such dark times. However, we sometimes forget that all community service makes a difference, no matter how big or small the process is. A fellow classmate and friend described her recent experience writing cards for sick children and senior citizens. Her local church sent the cards to various hospitals and nursing homes in the area. It is important to remember that even this at-home activity can mean so much to the people on the receiving end. In a time when we can barely see each other face-to-face, any act of kindness goes a long way.
By Marissa Cohen
Congratulations, students! We’ve officially made it through three months of virtual and hybrid learning with no lack of changes, school-wide shutdowns, and controversial school board decisions. These past few months have been a test of students’ and teachers’ abilities to adapt to change quickly, and it’s clear that many people in our school community are up to the challenge.
However, every person at North has a different opinion on how the year has been going so far and on what should happen going forward. In order to get a sense of what some students at North think, I reached out to two students, one virtual and one hybrid, and asked them a few questions about how this year has been going.
Alexa Schnur, a senior here at North, is staying virtual for the time being. The first question I asked her had to do with virtual students sometimes feeling at a disadvantage while at home. When hybrid learning first began, some virtual students were worried that their teachers would naturally gravitate towards the students going in-person, and that it would eventually affect their learning. But according to Alexa, this was never an issue: because most students are staying home, there’s no real difference in attention given to virtual versus hybrid students.
I then asked Alexa whether or not she believes North has done a good job setting up and restricting Covid-19 guidelines. Alexa doesn’t really think so, stating that “sports teams spread a lot of the virus at our school and they are never held accountable for hanging out and not following guidelines.”
Alexa’s not the only one who believes this--some other students, both virtual and hybrid, have voiced their concerns about what they see as unfair treatment that athletes at North are getting compared to everyone else. Naturally, many student athletes did try to follow Covid-19 guidelines to the best of their ability, but it can be hard when playing sports that necessitate close contact.
I then interviewed Hannah Weiss, a junior at North, who has been going in person since the end of September. I asked Hannah if she ever felt unsafe or at risk of contracting Covid-19 while at North, and she told me that she does at times, especially when teachers give “mask breaks” during class or when they fail to keep a good distance in their classrooms. The idea of mask breaks has been contested a few times this year since some parents and students believe that students in high school are old enough to keep a mask on for a few hours without taking a break. Others say that it’s important to remember how quickly Covid-19 can transmit, and that taking your mask off for even a few seconds may cause a transmission.
I also asked Hannah the same question I asked Alexa--is North doing a good job at setting up and following Covid-19 guidelines? Hannah said a lot about the possibility of a five-day, in-person school week starting this winter, saying that “they (the district) absolutely should not implement 5 day, because that means the safety level will drop drastically,” and that “it’s extremely unfair.”
The idea of a five-day school week has been debated for months, and many students in the district end end up going from hybrid to virtual when that change occurs on February 1, making many people concerned that this idea is catering to some students and forcing others to learn in an environment that doesn’t always work for them. On the other hand, there is definite support for a 5-day week, with some parents concerned that students aren’t getting enough education and support through hybrid learning.
Based on the opinions of the two students I interviewed and on what I’ve heard and seen over the past few months, nearly everybody at North is unhappy about how things have been handled recently. Some people are on the side of creating stricter restrictions and erring on the side of caution until enough people have the vaccine, while others are pushing for fewer restrictions and a 5-day school week. No matter what your opinion is, remember that you have a voice, and that it’s important to speak up for what you believe our school should do. For now, make sure to stay optimistic and focused, and have a great winter break.
By Anushka Rajmohan
As is the case with most occasions this year, the holiday season has also taken a considerable hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the pandemic still taking lives every day, Americans have been asked to spend their 2020 holidays remotely and safely in their homes. Due to this strange holiday season, people have been forced to get creative on how to enjoy the holidays even with these restrictions and spend time with their loved ones.
Thanksgiving was one such holiday that many people spent in their own homes instead of gathering with family and friends. In past years, the day before Thanksgiving sends millions on the road to different parts of the country, taking a break and visiting family. As a matter of fact, in 2019, approximately 55.3 million Americans traveled during Thanksgiving week. However, with the COVID cases rising near the end of November and new travel restrictions enforced, this number dropped for the first time since 2008, with only 50.6 million travelers. With this significant decrease in traveling, how did Americans spend their Thanksgiving break this year?
Focusing on our community, Kaylin Lee, a senior at North, is accustomed to spending Thanksgiving with her family, including her grandmother, and enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner that she and her siblings make together for the whole family.
However, this year, Kaylin’s family spent Thanksgiving with just each other, for the safety of everyone and in compliance with the new restrictions. This year, instead of spending time with family members, they watched movies and bonded with each other. Even so, they were still able to keep their tradition of the kids cooking Thanksgiving dinner while still being safe.
Although she misses her grandmother and other family members, she shares that “it was for the best since it was safer for everyone” and is still thankful for time with her parents and siblings.
Even with Thanksgiving already well past us, the holiday season is from over. With Hanukkah just beginning and Christmas on its way, Americans will have to channel their creativity once again in order to celebrate these holidays.
A typical Christmas for Madison O’ Leary, also a senior at North, normally consists of hosting their other family members on Christmas Eve for a big event. She elaborated on this:
“We spend the whole day making Christmas food…and then we have a big dinner together. After dinner, we always spend time just talking, or we play games like Jenga and cards.”
She even admitted that “spending time with family is [her] favorite part of the holiday season.” With the drastic change in our situation this year, how will she spend her holidays this year?
Madison shared that “this year, [they] are definitely keeping Christmas smaller.” With cases rising every day, she emphasized the importance of everyone’s safety this year even though it will be strange for her not to spend time with her cousins this year. Even so, she maintains a positive attitude throughout this, sharing a tradition that they will still definitely keep this year: “We’re still going to make all our signature holiday dishes, though!”
Adopting Madison’s optimism this holiday season is essential and as she stated, the holidays can still be celebrated by keeping some traditions. Baking has always been a fun holiday activity that livened up the house with sweet and delicious smells, and as an indoor, home-bound activity, this will prove to be as safe as it is enjoyable.
Another way to liven up your house is by decorating! Stringing bright holiday lights and beautiful decorations around the house is a surefire way to keep traditions and to bond with your family as well.
As a lover of movie nights, Christmas movie time with family has always been a relaxing activity, that can be done alone, with family, or even a virtual Christmas movie night with friends! On the topic of friends, a final holiday activity that allows for some friend time while still keeping safe is doing a Secret Santa gift exchange! Although real-life hangouts are restricted, a creative way to still enjoy this activity is to drop off the gifts at your designated person’s house and conduct the festivities over Zoom!
This year has definitely been one for the history books, with so much strife and change in the world. However, the holiday season has always been a time that brought people, alike and different, together and encouraged love and peace. Even though families cannot be together physically, the spirit of this season is still alive and well, as Kaylin and Madison shared with their enthusiasm with their intention to stay safe while keeping some traditions and spending time with their family. If others shared this same mentality as the two girls, even the 2020 holidays can be one to cherish for a long time to come.