Category Archives: Aurora Robinson

Q&A with Master Gunnery Sergeant Lyn Akermon, Naval Science Instructor at New Albany High School

By Aurora Robinson

Bagpiper: Can you describe to me what Basic Leadership Training is?

Lyn Akermon: “Basic Leadership Training in my opinion is character development. We take cadets from different schools around the local area— Louisville, Southern Indiana—and we mix them all together, they are all strangers. They have to be functional as one, as a unit. We make it stressful. It’s a stressful environment, stressful mentally and physically because we do a lot of physical training in it. The mental aspect is we teach classes, we put them in leadership roles. They all have to try a leadership role during the week. They have to learn each other’s weaknesses, each other’s strengths. To be a good leader you have to be a good follower. But some people have more leadership abilities than others. Basic Leadership Training is, to me, character development. It shows the individual what are my weaknesses what are my strengths? Am I better physically than others? It teaches me about teamwork, comradery, it teaches me how to give certain people tasks. You can’t task just anybody on anything until you know their strengths and weaknesses. So you wouldn’t give somebody a job, in other words, that you knew they were weak in that job and they could not accomplish that job or that mission. So it’s not just about you learning about you, it’s learning about others around you and in life you have to play the hand that you’re dealt. So, Basic Leadership Training teaches you strengths, weaknesses, not just yours, but your teammates and it teaches you how to accomplish goals, or the military calls it accomplish a mission together with what you have at hand. That’s what basic leadership training is.”

“We do it using the military style of training. Physical training, lots of marching. We have team events because we are huge on building teams, uniform inspections, and a lot of it, too, we just have fun events because we teach them that there’s time that you have to work and there’s time that you need to relax and enjoy yourself, too. That’s a lot how the military deals with stress. Everyone is human you’ve got to have some down time.”

BP: Why would you push your cadets to do BLT?

LA: “I don’t do this job to put people in the military. I do this job to make them productive citizens, to make them good citizens. Basically, to teach them that all through life there’s going to be leaders, there’s going to be followers, there’s going to be a lot of stress in your life and the sooner you learn to deal with the stresses of life, the better you can handle the tough situations in anything you do. If you go to college, if you go to the military, if you go to the workforce, family, no matter what happens, you can deal with stress in your life and you have got to learn how to accept it and you have got to learn how to overcome it. And that’s the main reason for leadership training.”

BP: Is there anything else you would like to add?

LA: “I think the most it does for them—it’s a confidence builder and it’s extremely good for those cadets who always doubt themselves. It just shows them that they can overcome obstacles in life. That’s the main thing.”

Q&A with Artjom Rubchinskiy, a German student

By Aurora Robinson

Bagpiper: Does your school offer any other languages?

Artjom Rubchinskiy: “As far as I know, all schools in Germany offer English as a mandatory subject. I live close to France, so French is also a subject here, though it’s optional and I know that a bunch of schools offer Italian and Spanish too.”

BP: Do you take any of the languages?

AR: “I’ve had English classes for almost eight years now, and I took French classes for two years.

BP: How many classes do you take a week?

AR: “15, all varying in length, but lasting up to three hours each and with about two to four a day.”

BP: What is the grading system like?

AR: “We use a numeral system, where one is equal to an A and six is equal to an F. Most grades are divided into four parts, attendance being one of them and showing how many classes you actually show up to. Your oral grade, [it is] dependant on how actively you participate in the class, and then the grade for your homework and how well you do on exams. All of these are added up and divided by four, and that makes your grade for the whole subject/class. This sounds pretty fair and balanced, but is often just an unfair mess.”

BP: What are the relationships between students and teachers like? Is it respected?

AR: “The higher of a grade you’re in, the more the teachers respect you. I think a lot of teachers are simply overworked and underpaid for dealing with a room full of misbehaving teens five days a week, but a lot of them also just aren’t quite made for the job. Many of them don’t listen to constructive criticism and disregard the needs of their students. Then again, of course there’s a large number of really great teachers here. Some of them really help guide our ways positively, and I’ve met many teachers I have nothing but respect for. Despite this, though, a lot of kids have a problem with authority, and this does not exclude the teachers.”

BP: Anything else to add about schools in Germany?

AR: “Most of Germany’s schools are free (so long as they aren’t private or universities) and pretty well managed and respected and a lot of them offer foreign exchange programs, additional language courses, clubs and some of them even have school psychologists. I’ve wanted to do a foreign exchange program with an American school for a long time, but never found the time to.”


Q&A with Faye Eades, creator of this Sunday’s Senior Dinner Dance

By Aurora Robinson

Bagpiper: What is it that you are doing with Senior Dinner Dance?

Faye Eades: “Last year I started the Senior Dinner Dance. It was something that I had gone to Dr. Willman about at the beginning of last year. There were some changes to the Senior Week and they were no longer able to do the full Senior Week. So they were switching it to just one day, it was senior lunch. And I was just looking for a different opportunity for the students to have to socialize and have a fun time together. So I presented this idea to Dr. Willman last year and with it being the school’s 50th anniversary and having changes to Senior Week he thought this would be a good new addition to start last year. We had a good turnout. The students really enjoyed themselves. Therefore, he said that we could have it again this year and hopefully in future years to come. This seems to be something that the seniors have enjoyed and have an interest in attending.”

BP: So, you started Senior Dinner Dance?

FE: “I got the idea because when I was in high school, my high school had a senior dinner dance and it was something we enjoyed. So I presented that idea to Dr. Willman. Yes, you could say I started it, but Dr. Willman is the one who gave the approval to have the event.”

BP: In short, what are the details for the Senior Dinner Dance? What will happen that evening?

FE: “It is held at the Olmsted. It is in Louisville. It will be this Sunday evening, Feb. 17th from 6 to 10 p.m. Students will arrive and there will be a photographer there to take pictures. There will be about a 30-minute time frame for them to have just small appetizers and fruit and cheese and then to grab a drink. And then they will be seated and served dinner. After the dinner course then there will also be a dessert served. After that is done, what we did last year is we took a group picture of all the seniors that were in attendance, all of them together. Then after all of that was done, the DJ started playing-DJ Tank is his name. The students had a great time and most of them didn’t leave the dance floor until the night was over.”

BP: What would you say is the most exciting part about Senior Dinner Dance?

FE: “I think the students enjoy coming because I think it is enjoyable for them to be together as a class. Kind of, really, one of the first times they are together or have the opportunity to be together and enjoy a social event together. They do prom together, but that’s the juniors and the seniors. This event is not as formal as the prom. The attire is less formal. It’s just a nice Sunday dress. The guys dress in nice shirts and slacks, most of them wear ties, but it is not to the caliber of having to get all fixed up like prom. With dinner being served at the dance, it also takes away from the element of having to make reservations for dinner and make sure you can get a ride to prom on time. I think it is just a great opportunity for the students to be together, and get a little bit dressed up, but not too formal and enjoy having fun together for the evening.”

BP: Anything to add?

FE: “I just want to encourage the younger students, the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, to talk to the seniors after the event and hear how much they enjoy it and look forward to the event. It is just a great opportunity for students, like I have said, to have this night together and I hope that it is a tradition that the students continue to embrace and want to have for years to come.”

NJROTC visits senior citizens

By Aurora Robinson

On Tuesday night, NJROTC went out to Riverview and Mark Elrod Towers to visit senior citizens and spread the Christmas spirit.

One of the cadets from NJROTC shared the events that occurred that evening and why they go out and carry out this community service act.

“We do this every year. We go and we visit the retirement homes and show everyone that is in the retirement homes that, you know, people haven’t forgotten about them and we spend the holidays with them and let them realize that … there are other people out there that do care,” said senior Jenna Nicholas.

When the cadets went out to spend time with the elderly, they helped them with Christmas activities and with the treats they were serving that evening.

“Basically we get the kids to go in there and help them play bingo, get some cookies, serve some drinks, and then do some caroling, but mainly interact with the older folks,” said naval science instructor Michael Beal.

This community service opportunity lead by the NJROTC program gathered many of the cadets to come out and spend time with the senior citizens for several different reasons.

“I chose to come because I like doing stuff like this. It makes me feel better as a person. I also like spending time with older people because they have a lot of stories to tell and they have a lot of insight on things,” said sophomore Jackie Copple.

Some of the NJROTC participants remembered a few of the senior citizens from previous visits. Particularly, there was a friendly older lady at Riverview Towers who was very excited to see them and interact with them again.

“She is a feisty lady who loves to interact with the cadets and she just gives hugs and wants to dance with them. I look forward to that probably more each year than anything else,” said Beal.

As the students were gathered in Galena for their own Christmas get together with treats and hot chocolate, some of them shared who they were able to meet and chat to.

“Tonight, I was sitting near two Vietnam Marine Corps veterans. One was a woman, the other was a man. Which it’s pretty rare to find a female Marine from that timeframe. So, it was pretty awesome to get to sit down and talk with her and just learn how much the Marine Corps  has progressed with women so far,” said senior Jack Gill.

As the cadets were socializing and sharing their experiences, some were also sharing their favorite moments from their evening spent with the older folks.

“A lot of the senior citizens were really appreciative of us coming out and stuff. It made me happy to see them all smiling and everything. It was really nice,” said senior Raye Perry.

As the NJROTC program wrapped up their holiday celebration, some gave advice for those who have families during the holiday season.

“Just give,” said Beal. “Give and you will get back an enormous amount, especially during the holidays. If you have elderly parents, make sure you visit with them, make sure you touch them, make sure you kiss them and hug them because that is all they want for Christmas.”

New nutrition policy creates changes in corporation

By Aurora Robinson

The classroom door opens and a cart full of goodies pushes through with familiar faces behind it. Many students immediately rummage through their school bags to grab a dollar or two in exchange for treats from the cookie cart.

On May 14, 2018, a policy called 8510-WELLNESS was issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was updated. This update has changed the kinds of foods that can be brought to or sold at schools in the NAFCS.

“Well, mainly it covers a lot on nutrition. What is accepted and what’s not. Basically, it says that we need to adhere to federal nutrition guidelines when students get fed during school. Things like cookies, things like the candy and stuff like that have to be, I guess, discouraged, but it doesn’t have to be altogether eliminated,” said principal Rob Willman.

The wellness policy does not only cover the nutrition guidelines for students in NAFCS, but it also goes over physical health, education, and the wellness of others within the school facility.

“It talks about nutrition education in schools, it  talks about physical activity in schools, and physical activity education in schools. There are parts of it that demand that there can’t be unhealthy foods that are competing with our healthier food options in the cafeteria. There’s a part that dictates when food can be sold at fundraisers and the health components of those foods and there is even a part that addresses the foods that can be served or given in class parties and classroom activities. There are parts of it that affects our staff wellness as well,” said coordinator of NAFCS health services Andrea Tanner.

The updated wellness policy caused the cookie cart to be on hiatus until details in the policy could be tweaked. The NAFCS Director of Food and Nutrition Services Pam Casey has been working with the FC special education program to find a solution to their fundraising cookie cart.

“They have a formula you have to follow for snacks, main courses, anything like that. She (Casey) had to follow that formula and once you put the nutrition in, how many calories, how many ounces, and if at the end it says ‘yes’ then it’s okay. If it says ‘no’, then you move on to the next one. Since there was so many, she’s the one that did that. Which was a big help to us because it was like a needle in a haystack,” said Mary Ann Borrego, a special education aide.

With the new additions to the federal guidelines, this caused certain privileges the school had, such as the foreign language food days, to be changed to compensate the policy or all together taken away.

“It doesn’t just affect me. That’s why there is no more catered foods in for student of the month because it has to be healthy. There’s no more Chick-fil-A or Subway. That has already taken place, but it’s going to affect the PTO who gives out the snacks for the success cards, it affects them, it affects teachers who cannot give candy to kids. Pi Day — it affects all of that as well,” said special education teacher DeAnn Thrasher.

It was said for a while that the cookie cart was not going to return this school year, but the special education program has many people supporting them and their fundraising strategies. They helped find a solution to keep the cookie cart going at FC.

“We’re going to make every effort to keep that going, because it gets those kids out in the school community, its good for them. I know that Mrs. Thrasher really likes it, so I can’t see that not continuing,” said Willman.

Fundraising was not the original reason that the special education program started the cookie cart. They originally started it for their students so that they could get out and become familiar with the school. However, the money is still used to benefit the students.

“Our parents love it because when they have their children out, kids like you all can speak to them and say ‘hi’ and know their first name. They really like that, they feel like their kids are getting a good school experience, by their getting out. That’s really why we started it, just to get them out in the building and let them know that we’re here. Not really for the money, but the money is awesome because a lot of these kids don’t have the money to go out to eat or to the movies. We have gone to the Galt House for their Christmas show and we’ve done really cool things that we’ve been able to expose them by having this money,” said Thrasher. So everybody it rooting for it, everybody is working really hard to try and find a product so that we can continue on.”