Divided We Stand: feature story extension from the Oct. edition


Lily Antor: Politics Polarized: The 2016 Election 

“Everywhere you look right now, there is some kind of election advertisement. Whether it’s on TV, online, or just a yard sign, everyone knows the names Trump and Clinton,” said Camden Kalleward (11).  With just two months until the election, campaigns are in full swing, political rhetoric used by both candidates is in the process of being perfected, and heated Facebook and Twitter posts have become an inevitable aspect of social media.  

Despite the obvious tensions surrounding elections,  this year seems to be particularly brutal.  USA Today reports that both candidates are the most despised major party contenders in thirty years, according to collected data from conducted polling. Yet both presidential hopefuls have a passionate following base, aggressive and going to extreme measures to advance their – hopeful – future president. “It’s a really touchy topic,” said Victoria Pierce (12), “We need to have diversity, but to an extent we need to be able to compromise. On social media I always see stuff like ‘Trump is so horrible’ and ‘Hillary is awful”. It’s hurting our country though, because we see so many strong opinions that don’t always have the proper context behind them. The more we hate on each other, the less we can get done.” Increased political polarization is on the rise, which deeply impacts the amount of work Congress can accomplish, leading to severe government forums becoming grid-locked.

This dissatisfaction among the public regarding the 2016 election seems to stem from the general prospect that “The nominee’s need to stop thinking about competition or ridiculous solutions to problems and start thinking about what is good for the public” Caelan Frazier (10). By spewing hateful messages to the other campaigns, the public officials offer more hate and division in our country when many agree that it is the last thing we need in this tumultuous time. “What we really need in America right now is love. With all the violence and anger occurring in today’s news, the candidates should really stop being so aggressive towards each other and focus on promoting more peace” said  Pierce (12).


Demi Jensen: Orlando, Further Divided

It was the worst mass shooting the U.S. has ever seen. On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen killed 50 innocent civilians at Pulse, a gay nightclub in downtown Orlando, Florida. This tragedy affected too many people to count, including our own students here at Portage Northern. “How could I sit back and hide who I was when there were people being killed for the same reason?” said Eli Cartier (12), who recently came out as bisexual.  “Nobody should have to fear being who they are in order to please others.”

 There is no doubt that this country is flawed and somewhat divided. The Orlando shooting is yet another example of how ignorance and homophobia runs prevalent throughout our nation. For as long as we have known, hate has caused innocent lives to be lost. Whether the divide is due to race, religion, age, political party, or sexuality, it is undeniable that something needs to change or these injustices will continue to occur. Homophobia within our country may be decreasing, but we are a long way away from being accepting as a whole. “The past is over and now it is not okay to hate people due to sexuality, race, or religion,” said Cartier.

 The Orlando shooting was not just an attack on citizens in our country, but a personal attack on the LGBTQ community. “I’ve previously dated girls and at the time of the shooting, I couldn’t help but think what it would’ve done to my girlfriend and I,” said Grace Beam (11).  “We all love and hate and have feelings, so why would someone target a gay club/bar to make a point?” Beam is pansexual, which means she is attracted to people of all genders. “The Orlando shooting has made me feel more inclined to let people know that gay and straight aren’t the only sexualities, there’s a whole spectrum,” she explained. “I guess I’m having this be my official coming out story to show that I’m proud of who I am and who I love, no matter what happens.”

 Although the hateful crime caused the LGBTQ community to feel unsafe and unsettled, it also lead to a sense of pride. “So many people have started support groups and have found each other and come closer since the shooting,” said Korday Arnston (10). “There’s even talk about a LGBTQ alliance forming here at PNHS.” Cartier agreed. “I have never had more pride in being bisexual and a part of the LGBTQ community since that day, and I will never lose that pride as long as I live,” he said.

 The victims and their families who experienced this awful tragedy will always be in our memories. As the LGBTQ community and their families heal, it is our job here at Portage Northern to make sure we support each other. May everyone look forward to the rainbow after the rain.


Lyndsay Case: #Black Lives Matter

During the month of July, Kalamazoo held a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally in Bronson Park after the recent incidents of violence affecting the black community nationwide. The invitation was open to anyone and everyone. The rally was filled with powerful speeches, signs, poetry, music, and praise. “At one point, we were in a crowd with hundreds of random people and we were told to stare into the eyes of someone we didn’t know and it was completely silent. It was so beautiful I actually started crying tears of happiness. It was just to show that everyone has a story,”  shared rally participant Olivia Bynum (12).

The Black Lives Matter movement began to grow after the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012, opening up the country’s eyes to violence surrounding the black community. Story after story began to surface in the media of police brutality, unjust punishments/trials, and more recently, mass shootings. It is impossible to ignore the fact that the black community is not the only group of people facing violence; Syrians have been forced to flee their country, ISIS terrorists have attacked targets in the United States and Europe, and gun violence continues to plague local communities. The goal of Black Lives Matter is not to dismiss the other groups of people affected by violence, but rather to unite and create a community that can focus on one area of our nation’s violence and one group of people who have been systematically subject to it for hundreds of years. “BLM is important because it gives us the right to speak our minds and get together to fight against the injustice that has taken place,”  states Bynum.  She also shared that for her, the BLM movement has given her an outlet to go out and make a change instead of taking her frustration to social media, a sentiment shared by Drayke Simpkins (12). “To be able to grow as a teenager and watch this movement grow as well has been amazing. When I was in middle school and Trayvon Martin was killed, I felt like the only outlet or ‘fix’ to the issue was to feel sad. Now, after seeing a ton of people being a part of a movement that is actually out creating change, I am confident that change will come.”

Some argue that by virtue of the name “Black Lives Matter” the movement is exclusionary and promotes violence. Some have even tried to counter the group on Twitter with #AllLivesMatter. “I don’t think there should be a division between both hashtags, it’s silly, argue about the real issue, which is: where is the love?” said Shalbi Ruiz (12). Ruiz, who is not African American, but, participated in last year’s Black History Month assembly in part to show how the BLM movement has to power to unite and bring the community together if everyone is open to respect and involvement. Bynum shares these ideas. “I just encourage everyone to give something back to us; no matter how many times you hit the dab or bump that phenomenal Chance the Rapper Mixtape, just remember those things arise from black culture and  we can’t create greatness if we aren’t alive to it,” she appealed.

We live in a divided country, there’s no doubt about it, but it doesn’t have to be that way, especially at PN. Regardless if you are in support of the movement or not, it is important to remember that we all come from the same place. The last thing America needs in times of violence and brutality is division. “I was brought up to love all and accept all, that we are all man and we both bleed blood,” says Ruiz. If she can internalize this truth, then the rest of us can, too.


Allison McKenzie: Not so typical stereotypes: Blending the social wall at Portage Northern


“Stereotypes are when you judge somebody before you know them,” said Tj Jackson (12). Nerds, preps, jocks, emos, and hippies are all descriptions that come to mind when thinking of the word “stereotypes.” These stereotypes are clearly defined and prevalent throughout the classic high school movie or tv show, and no two types talk to each other or hang around each other because the action can be thought of as lame. When taking a look at Portage Northern, there are obviously a wide variety of students with several different interests and hobbies. Some stereotypes do exist, but there is a growing trend of students who transcend stereotypes. The changing environment has not gone unnoticed, either. “I have not seen any stereotypes at PN. Here, we are blended,” said Colin Mcnees (9). Who exactly are some of the courageous students that broke the barriers and blended the stereotypes?

One student who particularly comes to mind when thinking about doing it all is Madz Vanwinkle (12). She’s involved in senate, yoga club, forensics, theater, and she’s on the JV tennis team. Not to mention, Vanwinkle also is an IB diploma candidate and helps choreograph the middle school’s musicals for fun. “I do theatre because I love to sing, dance and act,  plus musicals are a blast. When I was in middle school I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the musical rehearsals and that was mostly due to the fact that I adored my high school directors,” shared Vanwinkle. She hasn’t always had the easiest go with things and has been classified into many of the stereotype categories. “Throughout freshman and sophomore year I know a lot of people classified me as an annoying, over dramatic, theatre nerd who does nothing else but obsess over the drama department,” said Vanwinkle. This didn’t stop her from fulfilling her happiness and reaching her goals. “I never really cared that much though because I’ve had a lot of fun in high school. I’ve always been confident in myself and I like that I’m a nerd who does theatre and is bad at sports and is way too happy! I say don’t let the stereotypes have any bearing on how you act or feel. Do what feels right for you and no one else’s opinion should really matter,” says Vanwinkle.

Another student who blends together stereotypes in style is Austin Vanderweele (11). Vanderweele is involved in track, musicals, forensics, senate, tennis, and Eagle Scouts. He is also working on the IB diploma and works as a table runner at the country club. “I just do what I love to do. Looking at what I do you could say I’m really the opposite when ever you think of a musical kid or a athletic guy,” says Vanderweele. He doesn’t see himself as a certain stereotype and just does everything he does out of passion for it. “I go into things ready to try it out and if I love it I’ll stay,” he said. In his eyes, he believes that at Portage Northern people shouldn’t just stick to the status quo, they should get out there and try new things that they’ve always wanted to try. “If we all just get to know each other we can see the true spirit of people and might meet someone that we really like but never had an opportunity to talk to before. I’m not saying that we all need to stand in a circle and sing kumbaya, but never miss an opportunity to try something new, even if it is against the norm, you might find a new passion,” says Vanderweele.

Just like in the Breakfast Club, Portage Northern strives to blend the social wall. These are just some of the students who broke the barriers at Portage Northern, but anyone can if they do what they are truly passionate about and don’t worry about what others think about them.