New Club Aims To Support Mental Health

The Self Care Club met for the first time on Friday, December 10. This was just the beginning of the program, with big plans for its future already in the works. Media Advisor Heather Nichols decided to sponsor the club here at PHS with the help of fellow staff members and resilience coach Kara Schmidt.

Teachers have witnessed their students’ emotional distress these past two years and realized something needed to be done about it.

Teachers Laurie Jo Andry, Carol Fullington, Melissa Higgins, Crystal Shellenberger, Maria Wishart along with Nichols have taken part in yoga classes led by Schmidt to try and relieve some of their own stress. These classes have been held on Thursdays in the PHS choir room since late September and have proven to be positive experiences for teachers. This success prompted them to think bigger.

“We all talked about it and were like the kids need this. We have so many kids in this building who don’t process their emotions. They don’t know how to handle things. They’re crying at random things that don’t seem like things they should be crying about,” said Nichols.

While Nichols believes it is healthy for everyone to have a good cry every now and then, what she sees from students at school seems to be troubling. The Self Care Club is meant to be a solution to this issue. The goal is to give students the mental and physical tools they need to get through difficult situations. These tools consist of breathing techniques, tension-releasing stretches and knowledge. Schmidt will teach students about their bodies’ nervous systems and how to regulate them in order to calm down. The main goal of the club is to help students understand the power they hold in their reactions to stressful situations and hardships.

“The nervous system and brain are very changeable, especially for young people. Having this information about their mental health, and practicing ways to strengthen their resilience regularly, can actually reshape and strengthen the brain and nervous system in a positive way that will help them be able to handle stresses more effectively for the rest of their lives,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt wants this club to be a source of community, safety, and empowerment for students. The meetings will be a place where students can feel comfortable enough to be themselves and have a
good time, a place where they can take a break from the stress of school and life in general. She
would like to use the opportunity to guide students into becoming more courageous, compassionate, self-aware people who are prepared for difficult situations.

While the Self Care Club is new to PHS, it is not an entirely new concept. Schmidt has worked with students at Orleans Junior Senior High School as well as students at Throop Elementary. There, Schmidt incorporates certain staples into each session. These staples include stress-level and emotional observation check-ins as well as a variety of practices. Schmidt does a different practice during each meeting, alternating between Focused Attention Practice, Relaxation Practice,
Self-Compassion Practice and Gratitude Practice. Such elements will likely be integrated into the Self Care Club.

With all of the work she does regarding mental and emotional health, it is no surprise that helping youth and adults alike with their struggles is something very personal to Schmidt.

“I do this because when I was a teenager, I didn’t know how to support my mental health. This led to me feeling pretty bad about myself all through high school and into college. I thought that there
was something wrong with me. And I acted out and made some really poor choices. I feel lucky to have gotten through those tough years without more harm to myself or others,” said Schmidt.

She has created spaces of comfort and neutrality because she feels as though they would have been helpful to her young self who had similar problems. Schmidt credits her success in finding healthier ways to deal with stress, anxiety and depression to yoga, breathing exercises and mindfulness tools she learned over the years. Though she admits she still has difficulty with her mental health on occasion, Schmidt feels her knowledge has helped her to better cope with it. She is passionate about sharing what she has learned in order to help others through their own adversities.

“We know that if one’s nervous system is in a high stress state, that it is really hard for the brain to learn as effectively as it could. Memorizing information, taking tests and making good decisions are more challenging for those dealing with chronic overwhelm. My hope is that schools like Paoli and Orleans choose to make nervous system education and these kinds of tools for mental health a high priority,” said Schmidt.

The club meets during homeroom on Fridays. Use Google Classroom code extovt4 to join. The club meets during homeroom on Fridays.

Story by Masden Embry

Ag Department Welcomes New Life

On December 20, the first litter of piglets was born in the Paoli Pig Barn. The first pig to give birth was Rosie, owned by seventh grader Graydan Padgett, and Rosie had 11 babies; six were boars and five were gilts.

Since then, there have been two other litters born. On December 24, Reba, owned by senior Carson Little, had six babies; three boars and three gilts. On December 26, Buffy, owned by freshman Keeley Scott, had eight babies; five boars and three gilts. On January 10, Rose, owned by freshman Mary Cook, had one baby; one gilt.

“My favorite part about having pigs is when they have the babies. It is more exciting than Christmas presents.” said

Padgett. He plans to continue raising pigs, and might try working with different breeds in the future. Padgett will use the money he earns this year and use it to help pay for expenses with his next pigs.

Two pigs in the barn didn’t give birth this time; Naomi owned by freshman Haylie Gilliatt, and Margo, owned by Hannah Woolston. Margo was bred on December 18, and her piglets will be
ready in time to be used in late fall and early winter shows. Naomi will be sent back home with Gilliatt.

The pigs that the students observe off campus have also started to mother their litters. Four out
of five pigs off campus have given birth.

Sixth grader Lucas Carmickle’s pigs were the first to give birth. Hella had 11 babies, six boars and
five gilts, and Hazel had five babies; four boars and one gilt. Patches, Scott’s pig, had 14 babies; nine boars and five gilts. Sixth grader Lucas Carmickle’s pig was next. Astrid had five babies; three boars and two gilts.

“I have raised pigs since I was really young, and I started showing them in third grade. My favorite part about raising pigs is the experience I get from it, and being able to help other people with their pigs when they need it,” said Scott.

If you are interested in learning more about the pig program visit the PHS website and click on the Paoli Farm-to-Table Program site link located under Menu.

Story by Carley Higgins

Spanish Students Learn the Cumbia

On November 18 and 19, students in Senora Shellenberger’s 1st period class learned to dance to a popular rhythm that originated in Colombia. Cumbia is a rhythm created by the incorporation of African, European and Indigenous cultures.

Juniors and seniors in Senora Shellenberger’s Spanish 3 class learned how to dance to the cumbia rhythm.
Senora Shellenberger’s class claps along during a class dancing lesson.

Photos by Ashleigh Garcia

Cheerleaders Start Early for the Basket Ball Season

On Thursday October 21, new and old Basketball cheerleaders got together for an optional practice. These girls made a lot of progress and learned new spirit chants to show the fans this basketball season.

Sophomore Faith Gammon learned a new chant alongside the other new cheerleaders.
Senior Tinsley Moffatt and Sophomore Gracie Brown teach chants during an optional practice.
Seniors Hayley Taylor-Norton and Chelsea Deweese learn new chants for the upcoming basketball season.
Freshman Chloe Smith perfects her skills by learning from old squad members.

Photos by Ashleigh Garcia

Admin Forming Leadership Group

Wise Seeks Student Input to Improve the School Environment

This school year has brought about many policy changes for the school, with mixed reactions from students. These changes have led to tension between students, teachers and administrators. To help combat this, Principal Sherry Wise has begun the creation of the Student Advisory Committee, or SAC.

The planning for this committee began before the pandemic, but had to be pushed back while our school navigated protocols, regulations and mandates. Now that the school is starting to get back on its feet, the creation of this committee has become a priority.

For the first stage of this process, Wise sent the teachers a form to fill out. On this form, they could nominate students to be on the committee as well as what activities those students are involved in. The activities are important because they share student involvement, which can lead to a more diverse group of students.

“I want a diverse cross-section of everybody. I want the kid who is the athlete, the kid who
is the valedictorian, the ICC kid, the student who is not one of those top kids in the class. I want Paoli to be a school where everybody feels like they’re on an equal playing field, and everybody has a voice in what happens,” said Wise.

After students are nominated by the teachers, the recommendations go to the school FLI committee, a select group of teachers that focus on leadership and policy issues that may impact the school. Once selected, the students will meet with Wise about once a month to discuss school events and concerns.

Rather than just complain about issues, the goal is to introduce solutions or to establish an understanding on why things happened.

“My philosophy is that we can’t change what’s happened in the past, we have to look at solutions. I’m going to really work on making it a solutions based committee. If it’s a student centered community where [the students] have some ownership in what’s happening, [they are] more likely to be successful,” said Wise.

Story by Michael Hannon