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

Villains Victorious

First Big Musical after COVID a Success

From December 2-4, drama club students presented “Descendants”, their fall musical based on a Disney film of the same name. In total, 420 tickets were sold over the three nights, making it one of the most attended production in the club’s history.

Drama director Maria Wishart was appreciated of all of the parents, staff and the kids who participated.

“I think the play went wonderfully. We had a wide range of age ranges and experience levels both on the stage and backstage. Everyone contributed something to make it a fabulous show,” said Wishart.

The play showcased the talents of eleven seniors, as it is their final year being with their drama family.

Senior Taylor Becht just joined drama this year and landed a major role in the Descendants production. She performed as the main villain, Maleficent.

“From this musical I gained confidence and new-found friendships that will last a life time. I wouldn’t take it back for anything,” said Becht.

The production featured a talented cast of about 50 students from both the high school and elementary schools.

On the night of the last show, Wishart was also honored by drama club students both past and present, as this production marks her 20th year as the drama club director and 50th show at PHS.

School board member Craig Starr and former member Roger Moon presented Wishart with an award.

“Maria, here you are being honored between a Moon and a Starr,” joked Moon.

Story and Photos by Ashleigh Garcia

New Books Available in Library

The new librarian Rachel Miller has made many improvements and changes to the library. A recent change is adding new books to the library. Miller spent many hours at Books-A-Million to purchase the books. 

“I went with the intention of buying primarily nonfiction and graphic novels, but I was also able to get a number of new fiction titles as well.  I purchased nonfiction books with topics that are relevant to PHS students like robotics, technology, and folklore,” said Miller. 

The junior high was lacking books that appealed to them, and that is where Miller started her shopping.

“When purchasing books, I think about the topics and types of books that students and teachers have requested. Teachers have requested more nonfiction books and students have requested more middle grades books and graphic novels, so that’s where I started when I began to make my lists,” said Miller.

Students can check out books by writing their name on the card in the back of the book and leaving it on the card counter.  The library is in the process of putting our collection online, so eventually students will simply scan their lunch card (or enter their lunch number) to check out a book.

Story by Stella Windhorst

Farm-to-Table Goes High Tech

The Ag Business class has added some new features to their program recently. They have been very active and involved in many events since the start of the school year.

The main feature added is the new QR codes on the packaging for their meat products, a big technological advancement for the program.

“[The QR code] will direct you to our website, and basically there are different pages for the program that people will be able to see directly where the food they are buying is coming from. Plus, it shows how the animals are being cared for and how the students learn and care for them along the way,” said Ag Business teacher Cory Scott.

Though the QR codes and program will only work for the pigs on campus, the overall goal for the students is to help consumers have more transparency in where their food comes from.

“[The project] will help us get more products sold and get more brand and name recognition out there. It’s really a model that businesses should use to get more transparency for the food supply. So, hopefully, it will get us some more recognition as well,” said Scott.

The project is just in the beginning states of the Paoli Farm-to-Table program. Though it is going to be mostly sold back to the school, there is still an opportunity for some of the meat products to be sold to the community.

“We are gonna sell it to anyone who is interested in buying it. We are going to be selling mostly to the school though. There are certain products the school can’t serve, like ribs for example, that we sell to the public, and any of the excess that the school can’t buy is open to anyone who would want it,” said Scott.

In September, the department welcomed guests from the Maker Mobile program at Indiana University. The guests worked to help with the QR code advancement, offering assistance with the process to make it more efficient.

One student in particular that has played a major role in this process is senior Carson Little.

“The people from Bloomington were here to help us make the stickers we are going to use on our products and help us create the QR code,” said Little.

According to the IU Bloomington website, the Maker Mobile program ‘works with host sites to set up temporary maker space environments so that your school or organization can introduce maker education within your own space.’

“They came and helped us organize our website and helped develop some logos. They also helped develop a little bit better of a marketing plan for the products here at the school,” said Scott.

The class’s goal is to have the program done before Christmas Break, and as of right now, they are on the right track to do so.

“Ag Business is going good. We have been working on our website for a while now and we are just about finished with it,” said Little.

For more information about the project, visit the Paoli Farm-To-Table website linked on the PHS homepage.

Story by Peyton Baker

Blessings Continue

Groups Support Throop Program; Fight Hunger

Backpacks of Blessings, founded in 2012, is a local non-profit organization that helps ensure food-insecure students in our community have a reliable supply of food while they are not at school. President Sean Fahey works along side the other board members to make sure Backpacks of Blessings is successful every year.

“As President of the Backpacks of Blessings board, I work with the other committee members to make sure our food ordering is complete, organize fundraisers, and ensure the organization keeps moving forward. I am in charge of creating our meeting agendas and facilitating those meetings,” said Fahey.

The organization provides blue bags of food that are sent home with qualifying Throop Elementary students each Friday during the school year.

“To date, our organization has distributed over 40,000 blue bags of food,” said Fahey.

Other members who are in the board of Backpacks of Blessings include: Mary Jo Robinson, Jackie Chaney, Jackie Bosley, Debbie Wilson, Nia Manship, Angie McSpadden, Chelsey Lankford, Bobbie Cox, Stori Sullivan, Stephen Tate, Karie Becht, and Cindy Murphy.

Volunteer groups such as NHS help pack during the monthly packing events before the bags are distributed each week. To help raise funds for the supplies and food items, the board has sold coffee and in the spring will hold their annual BBQ dinner fundraiser the first Saturday in April.

“Students the age of 14 and older can volunteer and help the Backpacks of Blessings committee. If you are a National Honor Society member, see Mrs. Higgins for dates that you can sign-up and help with our bag packings. Follow us on Facebook! @backpackspaoli,” said Fahey.

Story by Corrine Magner