#1StudentNWI: Griffith High School Starts New Decade with 2020 Vision

#1StudentNWI: Griffith High School Starts New Decade with 2020 Vision
By: Liana Boulles Last Updated: January 16, 2020

PAP: Preparing GHS Alumni for Adulthood

Panther Adult Pathway Program (PAP) began at Griffith High School in 2019, and with the start of a new decade, it was time to re-visit this revolutionary adult course. Taught by job coaches Amy Gidley and Sarah Velasquez, PAP teaches young adults with special needs how to be independent, focusing on how to keep a home and a job. Almost all of the students are Griffith alumni.

“The program serves special needs students ages 18-22 and teaches them life skills,” said Gidley. “It’s also in place to teach them skills used in different workplaces so they can become employable.” 

The classroom is designed to resemble an apartment including couches, a clothing rack, and cooking equipment. The students learn how to live independently. They learn how to cook meals, which involves reading recipes and grocery shopping, how to use appliances, how to keep their home clean, and how to entertain guests. Gidley hopes to get a bigger learning space in the future; She wants to include a stove, washing machine, and dryer. For now, they use a microwave and toaster oven to cook and visit the laundromat to learn how to do their laundry.

“They volunteer at different workplaces where they learn skills to be employable,” said Gidley. “They volunteered at the Northwest Indiana Food Bank, Animal Control, a horse stable where they cleaned stalls and fed the horses.”

One of the most notable workplaces they’ve visited is Recycled Granite, a company that only hires special needs employees and breaks up granite countertops to reuse them for landscaping and art. 

“I get pictures of [student] Nicholas [Sharp] doing things at home,” said Gidley. “My favorite thing is when the kids’ parents tell me, ‘Oh, they did the dishes,’ or cooked a meal. Things they don’t normally do.”

Student Spotlight

Griffith senior Curtis Carter is co-editor of the Reflector, Griffith High School’s yearbook. He started out in publications in eighth grade and has since become one of the most experienced journalism and yearbook students at GHS. He’s also publications’ class savior; He and co-editor Emily Keck fought to keep yearbook and newspaper as a class for the 2019-2020 school year as teachers and classes were cut, including longtime publications advisor Kristina Collard. 

“At the time, Mrs. Collard was still the advisor for publications, so Emily and I felt it was our responsibility to try and get the classes back for us and for her,” said Carter. “We already had the theme and editors picked out for the 2019-2020 book, and we weren’t going to give up so easily.” 

Carter and Keck spoke at school board meetings, advocating to have a publications class instead of the activity being demoted as an after school club. Thanks to their efforts, Newspaper and Yearbook are a combined class that works together to tell the school’s stories. 

As editor, Carter is responsible for ensuring the yearbook is completed with the highest quality possible. For 2019-2020, the theme is 2020 Vision. Every spread (two yearbook pages that face each other) must be planned, designed, and edited to fit the theme. It’s a yearlong process that Carter and Keck divide into deadlines and build from the blank page.

“When we logged into eDesign at the beginning of the year, we had completely blank spreads. We started off the year by creating a ladder, a sheet that has page numbers where you plan the spreads –what page is going to be what spread. After creating a paper spread, we named all of the spreads on eDesign and set deadlines so the computer would tell reporters when the spreads are going to be due. After that, we just started designing Deadline 1 and began assigning spreads to reporters.”

Carter begins a spread by placing the headline and story, written by the assigned reporter, in the template. He chooses the dominant photo with three to four additional pictures and strives to give each spread a unique element, such as a sidebar. His most important job, however, is proofing.

“I look through the current deadline, find any edits or anything that needs to be done, and then I write them down. If something’s off, or there are design flaws, I’ll fix it,” Carter said. “We [Emily and I] split the work half and half and broke the book up into sections such as academics, student life, and sports.”

Carter and Keck have many responsibilities but love the work that they do.

“As one of two students with the most experience in journalism and yearbook, I felt it was my responsibility to make sure that this book was carried through and published at the end of the year,” Carter said.

Carter also works at Strack & Van Til. He plans to attend the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, Bloomington to double major in Business Finance and Accounting. “I’m really looking forward to being in a new environment and accept any opportunities that could come my way.” 

Staff Spotlight

Miranda Peterson came to Griffith High School this year as the new advanced English and publications teacher. Before coming to GHS, Peterson was a lecturer at Purdue University Northwest in Hammond with a background in communications and media. She was also a librarian and media specialist at Hammond High School. This is her first year teaching high school English.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the high school classroom for the first time, as I was a Library & Media Specialist last school year,” said Peterson. “Learning the school’s operations and curriculum has been challenging, but very rewarding.”

Peterson teaches AP English Language and Composition, English 12, and a combined class of newspaper and yearbook. Teaching at Griffith has proved an educational experience, to say the least. Peterson had to adjust from being a librarian and lecturer to a full-time teacher of seniors. Instead of preparing lectures for a mature college audience twice a week, lessons are daily for high schoolers with “close[ness] in age, but… a difference in maturity and motivation.” She has also had to learn how to run a yearbook and newspaper with help from the editors. 

“I love tapping into my communications background, and sharing new information with the publications students,” gushed Peterson. “Teaching yearbook and newspaper at the same time has been interesting, as I have to balance the time I spend working with each staff. I can blend some direction and lessons, but they are separate publications that need designated guidance. The biggest challenge has been gaining the trust of the staff. Following in the footsteps of an excellent teacher is wonderful because all the students are trained and dedicated. However, they are hesitant to transition to new leadership.”

So far, Peterson thoroughly enjoys her work. She tries to find material that feels relevant to her students and nourishes their literary talents. Being a young teacher, she finds it easier to relate to students. 

“So far, it has been a great experience. My goals for this include updating the English 12 curriculum, revamping the publications department, and trying to create an even work/life balance. I have learned from my students, colleagues, and administration team, and look forward to growing as an educator.”

What’s Coming Up

Turnabout, the school’s winter formal, will be taking over the hearts and minds of teenagers on January 31. Girls get to ask boys out through creative, sweet proposals. The dance will take place at Patrician Banquets in Schererville. Students must stay until sixth period before leaving to get ready for the ball. 

Middle School Drama Night is on February 7, 8, and 9. It consists of four one-act plays directed by high school drama students and performed by middle schoolers. The purpose of middle school drama is to give younger pupils a chance to find their footing in theater and groom the next generation of high school starlets. 

Band and choir are gearing up for ISSMA District Solo and Ensemble on February 8, at Munster Middle School. Musicians will be performing solos and multi-player pieces to be analyzed by judges from all over the Region. They will receive a rating, feedback, and a medal (bronze, silver, or gold) based on their musicianship. Soloists and ensembles that receive a gold rating in Group I, the most advanced division, advance to State Solo and Ensemble.