By Aiden Sandhofner and Faron Blakely
Racism is an undeniable problem in not only America but throughout the world. The only way we can get close to solving this problem is by bringing attention to it. Katelynn Altman, a sophomore at Sheyenne High School is doing just that. She has spent the past couple of months creating a website for people that have experienced racism.
Altman wanted to start this website because her friend did a similar thing for a project in her English class. She has always been deeply passionate about making sure that people are having an equal experience and are welcome throughout school. Katelynn has also seen and heard people make racist remarks throughout Sheyenne. Altman says, “One main incident was in the hallway and a white student said the n-word to a black student. I told them that they shouldn’t say that, and they kind of just gave me a bad look.” She is trying to spread the word as much as possible through fliers and even getting our principal,
Mr. Williams, to make an announcement throughout the entire school. Mr. Williams even set up a meeting for her and the faculty around the school, just so that all the teachers are aware that it exists.
Katelynn is excited because this is going to be her first website that anyone can see and not just her teacher. As of right now, she has about four people who have shared their story, one of them even being from Liberty Middle School. Altman is making attempts to expand to Liberty, but right now she does not know how to, but is making efforts to learn. Until then, she has a separate tab on her website that is specific to middle schoolers. Katelynn thinks the website is a great idea because racism is not just a problem specific to Sheyenne, but it’s everywhere you look. She has given them the opportunity to be anonymous if they wish so they can feel better about what they are talking about. If they aren’t anonymous then they have the option to include a picture of themselves with paint on their hands, detailing the racial remarks that they have been called throughout their life.
Altman is in plans to continue doing this website when she is out of school as well, so that people are still able to speak up when they aren't at school. Altman has plans even after she graduates from high school, hopefully finding someone to pick up where she left off and keep their stories being told.
Katelynn is not the only person in Sheyenne who is working to fight racism. Sheyenne has recently spread the word about a club named DFC (Diverse Female Cultures). Counselor Ms. Raile is the advisor of the DFC and would like to touch on more about the club itself and how it’s working with Altman's website. Raile says, “I didn’t start the club; they just needed an advisor and they asked if I could do it and I was thrilled. We were happy to help educate staff about what it's like not being born a white kid.” The DFC is open to anyone but is focused more on talking about female empowerment and what it means to be a female in a diverse culture. Not only that, but it is also about not just ignoring color, but embracing it, and letting it define you. The DFC has been working with North Dakota State University’s Black Student Organization, their girls have been mentoring the Sheyenne girls about helping them prepare for college or what it’s like coming from somewhere with a more prominent African American population coming to Fargo. The DFC has also wanted to mentor some of the Liberty kids as well, because of how much they have learned from the Black Student Organization. Principal Williams came and talked to the DFC about “what it's like being “The Black Guy” at Sheyenne High.”
Clearly there is a shared movement to having productive conversations about racism at Sheyenne. This is a good start but there is a long way to go, thanks to the DFC and Katelynn, that road is a bit shorter.
If you have experienced any racism at our school, and want to share your story, then we recommend you direct message Katelynn on her Instagram, @faceracism.sheyenne. If you are unable to access Instagram, then you can also send her an email at, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to hear their stories, we strongly recommend that you look at her website https://faceracismnet.wordpress.com/racism-in-sheyenne/, just so you can see how much of a problem it is. Ms. Raile also wants to welcome you into the DFC, if you are thinking about joining you can contact her at email@example.com
By Jacob Fisher
In the 2019-2020 school year, COVID-19 halted Sheyenne to a standstill. Numerous activities, such as the Boys’ Soccer program, were cancelled entirely. The school went completely online to the detriment of much of the student body, affecting everything from grades to mental health. However, curricular changes, such as those for learning models and distance schooling, might prove to be beneficial. In fact, faultily and leadership are planning to embrace the lessons learned due to COVID-19 as soon as this Wednesday.
Mr. Williams, the new head principal at Sheyenne, along with the rest of the administration team, are spearheading this operation. The plan is to have Wednesdays be more “flexible”, with students coming in to receive help in subjects they are struggling in, to being able to practice with their team for sports and clubs, and even the possibility of staying home for the day.
“The idea with Wednesdays is to provide some intensive interventions for students to help them get caught up, whether that is credit recovery, whether that is getting caught up in some of their classes … and also providing students with the opportunity for enrichment,” Mr. Williams explained the morning of the announcement. Williams plans for the enrichments to be curricular to extracurricular activities students could take part it, such as their own personal projects. “Let’s say we have a student who loves art. Maybe they want to come and work on a sculpture, or they want to work on a painting. I think we should provide them with that opportunity.”
Interventions, Williams elaborated, should be implemented based on grades and teacher recommendations. He wishes for these interventions to be like a doctor’s order – required for the wellbeing of the student, for the benefit of the student.
Williams plans to have every student in the building for the first Wednesday of this program, but after that, if a student is proficient in classes and willing to work from home, he is optimistic that they will be able to do so.
“I think it would be foolish for us to require you to be in the building if you can learn outside of Sheyenne,” Mr. Williams added. “However, the opportunity for all students to come will still be there. You would have autonomy for where you would want to go for either enrichment or intervention.”
The first day of this program is planned to be March 3rd, 2021.
By Hailey Boehme
The counselors at Sheyenne High School are always around to help. However, it is very normal to have questions about the process of creating a meeting time, talking through conflict, and working through the stigma that is often felt with mental illness. A few counselors including Mitchell Grunig, Jessica Raile, and Krystal Haugen answered some commonly asked questions in hopes to aid those who are on the fence about meeting.
What are your roles as a counselor?
Grunig: My role as a school counselor is to support all students with academic and emotional challenges. Often we are meeting with a student individually to explore what challenges they are struggling with. Students come to see us for questions about their schedule, concerns about self, friends, family, or to talk about life. We also help support staff making sure they have the skills and knowledge to meet students' needs in the classroom.
Haugen: School counselors at the high school level get to help with everything! Personal, academic, career, etc. We are trained counselors in a school setting. We work with students individually and in the classroom when we can.
Raile: We specialize in personal/social/emotional health, academic, and career support for our students. We track credits and graduation progress for all of “our kids” (we split by last name alphabets, except all AVID kids are with me regardless of their last name). We can offer support for personal/social challenges students might be facing. We can help students communicate with their adults and teachers if they need help with that. We do some career stuff, but Mrs. Aipperspach is the PRO for that, so often we bring her in to work with students that are looking for career info.
What is the best way for students to go about scheduling a meeting time?
Grunig: Two options. Stop and down and talk to Mrs. Fercho or Mrs. Steffen about getting on our schedule or send us a message. The most important thing is to get on our schedule as we can get busy as the day goes along.
Raile: I am currently working from home, but am constantly still meeting with students on TEAMS. The easiest way to get on your counselors’ calendar for an appointment and have our awesome admin assistants schedule it for you. You can also send a Schoology message to your counselor to get something set up, but sometimes the back and forth of messaging can be hard to get a date actually set and confirmed!
Haugen: The easiest way is to swing into the counseling office and schedule with our awesome administrative assistants, Mrs. Fercho and Mrs. Steffen. If that won’t work, you can always send your counselor a direct Schoology message to schedule.
What is one thing you wish new students knew about the counselors at Sheyenne?
Grunig: You can come to see us for anything. We can get students most anything they need from food to school supplies. If we do not have an answer for you, we will find one.
Haugen: We can help with almost anything. If we can’t help, we usually know someone who can! We enjoy working with students and because we do so much more than just emotional counseling, there is no stigma when coming into our office to schedule. Visiting your counselor here is a pretty normal thing to do at Sheyenne.
Raile: I think new to Sheyenne students should know that our counseling office and counseling department staff are very easy to work with and it isn’t a “weird thing” to be seen in the counseling office to or have your counselor check in with you. I think maybe in other places students see the counseling office as intimidating or embarrassing and it really isn’t like that at Sheyenne. We see students ALL DAY LONG for so many reasons- from questions about college and future classes, to questions about how to study for the ACT, to personal issues like anxiety or depression and ways to cope with it, to students looking for ways to improve their grades, and everything in between.
What is a normal day like for you?
Grunig: Each day is a unique day. Counselors do not have a structured schedule like teachers. Most days start with responding to any emails that I received overnight. I also meet with students individually throughout the day. When I have downtime, I respond to messages from staff, students and parents. I also attend meetings with counselors and principals to help plan events like testing, class registration, and graduation.
Raile: With working remotely this year, my day is definitely different than typical years, but I stay busy. I am pretty much on my computer or iPad all day long either meeting with kids and teachers virtually or sending emails/checking grades. I miss the casual conversations and joking with students, but I am really happy with how many of my A-C and AVID kiddos are totally cool with connecting with me via Teams instead of in person.
What does a meeting with a school counselor usually look like?
Raile: As students get to know me they see I am pretty informal and easy to talk to. I try to be approachable and listen to what the student needs to tell me. Sometimes students are nervous talking to me at first, but usually after 1 meeting they are more comfortable and continue to meet with me as they need to. We talk about as much as the student needs/wants to talk about. Sometimes students get emotional, and that is totally ok. I am glad to be someone students can let their guard down with and know they will be safe and not judged. What we talk about in our meetings stays confidential unless a student gives permission to share (maybe there was a death in a family and students are ok with the teachers knowing why they have been down, etc.) OR I believe the student is at risk for harm or in danger to themselves or someone else. People who work in schools are “Mandated Reporters” which means it is the law for me to get additional help involved if I worry about a student’s safety.
Haugen: I think our goal is always to make a student feel comfortable and supported when they are here. That can look different for every student. Our goal is always to listen and help students find solutions or ideas to solve problems and plan for the future.
What is your best advice for a student who is hesitant on reaching out for help?
Raile: I think the best advice if a student is maybe a little nervous would be to send your counselor a quick Schoology message and ask if you could talk with them sometime. They can help you set up your first appointment if the idea of walking into our office and asking for one out loud seems too intimidating at first. My favorite part of my job is working with students directly and getting to know them!
Grunig: It is always challenging to ask for help but the more you do it, the more comfortable you get. Asking for help shows strength and self-awareness. Skills that you need to continue to build every day. We are here for you!
Haugen: We have 5 counselors at Sheyenne, so get to know yours early and you won’t be afraid to ask for help! We adhere to confidentiality as well so what you say with us, stays with us (as long as everyone is safe-we are also mandated reporters and safety trumps confidentiality).
The Mustang Post
All feature news content is produced by students in the Newspaper program at West Fargo Sheyenne High School.