Increased Teen Stress

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By: Maddie VanHorn
Today’s teens are more stressed than those growing up in other generations. This increased level of stress contributes to increased mental health issues and other health concerns. A national survey conducted by USA Today found that teens believe high stress levels “negatively affect every aspect of [their] lives.” It is believed that many teens mirror adult stress habits, which could lead to a future filled with chronic stress, as well as chronic illness and potentially shorter lifespans. However, the reasons for the increase in teen stress levels is highly debated. While some blame the distractions of new technologies, or increased demands in school, some question whether the high stress levels reported are accurate at all. “Some experts question whether stress is merely a convenient excuse for teen behaviors”(Jayson). Maybe “stress” is just a response teens have to any task they do not want to complete. Some say that kids growing up in the 21st century do not know what real stress is, so they interpret any type of challenge as a source of high stress. However, the other mental illnesses linked to stress are a clear indication of the changes in teen mental health over the decades. Today’s teens are “more anxious and depressed than they’ve ever been.”
While high stress may increase risks for other health concerns, teens must experience some level of stress to prepare them mentally for the stress of college and their carers. “Some degree of stress is very therapeutic and an appropriate amount of stress is what helps us become strong. The hard part is [finding what level is] appropriate”(Jayson), and providing teens with ways to handle their stress to minimize its damage on their mental health. The American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychology states that it is important for teens to develop assertive training skills, so that they can express how overwhelmed they feel, and get help managing their tasks. Teens should be taught practical coping skills (like breaking down tasks into more manageable parts) and should understand that not everything has to be perfect. In addition, exercise, eating regularly, and avoiding excessive caffeine intake, are important actions to help combat stress.
What do you believe is the main cause for higher stress rates among today’s teens?

Jayson, Sharon. “Teens Feeling Stressed, and Many Not Managing It Well.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 11 Feb. 2014, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/11/stress-teens-psychological/5266739/.

Former Renaissance Student: Las Vegas Account

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Hank Brainard, an alumnus of Renaissance High School (class of 2017), was at the Las Vegas shooting with his father. He sent us his account of the events that day as well as his thoughts about gun control after his experience. We found his perspective very interesting and wanted to share it with our students.

By: Hank Brainard
When the first round went off, we were in the artist tent backstage at the festival; it was actually the closest point to the shooter, but we were hidden by the tent, so backstage wasn’t a target until later on. At first, it was just like everyone says: we thought it was fireworks. I remember laughing, thinking some drunk country fan had set some off on the sidewalk. Then, the second round came, and everyone started getting worried. Someone stepped outside and told us all it was a problem with the power lines overhead, so we all walked out of the tent. When the third round came and the music on stage stopped, I think we all understood just what was happening. Everybody took cover; my dad and I dove behind a tour bus and waited. We still weren’t positive it was gunfire, but then we felt some shrapnel coming off the roof of the bus.
In hindsight, behind that bus was the safest place to be, but you have to realize that we didn’t know the shots were coming from up above; we thought it was someone coming through the festival on foot. After about two minutes, we moved behind another bus, where we joined a group of people that included members of the event security. It was around then, between rounds, that we saw Jason Aldean being rushed off the stage to his bus; I suggested we follow them and hide inside somewhere. But before we could, the crowd backstage started to run, and so we ran too. We sprinted across the back of the stage and to the other side of the festival, where a mass of concertgoers were also evacuating; many of the fences on the perimeter of the event had been knocked over in the panic. Once we left the fairgrounds, we ran down a few side streets, away from Mandalay Bay. By then, police were rushing to the scene.
We ran for what must’ve been half a mile. By then, I now know, the shooter had killed himself, but none of us knew that, so we kept moving. We stopped outside the Tropicana and rested for a while, contacting family and close friends to let them know we were safe. I remember checking Twitter to find information; there was none. Eventually, we went inside the casino, where several survivors had gathered, many of them injured. This was a surreal moment: even though the casino was in emergency mode and a SWAT team was marching through the center, I saw several people still sat in front of slot machines, as if nothing had happened.
Going into the Tropicana turned out to be a bad move; once we were inside, the police didn’t let us leave. The thing you have to understand is that nobody but them knew what was going on, and so misinformation spread like wildfire. One such rumor: somebody inside saw a member of the SWAT team and thought he was another gunman. This caused a panic. Not knowing where to go, we ended up taking the stairs to the next floor up, where we walked the hallways cautiously for a while until we came across the Laugh Factory, a comedy club. We saw people rushing into it, so we followed, and thus began the scariest part of the night.
Inside the Laugh Factory were about a hundred fearful survivors, many of them hidden behind tables and under the bar. There were three exits, but, shortly after we entered, they were all blocked. A mob mentality had begun to spread, and a few men – all of them drunk, all of them shirtless – had taken charge. They ordered survivors to barricade the doors with chairs and tables. At each of them, one man would stand guard with a knife, ready to jump anyone who entered. A member of the hotel’s security team was monitoring the cameras to the hallway. Everybody was charting out different escape plans. Again, misinformation, dangerous misinformation, was beginning to spread: one woman stood by the stage calling out reports from the police scanner (remember: the police scanner doesn’t report what’s happening, only what’s been called in). There was talk of a second shooter, a third, even . . . car bombs traveling up and down the strip . . . a man down in the MGM Grand. Someone mentioned a shooter in the Tropicana; the crowd began to panic. The tension was rising with every second. It felt to us like a riot was coming. I remember ducking behind some red curtains in search for an escape; of course, there was no way out.
Finally, someone came over the intercom to report that the Tropicana was secure. Many people didn’t believe it, but we flooded back into the casino nevertheless. We sat by the bar and the tension broke, giving way to the most surreal feeling I’ve ever experienced. Eventually, everybody in the building was flooded down into the convention halls, where we were all patted down and made to wait until we knew the whole strip was clear. We entered the Tropicana near midnight and weren’t let out until five in the morning.
The following day was nothing but bizarre; Mandalay Bay, where, of course, we were staying, was on lockdown, so we were left to wander the strip until noon. There were flights coming in from the airport; people were checking into hotels that morning unaware of what had happened the night before. We ate for the first time in hours at a pub, and by then the shooting felt like days in the past. As soon as I hit the freeway the next day, an incredible weight was lifted. When I got back to Los Angeles, I didn’t go straight home; first I went to the Getty, saw the Monets and the Cezannes, and was overcome by the greatest catharsis I had ever felt.
On the topic of gun control: surviving such an event has both politicized me and left me feeling separated from the national discourse. Where I used to be only slightly to the side of gun control, I am now all the way there. I can no longer sympathize with any arguments for owning something more powerful than a hunting rifle. I see no sense in owning a machine that can kill sixty people from the thirty-second floor of a hotel hundreds of yards away. Then there’s the “good guy with a gun” defense, which is the most outlandish to me. I can only imagine thousands of rednecks emptying their pistol clips towards Mandalay Bay. Here’s the thing, though: my opinions may be strong and my voice may be more relevant than ever, but I have, since October 1, felt no inclination to join in the national discussion. I received an offer shortly after to appear on NBC News; I declined. All of the coverage, all of the discussions, all of the thoughts and prayers are useless to me because I know that they will not make a difference. They are all empty, and the gridlock on both sides of the fence is so massive that I know nothing will really change. Mandalay Bay is the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, but it won’t remain that way. Until there’s actual, tangible change to the way we do things, these events will only become greater in scale.

Affordable Housing in Williamson County

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By Maddie VanHorn
(10/19/17)-The population of Williamson County has grown dramatically in the last decade. While the county has accommodated for the growing population by building new schools and expanding roads, it has neglected to provide for the lower classes. Many of the low income families that reach out for help from organizations, like the Franklin Housing Authority, do not receive it, as it currently has “ a waitlist of about 100 people for its properties” (Buie). Not only does the county have an insufficient number of affordable housing units, but many historically poor neighborhoods in Franklin have begun the process of gentrification, the renovation of homes to raise their values and make them more suitable for middle class families. Gentrification causes higher property values and subsequently higher property taxes. Therefore, many underprivileged families can no longer afford to live in Williamson County. To ensure these low-income residents do not lose their homes or their jobs, the county should provide more public housing opportunities.
According to Steve Murray, the Executive Director of Community Housing in Williamson County, it is not only minimum wage earning families that are struggling to find homes, but also “people earning up to 60 percent of the median household income, which in Williamson County is $104,367, the seventh highest median county household income in the country” (Buie). It is unacceptable that even some middle class families cannot afford to live in the county, let alone the lower class workers that we need to fill job positions. In order to preserve our low-income workforce, we must provide more opportunities for these workers to live in the county.
This is becoming increasingly difficult, as higher property taxes are a result of the gentrification of disadvantaged communities and the scarcity of undeveloped land. Residents in communities experiencing gentrification may experience higher taxes than their incomes may be unable to support. If unable to pay, they will likely find cheaper homes in surrounding counties. Nonprofit organizations such as the Community Housing Partnership, Habitat for Humanity, and the Hard Bargain Association, have struggled to buy old houses to remodel due to high competition with builders. The county must step in to help these organizations, as they can more easily compete with these builders buying land.
It is unfair that because of the growing population, families can no longer afford to live in the home that has so much sentimental value to them. Not only do these people have to leave the homes their families have owned for generations, but they must also leave their schools and churches. For people that have lived in Franklin their entire lives, moving may mean a loss of identity, and a hard transition into their new environment.We must provide a more diverse selection of housing options to accommodate for all classes to live here. The number of public housing units in Franklin must be increased to adequately serve the population.
In what ways have you been affected by population growth in Middle Tennessee?

Buie, Jordan. “Williamson Affordable Housing Crunch Hits Working Class Hard.” The Tennessean. The Tennessean, 29 June 2017. www.tennessean.com/story/news/local
/williamson/2017/01/10/non-profits-affordable-housing-almost-non-existent-working-
class/95966648. Accessed 24 September 2017.

Smaller Class Sizes

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By Noa Pope
(10/10/17)
School is the first step into the real world, the first extended time away from home, the first experience without the comfort of parents. School is the place where teens learn who they are and find their place in society; it is where they learn the majority of lessons needed to live their life away from home. Parents trust that their teen is getting the care, protection, and attention he or she needs to thrive and have the best possible experience in school. However, many teens, including myself, have found themselves feeling neglected and almost invisible to the people who are supposed to be helping them grow and thrive in their new environment. For the most part, this neglect does not come from poor teachers. In fact, I found that despite the invisibility I felt, my previous high school teachers worked very hard and were overall some of the best teachers I have ever had. This shows that the neglect comes from an overpopulation of schools and classrooms that leads to teachers being incapable of providing sufficient attention to each individual student. Counties with high schools with thousands of students in one school, such as Williamson County, need to decrease class sizes in schools to allow better student-teacher relationships that will lead to a better education and ultimately a better life after graduation.
Independence High School, a Williamson County school consisting of 1413 students, is one example of a Williamson County School (“School Facts & Figures”). Like myself, many of these students are quiet and shy. Without the appropriate attention, these introverted teens struggle to learn how to be confident, ask questions, or reach out for help. Being at a school with over 1000 students and up to 35 students per classroom made me feel overwhelmed and too nervous to even raise my hand in class. I felt as if my teachers did not know my personal learning needs and did not give me the attention I needed to find confidence in myself. This unintentional neglect can lead to dropping grades and poor self esteem that follows students into their adult lives. Often times “[w]hen a child has low self-esteem they tend to avoid situations where they think there’s risk of failure, embarrassment or making mistakes. These can involve school work, making friends, and trying new activities” (“Self-Esteem and Teenagers”). Unattended teens struggling with low self-esteem can end up feeling anxious and angry, have a negative view of their bodies, and may even turn to “alcohol and drugs to feel better about themselves” (“Self-Esteem and Teenagers”).
The shy students are not the only ones who feel the effects of overpopulated classrooms; students suffering from attention disorders, such as ADHD, or even students that simply have a hard time staying motivated and on task in class are also affected. With too big of a class teachers are unable to control all of the students at once, meaning those who struggle to stay focused have noone to bring their attention back to their schoolwork. It has been found that “[s]tudents behave better and pay more attention in smaller groups” because it is more difficult for students to get off topic and get distracted, when the instructor has less students to handle (Higgins).
Surprisingly, it can also be the gifted, intelligent students who do not get sufficient teacher attention. Teachers feel as if they do not need to dedicate as much time to the gifted because they will do great in school regardless. What teachers do not realize is “that those who [are not] challenged in school [are] less likely to live up to the potential indicated by their test scores,” and “under-stimulated gifted students quickly become bored and frustrated” (Crawford). Because gifted students have unique learning needs, it is common for students to have lower grades than what they could potentially have when teachers are unable to meet these needs.
Class sizes need to be decreased to allow teachers more time to give each individual student personal attention. Smaller classes will allow students the attention they need to excel in school, both with their academic studies and their ability to empathize with others and find success after high school.

Works Cited
Crawford, Amy. “The Poor Neglected Gifted Child – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com, 16
Mar. 2014,
www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/03/15/the-poor-neglected-gifted-child/rJpv8G4oeawWBBvXVtZyFM/story.html. Accessed 25 Sep. 2017.
Higgins, John. “Does Class Size Matter? Research Reveals Surprises.” The Seattle Times, The
Seattle Times Company, 28 Oct. 2014,
www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/education/does-class-size-matter-research-reveals-surprises/. Accessed 25 Sep. 2017.
“School Facts & Figures – High Schools.” Williamson County Schools,
www.wcs.edu/schools/school-facts-high-schools/. Accessed 25 Sep. 2017.
“Self-Esteem and Teenagers.” Reachout.com,
parents.au.reachout.com/common-concerns/everyday-issues/self-esteem-and-teenagers.
Accessed 25 Sep. 2017.

Do you think smaller class sizes are an effective way to improve education? Why or why not?

The Deadliest Mass Shooting in US History

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By Maddie VanHorn
(10/10/2017) Last week I wrote about a terrorist attack in London and about London’s unarmed police force. I said that an unarmed police force would never work in the United States due to the cultural differences, and the amount of guns owned by American citizens. I said that due to the high amount of violence within the last year,it is essential for police to have guns. Now less than two weeks later, the United States is left devastated by the deadliest mass shooting in American History.
On October 1st, sixty four year old Stephen Paddock, open fired on a crowd of more than twenty two thousand people attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas strip. Shooting from the fifty eighth floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, armed with more than a dozen firearms, Paddock killed fifty eight people and left more than five hundred injured. He purchased all of these guns legally.
After every gun related tragedy, the gun control debate is brought up again. People argue if these heinous attacks could have been prevented or not. While I agree that we must honor our constitution and the second amendment, we obviously need more gun control regulations, as the United States has experienced 9 mass shootings in 2017 alone. The government definition of a mass shooting involves criteria that 4 or more people must be killed, and the victims must be selected randomly (Diehm). This rules out many other gun related crimes than have occurred this year, such as the “baseball practice shooting, in June, because the gunman didn’t kill four people”(Diehm).
However, it is extremely difficult to find a balance for a topic like this, which is so controversial and puts so much at stake. I believe that while people should still have the right to have guns, whether it be for hunting or for protection, there is no need for these guns to shoot anymore than one bullet at a time. Automatic or semiautomatic guns should not be permitted, as they are not necessary for everyday Americans. Gun “bump stocks”, which make semi automatic weapons operate like automatic guns, were used by Paddock in his attack. The United States must also impose greater control over the possession of devices like these, as they are currently legal in the US. In addition, stricter criteria must be put in place to purchase firearms, including extensive background checks and mental health exams. While many may argue that the people responsible for these massacres get these guns illegally, imposing some restrictions on guns is essential, as we cannot afford to wait until the next deadly shooting to take action.
Renaissance alum Hank Brianard was a witness of the event. You can read his account with the link below:

What is your opinion on gun control regulations in the United States?

Bui, Lynh, et al. “At Least 59 Killed in Las Vegas Shooting Rampage, More than 500 Others Injured.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 2 Oct. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/10/02/police-shut-down-part-of-las-vegas-strip-due-to-shooting/?utm_term=.d6ce5f01f47c.

An Unarmed Police Force?

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London 

by Maddie VanHorn
(9/21/17)- By Maddie VanHorn
Last week I wrote about a terrorist attack in London and about London’s unarmed police force. I said that an unarmed police force would never work in the United States due to the cultural differences, and the amount of guns owned by American citizens. I said that due to the high amount of violence within the last year,it is essential for police to have guns. Now less than two weeks later, the United States is left devastated by the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
On October 1, 64- year-old Stephen Paddock, open fired on a crowd of more than twenty two thousand people attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas strip. Shooting from the fifty-eighth floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, armed with more than a dozen firearms, Paddock killed 58 people and left more than 500 injured. He purchased all of these guns legally.
After every gun-related tragedy, the gun control debate is brought up again. People argue if these heinous attacks could have been prevented or not. While I agree that we must honor our constitution and the second amendment, we obviously need more gun control regulations, as the United States has experienced nine mass shootings in 2017 alone. The government definition of a mass shooting involves criteria that four or more people must be killed, and the victims must be selected randomly (Diehm). This rules out many other gun-related crimes than have occurred this year, such as the “baseball practice shooting, in June, because the gunman didn’t kill four people”(Diehm).
However, it is extremely difficult to find a balance for a topic like this, which is so controversial and puts so much at stake. Some people believe that people should still have the right to have guns, whether it be for hunting or for protection. However, others wonder why they need to have gune that there is no need for these guns to shoot anymore than one bullet at a time. Automatic or semiautomatic guns should not be permitted, as they are not necessary for everyday Americans. Gun “bump stocks,” which make semi-automatic weapons operate like automatic guns, were used by Paddock in his attack. The United States must also impose greater control over the possession of devices like these, as they are currently legal in the US. In addition, stricter criteria must be put in place to purchase firearms, including extensive background checks and mental health exams. While some may argue that most people responsible for these massacres get these guns illegally, Stephen Paddock got them legally. Stricter gun control is the first step in addressing the issue of mass shootings in the US, and while it may not prevent all future shootings, it is an important step in taking action instead of just talking about it.
What is your opinion on gun control regulations in the United States?

Alex Smith. “The Vast Majority of U.K. Police Don’t Carry Guns. Here’s Why.”NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 15 Sept. 2017. Web. 27 Sept. 2017.