#1StudentNWI: Valparaiso High School student begins sustainability non-profit

#1StudentNWI: Valparaiso High School student begins sustainability non-profit

Student Focus

Devishi Jha is a senior at Valparaiso High School, and she is involved in many extracurricular activities both in and out of school. Jha is a violinist in the orchestra at the school.

Jha’s main focus is her work as a board member for Valparaiso High School’s United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) club. Along with her devotion to the school’s club, Jha is also an active member of UNICEF as a whole. 

“I am one of five high school students chosen to be on the UNICEF USA National Council, where I work to develop programs for over 1,000 UNICEF clubs across the country,” said Jha.

This year, Jha also began a non-profit organization called Voyagers, along with fellow senior Ella Montgomery. 

“I started Voyagers in May of this year because I wanted to take action on climate change and sustainability,” said Jha.

The organization has worked with sustainability advocates, such as Jennifer Keesson, sustainability manager for IKEA, and Carolina Leonhardt, sustainability manager for Clif Bar. 

Voyagers is an organization led by the younger generation, and many students at Valparaiso High Schools are advocates for the non-profit. 

“Voyagers is a youth-led platform empowering businesses to be more sustainable,” said Jha. “We consult, offer consumer insights, and co-create campaigns with our clients.”

Jha plans to continue her work after high school by becoming a business major. 

Teacher Focus

Stacy Pagel is a literature teacher at Valparaiso High School. Pagel has been teaching for 19 years, and her entire teaching career has been spent at Valparaiso High School. 

“My favorite thing about teaching is having a shared experience with my students regarding the literature we're reading,” Pagel said. “When students genuinely connect with what we're reading, we have some amazing discussions about the text.”

Due to COVID-19, many people’s lives and professions have been turned upside down. One group that has had to adapt more than others is faculty. With students at Valparaiso High School split between online learning and in-person learning, the teachers also have to split themselves between the two groups. 

“It is a whole different situation from what any of us have ever had before, and with some students in the class in person and some in the class remotely, I feel like I am never able to be fully engaged with all of my students at the same time,” Pagel said. “It also takes a lot more time to do things to make sure they're accessible to all of my students.”

Pagel discussed many other challenges that came with teaching during the pandemic as well.

“The most challenging thing for me about teaching during the pandemic has been forming connections with students. Because we have to be careful of close contact and because I have students who are remote concurrently with those in the building, I stay at my lectern or computer way more than I ever used to. In normal circumstances, my students do a lot more moving around and interacting, and I'm right out there with them,” Pagel said.

Despite these challenges, Pagel has actively worked to interact with and make things easier for her students, showing the compassionate attitude that we should all find admirable. 

What Happened

A podcast club was recently started at Valparaiso High School. The club was created in an effort to spread positivity during these challenging times. Sadly, the club has not yet been able to create a full podcast.

“Although we haven’t been able to fully produce an episode yet, due to several complications, we are very excited to create some podcasts in the future,” said Mitchell DeCraene, a co-founder of the podcast club.

As the club is just starting out, there are currently 6 members in the club.

“My friends were inspired to try and make a podcast,” said DeCraene. “So we got a small amount of friends to join.”

When the club is able to produce an episode of their podcast, it will function a bit differently than traditional podcasts.

“For the club, we plan on recording audio and video of our podcast,” said DeCraene. 

The club is exactly what the community could use at this moment, as the club plans to discuss positive events in the community. This club will serve as a positive beacon amidst the negatives of our world right now.

What’s Happening

After their last successful improv show, the Valparaiso High School drama club is continuing to do their best to put on shows, despite restrictions. The drama club, led by English teacher Colleen Peluso, is beginning to prepare for Mocha Madness, an annual improv show. 

The drama club hosted an improv workshop on Tuesday, December 8, and Thursday, December 10. At the workshop, students interested in improv learned skills to aid them in their performances and played games, all in an effort to prepare the students for the next show.

For the show, the improv members are usually split into four teams. An important aspect of improv is to work well with and listen to members of a person’s team. The team members train for around four weeks together before the show. 

The last improv show hosted in October was long form improv, which include small skits in the form of improv. On the other hand, Mocha Madness will be short form improv, which is a series of guessing games.

The drama club has worked to continue to uphold COVID-19 guidelines. Audience members are socially distanced, and improv members wear masks during practice and the show.