Orca-strating a Trip to Alaska

by Jesse Mitchell, staff writer

NOVEMBER 2022 — The sound of coastal water erupts as it crashes against the shore, spraying up and engulfing the air. Off in the distance, the sea starts to rise and bulge before it explodes, giving way to a beautiful orca or gray whale leaping out of the water for a couple seconds before it disappears with a huge splash below the waves.

This is the mental image that some Bio-Med Science Academy juniors have envisioned and dreamed about, and it’s a reality that’s coming true for six students due to Bio-Med Partnership with the Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED). Selected students will be given the opportunity to travel to Sitka, Alaska in early Nov. 2023 to attend the Sitka Whale Festival, in an opportunity that is lovingly referred to as “Whales” or the “Alaska Trip” by junior students.

Pictured is the skeleton of Ambulocetus Natans, or the Walking Whale as it is popularly referred to on the NEOMED campus. The Walking Whale became NEOMED’s official mascot in 2013, chosen because one of its professors, Dr. Hans Thewissen, first discovered this skeleton in Pakistan in 1993. That was where he established himself in the world of marine biology and became well-known for his research into the study of whales. Dr. Thewissen has since continued to do and share his research into the field of study, especially at the Sitka WhaleFest in Alaska, where he will take Bio-Med students next year.  Photo by Alexandra Levy, staff writer

This opportunity allowed any students in the class of 2024 to sign up for participation in a program run by NEOMED’s professors, Dr. Hans Thewissen and Dr. Lisa Cooper. The opportunity comes with the obligation of taking a three-week class called Whales, Seals, Evolution & the Oceans during a period known as accelerated term. During accelerated term, students get to take elective classes in place of their normal curriculum. Students in this class will be able to learn about whales one-on-one with Thewissin, who discovered the Walking Whale.

Interviews with Thewissen Oct. 17 decided on the potential ten candidates. Of these 10 candidates, only six would be chosen to be a part of the team, and the other four would be backups if one of the six could not go During these interviews, the students had to take part in  an informal discussion speaking to why they wanted to be on the team and give Thewissen a chance to evaluate them in person.

“The interview was very stressful… and nerve racking,” junior Kathrine Lennox described.

Junior Logan Cook said, “I put a lot of work into preparing for that interview, and I am extremely grateful that it paid off.”

The six students selected to go on to Alaska are Logan Cook, Clare Haddon, Maya Kline, Katherine Lennox, Andrew Nguyen, and Morgan Whiteman. The alternatives for the trip are students Abbigail Crawford, Nathan Pastor, Bristol White, and Ella Wright.

“I don’t know many of [the people going on the trip] super well, but I think it’d be fun. It’ll be a nice opportunity to make new friends,” said Lennox.

Wright, when she found out she was an alternate, expressed that it was “a little disappointing to not be able to take part in the opportunity that [Thewissen] is chaperoning and in charge of…. I would have liked to get in. Second runner up is not great,”

A disappointing feeling is one shared amongst the four who are alternatives on the team, but despite that, they remain just as appreciative and grateful as the entire group is for the opportunity.

Cook explained his reason for taking advantage of the opportunity“When I was presented with this — while it’s not necessarily the exact biology field I want to pursue, as it is marine biology, and that’s not exactly where my interests lay — it is still biology, and as someone who wants to pursue that field and opportunity where I could do that with two world class experts… was far too good to pass up,” he said.

Like Cook, who plans to study biological engineering after graduating from Bio-Med, many of the other students are using this as an opportunity to explore something they wouldn’t have considered before.

“I thought it would be interesting just to learn more about [marine biology], because it might be something I’m interested in in the future, and also, it just sounded like a fun opportunity,” said Lennox.

For Nguyen, one of his most significant reasons for applying was, “It will also look really good on my resume…and also who doesn’t really want to go to Alaska?” he asked.

Nguyen is an avid snowboarder, as he described himself as a “big snow guy,” and he is looking forward to using the trip as a way to explore Alaska.

For many, being able to explore Alaska was one of the consequential reasons to apply, with the program offering “an all-travel and lodging expense paid trip to Sitka, Alaska,” as assistant Chief Administrative Officer Lindsey McLaughlin wrote in an email to juniors.

The Sitka Whalefest’s website describes the event as, “not like most science symposiums, and it’s really for the public and for everybody who really likes marine environments.”

The heart of the Whalefest is a three-day symposium where speakers and scientists from around the world come together to discuss their research and to talk about marine environments around the world. For the students selected, they will be a part of a presentation at the symposium along with participating in other events and lectures to enrich themselves in current marine biology research.

“I think the actual trip itself [will be the best part], because I looked into the festival, and it seemed really fun. And the symposium [too], watching the presentations that other people do is going to be wonderful,” shared Lennox.

Along with the free trip, there is the possibility that four of the selected students will receive an internship with Thewissen.

“Working with the professors and the opportunity to be their intern… I plan to give it my all, and I plan to do my best and hopefully impress. I’m just excited for the challenge,” said Cook.

Cook concluded, “One of the blessings of being at Bio-Med is that they structured this for us, and then they provided this opportunity for us. I don’t know that, as an individual student, I ever would have been able to pursue and accomplish this.”

Arts & Culture Bio-Med Education General Interest

The Reality Of Mental Health Days In Education

By Mallory Butcher, associate editor

NOVEMBER 2022 — Following the COVID-19 pandemic, a new conversation about the importance of mental health arose in the United States. Two years later, mental health remains on the minds of many, though they may be unsure of how to improve it in their own lives. One recommendation often proposed for workers and students is to take a mental health day.

For students in need of a break to recuperate their mental health during the school day, the counselor’s office at the Rootstown campus contains the sensory room, pictured above. Within the room are different types of seating, fidget toys, background noises, and other supplies that can be used to help visitors calm down. Photo by Mallory Butcher, associate editor.

A mental health day is when a student or employee takes time off, not for physical illness, but to enhance their state of mind. Such breaks can help people boost morale and productivity, according to McLean Hospital’s article, “The Benefits of Taking a Mental Health Day.”

Bio-Med Science Academy junior Colton Gotham elaborated, “It’s better to take the day off than go to school and cry. You don’t really want to be around people that you’re friends with and crush any relationships, because you’re stressed, angry, and sad.”

According to the Bio-Med Student Handbook, a student’s absence may be excused if  “the student’s physical or mental illness” prevents them from being present.

A parental guardian must notify the school through a note or email explaining the reason for the student’s absence. Extended absences for medical purposes must be documented to avoid unnecessary discipline.

“I took some [mental health days] at the end of last year. It helped me a lot. I always thought I’d waste so much time doing one, because I had stuff I needed to do, but I ended up being able to work four times as efficiently because of it,” said Cooper Lappe, another junior at Bio-Med.

Teachers, however, have a different procedure to take a mental health day.

Chief Operating Officer for grades seven through nine Randy Rininger Kline explained, “Each month, [the teaching staff will] accumulate sick time. Those are saved in our account, and we can use those.”

If educators take a mental health day at Bio-Med, most use one of their sick days. Within the state of Ohio, a teacher’s sick time accumulates at the rate of one and one-fourth days per month. This number will travel with teachers as they change jobs over to a different public school in the state, tracking from their first year to their most recent year.

Staff must provide a note from a doctor for their absence if they take five consecutive sick days.

“Typically, staff don’t have to give a reason. If somebody takes a sick day, I don’t need to know what’s going on with them,” added Rininger.

Though supported by Rininger, the Ohio Revised Code does not directly endorse teachers taking a mental health day.

Above pictures a screenshot taken from “Frontline Education,” the website teachers use when they need to call for sick or personal days. The image presents two variations of why educators may call time off. To the left displays the calendar staff must scroll through to select the date they will be taking off. The right is then two drop-down menus. The top menu contains a list of different reasons for the absence, and the bottom contains what time frame the staff member will be out, of which one of each must be selected. In the top left corner is a green button labeled, “Create Absence,” one a teacher would click on to schedule the time off. Photo provided by Randy Rininger Kline.

According to Section 3319.141 of the Ohio Revised Code, instructors “may use sick leave for absence due to personal illness, pregnancy, injury, exposure to contagious disease which could be communicated to others, and for absence due to illness, injury, or death in the employee’s immediate family.”

Due to no specific inclusion of mental health in reasons teachers may take off sick, not all of the staff feel comfortable discussing when they take mental health days.

Biomedical Engineering instructor Elissa Fusco recalled a time a few years ago when a representative from the Educational Service Center (which handles paychecks and leave for Bio-Med employees) was asked if teachers could use sick time following the death of a pet. The representative reportedly laughed at them.

In response to that event and with no clear support from the state, Fusco said, “No teacher will be honest about why they take a sick day.”

Fusco has done her best to avoid taking mental health days by breaking down the problem and creating an action plan.

“I think mental health days are something where you’ve reached a breaking point,” she explained. “You have to ask yourself, ‘How did I get to this breaking point?’ That’s where boundaries at work come in. You’re not just taking this day, that day, this day, that day. I feel like with mental health days, again, it’s something being caused by other things rather than just one pinnacle day.”

Many teachers that have worked at Bio-Med for a while, however, are open with others when they take a mental health day. One of those teachers includes freshman integrated language arts teacher Brian McDonald.

“This is the only place [I’ve worked] where I’ve actually had one of my admin suggest [mental health days] as a way to handle the stresses of grading and all this stuff going on,” McDonald recounted. “Our admin people being open to that sort of thing, I think, is important.”

Rininger said he has had no issue with staff members “abusing” sick days.

He asserted, “If you’re not feeling well, then you’re not feeling well. If you need to take a day, then take a day.”

Bio-Med Education

“Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire”: How Do Conspiracy Theories Circulate?

By Alyssa Cocchiola, editor-in-chief

NOVEMBER 2022 — Conspiracy theories have been embedded in American society for hundreds of years. Today, conspiracy theories spread rapidly through social media and other platforms along with misinformation and false narratives. Sometimes, these myths are accepted by some as “truth,” regardless of a theory’s validity.

Dr. Don John Dugas, a professor of English at Kent State University, spoke to the junior class at Bio-Med Science Academy Oct. 20 and explained how conspiracy theories gain traction.

Picture above is Dugas discussing the Shakespeare authorship theory with Bio-Med’s junior class. Photo by Alyssa Cocchiola, editor-in-chief.

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” Dugas explained. “This is a problem that we have today —  that is, you see an untruth repeated enough times, or you hear it enough times, on say a.m. radio, and you start believing it, even though it’s complete B.S. You start thinking to yourself, ‘If so many people are talking about it, there’s got to be something there.’ It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that the more people who do say, ‘Oh, there’s something there,’ the more you’re inclined to believe it. It’s a mass-mind negative event that’s connected to misdirected enthusiasm.”

“Misdirected enthusiasm” is a phrase that explains the process of humans being interested in an idea that is untrue.

According to a study conducted by Joseph Uscinski, among several other researchers, 73% of Americans believe that conspiracy theories are “out of control,” and 59% of people believe the current population is more susceptible to believing conspiracy theories compared to 25 years ago.

The Shakespeare Authorship Theory

Dugas specifically addressed a popular conspiracy theory in academia that William Shakespeare didn’t write the plays attributed to him. The theory notes that Shakespeare’s sophisticated pieces of literature could not have been written by him.

Individuals who believe this theory are known as anti-Stratfordians.

Pictured above are several of Shakespeare’s plays, along with a book by Dugas, titled “Shakespeare for Everyman.” At Bio-Med, students in the junior class and senior students who are taking ELA through Edgenuity are required to read Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Dugas talked to the junior class about the Shakespeare theory due to this literary connection to their core classes. Photo by Jenna Bates.

Anti-Stratfordians believe that Shakespeare was the “frontman” of these works, having high-class playwrights supply the story while Shakespeare’s name appears on it.

The theory first emerged almost two centuries after Shakespeare’s plays were written, though there is almost no evidence supporting it.

The first mention of this belief is as a joke in the 1894 book, “The Romance of Yachting,” by Joseph C. Hart. In this book, a poorly-educated character makes a comment that Shakespeare didn’t write his plays.

Dugas’ presentation quoted this character, adding, “Shakespeare, ‘who never saw Oxford,’ was a ‘vulgar and unlettered…factotum… whose brains were teeming with smut and overflowing with prurient obscenity.’”

Since then, the theory slowly evolved from being regarded as a joke to true in some individuals’ eyes.

Since anti-Stratfordians believe Shakespeare’s plays were written by an anonymous author, many have created their own theories on who they believe is the “real” Shakespeare.

The three most popular theories incorrectly attribute Shakespeare’s writing to Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, or Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

Each of the claimed “real” writers of Shakespeare’s plays, however, have evidence that directly contradicts the conspiracy.

The person with a substantial amount of evidence conflicting this theory is Marlowe.

“Marlowe writes plays in a distinct style quite differently from how Shakespere writes plays. He’s a famously crap writer of comedy, whereas we’ve heard that Shakespeare is good at comedy. The real problem is that [Marlowe] is the principal playwright for the main rival company to Shakespare’s. But the one that really puzzled me is that he dies 18 years before Shakespeare stops writing plays. So did he have these in his desk drawer and someone is feeding them to Shakespeare?” Dugas added.

The idea that Marlowe wrote the plays first appeared in an 1895 novel by Wilbur G. Zeigler, titled, “It Was Marlowe: A Story of a Secret of Three Centuries.” Since then, several other titles have been released claiming Marlowe wrote the books, including a 1995 “true crime book” titled “The Reckoning” by Charles Nicoll.

“Nicoll’s argument is that the government faked the death of Marlowe, so he could become a spy in the Italian court, and he is writing these plays in his spare time and entirely changing his style and mailing them back to Shakespeare,” added Dugas.

As for the other “true authors,” he explained, “Oxford [is] profoundly arrogant, and he’s one of the most prominent aristocrats in England. How do you reconcile that with him never taking credit for any of this? Secondly, Shakespeare dedicated not one, but two works to the guy he hated the most, the Earl of Southampton. He is the patron of a lessor actor company that competed with Shakespeare, and he died in 1607, which is seven years after Shakespeare stopped writing plays. Again, a big problem.”

The first mention that the Earl of Oxford might have written Shakespeare’s play wasn’t until 1920, when Thomas Looney wrote “Shakespeare.”

Dugas added, “There isn’t any evidence … [no] contemporary document, testimony of any kind from around that time. The first time someone notices a problem is in the mid-19th century. There is no piece of paper that is saying, from some contemporary, saying, ‘Hey, I think Oxford did it.’”

The Shakespeare Authorship theory gained so much traction that Westminster Abbey, an England church, put a question mark next to Marlowe’s death date in a stained glass window that commemorates homosexual authors of history.

Dugas added, “They were literally making it okay to be gay in their church by putting up that stained glass window. They were making a statement that the church of England no longer considers this to be evil or a sin and all these things, but the moment they were doing it, was in the moment that Charles Nichols book was in ascendency, so they put that freaking question mark there — the most probably dead Elizabethan playwright, Christopher Marlowe died in 1593. Full stop.” Photo obtained from the Westminster Abbey website.

Dugas attributed the traction of this theory to elitism, ignorance, America’s predilection for conspiracy theories, prudishness, and misdirected enthusiasm.

Many Anti-Stratfordians believe Shakespeare did not have a “proper” education to write his plays, but Dugas excoriated that idea

“I could not graduate from Sakespeare’s high school,” Dugas began. “His mastery of Latin and Greek had to achieve a certain standard, and there was no such thing as, ‘Oh, we’ll just give this gentlemen a C and see you through.’ It didn’t work like that.”

In the 16th and 17th centuries, grammar school consisted of Latin grammar.

“In the 19th century, people start confusing the notion of ‘What is a grammar school education?’ by their standards, not Shakespeare’s standards. They think, ‘Oh, everyone can get one. Lots of people are getting one now, and he’s a great literature genius. Therefore, is it possible that he didn’t go to a university? So they look around for more qualified people, because of course, going to a university means you can write like Shakespeare — not,” Dugas added.

Shakespeare was still a grammar school teacher after he graduated in a world where the graduation rate was around 3%.

Pictured above is Dugas presenting a slide titled “No ‘Ghost’ of Shakespeare is Found in Opened Tomb.” In 1955, a true crime novel titled “Grand Conspiracy involving Elizabethan Secret Service” was published, which notes that important documents regarding the Shakespeare authorship theory are contained in Marlowe’s tomb. The theory circulated so much that the grave was eventually opened. No such documents were found. Photo by Alyssa Cocchiola, editor-in-chief.

“Have you heard of the Beatles?” Dugas asked the juniors. “How many of them went to music school? Zero. It is possible to be a talented artist and have limited training. It’s just fact.”

Another reason for the traction of the theory was prudishness, as explained by Dugas. In Shakespeare’s plays, there are many innuendos and references that are and were deemed “inappropriate” by certain readers. There have even been several guides and “dictionaries” that aim to explain these.

“Another problem that both we and the Brits have is prudishness. Shakespeare’s plays are dirty. If you don’t know that, you’re not reading closely enough. When you’re talking about people being the greatest author of all time and they write dirty things, if you’re prudish, you want to resist that notion,” he said.

As a result, the conspiracy theory separates the dirty and sophisticated parts of his works, alleging that Shakespeare added inappropriate jokes while an upper class writer worked with Shakespeare, and sometimes the government, to provide the rest of the play.

According to Dugas, there are more than 80 books and other pieces of media that claim Shakespeare did not write his plays — and many were written for the purpose of entertainment.

“The people who write books on this stuff are fanboys of Shakespeare. They really love Shakespeare, but they’re so devoted that they want to prove that they are the best reader of Shakespeare ever, so they prove that by saying, ‘I figured out who really wrote Shakespeare. The stuff I love.’ I’ve been to academic conferences where usually they’re professional actors who say this. It’s like, ‘So you love this person, but you deny their existence?’”

With this theory, and others, Dugas noted that the American people were partly to blame for its circulation.

“Americans are very fond of conspiracy theories. We are predisposed to be positively inclined towards them. [We] always have been. Just to name a few, some of these are comically ridiculous. Some of these are horrific,” he added.

Perpetuation of Conspiracy Theories

In his presentation, Dugas displayed a list of conspiracy theories that have circulated during his lifetime. The list included the following: Holocaust denial, UFOS/Area 51, the JFK assassination, the moon landing, global warming, 9/11, Sandy Hook, pizzagate, and the 2020 Election.

Referring to this list, Dugas explained, “These are all things in my lifetime — I’m 55 years old. Recently, Sandy Hook for example, Alex Jones just got a billion dollar fine. It was a false operation, and he said those kids weren’t killed. He said this to their parents. When people spout B.S., we are sometimes inclined to believe it to scary points.”

Alex Jones is a radio show host and conspiracy theorist who used his platform to spread the untruth that the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting — the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history — did not happen on numerous occasions.

Connecticut jurors fined Jones $965 million for spreading the myth after families of the individuals who were killed in the shooting and some first responders filed a lawsuit.

In total, Jones has had three defamation lawsuits filed against him for this reason.

Fact Versus Opinion

In his presentation, Dugas addressed  the difference between a fact and an opinion, comparing this to conspiracy theories.

“A fact has evidence attached to it. Opinions are everything else, and they’re the thing that everyone else has, but a fact is a fact. That is, you can point to it, and say it exists. Evidence is something that we, whether we’re scientists or humanity scholars, take very seriously. How do we know something is true? The answer is evidence,” said Dugas.

When it comes to conspiracy theories, Dugas encouraged students to look at what portions of the “evidence” are facts versus opinions. For theories like the Shakespeare authorship theory and Jones’ comments on Sandy Hook, there are very few — if any — facts that can be found to support those claims, and therefore, one can conclude that the “evidence” surrounding them isn’t very substantial.

“This is the gold standard that we talk about when we talk about, ‘How do we know if someone wrote something 400 years ago?’” said Dugas. “We know from title pages of books, documents — legal and otherwise — or other forms such as diary entries, for example.”

Dugas concluded that, in order for someone to spread a theory, there must be truth and evidence to back it up.

“That’s how science works. I assert something, and then it is subject to investigation and inquiry and doubt,” he concluded. “They have to positively assert someone. They can’t just say, ‘No, he didn’t, because I believe.’”

Arts & Culture Education

True Crime Comes to Bio-Med: James Renner Speaks to Juniors

by Logan Cook, staff writer

NOVEMBER 2022 — James Renner, a journalist and true crime author, visited Bio-Med Science Academy’s 11th-grade class Oct. 14. Renner has authored seven published books, four of which are nonfiction and based on real events. According to his website, he is best known for his journalistic work on true crime.

Renner was invited to Bio-Med by 11th grade English Language Arts teacher and Newspaper instructor Jenna Bates. Bates worked with Renner’s wife and met Renner through her almost 20 years ago. Bates, a former journalist, shared that the two have bonded over journalism when they first met.

Pictured is Renner speaking to Bio-Med Juniors in the school’s common area. Renner spoke on his experiences writing books and articles, and took questions from students. Photo provided by Jenna Bates.

Bates explained why she asked Renner to come to speak to Bio-Med juniors: “In my junior English class, we were reading ‘Medea,’ and part of the end of the unit was to study female family annihilators. It became very clear to me that a lot of students were really into true crime. The more I thought about it, I thought, ‘I know a guy who is very involved with true crime, and maybe [he] would be good to bring in.’”

After an introduction to the juniors from Bates, Renner said, “I ended up as a journalist. That wasn’t the plan.”

Renner’s initial career plan was to become an English teacher. While majoring in English at Kent State University (KSU), Renner found being a teacher would be too much responsibility.

Renner was a member of the KSU student newspaper, The Stater, and considered switching his major to journalism. However, he was too far along in his English major to make the change.

Post-graduation, Renner became a waiter at a bar in Cleveland called Rock Bottom. Renner joked it was an appropriate name, as that was where he felt at the time. During his breaks at Rock Bottom, he would read a newspaper called Cleveland Scene. The editor of Cleveland Scene accepted submissions from the general public, and Renner began submitting articles while he worked at the bar.

Through these submissions, Renner published his first piece of investigative journalism: an article revealing where the creator of Calvin and Hobbs, Bill Watterserson, resided and why he had hid from the public eye.

“It turns out he lived right around the corner from my editor. My editor’s the one that got to track him down. It was Halloween. He dressed up as Hobbs the tiger, and his son, who was like six or seven at the time, dressed up as Calvin. They went and knocked on his door and Watterson just kind of chuckled,” said Renner.

“He’s definitely really interesting to hear talk. I’ve never read a book that is from the perspective of a journalist; it’s usually from the perspective of a family member or a friend or the police investigating. So it’s very interesting to read his perspective of it all, and to hear about his process.”

Morgan Whiteman, a Bio-Med junior.

Renner then described the beginning of his true crime coverage, first speaking about the Amy Mihaljevic abduction and murder case. Renner was 11 years old at the time of the abduction — the same age as Mihaljevic. He “fell in love” with Mihaljevic when her photo was displayed in missing ads.

“At 11 [years old], I would get on my Huffy two speed bike, and I’d ride to Westgate Mall, which is where I figured that was where the most people [would be],” reminisced Renner. “I would sit outside [the book store], and I’d scan the crowds as they walked by looking for either Amy or her abductor… If I saw somebody that looked similar [to the police composite picture], I would follow him out to his car.”

Twenty years later, Renner, reconnecting with his past, pitched an article that would recover the Mihaljevic case to his editor. Renner’s goal was to find who the top suspect in the case was. The editor approved his article, and Renner met with the lead detective on the case.

“I quickly learned why the case had never been solved, which is [that] there [were] too many men with the means and motive to commit the crime,” said Renner.

Renner began working on an article regarding the Mihaljevic cas, but realized that there was too much information for a single article and decided to author a book instead. Through a regional northeast Ohio publisher, Greg David, Renner published the book “Amy: My Search for her Killer” in 2006.

After writing “Amy: My Search for her Killer” and “The Serial Killer’s Apprentice,” a book detailing 13 other unsolved crimes Renner looked into while researching the Mihaljevic case, Renner took a break from publishing true crime nonfiction books. He published a book detailing tales of monsters, aliens, and secret societies in Ohio, along with a duo of novels before publishing his next true crime work.

Renner exited his true crime writing hiatus when the true crime genre became widely popular in the mid-2010s.

“Suddenly this podcast, ‘Serial,’ comes out and true crime becomes hugely [popular]… Since I had a couple books out and true crime started becoming this big thing, and [Amy: My Search for her Killer] started selling again, it sold more than ever,” said Renner. “So I had the thought that I wanted to write another true crime book, but I wanted to focus on a national case, you know, bigger than the Amy case.”

Pictured are two of Renner’s true crime novels. On the left is “True Crime Addict” which details Renner’s experience investigating the case of Moira Murray. On the right is “Amy,” Renner’s first true crime novel which detailed his findings of the Amy Mihaljevic case. Photo by Logan Cook, staff writer

Renner was watching a 20/20 TV Special when he found the inspiration for his next true crime book: the disappearance of Maura Murray.

“It was a Monday afternoon. [Murray] emailed her professors that there’s been a death in [her] family. That was a lie. No death in the family. She went to the ATM [and] took all the money out of her bank account. She was 22, bought way too much booze for one person, bought wine, a handful of vodka,” explained Renner. “She gets into her car, drives north into the White Mountains of New Hampshire, about 7:30 that night, she [makes] a 90-degree turn and crashes into a snowbank… Between the time she crashed and the time the police showed up, she had disappeared.”

To describe the flow of the book “True Crime Addict,” Renner said, “It’s nonfiction written as if it’s fiction, and reads like it, even though everything’s true.”

Renner then discussed how he revealed details of his own personal life during the writing process in the book. He described this as an attempt to make himself vulnerable in a book where he was revealing extremely personal details about Murray.

Students were then permitted to ask questions of Renner. He received questions about the process of turning books into visual media, journalism, where to purchase his books, his favorite part of the writing process, and how he met Bates.

Finishing his talk, Renner said, “I wish you [all] luck in your career and whatever you decide to do next, and that it’s easy to find.”

Renner walked off to applause from the 11th-grade students and thanked Bates for inviting him. He left copies of two of his true crime books with Bates for students to borrow.

Bio-Med junior and self-proclaimed true crime enthusiast Morgan Whiteman borrowed “True Crime Addict” from Bates and read it in three days.

Whiteman said, “He’s definitely really interesting to hear talk. I’ve never read a book that is from the perspective of a journalist; it’s usually from the perspective of a family member or a friend or the police investigating. So it’s very interesting to read his perspective of it all, and to hear about his process.”

For further information on or to contact Renner, students can visit JamesRenner.com.

Bio-Med Education

Bio-Med’s Board Meeting of the 2022-2023 School Year

By Ken Burchett, associate editor

NOVEMBER 2022 — Bio-Med Science Academy’s Governing Authority held a board meeting Oct. 18. The meeting covered a wide variety of topics, such as graduation seals, expansion of the lower grades, and instituting breathalyzer usage at school dances.

At Bio-Med, juniors pick a “journey pathway” to define the focus of their education. They allow students to take certain electives their senior year and define how a student will pursue their Senior Apex. Senior Apex is the internship, independent study, or research paper that all Bio-Med seniors must complete before graduating. There are six pathways: technology, agriculture & environmental systems, STEM, education, engineering, and health. Photo by Ken Burchett, associate editor.

Juniors are celebrating the declaration of their journey pathways Nov. 10, and each student will receive a T-shirt with the pathway they choose. The symbols on the shirts will match the banners near the school’s slide. Charmayne Polen, the chief operating officer and principal for grades 10-12, hopes the banners will inspire younger students to look forward to their future at Bio-Med.

In addition to announcing information about the pathways, the Governing Authority officially defined the Community Service graduation seal. To earn this, students may earn 120 unpaid hours of volunteer service from the first day of ninth grade to the spring deadline of their senior year. This is different from the deadline required for Bio-Med’s 60-hour graduation requirement, which begins July 1 before the student starts ninth grade.

The board also hired two new paraprofessionals at the Shalersville campus, as well as a new health pathway instructor at the Rootstown Campus.

Overnight Field Trips

The eighth and ninth-graders went on a trip to Washington D.C. and Gettysburg, Oct. 19-21. This is the first class-wide overnight trip since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Only around half the ninth grade class and 25-30 eighth graders did not attend this trip. Randy Rininger, the chief operating officer for grades seven through nine, created a virtual version of the trip for these students. The rest of the students were given the opportunity to integrate the trip with the content learned in their classes, courtesy of Vincent Paolucci, the eighth-grade social studies instructor.

Rininger noted that this trip was a great opportunity for the ninth-grade teachers to connect with their future students.

Another trip is in the works, as Bio-Med has secured a grant for six students to travel with Dr. Lisa Cooper, associate professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology, and Dr. Hans Thewissen,  professor and chair of the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, to Sitka, Alaska for four to five days, beginning in November 2023. The trip will take place during whale-watching season, and students will collaborate with native Alaskan students to observe and present about the concepts learned.

Thewissen interviewed students interested in the trip, and those who were chosen to attend were notified Oct. 27. Students attending the trip will need to take an accelerated term course with Heidi Hisrich, the ninth-grade science instructor and chaperone for the trip.

Accelerated term is the period between Thanksgiving break and winter break where students take various extracurriculars instead of their usual coursework.

Pictured from left to right are Jaidyn Crum, Owen Lucarelli, and Caroline Markulis posing by a restored Civil War cannon in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Photo by Ben Lang, staff writer.

The Guatemala trip has also been canceled this year due to low participation, though they plan to continue to offer the trip in future years.

House Bill 123

House Bill 123, the “Safety and Violence Education (SAVE) Students Act,” went into effect March 24, 2021, and the Governing Authority is making plans to change when students receive instruction, and what instruction they receive.

The SAVE Students Act requires schools with grades six through 12 to give “at least one hour or one standard class period per school year of evidence-based suicide awareness and prevention and at least one hour or one standard class period per school year of safety training and violence prevention.”

Students may be excused from this training by request of the parent.

Lindsey McLaughlin, the assistant chief administrative officer, said this bill gives schools more responsibility for the welfare of their students, though many schools may struggle with the people-power required for this.

Instruction most likely will be moved to lower grades, as students are being exposed to more concepts at an early age due to the internet. Officer Terri Moncoveish, a Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) police officer, offered to assist with the programs at the Rootstown campus, and would also assist with the Ravenna campus if the Ravenna Police Department declines Bio-Med’s request.

Possible Expansion of Lower Grades

Stephanie Lammlein, Chief Administrative Officer and superintendent, has created a three-year plan to expand the Shalersville campus’ kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and third grade’s class sizes.

Currently, kindergarten allows 25 students to enroll, first grade allows 50 students, third grade allows 75 students, and grades 4-12 allow a full class of 100 students. The final goal is for each grade to allow 100 students.

The first year, fourth-graders would be moved from the Shalersville campus to the Ravenna Campus, making room for younger grades to expand by 25 students each. The Ravenna campus would then have trailer classrooms installed to accommodate the fourth-grade students.

After two years, K-3 would expand again to accommodate the full class size of 100 students.

The Shalersville campus may also have an addition built, estimated at $1.5 million. If Bio-Med is unable to afford this, then the kindergarten class will only expand to 50 students.

This expansion would require the school to hire four new teachers, a new intervention specialist, and a paraprofessional. By the end of the third year, there would be six new teachers, an additional two paraprofessionals, and a second dean of students to specifically handle kindergarten through sixth grade. If administration is unable to hire these staff, Lammlein advised that they not go through with the project.

The trailers will cost roughly $40,000 per trailer, and each trailer will have two classrooms. They plan to discuss the benefits of leasing these trailers versus taking out a loan and buying them.

The trailers’ floors and walls will be customizable to fit Bio-Med’s aesthetic.

The Governing Authority has yet to make any official decisions regarding this expansion, but Lammlein will continue to research information about financial logistics.

Breathalyzers at School Dances

Student Council’s advisors requested the Governing Authority to recommend the use of breathalyzers at high school dances. They pushed the official decision to December to allow further discussion of logistics.

If Bio-Med goes through with this plan, the NEOMED police would most likely assist with this endeavor. They would also warn students of the breathalyzers in advance.

“It’s not about ‘I gotcha.’ It’s about safe choices,” Lammlein explained.

If a student is caught with significant blood alcohol content, they would be subject to both legal consequences and discipline following Bio-Med’s Code of Conduct. The Governing Authority discussed possibly utilizing a diversion program partnership with Townhall II, where students would take a class in lieu of suspension, though there is nothing the school can do about criminal charges.

Several board members were concerned about students not having the resources to understand the consequences of underage drinking, and therefore not being able to properly assess the risk. Bio-Med would likely bring in outside programming to discuss these risks with students before the dances.

They also noted that police would be looking for signs and symptoms of other types of intoxication that would not show up on a breathalyzer, such as being high on marijuana.

The first dance affected by this change would be this year’s prom.

Future Meetings

The next official Governing Authority meeting will take place Dec. 13. In the meantime, the members will be splitting into executive committees to tackle various issues in smaller task forces. All students are welcome to attend official meetings.

Bio-Med Education General Interest

The Importance of Scholarships and How to Find Them

by Camryn Myrla, staff writer

NOVEMBER 2022 — As seniors begin submitting applications to colleges for next year, many are also hoping to be considered for scholarships to ease the burden of paying for post-secondary education.

A scholarship is a form of financial assistance that students do not have to pay back. They can be offered by private companies, universities, or individuals. Depending on the scholarship, students are considered based on different criteria, such as academic achievement or extracurricular activities.

Users earn what Bold.org calls “Bold Points” by completing tasks and entering scholarships. The website claims that “each 100 Bold Points you earn make you 30% more likely to win scholarships.” Photo by Camryn Myrla, staff writer.

In past years, a class during Bio-Med’s Accelerated Term was offered that involved students from all grades researching and applying for scholarships. This was discontinued after the 2019-2020 school year.

Since the 2021-2022 school year,  juniors have taken a College, Career, and Civics class. Morgan Brunner, the teacher of this course, plans to teach her current students about scholarships later into the school year.

Many students at Bio-Med have done independent research to find websites providing scholarships.

Mady Kohout, a 12th-grade student, uses RaiseMe, a website on which participating colleges offer what the organization calls “micro-scholarships.”

According to RaiseMe, a micro-scholarship is “an amount of money that students are eligible to earn based on individual achievements throughout ninth-12th grade, community college, or college (for college students looking to transfer to another four-year institution.”

Universities that partner with RaiseMe create their own micro-scholarship program where eligible students can earn a certain amount of institutional aid. For example, The College of Wooster offers $1,000 for every A in a high school core class, and $400 to students who are in the National Honor Society.

Kohout estimated that the largest amount of aid offered to her by a university through RaiseMe was $35,000 over four years.

“If I applied, got into, and enrolled in that college, $35,000 would be the minimum amount of aid [the college gives] me. It doesn’t include financial aid, or other [merit-based] scholarships,” Kohout explained.

Another popular platform for students searching for scholarships is Bold.org. This website provides applications to scholarships that oftentimes require no essay to enter.

Though it is more common for seniors to apply for scholarships, there are many scholarships available for younger students to apply for. For instance, Irenne Scherer, a junior, uses Bold.org.

“It’s really convenient to see all the different scholarships based on the career I want to go into, which is chemical engineering. I like feeling up to date and being able to apply for new scholarships,” Scherer explained.

Bio-Med alumni have also benefited from scholarships.

Alumnus Daniel Zalamea, from Bio-Med’s class of 2022, received a full-ride scholarship from Kent State University (KSU), meaning he does not pay for the school’s tuition or room and board.

Zalamea is a recipient of the Jeffrey Glenn Miller May 4 Memorial Honors Scholarship, which is specific to KSU. He estimated that, if he were to use all of the funds available to him, the worth of the scholarship would total $98,000 over four years.

“I got the award by applying to the [KSU] Honors College and being chosen by the Coordinator of Honors Scholarships, as well as the Honors College Dean, for my exceptional work in high school, my diverse list of extracurriculars and leadership opportunities, as well as my essays to apply,” Zalamea explained. “Another part of the reason I was given the award is that I plan to get a Master’s [degree] and Ph.D. after my [Bachelor’s degree].”

Taylor Coates, an alumna from the class of 2022 is currently enrolled at The Ohio State University (OSU), where she receives around $30,400 in scholarships annually.

“I didn’t do anything extra for the scholarship from OSU. I just ensured they had my FAFSA as soon as possible,” Coates said, referring to The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which any prospective or current college student can fill out to determine eligibility for financial aid.

“I haven’t had to pay for anything out-of-pocket yet, including textbooks, fees, and club fees. Scholarships have been really helpful,” Coates concluded.

Students who wish to learn more about scholarship opportunities can visit the website of Bio-Med Science Academy’s Counselor’s Corner.

Bio-Med Education

A Spectrum of Differences: the Life of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

By Mallory Butcher, associate editor

OCTOBER 2022 — Autism Spectrum Disorder (A.S.D.) is a disability that affects the lives of over a million students in the United States alone, including those at Bio-Med Science Academy. A.S.D. alters neurological and developmental functions. These alterations result in challenges with social interaction and behavior. 

“As a child, the most common signs of A.S.D. are developmental delays: lack of eye contact, no response to their name being called, speech delay, and repetitive movements or sounds,” explained the administrative assistant for the Autism Society of Greater Akron, Lydia Oravetz, in an interview.

The graphic above displays some of the common signs of A.S.D. Photo obtained from the Neurological and Physical Abilitation (N.A.P.A.) Centre website.

The beginnings and symptoms of A.S.D. may change drastically from person-to-person. One Bio-Med student, whose identity is being protected due to privacy concerns related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), recounted being diagnosed with A.S.D. as a toddler.

“I had trouble saying words. At that time, my parents essentially didn’t know what was going on, so they just took me to the hospital, and I was diagnosed there,” the student said.

Although symptoms may start in one manner, they can change over time as those with A.S.D. develop into adults. New symptoms appearing with age could result in different challenges to overcome.

The student said that the major obstacle they currently face is dealing with their emotions. They admitted, “I break down really easily…. I’ve [also] been having trouble making critical decisions. If they are urgent, I can try, but I’m often not really good at that.”

Additionally, A.S.D. may become most obvious during social interactions.

Oravetz said, “Adolescents living with A.S.D. may struggle to develop friendships due to difficulty with understanding social cues. Having two-sided conversations may be difficult to maintain, if at all.”

Symptoms may not be the only thing to change with time; environments people find themselves in shift. Many students with A.S.D. who transferred to Bio-Med experienced this shift, and the administrative staff has attempted to make the transition as easy for them as possible through cooperation with school counselors and intervention specialists in addition to adjusted work schedules.

“[Bio-Med] is obviously a much better experience. The teachers here are quite nice, and they are adaptive,” the student expressed.

The student has, however, encountered problems within the school environment that the administration has been working to combat, such as issues with collaboration.

Chynna Hale, the student services coordinator and intervention specialist at Bio-Med, explained, “One of the biggest things we have is collaboration…. Sometimes, our students with autism have a hard time with that collaboration piece, because they struggle with expressing themselves to their peers or to other people.”

Communication isn’t the only thing Bio-Med students with A.S.D. worry about; Hale also noticed them having trouble controlling their feelings in stressful school environments.

Above is the set of the board game played at the Ravenna campus, “What Do You Say… What Do You Do… At School?” The intervention specialist will guide the students through the game, discussing scenarios written on each card. Teaching students with A.S.D. how to react in different social situations helps develop their communication skills from a young age. Photo provided by Chynna Hale, Bio-Med student services coordinator and intervention specialist.

“We have all these emotions inside of us. It builds up and builds up. Then, we react,” Hale explained. “It might look like screaming out or, when you get upset or angry, the first thing that comes to your mind [is] that you want to … flip a table, kick a chair, or something. How can we deal with that frustration in an appropriate way where we’re not gonna maybe put somebody else in danger or ourselves in danger?”

To counter these problems, Hale explained, “We work a lot with [autistic students to help them develop] coping skills. Maybe when you’re getting upset or frustrated, maybe we take a minute and count down from five, or we take a walk to let off some steam, do some kind of physical activity…. There’s other coping strategies, of course, but working on those coping strategies to help manage those emotions that we all have. Some of us are naturally wired to have those coping strategies, but some people aren’t, so they need to be taught that.”

With Bio-Med’s expansion and more information about A.S.D. discovered, the school developed new methods to help students adapt. The Ravenna campus, serving students from second to third grade, allows many students with A.S.D. to participate in activities, such as playing a board game designed to teach them how to react in various situations they may encounter.

Despite growing knowledge in and outside of school, those with A.S.D. have faced dozens of misconceptions from the general public.

Oravetz recounted, “Because social skill development is difficult for individuals with autism, many people believe that they don’t want to have friends. [It’s] quite the opposite. People with autism want to make friends, just like their neurotypical peers; they just don’t know how to go about it.”

The student reinforced Oravetz’s observations, saying, “I am very social, but only with a select few.”

They later described, “I have adapted really easily to [A.S.D.]. I became the [person] you know now: very talkative, even very passionate about politics.”

No matter how minor, misconceptions held towards people with A.S.D. can affect those in need. The improving and expanding treatment of A.S.D. has, according to Oravetz, not caught up to the needs of major portions of the community.

“Autistic people are often subject to stigma and discrimination, including unjust lack of health care, education, and opportunities to engage and participate in their communities. The abilities of people with autism vary along a whole spectrum — from high-functioning to profound impairment — so it is almost impossible to make across-the-board assumptions about anyone with an autism diagnosis,” Oravetz concluded.

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