?

by Karma Henderson

Alone but in a room full of people

Silent but surrounded by noise 

Full but so empty

Hot but so cold 

Most people wonder 

What drives depression

But nobody really knows 

Nor understands where 

It comes from 

Or how it 

KILLS my motivation 

And 

STRANGLES my process 

And

SILENCES my voice 

And 

REPLACES my voice with its own

And

YANKS my hand when I go to raise it

NOBODY sees how hard I fight

Because I’m okay

I force a smile almost every day

Hoping it would slowly fade away

Self-medicating just to be okay

Some days it does ease the pain

But it will never fully go away

I wonder what caused too much pain

Cus’ I ain’t lose nun’ in vain

So these feelings are kinda strange

I’on know where they came

Cus’ I got everything I need to my name

So I was just hoping they would go away

So I can live my life day to day

And REALLY be okay

Instead of just sayin’ I’m okay

But still feeling so much pain.

Art by Karma Henderson

Karma Henderson is 16 years old. She hopes one day to be a radiologist. Her interests are photography and helping others.

Giving Voice Student Showcase

“Heyo, my name is Aryanne (Ary) Westfall, and I’m a 21-year-old tattoo apprentice at Sin in Skin Ink! I love art in all its forms. Because of that, I create in a variety of mediums. Digital art, acrylic painting, murals, tattooing, crocheting, and comic work are some of my biggest passions. I’m absolutely enthralled with all the possibilities the art world has to offer. Not a day goes by where I’m not sketching away or studying up on a new skill. Giving Voice gives me yet another outlet to express myself with the freedom of creativity while also preparing young artists to take on professional level clientele.”

Football

by Izaak Garcia 

The start of the fall semester is in full swing across the country, with all levels of students going back to classrooms to fill their minds with knowledge and educate themselves about the world around them. Classroom numbers, textbooks, notebooks, backpacks, and everything in between are on the minds of every student and parent as the year starts. Clubs are starting up again, college applications are being completed and submitted, and on top of all that, extracurricular activities. Regardless of what age you are or what grade you are currently in, there is no denying that there is one thing that makes its presence known during the fall: football.

Whether you absolutely love football or despise it to its very core, there is something fairly unique about its popularity. Standing under the giant lights that illuminate your high school’s football field, watching as the ball gets launched into the air towards the receiver running towards the touchdown, and screaming your head off when they score, what could be better? You have to admit, it does sound a little fun. But, that isn’t everything football has to offer. For the people watching and playing, it’s a break from the hustle and bustle of school and academics. It’s a way for everyone to relieve stress, and enjoy something that they love, or to try something that they may not know they like. And for some, it’s the opportunity to play at the next level.

If you think high school football is big, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the titan that is college football. Just imagine, instead of a hundred people watching a game, it could be a hundred thousand, cheering, yelling, and screaming all at once. But you don’t have to imagine these things. Take the University of Michigan, for example. Their stadium, called the Big House, can seat 107,000 people, with room to spare! Or Beaver Stadium, out on the east coast, home to Penn State University. Their stadium regularly holds over 100,000 people, and when you look across the stands, it is a sea of white and blue. But if the cold and snow don’t appeal to you that much, take a trip out to California and visit the Rose Bowl Stadium, where the UCLA Bruins play football. You could also go to the University of Southern California, and watch the Trojans play in the historic LA Coliseum. It may not hold 100,000 people, but the pride for the school makes up for it tenfold. And it’s also better than UCLA (alright I may be a bit biased since I go there).

The point I am trying to make is that football isn’t just another activity. It’s a way for everyone to bond with each other, whether you watch or compete. It unites entire schools in a competitive spirit that is healthy and fun, and allows you to make memories that very well could last a lifetime.

About Izaak Garcia

Izaak Garcia is currently a freshman at the University of Southern California, majoring in Cinema and Media Studies with a minor in Applied Cybersecurity. He has played soccer with FC Peoria, Dunlap, and Richwoods for over a decade combined. Garcia has also played tennis for 4 years, securing a spot on both junior varsity and varsity teams. Along with this, he has competed with the Richwoods Worldwide Youth Science and Engineering team for Biology and English for 2 years and earned multiple awards for the school. Garcia is also heavily involved with the arts. As a multi-instrumentalist, he has played the saxophone for 8 years and piano for 2 years. During his junior year of high school, he was involved in theater at Richwoods as stage crew and manager. He helped with two productions and was being trained to be stage manager for senior year before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted school. Outside of school activities, Garcia is involved in Jack and Jill of America (an organization for young African American men and women to serve the community). He served as his chapter’s treasurer during his freshman year of high school. Along with Jack and Jill of America, he enjoys coding, learning new languages, and playing video games.

Art by Ellie Kraemer

Ellie Kraemer is a sophomore and an animation major at Bradley University who lives and breathes her artwork. Becoming a professional artist and animator has been a goal of hers for many years, as various works of digital art and experience have held a pivotal role in her life. Intrigued by the diverse storytelling prowess of interactive media, she aims to get involved in the productions of visuals for video games and animated series after graduation. You can find more of her work at ekraemer.myportfolio.com. 

A Field You Barely Knew Existed

by Anjali Yedavalli

I truthfully have no recollection of the time I first learned the term “bioethics.” It might have been in passing at a biotechnology camp I attended in high school, or maybe it was shortly before I took an Intro to Medical Ethics course in college, but the second I found out what it was, I was intrigued. Mostly because even as the term was said aloud, it wasn’t really clear to me what it was. A philosopher will say it’s one thing, a geneticist another, and a doctor? They will either give you a long-winded explanation or straight up tell you that they have no idea what it means. For a field so consequential to the public’s well-being, it’s fascinating that there is no streamlined answer to the question, “What is bioethics?”

To describe its characteristics, bioethics is an interdisciplinary field that rests on the intersection between moral reasoning, medicine, biology, and public health. Questions about who should receive access to care if access is limited, using genetics for criminology purposes, genetic testing in children, or patient transparency dilemmas involved in biobanking are just a few examples of the problems bioethics aims to address. If those ideas made no sense to you, don’t worry—they made no sense to me either, until I was on-site at one of the many birthplaces of bioethics as a field.

In 1951, a young Black woman named Henrietta Lacks arrived at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in hopes of receiving treatment related to a tumor she had discovered on her own body. Hopkins was one of the few hospitals in the nation that treated Black patients at the time, though they were treated in separate wings and had vastly different medical experiences than their white counterparts. Lacks herself was shortly diagnosed with cervical cancer. What she did not know, however, was that a sample of her tissue was taken for experimentation, and later, scientists discovered her cells had the incredible ability to continue dividing. This type of cell line called an immortal cell line is invaluable in the field of medicine. Henrietta Lacks’ cells, dubbed HeLa cells, have been used to develop an indescribable amount of medical advancements.

Now, that sounds great and all, but there’s definitely a problem with all of this—namely that Lacks was not asked for her consent to give her tissue for research, and that because of the deidentification process, nobody, including her family, had any idea that her cells were being used for generations to come. As you can imagine, since her story has come out, her family and Johns Hopkins University have had a complicated relationship—but out of this sprouted a sapling in the field of bioethics that was the emphasis on prioritizing patient transparency, consent, and research ethics. Now, bioethics boards and committees around the country have established ground rules and regulations. Scientists may take the process of practicing science for granted, and bioethics acts as the brakes to the bike—slowing down scientists before they crash and burn, or, in other words, potentially violate the well-being of an individual or population of people.

Of course, that’s not all bioethics has to offer. Have you ever thought about the consequences of the use of public genetic data to track down criminals? This practice, called investigative genetic genealogy, was used in finding the Golden State Killer, but it potentially violates the privacy of his relatives. What about chimeras? If research is being done on morphing parts of animals with humans, how do we determine the moral agency of these new human-animal hybrids? Don’t we already have enough trouble upholding and protecting moral agency amongst humans in general? Bioethicists will always have questions to answer, and oftentimes, it’s a matter of finding the best answer for now, because, as you can imagine, there never is a perfect answer. 

This summer, I had the remarkable opportunity to conduct bioethics research at Johns Hopkins University through the Genomics and Society Mentorship Program. I met incredible people who have pushed me to think critically within the field of bioethics. Now, as the program and my summer come to a close, I look at my community in Peoria and Champaign and wonder how the future scientists, lawyers, health care providers, and public health practitioners around me could benefit from a little bioethics knowledge in their work. As it turns out, we could all learn a lot from this field we barely knew existed. 

About Anjali Yedavalli

Anjali Yedavalli is a senior at Dunlap High School. Aside from taking academically rigorous classes, Anjali is involved in Speech Team (IHSA State qualifier in 2020), Student Council, UNICEF Club, the school plays, Jazz Choir, and is the Madrigal Queen of Dunlap’s Madrigal choir. Anjali’s main goal in the community is spreading passion for both academics and creativity. She has organized and led multiple public speaking workshops for middle school students and volunteered her time at North South Foundation, an organization dedicated to funding underprivileged children in India. In addition, she has joined and contributed to the Dunlap Young Musicians, a student-created music group that performs at senior homes on the holidays. She is also active in her Sunday School (Chinmaya Mission) and has helped write promotional songs and plays to help fundraise for the school. Last but not least, Anjali is a classically trained Bharatanatyam dancer of Mythili Dance Academy and has contributed to shows that have raised over $500k for a variety of charities.

About Sophie Liu 

Sophie Liu is a senior at Dunlap High School who has won numerous art prizes such as the Scholastic Art and Writing Gold Key Award and several honorable mentions. As someone who also values academics, business, and volunteering, she has participated in and led many activities in her community. Her volunteering contribution has awarded her the Gold President’s Volunteer Service Award. She is one of the club leaders of her school’s Interact Volunteering Club. During her summers, Liu has participated in several business camps such as Kelley Business’s Young Women’s Institute, where she has gained knowledge and experience in her passion. She also runs her own online art business where she creates commissioned art pieces and gains firsthand business experience. Liu plans to continue her love of business, volunteering, and art in college, where she will major in either Marketing or Business Analytics and minor in art.

A Different School Schedule This Year

by Ayannah Garcia

Scheduling is very important when starting a new school year, especially when considering changes in classes, pickup and drop off times, extracurricular activities, and more. These are some of the challenges that could come from the newly revised Peoria Public Schools District 150 (PSD150) academic schedule for 2022-23. The new schedule includes a shorter summer, where school starts on August 3 instead of August 15, but longer fall and spring breaks. Usually, summer would be around 99 days but now it will be around 60 days. Those extra days add to the 3-day fall break to be a break of October 10 to October 21 and adds another week to spring break to be a break from March 27 to April 10. With that in place, there are some mixed opinions, with some people who support the new schedule changes and others who do not. 

Those who support the change seem to like the 2 weeks of fall and spring break, and the mental breather that comes with it, in addition to more vacation and laying around during the school year. Those on the other side, however, argue that the new schedule presents various challenges, such as earlier ends to summer vacations, fun, and other jobs or internships that high school kids might have.

Some students and families have the view that the breaks would be a beneficial aspect heading to a stressful school year. Utilizing the two-week breaks would provide a chance to go on vacations missed out on during summer, and just have free time to catch up on sleep and other homework. With school starting earlier, parents have had a difficult time trying to change their work schedule to pick up their high school kids who can’t drive themselves to and from school. Scheduling is very difficult for a parent to work out, and the school board didn’t make it any easier by voting on it with minimal time—voting happened in April—for parents to change their own work schedules.

I like the schedule and look forward to it, but I can see where people, myself included, are upset. This past summer, I was very busy and had barely any time off, but if we started school later, I would’ve been able to spend a lot more time with family and friends. It would have felt more like summer instead of continued “school” without the learning part, but I feel like the two-week break would have been a relaxing hiatus to refuel in the middle of the year. Instead of PSD150 having this shortened schedule start this year and rushing everyone, I strongly feel that the School Board of Education should have waited until the next school year when they voted in April. That way the school board would have allowed time for parents to make plans for their children and the board could make any necessary pre-planning before diving into this head-on. In all, there are notable differences between the previous schedule and the new one, and whether they are viewed positively or negatively depends on personal perspective.

About Ayannah Garcia

Ayannah Garcia is a freshman attending Richwoods High School, where she takes part in the Pre-IB program, the Royalettes dance team, and the drama club. Outside of school, she loves to dance, read, journal, travel with family, and play with her dog. In addition to these activities, she is currently a member of the Finale Group of the Greater Peoria Illinois Chapter of Jack and Jill, an organization for young African American individuals who want to serve the community, and a member of her church’s youth group.

Art by Qaasaani Little

Qaasaani Little is a freshman at Richwoods High School. Little is a member of Student Leadership Team and Student Council. She has loved art for as long as she can remember, including painting and drawing. Little’s artwork is for sale. She also loves animals, after school activities, and is inspired by her mom for always pushing her to do my best. 

My Experience with Benjamin Nicks Jr. 

by Sincere Williams

In early 2022, Bradley graduate Amanda Riggenbach reached out asking if she could interview me for a project that she was managing at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield called “Tumultuous 2020,” an oral history project. The purpose of the project was to capture the diverse experiences of people’s lives and, more specifically, their navigation through 2020 and what life has been like from that point. After successfully interviewing me, Amanda gave me the opportunity to conduct an interview myself. 

I interviewed activist and pastor Benjamin Nicks Jr. for this project. Like me, it was Benjamin’s first time participating in oral history, so it was a learning experience for us both. During our sessions, Benjamin shared fascinating stories about growing up, and it was interesting to learn how he, as a pastor and husband, managed his church and personal life when the pandemic hit in 2020.

Benjamin grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, and formed a connection with God early in life while frequently attending church. After receiving his diploma from Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, Benjamin enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1989 at 18 years old. Traveling the world, forming a life-long bond with a friend, and disciplined by supervisors due to his young, arrogant nature, Benjamin returned from the Navy in ‘98 to raise his son. He was then trained in ministry and preached his first sermon in Iowa. Years later, Benjamin pursued higher education, receiving his associate’s degree from Des Moines Area Community College and bachelor’s  degree from Walden University. He completed his master’s in public administration, also from Walden. After being politically, socially, and spiritually active in his hometown and surrounding areas, Benjamin came to Peoria to continue his practices, now preaching ministry at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church. His navigation through the pandemic was a challenge, but bearable:  safety measures were taken; events were canceled yet rescheduled; a quick COVID recovery; and small opportunities to continue life as normally as possible. Benjamin’s time in the Navy allowed him to adapt to change easily, and he realizes that as COVID enters the endemic stage,  it will be a part of all our lives moving forward. Turning 50 last summer, he has a plan to live the second half of his life being more action-oriented. 

Benjamin and I are grateful for the experience this project has given us. And we’re thankful to Amanda and Giving Voice for the leadership and guidance.

Learn more about about the project by clicking here.

About Sincere Williams

Sincere Williams is a community organizer and event planner with a focus on social justice. He double majors in political science and public relations, but during his current break from school, focuses heavily on his work in the community: HIV prevention work; prison reform; LGBTQ+ healthcare equity; racial justice; foster care awareness and equity; etc. Sincere has taken a break from his other passion, theatre, in the midst of his organizing, but is slowly getting back to his roots and the stage. He hopes to pursue all that he loves.

About Faith Marie

Faith Marie is a homeschooled 18 year old freshman at Ashworth College. She enjoys nature, rainy days, and her pet dog and snails. She has an abundance of love for Jesus and people of all kinds. The idea of creating art that has never existed before inspires her. You can find her on Instagram at @faithmariedraws or on tiktok at @_faitha.

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