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Student Spotlight: Sarah Rosenberg

OHS junior serves as a page for local senator – Part 1

By Shailey Klein

Oak Hall junior Sarah Rosenberg participated in the Senate Page Program for the first semester of this school year. This program is a way for high school students to have a hands-on experience working for the United States Senate. As a page, Rosenberg was responsible for running notes back and forth between Senators and attending to all of her assigned Senators’ needs. 

The Senate Page Program is not a well-known program and there is very little a person can find about it online…it’s all about who you know. When Florida Sen. Rick Scott was sworn into office on Jan. 8, 2019, Rosenberg’s father, Dr. Jason Rosenberg, traveled to Washington D.C. and saw all of the pages working on the Senate floor. This prompted research to find out more about the program, resulting in Sarah’s application to be a page beginning in the fall of 2019. To apply to be a page, the applicant reaches out to one particular senator, usually a local senator. With Dr. Rosenberg’s connection to Sen. Scott, she applied to be his page, which included letters of recommendation, essays, and an interview with Sen. Scott’s staff. After acceptance into the program, Rosenberg moved to D.C. at the beginning of September and began working as a Senate page.

Senator Rick Scott and OHS junior Sarah Rosenberg

As opposed to the comforts of Oak Hall, Rosenberg, along with 29 of her page peers, began this school year in D.C. Every day consisted of a 5 a.m. wake-up call with classes beginning at 6:15 a.m. Rosenberg would attend school everyday until Senate convened. Each day, there were four classes of around 35 minute periods. Rosenberg was able to keep up with the same core classes which she is currently enrolled in for the second semester at Oak Hall. After breakfast and schooling, the 30 pages would walk to the Senate office buildings and travel via an underground tunnel to the Capitol. 

Before Senate convened, the pages were responsible for setting up the Chamber for the day, like running dailies to all of the offices. Dailies informed the senators of the agenda from the day before. Once Senate convened, the pages would run shifts in the Senate for one-hour-on and one-hour-off, allowing them time to complete school work. “When you were working, you would set up for Senators to speak and run back and forth to their offices to do whatever they need,” Rosenberg stated. Even something as simple as bringing a senator candy was included in the pages’ responsibilities. “Being able to do homework in the Senate was the only way we could have gotten it done, so it was helpful,” Rosenberg added. 

There were two shifts that the pages worked, an early shift and a late shift. The early shift would go until 6 p.m., while the late shift went until Senate adjourned in the evening. “It was usually 9 or 10 p.m. every night,” Rosenberg noted. Rosenberg stated that it was definitely hard balancing school with a full-time job. “There were some very late nights and very little sleep throughout the whole semester,” she added. 

Part two will examine Rosenberg’s semester-long experience as a Senate page.

Time Management Beneficial to Students

By Mary Madelyn Broom

At Oak Hall School, many students are involved with more than just the average school day, which leads to lots of time filled with various activities. It is a blessing to have all of the opportunities available at Oak Hall, but it also begs the question of what is too much for students, and what skills do students need to be able to manage any available time? Oak Hall Upper School student, Kenzie*, appreciates the skills that she is learning at school, but feels overwhelmed with the responsibilities put on her. “I put a lot of pressure on myself,” she said. She also noted that she understands that her time at Oak Hall is preparation for the real world, but wished there was a better way for students to not only learn the material and understand the workload, but to learn the techniques to be able to handle the numerous daily assignments and studying of materials nightly. Kenzie recalls her previous school year, which she described as “really stressful” due to the increasing importance on grades. Despite all of the stress endured, Kenzie feels prepared for college and now has a better appreciation for the available time that she does have. “I’ve started reading more during my free time,” she mentioned. 

Upper School Learning Specialist Michael Fernandes believes that “getting and staying organized is one of the best ways for students to manage time.” He agrees that students are experiencing “more and more stress as college admission has become increasingly competitive” but hopes to alleviate that stress by helping students. Beyond basic skills of organizing and time management, Fernandes emphasizes one of the most important skills a student can learn is self-discipline, because it renders all other skills useless without it. If you are just starting on your lesson to managing time well, Fernandes suggests beginning with small steps, such as using a folder system to keep track of assignments or a planner system to mark dates for events with deadlines. 

For parents who want to help their children learn the skills of time management, Fernandes advises that they can “help develop time management in their children in a variety of ways” including:

  • Sitting down with their child to discuss age-appropriate time management.
  • Pointing out to their children potential pitfalls they might experience in trying to manage their time.
  • Acting as a guiding force, periodically checking in with their children to see how they are doing with time management, making sure to give them enough room to make some mistakes and then learn from them.

For students, the key to dealing with stress is “to not suffer in silence,” Fernandes said. If you are dealing with a busy few days, taking the time to settle your mind with a few breaths or quiet minutes, as both techniques can work wonders. If the stress feels more significant and overwhelming, Fernandes encourages students to “let a trusted adult know about their situation” because they will have more resources to help.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those interviewed

Editorial: The Stigma of Mental Illness

“The Talon” is releasing a series of stories regarding depression, anxiety, obesity, nutrition, sleeping habits, and time management. Sources were given the option to remain anonymous, as the topics are incredibly personal. Please be advised, the following story may be disturbing to some readers.

With the holidays approaching, it is important to remember each other. Be inclusive. Reach out to friends and family members. Put down your phone and connect.

My dad walked into my room and said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but David’s brother killed himself.” He was a junior in high school. 17 years old. Just starting to find his place in the world. I don’t know why he ended his life, neither does his family. They suspect bullying had something to do with it. But what could he have been bullied about? He was a well-liked person, kind to everyone, a good student, a wonderful son and brother. But, like most of us, he had a secret he didn’t want out in the open. His secret was that he was schizophrenic. 

According to the American Psychiatric Association, schizophrenia begins to culminate for men in their late teens to early 20s, while women begin to experience symptoms in their 20s and early 30s. This illness is “characterized by episodes in which the patient is unable to distinguish between real and unreal experiences”. David told me his brother had just been diagnosed a few months prior to his suicide, hadn’t started medication yet, and only told a few people about his diagnosis, people who he considered friends. David said his brother started coming home from school upset. Apparently, others found out and started calling him “crazy” and “unstable”. Now, I don’t know for a fact if those actions led to his suicide, but I’m sure it didn’t help the situation as a whole. 

“Having depression feels like you’re falling in this dark hole that never ends.”

When you hear the phrase “mental illness”, what comes to mind? Some think of a person in an all-white padded room wearing a strait jacket. Others relate the phrase to movies such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Silence of the Lambs, and television shows like American Horror Story: Asylum. The stigma surrounding mental illness, and really, all mental health, has lessened over the years, but still exists. What’s even worse than the stigma is when bullies prey on those who can’t (or don’t) defend themselves. This can be worse than the stigma itself because the bullying can result in emotional depreciation of an individual’s mental state. Emilie Olsen (2014), Rebecca Ann Sedwick (2013), and Rehtaeh Parsons (2013) are just three of the hundreds of teenagers who have ended their lives due to bullying. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that “the suicide rate among youth aged 10 to 24 increased 56 percent from 2007 to 2017”.

Oak Hall is no different than any other school. There are students who struggle with their mental illness daily, some even hourly. It seems that nowadays, teenagers are reversing the stigma of mental illness, but not in the best way. “People either treat it like it is normal to have a mental illness, or people say that mental illness is not real and it’s just a method to get attention,” said Janet, an Oak Hall student. Janet suffers from depression and anxiety. She has noticed that if a student is upset about something, they will comment, “I want to kill myself,” being said in more of a sarcastic way instead of a serious way. Suicide is not a joke; mental illness is not a joke. Having friends who killed themselves, they never even hinted that something was wrong. To be perfectly honest, hearing students tell their friends in the hall that they’re depressed (in an incredibly gleeful way) is disturbing, especially to those who actually suffer from a mental illness. “People need to learn what anxiety and depression actually are and they need to stop saying they are depressed when they are sad, [and] stop claiming they have anxiety when they are nervous,” Janet noted.

Depression isn’t something people can just “get over” at the drop of a hat. They aren’t trying to be “Debbie Downers” on purpose and are most definitely not trying to get attention. Having depression feels like you’re falling in this dark hole that never ends. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, a majority of people with depression, or other mental illnesses, don’t tell anyone in fear of being judged, bullied, etc. “During my time where I was very depressed, my friends claimed they were there for me… but I never really felt that they were actually there so that made it worse,” Janet said. “At the time, people would talk behind my back and say things about me which made me feel terrible too,” she continued. 

“Not every day is going to be a great day, but every day can be a manageable day.”

Amory, another Oak Hall student, had the opposite happen when she faced her battle with depression. “When I was starting freshman year, I felt like I was so alone in the world and I didn’t want to keep living, but I had friends who wanted to help me when I realized that it was more than just being sad every once in a while,” she explained.

Both Janet and Amory had such severe depression, they contemplated suicide. Those thoughts never escalated, however, as both students didn’t want to put their families and friends through the pain of their death. 

My mom always tells me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” We don’t always know what someone is going through. Making fun of someone because they’re “different” says a lot more about the bully than the person they’re picking on. Being mean could end someone’s life…but being kind could save them. 

At Oak Hall, there are different avenues you can utilize if you’re stressed out, depressed, confused, anxious. The phrase, “If you see something, say something”, isn’t just for school violence. This includes if you hear a classmate talk about being discouraged, suicidal, anxious, etc. The concept of having an advisor is designed so students have someone they can trust and talk to, not just about school, but about the stressors in their lives. Teachers, administrators, school counselors, are all here to make sure you are okay in every sense of the word. Not every day is going to be a great day, but every day can be a manageable day. We need to look out for each other.

If you or someone you know is contemplating self-harm or suicide, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-8255. Someone is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.