The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 18, 2012

Student Readers' Forum 11-18 | Central Cambria students address issues

Submitted by Readers

Editor’s note: The following letters were written by junior and senior students in social studies teacher Tom Aurandt’s law/current events classes at Central Cambria High School, Ebensburg.

State tests a waste

School systems are said to provide students with tools to succeed in life, but do they really?

The system has changed tremendously since I started high school four years ago. Teachers do not teach for the sake of passing along knowledge, but rather to help students pass tests such as the PSSAs or the newly instituted Keystone exams.

I fail to understand how these tests  should prevent students from graduating, when not every student takes the subjects being tested.

Students absorb knowledge in many different ways, but forcing them to take these tests and expecting them to pass on material learned years ago is imprudent. With this type of teaching, how are students supposed to be prepared for life after school? Without challenging and showing students they have potential to be something great in their lives, how are they going to learn this?

Students should be told that they can be anything when they grow up, and encouraged to have a fulfilling life after high school. They need to know that these tests aren’t going to be the end of the world for them.

Passion for teaching has progressively declined as years have passed, preventing students from seeing the school as a place where they can receive help. Is this what students of today should be faced with?

Briana Colopy

Anticipating price cut

If Pennsylvania gets a Shell natural gas plant outside of Pittsburgh, will the price of natural gas go down?

I’m thinking it should because we no longer should have to pay to import natural gas from overseas.

Why are we paying other countries for gas and oil when we have it here in our own backyards? And why have natural gas prices just increased by    15 percent to 20 percent? What gives?

Jonathan Bennett

Bad habits must stop

The food students are given in school lunches is healthy, but are they getting enough of it?

Students at Central Cambria always complain about what is on the menu. I  agree with them. Obesity in the United States has risen, and it shows the most in kids. Most people would say it is the food that the kids receive in school, but I would say bad habits start at home. Kids don’t eat healthy at home; it’s always McDonald’s or Burger King for dinner and never home-cooked, healthy meals. Parents are too lazy to cook meals for their children.

Portion size is just as bad. For example, a normal lunch at Central Cambria is a hamburger on a wheat bun with a fruit and a vegetable, plus milk or iced tea as your drink. That’s not bad, except it won’t fill you up and you are forced to get a double serving.

We also have restrictions during lunch. You’re not allowed to put salt on your food, and if you do and are caught, you get detention.

We can have only so many starches a week. Hopefully, before the school year ends, lunches will change for the better.

Anthony Berzonsky

Touting air security

I’ve traveled many times and most of the stress that comes from travel comes from airport security. It is vital but people despise it because it is inconvenient and tedious.

Honestly, I couldn’t give one scenario where I had a hard time with security and the Transportation Security Administration. What they’re doing is what should have been done  11 years ago in September. Back in 2001 and the years preceding, we had a weak security system. It left us defenseless.

The security we have now protects us and helps prevent another terrorist attack. It does frustrate some people, but, as Americans, we have become  lazy and complacent with having things done in a split second. We don’t realize that if we had the security measures then that we do now, 9/11 could have been prevented.

So the next time you are annoyed by a line at a security checkpoint, remember 9/11 and think of the lives lost and of the possibility of someone getting on a plane with a bomb while you can’t even get on with a bottle of lotion.

Jake Brang

Bucs need to fire two

As every Pittsburgh Pirates fan knows, the team has notched its 20th consecutive losing season, continuing its infamous Major League Baseball record.

We all had high expectations when the Pirates were 16 games above .500 around the all-star break.

I have to blame this downfall on the managing, both in the front office and on the field. Neal Huntington, general manager, was a huge problem by making trades that were unnecessary. He traded Casey McGehee to the Yankees for yet another pitcher. McGehee was doing very well; so what do we do? We give him away.

The problem with manager Clint Hurdle is he is constantly switching the lineup. If you look at other teams, most have a set lineup and they are winning games.

Hurdle would start a rookie pitcher – who has never had a start – during a time when they were in the playoff hunt.

There are only two changes I believe the team should make – fire Hurdle and Huntington.

Dylan Bowers

Criticism not all bad

Why does everything have to be fair for everyone? Parents get frustrated when teachers dare to try to discipline their children, which leads young people to think they can do anything they want at anytime.

Teenagers, and even small children, are being convinced that criticism is bad and that no one can tell them what they are doing is wrong. It has even gone as far as adults thinking the same way.

Many people have thoughts, for example, that if you do not like President Obama, you are a racist. Or if you do not support gay marriages, you are a homophobe.

Parents who believe criticism is bad need to start disciplining their children so they will be able to take criticism when they enter the real world.

Jared Bowers

Why fuss over salt?

School board members and teachers who threaten to give detention to students who bring in packets of salt for lunch is ridiculous. Not only has our school made our portions smaller and charged us extra for lunches and for any snacks, it also has taken away salt because it has been deemed “too unhealthy.”

Salt in small quantities is essential for life. Iodized salt is used to help reduce the incidence of iodine deficiency in humans.

Iodine deficiency is the leading avoidable cause of mental retardation.

Since iodine is used in table salt, it is an easy source from which to attain it and from which to get the daily amount the body needs.

They shouldn’t be taking it away in the cafeteria. I also believe it is unfair to punish students for bringing salt from home or their own food or snacks, since that would be like yelling at a student for having something deemed unhealthy in their lunches that they pack and bring themselves.

Maybe instead of worrying about us eating food they consider unhealthy or about us not getting enough nutrition, our school should strive to serve us healthier food, since it has been reported that prisons serve healthier foods than the average school.

Erin Fenchak

OK Sunday hunting

I, along with many others, believe that the Pennsylvania law prohibiting hunting on Sundays is ridiculous.

Yes, it is nice to have family day, but, believe it or not, few people have family days on Sundays.

A lot more people love to hunt but are restricted to one day each weekend, when they are off work or do not have school. The law needs to be changed now.

Are you reading this, Rep. Frank Burns or Sen. John Wozniak?

Logan Brandis

Road work unending

Do Pennsylvania’s main roads and highways really need so much work? 

Maybe it’s just a big social event for the workers. They hang out in groups of five or six along the roads, chatting and slowing down traffic – and generally making a mess of things.

And people wonder why the work takes so long to finish. A great example is Route 22. I’m 17 and I’ve always seen this highway under some sort of construction. I saw it when I was younger, when I rode in the car with my mother, and I see it now, when I’m driving myself.

I’m not saying construction is bad. I just think that if they’re going to spend beaucoup bucks, at least do it right and do roads that actually need the work.

A lot of the back roads have cracks, ditches and potholes; they’re a disaster in some parts. And it only gets worse during the winter months. We could ensure the safety of many people traveling these roads, especially the kids on schoolbuses, if we spent the time and actually thought about the way our money was spent.

Maybe some of the less fortunate roads should be paid the attention they need.

Megan Brumbaugh

Live and let live

I am astonished when I see the lengths to which people go to pick apart the lives of others. Whether based upon sex, religion or race, there will never be an end to the controversy. Every day, millions of people are put down due to their preferences.

Even in government, same-sex marriage is an issue that is battled constantly. It doesn’t make sense that we, as Americans, are guaranteed so many freedoms, yet people are not able to marry the person they love. Why is everyone so concerned about someone else’s choice?

To become a better country, the people of America need to put aside their differences and come together, accepting others. Our country has made it through many obstacles in the past, but there are many new obstacles ahead.

Kelsey Hagens

Older drivers hazard

Older generations are a hazard on our roads. How many times do you see their cars with dinged doors or bent bumpers?

There have been a few times I’ve seen feeble, old women or men driving in parking lots and veering into a parked car and driving away like nothing happened.

I once saw an older man driving on the wrong side of the road and going down the wrong exit ramp. People have been hurt and will keep getting hurt if nothing is done.

I’m not saying that only old people make these mistakes, but it is more common to see an older person driving carelessly because, let’s be honest, they are becoming more careless with age.

Jake Hale

Money woes for band

Imagine drilling for countless hours, marching yard line after yard line while practicing the careful art of multitasking.

Could you really imagine a high school marching band putting so much effort into creating six minutes of entertainment for Friday night football fans, yet not being able to perform at halftime of their school’s games?

Well, this has happened to my high school’s marching band. My school can’t afford buses to send half of the “players” to the Friday night games.

Isn’t the marching band just as important as the football players?

It is really difficult to raise a few thousand dollars in a couple of months among 40-some teenagers. Only with gracious donations from our community can we actually attend all of the football games to support our team and our school.

Shouldn’t my own school support all of its extracurricular activities?

Michaela Hanlon

Lunches lacking

Every year, school lunches get worse. Parents and students have much to complain about: The quality of the food, the quantity and, of course, the cost.

Students are complaining about having wheat bread only to eat and being denied the use of salt. The serving sizes have decreased greatly, and when students get home from school, they are hungry and want to eat because they are not being served teenage-size lunches in school.

Students are going to eat unhealthly foods. They are going to do it at home, too, so why not just give us a lunch that we can actually enjoy? 

Costs also have increased. This is a complaint because the servings are small but the prices have risen.

Parents also are complaining because their children have to get double and triple lunches just to be full and make it through the day. The school needs to work with parents and students in order to find common ground.

Eating healthy is a concern in America, but we need to find a better way to feed kids healthy-yet-satisfying portions.

Larissa Hunt

Applauding council

Ebensburg Borough Council wants a $250,000 state grant to convert the old jail into a micro-brewery and restaurant.

This is amazing and hopefully will be developed into an attraction bringing more people into town and creating much-needed jobs. Great job, Ebensburg Borough Council.

Cody Lauffer

Food healthy but ...

Central Cambria school lunches recently were changed. The lunches are said to be healthier, but no one ever said they were good.

Many of the better-tasting lunches from past school years were changed to be healthier. For instance, using wheat tortilla shells for the tacos.

Desserts and salt have been taken away. They are taking this “health kick” to an extreme. Many students have even resorted to packing lunches.

The students are the ones paying for their lunches and we expect to have a somewhat decent meal. Don’t you think students should have a say on what they have to eat every day?

Olivia Lipnic

End emphasis on tests

Budget cuts for education are bad enough, affecting today’s school systems in negative ways. When you add in all of the pressures teachers are under to ready their students for the standardized testing season, it’s a wonder any true teaching gets done.

Money school systems receive is in direct correlation with the average scores of whatever standardized tests they have to take. Which then means that if the teacher responsible for readying students for a certain test has the entire class of students do poorly on that test, then he or she is in danger of losing their job.

This system makes no sense because education is not about what is solely on a test. Standardized tests should not be the judge of how much money a school is given, because they are not accurate. Not only does it make education focus mainly on one test, but some students refuse to try on these tests and it ends up hurting the overall scores of the students that do try.

This system needs to change if we want the student body of America to have a decent education and a successful future.

Luke Marcinko

Age factor in crashes

Driving is a very big concern among the public. Many people think that age is a big cause for a lot of the wrecks.

Young kids tend to speed and drive recklessly. Older people seem to be less aware on the roadways. Knowing older people lose awareness, why do they they still have their licenses?

Why do we continue to let older people drive when they should have their licenses taken away?

Are teenagers even thinking about the way they drive? Government officials and others say they want to improve safety on highways, but they continue to let people on the roads who should not be there.

Auto accidents are a leading cause of deaths. Serious changes are needed.

Michael Little

Health plan working

President Obama has brought our country out of an economic depression in the past four years. He has kept his promise of change, and he’s not done yet.

Under Mitt Romney’s plans for his presidency, he wouldn’t have had an affordable health-care plan until 2016, leaving hundreds of thousands of Americans with no health care.

With Obamacare already in progress, all of those people have affordable insurance.

Romney also was in favor of heightening taxes for the middle class, while Obama is in favor of heightening the upper class’ taxes.

Obama promises to have our troops out of Afghanistan by 2014. Romney thinks it should be up to the top generals when we should leave. Who knows when that would be?

Do you want the middle and lower classes to suffer while the upper class continues to live wealthy?

Chris McHenry

Let injuries heal

Are injured athletes returning to the game too early, before they are completely healthy?

Some high school athletes try to hide their injuries so they can stay in their sport and not miss any time. It is better to miss a couple games and a little part of the season than to be out for an extended period of time later in the season, the following season, or later, in collegiate athletics.

Athletes sometimes do not realize that their injuries could lead to health problems and issues later in life. Concussions are one of the main injuries that could lead to future health problems. They can disrupt your mental state later in life.

Broken bones, dislocations and other related injuries, if not healed properly, could lead to arthritis and other types of damage.

I am not saying that I am against young athletes participating in high school sports, because I myself play.

I do say that an injury should not be rushed and a student’s health should be handled with care.

Eric Orner

Pirates’ losing ways

It has been way too long since we have had a winning baseball team in Pittsburgh.

The team and community spent millions of dollars on a brand new, beautiful PNC Park. It would look even better full of fans for a winning baseball team, a team in playoff contention each year.

The Pirates for years have failed to live up to their potential, or they have traded for younger, unproven talent.

This was the first year I can remember when the Pirates had multiple all-star representatives. Hopefully, our team of potential will soon become an annual contender.

Nathan Radebach

Deport the illegals

Illegal immigration was one of the most important issues of this past election.

Mitt Romney believes that we should enforce the laws and remove illegal immigrants from our society.

President Obama believes we should  be more lenient in keeping illegal immigrants in our country.

The right choice here would be to deport illegal immigrants. They are  taking more and more jobs. With illegals out of the country, more Americans would have jobs. This would help stimulate the economy.

Ryan Rose

Social media rules

We live in a world where social media and technology rule. Teenagers have become hypnotized by the Internet, their smartphones and 4G tablets.

We have turned into zombies. Most of us can’t even have face-to-face conversations with our elders and our peers. This situation is only going to get worse. Kids are becoming more and more interested in what’s going on in their social media feed, rather than what’s going on in the actual world.

Ask us about the presidential election, the economy or the war in Afghanistan and most likely we can’t give any real information.

Ask us about how Johnny asked Stacey to the prom. We know the whole story because we saw it on Facebook. How pathetic is that? Because, honestly, who cares?

For some unknown reason, we do.

I am guilty of these things, and I am embarrassed. We need to get a grip on what actually matters, because if we can’t, how are we going to run this country when we come of age?

I know this is the concern of many adults now. They see us with our cellphones glued to our faces and wonder what is going to become of this country.

Are we ever going to realize that we need to grow up and take charge if we want to survive? 

I sure hope so.

Marisa Ritchey

School spirit sad

When I was in middle school, the spirit was unbelievable. At basketball games, our student section was standing-room-only and the atmosphere in our gym was amazing.

Now during basketball season, the student section has about half the number of students it used to.

What is really sad is that on Friday nights during home football games, there are few students sitting up in the stands. When I was younger, Central Cambria’s football games were the place to be on Friday nights.

As a senior football player, it was really discouraging to see the lack of school spirit. I know we might not have been the most-talented team in the world, but we would have appreciated more support.

I guarantee the football squad  always put up a battle.

Pete Schaffer

We lost as a team

The Central Cambria football team did not do well the past two years, winning only a few games.

I was a junior member of this year’s team and when I walked through the halls, all I heard were negative sayings such as “They stink” and “They will never win.” It becomes tiresome hearing these negative comments.

We tried our best, but nobody gave us credit: Not the student body, the newspaper or any schools that we played.

Some people blamed our coach, some our quarterback, but we played as a team and lost as a team.

It’s not one person’s fault.

John Schmidt

Start school later

How does one function so early in the morning?

Coffee? Caffeine? Those are both good ways to get a jolt of energy for a little while, but, after a while, the buzz wears off and then it’s crash and burn.

Many students use caffeine and coffee to wake up, but after sitting through an eight-hour day, they eventually falter and the day is pretty much wasted for them.

My point is: We need to change the starting time for school. If we had an extra hour of sleep and had sunshine when we woke up, the students would be more awake and alert without the use of coffee and caffeine.

Since students would not have all that caffeine in their systems, they would be more awake.

A later starting time would make school life for students a lot better.

Cheyanne Williams

Education too costly

Does anyone agree with me that schooling after high school is way too expensive? 

I don’t think it is fair that young people who want to further their educations have to go tens of thousands of dollars into debt to do so.

Unless you have rich parents or something like that, then you are most likely going to have to take out loans.

While I believe it is good that one can take out the loans, these ultimately have to be repaid.

Students are really going to be in a lot of debt, especially if they want to pursue a degree that takes more than four years.

Another thing to think about is, why don’t the big banks and other corporations in this country give young people a break?

Jason Zeman


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