Filling with vapor

The vapor spiraled upward, dissipating into the air around him. He lifted the electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, back up to his mouth, took another puff, then carefully tucked it back into his left front pants pocket. The bell rang and he walked back out of the bathroom. Back to high school. Back to class.

This senior, who agreed to be interviewed only if we didn’t use his name, said he has been using e-cigarettes for over five months.

“In my experience, e-cigarettes are a very relaxing practice,” he said. “They give me inner peace. Whenever I’m stressed out, they’re a great way for me to just chill.”

And this senior isn’t alone. E-cigarettes are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to cigarettes and other tobacco products.

“I probably take around 100 puffs every day,” a junior, who also consented to be interviewed only if we kept him anonymous, said.  “I’m addicted to nicotine. I’m not worried about being addicted. I know it’s not really harming me, and it makes me feel good.”

But the FDA has expressed interest in regulating e-cigarettes because of these health risks. The bureaucracy doesn’t share the junior’s opinion about the neutral health effects of e-cigarettes.

Their website warns that e-cigarettes “have not been fully studied so consumers currently don’t know how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use.”

The reason the product hasn’t been examined with as much depth as similar products, like cigarettes, is because it’s relatively new, especially to the world of teenagers and school districts.

According to About.com, e-cigarettes were introduced into the modern world by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik in 2004. In the 10 years the product has been commercially available, its popularity has significantly increased.

E-cigarette use more than doubled in high school and middle school students between 2011 and 2012, according to the CDC. The percentage of these students using them went from 4.7% in 2011 to 10% in 2012.

And the halls of DHS have just started to feel the effects of the newly popular products.

ìE-cigs hit the radar screen less than a month ago for us,î Principal Kit Moran said. ìThe e-cig thing is so far ahead of the law and the lawmakers that itís tough to pin it down. I think weíll get to the point that there will be a state law about it.î

But currently, thereís nothing in the parent-student handbook that specifically prohibits e-cigarette use.

ìRight now, we donít necessarily have a policy on it,î Moran said. ìWe are considering them to be like cigarettes right now, and weíre treating them as such. Different schools are doing different things. From my point of view, there are harmful chemicals in them.î

Whether or not the school is trying to prevent e-cigarette usage in the schools, students continue to use them. They do it on the sly, trying to avoid the watchful eyes of teachers, administrators and the occasional classmate.

Both the junior and senior interviewed said they frequently use their e-cigarettes in the school bathrooms, where the odorless vapor quickly disperses after each exhale, covering their tracks.

Steve, however, has ventured to take the practice one step further. He and several friends bring e-cigarettes to class and use them during the hour.

ìIíll use it in class if I get the chance to,î he said. ìBut Iím careful and I havenít been caught yet.î

Moran said there have only been a couple of incidents involving administrators catching students using e-cigarettes so far, and that it has been years since students have tried to smoke traditional cigarettes on school grounds.

He also said heís not sure, at this point, what direction e-cigarettes will take, because theyíre such a new problem. Right now, he is mainly concerned about the health risks.

ìThere is an addictive quality to those kinds of things,î he said. ìThereís no one time bad overuse, and nobody binge smokes, but we know thereís an addictive quality to it. So you start smoking, then you become addicted to the chemicals in it, and that creates a bad habit thatís detrimental to your health and your pocketbook.î

CVS recently announced that it was cutting out sales of all tobacco products at its stores, because they felt that a store promoting health shouldnít also sell products that can be extremely detrimental to health. However, they still donít sell e-cigarettes because theyíre waiting on guidance from the FDA, who is looking into regulating the products.

The potentially harmful effects of e-cigarettes are why they are only available to people who are at least 18 years old. But police deputy Jeremy Hilobuk said that this doesnít always stop minors from acquiring the illegal products.

ìItís not that often that we see fake IDs,î he said. ìI think maybe they get it through other means, whether it be a friend they know whoís older or stores that arenít checking IDs. Some of the stores get busy, and they forget to keep track of those kinds of things. Itís probably 50-50 for the entire county.î

And this is how the junior gets his hands on the products that he legally should not be able to buy.

ìIím friends with the guys who work at the store I buy stuff at,î the junior said. ìThey know me, and they let me buy it, even though Iím not 18.î

So Hilobuk and the Washtenaw County Sheriff Department are trying to prevent this kind of thing from happening by performing stings. They work with minors and have them try to buy tobacco or nicotine products from various businesses around the county. If the business is noncompliant, meaning it sells these things to the minors, then the police intervene and give the business a ticket. Hilobuk said the business then has to pay a fine thatís generally around $100.

ìDexter is pretty good,î he said. ìWe get good compliance around here. Itís when we head East to Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and places over there that the compliance gets a little lower.î

If the business is noncompliant, then the Sheriff Department performs the same sting some time later to try to get compliance the next time.

ìItís really training them to remember to check IDs and keep things legal,î Hilobuk said.

Of course, there are exceptions. The senior we interviewed, for example, turned 18 since he started using e-cigs and tobacco products, but he also has a fake ID that he used when he was 17.

Neither person says he is nervous about the effect of e-cigarettes on his health. Both, similar to millions of high school students across the country, will continue to use the products and worry about his future later.

ìI like e-cigarettes. They give me a head rush,î the senior said. ìI donít consider myself addicted right now and Iím not really worried about becoming addicted, because theyíre just not that potent. I figure that I could use e-cigs for the rest of my life and not have a problem.î

International Baccalaureate program gives students a tougher challenge than previously imagined

As the class of 2014 approaches graduation, 16 seniors are left wondering if they will graduate with more than a high school diploma. These International Baccalaureate diploma candidates who are on track for an IB diploma have to wait until the end of July to find out if they qualified for the IB diploma.

Students striving for the full IB diploma have to write an extended essay, complete a Theory of Knowledge class which includes a TOK presentation and essay and complete a Creativity Action Service project on top of completing all their coursework requirements. Each IB class also requires an internal assessment and external assessment. The external assessment won’t take place until May, leaving those students waiting until the end of July for their results.

According to IB Coordinator Kimberley Lund this late deadline is not a big deal in the United States in terms of college admissions.

“Colleges make decisions based on the student’s good standing and predicted grades,” she said. “It is unheard of to have a students acceptance taken away because they did not receive the IB diploma.”

However this isn’t as uncommon in Europe.

“Getting the IB diploma would be a bigger deal if I was looking to go to college overseas” senior Tristin Rojeck said.  Rojeck is one of those 16 students waiting to find out if he will receive an IB diploma.

“I might be getting an IB diploma,” he said.  “But at this point I’m just looking to do well enough in math and English and maybe history to get college credit.”

Rojeck already got his acceptance letter to Michigan State, and it won’t be taken away if he fails to receive an IB diploma.

Although a student’s acceptance may not be at risk over the IB diploma other factors are.

“Not getting the IB diploma can affect how much money colleges offer in scholarships” Lund said.

While all the colleges Rojeck was looking into offered scholarships independent from the IB diploma, some schools, Michigan Technological University for example, offer scholarships specifically to IB diploma recipients.

According to both Rojeck and Lund even more overseas colleges make a bigger deal over the IB diploma.

“It really is a somewhat prestigious thing to do,” Rojeck said.  “It’s a step above a high school diploma because it requires more work in regards to the extended essay and CSA.”

And this extra work is well worth it for Rojeck who said that the IB program has helped him prepare for college and given him a strong work ethic that will lead him to be successful in life regardless if he ends up with or without an IB diploma.

“Theres no real way to know right now if all my hard work was worth it,” Rojeck said.  “I’m happy that I stuck with the program and I’ll let you know in a year.”

Minimum wage change would affect students

Senior Abbi Kemperman works a part-time job at Classic Pizza.  In addition to the time she spends at school, equivalent to a full-time job in itself, she said she spends between 16 and 32 hours a week working to make money to pay for her car insurance, gas and other expenses.

“I have time to work, go to school, and do homework, but that’s about it,” Kemperman said.

Like many high school students, Kemperman makes minimum wage, currently $7.40 an hour.

Working three or four days in an average week, senior Peyton Chrisner earns only slightly more.

“I work between 10 and 20 hours a week and make $8 an hour,” she said.

Panera Bread, where Chrisner works, pays employees above minimum wage, but soon this salary may still be too low.

Following President Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 28, where he argued for an increase in the federal minimum wage, the debate regarding proposals to increase minimum wages, nationally and for each state, regained momentum.

Obama announced a plan to create an executive order that would increase the minimum wage for federally funded employees to $10.10.  He also urged Congress to raise the federal minimum wage for all employees, which is currently $7.25.  Tip wages, for workers who also receive tips, and wages for minors are allowed to be even lower.

“They’re allowed to not pay you minimum wage if you’re under 18,” Kemperman said.

Democrats in the Michigan legislature have proposed plans to increase Michigan minimum wages, but both federal and state congresses have disagreement as to whether raising minimum wage would help or harm the economy.

Politicians in favor of increasing minimum wage argue that those working for such wages do not make enough to support themselves and their families.  Thus, increasing minimum wage would decrease the number of people living in poverty and, as a result, help the economy.

In his state of the Union Address, Obama said, “Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here.  Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10.  This will help families.  It will give businesses customers with more money to spend.”

However, Natalie Park, owner of Coffee House Creamery on Jackson Road, does not think this sudden change would be a realistic option for small businesses.

“It would not jump to $10.10 right away.  No business would survive it,” Park said.  “You can’t raise any price (including wages) 40 percent.”

Only recently-hired workers at Coffee House Creamery work for minimum wage. Still, Park said an increase in minimum wage would also require her to make other changes in her business beyond wages.

According to Park, increased wages also mean that employers have to pay increased taxes and insurance.  These changes could force her to change her policy of increasing employee salaries based on their length of employment.  Park would also have to raise prices.

While she opposes a dramatic change, Park is not completely against the idea of slightly increasing minimum wage.

“I don’t think it’s terrible,” she said, “but it could be very dangerous.”

Primarily, the movement to increase minimum wage is targeted to aid adults working full time.  The intent is to help families living in poverty, but teenagers could still see changes in their earnings as a result.  Chrisner, however, does not object to her current salary.

“I don’t really mind (the current minimum wage) because I use the money for car insurance but don’t have major bills or adult expenses,” she said.

Despite this, both Kemperman and Chrisner agree that an increase in the minimum wage would be beneficial. Kemperman, for example, said she could use the extra money to buy extra things that she would like.

“Three quarters of my pay checks go to gas, so I’d have more money for other things that aren’t gas,” she said.

For Chrisner, the changes would be different.  She said that she spends all of her earnings, but a higher minimum wage would let her put some of her paycheck away for a rainy day.

“I would actually consider saving some (if I made more),” she said. “I know I should be saving for college.”

An increase in minimum wage would similarly benefit senior Collin Ullmann, who works at McDonald’s.

“It would make college a lot easier,” he said.  “(With current wages) I would have to work 50 hours a week over the summer to make the money I need.”

Childish Gambino's 'Because the Internet' not as good as his first effort

Donald Glover has established himself as a comedian, writer, actor and rapper. He has writeen for such shows and “30 Rock” and acted in the show “Community” in addition to a handful of stand up routines.

Despite all of the other titles, Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino, may be most widely known for his rapping. With four mixtapes and a overly successful debut album, “Camp,” under his belt, it looks like his second album, “Because the Internet,” doesn’t live up to “Camp.”

The album is split into two and a half spectacular tracks and songs that aren’t really songs. It starts with a four-second intro which rides into a catchy track, “Crawl.” The chorus includes a women with a voice like Rihanna, and you can’t go wrong when Childish takes care of business.

From there the album rolls into a song that got my blood boiling, “Worldstar.” Gambino goes hard with rhymes on point, until he is interrupted by a call from what seems to be a friend telling him to check out a video of a fight. It ruins the song, but the first half is so good that I can deal with it.

After the first of many skits there are five consecutive songs, “The Worst Guys” featuring Chance the Rapper, “Shadows,” “Telegraph Ave.,” Sweatpants” and “3005.” Despite Chance the Rapper not having a verse, all three songs are different but effective. But if Chance gets a verse on a Justin Bieber song, then I believe he should get one here, just saying.

My personal favorite track, however, is “Telegraph Ave.” It takes me back to the Childish Gambino that I could listen to for hours. A close second is the first single “3005,” a love song that says that he will his girl until 3005. Genius.

After “3005” the album takes a hard left turn, and never really takes a turn back, with four tracks in a row that aren’t much at all. Three skits and a song with a funky beat lost me. In fact, this funky beat, which sounds like it would blow out the speakers in my car or my headphones, is a consistant on the second half of the album. With almost every song starting off sounding like it will be raw rhyming with a banging beat but turning into something that is hard to listen to, I found myself annoyed.

I see what Gambino is trying to do, and I enjoyed parts of the album. But people listening to him for this first time won’t get it. To them, he is going to come across as weird and talentless. But that’s not true. Gambino has a lot of talent,he just doesn’t effectively showcase it here.

I would give this album a 7/10. He provided a handful of songs I will listen to for awhile, but otherwise I have come to expect more from Childish Gambino.

Ocean Bowl squad heads to national tournament in Seattle

The dull hum of the buzzers drones as 10 high school students conjure oceanic knowledge accumulated after hours of poring over books, maps, graphs, bills, virtually anything ocean related.

This is Ocean Bowl.

Or at least it is for the DHS National Ocean Science Bowl team, which is gearing up for the national competition in Seattle, Wash. after leveling Greenhills, the defending national champions, 83-21 in the regional final on Saturday, Feb. 1 at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment building.

Senior Captain Graham Northrup along with juniors Noah Knoerl-Morrill, Alex Smearage and sophomores Will Wendorf and Ryan McGinnis nabbed Dexter’s ninth regional victory in 15 years of competition.

Adviser and science teacher  Cheryl Wells said she felt satisfied with the victory but denied any personal vendetta against Greenhills.

“No, I don’t know who told you that,” she said. “I actually have known this coach for many years, and he’s a great guy.”

But she did say she could see how other teams might misinterpret her and her team’s determination at regionals as hostility.

“What I do is when we get to regionals, my team stays focused, we’re not real friendly and we really get into that competitive mindset,” she said.

Part of Dexter’s prolonged success comes from Wells’ choice to remain vague about her success when other teams ask.

“They’ll ask me things like, ‘How does your team does so well every year?’  And I’ll say things like, ‘Oh I feed them every day after school.’”

But all jokes aside, Wells and her team train hard every year to maintain their reputation as one of the top ocean bowl teams in the region.

Wells went on, “But I don’t say, ‘Oh, well you’ve got to start practicing months in advance, and on snow days you have to go to Foggy Bottom and study, like we do.  And you have to have a book cart full of books on a wide range of subjects, and you have to do your homework at night.  And you have to be well-read.  These kids read everything–the geology, geography, the history, the marine law, the chemistry, the physics, the biology, and they’ve got to know all of it.”

Dexter has participated in the National Ocean Science Bowl under Wells’ supervision since the organization started in 1998, and its team won regionals that first year and has been to eight national competitions.

Attending the first competition sounded an alarm for Wells.

“It alerted me to the fact that we don’t live on a beach, or see a tide every day.  As a Great Lakes state, we didn’t really have the familiarity with the ocean as a lot of the coastal teams did,” she said.

To compensate, Wells said she makes sure the team is prepared for success.

According to Wendorf, “She usually reads questions and then has presentations that she’ll read off to us.  And she’ll organize the team and tell us what to read, stuff like that.”

Dexter’s team remains busy with preparing nationals.

“We’re going to keep working and studying hard on a broad range of topics,” Wells said.  “Nautical knots, reading nautical flags, nautical bell time, nautical talk, parts of a ship. It’s a wide range.”

The plethora of topics covered enticed sophomore Ryan McGinnis to join the team.  He says that participation in ocean bowl as a sophomore will have long term benefits.

“There’s a lot of information we cover that I wouldn’t come across anywhere else,” he said. “And also it’s great from a college perspective, because I want to go into oceanography. It’s invaluable because we’re going to nationals, and there will be college staff scouting out potential recruits, so it’s a really great college and beyond opportunity.”

Though the team is excited to compete at the national competition, they have already accomplished their season’s objective, according to Northrup.

“This year the goal was to win regionals,” he said.  “Anything more is just icing on the cake.”

The Ukrainian people deserve better than Putin

In a country that is starving, one man was living large, almost like a king in his palace.  While the people in the Ukraine ar stuck in poverty and making approximately $4,000 a year, their former president Viktor Yanukovych was sentencing his people to ultimate poverty.

 He was money laundering from his own people and lying about everything.  At first the president fled to his “friends” in Russia who he initially thought would help him take back power in his country.

Hearing this on the news when I woke up one morning really ticked me off. Why would one country help put back a tyrant and just a horrible human being back in power?  This would just return a evil man back to his corrupt ways of abusing his people and getting rich off the deaths and starvation of his people.

Thankfully a few days later I heard that Russia was not going to help this tyrant.  However a few hours after hearing that, Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, decided not to help Yanukovych.

I was told by my humanities teacher that Russia had put soldiers in the Ukraine and wanted the Ukraine for itself.  This further complicates the situation, and I’m not so sure if this is a better option.

The Sochi Olympics showed the world how corrupt Russia truly is as is evident in how poorly they facilitated the games.  I’m not so sure one corrupt government replacing another corrupt government is a good idea, as history has shown.

I would hate to see the people of the Ukraine, who finally kicked out their former president/elected dictator, be taken over by the Russian president who might just do the same thing to the Ukrainian people and continue their long-existing poverty and starvation.

Evacuate the dance floor

Juniors Rem Vermeulen and Trevor Hilobuk dance with the dance team during the halftime show of the men's basketball teams Valentine's Day game between Chelsea and Ypsilanti.
Juniors Rem Vermeulen and Trevor Hilobuk dance with the dance team during the halftime show of the men’s basketball teams Valentine’s Day game between Chelsea and Ypsilanti.

Junior Spencer Vollmers was waiting in the hallway for his cue.  As the dance team started their routine during halftime, Vollmers several of his male classmates ran out to join them.

“I was nervous,”  Vollmers said.  “I couldn’t  breathe for about half of it.”

This stress was the result of Vollmers and 15 other junior and senior men joining  the all-female dance team during halftime of the Valentine’s Day men’s basketball game between Dexter and Ypsilanti.

This idea was the brainchild of dance coach Erin Shaver, who said she jumped at the idea of having a dance that involved some of the male body of DHS.

“I’ve had a great time with guy/girl dances in the past,” Shaver said.  “When I saw there was a game on Valentine’s Day, it was an easy decision.”

Unlike Vollmers, senior Jeff Wicks said he wasn’t nervous during the dance. His butterflies came before the dance.

“During the dance, I wasn’t nervous because the adrenaline rush and support from the crowd got me going,” Wicks said.  “I was probably more nervous before the dance because I didn’t want to mess up in front of the crowd.”

But the stress was worth it because Wicks wanted to support the dance team for all they’ve done for DHS athletics.

“The dance team has always been really supportive of the student section and Dexter athletics,” Wicks said. “I thought why not give back to the dance team.”

But with only a week to practice, Wicks and the other guys had a lot to learn.

“The practices were actually pretty difficult,” Wicks said.  “It was pretty difficult to learn that much material in such short amount of time, especially for a lot of people who are so uncoordinated and really don’t dance very often.”

But junior Delaney Garcia said having the men perform brought a more interesting aspect to practice and improved over the short span they had.

“At first they were kinda confused,” Garcia said.  “They got a lot better, and the practices were a lot more fun than just the regular dance team because of the different dynamic it brought. I think they did good, for such little time we had to teach them.”

Junior Sarina Wolf agrees and said she was impressed by their dedication.

“They were actually pretty into it the day of the game,” Wolf said.  “We told them they could stay till 5, and the guys wanted to stay over 5 to practice more.  They were super excited, and we weren’t expecting them to have that much dedication.”
 As for Shaver, she said the men performed well and she would love to do something like this again.

“It was very clear that they wanted to do a good job, and I thought the guys did a great job at the performance,” Shaver said.  “I thought they represented the dance team very well, and I’d happily invite them back next year.”

More dance team information:

The varsity dance team is coming off a season that saw them finish 1st in pom, 1st in high kick and 2nd in hip hop during their competitive season.

“Last year was a transitional year for the team as it was my first year as their coach,” Coach Erin Shaver said.  “With my dance team experience the girls were held to a higher standard than ever.”

Although this is a good result, Shaver has higher expectations for the team.

“My expectations for competition this year is to meet or exceed our placement at our last competition last year,” Shaver said.  “I think they can do it.”

This year’s team features one senior, Sarah Griffith.

“Griffith is my one senior captain this year and she truly is the heart team,” Shaver said.  “She’s a great motivator, choreographer, and ambassador.  She has really shaped the team and will be VERY missed in future season.”

Having Griffith as the only senior on the team, brings a different dynamic to the team and is better for the team morale.

“I think it’s better because we don’t have so many opinions going against each other,” junior Delaney Garcia said. “Overall, there’s just less conflict.”

Arcade Fire's newly-released album is anything but ordinary

The sounds of Arcade Fire’s fourth and latest album, “Reflektor,” are anything but ordinary.  As usual the band has pushed the limits of meshing genres, unique soundscapes and raw emotion.

The album leads with the driving title track, “Reflektor.”  The song immediately sets the mood for the majority of the album.  It has a strong ‘70s disco-era influence, while retaining dark overtones that give it an interesting quality.  The music is easily danceable but captivating enough that it’s hard to do anything but listen.

Arcade Fire as a band travels and tours a lot.  It definitely comes through in their music. Progressing through the album the listener gets to experience a whole range of different sounds from different parts of the world that all convey different a range of emotions from the happy vibe in “Reflektor” contrasted to the extremely dark tones in “Joan of Arc.

You can be swept from futuristic soundscapes and droning synthesizers, directly into tribal Haitian drum beats, but the production is smooth enough that it all sounds right.  The band recently spent some time in Haiti while creating this album, and the influence definitely comes through in some of the drum beats and almost child-like melodies.  This can be heard in the track “Flashbulb eyes”.

Even with these obscure influences, the songs on this album are still undoubtedly Arcade Fire.  Their unique sound cuts through it all.  The same dark themes in lyrical imagery come through as they did on all of their previous albums.

I would give this album a 4.2 out of 5 and recommend it to anyone who likes alternative/psychedelic rock.  Being an Arcade Fire album, it’s already bound to be great, but I think that they really pushed their limits and stepped their game up to something new.

Bus driver, lunchroom staff member self-publishes books through Amazon

Though he is known to most of his co-workers and friends as Daniel Joseph Slabaugh (Joe for short), this food and nutrition worker and bus driver has an alter ego, Boris Copper, who has written three books, all self-published through Amazon.

Slabaugh started writing in 2008 and finished his two-part series, “Jacobs Bondage” and “Jacobs Exile,” in 2009.  He sent his manuscripts to several publishers and although, according to Slabaugh, they showed interest, none took the books on.

“I’m not very into marketing,” Slabaugh said.  “So I decided to not pursue it any further.”

Instead, Slabaugh turned to self-publishing. Amazon advertises its independent publishing as allowing authors to own the copyrights to their works, publish easily and distribute globally.

Through this service Slabaugh was able to print both “Jacobs Bondage” and “Jacobs Exile.”  Both books take place in 1763 and follow the story of a young Jewish boy who is kidnapped, brought to Philadelphia, and sold into indentured servitude.  After 21 years he manages to escape and make a life for himself and find love.

Slabaugh said he doesn’t know how many copies of “Jacobs Bondage” and “Jacobs Exile” have been sold and doesn’t really care.

“For me it was never about selling books,” he said.  “I just wanted to see them in print.”

One of Slabaugh’s co workers, para-professional Carol Bogdanski, read Slabaugh’s books and really liked them.

“I normally don’t read those types of books (historical fiction). I’m more into romance books,” she said.  “But I really liked them and thought they were very exciting.”

Bogdanski, knowing Slaubaugh from work as what she described as just the “average Joe,” was pleasantly surprised to find out he successfully published three books.

Slaubaugh has thus since become an inspiration for Bogdanski, shedding his “average Joe” title to prove he was more than meets the eye.

“I never thought a regular person like me or Joe could write a book,” Bogdanski said.  “And now knowing that Joe has, made me realize so could I if I wanted too.”