Photo by Jack Bexell

Notecards and poster boards

First and Last: The fourth installment examines the process by which seniors and freshmen face different challenges: writing the senior term paper and asking girls to Sno Daze

The fourth installment examines the process by which seniors and freshmen face different challenges: writing the senior term paper and asking girls to Sno Daze

FirstLastSymbolSierra
First and Last is a year long series that follows senior Bailey Mckenzie and freshman Lars Askegaarde.

Senior Bailey McKenzie slid her copy of Catcher in the Rye onto the smooth surface of her school desk. She grasped her pencil and wrote about Holden Caulfield and Sally Hayes and the contrast between adult and teenage worlds.

On the first Monday of January, all seniors began the structured process of writing their senior term paper, which was due on Feb. 22.

On that same Monday, freshman Lars Askegaard sat down to a lunch conversation about the upcoming winter formal dance.

His friends began to consider which girls they would ask to their first Sno Daze dance, which was held on Jan. 30.

Hardwood tables in the library were littered with 3×5 index cards. Beige lockers in the freshman hallway were plastered with bright poster boards.

In the month of Sno Daze proposals and term paper deadlines, Minnehaha students worked through projects that distinctively showed individual levels of dedication and creativity.

The seniors recognized their personal work habits through the term paper. The lessons began with the first assignment: read your novel twice over winter break.

Bailey was one of the seniors who followed the assignment. However, she explained, “A lot of my classmates had longer books so it was harder for them to read their books twice.”

Senior Jack McGillivray admitted that by the Sunday before school started, he had only read a fourth of his 480 page copy of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the  Bell Tolls.

Later in the research process, McGillivray realized that he had fallen farther behind.

“I have to do 27 note cards [when I get home from practice] tonight because I’m behind,” McGillivray said, chuckling. “I hate to say it, but I find myself [doing the work] frantically in class before it’s due.”

However, despite his procrastination, McGillivray did not let the stress of the term paper overtake him.

“I’m still well within the ability to catch up so I’m not too worried,” he said.

Bailey was also fairly laid-back during the process of researching and writing.

She explained that it was difficult to stay grounded when she remembered that the paper accounted for nearly one third of her second semester grade and when many of her classmates were drenched in anxiety.

“Having [the term paper] as such a big part of our grade, and having so many perfectionists in our class kind of adds to a stressful atmosphere,” Bailey said. “I definitely feel it sometimes but I try to not let it get to me too much.”

Similarly, senior Hank Olson observed that the stress of the term paper stems from its exaggerated reputation.

“It’s not as bad as it’s made out to be,” Olson said. “The main part of it is that it’s such a big part of your grade. The stigma of it makes people nervous and that’s what adds to the stress of it.”

However, a student’s reaction to this stress varies because of differing personalities and dispositions.

At the beginning of the year, Bailey described herself as being neither as proactive nor paranoid as her classmates.

She has continued to show a level-headed patience throughout her college application process and has exemplified a calm demeanor when dealing with time-demanding dance.

Though Bailey has a desire to challenge herself academically in the last semester of senior year, she did not let herself suffocate with the pressures of senior term paper.

Time management was key for Bailey’s success.

English 12 teacher Kristofor Sauer explained the differing approaches to the term paper.

“The student experiences pretty much run the gamut and are probably about as diverse and unique as our student body,” Sauer said.

“I see a decent number of students treat this seriously and do some of the best work I’ve ever seen from them,” he continued, “maybe even the best work they’ve ever done in high school. I’ve seen others blow it off, treat it casually and either be extremely frustrated or barely graduate.”

As seniors applied themselves to researching and writing their term paper during the month of January, freshmen applied their energies to the planning of their first formal-date dance.

Through the process of asking dates and organizing agendas, the students discovered differing levels of creativity and flexibility.  

Freshman Lars Askegaard surprised his classmate and Nordic skiing teammate CeCe Schurke with a decorated locker and chocolates one morning.

Lars explained that he received a lot of help from his senior sister Lily, who wanted his first ask to be perfect.

“At first he was just writing out a sign like he was just writing out his homework,” Lily said, giggling. “I said ‘No, this is how you do it.’”

Lily preceded to make Lars practice writing the proposal on scrap paper. Eventually, they traced out the words onto the poster in pencil and later, retraced everything in sharpie.

Then Lars decked out the poster with Frozen stickers from in his little sister’s coloring book. He scrounged up snow decorations he made for a winter solstice project last year. Then he coincidentally found and bought chocolate skis from the checkout aisle while grocery shopping.

Lars explained that he wanted to be creative when asking Schurke to be his date because he had observed that dance proposals at Minnehaha tended to be more elaborate and clever than proposals at other schools.

Though wanting to be creative, Lars found his sister’s pointers “helpful but maybe unnecessary.” Lily’s guidance replicates the help that many freshmen boys received when asking their classmates to the dance.

Freshman Max Gifford explained that the first time he thought about Sno Daze was when his mom brought up the subject over winter break. Once deciding to ask freshman London Donohoe, Gifford went to Michael’s with his mom and bought Styrofoam.

“I wanted something that was creative but not very hard to make,” Gifford said.

So, Gifford shaped the Styrofoam into a snow cone that read ‘Go to snow? -Max’ and presented his creation to Donohoe before their first period history class about three weeks before the dance.

Max was the first boy in his freshman grade to formally ask someone to Sno Daze this year. He explained that it was matter of giving Donohoe time to prepare.

“People were asking me why I asked so early and I said, ‘It’s better to give a girl more time to look for a dress than less,’” Gifford said.

Not only did he want to give his date time to find a dress, but he also wanted to kick off the process of asking for his classmates.

“Everyone was waiting for the first person to ask, and then I didn’t know how long it was going to be so I figured that I’d be the first person,” he said.

Gifford reflected that, most frequently, he is comfortable with being the first person to take the first step.

His approach to asking Donohoe exemplifies his eagerness to be proactive, a trait that may not apply to every freshman boy.

Lars, who didn’t show as strong of a desire to ask early, felt an urge to ask creatively. He proceeded to put effort into what he was committed to and accepted help from those who offered it.

Lars’ process of asking Schurke to the dance may allude to the way he reacts to his surroundings: appropriately coordinating his actions to current events and accepting influence from his family members.

Similarly, Bailey’s work habits when tackling the term paper may allude to her maintenance of a laid-back disposition, even throughout demanding schedules and stressed out classmates.

Therefore, the Sno Daze proposals and the senior term paper outcomes exemplify the differing approaches Minnehaha students take to excel.

“The [papers] I’m most proud of are the ones where I’ve seen tangible evidence of a young person consistently investing a significant portion of blood, sweat, and tears,” Sauer said.

“They create something which truly is better than anything else they’ve ever written before,” he continued. “In the words of Walt Whitman (and the late Robin Williams), they pound their metaphorical chests and ‘sound [their] barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world.’ Those are the ones for whom I sometimes even shed a few tears at graduation because I know what they did to get there.”

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About Sierra Takushi

As a junior, Sierra is a staff writer and photos/graphics editor for The Talon. She has a quirky fascination with slam and spoken word poetry and finds straight angle shapes (like squares) visually pleasing. Sierra enjoys exploring different types of writing and literature and likes to post her photography frequently on Instagram.

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