Does SHS truly value all students?


Michele Nelson

Sophomore Travis Bunkers was invited to attend the SHS Academic Breakfast this year.

Every year, the Sartell High School hosts an academic breakfast for students who excel at grades and GPA. These students get treated with a breakfast and a program with quite a few speeches.  Our superintendent spoke.  An SHS staff member, Mr. Scherer, had some time on the stage, along with Mrs. Steve and two NHS members.

I have some thoughts on this breakfast.

First and foremost, I am not trying to take away the tradition we already have, but I would like people to think about what this particular honor and celebration does to the culture of our high school.

What is the implied message this breakfast sends to the students who didn’t get invited? To some, it might make them feel dumb.  It may seem unfair to those who didn’t get invited.  I’d venture to say that even though an invitation to the breakfast is open to every student, every year, a 3.65 GPA just isn’t in the cards for some.  Some students at our school have no choice but to work 30-40 hours a week to help support their families; there’s just not enough time in the day to get all of the homework done.  Some students have had trauma in their past that makes doing homework or studying for tests extra difficult.  Some of our students are struggling with mental and physical illnesses.  Do we value these students less at SHS? When do they get to have a breakfast with speakers and a big presentation in the Commons?  When is it their turn to be honored and celebrated?

Speaking of having it out in the open…the morning of the breakfast, the whole learning stair section of the Commons was blocked off in order to hold this breakfast.  This left a lot of people with nowhere to go because at that time, the doors to the wings were locked (it was a Wednesday morning).  When I tried to go up the learning stairs to get to my locker, people said I had to go around.   That made me feel like I was being left out, like I wasn’t special enough to even be in that area. I know that the student who told me to go around didn’t overtly mean to say You aren’t worthy to even be in our space right now but I won’t lie, it is how I felt.  I did find out that the breakfast wasn’t originally going to be held in the Commons.  It was supposed to be in the Performing Arts Center, but due to the snow day it was rescheduled and the PAC wasn’t open. I know the academic breakfast is held every year but this is the only year where I actually felt like a total loser about it because it was so right there, in my face.

In talking with some teachers about my feelings, one pointed out that the idea for the breakfast is not to divide the students but to award and recognize the people who have been working hard at their academics and who are achieving a 3.65 GPA.  I totally get that.  They deserve to be recognized.  My problem with this breakfast is that it sends the message that we ONLY value students who are high academic achievers.  I do think that students in sports, along with students who are in theatre are also highlighted throughout the school year, but we can do better to include more students.  I think students would be so much happy and more well-behaved around here if they felt more valued and if they knew the school was proud of them and all of their special talents.

But here’s the thing that unsettles me:  I feel like I cannot do anything about it. Even if I talk to all the teachers and staff in the school, they can’t change anything. I’ve been talking to a lot of people about how I feel, asking their opinion about the breakfast. Some are indifferent and don’t have an opinion, some, even teachers see it is unfair and some wish we could have something that can highlight all students. I may not be able to change the way the school does this breakfast event, but I can at least reach out to people about my opinion.

Now I don’t want this opinion piece to just be a lot of whining with no suggestion on how to help what I see as a problem.  I’d like to see the message from our school be that ALL students are valued here, that ALL students’ talents and intelligence are important to our community.  Doing the academic breakfast out in the open, where everyone can see is not doing anything to create that kind of atmosphere at Sartell-St. Stephen High School.  I hope that if anything comes from this, that at least they won’t ever do the academic breakfast out in the open like this again.  Fine if you have to eat the food out in the Commons, but let’s keep the speeches and accolades contained in the Performing Arts Center.  I’d also like to see us reinstate more pep fests that not only highlight athletes but also highlight clubs like Mock Trial, Knowledge Bowl, the new Green and Clean club, Crocheting Club, and Trap Shooting.  Maybe we could even do some kind of morning event for people who are highly involved in activities outside of school…bowling leagues, BMX, studio dancing, club sports, etc.

I also think that it doesn’t have to be so overt. Why can’t we take more advantage of our morning and afternoon announcements?  Can we do shout outs? Maybe students could submit them somewhere and that’s how we could highlight more student achievements.  Recognition doesn’t have to be huge, but making sure that our students at SHS all feel valued and important will do a lot to improve the culture of our building.  That would most definitely be Sabre Strong!