Prior to Milton High School’s graduation ceremonies Sunday, senior Nina Yeung asked other members of the school’s Class of 2019 the age-old question: “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
The most common answers to her inquiry were, “To get to the other side,” or, “I don’t care,” she said.
But Yeung has mused on this timeless question. Did the chicken know the difference between the two sides of the street? Did the chicken know crossing the road would lead to a better future?
Yeung rejects the answer is as simple as, “To get to the other side.” An alternate reason? It wanted to, and it made its own decision to cross.
“Fellow graduates, we are the chickens,” Yeung said. “Right now, we are making our own decisions to cross the road.”
The experiences garnered and decisions made while crossing the road will define the graduates, she said. And even if they do not know what awaits on the other side, the graduates will have the ability to choose which roads they will cross.
“So I urge you all: Go out and cross that road. Even if there may be a few cars, some pedestrians or even a moped in your way,” she said.
Yeung was one of a handful of speakers at Sunday’s ceremony at the high school football stadium. Other speakers included class President Anna Quade, senior Marilla Smith and Principal J. Jeremiah Bilhorn.
For at least the second time this year, a speaker left local graduates with a quote from Michael Scott from “The Office:” “May your hats fly as high as your dreams,” Quade said.
Quade said the Class of 2019 is different from others.
“Uniquely, we were the only class to experience all three of the referendums,” Quade said. “With our third referendum passing recently, we will be the last class to create memories in certain parts of our high school.”
The Milton School District will be a different place in a few years, Quade said. It will be much like the graduates: remodeled, revived and added onto.
Quade also touted the Class of 2019’s long list of accomplishments:
Students also made their marks globally, Quade said.
Freshman year, students traveled to Costa Rica with the Milton Science Club. Some trekked to the Galapagos Islands. The French Club traveled to France last summer, and the Spanish Department will visit Spain this summer, Quade said.
The class’ prank this year included placing for sale signs at the high school, Bilhorn said. One sign listed the asking price at $20.19.
Students also tried to sell Bilhorn’s truck with a sign that read, “Pickup truck: Will let go for cheap.” That garnered a smattering of cheers from the graduates.
Bilhorn said graduation is a launch into a new chapter. It’s much like the first steps on the moon, he said, which occurred nearly 50 years ago on July 20, 1969.
Landing someone on the moon was not accomplished overnight, he said. Instead, it was the collective effort of thousands of men and women who worked tirelessly behind the scenes for many years.
Bilhorn pointed to Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to exceed the speed of sound, and Katherine Johnson, an African American mathematician whose calculations were critical to manned space exploration.
“Life will not always be easy. You will face challenges,” Bilhorn said. “But just like Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier and Katherine Johnson broke racial and gender barriers, you too can push beyond the obstacles in your life.”
Katie Trimble was horrified of hospitals.
When she was 5 years old, her mother, Jan Trimble—who Katie refers to as Mama Jan—died from breast cancer.
About seven years later, Katie found herself refusing to walk into hospitals as her dad started chemotherapy in Madison.
Two weeks before her freshman year at Milton High School, Katie’s father, Bill Trimble, died from pancreatic cancer.
“Hospitals freaked me out, and I didn’t want to go anywhere near them,” Katie said.
But something changed.
This fall, Katie will attend Carroll University in Waukesha to study nursing.
Katie was among 270 students who graduated from Milton High School on Sunday.
“Katie is an amazing kid,” Milton High Principal Jeremy Bilhorn told The Gazette via email. “She is kind, compassionate and has an outlook on life that is really humbling.”
Her attitude inspired her peers to vote her “most likely to brighten your day.”
Katie wants to become a nurse so she can help people like her parents, she said.
Katie’s adoptive mother, Tracey Trimble, was shocked when Katie said she wanted to be a nurse, Tracey said.
“I was like, ‘Wait, really?’” Tracey said.
Tracey told her daughter she needed to be exposed to nursing before making a decision, so Katie shadowed nurses at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville and volunteered at the hospital.
St. Mary’s volunteer coordinator, Deb Thielen, said Katie stood out among volunteers because she always was looking for more to do and always came in with a smile.
Katie and Tracey for years thought Katie would pursue a career in music, Tracey said.
Katie plays clarinet, piano and guitar and sings. She has performed with Milton’s show choir teams and was the lead in last year’s production of “Hello Dolly.”
“She lights up a stage,” Tracey said. “She has many talents.”
Katie first took the stage as a child in a production of “A Christmas Carol” at the Indianapolis Repertory Theater, Katie said.
Katie, Bill and Tracey— who married Bill when Katie was 8 years old— lived in Indianapolis when Katie was young.
At their church in Indianapolis, Katie was known for talking to anyone who lent their ear.
“It was natural to me, I didn’t have a problem with it,” Katie said. “The other kids would be like, ‘Oh, you talked to Kevin the homeless guy. Doesn’t he smell?’ and I would be like, ‘No, I didn’t even notice that.’ I was genuinely having a conversation with him,” Katie said.
Katie hopes to one day live in a big city so she can be surrounded by a diverse population like she was in Indianapolis, she said.
The Trimbles moved to Milton, where Tracey grew up, when Katie was in eighth grade, Tracey said.
Katie tried out for the musical “Xanadu” immediately after moving, but Bill and Tracey secretly hoped she would not get a lead role, fearing the other middle school kids would be mean or jealous, Tracey said.
But of course, Tracey said, Katie got the lead.
Bill’s cancer escalated quickly. He died 18 months after being diagnosed.
“I was working so hard to not deal with it, which wasn’t emotionally healthy,” Katie said. “I was just like, ‘Focus on school. Be a freshman,’ and so I think that entire first year of school I didn’t really think about him, and I didn’t give myself time to grieve.”
Few of Katie’s friends knew of her parents’ deaths for the first three years of high school.
“I look back at it, I think, ‘Oh, everything was fine,’ but really, when I analyze it deep down, it wasn’t fine, but I was making it seem fine,” Katie said.
Katie’s losses made her grow up fast, she said. She had to learn how to not compare her grief to others’ problems and how to turn a negative into a positive.
“I think with losing Dad, it did make us stronger because we are all that we have in this home right now,” Katie said. “We have other family, but we both know what it is like to go through this thing.”
Imagine taking three months off from work.
OK, stop imagining that because nobody’s going to let you do that.
But if you could do it, think about how difficult it would be to return. You’ve have to adjust your schedule, relearn how to deal with the annoying coworker, and while everybody else was moving forward, it would be some time before you could catch up.
That’s what happens every summer to kids. It’s called summer slide, and teachers have to deal with it every fall.
Research shows it hits kids from low-income families much harder because they can’t afford extras such as summer camp or travel.
Three local institutions are working to level the playing field for kids: The Janesville School District, Hedberg Public Library and the Boys & Girls Club of Janesville.
A new opportunityThe Boys & Girls Club of Janesville has always had an all-day summer camp, but it cost $70 a week. While that’s considered reasonable by both camp and day-care standards, not all parents could afford it.
But the club recently became a certified day care center for school age children, according to club Executive Director Sara Stinski.
“The state licenser was just here, and we’ll be getting our provider number soon,” Stinski said.
That “provider number” is crucial. It’s what parents need for Wisconsin Shares, a state program that pays for part or all of a low-income family’s child care. To qualify, a family’s income must be equal to or less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of two, 185 percent of the poverty level is $31,284 a year. For a family of four, 185 percent of the federal poverty level is $47,638.
Summer camp at the Boys & Girls Club runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Each day includes traditional camp activities such as sports, crafts and field trips. Learning also is part of the day. The club’s curriculum, Summer Brain Gain, was designed to address the learning loss difference between middle- and lower-class kids.
“During summer, most youth lose about two months’ worth of math skills. Low-income youth also lose more than two months’ worth of reading skills, while their middle-class peers make slight gains,” according to the Boys & Girls Club of America national website.
The curriculum is designed so kids don’t realize they are being taught.
It’s lots of hands-on activities, friendly competition and project-based learning, Stinski said.
Summer camp at the Boys & Girls Club gives students the chance to reinforce the social skills they’ll need to get along in school.
“We’re teaching little humans to be kind to each other,” Stinski said.
Janesville School District officials acknowledge that it would be cheaper to consolidate all of the district’s summer school courses into a few schools.
But by offering summer school in all of the elementary schools, they can reach more children.
“We like to offer summer school close to students’ homes. That way, all students have access,” said Paul Stengel, director of the Janesville Summer School Program.
The schools offer courses such as kick-off to kindergarten and getting ready for first grade to help students get into school routines.
For older elementary school kids, the majority of summer school classes give students the chance to have fun with a subject through project-based learning. Or, students will use their reading, math and team-building skills to do a community service project.
“It really gives kids the ability to practice what they learned in a more authentic setting and without the pressure,” Stengel said.
In addition, summer school gives students a “chance to engage with their peers” and get some physical activity.
Every year, the Hedberg Public Library hosts a free summer reading program.
This year’s theme is “A Universe of Stories,” said Julie Westby, children’s librarian.
Like all other library programs, a A Universe of Stories is free. This summer’s program also includes community engagement. “Missions” include going to the Janesville Farmers Market or going to see the Rock Aqua Jays.
“We can learn from books, but we can also learn so much from each other,” Westby said.
Westby wanted to remind kids and their families that reading isn’t just about checking out books from the library. Kids and families can listen to audiobooks or use their e-readers.
As the Roman Catholic church’s sex abuse scandal grows ever wider in scope in the U.S., bishops convene for a national meeting in Baltimore on Tuesday under heavy pressure to acknowledge their oversight failures and give a larger role to lay Catholics and secular authorities in confronting the crisis.
The pressure comes not only from longtime critics of the church’s response to clergy sex abuse, but also from insiders who now voice doubts that the bishops are capable of handling the crisis on their own. Among them is Francesco Cesareo, chairman of a national sex-abuse review board set up by the bishops.
“My biggest concern is that it’s going to end up being bishops overseeing bishops,” Cesareo told Catholic News Service, the news agency of the U.S. bishops’ conference. “If that’s the case, it’s going to be very difficult for the laity to feel any sense of confidence that anything has truly changed.”
Sex-abuse scandals have beset the Catholic church worldwide for decades, but events of the past year have created unprecedented challenges for the U.S. bishops. Many dioceses have become targets of state investigations since a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August detailed hundreds of cases of alleged abuse. In February, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was expelled from the priesthood for sexually abusing minors and seminarians, and investigators are seeking to determine if some Catholic VIPs covered up his transgressions. Another investigative team recently concluded that Michael Bransfield, a former bishop in West Virginia, engaged in sexual harassment and financial misconduct over many years.
Even the president of the bishop’s conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Galveston-Houston archdiocese, has been entangled in controversies. On June 4, The Associated Press reported on a Houston woman’s allegations that DiNardo mishandled her case alleging sexual and financial misconduct by his deputy.
The archdiocese said it “categorically rejects” the story as biased and one-sided. However, the archdiocese later said it would review the married woman’s allegations that the monsignor, Frank Rossi, continued to hear her confessions after luring her into a sexual relationship, a potentially serious crime under church law.
SNAP, a national advocacy group for clergy abuse victims, has called on DiNardo to resign his post or at least recuse himself from presiding over the Baltimore meeting.
The bishops had drafted some new accountability policies for their previous national meeting in November, but deferred action due to a last-minute request from the Vatican. One of those proposals would have established a new code of conduct for individual bishops; another would have created a special commission, including lay experts and clergy, to review complaints against the bishops.
In Baltimore, the bishops will be guided by a groundbreaking new law issued by Pope Francis on May 9.
It requires priests and nuns worldwide to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups by their superiors to church authorities. It also calls for any claim of sexual misconduct or cover-up against a bishop to be reported to the Vatican and a supervisory bishop in the U.S.
SNAP said the pope’s edict was a step forward, but urged the U.S. bishops to go further by requiring that church staff report their suspicions to police and prosecutors in addition to reporting internally. SNAP also said the bishops should turn over any files and records related to sex abuse to their state attorneys general for investigation, and it urged the bishops to ensure that all U.S. dioceses release lists of priests, nuns and other church staff alleged to have committed sexual abuse.
Beyond the pope’s edict, the bishops will consider creating an independent, third-party reporting system to which allegations of abuse could be filed.
John Gehring, Catholic program director at a Washington-based clergy network called Faith in Public Life, said many bishops now realize they need lay leadership as decisions on anti-abuse policies are made.
“But the disagreement comes when you get down to deciding what that actually looks like in practice,” Gehring said. “Some bishops are still uncomfortable with conceding power and there will be inevitable tensions.”
Catholic leaders argue, with some statistical backing, that instances of clergy sex abuse have declined sharply with the adoption in 2002 of a charter establishing guidelines for dealing with clergy sex-abuse of minors.
“The Church is a far safer place today than when we launched the Charter,” DiNardo contended in a recently released report on abuse. “Programs of background checks, safe environment trainings, review boards enforcing zero tolerance policies, and victims assistance require hundreds of dedicated, professional teams with child safety as their highest priority.”
Richard “Rick” Thomas Clayton
Gordon J. LaChance
Thomas D. Newcomer
Michael “Catfish” Vance