Online Learning Challenges

By Natalie Konow


Schools in Allen County have been conducting many classes online since March 2020. This has been the safest way to allow schools to continue teaching students, but this does not mean it was the easiest for everyone.


During the pandemic, staying motivated to complete online assignments was considered a major issue for 42% of students in America.


Amelia Adams, a sophomore student at Northrop High School who has ADHD, is one of them. She says that she finds herself getting distracted frequently by thinking about previous or upcoming situations or by objects in her household.


“My hyperactivity disorder has made it difficult for me to focus online. The teachers don’t have the ability to keep me on track, which has caused my grades to decrease since March of 2020,” Adams says. “The school seems to have no effective additional assistance for those with learning disabilities.”


Adams says that Northrop High School is not requiring its teachers to hold Zooms for every class. Some are conducted by the students signing in on a Google form and finishing the work required for that day, which is provided via Powerschool.


The lack of direct communication and instructions has left students like Adams frustrated and disorganized. The process of holding classes online makes it difficult to accommodate lessons, tasks, or assignments for those with learning disabilities.


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that those with ADHD learn best when assignments are clear and structured, when students are able to pick how learning comprehensions are assessed either through essays, oral reports, hands on projects, etc., and by minimizing distractions.


These CDC recommendations are challenging to administer over the Internet, which may be a cause of the 25% increase in students falling behind the baseline ability needed to continue in future learning or functioning in society.


Elementary schools are experiencing similar situations with their students with disabilities and issues of focusing on schoolwork throughout the day.


Courtney Bailey, principal of Cedar Canyon Elementary, says that parents have expressed concerns on how hard it is to keep them focused and on track. “By the time that they finish they should be done, but because they can’t focus during the day, they are spending more time at night doing additional work,” Bailey says.


Bailey says her school is tackling these issues by tailoring and structuring lessons so that a child will have certain expectations and requirements that they must complete in a certain amount of time.


Cedar Canyon teachers are helping students with disabilities by marking whether or not a student has a learning disability and are obligated to specify the particular disability they have, so that all instructors are aware and can make adjustments for that individual if needed.


The school is keeping track so that each student is meeting their required number of minutes for special education assistance. The school is also trying to continue academic success for students– not just during school hours, but even after the computers are off.


Despite focus being a major issue for many students, Bailey says that the academic success of the student does not solely rely on whether or not they can focus. It is highly dependent on their homelife and the supports they have at home.


Students tend to do better when they have a parent there guiding them through online courses and encouraging them to stay engaged, compared to students who have to do distant learning independently.


Although online learning has been a challenge for many with learning disabilities, some have had the chance to turn these challenges into opportunities.


Adams says that online learning has allowed her to think of creative ways to stay attentive to her classes that she will continue to use even once in-person classes start.

Pointe Shoes

By Sydney Hamblin

When the dance teachers gave her permission to buy her very first pair of pointe shoes, Katie Graber, a 17-year-old dancer at TC Dance Academy for the Performing Arts, noticed there was something odd about the dance shoes when she wore them. They didn’t match her skin tone like they matched her classmates’ skin tone.

Black dancers, especially female, are still a rarity when it comes to ballet. Although there has been a recent increase in awareness for diversity within the dance community, black dancers remain barely represented in the field.

Graber said that she had only ever seen pink pointe shoes growing up at her dance studio in northeast Indiana because there weren’t many black dancers on the team.

Pointe shoes were invented in the 1820s to allow dancers to dance on the tips of their toes with a block at the base of the shoe. They extend the dancer’s lines and help create the illusion that they are floating on air.

Graber said that, for a long time, she thought that all dancers wore the same color of pointe shoes, regardless of what their skin color was. It wasn’t until she saw a picture of Misty Copeland, an African American professional ballerina, wearing pointe shoes that matched her skin tone on social media that she started asking questions.

After seeing Copeland’s shoes, Graber immediately started researching black pointe shoes to see if they existed.

“I was disappointed and honestly kind of frustrated when I found out that those shoes weren’t something I could order online or buy at the dance store in Fort Wayne,” Graber said. “The way these girls were getting their shoes that color was from pancaking, as we call it in the dance world.”

A New York Times article describes “pancaking” as using foundation or acrylic paint to change the color of a pair of pointe shoes so they match the dancer’s skin tone. Typically, professionals use this method more often than young competition dancers.

Although Graber is not a professional ballerina in the corps, she still participated in the pancaking method that has been used to change the color of pointe shoes for dancers of color.

“I felt left out. I wanted to have shoes that matched my skin just like all my friends did. So my mom and I looked up videos on how to do it on YouTube and we attempted it.”

For dancers like Graber, the Black Lives Matter movement that followed the death of George Floyd changed a lot of things for African Americans, including things within the dance community.

The Black Lives Matter movement caused major pointe shoemakers such as Bloch, Capezio, Repetto and Suffolk to release statements saying that they were going to start making pointe shoes in a variety of shades for dancers of color, according to Pointe magazine.

Bloch was the first major pointe shoemaker that announced this news to the public, saying that the new shades would be available last fall.

“We have been intently listening, reflecting on what we are doing and what we can do better and acknowledge we have not been moving fast enough,” the company said in a statement. “Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, product development was severely slowed down, however we are fully committed to following through with these plans and confirm we will be introducing darker shades into our pointe shoes.”

Donna Winters, owner of Standing Ovation Performance Apparel in Fort Wayne, says that her store sells these pointe shoes for people of color in a variety of brands. Her store also sells tights and undergarments in various skin tones, which are frequently purchased by her customers.

“We do sell pointe shoes for people of color, but we do not carry them in our store,” Winters said. “If anyone is looking to buy a pair, we can place a special order and have them shipped to the store as soon as possible.”

Mindful Attire: September is National Suicide Prevention Month

By Nicole Minarik

Jeremy Blackman’s shirt choice has the sole purpose of showing support and raising awareness during National Suicide Prevention Month.

Blackman, 46, is a Fort Wayne native and hair stylist at 6002 The Salon at Professional Village. He makes connections and talks with over 100 people each month. On Sunday afternoon, he made a new connection and shared the story behind his shirt.

Blackman’s shirt is grey with an outline of the state of Indiana in a green, white and blue combination. The imagery and coloring inside the outline are what could be described as galaxy with the purple, green and splashes of white. Also inside the state outline is a large semicolon with the words Hoosier Buddy Project.

“The representation of the semi colon is why I wear it. It means something in my group of family and friends,” Blackman said.

According to the Project Semicolon website, the symbolic meaning of the semicolon is to show support for those that suffer from mental health issues, have attempted suicide, or have lost a loved one to suicide. Survivors have embraced the symbol as a reminder that their story is not over but a pause before continuing with their story.

Blackman explained that this is just one of several shirts he wears to show support to those who have lost loved ones to suicide or attempted suicide. It is a purposeful thought because September is National Suicide Prevention month.

“Many of our family members have been affected by it,” Blackman said.

Blackman and his wife attended the 2019 Breastfest at the Fortlandia Brewing Company in Fort Wayne. The event is held to raise awareness and funds to help fight breast cancer. His wife, Emily, is a breast cancer survivor.

“My wife and I go every year to the event to try new beers and donate to a good cause,” Blackman said.

That year the Hoosier Buddy Project group also participated in Breastfest. The Hoosier Buddy Project is an Indiana-based suicide prevention program. According to the organization’s Facebook page, they are a group of Indiana brewers that come together to make beers, form support groups, talk about suicide, and help fund existing non-profit groups.

Blackman’s wife is the one who purchased the shirt at the fundraising event. She wanted to add to his collection of meaningful shirts that raise awareness. says Indiana’s suicide rate has been higher than the national suicide rate since 2000. In addition, around 1,000 Hoosiers are lost to suicide every year and have been since 2016.

For more information on the Hoosier Buddy Project, go to their Facebook page: Hoosier Buddy.

For more information or resources on Project Semicolon, go to:


Pink Tax: The Hidden Cost of Being Female

By: Jordyn Bilger

We all know the saying “beauty hurts.” But it might be hurting more than just our feet– it may also be hurting the bank accounts of many women.


It’s no secret that women have experienced different forms of oppression since the beginning of time. From not being able to work outside of the home to not being able to vote, a lot of changes have been made in efforts to get equal rights and treatment for the female gender.


But there is something that women may not be aware of that is part of this ongoing struggle: the pink tax. The pink tax is the extra amount that women pay for everyday products like razors, shampoo, clothing and more, according to Good Housekeeping.


This is not like the sales tax applied at a register; rather, it is included in price. This has been around since the 1990s and continues to be seen in comparing the cost of men’s and women’s products.


Males pay less than females for everyday products 42% of the time, according to an investigation conducted by personal finance writer Candice Elliot.


This is especially seen in clothing items where women’s clothes are of lesser quality than men’s but are often significantly higher in price. With thinner materials- and often less fabric- used in women’s clothing, the prices even for the same brand are raised compared to pricing of items for men.


The higher price is called ‘pink tax’ because the color pink is marketed towards females, and some products cost more just for being the color pink (and sometimes purple).


This extra cost can give those who struggle with money even more trouble.


“As a full-time college student with not a lot of funds, having to pay extra on almost all of my everyday products just makes it that much harder to save and budget,” said college student Emma Yager.


Are there any brands working to stop the pink tax? In an interview with Glamour, Nitasha Mehta, the head of vendor marketing for Boxed, said that she spoke with the CEO of the company about the difference in pricing. Since then, the company has been working to make fair prices for both genders.


Billie is another company that works to charge women the same prices as men. Almost all women’s razors cost more than men’s for a lower quality. Billie is an online razor company that allows women to pay low prices for a higher quality razor and can be purchased as a subscription.


“The company launched its #AxThePinkTax campaign in April of this year to advocate for equal pricing for products,” Glamour said.


The pink tax is hard for stores to avoid unless prices are lowered by the companies that make the products, and since so many people are unaware of these hidden fees, it doesn’t get talked about often.


Leslie Owen, a financial advisor for Allen Superior Court, said that she has never really noticed the pink tax because it has just been there for as long as she can remember.


The Indiana House Bill HB1226 was introduced in 2020, which if passed would provide a sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products.


With more information spread about pink tax reality, the issue could be fixed.