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After School Activities
By Ayushe Misra, Grade 12

Track meets, violin lessons, art shows. The list of activities never seems to end. From the time we learned to walk, most of our parents enrolled us in summer camps or day care to keep us busy. We have been involved in a plethora of things right from the start, and the trend continues today. This involvement is crucial to the development of our character, and these activities are a significant contributor to our learning process. Whether you are a full time Florida Virtual School student or one that attends public school, participating in after school activities reflects our true passion and defines us as individuals.

Regardless of the age, students nowadays are a part of a wide array of activities. These range from book clubs to sports practices, drama rehearsals to math leagues, and yearbook staffs to student government organizations. Many students who commit to a regular activity are genuinely interested in it. Some may picture themselves following their passions later on in life, as a career. A majority of kids who attend public school look forward to their last class, for the end-of-the-day bell represents their moment to do something they really love. With the advent of multiple clubs as a part of Florida Virtual School, many home-schooled students also get the wonderful opportunity to get involved in their school and community. From honors societies to foreign language clubs, kids can engage themselves in a creative group consisting of driven students who love doing what they do best.

However, clubs aren’t the only things that students participate in. Sports are another excellent outlet for young and motivated kids. Many students are likely to join their school’s sports team or even start one, if it doesn’t exist. Others may opt for club teams. Playing sports is not only a great way to keep yourself busy and focused, but it also serves as critical exercise for today’s kids. It gives us the chance to meet new people and form lifelong friendships as we work together to achieve a common goal. Another admirable pastime is volunteering on a regular basis. Making a lasting impact on the lives of others is a fantastic way of spending your time and improving your community. Bringing smiles on so many faces and helping others are rewards in themselves.

While after school activities are a great way to spend your time, many of these hobbies serve a greater purpose. They help us understand who we are as people. Throughout our lifetimes, we will try many different things, and we won’t enjoy everything we do. However, the things we do enjoy are going to help us determine what paths we take in our future. A lot of these activities are bound to make us more determined and focused people who really understand the value of commitment, dedication, and passion. Participating in after school activities is not just a way to stay busy; it’s an opportunity to discover our talents and follow our dreams.

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Meet My Fr-enemy: Facebook
By Katie Petty, Grade 9

Within one month, 750 billion users will spend approximately 700 billion minutes on Facebook. In case you're not aware of what Facebook is, it is a social networking site that connects people from all over the globe with their family, friends, and fans. On Facebook you can share pictures and videos, update people on what you're doing, schedule events, play games, and take quizzes, among other things.  With billions of people signed up for this website, it's bound to have it's pros and cons.

Pros:
If you're out there searching for a long-lost family member or friend, Facebook is here to help. In 1980, Angelina Rodriguez's baby, Christina Marie, was kidnapped by her father. Angelina spent years searching for her daughter, but eventually gave up. Then, 30 years later, through the power of Facebook, Rodriguez and her daughter were reunited. It's likely that without Facebook, the two would've never had the chance to speak again.

Do you have trouble remembering to fill in events on that calender hanging up on your wall? If so, Facebook is right for you. Not only will Facebook let you know that it's your best friend’s birthday, but it will also remind you that the big end-of-the-summer party you RSVP'd to is coming up. Without Facebook, I know I would have been MIA on multiple occasions.

Collaborating on a big school project? Facebook offers many life-saving tools for students. The chat feature on the website allows you to send instant messages to your friends and teachers. You can also easily inbox your partner photos and links, or simply post them on their wall. With Facebook, finishing that pesky science project with your partner has never been so easy.

Cons:
When school work is handed in incomplete, Facebook is often to blame. Facebook may be a student’s best friend at times, but it can also be an enemy. Teenagers from all over the world have developed an addiction to Facebook and have started to push schoolwork aside so that they may spend more and more time surfing this website. I can't tell you how many times I've spotted someone frantically trying to complete a homework assignment on the bus due to the fact that they spent the previous night browsing Facebook's news-feed.

“Easier typed than said.” That's the motto of cyberbullies across the nation. While Facebook is a great communication tool, it's more often than not a bullying hot-spot. Cyberbullies can hack into your account, post rude comments on your photos, or say things that they'd never have the guts to say to you in person. Bullying can be a federal offense, and sadly, Facebook makes it that much easier to commit this crime.

Ronald Rhodes was the supposedly innocent Facebook friend of an anonymous North Carolina teenager--that is, until the unthinkable happened. The 18 year old was kidnapped, assaulted, and robbed by Rhodes. He had used her Facebook statuses and pictures to locate her during Superbowl week of 2010. With all the information people post on their Facebook feed, kidnappers can easily follow their next victim.

So as you can see, Facebook can be helpful at times, but it can also cause chaos. So if you don't have one already, go ahead and get yourself a Facebook account (with a parent’s permission, of course) and decide for yourself whether Facebook is a friend or an enemy. Just remember to be careful of what you post and who you allow to be your friend.

Sources:
http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics
http://www.kdvr.com/news/kdvr-mother-daughter-reunite-after-30-years-thanks-to-facebook-20110225,0,2681929.story
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/03/23/90930/man-charged-with-kidnapping-raping.html
Image by Priscilla G., Grade 9

 
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Good Sportsmanship - How to Develop It, Maintain It, and Teach It
By Grace Cunningham, Grade 8

What, exactly, is good "sportsmanship"? According to dictionary.com, it is, "sportsmanlike conduct, as fairness, courtesy, being a cheerful loser, etc." So, what does that mean? Well, say you have an important football game coming up. However, the whole week before, you and a kid on the opposing team take part in the traditional pre-game activity of trash-talking. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, you find yourself worrying more about which smart comeback to fire back with next than practicing and preparing for your game. Smack-talking exchanges usually end up getting in the way of your athletic performance and all-around peace of mind. It's also an excellent way to display your poor sportsmanship. Now, you may be laughing in your seat right now thinking, "Wow. It isn’t really that big of a deal." On the contrary, not having good sportsmanship, naturally, affects your attitude. Your attitude affects your team, and ultimately, it affects your game. By being a fair sport, you're benefiting both your team and your athletic effectiveness. You may even act like a sore sport in a joking way, but it's often best to just play it clean - both on and off the field.

Fair sportsmanship is actually something that you can develop - believe it or not. Don't worry, it's not anything you'll have to spend hours studying. All it takes is some respect and self-control. Think: there's one minute and thirteen seconds left in your soccer playoff game. The score is 3-2. With one more goal, your team could tie up the game just in time for a victory-deciding shoot-out, and you could be on your way to the championships. The ball is up-field, being passed back and forth between your teammates. All of the sudden, your teammate shoots on the opposing team's goal...and scores! Awesome. You start freaking out in celebration. Then, amid all of your team's excitement, the referee blows his whistle. Offsides. Your jaw drops, and you shout in complete disbelief. The equalizing goal is taken away, and your team is left with thirty seconds and a whole lot of disappointment. Standing next to the ref, you snap, "Are you serious? That is so unfair!" That reaction of instantaneous, angry outbursts definitely does not show good sportsmanship. It's very easy to lose your temper when things go wrong in competitions. Nonetheless, when you control yourself, rid your mouth of negative comments, stay positive, encourage yourself to keep trying, and respect the people around you, you're being a good sport. That sounds extremely cliche, and it's definitely easier said than done, but if you practice self-control and respect, keeping your cool will become more and more effortless.

Even if you don't have perfect sportsmanship yourself, it's helpful to encourage other teammates/athletes to be courteous competitors. That can be simpler than it seems. How? By setting a good example. You may not be the best player on your team, or the best athlete in your sport, but your peers will learn from you when you present honorable sportsmanship. The idea of people looking up to you based on the way you act competitively may seem fictional, but it can help others around you develop good sportsmanship. If a teammate strikes out, encourage them; don't hit them down. Your optimism and support may be just the thing that helps calm them down and picks them back up to give it another go. Positive chain-reactions can happen.

The next time you're sitting on the bench, watching your team play against the clumsiest team in the county, focus on cheering for your teammates, not bashing your opponents. When you think there's an unfair call, hold your tongue and try to center your thoughts on overcoming the setback, giving your team a boost to do the same. There may come a time when you completely annihilate another team, but don't rub it in their faces afterward. Stay humble and keep on improving your game. If you make an effort to keep an uplifting mindset, you'll see improvements in not only yourself, but in the people around you as well. So good luck! May the best sport win.

Sources:
http://dictionary.reference.com/ ; Personal Experience