A1 A1
Dozens of MHS students, grads earn AP Scholar honors

More than three dozen current Marion High School students and members of the MHS Class of 2020 have been recognized by the College Board for their cumulative excellent performance on multiple Advanced Placement tests in the 2019-20 school year or earlier in their high school career.

This accomplishment is worthy of high praise in any school year, but it is particularly impressive in a year when classes shifted online and students had to adapt to new distance testing protocols and systems.

Every year, the College Board, which administers AP exams, awards students who have excelled on multiple exams. AP exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5. A score of 3 designates the student as “qualified” and capable of doing the work of an introductory-level course in a particular subject at college, according to the AP Program’s website. Many colleges and universities grant credit and placement for scores of 3, 4 or 5, but the AP Program’s website notes that each college decides which scores it will accept.

The achievements of these current Marion High School students and Class of 2020 graduates put MHS well ahead of the state and national mean scores on AP test scores in several subjects. Several of the students who earned AP honors this year have done so for two or even three years in a row.

The followint students were named AP Scholars with Distinction, meaning they earned scores of 3 or higher on five or more exams with an average score of at least 3.5 on all exams taken:

Saralena Bergsma, Class of 2020

Soren Bruehler, senior

Camille Case, Class of 2020

Evelyn Detamore, senior

Tristan Galeon, Class of 2020

Leah Hoeksema, senior

Jaelin Lindsey, Class of 2020

Emma Maki, senior

Vikram Oddiraju, senior

Joseph Powell, Class of 2020

Caleb Spitzer, Class of 2020

Madeline Stiles, Class of 2020

The following students were named AP Scholars with Honor, meaning they earned scores of 3 or higher on four or more exams with an average score of at least 3.25 on all exams taken:

Carynna Aguila, senior

Clayton Drook, senior

Levi Hofmann, Class of 2020

Kira Humes, Class of 2020

Isak Lagerkvist, Class of 2020

Lucia Persinger, senior

Nagesh Nihal, Class of 2020

Cathryn Riggs, Class of 2020

Annika Sharlow, senior

Patrick Spitzer, Class of 2020

Ella Vermilion, Class of 2020

The following students were named AP Scholars, meaning they earned scores of 3 or higher on three or more exams:

Isabelle Bento, senior

Maylen Bowen, Class of 2020

Khabreya Cobb, Class of 2020

Madison Crisp, Class of 2020

Josiah Hamilton, Class of 2020

Shelby Harrison, senior

Claire Hendricks, Class of 2020

Parker Howell, Class of 2020

Taylor Kitts, Class of 2020

Nicolas Madden, Class of 2020

Takota Russ, senior

Garrett Scher, Class of 2020

Gabriella Vermilion, senior

Marisa Wallace, senior

Jack White, Class of 2020

Since 1955, the rigorous Advanced Placement Program has enabled millions of students to take college-level courses and exams and to earn college credit or placement while still in high school.

According to a study cited on the AP Program’s website, AP students have better four-year college graduation rates than those who did not take AP. Taking AP also increases eligibility for scholarships and makes candidates more attractive to colleges.

AP Scholar honors put the spotlight on students who excel in multiple subjects, and students may cite this academic distinction among their credentials on applications, resumes and portfolios.

Marion High School requires that students taking an AP class take the corresponding AP exam in order to receive the extra credit available for the class. (All AP classes at MHS are “weighted,” meaning that students can earn more credit for those classes because of their difficulty, as compared to standard classes. But students who don’t take the AP exam won’t receive that extra credit.) This leads to a very high percentage of MHS AP students taking the corresponding exams – which makes the passing percentages achieved by MHS students even more impressive.

Rising to the challenge: MGH reflects on pandemic

What started as a few patients sick with the novel coronavirus quickly turned into a situation nobody working at Marion General Hospital had experienced before.

As media reports streamed in from across the country and globe, employees at MGH said they were constantly planning, communicating, researching, training and preparing for the worst possible situation. Entire floors were transformed to take on an influx of patients as the pandemic gripped Grant County.

“There wasn’t anything to prepare you for this. You just had to do it. So once we got used to (a few COVID-19 patients), it overtook that floor,” telemetry unit shift manager Eric Craun recalled. “Then next thing you know, it flooded this (unit), and that’s all we had. Everything became relative to COVID.”

Every COVID-19 patient made their way through telemetry, which specializes in monitoring vitals, in order to receive a heart monitor. There, telemetry staff would watch for signs of deterioration at stations and at patient’s bedsides, more than once an hour.

Since the virus was so new, there wasn’t a lot of information available to rely on, so multiple employees said everyone was learning “on the fly” until more concrete research came in.

If patients deteriorated, they were taken to critical care, which overflowed at times. Kristie Ackley, who has worked in critical care and the emergency room at MGH for twelve years, said things were “rough.”

“We had to take the time to cry and get the emotions out and be like, okay, you’ve cried, now we’re off and here you go,” Ackley said. “So it affected us just as much as it affected the patients sometimes because – there for a while – we had a lot of people dying, and it was very frustrating.”

“We hit a really hard time where it felt like we lost a lot of patients,” a nurse in telemetry recalled. “That is when everyone really felt like, ‘What are we doing? we are putting in all of this effort, and we are just losing people left and right.”

Nurses and MGH staff were routinely picking up extra shifts, working a minimum of 48 hours each week – sometimes reaching 60 hours. Although some healthcare workers shared that they sometimes felt burnt out, they would always rally as a team, which would boost morale.

“We all kind of just leaned on each other like we are all in this together because you go outside of here and nobody really understands what you’re going through,” a nurse told the Chronicle-Tribune. “They can’t relate to you like the people here can. All of us on our unit just built a really strong bond and leaned on each other, finding little little things to kind of brighten everyone’s day.”

There were times where Craun said he felt like he was trapped at the hospital, but he said the teamwork he witnessed made it easier.

Ackley said everyone supported one another, and she said the staff adopted ways to deal with the stress, like running or praying, in order to keep up the pace.

Beyond the long hours and extra shifts, the MGH staff made sacrifices, they said, in order to keep each other and the patients safe.

“You had to go home and try to leave the hospital at the hospital. I was isolated at home too just because you didn’t want to take it to your family,” Ackley said. “I stopped going to church and had to watch online because I didn’t want to take the risk of getting infected because I needed to be at work.”

Multiple employees said they were able to do their jobs thanks to the hard work of the administration and people working behind the scenes. Craun said infection control, engineering and respiratory therapy played large roles, and the team that secured personal protective equipment made sure all employees were protected.

“We never ran out of anything… As far as our PPE went, we never had to worry. We got close, we got nervous, we got to where we didn’t know what the next step was, but they were pulling their weight and doing more than we thought they could do,” Craun said. “I had no idea where they were getting this stuff from. It was just amazing.”

The community also played a large role in the hospital’s success, everyone interviewed for this story said.

Prayer vigils were held on a nightly basis in the parking lot, with families blaring their horns, flashing their lights and holding handmade signs adorned with words of encouragement. As the staff walked into the building each day, support was scrawled on the sidewalk, making the entire staff feel like they weren’t in this alone.

“I think that was huge for morale… (Not everyone) understood that we were trapped in here – at least it felt like that at times, so just having that encouragement and knowing they believe in us was huge…. They were fighting too in the ways they could fight it,” Craun said. “Outside of our walls, there was a whole community fighting.”

As research improved and the staff hit their stride, things began to get easier, they all said.

“I think when our staff could see people that were deteriorating start to improve, I think that was huge,” Craun said. “It made us realize and think, ‘You’re doing something. If it wasn’t for you, this person probably wouldn’t make it.’”

Since patients weren’t allowed to have visitors, Craun said everyone went out of their way to support the patients in the hospital and give them access to iPads to communicate with family. They tried their best to give relatives updates in order to ease the stress being felt.

“It was definitely rewarding to see people overcome it. When you are in that room, they have nobody but you,” Craun continued. “There’s no family, there’s no friends.”

Although things have improved, Ackley said they are still treating COVID-19 patients. According to Associated Press reports, the virus has even rebounded in parts of the US and world, causing heavy casualties – like that being seen in India.

“It’s not over,” Ackley said. “I would like to think that it is, but there is a lot about this disease that’s still unknown and I don’t think we’ll know all of it for several years, but I also think God has a plan and we will see what that is eventually.”

Craun said this past year has made their team even stronger, and Ackley said her unit has grown closer because of all the adversity they’ve overcome.

For anyone wanting to continue to support healthcare workers’ efforts, Ackley offered some advice.

“Just reach out to them and ask them how they are doing personally, you know, and just be a friend, check on them because we are just so busy doing things for the patients that sometimes we forget about ourselves,” she said. “Just take a moment and check on your healthcare workers and see if they need someone to just listen to them so they can get their feelings out and feel supported. That would be a huge help to us who are still in the midst of it.”

15 years later, TU remembers van accident victims

Brad Larson. Laurel Erb. Betsy Smith. Laura VanRyn. Monica Felver.

On April 26, 2006, 15 years ago this week, these four students and one staff member of Taylor University were killed in a tragic car crash that made international news and impacted the Taylor community in monumental ways.

Just a few weeks before graduation, students Larson, Erb, Smith, VanRyn and Whitney Cerak (‘09) as well as staff members Felver, Connie Magers, Vickie Rhodes and Michele Miller were driving back from Fort Wayne.

They had been setting up a banquet for soon-to-be inaugurated President-Emeritus Gene Habecker.

Just 10 miles away from campus, a semi-truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and crossed over the median on Interstate 69, colliding with their van.

Magers, Rhodes and Miller were taken to the hospital. Cerak was also taken to the hospital, but at the time she was believed to be VanRyn.

Jim Garringer, director of media relations, was on campus the night of the crash.

He remembers the campus being deserted despite the nice spring weather as students, faculty and staff gathered in Rediger Chapel upon hearing the news to pray and wait together.

“A little after 11 p.m., an emergency prayer meeting was called and the students, along with many faculty and staff and others from the community, converged on Rediger,” Garringer said. “It was standing room only. There were many tears, hugs, sobs.”

It was the first time he had seen such anguish displayed, Garringer said.

Donna Downs, associate professor of communication, was also a professor at Taylor during the time of the crash. She was an adviser to VanRyn and taught many students who were close to the other victims.

She recalled the somberness in the chapel as names of the victims were read aloud. She stayed in the chapel until 1 or 2 a.m. and then returned with many others early the next morning for a chapel service.

A song sung over and over during these services was “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord.”

The line, “He gives and takes away,” stood out especially to Downs.

“I think a lot of people grew closer to God through the accident, but some people walked further away from God because they didn’t understand and couldn’t get past the why,” Downs said. “... When you have four young kids and an employee who have suddenly been whisked away, it’s hard not to ask why.”

Garringer said it is important that students remember that those who died 15 years ago were very much like the students on campus in 2021. Some of them involved were about to graduate, they lived and worked on campus. Other students on campus were getting ready to finish up and head home for the summer. Felver was a Dining Commons employee who interacted with students daily.

Downs recalled the difficulties students faced finishing up the semester while dealing with the grief and confusion that came as a result of the accident.

“Monday was a very difficult day, as classes reconvened,” Downs wrote in a journal entry in 2006. “Funerals were occurring almost daily that week, and all absences were excused. With the end of the semester nearing and major projects due at the end of the semester, many fell behind. And many really didn’t care about academics any more.”

The semester finished up and events such as the inauguration of Habecker and commencement went on with special additions to honor the victims. “Blessed be the Name of the Lord” was sung again at graduation, and degrees were given posthumously to Larson, Smith and Erb.

The one student survivor of the accident, who was believed to be VanRyn at the time, was awarded a degree as well. Cerak went on to graduate in 2009.

Then, five weeks after the accident, the mistaken identity of VanRyn and Cerak was discovered. It was, in fact, VanRyn, who had died in the accident and not Cerak.

This identity mix-up resulted in Taylor becoming the subject of national and international news. Garringer remembers getting calls from media outlets around the country asking for a response to the story.

Taylor continued in the spotlight as the book “Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope” was published in 2008. Soon after, the Memorial Prayer Chapel was built and dedicated to remembering those who died.

“God used Taylor’s tragic loss to make a tremendous impact on a watching world,” a pamphlet from the prayer chapel dedication read. “Countless stories were received, telling how the prayerful response of this community encouraged many and even led some to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Though there are no current plans in place to formally mark the 15th anniversary of this tragedy, Garringer said he hopes Taylor adopts an annual tradition to honor the lives of those who died in the van accident, as well as other students and faculty who have passed since.

“As people retire from here and go away and new people come in, it becomes more of a memory and less of a ‘reality,’ I guess,” Downs said. “It will always be a reality for those who lived through it, but it becomes a less-spoken-about memory those left behind don’t discuss … because those who didn’t experience it can’t really understand … which is happy, but sad because it was such an impactful time, such an influential time in all of our lives.”

IDOH updates COVID-19 count

IDOH updates COVID-19 count

EMA Director Bob Jackson Friday reported 10 new cases of COVID-19 in Grant County, bringing the county’s total number since the start of the pandemic to 7,611. A total of 172 county residents have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, he said.

Jackson said 77 new COVID cases have been reported locally over the past seven days, an average of approximately 11 new cases per day. Over the past 14 days, Jackson said 112 new cases have been reported, an average of approximately eight new cases per day.

The Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) Friday reported 1,494 new COVID-19 cases statewide. That brings to 720,425 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard.

A total of 12,921 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of eight from the previous day. Another 411 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. Deaths are reported based on when data are received by the state and occurred over multiple days.

To date, a total of 9,787,443 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to IDOH since Feb. 26, 2020.

COVID-19 vaccine information

COVID-19 vaccines are available to Hoosiers 16 and older. To schedule at a facility within the state system, visit ourshot.in.gov or call 211. Vaccines are free, but insurance may be charged an administrative fee. Appointments for the second dose will be made when the first dose is administered if receiving a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine that requires two doses.

The Grant County Health Department and Marion General Hospital (MGH) are operating vaccine clinics locally within the state system. Appointments can still be scheduled, but walk-ins are also now accepted at this time within the state system clinics.

Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds are only permitted to receive the Pfizer vaccine, which is offered locally at MGH.

The Marion Walmart and Meijer locations are also offering COVID-19 vaccinations at their in-store pharmacies as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program (FRPP). Eligible customers can schedule a vaccine appointment via the stores’ respective websites.

Visit uplandfamily pharmacy.com or call 765-998-8072 for information on Upland Family Pharmacy’s vaccine clinic that offers the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

All veterans can now receive a COVID-19 vaccine from VA Northern Indiana Health Care System (VANIHCS) regardless of their enrollment status or character of discharge.

Caregivers, Spouses, CHAMPVA Recipients and Veterans who are not enrolled in VANIHCS, please call (800) 360-8387 ext. 71101 to preregister. Phone lines are open 8 a.m. 4pm, Monday-Friday.

FEMA will host a Johnson & Johnson mobile vaccine clinic at Allen Temple AME Church, 3440 S. Washington St. in Marion, on May 18 and 19 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Walk-in appointments will be available, or individuals can go online or call to schedule an appointment through the state system.

If you have recently received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, flu-like systems within the first few days of vaccination are part of the body’s normal immune response to the vaccine. Those symptoms include pain, redness and swelling in the arm where you got the vaccine, as well as tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea.

Anyone who develops a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, shortness of breath or leg swelling within three weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should contact a health care provider and inform the provider of the symptoms and recent COVID-19 vaccination.

According to the Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) COVID-19 vaccine dashboard, 18,489 Grant County residents have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 16,197 are fully vaccinated through receiving both doses of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single dose required for the J&J vaccine. Statewide, IDOH reports 2,344,638 Hoosiers have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine requiring two doses, and 1,884,466 Indiana residents are fully vaccinated by receiving two doses or the one-dose J&J vaccine.

MCS board approves $1,500 employee stipends

The Marion Community Schools board Tuesday approved a $1,500 stipend for each district employee for the additional work and effort during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Financial Officer Bob Schultz said HVAC improvements and staff stipends are two of the most common uses for school districts with Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds. MCS is receiving a total of approximately $26.4 million in ESSER and other COVID relief funding.

Schultz recalled the effort MCS employees put in to food distribution while schools were shut down last spring as just one example of how staff members have gone above and beyond to serve students during the pandemic.

“You can’t find any group of employees who haven’t been involved in helping our students get the very best they can get during these incredibly challenging times,” Schultz said. “Every single staff member was involved, and these funds give us an opportunity as they do other schools to reward every single staff member equally for the good work that they’ve done.”

Schultz recommended the board begin to consider the stipends at Tuesday’s meeting for approval at a later date, but board member Todd Nicholson said he did not see a reason to wait and made a motion to approve the $1,500 stipends.

The motion passed 6-1, with board President Serafina Salamo abstaining because her spouse works for the district. Superintendent Brad Lindsay said prior to the vote that it was not necessary for board members with family members who work for MCS to abstain due to each member submitting conflict of interest statements and disclosing these relationships at the first board meeting of 2021.

Schultz said the district is working to finalize its list of eligible employees, working with an estimate that approximately 600 workers will receive the stipend, which would equate to about $900,000 to be paid out of the ESSER funds. He said the stipend will be the same for every employee, not prorated, even if an employee works less than full time.

The district is planning to request that the board approve an additional $2,000 stipend for employees sometime in the fall, Schultz said. Both stipends will only be given to employees currently working at MCS at the time the board approves them, he noted.

Board member Alan Beck said he believes the district will be able to accomplish everything on its “wish list” for ESSER funds with funds still left over, so the district may be able to give a third stipend to employees if there is money left over at the end of the time ESSER funds can be spent.

“There’s no question that during this COVID time that our teachers and our staff of every single kind has been a godsend to this district with every effort they put in, so I feel like the higher amount that we can put that would just be an obvious to give them to say thanks for helping us through all that you went through,” he said.

Superintendent Brad Lindsay thanked the board for showing employees they are appreciated.

“Thank you for serving the greater good. Thank you for honoring our staff that have served the greater good,” he said. “You just showed how important our staff is to you and to Marion Community Schools, and I can’t imagine any staff member not feeling affirmed and valued and appreciative and motivated.”

Schultz said the stipends will be distributed to employees as soon as possible, estimating they will most likely go out some time in June.