#1StudentNWI: ‘No Place for Hate,’ holiday music spectacular, and stand-out Portage Indians round out the year

#1StudentNWI: ‘No Place for Hate,’ holiday music spectacular, and stand-out Portage Indians round out the year

What’s recently happened?

Portage High School (PHS) students and faculty are making it known that their building is no place for hate. The No Place for Hate initiative is in full force at PHS and around the Portage Township Schools (PTS) district as well. This initiative is also in conjunction with the PTS Critical Values of responsibility, fairness, honesty, respect, and compassion. 

Recently, PHS organized a No Place for Hate assembly that kicked off the initiative. This assembly was completely student-organized by the No Place for Hate Student Committee. They played games that revolve around inclusivity, respect, and unity, and Guest Speaker Bill Hicks spoke on the sense of belonging and presented the school with a No Place for Hate banner. 

To round out the assembly, there were special performances from the Steppaz Step Team and the Big Red Basketball Band. Before students were dismissed, multiple students took the No Place for Hate Pledge on the spot in front of all attendees.

“No Place for Hate is an excellent initiative, in my opinion,” said Student Committee Member Kayla Pleasant. “Honestly, it’s made me do quite a bit of self-reflection on my own feelings toward people and have a more positive outlook. I hope that students can keep No Place for Hate in the back of their minds, and just treat each other with compassion, respect, and kindness. In our diverse community, it’s only fair that everyone is treated with equity and are included.”

PHS and the rest of the district will continue to keep the initiative running until the end of the school year, with many engaging events to come in the future. As of now, PHS is officially no place for hate!

What’s coming up?

For the first time, PHS band, choir, and orchestra ensembles will perform all together as one musical group. The Christmas concert will take place on December 12 beginning at 7 p.m. Attendants will hear performances from the Wind Symphony and Wind Ensemble bands, various elite choirs, and Philharmonic Orchestra. For the grand finale, the three groups will perform “A Christmas Waltz '' and “Sleigh Ride '' as one. 

“I hope that the audience will enjoy this new experience of seeing all the band, choir, and orchestra in one night,” said Rowan Barnes, PHS band and choir member. “This is surely going to bring the programs and audience together for the better.”

All students and faculty involved are very excited and hopeful that this concert will become the start of a beloved tradition for the Portage community. Tickets for the Christmas concert can be found on the PTS website under the “Upcoming Events Calendar”.

Staff spotlight:

This year, PHS has the pleasure of Anna Dimov stepping into the building as a new English teacher. Although the first semester has not yet finished, Dimov has already begun to build strong bonds with her students and change students’ lives through education, all while living the dream of being a teacher at the high school she called her own as a student.

For Dimov, becoming a teacher wasn’t the easiest walk in the park for her. While she was a student at PHS, she wanted to pursue the education field. However, she received backlash from those in her life who did not approve and persuaded her to go into something other than teaching. It was a difficult time in her life, but Dimov had a wonderful support system from the teachers at PHS who inspired her through their work ethic and positive attitude, eventually convincing her to listen to her heart and become a teacher.

“There were times where I felt defeated but also times where I had so much pride in my craft that teaching was an easy choice,” said Dimov. “I knew I wanted to do this when I was young. I tried to look into other careers but always came back to teaching. I also had many inspiring educators when I was in school so it made the decision easy for me. It’s really fun seeing my teachers who I had here.”

One of the most crucial things about being an educator is creating and maintaining positive bonds with students, something Dimov has become an expert at very quickly. To begin with, her room is comfortable and welcoming with a reading corner for when students are looking to get out of their seats and pick up a book. Dimov found it important to make her room a safe space for all her students. She understood that respecting students was the easiest way to gain their respect in return.

“I wasn’t expecting to gain such strong bonds that I have with my students,” said Dimov. “I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously. It’s honestly just about mutual respect for each other. My kids know my expectations of them. They also know that if they need a safe space, I will drop anything for them. I push them to the best of their abilities because I know what they are capable of. They sometimes just need that motivation to get there. I also try to keep energy high in our room. We laugh, we get frustrated, we keep it real and we work together to get the things that we need to get completed done. I was extremely blessed with my students for my first year. They know they are appreciated. I tell them every day.”

When she is not grading papers or planning out engaging activities, Dimov is often reading, hanging out with friends, or dreaming about her next trip to North Carolina. 

While she finishes up her first year as an educator, Dimov advises all teachers who come after her to create achievable routines.

“Set each day for something so you can stay on top of what you need to do. Another thing is to not be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone. Create healthy bonds with your colleagues since they are your biggest supporters. Don’t worry about if every kid likes you, there will always be a few that won’t. Plan ahead. Keep pushing.”

Student spotlight:

If only given one word to describe Senior Conner Archer, that word would be “leader.” On and off the field, Archer leads his peers to better themselves and continues to exude Portage Pride. Although his time on the soccer field is over, Archer is looking forward to the spring season, where he will take the mound as a pitcher. 

Archer has been playing soccer ever since his parents signed him up for Portage Parks Soccer 13 years ago. Since then, he has taken a liking to the goalie position and has excelled in defending the goal. Last season, Archer made 85 saves in the 16 games he played, rounding out his save rate to be 80%. He even received the Most Valuable Player award for the 2023 PHS Boys Soccer season. 

Archer’s role occasionally leaves him alone in the goal. During his alone time, Archer tends to take in his surroundings and think about what’s going on in his life, but he kicks into high gear when opponents are near.

“When the striker has the ball on my end, I make sure I'm in the right position, but I also have a feeling,” said Archer. “That feeling usually comes to me when the striker has a clear path to score in a one-on-one or just an open shot. The feeling I get is there is no doubt in my mind that they won’t score. Every time I get that feeling, the other team never scores whether I make a big save, my defense stuffs the shot, or the striker misses the goal completely.”

Archer’s fans can also catch him on the PHS varsity baseball team as a first baseman and pitcher. Though he is great at both positions, Archer takes more of a liking to pitching as he feels that he can control the outcome of the game better. 

When he’s not in school, Archer has played for multiple travel teams including Portage Tribe, Triple Crown Lightning, North Central Cyclones, Triple Crown Threat, and an American Legion team, Post 502 Blaze. 

“I love baseball and getting to play that game with the friends I’ve made along the way is what I look forward to every year,” said Archer. “I also come back every year to work toward playing in college.” 

Archer’s plans for the future are not set in stone yet since he is going through the recruitment process for baseball. Archer wants to go to a local junior college in order to get time playing baseball during freshman year. His rigorous class schedule has him taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes like Calculus, Biology, Stats, and even high-level Spanish. Taking on this challenge would make other’s heads spin, but Archer handles it with ease. 

“Honestly, I don’t know how I do it sometimes,” said Archer. “AP classes are important to me, and I know they will help me later in life. I always find time to make sure everything I have to do is done.”

In his downtime, Archer can be found listening to Morgan Wallen, watching a sports game, or hanging out with his family. His actions and character continue to accurately represent PHS and what it means to be a Portage Indian.