Polaris Week of 3/15/2021

I’m Ellen, your newsletter writer, here to provide you with a weekly line to The North Star and the news. Here, we’ll break down big events worldwide and keep you updated on what’s going on right here in Naperville.

First up, coronavirus updates.

Let’s dive into the week’s Covid news:

  • Spain, France, Italy, Germany and other European countries are halting the use of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, which they have invested in heavily, over fears of rare side effects of blood clots and abnormal bleeding, concerns which Astra-Zeneca is still studying. The World Health Organization has reaffirmed that the Astra-Zeneca vaccine is safe. Already, Europe’s vaccine rollout has been struck with problems and short of pace in reaching the target of 70% of the population vaccinated by September. Many other European nations, including Poland and the Czech Republic, have continued use of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine.
  • Moderna has begun testing their vaccine in children six months to 12 years old. They hope to enroll 6,750 kids in the U.S. and Canada for trials. A trial of 12-17-year olds with 3,000 participants is ongoing and the vaccine is approved for those 18 years old and up.
  • France has discovered a new Covid variant in a cluster of cases in Brittany.
  • About 2.5 million doses of vaccine are being administered per day in the U.S., though on Saturday, there was a spike with 4.6 million doses administered. 75.5 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
  • Last weekend, Illinois became the 5th state to surpass four million vaccine doses given. The others are New York, California, Texas, and Florida. 24% of Illinois residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

This pandemic year has brought many changes to college admissions, from the number of students applying to the admission requirements themselves. Let’s take a look at how colleges and students have weathered this pandemic:

  • Applications submitted via the Common App rose 11% this year, but total applicants using the Common App only rose 2.4%. This indicates that a similarly sized applicant pool is applying to more schools. The applications are only surging in some places, but the increase is severe: Harvard saw 42% more applications, while Colgate University saw 103% more, adding more applications to an already enormous applicant pool.
  • Some of these increases may be caused by lowered requirements to apply to elite colleges -- 1,700 universities waived requirements for SAT and ACT scores this year.
  • However, less recognized universities and private schools saw their applications down, often by 10% or more. Lower applications, and presumably lower enrollments could hurt these universities, already struggling with decreased enrollment and loss of revenue from state funding and sports events. It could even spell doom to some. Fall 2020 enrollment also fell at community colleges by 20%.
  • The Common App also received applications from 3% fewer applicants who would be the first in their families to go to college and 2% fewer applications from students who qualify for admissions fee waivers.
  • In the 2020-21 school year, international student’s enrollment was down by 43% because of a number of factors, including inability to get visas with many US consulates closed and difficulty getting transportation to the U.S. with many flights banned or canceled.
  • Meanwhile, colleges and universities have had 535,000 cases of Covid over 2020 and 2021. Closer to home, Benedictine University has had 50 cases over the course of the pandemic, while North Central College has had 319. Many colleges plan to bring students back in-person to their residence halls and classes during the 2021-22 school year.
  • As decisions come in for the college class of 2025, many are getting waitlisted, and getting off the waitlist may take into midsummer. Colleges, amid declining enrollment yields, want to admit enough students to keep their enrollment up, but not admit too many should dorms and other services become overcrowded.

Now, snubs and successes at the Grammy Awards.

The 63rd Grammy awards took place on Sunday night, hosted by Trevor Noah. Here’s a recap:

  • The ceremony was aired at the Los Angeles Convention Center, with the nominees seated outside and socially distanced. The show also paid homage to iconic music venues across the country.
  • Some of the night’s top winners were Megan Thee Stallion (Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song), Taylor Swift (Album of the Year) and Billie Eilish (Record of the Year). Beyoncé, who won Best R&B Performance and shared the Grammy with Megan Thee Stallion for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song, became the woman with the most Grammy awards ever at 28 awards.
  • Performances were given by BTS, Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B, Harry Styles and Doja Cat, to name a few.
  • There were also some major snubs. BTS, Zayn Malik and The Weeknd all either lost or weren’t nominated at all, leaving fans upset and #Scammys trending on Twitter. The Weeknd vowed to boycott both this year’s and future Grammys after receiving no nominations for his album After Hours. Many artists, such as Zayn and The Weeknd, called for transparency and a lack of racial bias from the Recording Academy.

Next, women's issues come to a head in Britain.

Reclaim These Streets is a movement in Britain centered around confronting why police ask that women make sacrifices for their safety instead of addressing the need for male change in preventing violence.

The story of the abduction and subsequent murder of Sarah Everard in England resonated with women across the globe because the 33-year-old had done everything “right,” yet she was still not immune to male violence. Here's what you need to know about the story and the global protests it triggered:

  • Everard disappeared while walking home on March 3 and was reported missing by her boyfriend the following day. Her body was discovered one week later in Kent woodland, and Serving Met Police officer Wayne Couzens was charged with her murder and kidnap. March is women's history month and so the killing drew more attention to the already spotlit issue of women's rights and freedoms.
  • Everard’s murder gained international attention in part because of the precautions she had taken. She followed the safety advice frequently told to women; she took a populated and well-lit route home, despite it being longer, she dressed in bright clothing and wore shoes she could run in, she checked in with her boyfriend ahead of time to let him know when she was leaving, and yet she never made it home. Her murder has left many women feeling that no matter what they do, they will never be safe from male violence.
  • Outrage at the British police was soon sparked after reports that the police were going door to door in South London advising women to stay inside for their safety, instead of condemning the perpetrator. Fuel was only added to the fire by the police handling of a vigil held in Everards name. On Saturday, a vigil was planned by the group Reclaim These Streets and then subsequently cancelled after authorities said it violated social distancing laws, yet many still gathered to pay their respects. The police broke up the vigil and sparked outrage after pictures emerged showing police officers harshly handling protesters, many of whom were young women, by pulling them and pinning some to the ground.
  • This story has inspired rallying cries about how the burden of preventing male violence falls on women, and has brought to light staggering statistics about how many women have experienced sexual harassment.

Finally, a project to bring the outside in.

Biosphere: A closed ecosystem that needs few to no external inputs to survive. Our planet Earth is a large biosphere.

The indoorization of our youth has presented a troubling trajectory to many of society's leaders, and the mental and physical health benefits associated with outdoor activity are copious and well-chronicled. As a youth and someone who’s been outside a few times, I would like to present my compromise in a way to bring the outside in, as a very fun project you should try making this spring: the jar biosphere.

  • The concept of a biosphere is to create a fully autonomous ecosystem within a jar, that can grow using only the ambient sunlight that permeates through the glass. This is possible by facilitating the nutrient and water cycles on a much smaller scale.
  • Jars can become microcosms of almost any environment. A few scoops of soil and debris from the forest floor, or a handful of sediment from a pond or streambed will provide the base habitat and contain all of the beneficial microbes needed to process waste, and adding some small native plants will allow for oxygen production. Some structural features like rocks or branches can liven up the jar and provide surface habitats. Terrestrial ecosystems will require the addition of water before being sealed.
  • A scoop of soil will contain plenty of small organisms to live within your jar, but you can go hunting for unique additions, which are typically small arthropods like centipedes, spiders, beetles, mollusks or crayfish. Larger animals can’t live in biosphere jars as they produce too much waste.
  • A magnifying glass or zooming lens can make viewing tiny interactions more fun as well.
  • Check out the Jartopia Youtube channel for some ideas on how to get started and what you can expect to see in your own jars.

Take a look at the North Star's latest Heads Up Huskies, also found on our Instagram.

This week, Polaris Recipes presents chia seed pudding.

Chia seed pudding: Looking for the perfect quick and easy breakfast? This delicious chia seed pudding is your answer. Simply put together the night before in less than five minutes and enjoy it with no prep in the morning! Combine the ingredients listed below in a glass jar, stir and cover, and leave in the fridge overnight. Enjoy with the toppings of your choice the next morning.

  • 1 cup almond milk(or milk of your choice)
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • tablespoon vanilla extract
  • table spoon honey
  • dash of cinnamon
  • toppings of choice: fresh fruit, nut better, coconut flakes, nuts, or chocolate chips

This week in Naperville North news....

One year ago last week, Naperville North went into lockdown, along with much of the world. Take a look at how we're feeling, one year later.

This week's news was written by Randy, Nora, Jeanine, Zayna and Ellen

And after all that news...

The crossword will be back next week!

Want to know more?

Check out the North Star website for more in-depth stories, and Heads Up Huskies on Instagram for your Naperville North updates.

Thank you for joining us here at Polaris, and I look forward to bringing you more news next week.

- Ellen