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Newberg High assistant principal Mark Brown is leading the communications effort

For many students in the Newberg School District, an extended layoff from school during this COVID-19 pandemic can be a lonely time. Away from friends, teachers and mentors with whom they share time in school settings, social distancing can be especially tough on a young person's psyche.

Newberg High School assistant principal Mark Brown is trying to change that for the better.

Every day since roughly the time school was closed earlier this month, Brown has posted videos on social media to entertain, inform and connect with students who would otherwise be roaming the halls he supervises. Brown's effort is gaining popularity among young people and their families online and is providing a much-needed voice for local students.

"That last Friday, which was Friday the 13th, we were in school that day and had the message that it would be our last day," Brown said. "It started snowing, the school closure was coming, there was a full moon that week, it was crazy. As I was on campus that day, it felt like school almost stopped a bit and I started to see some anxiety and some worry in the faces of some of our students.

"I realized quickly that we needed to maintain some connection with these students for however long we're out of school and I got the sense that we needed more communication through social media that wasn't just written. There is power in video and in social media with communicating with our students and we figured that was the best place to do it."

Brown's videos are typically solo shots of him delivering a message – be it comedic or serious – to students tuning in daily. They are typically no more than a minute long and are blasted across all the major social channels that students use.

He came to the decision to make the videos after consulting educators from around the country on how they were keeping in touch with students. There are different themes for different days including "Thankful Thursday," which encourages students to reach out to five people in their lives who they are thankful for and tell them.

Brown wants the kids to know he and other administrators are thankful for them as well.

"I make a point to say 'I love you' in all of these videos if I can," Brown said. "We want to make it a point that even though we're all apart right now, that we still care about these students and are looking out for them, even in tough times like this.

"It gives the kids something to look forward to every day that can remind them of that environment of being back at school. Some of them are kind of goofy and not especially serious, but some of them are informative and filled with important info for students and their families. Right now, there's a lot of sitting around and waiting and I thought we needed to do something."

Brown said that he often goes for runs in his neighborhood in Newberg and sees kids hanging out with one another in groups, which is discouraged given guidelines about social distancing. Through the videos he produces, he has encouraged students to stay connected to the adults and fellow young people in their lives through social media and via text, phone calls and FaceTime, Skype or Zoom chats. There are ways, he said, to remain connected while staying safe and apart in the name of public health.

"We want to encourage them to social distance during this time," Brown said. "We are spreading the message that they have an opportunity to be part of the solution here and that staying home is the best way to slow the spread. We can maintain connections without hanging out in-person."

School briefs

Universities no longer need SAT, ACT scores

All seven of the public universities in Oregon, along with Oregon Health & Sciences University, will no longer require standardized tests for admission. The announcement comes as the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the federal government to provide waivers to states for the tests, normally taken by high school students every year. The ACT and SAT will not be a factor in admissions to the schools.

"The change benefits students applying to Eastern Oregon University, Portland State University, Oregon State University, Oregon Institute of Technology, Southern Oregon University, the University of Oregon and Western Oregon University and applicants applying to undergraduate nursing programs offered by OHSU," a release by OSU said. "EOU, WOU, Oregon Tech, SOU and OHSU had previously allowed students the option of not submitting test results. Oregon State University, Portland State University and the University of Oregon officially joined the other five Oregon institutions today following broad consultations with faculty and stakeholders."

Bureau scholarships set

The Yamhill County Farm Bureau plans to award two separate $2,000 scholarships to students this year. The scholarships are being offered to students who have finished at least one year of college pursuing a degree related to agriculture. Those who apply for the scholarships must have a college GPA of 2.5 or better and be graduates of a Yamhill County high school, or their family must have lived in the county during their senior year of high school. Application materials must include an official transcript and two references and more information is available at www.OregonFB.org/scholarships.


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