Growing Your Own Food: RPA Style

Digital Art by Matthew Steele

Digital Art by Matthew Steele

Every Tuesday from 3 to 6 pm in the summer at Centennial Park, Redmond hosts a farmer’s market that is full of lush, healthy, delicious organic food. This food is always fresh and much of it is grown in Central Oregon, maybe close to where you live! However, you could get even closer by growing your own fruits and vegetables and harvesting your own eggs and milk.

Matt Killpack, a Social Studies teacher at Redmond Proficiency Academy, is taking advantage of the space he has at his own home. “I have a 40 foot greenhouse that I am going to fill with plants. Mostly stuff to make salsa, because that’s the best thing on burritos,” says Killpack. “It’s cheaper and it’s better for you. Pound for pound it would be cheaper. Tomatoes are very expensive, but tomato seeds you can get for 80 cents maximum. I would rather eat Mickey D’s chicken nugs all day, but what I should do is eat lettuce and tomatoes together. That’s called a salad.” If growing your own food is really cheaper, how much cheaper is it?

Initially, the set up in growing your own garden constitutes buying soil, buying compost, and buying tools to maintain your garden. Due to this, in the very beginning, growing your own food will most likely cost you more than just buying food at the grocery store. However, as time goes on, the food you are growing does make itself financially worth it. At the end of a work day, you may see Hector West, an RPA Humanities teacher, on the third floor giving out eggs to fellow teachers. Tamara Bremont, a Health teacher at RPA, also has “four chickens.” She says, “littler kids think it’s fun to take care of and grow their own food.” Growing your own food, raising animals for food, and gardening in general is a good bonding activity for families or even friends. This can be seen by the trend of high school students co-owning cacti and succulent plants. However, there are other ways of making vegetable last a long while other than owning a lasting desert plant.

After growing all of your delicious plants and food, you may not know what to do with it all before it rots. Well, fear not! Sandy Cloud, RPA Community Liaison, uses a canning system that allows her to save food year round: “My husband grows them in the greenhouse and I can them in July. First you have to grow them, pick them, wash them, pick the stems, pack them into jars for canning,  and pour boiling water over them. Then you have to put new lids and rims on, and then you have to put them in the canner, and then process them for 20 minutes. Picking a full batch, which is seven quart jars, takes probably an hour. I watch Netflix while I’m doing it and it goes by really fast. It takes about two to three hours to finish the rest of the canning process.” Cloud also discusses the idea of food security in Redmond. She says. “It’s a secure feeling. We have about a three day food in supply in Central Oregon, then there would be no food in the stores. We can eat them [the beans] all winter long.” Having a safe and secure sense in food is an important ideal, and if you are interested in having your own food supply, you should consider growing and canning your food!

Do you like to save money, eat healthy foods, and have a sense of food security? Grow your own food! It takes work, but it is definitely worth it. You can take RPA faculty’s word for it.

If you grow your own food, take a picture of it and use the hashtag #SPECKmedia for a chance to be featured on our page!


An Interview With RPA's Robotics Team

If there’s ever been a team that can get us there, it’s you.
— Mr. White, RPA Science teacher

When I entered the robotics room in the SciPlex at Redmond Proficiency Academy, the school’s robotics team, “Robotics Quasar Alliance,” was working on the linear slide that allows their robot to pick up a yoga ball. The robot, “Celine Deon,” was cleverly named after the infamous singer combined with one of the team’s members: RPA senior Deon Lofton. He is one of five on the RPA Robotics Team that qualified for State, a competition they will be going to this weekend. This team consists of Lofton, senior Alexander Guyer, senior Zach Taylor, junior Jorge Luis Terrazas, and eighth grader Logan Bryan. Their coach is RPA science teacher Josh White. The team has to build and code a robot that needs to be driven and make it through a series of obstacles: lift a yoga ball and place it into a basket, push beacons to turn them into the team’s color, and shoot particles (wiffle balls) into a basket. I had the oppurtunity to sit down with the team’s members and interview them about the coming competition:


  • Hailey McMichael: How long have you been working on the robot?

Deon Lofton: September to now.

Alexander Guyer: Yeah, it was September.

Zach Taylor: Five months.


  • HM: What did you have to do in order to get to State?

AG: We were the Captain of the Finalist Alliance at the Super Qualifiers in Hillsboro. We also won the Control Award.

Jorge Luis Terrazas: We had sandwiches while we were there.

DL: Yeah, and Tillamook cheese is unreliable.


  • HM: What obstacles have you had to overcome to make it this far?

ZT: There isn't enough time. That's one resource we need more of... also more money.

DL: Our autonomous.

ZT: Yeah, we ran into two cap balls.

AG: The driving skills of my teammate was an obstacle.

ZT: Hey, no one else wanted to drive!

DL: We have the ideas and we actually made the contraptions to do it but we didn't know where to place it. Just mounting our contraptions on the robot in specific places to be the most efficient was difficult. Now we have perfected that.


  • HM: What's been your favorite part of the journey?

ZT: I've gotta think about that...

DL: Meeting these people.

Logan Bryan: The competitions and seeing the other teams.

ZT: Competing against other teams and seeing how other people designed their robots.

AG: Definitely coaching and staring at my computer in all of it’s glory. Kidding! Watching everything finally come together in the days before the competition.

DL: I think our favorite part is yet to come.

JLT: Yeah, when we win State!


  • HM: What are you most excited for?

DL: Our next competition.

ZT: Kicking butt at World’s!

JLT: Seeing what next year’s robot will turn into.


  • HM: What would you like to say to the other teams that will be at the competition this weekend?

AG: Probably some kind of Yo Mama joke to be honest.

JLT: Your robot’s so fat, it doesn't fit in the sizing cube!

Josh White: Good luck to all teams!


  • HM: Is there anything you'd like to say to your coach Mr. White?

DL: I'd like to thank Mr. White for supporting us in everything we do.

JLT: He stays here late waiting for us.

DL: Yeah, that's very cool. Thank you for your sacrifices.

AG: We promise to lose so you don't have to wait for us anymore.

ZT: No, Alex!

JW: We've gotta see what the Super Regionals will be like. If there's ever been a team that can get us there, it's you.

Don’t forget to wish the team and Celine Deon good luck for this weekend’s State competition!

What RPA Room Are You?

Photo by Hailey McMichael

Photo by Hailey McMichael

Mark your answers below, tally them at the end of the quiz, and find out!

What kind of crew do you roll with?

  1. I hang out with all kinds of people!

  2. Goal oriented and hard working folks.

  3. Organic and artsy people.

  4. The organized and scientific type.

  5. Fun and easy going homies.


What song best describes you?

  1. Cotton Eyed Joe

  2. Werk- Rihanna

  3. Fade - Kanye West

  4. The Scientist - Coldplay

  5. Stayin’ Alive - Bee Gees


Which RPA faculty member best represents you?

  1. Leo Villarreal - Campus Monitor

  2. Donna Nordstrom - Advisor

  3. Ethan Stelzer - Art Teacher

  4. Amy Mitchell - Science Teacher

  5. Tamara Bremont - Health Teacher


What best describes your signature scent?

  1. Popcorn and top ramen

  2. Sweat from hard work mixed with pen ink

  3. Tears of angst mixed with fresh paint

  4. Straight up chemicals

  5. Fresh fruit mixed with the smell after a good workout


How long do you spend working on schoolwork in a day?

  1. I take online classes

  2. I never stop working

  3. Most of my schoolwork is fun, so I do it a lot

  4. I usually have to do experiments for homework

  5. A healthy amount


What do your friends like the most about you?

  1. Your chill vibes

  2. Your generosity

  3. Your creativity

  4. Your intelligence

  5. Your energy


Choose a color.

  1. Grey

  2. Green

  3. Rainbow

  4. Blue

  5. Red


What is your spirit animal?

  1. A blobfish

  2. A dog

  3. A jackalope

  4. A dolphin

  5. A unicorn


Pick a pair of shoes to wear on a Wednesday.

  1. Rainboots

  2. Dress shoes

  3. Birkenstocks

  4. Leather boots

  5. Converse


If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?

  1. A school hamburger

  2. Tate and Tate catering

  3. Granola and organic grapes

  4. Some genetically modified fruit

  5. A healthy mixture of items on the food pyramid


Answer Key

Mostly 1's? You got the Student Union!

You attract a lot of interesting people. You're a very chill person with a lot of friends. You don't care what people think of you and you're a free spirit. Keep on keepin’ on!

Mostly 2's? You got the Career Center!

You're an incredibly hard worker with a bright future ahead of you. You are very organized and you always know what to do in a sticky situation. People know you as the person with a plan!

Mostly 3's? You got the Art Annex!

You're extremely creative and open to new ideas. You are a great team player, and you're very kind to all people. You're great at making jokes, and your friends can always count on you for help!

Mostly 4's? You got the SciPlex!

You're very intelligent and work hard every day. You like to have a plan, but you're not worried about going off of it to have some fun! Your friends love to go on adventures with you.

Mostly 5's? You got Ms. Bremont’s Room!

You're very healthy and have a good handle on what you need in your life. You're a careful person, but also a real firecracker. People know you're always prepared!

How to Spread the Love This Valentine's Day at RPA

Image by: Jamie Ruiz

Image by: Jamie Ruiz

February 14th is seen as a day for couples to watch romantic movies and eat chocolates. This day is dreaded by many every year, but it can be so much more than that. Throw kindness around like confetti to your friends, parents, pets, teachers and even strangers. You don’t have to have a significant other to have a good Valentine’s Day. Here are seven ways you can easily spread love.



1. Give someone a compliment:

Everyone loves getting compliments. Whether it is about the way you look or the way you think. It makes you feel good the rest of the day when you receive one, but also when you give one or several. Give it a try and tell someone you like their hair, outfit, shoes or how you thought what they said in class was really smart and see how they react.

2. Help someone:

We’ve all had days we need a little extra help with life. Offer your help to someone carrying something, let someone borrow your favorite pencil, help that person struggling with a math problem, hold the door open for someone. Speaking of doors, if it’s left open, close it so the cold air stays outside and you will make everyone in the Career Center (including Donna) happy.

3. Make a new friend:

Making friends is hard, especially at RPA. Start up a conversation with someone you may have seen around school but never said anything to. See someone wearing a shirt with your favorite band? Let them know you like their music taste. Do you have a mutual interest with someone? You never know what might happen, talking to someone new can lead to a long friendship.

4. Volunteer at an animal shelter:

Ok, this is probably the most time consuming thing on this list, but worth it. If you like animals and wish you could adopt every single little puppy on the planet, but can’t, this is perfect for you. Brightside Animal Shelter is full of dogs, cats, rodents, maybe even cool reptiles looking for their forever home. Their employees do a great job keeping up with all the hard work there is to do, but they would appreciate some help. Donate an hour or two of your day to help out cleaning, walking dogs or socializing cats at an animal shelter. Volunteering somewhere looks great on job/college applications and is a fun way to spread kindness. Find out more here:

If you don’t want to become an official volunteer you can just go play with cats. Most of them love the attention.

5.Express your gratitude for a teacher:

It takes little effort to thank a teacher for what they do. Especially here at RPA, teachers work their butts off 24/7 to make sure we are successful and happy. Write a staff member that has helped you a note, email or just tell them you are thankful for them. Get them their favorite treat or vegetable. You could also just finish your work before the last week of school, they would appreciate that. Thank someone doing a thankless job, for example Jorge and Carmen, who constantly pick up our mess and provide us with a clean school, or the RSD lunch people. It feels good to know you are appreciated. Share that feeling.

6. Do a random act of kindness:

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” -Aesop

There is an infinite number of acts of kindness. Pay for the next person’s coffee. Donate socks to a charity. Give someone your parking spot. Shovel a neighbor’s driveway/sidewalk. Write a letter. Leave a nice note somewhere. Get a friend their favorite candy. Make a playlist with your favorite songs for someone. Make your family dinner. Even if dinner means pb&j sandwiches, it’s the thought that counts.

7. Spend the day with friends:

High school happens quickly. Enjoy your time here with great people. Have breakfast with your closest friends and plan a day of funtivities together. Tell your best friend that you love them. These moments are more precious than you think. Before you know it, we’ll all be graduated living busy lives and looking back on good times.


Spreading love leaves you feeling fulfilled, and the best part: all the leftover chocolate is on sale February 15th. Treat yo self!


Quiz: What RPA Faculty Member Are You?

Which RPA faculty member are you? Mark your answers below, tally them at the end of the quiz, and find out!


A. What does your Saturday look like?

  1. Enjoying the great indoors

  2. Playing an instrument

  3. Woodworking

  4. Scrapbooking or crafting

  5. Outdoor activities


B. What is your spirit animal?

  1. Entlebucher Mountain Dog

  2. Sea Otter

  3. A dog, but a big one, you know? Not a tiny yippy one.

  4. All the dogs

  5. Gorilla


C. What's the best music genre?

  1. Bluegrass

  2. Indie Rock

  3. Rap

  4. 60’s and 70’s

  5. Classic Rock


D. What is your favorite thing to munch on?

  1. Anything with a face

  2. Pizza and ice cream

  3. Cioppino (a super delicious seafood stew)

  4. Artichoke

  5. Yellow Thai curry


E. Choose a color!

  1. Taupe

  2. Orange

  3. Red

  4. Happy yellow

  5. Green


F. What are you watching on your free time?

  1. Newsroom

  2. Stranger Things

  3. Seinfeld

  4. Gilmore Girls

  5. Hawaii 5-0

Mostly 1’s?

You got Matt Killpack, RPA Humanities teacher!

You have a great sense of humor, and people always go to you for recommendations, whether it be food, movies, or a career path. You are down to earth and know that the simple things in life are sometimes the greatest.


Mostly 2’s?

You got Amy Mitchell, RPA Science teacher!

You are a sweet, funny, wholesome person! You make a great first impression, but anyone who really knows you knows that you are a complex person with many interests. You are very talented at an incredible variety of things, and are always there to lend a helping hand to anyone.


Mostly 3’s?

You got Jeremy Milliron, RPA Mathematics teacher!

You know all there is to know about pop culture, from Beyoncé’s twins and the Miss America Pageant to Blazers and the Super Bowl. You are a practical person that knows a good deal when they see one. You have good vibes, and people know they can count on you to be a loyal friend.


Mostly 4’s?

You got Donna Nordstrom, RPA Director’s Assistant and Career Center Coordinator!

If there is one person that can always brighten a room, it's you. You know when and how to take charge, and you're a natural leader. You're smart, witty, and efficient, and you always know what's going on with your friends! People trust you, and know they can come to you for comfort or a guiding hand any day.


Mostly 5’s?

You got Troy Longstroth, RPA Spanish teacher!

You are a down to earth and well cultured person with a great sense of humor. You love to travel and to help people in need. Your friends know they can count on you to show them the best place for a nice hike, or the most interesting fun fact!

#QuadGoals: How RPA Students Get to College

Photo courtesy of Gretchen White

All around the school, seniors are wondering how they will get into college. They are ready to take life by the reins and graduation is just around the corner. Yet, what happens after you shake the hands of the faculty and are handed your diploma? What steps lead up to this moment? Where will you go after RPA, and how will you get there? The answers to these questions will determine how you navigate life after high school, and how successful you will be.


When the word FAFSA, or Federal Application For Student Aid, is said, you can hear the groans of the seniors from the student union. While some believe this process to be tedious, it is required for anyone who would not like to pay for college entirely out of their own pocket. There are some tips and pieces of information, however, to make the process more efficient.

  • Date 2016 FAFSA is released: October 1st

  • Things to have on hand: Social Security Number, your family's most recent tax returns, W-2s, an FSA ID (created on FAFSA’s website and other records of money earned. You will also need your Alien Registration Number if you are not a US citizen. If applicable to you, a record of untaxed income and bank statements/records of investments will also be needed.

  • You can submit the FAFSA online, or request a paper version through the official website. You will then get a SAR (Student Aid Report) three days to three weeks after you submit the paperwork.

  • The colleges or universities you write on the FAFSA will contact you with an award letter. This will tell you the amount of monetary aid the school is willing to give you.

  • You can receive grants or loans. A grant is basically “gift money”; money you will get for free from the government. A loan is something you will need to pay back.

  • Apply as early as possible, and as correctly as possible the first time. This enters you into a pool with a limited amount of money early, as well as leaving time to correct any mistakes.

Along with filling out the FAFSA (and the College Scholarship Service Profile through College Board for private colleges), students should use the resources provided by RPA: Donna and the Career Center. Students can apply for local or national scholarships they find through research, or talent and academic scholarships offered by individual colleges. When researching scholarship websites, be cautious. Use only reputable sites, such as,, and


One integral item needed to get into any college is national standardized test scores taken from either the ACT or SAT tests. George Hegarty, a humanities teacher at RPA, has some tips for getting a sufficient score. His first suggestion is to “know what's going to be on the test... while no one can know the exact questions, knowing the order in which you're going to do [the sections]... is really important.” Hegarty also suggests using the practice tests held at RPA to your advantage.

“You can look back at those results and see where you should practice,” says Hegarty. “You don't need to practice everything... do 20 minutes to half an hour 3 or 4 days a week.”

A student can also use these practice tests to decide whether they are more suited for the ACT, SAT, or both. You should take the pretest during the fall of your junior year, then take the actual test during spring. Hegarty notes,“if you're a senior, the time to test is now. The last test I would recommend for seniors to take would be December.”

One common misconception is that one of the tests is more academic than the other. Hegarty believes this to be false, and encourages students to decide what will work best for their individual path. He also encourages this when creating your class schedule, choosing classes that challenge you in the areas you are most passionate.

“There isn't a defined good [score]. What matters is what people want to do beyond RPA. If you want to go to Princeton, you can look up and figure out... what Princeton requires,” states Hegarty.

Hegarty will be hosting study sessions in the Career Center in the Glacier building on Mondays and Wednesdays during lunch for students wishing to practice.


Colleges like to see students that are involved in more than just academics, whether that means they’re doing community service, helping out at their church, involved in 4H or FFA, or have a job.
— Bayley Killpack, Mathematics Teacher and Athletic Coordinator

On every college application, there is a section dedicated to activities and extracurriculars that the student has pursued during their high school career. Bayley Killpack, a mathematics teacher at RPA, has some tips for making your application look the best it can be.

“I think colleges are looking for a well rounded student. It’s not so much about doing everything, but about being enthused about what you’re doing. Colleges like to see students that are involved in more than just academics, whether that means they’re doing community service, helping out at their church, involved in 4H or FFA, or have a job.”

Killpack encourages experimenting to find your niche and the extracurricular you would like to pursue. She also notes that leadership and community service are not the only options. “I work with National Honor Society students, but I also work with athletes. Even though that’s not necessarily a service, it shows you have the ability to manage your time. One of the cool things about RPA is we have so many different interests and things brought to the table. I am amazed at all the different experiences you all as students have had and continue having.”

Above all, Killpack pushes students to “be honest. You want to put things down that are going to make you look good, but you also want to put things down that you truly like to do.” All in all, students should find the thing they are passionate about and chase it. That extracurricular or activity is what they should put on their application.


Kim Downey, the guidance counselor at RPA, has a special piece of advice: "usually RPA students make the transition to college really well because of the way we structure things. I would say, start looking at colleges, going on college tours... To get an idea of what schools you might be interested in." Downey also suggests knowing what classes should be on their transcript, and getting any mistakes fixed before sending it off to colleges and universities.


“The summer after you graduate from high school isn’t completely free from all college obligations,” says Downey. “Think about that summer as a bridge and not necessarily a gap. Sometimes [what happens is] what we call a summer melt.” Make sure you go to any orientations, fill out any forms, and meet with any staff members you should be meeting with to ensure that you are completely ready for college once the term starts.


I love RPA because of the inclusive atmosphere, the personalization, and the caring and supportive teachers among many other things that make RPA so special.
— Molly Williams, 2015 RPA Graduate

After four years in high school, students are ready to continue into their next chapter of life. For graduated RPA students, this high school has prepared them especially well for life in college.

Victoria Jenkinson, an RPA graduate of 2016, says “RPA definitely influenced me, especially in being able to manage my time. A lot of students around me have no clue how to do things when they are not due the next day (which is actually really scary).”

Carrie Olson, an RPA graduate of 2014, agrees: “RPA teaches skills that will take you far. Even simply knowing how to schedule classes is a big help.”

Some graduates say that RPA helped them find the right college by showing them the environment that they felt most successful in. “I love RPA because of the inclusive atmosphere, the personalization, and the caring and supportive teachers among many other things that make RPA so special. These things were what I went looking for in a college. I felt at home at RPA, which is what I needed in my higher education choices,” says Molly Williams, a 2015 RPA alumni. Another 2015 graduate, Elsa Harris, has ideas that coincide with Williams’s. She also encourages students to take advantage of resources like Donna and the career center while you have them, and to stay passionate in college.

“Find a college that gives you a good feeling inside. Take advantage of all scholarship opportunities. Then when you get to college, get involved in clubs and college life and make friends with people that are different than you. College is a time of learning and growth in and out of the classroom,” notes Harris.

The above students are just a few of those who have advanced beyond RPA into higher education. If they can do it, so can you. As long as you stay up to date on your information in high school, you too can walk down the aisle and receive the RPA diploma that is the starting line of your future.



Humans of RPA: Teacher Sandy Cloud


When I was sixteen, one of my best friends lived out in Three Rivers, OR, an area with no running water, no electricity, and no phone lines. Each family ran electricity off of a generator and had their water tanks filled up once a week. And I stayed at her house one day, having driven in my filthy old Ford Mustang 4-speed Manual. Because of this filth, she suggested that we should go down to the lake and wash it, as many people did. I was confused at how we would possibly do that, however, she explained that I would back my car down the boat ramp then throw buckets of water on my car, wash it, and rinse it the same way. I said “cool, let's do it.”

After washing the car, I was afraid I would back the car into the lake but my friend dismissed my worry and jumped in my car to do it herself. She then crammed it into what in her car was 1st, but in my car was reverse. She proceeded to back all of my car, except the front tires, into the lake. I didn’t know what to do. The tailpipe was, at the time, fully underwater, and I was worried that if we attempted to start it, it would suck up water into the engine.

Meanwhile, out in the water, there was a boat of people who had been drinking and they thought our situation was hilarious. They just kept driving by laughing at us, each time creating waves, which made my car bounce in the water. Thankfully, there was a car at the top of the hill and he saw the predicament as he was driving in to the lake. He came over and asked us if we were in trouble. After we told him everything, he got in and drove it right out. Everything was a piece of cake after that, except for the fact that my car was soaked with stinky lake water. For the next 3-5 months it stank of algae and dead fish.