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.  



Humans of RPA: Student Saida Robinson

I’m from East Africa, Uganda. I lived with my grandmother until I was about 9 and my brother lived with her for 11 years. My grandmother was having a hard time taking care of my brother and I along with the school fees. She decided she wanted me to have a chance at going to a better school. I lived in different places for a while. I was excited to come to America but I didn’t think it would be this cold!  

I came to Oregon in 2012. I stayed at home for 3 years and then came here to this school, and it wasn’t a hard transition. My mom chose RPA for me because it was a good school and I knew I would get more help. At school, I like piano and my free times. I didn’t do music before, and I took lessons in choir last year. I like piano better than choir because I don’t have to sing in front of people. I used to like my English class but now I have a C in it, so it's not my favorite. Though, it’s hard to understand the English language sometimes in all subjects. 


A huge thank you to Saida for opening up immensely and sharing her story with us.  





Humans of RPA: Student Daniel Raley

How or why did you start wrestling?

"My friend started wrestling in 4th grade and he was telling me about it. So in 6th grade I started at High Desert Middle School in Bend. That year, my brothers tried wrestling too but I was the only one who continued it.  Then I did it through 8th grade, I was pretty good at it. Now i'm in high school, still doing it, but it’s a lot harder. 8th grade year I won the cities competition. I placed 4th in districts last year. Those are my two main wins.

Wrestling gives you a little more respect for people. You have to respect everyone on your team and your coaches and you have to learn new things. It’s just a pretty tough sport and you have to be pretty tough to do it sometimes. I want to continue wrestling through my senior year. If I can get a scholarship that would be awesome."


Every month I interview an RPA student or staff member to hear their story and bring to light their incredible personalities.  





My European Adventure

During January Term this year I had the amazing opportunity to go to Spain and the Netherlands for my parents’ 30th anniversary. It was everything I thought it would be and a little bit else. I expected 3 feet of snow in Amsterdam and a different version of Southern California in Spain. I was wrong on both accounts. Amsterdam did not have snow and Spain is closer in latitude to Northern California. I also expected to not get lost. That was also a large misconception.


Our journey started with a 10 hour flight to Amsterdam from the ice sheet that was Portland. Intercontinental travel has a few perks; the largest I have found is the (free) movie selection because it definitely is not the food. It truly is horrid and no amount of lying, salt or pepper changes it.


After we got off the plane it was about 8:00 a.m. local time and none of us had slept almost 18 hours. That part was bearable. The bad part was that we could not check into our hotel until 2:00 in the afternoon. Seeing as it was 8:00 a.m., we would not be able to sleep for another 6 hours or more because Europeans eat dinner from 8:00-10:00 at night. Despite the odds against us we forged through the day and tried to enjoy Amsterdam.


Their public transport is amazing and although there was no difference between the sidewalks and the roads everything worked like clockwork. Everything but the bikes. A local joked about how Amsterdam does not have killer bees- it has killer bikes and we soon found out it was not a joke. We were almost ran down multiple times because Holland bikers are vicious with bells that should not be as scary as they are.


We took a tour of Amsterdam the next day and it was very cold. Thankfully the locals in Amsterdam make up for that with warm personalities. We talked about the city’s history and halfway through the tour we stopped for hot chocolate at a cafe that reminded me of a giant, white mug. We ordered some hot chocolate (it came on a stick!) that was delicious and talked about our lives.


Our guide was sending his two daughters to college for €2,000 combined. (one is becoming a doctor!) For those who are unaware, the Euro is currently worth 1.09 U.S. dollars and so in our currency, he is paying for a doctorate and a bachelor's degree on $2,188 a year.


A street in Madrid

A street in Madrid

The next day we flew to Madrid. This is where those differences I wrote about earlier come in. For those of you who have ridden in planes, you know that while they are not the picture of comfort, usually your knees do not hit the tray table when you are sitting comfortably. Inter European planes are a different story entirely. They have so little legroom I was surprised we got into our seats at all. Later when we asked a waiter if that was normal he told us that that was how every plane he had been on was like. I do not know how they do it but all I can gather is that Europe in general is more compact.

Thankfully Madrid was in the same timezone as Amsterdam so we were able to  take a tapas tour an hour after we got off the plane without major jetlag. Our tour was made up of my parents, myself, the guide and 2 guys from New York who made the whole experience much more entertaining. While they rattled off a few cheesy jokes here and there our guide told us about the city and its quirks. For example, businesses open for 100 years get a brass plaque in front of their stores stating their founding date and their name. We did not stay in Madrid for very long because we were coming back at the end of the trip as well but what we saw when we were there it was interesting.


There were also an abundance of local legends and theories. For example, during the Renaissance, near Christmas the King was out of town. Coincidentally the night before he removed some of the palaces most valuable paintings and then took the royal family and left for a vacation. The night of Christmas Eve the palace burned to the ground with all the other valuables and servants still inside. The servants began throwing all the art they could through the windows before fleeing themselves. Now, according to our guide, what the locals (and some historians) believe is that the King ordered the palace to be lit aflame. He could not risk using the people’s money on a new palace when the other was fine without causing a revolt and it is now one of Madrid’s larger mysteries.


We left soon after and took a train down to the Coast. High speed trains are the best way to travel: they have less security measures, more room, less people, they are comfier than any plane and many cars, they have actual tables, a great view, are quick and they are never delayed. I am severely disappointed that the U.S. does not have them and would always choose that method of travel if given the option.


A Cathedral we visited during our stay on the Coast

A Cathedral we visited during our stay on the Coast

On the Southern Coast of Spain, we stayed in a town called Benalmadena. Out of all the places we visited this town was the only place that was set up like home. In every other place we visited the towns were packed in and had farmland in place of suburbs. Benalmadena was beautiful with ocean view to the South and burned British tourists everywhere else. It was nice seeing a British presence though and because they were a permanent fixture in the town the television stations catered to english speakers. For the first time since we had left Amsterdam we could understand what was being said on television.

From Benalmadena we drove to and from the surrounding towns for about a week. It worked out really nice because we could go “home” anytime we wanted because of our rental car and if we did not want to go that day, we had no reason to (like pre purchased tickets).

One of the towns we visited was Toledo; the legendary home of Spanish swords. we got there in the morning and as soon as we found a plaza it was obvious they knew exactly what they were famous for. There were touristy sword and gold shops everywhere. At this point both my dad and I were on the same side. We had to get a sword. (Even though we had no idea how we would get it home). We began to walk around and browsed the windows for something we liked until a man approached us. He asked if we were interested in Toledo’s artisan crafts; if so, we should really visit their open workshop a few roads down.. (Another thing; Europe does not have muggers, they have pickpockets. Going down an alley in Europe usually has different results than in the U.S.) Inside we found a few old men working with golden wire with painstaking care as they pressed it into black dishes and jewelry. It was amazing to see them put such obvious care into what they were doing and some of their designs were so complex I was surprised they could make them by hand. After we were done ogling at their work we headed up to where they kept their goods. There were handcrafted knives, the dishes and jewelry we saw them making and wooden handpainted fans. Everything in the shop was beautiful and as we picked out our purchases and I bantered with the salesman in Spanish. We ended up leaving Spain without a sword but still got a filet knife that honestly could have been used as a short sword.

A pool in the Alcazar Real

A pool in the Alcazar Real

After the Coast we took a train back North to Seville. There we toured the Alcazar Real. The Alcazar is a Moorish palace so when my parents and I entered the palace sometime around 9 we had no idea that the seemingly innocent, landmark was the worst maze I have ever been in. By 9:05 I had been separated from my parents and remained lost in the Alcazar for an hour and a half. Although the palace was beautiful and held gorgeous pieces of history, stunning gardens, a cafe and artifacts from the royal family being lost in a foreign country sucks. Needless to say I was still incredibly relieved when I heard my Dad call my name.


After my debacle in Seville the last few days of our trip seemed to fly by. We flew back to Madrid and experienced a European olive oil tour. The tour was very unique for a few reasons, one of which was the fact that we only visited one olive oil mill in the two hour tour. To be fair they covered more ground than I knew was possible in the tour and showed us everything that went into making olive oil. My favorite part was the tastings though because that day it was cold out and when we went inside there was a heater beneath the table. Apparently it is common practice for large dinner tables and all I could think was that America need to step up its game because those tables were genius.

We rode the plane home soon after and while Spain was amazing, we were all relieved to be on route to the states. Everything we did and saw was irreplaceable in our memories but when you are away from home in a place where you cannot communicate, the feeling of going home is great. I love Europe and it was amazing, but nothing can beat coming home after experiencing something like what I and my parents had.


Humans of RPA: Counselor Kim Downey

Kim Downey hard at work. 

Kim Downey hard at work. 

“Is there an experience that defines who you are or where you are today, maybe in terms of being a school counselor?”

“I was really interested in psychology. So in my senior year I was like okay, let's go for this. I experimented with a lot of different majors. I wanted to be an architect for a while, but that didn’t work out as well as I thought. I got an undergrad degree in psychology. At the time I was also a student ambassador for my college and I was a volunteer who did tours once a week with prospective students and their families. I did tours of the campus, special events, things like that. I really liked that; I discovered that I really liked being excited and getting other students excited about possibilities and the future and helping them decide what their goals were. I like to think that I can be somewhat or very sometimes exuberant about different things so it was fun to share that excitement with other students and families.

So I decided, gosh, I could really see myself doing this after graduation. I thought about going into recruiting for a college or a company to help people figure out what they wanted to do career wise or just college wise. So, I was working for a company and I wasn’t doing recruiting; my job was more administrative tasks. I was working the front desk and my manager knew that I wanted to be a recruiter eventually so for one week he said ‘okay, Kim, when people come in for their interviews with their recruiter, before they come into the room for the interview, I want you to rate them on a scale of 1-10. 10 being awesome potential employee and 1 being not great.’

Okay, I think I can do that: rate them on a scale of 1-10. I would make a little note and keep it under my desk for each person, name and rate number. After three days, my manager came out and was like ‘okay Kim how are the ratings going? Do you have an average? I said maybe like a 7, some eights. And he was like’ 7? Really?’ I was like yeah should it of been higher,  but he told me ‘no, Kim, what you're doing is you're looking at everybody who comes through the door and starting them out at 10 in your mind and as they interact with you, you are kind of docking points from the 10. What I want you to do is start everyone at a 0, and they have to build themselves up to a 10.

That didn’t sit well with me at the time. In my head I was squirming. I tried to do that for the remaining days but I just couldn’t veer from that high starting number. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that he wanted me to change my basic view of how I view people. No, I don’t want to change that about myself, I like how I view people positively. People should view people that way. I didn’t want to be in a career field where you have to be negative. Then I had to think about another field where I could view people positively in line with their future and help them with what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

I then found myself looking back to where I was at in college: Counseling, maybe school counseling. That’s where I felt like it might fit. So I thought about it for a couple years. It took me a while to settle on the idea but I ended up going back to school for school counseling as a result. So I guess I can pin it on that one experience.”  

All There is to Know About Study Abroad

The thought of studying abroad and leaving home for a year can be daunting. Many people will not consider study abroad as an option because of these fears, but there are many compelling reasons to consider study abroad.

The benefits of studying abroad are limitless. Going abroad gives students the opportunity to interact with various languages and can ultimately contribute to the creation of friendships with people on the other side of the globe. People learn about an entire nation’s way of life and history through foreign exchange in a very different way than they would simply reading about it in a book.

Studying abroad can help a students grow and become better people (as well as more independent) and conquer any fears about going different places. Every possible negative is countered by a positive benefit. For example, homesickness can be overcome by video chating with friends and relatives. Additionally, research is crucial to where you are going to feel prepared. All doubts concerning studying abroad are conquerable.

Elizabeth Larson is currently abroad in the Czech Republic and explained “Exchange has not only changed my self view, but also how I interact with others. Everything from humor to hand gestures is different. It is easy to be frustrated with the differences, especially when they have no logical explanation for their existence. I realized that my communication is, in fact, very culturally specific and not as universal as I assumed.”

Many students see going abroad as overly expensive and unaffordable. The truth is there are several scholarship based programs for high schoolers such as National Strategic Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), Yes Abroad and Congress of Bundestag. These programs are competitive and there is a chance you will not be accepted. If you do not want to risk the chance of being overlooked as then there are programs that you pay for such as Andeo Homestay and Rotary.

One thing to be aware of is that at RPA, studying abroad is only worth one credit, regardless of the program’s duration. This means that highschoolers need to do some major planning before studying abroad. Colleges do not have this problem and many are locations based on college major. These have transferable credits and may be a better option for those who graduate this year and still want to study abroad.

If studying abroad is too far of a journey, hosting is a welcome option. This gives you the opportunity to host a student from another country and learn about their culture. All the programs listed have hosting opportunities and allow personal choice.

Studying abroad creates endless options and opportunities with benefits that far outweigh any negative aspects. The experiences that you can gain are amazingly unique and will impact your life forever.

10 Unique Things To Do In Winter

Snowshoeing tours

Snowshoeing is a great, low cost, physical activity that is a great way to spend time with friends or enjoy nature. Snowshoe trails can be found anywhere cross country skiing is found . My experience snowshoeing at Mt. Bachelor was simply amazing! Even though it was winter time, it was still very sunny out so I recommend bringing sunglasses and wearing lots of layers. Snowshoeing in the crisp white snow under the stars promises to be an adventure. For more information visit

Help others in your neighborhood or community

Helping others is a satisfying way to warm up your day and escape boredom. When it snows, could you help out your neighbors by shoveling their walkways? Maybe you know an elderly person who could use some help getting their mail? Winters can be especially hard on older folks so I know they would really appreciate your kindness. Volunteering at a local shelter or library is also a great idea.


Art by Grace Smith

Art by Grace Smith

Making jam is the perfect indoor activity for the whole family or even individually. Recipes are all over the internet and Pinterest. Strawberry, blueberry, huckleberry, and peach are all popular flavors. They make a great present or, if you have a food license, you can sell them to your neighbors. I personally love to make strawberry jam. It's simple and can be used in everything from toast to ice cream. The main ingredients for making jam include fruit, gelatin, jars, and time. When I make jam, I like to add a 6x6 inch square of fabric in between the lid and the outside lid ring. This adds a cute touch to it, especially if I plan on gifting the jam.

Create snow art

Take advantage of the beautiful snow and build snow art! Building snow art is my favorite part of winter because it’s a great activity to do either by yourself or with friends. My favorite art to create in the snow is a little makeshift hobbit house in the middle of a giant pile. Snow art can be anything from an igloo to a small scale replica of the mountains. By the time you are finished, that cup of hot cocoa will taste even better.

Go to the observatory

Art by Grace Smith

Art by Grace Smith

The Sunriver Observatory provides either day or night time viewings. At night, you can see amazing galaxies and nebulae through several different telescopes. Solar viewing is free and evening viewing costs $8 per teen or adult. I have been told by many people that the evening viewing is the best time to go because you can see much further into space and you can see more detail. At night, you can see planets, nebulae, stars, and many other things. I went to the observatory when I was little and I remember the big telescopes and machines that you could look through and see all the planets up close in vivid detail.

Enter a contest or sweepstakes

The vast realm of the internet contains many contests and sweepstakes to enter and possibly even win money from (some sweepstakes may require you to be 18 years or older). Writing or photography contests are the most abundant. Nikon, National Geographic, or popular are the best sources for photo contests. Scholastic and writer's digest are great resources for finding writing contests. Seventeen magazine, reddit, HGTV, and travel channel are just a few of the many places to find sweepstakes. Personally, I think sweepstakes are most fun because the more you enter, the higher chance you have of winning something. Photography contests can also be very enjoyable because they are a great opportunity to take photos with a mission in mind. I entered a few last year and I had a lot of fun taking interesting pictures with the help of my friends.

Get your craft on

Art by Grace Smith

Art by Grace Smith

Once again, Pinterest contains an abundance of ideas. During winter break, you might find yourself cooped up in the house for while. So, shake the winter blues and start a craft project or a small hobby. Projects can range from five minutes to five hours. When you craft, you can learn new things, or even revisit old skills. Sugar scrub, snap bags, and corn starch foundation powder are my favorite easy projects. Last summer, I took up the hobby of jewelry making. Jewelry is also a fairly easy project once you get the hang of it and there is endless pieces you can create. A trip to your local bead or craft store could provide you hours of jewelry making and crafting for you or your whole family.

Ice skating

Redmond Ice Skating Rink and Seventh Mountain Ice Skating Rink in Bend, and The Pavillon Ice Skating Rink (coming soon), are all popular choices. I have been ice skating twice in both places but I prefer the rink in Redmond. Its smaller, cheaper, and easier to access. If you have your own skates, you can skate free from 10 am to 1:30pm on weekdays and from 10am to 12:30pm on weekends. Ice skating is not only a fun activity, but also a great physical activity. It has been proven to improve both your balance and coordination.

Try a winter sled dog ride

Art by Grace Smith

Art by Grace Smith

Get a taste of the famous Alaskan Iditerod by trying Mt. Bachelor Ski resorts awesome tours with real sled dogs. You get to stay snug in the sled while the dog team and a professional musher take you on a picturesque adventure through the snowy trail. I have not been on one before but I heard great reviews from friends. The tours do cost around $80 so they can be spendy. But, you could always get your friends and their dogs together to make your own sled ride at home. All you need is a few dogs, dog treats, a sled, some leashes, a rope, and a sense of humor. Trust me, it’s hilarious.

Host a dinner party or winter sleepover

Art by Grace Smith

Art by Grace Smith

Hosting parties is not just an "adult thing". Around this time of year, school can be stressful and the slippery morning roads never help. Putting together parties or sleepovers always bring my great joy because I get to show my fancy side and spend quality time with my close friends. Together, you could conduct science experiments. Not only would this be a fun sleepover activity, but it would also please your teachers. Take some pictures and and have your friends help you type up a short essay, then talk with your science teacher. You may get extra credit or "brownie" points. At the end of the sleepover or party, you could even send your friends off with a jar of jam or a handmade craft.

Wilderness Serenity

Often as we proceed through our hectic lives, we do not acknowledge the beauty surrounding. The trees and mountains are ignored, and ultimately become static backgrounds. This is a compilation of songs that represent the importance of recognizing this serene beauty, regardless of circumstances.