Tonka pride

Students and staff rise above the negative stigmas that surround Tonka

Alyssa Magrone, Copy Editor/A&E Editor

Tonka Trash. This term passes between the middle and high schools in the district, creating a negative stigma. This stigma sears into some students, while others rise above.

It all starts in the middle schools as eighth graders are anxious to start their high school careers. Middle schools such as Antioch and Eastgate have students that feed into separate schools rather than the same, causing rivalry amongst students. According to senior Kiara DeVine, Tonka is sometimes targeted as “trash” due to biased opinions of those going to Oak Park or North Kansas City, and the stigma lingers into high school.

“Coming into Tonka, I thought it would be riots left and right, but it’s really not,” Devine said. “I actually have friends, at least one, in every [high] school in the district. My Oak Park friends who have never stepped foot here believe everything they see in the media.”

DeVine believes the stigma arises from negative news coverage that has taken place in the past.

“Whenever Winnetonka is in the media, it’s often negative stuff,” DeVine said. “I think the media gives us that rep, because it [Tonka] is not as bad as people or the media say it is.”

Since middle school, junior Gabriella Mathews knows what it is like to be a stigmatized student.

“When I was coming from Maple Park, which does not have the best rep either, but it was still a good school, I knew coming into Tonka that it would be difficult,”  Mathews said.

Similarly, Mathews thinks Tonka tends to become a target of teasing because of a small portion of students who do not embody the spirit of Tonka.

“There is always a handful [of students] in each grade that always make that grade look bad,” Matthews said. “I think that’s what’s happening with the Tonka Trash stereotype because people are seeing other people from our school acting a certain way and they’re expecting for everyone to act that certain way.”

Despite negative stigmas on the school, Gifted Resource Specialist Carrie Marcantonio knows the Tonka community bands together through rough times.

“Lately I’ve seen that the teachers and students have come together and really have stood up for what we are instead of being beaten down by the world,” Marcantonio said. “Instead of that, we choose to shine and demonstrate all that we are and the positive things.”

Marcantonio believes that the students are paving the way for future generations.

“They [students] are selfless and thoughtful and hardworking and determined and gritty and I just love every second of it [teaching at Tonka],” Marcantonio said. “My personal children have these kids to look up to. I can think of no other role model better than Tonka students.”

According to Mathews, despite   positive achievments of students, Tonka is still picked on. Matthews believes one reason is the school’s nursery for children of young girls who get pregnant while in high school. Those who live outside the Tonka community view this as “trashy,” but Matthews sees the opportunity in a different light.

“I think that Tonka gets a bad rep because we do have a nursery and a lot of girls come here, which is a good thing, for them to finish their schooling and it’s a really great opportunity, but it’s not only Tonka girls,” Mathews said. “I think Winnetonka gets a bad rep for having Winnetonka girls get pregnant when most of the girls who do [have kids in the nursery] are from other schools and are sent here so they have the opportunity to finish school.”

The Tonka environment is also criticized for the diverse spectrum of students, whether that diversity be for race or income. However Marcantonio believes the population adds personality to the school.

“I think that the diverse experiences and ethnicities of our student population make us strong,” Marcantonio said.“I think that same is boring, and we don’t learn about the world if we don’t sit in math class with somebody with a different life experience than us. We are so diverse in all different kinds of ways that  make us stronger, cooler and more supportive of each other.”

Both DeVine and Mathews do not let the negative perception of the school influence the way they act or feel about school pride, choosing to surpass the stereotypes.

“I’m proud to be at Tonka,” Mathews said. “I know how our school is, like all the wonderful people who roam our halls. The good outweighs the bad, but everyone just sees the bad.”

DeVine displays her Tonka pride by participating in various spirit-filled activities and believes participation in school activities allows students to help diminish the notion of “Tonka Trash.”

“I do choir, two varsity choirs and I also TA [teacher assistant] for our lower varsity choir,” DeVine said. “I’m a part of the school’s poetry club. I did do competitive drama, I’m not in that class anymore but I do still compete. I just try to be as involved as possible. Do everything you can to prove them wrong. If you want to prove that Tonka is more than what the media says, you gotta be a part of the solution.”

Through trial and tribulation, Marcantonio believes the Tonka community will persist.

“What Tonka means to me is family and resiliency,” Marcantonio said. “So no matter what, we always stick together. We love each other for who we are.”