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Silent Struggles Clamoring Chaos
Spring 2024 • Issue No. 3
Taking Off: From Legos to Rockets


As we approach the end of the Spring 2024 semester, I am happy to finally present the third issue of Xpress. To be completely transparent, this issue posed to be somewhat of a challenge for us. With enrollment down and such a limited staff this semester, the writers, editors and designers alike have been doing our best and working our very hardest to provide the campus community with the best possible content. With that said, this month has been full of all sorts of astronomical events and phenomena, including the total solar eclipse, which some believe represents a time of unexpected change and renewal. Regardless of the obstacles that we have been facing as a publication, we hope more than anything that you are able to connect with the articles that our writers have put so much time and effort into.

In this issue, “Taking Off: From Legos to Rockets,” profiles Talon Chaulkin Browning, vice president of the university’s Fog City Rocketry Club; “Clamoring Chaos” emphasizes the construction on campus and how it has disrupted the lives of dorm residents; “When I was Nine’’ contributes a thoughtful, personal experience of family tradition; and “Silent Struggles,” our well story for this issue, discusses mental health obstacles within the Latine community as well as the resources available on campus.

It’s no secret that funds have been sparse for many departments these past few semesters. This has unfortunately limited our ability to distribute physical copies of the magazine. However, I am happy to inform you that the next issue of Xpress will be sent to print! Keep an eye out for distribution next month! Thank you all for your support.

ON THE FRONT COVER On Monday, April 8, 2024, students gathered near the quad to witness a total solar eclipse visible across select regions of North America PHOTO BY DAN HERNANDEZ ON THE BACK COVER From the SFSU campus, only a partial eclipse was observable, commencing at 10:15 a.m. Pacific Time and concluding around 11:13 a.m.

Clamoring Chaos

When I was Nine Aging into Tradition

Silent Struggles

Break stigmas, build community

Campus is adding new buildings, but at what cost? Taking Off: From Legos to Rockets An out-of-this-world experience

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STAFF Editor-in-Chief Managing Editor Copy Editor Content Editor Visuals Editor Engagement Editor Designer Designer Staff Writers Photographer Giovanna Montoya Andrew Fogel David Ye Div Lukic Tam Vu Sydney Williams Ella Lerissa Devin Dean Andrea Jimenèz Lydia Perez Amy Burke Gustavo Hernandez

Clamoring Chaos

Construction projects are altering the campus, but disrupting the students.

In the outskirts of San Francisco, away from the bustling streets, blaring horns of traffic and towering gray skyscrapers, SF State seems like a quiet and green oasis. The campus is home to numerous florae and open spaces like the Quad, which stand out from the campus’s angular and concrete brutalist architecture. However, as the campus continues to expand its infrastructure, green spaces seem as though they are slowly disappearing.

Amaya Fender is a sophomore at SF State. She recently transferred from UC Santa Cruz in the fall of 2023 because of the smaller class sizes and lower tuition. So far, Fender loves everything about the campus, from the location to the buildings and landscapes. She loves all but one thing: the West Campus Green construction site.

Fender lives on the first floor of the Village at Centennial Square, one of the first-year housing communities on campus, and has a window that directly faces the construction site on Font Blvd. Since moving into her dorm at the beginning of last semester, Fender has encountered many challenges.

Every day at 6 a.m., when the clamor and banging of the construction begins, Fender is woken up bright and early, subjected to the blow of air horns every 30 minutes.

“I choose to not be in my room at most times because it is disruptive,” said Fender. “I go to the library or [a] coffee shop to study and get away from the sound so I can focus more.”

On top of the disruption to her studies and sleep schedule, living next to the construction site has also impacted the relationship she has with her living space.

“It doesn’t feel like my own space because I am not as present in it, and it’s not somewhere I view as relaxing,” said Fender. “The cars park right next to our windows and sometimes it feels like you lack privacy because workers are milling around in their cars. It feels like you can’t have your window open ever.”

Since SF State’s founding in 1899 and establishment at the current 144-acre campus in 1954,

it has continued to expand the infrastructure and the number of buildings on campus. Subsequently, as the campus grows, the green spaces available to students diminish and the noise pollution ramps up. There has been more constructions on campus in just the past four years than in the last 20. Archival photos of the campus in its early years depict a few buildings spread wide next to lush green fields. These images contrast with today’s abundance of buildings, new construction sites and significant decline in environmental spaces.

Kenny Consedine graduated from SF State in 2023 and is the current office coordinator for the university’s Undergraduate Advising Center. Throughout his many years at State, Consedine has noticed a change in the lack of green spaces on campus.

“Over the time that I’ve been at SF State, it’s harder to find these [kinds] of smaller areas—quiet areas—as they continue to build new infrastructure on the campus,” said Consedine.

Marcus Hall and West Campus Green both sit on once-grassy fields, stripping students of two natural spaces. For many years, the campus remained untouched by new infrastructure, however, since 2019, SF State has added four buildings to the campus: Manzanita Square, Marcus Hall, the Science & Engineering Innovation Center and West Campus Green.

Construction for Marcus Hall was completed in early 2021. The building was the first academic building for the College of Liberal and Creative Arts to be built on SF State’s campus in over 25 years. The same is true about the new Science & Engineering Innovation Center. Prior to 2021, the Creative Arts building and Hensill and Thornton Halls—which had been constructed in the early 1970s—had been the most recent academic buildings for their respective colleges.

As the campus transforms before students’ eyes, they enjoy the benefits of new infrastructure at the cost of green spaces and, for some students like Fender, their peace and quiet.

Many studies have shown that access and exposure to green spaces has a significant

An overview of Marcus Hall, one of the newest buildings on campus. (Kayla Williams for Xpress Magazine)

impact on people’s mental, emotional and physical well-being. “Associations Between Nature Exposure and Health: A Review of the Evidence,” published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found correlations between exposure to nature and “improved cognitive function, brain activity, blood pressure, mental health, physical health and sleep.”

Similarly, another study published by the International Journal found a correlation between environmental exposure and mental health improvements. The study “Student and Nature Interactions and Their Impact on Mental Health

During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” found that post-pandemic students who self-reported poor mental health also self-reported improvements in their mental well-being after spending extended periods of time outdoors.

Fender says she enjoys how quiet the campus is overall, and knows there are places to get away to if she wants to be in nature.

“If I want to get away from the bustle, there’s a place to do that on campus, [like] in the Quad,” said Fender. “There’s lots of trees and nature pretty much everywhere [in San Francisco.] We do have Golden Gate Park and Lake Merced, so I feel like if I do want to go to nature there’s places for me to go and reconnect.”

Kylie Schneider, a current graduate student, said one of the reasons she picked SF State over other universities was because of how green the campus seemed.

“The number one thing that drew me here was their soccer stadium,” said Schneider. “Just all the trees surrounding it. Also, our Quad at SF State is beautiful.”

Schneider feels that there are enough green spaces on campus but thinks there can still be more.

According to Elahe Enssani, a civil and environmental engineering professor at SF State, all buildings across California must undergo a series of checks and regulations before beginning any kind

of construction. These tests include environmental reviews estimating the impact the buildings will have on the land, water and air in the area as well as economic reports that quantify the impact the new building will have on jobs and the local economy.

However, according to Enssani, there are no tests in place that look at the psychological impact buildings may have on the surrounding communities, including college campuses.

“I have not seen that […] not yet,” said Enssani. “We are concerned with the economic growth [and] inducement.”

Despite this, some scholars have begun studying the potential effects college buildings and infrastructure may have on students’ mental health. “Research on the Psychologically Restorative Effects of Campus Common Spaces From the Perspective of Health,” a study published in Front Public Health, found that activity facilities and

landscape environments, including vegetative landscapes, promoted the most psychological restoration for college students.

While construction sites do not have to consider the psychological impact a building may have, they must address the environmental impact they are creating.

“Let’s say that if you are going to be [...] cutting trees, then you got to mitigate that [by going] somewhere else [and] planting some trees, or doing something so it’s zero impact,” said Enssani.

Although it seems as if green spaces are slowly diminishing on campus, Enssani ensures that they are not going away anytime soon.

“Because that is what our students want, and that is actually what California wants, and [what] San Francisco wants,” said Enssani.

A group of people sit outside of Marcus Hall, one of the newest buildings on campus. (Kayla Williams for Xpress Magazine)

When I was Nine

The family tradition of making and eating paprikash stands the test of time as a demonstration of the power of flavors in shaping our memories.

When I was nine, I never understood why I was dragged away from holiday festivities to help in the kitchen. Throwing a hissy fit, I would have to put away my books, dolls and crafts, only to stand in the small kitchen in my cousins’ childhood home in Granada Hills and listen to my extended family bicker about the correct way to make my uncle’s paprikash.

For hours, my sister and I, along with my four cousins, were forced to stand over a hefty pot of boiling water and send spoon-sized clumps of dough plummeting to their scorching death. With the steam ascending from the metal pot spawning sweat on our foreheads, we fished the dumplings out of the water with a slotted spoon until there was enough to feed our family of 27.

My aunts and my mom were in charge of making the potatoes, and my uncles and my dad were in charge of making the meat and stew. The elders of the family nitpicked everything we did; no way a couple of kids could make paprikash “just like how Grandma used to make it.” At least the adults looked like they were having fun; we were bound to the kitchen against our will, longing to continue playing with our new toys.

When I was nine, I was also a picky eater. I hated holiday dinners and I hated my uncle’s paprikash. I hated the dry potatoes. I hated how you couldn’t take a bite of just the stew without the whole spoon being flooded with thick, chunky, soggy onions. I hated how flavorless the unsalted dumplings were. I hated how tough the beef was from sitting in the hot pot for too long. I hated that I was only able to taste the excessive and pungent flavor of the grainy paprika. I hated being forced to eat paprikash—more than anything.

When I was nine, I wasn’t allowed to leave the table until I cleared my plate. I was guilt-tripped by my uncle when I took more food than I could eat. I rolled my eyes and bit my tongue when I heard my Uncle Stevo yell my name across the room to show him what he hoped for: a clean bowl.

“Sydney darling, how’s it looking?” he shouts—I was seated at the kid’s table across the room, decorated with family pictures and holiday embelishments. The room was filled with chatter and laughter from my whole family getting ready to feast.

“Looking alright, Uncle Stevo; you did a good job this year.” I would respond with a false smile, hoping he couldn’t tell that I was lying and struggling to chew each bite.

When I was nine, I didn’t feel like I was a part of my family. My mom


and dad are both adopted and because of this, I had a deep feeling of disconnect and lack of family identity, not knowing exactly who my “real” family is. I didn’t understand why I had to help make German food—I wasn’t sure if I was even German. My extended family felt as though they were more involved in each other’s lives, and I was an outsider only coming to family events and holidays. The same family stories were shared each year, but as I listened, I didn’t understand what they were talking about.

Now that I am 21, I would consider myself a professional dumpling maker. As I’ve gotten older, I have become the first of my cousins and sister to volunteer to help my uncle in the kitchen on holidays. The family stories that my uncle told me every year get shorter as he gets older and begins to forget them. I nod along and hold my uncle’s hand while stirring the dumpling dough, listening to him tell me all that he remembers. I give him dumplings to sample as I make them in batches, sneaking a little salt in the dough to make them less bland.

Now that I am 21, I have a new appreciation for paprikash. I relish in the idea of the whole family making an important meal together and how rare it is for a family to still have a strong tradition. I’ve learned not to dwell on not knowing my “real’’ family’s heritage, and cherish the family that I am lucky my parents were adopted and accepted into.

Now that I am 21, I am reminded each year about how I used to only eat dumplings and bread and each year my uncle Stevo pats me hard on the back, telling me that he is proud I developed my food palate and labeling me as one of the best eaters in the family.

“Sydney darling, how’s it looking?” my uncle still yells at me from across the room, because I am still sitting at the kid’s table at dinner in my cousin’s family room in Granada Hills.

I respond with a grateful smile as I proudly hold up my polished clean bowl:

“Looking alright, looking alright, Uncle Stevo. I can’t wait for next year.”

Story by Sydney Williams Design by Ella Lerissa


Archival photos courtesy of the Williams Family

Silent Struggles

What resources are available to the Latine community on campus?

Every day, Emmanuel Padilla opens the doors of the Latinx Student Center, where individuals are met with a warm, colorful and welcoming environment. The center serves as an emotional support system for the Latinx student community and provides study spaces, a comfortable seating area and—most importantly—snacks. As the director of the Latinx Student Center, Padilla’s mission is to help students “develop [an] authentic identity” and feel comfortable expressing themselves in their daily lives. Padilla often jokes that, at times, he is an unofficial therapist to the students.

Juanello Martinez, a current student at SF State, is a center regular. He finds it to be a place where he could meet fellow students—a place where they could find common ground. The camaraderie he’s experienced has helped him feel more connected to the Latine community on campus.

“Coming to the student center […] made me much more capable of improving my mental state because, you know, I’m a social person,” said Martinez. “Having places like this on campus—it’s kind of like a supplement for our mental health.”

SF State has long been known for welcoming a diverse student population; the first-ever college of ethnic studies was established here in 1968, after a five-monthlong student-led strike. To this day, the student population continues to be multicultural. The Latine community is the largest demographic on campus, accounting for 37% of the student body, as of Fall 2023.

Mental health statistics among college students are a major concern in our country today. More than 60% of students display at least one symptom of a mental health disorder. It is reported that individuals within the Latine community don’t seek mental health services as often as others; 35.1% of Latine

seek help as opposed to the U.S. average of 46.2% of all adults. This begs the question: are Latine students at SF State getting the mental health support they need?

Padilla says Latine students avoid getting help because they “don’t know how to do it” and “don’t want to seem weak.”

More than half of the Latine population between the ages of 18 and 25 that experience severe mental health struggles do not seek treatment for a number of reasons. The Latine community often faces disparities in both access to and quality of treatment. Without treatment, mental health conditions tend to regress.

Fourth-year student Michael Ramirez knows first-hand what it’s like to struggle with mental health. He grew up in a rather toxic environment fostered by frequent—sometimes even violent—outbursts.

“It’s been a very difficult journey,” said Ramirez. “[Mental health was] not being talked about.”

Ramirez and his siblings experienced feelings of distress and trauma as a result of these experiences; feelings that they couldn’t identify, understand or detach from.

“[His dad] would act very violently and my reaction was to hide from it,” said Ramirez. “I would lock myself in a closet or just try to be as far away from whoever’s angry as I possibly can.”

As a psychology major, Ramirez eventually came to understand how the lack of mental health resources and information growing up really affected him. He was struggling so much that he sought therapy; something that, in his community, wasn’t offered or discussed.

Juanello Martinez works on a couch in the Latinx Student Center on Monday, April 8, 2024. (Andrew Fogel/Xpress Magazine)

Contributing Factors

College students may be more at risk of struggling with mental health issues due to the fast-paced tempo of campus life and academic demands.

“It feels really intense like we have this deadline,” said Padilla. “That causes students to sometimes forget about themselves and about their needs, prioritizing classes before their health.”

Language barriers and affordability are also some obstacles to receiving mental health services. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 17% of the Latine population in the U.S. live in poverty, as compared to the 8.2% of non-Hispanic individuals. Those who live in poverty are at a higher risk of mental illness and, conversely, those with a diagnosed mental illness have a higher rate of living in poverty. Lack of health insurance is another contributing factor. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 18% of Hispanic people are living without health insurance.

“While we cannot speak to all of the healthcare industry, some of what we do is focused on increasing access and decreasing barriers to treatment,” said Stephen Chen, director of Counseling and Psychological Services at SF State, in an email.

According to Padilla, the Latine community can be more reserved than others and may not want to talk about challenges at home, in their lives or they just don’t know how.

“You get to college as [the] first in your family […] and now you’re on your own […] to be a self-advocate,” said Padilla. “Growing up, you never had to [be] an advocate like that. That’s a training that a lot of people think is embedded but it’s not—we have to learn that.”

Opening up about mental health can be viewed as taboo in Hispanic culture, especially for men. Defined within the culture as “machismo,” there is generally a superior value for characteristics associated with masculinity, while feminine traits are normally greeted with hostility. This instinct to repress one’s problems can perpetuate the continuous stigma surrounding mental health within the community. Many feel ashamed to talk about these issues, let alone seek aid. There is often fear of being called “crazy” or bringing shame to one’s family.

“[My mom was] brave enough and had the courage to recognize that her childhood didn’t teach her much about how to support the mental health of her children,” said Martinez. “She has a responsibility to kind of step out of her comfort zone, and support us in ways that she never saw her parents support her.”

The stigma likely stems from a lack of understanding and learning opportunities about the reality of mental health. Without awareness, symptoms of mental health issues can be easily overlooked when they are unknown. In addition, there is a lack of education about what kind of services are even

available. All of these contribute to students not getting help.

“There are certainly different views around mental health across cultures and much of our work around outreach focuses on destigmatizing mental health amongst Latine, Black and Asian populations,” wrote Chen.

Ramirez said he felt stigmatized when he informed his family that he was going to study psychology instead of computer science.

“They would say ‘That’s not a real science,’ ” said Ramirez.

How To Get Help

SF State has several resources to support all students including the Latine community. The best place to start is CAPS, which offers counseling services, crisis consultations and other resources.

“Destigmatizing mental health is so crucial in helping connect individuals that have not experienced counseling before,” said Chen.

CAPS offers a program on campus called “Let’s Talk,” which they have been expanding. The program goes to community spaces for free, providing

Mario Miranda poses with a coffee maker in the Latinx Student Center on Monday, April 8, 2024.

confidential, one-on-one informal meetings with CAPS counselors. The goal is to make mental health care feel less intimidating. It is may feel less intimidating to go and chat with someone about problems instead of seeking out therapy.

“Whether it is stress, sadness, relationship problems or academic pressures, sharing your concern with another person can make a positive difference,” said Chen. “ ‘Let’s Talk’ is a place where you can talk about concerns and receive expert suggestions about solutions and resources or just have someone to listen and offer support.”

CAPS can also help uninsured students sign up for Medi-Cal to help with access to health care and other needed resources.

“I’ve been working with my therapist for a long time to address that trauma,” said Ramirez. “Recently […] I’ve had a breakthrough and I understand myself and listen to myself.”

Overall, Padilla thinks SF State does a good job in providing students with mental health care access; however, he also feels that they can do better.

“Everybody’s different, but we can do more,” said Padilla.


Taking Off: From Legos to Rockets

Talon Chaulkin Browning’s launch to success in mechanical engineering

Atop SF State’s Lot 25, students wearing safety goggles, bright red neon vests and red hard hats stand around in anticipation. Staticky conversations crackle from the refurbished walkie-talkies they are using to communicate. Yellow caution tape surrounds a designated area where rockets built by students in the Fog City Rocketry Club are set to launch. Talon Chaulkin Browning, vice president of the club, leads the countdown through his megaphone.

“Ten, nine, eight…”

With seven seconds left, everyone began chanting along.

“Six, five, four…”

The button to release fuel into the rocket was pressed.

“Three, two, one.”

A rocket launches into the sky, reaching the height of the trees. The group cheered, reveling in their first of many victories to come.

This is the first time any student organization has held an event like this on campus. Fog City Rocketry hosted the launch on Feb. 16, making history under Browning’s leadership.

From a young age, Browning loved to play with Legos, building objects from his imagination, brick by brick. Over time, the Lego bits and pieces eventually evolved into the circuits and

batteries he now uses to build rockets.

“I’ve always been interested in the mechanics of things and how things work,” said Browning. “I [have been building] cars, taking things apart and [putting] it back together [...] since I was a kid, and really wanted a place to grow.”

Along with other kids, Browning would get boxes filled with Lego pieces. The projects would eventually evolve into somewhat of a competition, as he would see the other cool objects kids could build. Browning’s need to build things faster, bigger and better sparked his passion for engineering.

Browning, 27, grew up in San Francisco. He spent his early years in the foster care system as his parents were incarcerated for drug abuse. While under the care of various foster homes, he moved all over the Bay Area including Oakland, Hayward, Fremont, Newark and Union City. Although he didn’t have a stable home, he maintained his love for engineering.

“I went to a foster care facility one time. I was given a little radio-type thing and the radio didn’t work,” said Browning. “I sat there with the mom of the house at the time and she took it apart with me, and kind

Members of the Fog City Rocketry Club prepare a rocket for launch in Lot 25 on campus

this lady know how to do this?’ ”

Browning’s love for building things only grew as his relationship was rebuilt with his father once he was released. During the time he spent under the care of Child Protection Services, Browning got to see his father once or twice a year. His passion would develop more as his father would take him to his engine shop, where he would immerse Browning in the world of mechanics.

“Every time I went to visit him, it wasn’t like we were visiting,” said Browning. “It was more along the lines of like: we’re gonna go to work; we’re gonna take this apart; we’re gonna put this back together. I guess doing that as a kid really got me excited that I could build something that I want to make work for me instead of going and paying someone who is making something cheap and profiting off of me. I could go buy the parts myself and make it even better.”

During his time at John F. Kennedy High School in San Francisco, 15-year-old Browning started working to pay for his own wants and needs and collecting many hobbies such as singing and playing various sports [12]. After attending Folsom Lake College, he moved back to the East Bay and attended Ohlone College in Fremont.

“I would go back to my [foster] parents’ house, but I pretty much lived in hotels or rented my own spots and stuff like that,” said Browning. “I was not in the right headspace and was dealing with a lot of—I guess—drugs and crime and stuff like that still, because that’s kind of all I knew up to that point. I spent a lot of my high school in the juvenile detention center.”

” said Alexandria Nesbeth, a member of Fog City Rocketry. “He lifts the weight off the work as well as spearheads a lot of work as well, to the point where it’s like, sometimes I don’t think we need a full team doing it. I think we just need Talon.”

Nesbeth met Browning in the club and is currently the only woman in the organization. When the organization was being built up, Browning took the position of vice president.

“I was excited about aerospace and engineering in general and being able to put some of the skills that I have on the table to help other students learn,” said Browning.

When members arrive at the club meetings, Browning is the first to greet everyone. He is professional in his demeanor and supports his team from the second they walk through the door, up until the second they leave.

Browning graduated from Ohlone College in 2022 with an associate’s degree in Human Development Studies. He now lives in Redwood City and interns at Alef Aeronautics, an aerospace facility in San Mateo, while majoring in mechanical engineering and taking six classes at SF State to earn his bachelor’s degree.

“I know him very well. Why? Because he is always sitting in the first row,” said Lilit Mazmanyan, faculty lecturer for SF State’s School of Engineering. “Always paying attention, looking directly to the blackboard, writing everything with details; that is why when you told me the name, I knew who he was quickly because sometimes, for students, you go back to the list and [...] and try to figure out who is that person.”

Mazmanyan met Browning last semester in a class on statics—which is a branch of the engineering department—and is currently taking a class on dynamics with him. She has noticed that he enjoys helping out his struggling classmates, where she sees that others don’t care what could happen to them.

“He speaks with a warm tone; even if he’s frustrated he’ll be like, ‘Okay, let’s just hammer it out,’

“He is so skilled and he is so ambitious that he doesn’t have the time to necessarily do that for all of us, which shows because he’ll show up and he’s like, ‘Oh, you know I got all this going on,’ but he’s still showing up,” said Nesbeth. “I think that he is a very hard worker and he’s very competent, which is, I wouldn’t say, rare, but the way he combines those two and is still very warm and light-hearted; I think that’s rare.”

Within Fog City Rocketry, Browning has built not only rockets, but also relationships with members like Eshton Liu, the club’s director of chemical engineering.

“He has helped build the club from more of an administrative side of things,” said Liu. “[He] sort of put the skeleton together, if you will: a foundation for the club to sort of work on and operate efficiently to the best of our ability.”

One of the closest relationships Browning has formed was with Jorge Aguilar, the club’s chief financial officer, as they have known each other for around two years. Aguilar feels that Browning has impacted him by showing him what dedication can do in life.

“I think Talon is a really good person to have in your core,” said Aguilar. “I wouldn’t want to have anybody else in my corner fighting for me.”

Oskar Kenyatta Garcia hands the body of the rocket to another club member near Lot 25 on campus Jorge Aguilar (left) and Eshton Liu (right) use a measuring tape to find a safe launch spot for the rocket during a Fog City rocket launch in Lot 25 on campus Jorge Aguilar puts a microcomputer into the nose cone of a rocket during a Fog City rocket launch in Lot 25 on campus Jorge Aguilar attaches the nose cone to the body of the rocket during a Fog City rocket launch in Lot 25 on campus Marc McClure secures the nose cone to the body of the rocket during a Fog City rocket launch in Lot 25 on campus
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