The Communicator, v. 47, Ed. 4, 2020-2021

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April 2021 | 1


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The front cover of this edition represents fragments of our lives joining together to form a simple mosaic. Each person featured on the cover has their own story and shares it under our Lost and Found series. On the cover is Abby Frank, Ryan Villanueva, Margaret Alpern, Lydia Cocciolone and Elliot Ziolek. Each shape and photograph is unique and powerful independently, but when integrated together, the entire composition becomes even more profound.


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Volume 47, Edition 4 | April 2021


The Community Ensemble Theater aims to produce multiple shows a year. After finishing “The Tempest” virtually this year, director Quinn Strassel announced the group will now perform “Working.”



With online learning, the new freshman have not interacted with CHS outside of Zoom. Get to know members of the class of 2024 outside of the computer screen.

Do You Really Shop There?



Turning Pain into Purpose

When she was young, junior Helen Dean faced criticism from her peers when she moved to Ann Arbor. They would comment on the clothes that she got from the thrift store. Now, Dean notices that those same peers shop at second hand stores in lieu of the fad.

After the passing of her son, Kristen Roberts created the Miles Jeffrey Roberts Foundation to provide other students with a support system.



Losing Jams, Finding Jazz


Driven by Passion



CHS is known for its stellar jazz ensembles and oneof-a-kind musical opportunities. But how have jazz teacher Jack Wagner and his musicians navigated playing in isolation?

Freshman Evan Ochoa has turned his love for music into a dedicated hobby. He is now creating and publishing music under the pseudonym “GVMMY.”

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36 Finding Happiness BY SEBASTIAN OLIVA

Sofia Stern-Koreck has used last year’s lock down and the pandemic as a way to reflect on mental health.

52 The Play at Home Order BY SCARLETT LONDON

Journalist Scarlett London used statewide Stay at Home Orders to grow close with her family through board games.


58 Perfectionism and Isolationism

Lost and Found BY STAFF


As the main articles that correspond to our theme of Lost and Found, these stories highlight how things lost and things found underscore change within CHS students.

Ailish Kilbride has striven for perfection her entire life. But how does perfectionism translate in the isolation of a pandemic?



Ten Years On

How Interesting!



It has been 10 years since the devastating tsunami in Japan. Journalist Mori Ono reflects on the resilience of Japan and its lone Matsu tree.

Dave Szczygiel has been a nature enthusiast his whole life. After teaching for a few years in AAPS, Szczygiel took on the infamous role of Environmental Consultant and has loved it ever since.

CONSTANTS Proust Questionnaire – 74 Fashion – 76 Reviews – 78

Artist Profiles – 82 Crave – 84 Our Turn – 85

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WWW.CHSCOMMUNICATOR.COM @COMMUNICATORCHS Photography by Sela Gur-Arie 6 | The Communicator Magazine

Letter from the Editors Dear Readers, The production of this edition coincides with a yearning for spring: warm weather days, flowers in bloom and, of course, our first substantial break since winter. To say the least, the past four months have been an exhausting whirlwind. The past months were not just a lengthy homestretch to Spring Break. As journalists of The Communicator, we have gotten the opportunity to celebrate our Gold Crown award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, which was granted to our website and magazine, as well as the production of two editions. But it is also imperative to emphasize how the latter part of the winter can be difficult. Dealing with the pandemic, Zoom fatigue and school work has been a seemingly non-stop struggle since our last break. It is important for us to take the time to acknowledge the sharp rise in Covid-19 cases in our state at the end of March. Although our lives have been centered around the pandemic for over a year, peaks of cases are still frightening, sad and very real. Over the past year, the losses we have experienced have been palpably raw. It has not been uncommon to hear discussions of how our lives have been drastically changed due to the loss of our normalcy. But these feelings are not solely confined to the pandemic. We have lost and found a multitude of different things throughout our lives: pencils, keys, wallets, clothes, hobbies, friends and family members. Thus, we present the theme of our fourth edition, Lost and Found. This edition seeks to explore what we have gained and what we have left behind throughout our lives. CHS community members have reflected on how their lives and experiences fit into the parameters of Lost and Found: thrifted clothing, new restaurants, mental health, board games and music. As the seasons change and the end of the challenging school year draws to a close, we hope the reporting in this edition will provide our readers with introspection into what our community has found and lost. Your Editors,

Zoe Buhalis

Mia Goldstein

Mori Ono

Taisiya Tworek



The Communicator Policy: The Communicator is an open forum for student expression created by Community High School students. The Communicator does not represent the views of Ann Arbor Public Schools. The Communicator staff seeks to recognize the individuals, events and ideas relevant to readers. The Communicator is committed to fair reporting, providing a platform for student voices and equitable coverage. For our complete Guidelines & Policy, please go to April 2021 | 7

With Covid-19 shutting down schools, the CHS Forum Council grapples with a change in their roles as Forum Representatives BY MEGHAN LONDON AND RUTH SHIKANOV

Lucy Tobier and Charles Solomon realized early on as Forum Council Presidents that life as a student at CHS would be very different this year. The events that CHS has always done in the past just were not going to work. So, Tobier and Solomon have worked to address the need for adaptation to an all-virtual environment while holding onto some of the school’s core activities such as Forum Day, Not School As Usual, Multi-Culti and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration. “There’s been more need for us to do more things than normal,” said Matt Johnson, Council Facilitator. “We work on Commstock, senior celebrations, MultiCulti and reaching out to middle schools, but this year, we’ve taken on a number of things, like Peer-to-Peer study tables.” Recently, Forum Council has discussed end of year events, such as a live streamed concert or drive-by social events. However, it is all dependent upon how the end of the school year is going to look. Forum Council wants to try to make some things special; they don’t want to take an in-person event and just put it on Zoom. “It’s always been a bit of a struggle planning things 8 | The Communicator Magazine

because of how up in the air everything is,” Solomon said. “It’s about balancing the uncertainty, but it’s also about wanting to start [planning] early, so we can put a good event together without it being a huge struggle.” Noah Bernstein and Sebastian Oliva, representatives for the Hamstra Forum, say that the processes of Forum Council have not significantly changed. However, at the end of last year, they were only focusing on the pandemic and helping students and teachers adjust to the new ‘normal’. They’re currently trying to figure out how to facilitate events like a prom or a senior event. “Facilitating these events is vital in creating a feeling of community and ensuring that our peers feel a part of Community,” Oliva said. “Creating a sense of what past events like Multi-Culti used to be like [will] help underclassmen understand what Community is truly about: a gracious, flexible, genuine, flamboyant community.” Despite its all-virtual format, Forum Council has still held interesting conversations. With the difficulty of unmuting, a hand raising system has been implemented, as well as continuing to use a parliamentary procedure known as “Robert’s Rules.”

“I think there’s benefits and there’s costs [of Zoom],” Tobier said. “But it’s definitely been different, and we’ve had to adapt a lot. We can’t stick to what we used to do, but for the large part, we’ve been able to still continue on and get our discussions and our work done.” Being aware of this, they plan to continue reaching out to their peers and giving them a voice. Staying connected through forum bulletin slides and using other school resources, such as The Communicator, to receive criticism and alert the student body of future events or services that Forum Council will enact. “We are very open and trying to find alternatives to create fluent communication among our peers,” Oliva said. “Involving students in what the [Forum Council] is doing is our most important job,” Bernstein added. Forum representatives have frequently raised concerns or suggested changes that students want to see to the school’s virtual format. On top of that, they have brainstormed potential in-person opportunities for the AAPS reopening. The council has recently been asking forum representatives to go back to their forums to lead discussions, as opposed to the leaders trying to do

that. “[We’ve been] asking students to go back to [their] forums and have discussions with their own forums since they already have relationships and those connections built,” Tobier said. “That’s something we’re working on, especially with our current projects. We need a lot of student input.” Forum Council’s ultimate goal is to represent the student body the best they can; they want to hear from students as much as possible. “Forum Council, in theory, is a body of [the] community, but it’s really important to hear from the students themselves,” Soloman said. “No matter how representative of the student body we try to be, we’re not fully.” “We want to help students as much as possible,” Johnson said. “Whether it’s connecting students or reaching out to [Dean] Marci, [Forum Council’s] role is to make the vision of the students happen.”

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Losing Jams, Finding Jazz Virtual learning has imposed new hardships on the CHS Jazz Program, but it also created new possibilities. BY GENEVE THOMAS-PALMER AND CHARLES SOLOMON

During his career at CHS, jazz teacher Jack Wagner has led hundreds of students through playing gigs at holiday gatherings with University of Michigan professors and the Detroit Auto show; through overnight bus rides down to Tennessee to study with Grammy-Award-winning bassist Victor Wooten; and to victory in the Downbeat Magazine International Student Music Awards Competitions for five consecutive years. With the Covid-19 pandemic keeping a firm grip on the U.S., this year, Wagner has braved a new challenge: online school. “When it comes to jazz, a major part of the process is playing together,” Wagner said. “So the fact that we couldn’t do that required me to really take a hard left turn 10 | The Communicator Magazine

about how I was going to approach a lot of what we do.” Without the option of in-person playing tests, synchronous practice with bands or in-the-moment critique of his students, Wagner had to adapt. He shifted the focus of his classes to prioritize individual skill-building, something he says is effectively accomplished asynchronously, with direction and guidance during class time on Zoom. With this new method of skill-based learning, he hopes that “when we do get back together, we’re at least stronger musicians. And then we can then focus on the group aspect of making creative music together.” Playing with bandmates — especially in the free-form way in which jazz often ex-

ists — is something sorely missed by many students in the CHS jazz program. Wagner has taken measures to remedy this, but they have come with their own hiccups. For the winter concert, jazz students used Upbeat Music, an app that overlays individual student submissions of their parts of a song, to formulate a single video similar to what would be heard at a live performance. The use of this new technology, however, was not as comparable to playing with a band in person as many in the jazz program hoped it would be. “I really miss being able to jam and having the ability to just take a five chorus solo, or have a really free-flowing jam session,” said Zach Sommerfeld, sophomore guitarist. “It’s just nice — the feeling of playing

in a group and being able to alter the song as you go. Whereas on Upbeat, you have to play exactly what the form specifies.” Some students find themselves missing unexpected parts of in-person lessons, like playing tests. For musicians like Leah van der Velde, junior trumpeter, recording tests on Schoology is more stressful than waiting to play during class. “As far as testing goes, there was something really relieving — even though it was more nerve-racking — about getting only one take to do your playing test and then it being over,” van der Velde said. “Having to record myself and make sure I get as many chances as I want — it’s almost more stressful in the long run.” As vaccine distribution became more comprehensive over the country and Covid-19 cases steadily dropped, Ann Arbor Public Schools finalized a plan to include hybrid options for high school students in April. Some in the jazz program prepare to return for once a week in-person lessons with Wagner, ready to begin shedding the constraints of Zoom school. Hybrid learning, however, comes with its own challenges. “I’m scared of going back to jazz just because it just seems unsafe,” said Grace Wang, junior trumpeter. “They can tell me a bunch of things about the air circulation and masks with holes in them, or whatever, but I feel like there’s nothing that somebody could say that would make me feel super safe being in a room of people just blowing their air everywhere.” Despite the restrictions online learning places on musical education, some CHS musicians feel there are skills they have gained from their year of learning from home. With a lighter curriculum from Wagner, van der Velde has had more opportunity to explore her musical interests on her own; Wagner himself is eager to merge what he’s learned organizationally by using Schoology with the systems he uses during in-person classes. “I know that Jack says that every day you have to listen to jazz,” Wang said. “But before, I could just listen to my friend who sat next to me to play it, and I’m like, ‘Okay, I get it.’ But, now, I actually care more about listening to the music, and I’ll listen to it when I don’t have an assignment. I think I do appreciate jazz more.”

“When it comes to jazz, a major part of the process is playing together. So the fact that we couldn’t do that required me to really take a hard left turn about how I was going to approach a lot of what we do.”

Photography by Ella Rosewarne CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: CHS Jazz program members Leah van der Velde, Grace Wang and Zach Sommerfeld. News | April 2021 | 11

Zebrotics During the Pandemic

How CHS’ robotics team is competing virtually without a robot. BY MORI ONO

For nearly a year, 5708 Zebrotics has been unable to work on their robot, which remains at their workspace at Scarlett Middle School. Months of work had come to an abrupt halt when all FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) events were suspended last March. Now, the team has focused on a completely virtual competition: to design the very game that robots compete in. This year, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), which operates the robotics competitions, presented three competition options for teams to participate in. The first, “Infinite Recharge at Home,” is a continuation of last year’s competition. Instead of competitions, teams that selected this option would demonstrate the capabilities of their robots and drivers to judges by participating in “Skills Competitions.” These range from programming robots to travel in specific paths to trying to shoot game pieces into specific ports. The second option, the “Innovation Option,” involves teams responding to a real-world problem by developing an engineering solution with a business model and delivering a pitch for it to judges. The final option, the “Game Design Challenge,” involves designing and pitching a robotics game to judges. This was the option that Zebrotics opted for. “We don’t have the resources as a team to work on the physical robot, as the robot is at Scarlett, and we wouldn’t be allowed back in there,” said Lucas Reading Suñol, co-captain of Zebrotics. “[The] open ended design project — it might be too open ended — and it might be difficult for us to find a project. [As for] designing the game, it’s easy to understand what you have to do.” The team began tackling the challenge by analyzing game manuals from earlier years and sought to understand the mechanics of the games, trying to identify elements that worked the best. “Looking at different games, looking at the details, I think that’s going to be really important,” Reading Suñol said. “Even when you’re building a robot for a normal season.” With no robot to manufacture, program or wire, the team has reorganized into groups focused on writing, 3D modeling and animation. John Umbriac, the co-lead programmer, is now focusing on using Computer Assisted Design (CAD), the use of software in design, to create 3D models of the game field. “It was really interesting working with CAD because, as a programmer, normally you’re not doing that because that’s an engineering job,” Umbriac said. 12 | The Communicator Magazine

Zebrotics’ game design concept, “Forest Force,” is themed on forest fires. The game is set in a future when forest fires have become too dangerous for firefighters. Robots are tasked with putting out fires, replanting the areas with tree seeds and returning to helicopters by the end of the match. During the development of the concept, Umbriac saw two main factors as being part of a successful game design: a game that is interesting to watch, and a game where players must make interesting decisions. “If [decision making] is too straightforward, everybody’s just going to optimize for the same thing, and then there’s no variability,” Umbriac said. “But if you set it up in such a way where multiple varying paths are viable, then it’ll be a lot more interesting.” For this reason, the game requires the robots to carry two game pieces: seeds that provide a point upon being planted and water that acts as a point multiplier for those seeds. As a result, teams need to evaluate what combination of the two will generate the most points. “You have to do some algebra to see, ‘If I have this many seeds and this much water, how many points am I going to get?’” Umbriac said. The team has faced a variety of new challenges this year, primarily stemming from the completely new format of this year’s game. There aren’t many returning members, but there are many new members. At the same time, the online format has made it difficult for the team to train new members while adapting to the new game. “[Robotics is] not an activity that can be transferred to being virtual at all,” said CHS senior Sophie Fetter. “We’re definitely using aspects of engineering and learning about coding and learning

Photography by Sophie Fetter TOP LEFT: A view of the Forest Force game field featured in Zebrotics’ animation. It was created in Blender, a 3D graphics software. “[It was to] make a video that’s a very basic explanation of the game that we created,” said Sophie Fetter, the head of business and marketing, who animated the 3D models.

BOTTOM RIGHT: The team meeting online through the communication platform Discord. By using Discord, team members are able to quickly switch between voice channel rooms. “We can use our voice channels to split up into groups to work on what you have to work on,” Reading Suñol said.

about how to work together as a team. [We’re] taking an idea from an idea to a reality, which is kind of the core of making robots. But you’re not actually getting to make a robot.” Currently, the team is completing their submission, which includes a graphic of the game field, descriptions of the game and its specific components and the video explanation. Later, the team will arrange a 12 minute interview with judges, which will include a section for a team presentation and another for questions and answers from the judges. Next year, Umbriac hopes for a return to the typical competition format.

“As great as it’s been to work on a field, I signed up so I can write C++ [the programming language used by the team],” Umbriac said. As for Reading Suñol, a senior, he reflects on his time in Zebrotics as having been both enjoyable and an excellent learning opportunity for skills in many careers. “You learn a lot about the steps you should take to solve problems,” Reading Suñol said. “You learn how you should plan when taking on a big project and how there are all sorts of variables to d how there are all sorts of variables to think about.” News | April 2021 | 13

Working on “Working” After releasing the final act of “The Tempest” almost a year after their in person production was shut down due to Covid-19, CET begins working on its first virtual musical. BY LILY SICKMAN-GARNER, RIA LOWENSCHUSS AND RIN SIMMONS

On the evening of Jan. 15, the cast and crew of CET’s “The Tempest” gathered on Zoom for a special announcement. Act IV of their show was about to be released, and as the fall production came to an end, many students were starting to wonder what would be next for the ensemble. In a normal year, CET director Quinn Strassel announces both the fall and spring shows at the beginning of the school year. However, due to the complications that come with operating entirely virtually, Strassel’s choice for the spring show was revealed only recently. The group will be producing “Working,” a musical based on a book of interviews written by Studs Terkel. Instead of

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following a single narrative, “Working” explores the lives of various people through the lens of their jobs. “I would prefer doing real theater with people, but CET has definitely made [things] better for me in quarantine,” said Nadya Matish, a CHS sophomore and member of “Working’s” cast. “I get to see a bunch of people, and I get to do other things besides school, sleeping and eating food.” Like many members of “Working’s” cast and crew, Matish participated in “The Tempest” in the fall, so she already has experience acting virtually. For Abby Frank, another CHS sophomore and assistant student tech director of

“Working,” this show brings entirely new challenges. Frank has been active in CET since the fall show of her freshman year, during which she worked on the costume crew, but she has never worked as assistant student tech director before. “I’m excited to be doing another musical, and ‘Working’ seems awesome, so I’m Photo by Lily Sickman-Garner CET cast members meet on Zoom to rehearse. “Working” will be filmed on Zoom, edited, and released as a live stream. “If you’re acting onstage, you would have to stand there and have your whole body walking around” said Nadya Matish, a member of the “Working” cast. “Since it’s filmed on Zoom, you stand there with just your shoulders and head in the photo. So that’s kind of a different acting experience.”

really excited to see how it turns out,” Frank said. She is excited to work with and learn from all of the different tech crews and is particularly looking forward to collaborating with the tech director and student tech director, Mitchel Dipzinski and Sage Iwashyna. “It’s really amazing because I still get to work with costumes crew, but I’m also getting to facilitate other people growing into leadership roles,” Frank said. “Working with Mitchel and Sage more closely has been amazing.” This is Dipzinski’s second show as tech director and first show working online with CET. Although Dipzinski took a break during the fall production of “The Tempest,” he is excited to be back for “Working.” He believes this musical is especially fitting right now in a time where essential workers are on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic. “I’m excited [for ‘Working’] because I think this is a very powerful conversation that we’re having everywhere,” Dipzinski said. “With the idea of minimum wage, with the idea of essential workers, the question is, ‘How do we treat the workers in America? How do we treat the people

“I think it’s an incredibly timely show, and I think there’s going to be something really honest and really direct about the show that will be unlike anything we’ve ever done.”

that really make this place run?’” Strassel is also looking forward to creating a show so relevant to the themes of the past year. “I think that we are aware of the importance of everybody who contributes to our world, and this show is going to be a way of highlighting those people and really hearing their voices,” Strassel said. “I think it’s an incredibly timely show, and I think there’s going to be something really honest and really direct about the show that will be unlike anything we’ve ever done.”

Photography by Ria Lowenschuss Members of the “Working” tech crew gather on Zoom. CET crew meets every Wednesday and Sunday to work both as a full group and in specific crews such as costumes, sets and lights. “I had such a hard time, freshman year deciding which crew to apply to be on because I wanted to be on all of them,” said Abby Frank, assistant student tech director of “Working.” “Now, I kind of feel like I am, and it’s just amazing. I’m looking forward to learning more from all the crews and just seeing what we can create.” News | April 2021 | 15

A Smile for Kerrytown Eat has found its place in the center of Kerrytown despite opening in the midst of a pandemic. AILISH KILBRIDE AND RIA LOWENSCHUSS

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When Blake Reetz dreamed of opening his own dine-in restaurant, he never imagined breaking ground during a global pandemic. Reetz, a chef who has worked in the restaurant business for over 20 years, has always been passionate about local, homegrown meals and serving his community. He prioritizes creating connections with his staff, as well as the people that he serves. Reetz opened Eat with his business partner, Emilia Mauck, in December of 2011. The original restaurant, located on Packard Street, opened with one booth and a bar with two seats. This limited the restaurant to catering and takeout. With a solid customer base and large catering events, Eat thrived on Packard. However, the Eat community dreamed of a dine-in location. “We didn’t really have an opportunity to build much of an atmosphere for people to be in the restaurant,” Reetz said. “A lot of the feedback that we got from the community was that they wished we had seating for more people, and then this opportunity fell in our laps, so we took it.” When a beloved lunch spot in Kerrytown closed its doors, Reetz and his partner decided it was time to expand their business. In October of 2020, Eat was ready to serve its first customer. However, Covid-19 limited Eat’s entrance into the Kerrytown community. Until recently, Eat was only able to offer takeout and do small catering jobs. “The person-to-person connection with customers and the people eating our food [was] completely gone,” Reetz said. Anna Topping, a front-of-house staff member at Eat, started working at the Kerrytown location when it opened. Topping misses the atmosphere of Eat and the feeling of a physical community before Covid-19. “You don’t have the same experience with people dining in, having a full restaurant and getting the energy of your restaurant,” Topping said. “[Eat] not being as bustling as it usually is is definitely missing

because of Covid.” Although they were small to begin with, Eat had to significantly lower their staff numbers due to Covid-19. This adjustment has created an opportunity for deeper connections and bonds to form within the team. “[Working during Covid-19 has] given me an opportunity to get to know the people I’m working with better and strengthen how we work day-to-day,” Topping said. “As things open back up, we’re even stronger.” The atmosphere of Kerrytown is a change from Eat’s Packard location. In addition to the friendly business owners, the staff at Eat have been able to connect with pedestrians strolling around the cobblestone streets or shopping in the stores that surround the restaurant. “[Kerrytown] is very Ann Arbor,” Reetz said. “I’ve lived in Ann Arbor for 20 years now, and I’ve always loved [the] area. It’s a cool community to be a part of.” Fresh and locally grown food is a top priority for Eat. The restaurant is passionate about putting homegrown meals in front of customers. Eat is as dedicated to the Ann Arbor community as it is to its fresh ingredients. “[Eat] cares about the food and the essence of the restaurant itself [and] bringing that to customers and the community,” Topping said. As a chef, putting a smile on a customer’s face through food is a treasured experience for Reetz. He has always loved cooking and creating new dishes, but the connection between the restaurant and its customers is where he finds his passion. “One of my favorite things is when a dish that I make brings back a memory for someone,” Reetz said. “I love when people are reminded of something from the past as they are eating my food.” Although the pandemic has brought new experiences and different forms of joy, Eat is looking forward to a new normal in Kerrytown. “I’m very much looking forward to having a full restaurant, having people at all of the tables, enjoying the food and making connections,” Reetz said.

Photography by Ailish Kilbride and Ria Lowenschuss Eat’s sign at their new location in Kerrytown illuminates the courtyard. The restaurant opened its doors in October of 2020 and has enjoyed the new and upbeat environment of Kerrytown. “There’s a really good energy to Kerrytown,” Topping said. “It’s a part of town that people like to be in.” Feature | April 2021 | 17


Sylvie Zawacki is excited to return to in-person school. “I think it’s going to be nice to see people,” Zawacki said. “It’s been so long since I’ve had [normal interactions]. I’m not sure it will help me learn all that much more; I mostly just want to see people again.” Before the start of her freshman year, Zawacki was not against virtual school at all. In fact, Zawacki was glad to ease into high school through virtual learning. “[Online school] made me less nervous to start high school,” Zawacki said. “It’s a big transition and doing it online helped with my nerves.” As a freshman, Zawacki has found it difficult to make friends through the virtual format. She has had to turn to extracurriculars as an alternative to making friends during the school day. “I’ve joined a couple of clubs and getting on the [Skyline] softball team has helped, too,” Zawacki said. “We haven’t done all that much yet, but we’re getting the season started now.” During the one year she has spent in lockdown, Zawacki feels she has become more independent. “I’ve taken control of more of what I do,” Zawacki said. “It’s easier to organize things with friends online because transportation isn’t an issue.” Zawacki has also started taking long walks at night. “It’s been really nice to take long walks,” Zawacki said. “I did go on walks before the pandemic, but I’ve been doing them a lot more regularly and more often as well. I’ve also been going alone, which I didn’t do before.” Zawacki’s walks have also helped her adapt to having to be in close quarters with her family every day. “I have gotten very frustrated with being with the same people all the time and not being able to see other people,” Zawacki said. “I feel stuck and bored; I just don’t have anything to do. But the walks have definitely helped me get away from my family. Family is always annoying, but it’s been exacerbated by the pandemic.”

Sylvie Zawacki 18 | The Communicator Magazine

Griffin Siersma

At first, Griffin Siersma was unsure of online school and didn’t know what to expect. But he has adjusted to it over the year, and has even seen some of the benefits, like waking up later and making his own lunch. Now, he’s excited to return to school in spring. “I feel like every day is the same because I have school every day of the week,” Siersma said. “And the weekend, before the pandemic, we might actually go out and do something [with] friends but can’t really do all that. It’s just kind of repeating [the same] steps.” Siersma is prepared to go to hybrid school and get out of the house more often, but he’s most excited for in-person orchestra. Orchestra has looked a lot different this year for Siersma. During class, the students spend their time practicing independently on scales and assigned music. The class only get to hear each other a few times, and they have to record it separately. Along with orchestra, Siersma also plays baseball with Pioneer. “Baseball practice offers a type of relaxation, even though you can’t really relax because you have to be doing something, but it’s a nice mental break,” Siersma said. Fortunately, the pandemic hasn’t impacted how they practice too much. The main difference is that Siersma’s team is masked and has to socially distance. Siersma enjoys baseball because of the social interaction. He has missed meeting new people and making friends over the last year. “I think it’s definitely a lot harder [than in person],” Siersma said. “[You can] get to know someone, but you can’t make a good friend.”

Oliver Thomas In late-2019, Oliver Thomas started volunteering at the Huron Valley Humane Society. He started because he loved dogs, but he wasn’t able to get one. Thomas trained to be a junior-volunteer for dogs and has been trying to get enough hours to start training as a junior-volunteer for cats during the pandemic. “I love it,” Thomas said. “At the start of [the pandemic], I couldn’t go at all. Then, as it progressed, I could go, but I had to social distance and wear a mask.” Along with volunteering, Thomas has also been playing basketball outside with his friends. He first started playing at around five years old and has also picked up baseball over the years. He plays in the Rec & Ed league, along with basketball, though he stopped before going to Tappan Middle School. “I remember in basketball when I had a twenty-point game,” Thomas said. “That boosted my confidence a lot.” Something Thomas is looking forward to is returning to school in April. “I’m excited for in-person schools because it will be a nice change of scenery, rather than the inside of my house,” Thomas said. He also likes the hybrid new schedule. “It’s different than what we’ve been doing, so I like it,” Thomas said. He is ready for school and life to return to normal. Feature | April 2021 | 19

Poppy Magee is very disconnected during online school, having not met any of her teachers, classmates or been in her school building. “It feels almost like I go to an imaginary school,” Magee said. Magee would tell her September self to enjoy the good parts, and she’s done a great job doing that, getting a desk for her room and facing it towards the window so she can feel the sunlight. “I didn’t have a desk until March of last year, so when we got sent home from school, I had to make space in my bedroom for a desk,” Magee said. “I like working in my room because it’s cozy and makes me feel more motivated. It’s really different from in-person [learning] because you get to manage and set up your own workspace.” Magee likes working at her desk and has set it up with journals, books, art supplies and usually a candle or two. She has pens, pencils and markers on her desk, which she sometimes gets to use for taking notes or drawing something for an assignment. Magee also likes how her books look nice on her desk and how she can read them during breaks in school. “During breaks I can actually do things around the house or just get better rest time than you would be able to during a break in in-person school,” Magee said. During breaks, Magee has also been watching movies, listening to music or podcasts or on longer breaks ,she’ll go hang out with her family. She has also had more time to spend on her hobbies, like embroidery. “I’ve decided I want to watch all the Marvel movies because I had never seen any of them,” Magee said. “I’ve been embroidering while watching Marvel movies. I love embroidery because it’s super relaxing, and you can make really cool stuff.”

Poppy Magee 20 | The Communicator Magazine

Natalie Serban

Though most of her life has changed due to the pandemic, Stephanie Hadley is glad that dressage, the sport of horseback riding, has remained mostly the same. “The schedule has been more strict and tight, but it’s more of an outside thing,” Hadley said. “It’s not close contact at all. So [we just wear] masks and socially distance.” Since she was young, Hadley had wanted to do an equestrian because her aunt was a jumper, another type of horseback riding sport. She began taking lessons when she was in the third grade. Hadley has even ridden for the national dressage judge, Maryal Barnett, in 2017. “I got a score I am really proud of considering I only had a week in advance to prepare and practice,” Hadley said. Hadley also has a lab dog who likes to walk through Scio Woods Preserve. “It’s relaxing to get out in the woods,” Hadley said. “And there’s no one there. So [we] do a couple of mile hikes.” With dressage and school, Hadley finally feels like she has a routine – one she lacked last spring and the beginning of the school year. “The beginning of school was hard because I didn’t really have a routine,” Hadley said. “I would just get up at like 8:30 and do [school] in bed. I think it’s a lot better [now]. I’ve been able to actually learn more doing Zooms, but it can get tiring.”

Natalie Serban is enjoying online school, even though it is can sometimes be challenging. She often finds it difficult to engage when other students don’t have their cameras on during class; it’s uncomfortable to learn when there is little collaboration and discussion with peers. Forced to adapt, Serban has developed some beneficial habitats. “I started waking up earlier and started logging into Zoom five minutes before [class],” Serban said. Serban looks forward to seeing friends in school again. She plans to return to in-person school following the hybrid-schedule in April. Serban’s mood hasn’t changed a ton throughout quarantine. She is still her normal self, just more downcast due to the isolation from friends. She looks forward to this summer and some feelings of normalcy; she can’t wait to go to the beach and hang out with friends. Being at home all the time means more free time to explore what makes her happy. Serban finds joy in playing soccer at a Livonia-based club, Michigan Hawks. She discovered her passion at the early stage of kindergarten and has played ever since. Serban has made countless memories throughout her soccer journey — one of which being going to Tampa Florida for a National call. She appreciates how soccer allows her to experience new things and make friends that live all over the country. Serban enjoys playing at Hawks because she gets to be creative in her element and see her second family. Growing up, Serban has been creative in art. She spent time making glass paintings last month on her own, but soccer is a bit different. “I think soccer opens up new gates for me to be creative,” Serban said. Serban thrives when she has an opportunity to be creative. Her free time is spent well when she is passionate about what she is doing

Stephanie Hadley

Feature | April 2021 | 21

Isabella Jacob

Isabella Jacob is very excited about being a freshman. She enjoys that she does not have to get fully ready to go to school and gets to sleep in more than she would if she was attending in-person school. “I can also go to school in my pajamas, and I don’t have to get ready for school,” Jacob said. Being a freshman, Jacob doesn’t know a lot of people at CHS. It has been hard for her to not be able to socialize with people as she would normally do in an in-person setting. “I don’t know that many people in the community, and I haven’t been able to socialize as much as I would if [school] was in-person,” Jacob said. Not meeting her teachers has also been hard for Jacob. She wishes she was able to truly meet them and form a relationship with them, especially her forum leader, Anne Thomas. The long hours on a screen have also been hard on Jacob. “It is a lot of screen time, which is extremely draining,” Jacob said. Before experiencing online school, Jacob would complain about having to go in-person. Now having lived through a pandemic and having to participate in online school, she thinks that this will change how she feels about in-person school; Jacob will be a lot more grateful for the opportunity she has. “If I could tell my pre-pandemic self one thing, it would be that [Donald] Trump lost [the election], and you don’t have to worry,” Jacob said. Before the election, she would constantly be anxious about what could happen in this country. Now that the election is over, her mind isn’t at complete ease, but she is much calmer than she was pre-election.

Maiwen Claunch “I think the worst part about online school is that there is no socialization and it can be hard not being able to see people and not being in an in-person learning environment,” said Maiwen Claunch. Claunch thinks that the best part about online school is the extra downtime in between each class. The pandemic has affected her in many ways. One of the biggest ways the pandemic has affected Claunch was how she does in school. “Mostly it’s been affecting how I perform in school because it’s been hard to be attentive and do well in classes, and it’s been difficult,” Claunch said. The online school environment has made it harder for Claunch to do as well in school as she did before. Because of this, Claunch wished she could tell her September self to put more effort into school. “Looking back, I’d probably tell myself to put more effort into school and do better," Claunch said. "It would help me now, and it would help me better set myself up for now and the future.” She thinks that if she had focused more on school in the beginning, than it would be easier to stay in the groove now and that she would be more successful in school. As of right now, Claunch is planning on returning to school with the new hybrid schedule, so it will help her excel. 22 | The Communicator Magazine

Online school and nothing to do has forced Addi Hinesman to spend lots of time by herself in her room. Hinesman has been able to get to know herself better by doing quiet activities by herself. But she’s been in her head a lot, and that has been a struggle. “I’m a very social person,” Hinesman said. “I like to get to know people and meet new people and try new things. I normally surround myself with people. I’m a people-person in general, and I like to be around people, and so that’s been really hard.” With online school, Hinesman feels she has been able to mature in a way she wouldn’t be able to in-person. “I’ve gotten better at holding myself accountable, procrastinating less and just making sure that I use my planner [to] stay on top of homework and do the work that is given to me,” Hinesman said. When it comes to people, Hinesman has been hanging out by social distancing and going to dance. She has been going three to four times a week, which is less than before the pandemic. Hinesman loves dancing because of the community there and how she is close with the people she dances with. “We all have a common interest, so we all just click and get along and have fun dancing,” Hinesman said. “It’s my escape from reality and also where I do a lot of my thinking.”

Addi Hinesman Feature | April 2021 | 23

Turning Pain Into Purpose One Ann Arbor mother started a foundation to help raise mental health awareness after the loss of her son to suicide. BY ANJALI KAKARLA AND AILISH KILLBRIDE

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Kristen Roberts, the co-founder of the Miles Jeffrey Roberts Foundation (MJRF), strives to bring light to mental health and the stigma surrounding it. Roberts’ son, Miles, passed away on May 29, 2017 to suicide. This was the moment that Roberts decided she wanted to spread awareness and help destigmatize mental health. Jeff Roberts, Miles’ dad and co-founder of the MJRF, was passionate about telling Miles’ story the way that he would have wanted it to be told. The two started the foundation in August 2019 to help youth in and around Ann Arbor. “Our overall mission is to support youth mental health and wellness, as well as suicide prevention,” Kristen said. The Roberts want Miles’ story to be shared with youth in hopes of helping others. They want the legacy of who Miles was to stay alive. “[Miles] would be really happy to know that [his story] was helping others,” Kristen said. “That was just the kind of guy that he was. He got a lot of good feelings and joy out of helping others, but he didn’t focus on himself. Ultimately, it is like the oxygen mask on the airplane. You have to [put yours on] and take care of yourself before others.” Having a safety net of trustworthy and supportive people is something that Kristen thinks is crucial to mental wellbeing. Safety nets are a close-knit group of at least three to four people that include peers, as well as adults. Being able to find a safety net and a support system is something that the foundation tries to implement in the lives of youth. “The idea of having that safety net is to have a support system when you’re feeling so badly that you can’t see the light,” Kristen said. The Roberts’ plans for the future of the MJR Foundation have been sidetracked by the pandemic. “We originally thought that we would be able to do a lot of events face to face, but we are still trying to figure out how to do the best we can virtually,” Kristen said. “I think face to face [interactions] are super important, although we are trying to figure out how to do more virtually to support the youth and understand the complexity of the mental health challenges that have

increased more and more due to the pandemic.” The foundation aspires to bring more youth into their work. Getting kids involved in activities to raise awareness is one way that the foundation accomplishes this goal. “We feel sometimes we’re challenged with knowing how to help the youth because [they] are growing up in such a different space than we grew up [in],” Kristen said. “We try to find ways to do that in a healthy way to keep that conversation going and share awareness

“[Miles] would be really happy to know that [his story] was helping others. That was just the kind of guy that he was. He got a lot of good feelings and joy out of helping others, but he didn’t focus on himself. Ultimately, it is like the oxygen mask on the airplane. You have to [put yours on] and take care of yourself before others.” with coaches, teachers and counselors, but maybe in a different sort of angled way.” Kristen has turned her grief into something that will help kids in the Ann Arbor community for years to come. She hopes to continue the fight for mental health awareness and honor her son’s legacy through her work.

Photo courtesy of Ebba Gurney Kristen and Jeff Roberts hold their sons framed jersey. Miles played on the Skyline Hockey Team his freshman year of high school. “[Miles] would be really happy to know that [his story] was helping others,” Kristen Roberts said. Feature | April 2021 | 25

Driven by Passion

Evan Ochoa found music at a young age. His process focuses on precision and perseverance. BY EMMY CHUNG AND REAGAN MASEK

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Evan Ochoa, a freshman at CHS, discovered his devotion to music when he was entering middle school. He realized releasing albums and songs was something he wanted to work towards. Ochoa, also known as GVMMY, crafted his unique artist name based on a drawing he made in the eighth grade. He appreciates the similarity to the word “gumption,” which is describes someone who is spirited, rebellious and doesn’t give up. Ochoa feels that the name gives off a childlike impression. The typical “u” in gummy was changed to a “v” to add a personal touch. Ochoa finds joy in releasing music and sharing what he creates with others. Music is a big part of his life. Producing and creating on his own makes him feel like he’s in his own world. Ochoa can thank his dad for introducing him to music early on. He has been listening to music for as long as he can remember. Ochoa’s interest grew as he started to experiment with creating music at a young age. “I was five when I wrote my first song,” Ochoa said. “I remember the melody and everything. [The song] was called ‘It’s a Magical World.’” Ochoa works to make his music sound as polished as possible before showing it to family and friends. His friends really enjoy his music; they listen to it a lot more than he would have expected. Ochoa began producing beats when he was nine years old and was determined to gain listeners. He remembers presenting his music to his friends and even emailing tracks to his mother’s friends when he was growing up. The music that Ochoa typically creates is influenced by what he has listened to in the past. As a young and developing artist, he is still finding his flair. Little by little, he is creating his own unique style. When Ochoa starts working on a new song, he first gets to work on the production and the beat. Usually, the lyrics are the next important piece. If it is a more complex song, he writes a lot of different drafts, making sure the lyrics fit in with the beat. When drafting verses, he visualizes the story he wants to tell. Often times, this includes identifying a specific moment from his childhood that will invoke feelings of nostalgia. The drafts get narrowed down when he begins finalizing his work. Ochoa pays careful attention to the beats because he wants to engage the listeners in what he is expressing in the song. When Ochoa is creating music, he thinks about what he wants the listeners to experience. “If I want to make the listener feel nostalgic, I would work on chord progressions that trigger that feeling — or even [incorporate] instruments like synth or synth lines,” Ochoa said. When Ochoa first finishes a song, he has friends who look over it. As they listen, they provide him with

tips on the technical aspects of his music. Some of his friends have musical interests as well because they are producers. Once all of the last touches are put into the song, Ochoa feels a great sense of relief. “Especially if it’s a song that’s important to me, I put a piece of myself in my music,” Ochoa said. “When I share it, it’s just the best feeling.” The amount of time spent on each song varies for Ochoa; it depends on his mindset. In order to put feelings and emotions into his music, he has to feel them first himself. Ochoa’s dream would be to collaborate with the famous artist Blood Orange. In terms of the arrangement and musicality, Ochoa admires his work. He finds it beautiful and entrancing. Ochoa reflects on his own emotions while considering how he wants others to feel. He wants his listeners to empathize with the music that he creates, providing a safe space for those who are alone. “For me, music was the thing that connected me back to my own emotions,” Ochoa said. “It’s like my outlet, so I think that’s definitely one thing I want to do and also just inspire people.” Creating music that conveys thought-provoking emotions isn’t his only approach. Ochoa recognizes that some people make music designated for a fun time, while others aim to trigger feelings of sentiment in their listeners. Ochoa likes to do a little bit of both to satisfy various moods. Ochoa has goals set for himself, and he hopes to get more exposure. Currently, his music is available on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, iHeartRadio and YouTube. But he’s trying to push his music a lot in order to gain more listeners. He hopes to one day get featured on streaming service’s playlist. Ochoa wants to continue writing music for at least another decade — maybe even for the rest of his life. He realizes that life takes you in different directions, and you can’t plan out everything. But he wants to continue to follow his dreams. He plans to release another single before his next album, which is in the works to come out before summer. Ochoa’s music career is far from over, but he’s already learned so much both physically and emotionally. Ochoa has grown to become more ambitious and strives to inspire people with his work. He has obtained self-confidence by putting himself out there and expressing himself. Ochoa wants to encourage others to pursue their interests, even if the journey will be challenging. He recognizes the bumps in the roads, and the frustration that comes with being a young creator. “There are a lot of things that can be holding you back,” Ochoa said. “Despite those obstacles, it’s given me this drive to do something, and I hope other people get to have the same opportunity to do what they want to do.”

Feature | April 2021 | 27

Finding Direction Miles Durr discusses his passion for music and the mindset that keeps him motivated. BY SOPHIE FETTER

CHS senior Miles Durr started playing piano when his parents bought a $40 upright from Craigslist. He showed an interest in the instrument and enrolled in lessons. However, it wasn’t until high school that Durr became interested in developing a classical repertoire. “Classical music is so broad a genre,” Durr said. “That’s partly why I love it. It’s basically just a collection of music spanning across several centuries; it doesn’t denote a specific point or period in the overall development and transformation of Western art and culture.” As Durr gained more experience with the piano, he acquired a deeper appreciation and emotional connection to music. “It feels like the more I comprehend about piano, the more I see it in the world around me,” Durr said. Durr’s piano regimen has drastically changed with the pandemic. His in-person piano lessons had to be canceled indefinitely, and he missed out on scheduled performances. Durr attended lessons over Zoom and Skype for a period of time. He has viewed numerous live stream concerts on YouTube, many of them raising funds for musicians across the country who have no means of supporting themselves. All this time at home has given Durr more opportunity to practice and learn new music. He can immerse himself in what he is learning. However, Durr has to remember to manage his mental health during this time. “[Mental health] is something I know a lot of people have struggled with or are currently struggling with, and in many different ways,” Durr said. “For me, there were a few periods where I felt pretty much completely lost. I considered dropping music entirely, and in reevaluating what I had felt so sure about doing with my life, I suddenly felt no sense of direction whatsoever. There is, generally, a lot of pressure from the music world on students to have

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reached a high level of ability or be able to play with a high level of competency, and it’s easy to fall into that trap of having constant self-doubt, hopelessness or feelings of inadequacy.” Many times throughout quarantine, Durr found himself unable to play the piano at all. One particular piece, a Beethoven sonata nicknamed the “Appassionata,” stopped

Durr in his tracks. The piece reflects the anguish and turmoil Beethoven experienced in his life. “It opened up a lot that I was feeling at the time,” Durr said. “There was a lot of frustration — at myself, at many things. Despite all that, I still want to improve. Not just in piano, but in everything that I’ve been neglecting. I need to create that

kind of change for myself right now.” Durr finds that the best mechanism for self-improvement is to visualize where he wants to be and then follow his intuition on how to get there. “This doesn’t just apply to a specific outcome you might be looking for; it can also be a state of mind,” Durr said. “The important part is not losing sight of that vision of what you want. You need to remain vigilant about it, or else you risk regressing into bad habits and thought patterns.” Durr aspires to incorporate music into his career, though he isn’t sure what form that will take yet.

“I would love for [my career] to someday turn into performing, composing, or maybe even both,” Durr said. “Being a teacher is also a possibility. Either way, that is for the future to decide. I’m not sure how it will ultimately translate into a career, or if I’ll even end up being a musician. However, I do know that piano, and music in general, will remain a very important part of my life.” Durr’s advice to other creatives is to listen to your intuition about your passions in life. “If anyone has a moment where they find a calling, or some activity that brings them

joy, they should hold onto it,” Durr said. “It would be a mistake if you didn’t acknowledge it because it opens a path to better understanding yourself and where you fit in. Just remember to maintain balance. Don’t ignore other important things that are going on in your life. They may play an integral part in your future success.” Photography by Jennifer Durr RIGHT: Durr, at age seven, plays the piano at the Kerrytown Concert House student recital. Durr has continued to play frequently at the venue. FAR RIGHT: Durr sits at his piano and works on Schubert’s E-flat impromptu. The quarantine has provided more time for him to work on music. Feature | April 2021 | 29

Do You Really Shop There? Helen Dean reflects on her experiences of shopping at thrift stores out of necessity and how the current “trendiness” of thrifting has impacted her. BY GRACE WANG AND CATE WEISER

Photography by Grace Wang ABOVE: Helen Dean wears a hand-sewn skirt while standing against a brick building. Using two denim pieces from the thrift store Dean made the perfect skirt for herself. Photography by Cate Weiser LEFT: Helen Dean poses against a brick wall. Her thrifted tank top tied in the back to fit the way she wants it to.

“Helen, do you like this?” echoed through the aisles of The Salvation Army. Huron High School junior Helen Dean was shopping with her mom—a once-treasured tradition that now filled her with anxiety. Comments from her middle school peers rattled through her mind: “Thrift stores smell like mold;” “They’re so dirty;” “I would never step foot in there.” Dean and her mother had shopped together throughout her childhood. From living in California to Colorado to Ann Arbor, it became their bonding time. In between her mother’s long hours at work, those hours they spent thrifting allowed them to 30 | The Communicator Magazine

strengthen their relationship. “Clothes helped me understand my mom more, and they helped her understand me,” Dean said. “Thrift stores gave me an outlet to get those clothes that I wouldn’t have otherwise.” Thrift stores were where Dean could forget about the stressful parts of life, even if it was only for 30 minutes. In 2008, Dean and her family were hit by the recession—hard. They left their home in California, forcing them to bounce around to homes of family and friends before settling down in Colorado. However, her new home came with new challenges.

“In the area [that] I was living in, people are focused on surviving,” Dean said. “They’re not focused on trying to be happy — they’re focused on trying to stay alive.” Like those in her neighborhood, the clothes she wore were the least of her worries. She barely knew how she would get to school the next day. In 2009, a call from her dad brought her and her family from Colorado to an apartment in Ann Arbor. “Coming here, I had such a hard time adjusting to this new mindset: shoot for the stars and [the importance of] education,” Dean said. “These people didn’t have

Photography by Grace Wang LEFT: Helen Dean stares into the camera. She sat in the outdoors by her apartment in Ann Arbor, Mich. BELOW: Helen Dean shows off her shoelace belt. This was another way she altered her thrifted clothing.

Photography by Cate Weiser ABOVE: Helen Dean sits on a stool in nature. Dean is glad that she has regained her love of thrifting because it allows her to find the best clothes for her.

to think about the price of their clothes. I would go to the thrift store [and] the dollar store, but [Ann Arbor] people would go to Target and the mall.” The big dreams and go-getter attitude of this new city were foreign to Dean. But as she grew up, her desire to fit in grew stronger. At Clague Middle School, that feeling was exacerbated by the comments her peers would make. They would tell Dean her clothes were cute and ask where they were from but would revert back to insults after they found out the clothes were from a thrift store. Dean believes that the bullies

equated old and secondhand things with being dirty. “I didn’t think [thrifting] was bad before people started reacting badly to it,” Dean said. Over time, the disparaging comments drove Dean to resent her situation. It pushed her away from thrifting, and she began shopping at stores like Forever21. Dean also began to lash out at her friends and family. The then-12-year-old couldn’t identify where the new behaviors were coming from until recently. In the spring of 2019, Dean was in the midst of a severe depressive episode. She Feature | April 2021 | 31

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“Think about every single problem you have right now, but then imagine how hard it would be to deal with those if you also weren’t sleeping or eating.”

Photography by Tai Tworek This is your photo caption. There is a specific way to write photo captions for Photography byjournalism. Grace Wang The first sentence H describes what is going elen Dean stares at theon empty sky in the photo (present tense). The second isa cardigan above her. She is wearing to further describe something you can’t tell that she altered to fit her style. “When is going on in the photo (past tense). I wear something that’s The unique and third sentence is asomething quote. All of this should I made, then be everything unjustified! about me just screams me,” Dean said. Feature | April 2021 | 33

begged her mom to take her on a trip to California; she believed it held the key to pull her out of her depression. While she was there, Dean took an extrospective look at why her middle school bullies treated her the way that they did. She realized that those insulting her didn’t understand the weight of their words. Her experiences throughout childhood had forced Dean to mature at a young age — an experience her peers were exempted from. At the time, they were too young to understand why Dean had to thrift in the first place; too young to understand her traumatic past; too young to know to ask. Throughout her whole life, Dean had to worry about if she would have food on the table and how she was going to keep herself clean. There was no room to worry about where her clothes came from. Her peers had the time and money to shop where they pleased, and Dean believes it’s why they treated her the way they did; they were simply naive. She came to the conclusion that if she 34 | The Communicator Magazine

let other peoples’ words dictate what she chose to wear and do, she would end up hating everything around her. 15-year-old Dean slowly started to fall back in love with thrift shopping. The low prices and content creators, like Enya Umanzor (also known as Enjajaja), helped give her the final push back into thrift stores. Umanzor had always served as a style inspiration for Dean. In several of her YouTube videos, Umanzor shopped at thrift stores and declared that they were a cool and good place to shop. Watching Umanzor say those things so confidently made Dean self-assured in her choice to return to shopping at thrift stores. To Dean, thrifting has always made her feel like she has endless clothing options without having to worry about money. “I always feel like Barbie in her Dream House closet,” Dean said. “She could look around her huge closet and pick anything, and she loved it all. Going to the thrift store feels like that. I can look around at this big place full of things that I love, and I can go [crazy]. It’s every little girl’s dream, really.

Someone gives you a thousand dollars and then sets you free in your favorite store and tells you to spend whatever you want. I don’t have to think about the price. Everything there is there for me to afford.” Dean’s dream closet consists of pieces that help her express herself. Intense intention fuels her search through the aisles, and every shirt, pair of pants and jacket she picks out has a purpose. “Clothes should be valued by their durability and how useful they are versus [buying] brand [names],” Dean said. “That’s how I pick my clothes out. I pick the cutest, most useful thing.” As winter came around this year, she realized she had to pick up some new clothes to keep her warm. A new pair of thick, low-waisted, corduroy, bell-bottom pants from The Salvation Army became her goto. However, when the perfect piece comes along, but something about it just doesn’t fit right, Dean reworks it to make it her own. She often alters her clothing by tying knots and using shoelaces to make them

tighter; she also uses dollar store sewing kits to hand sew any necessary alterations. “The dollar store has these great sewing kits that have five needles in a pack and like 20 different types of thread [with] all different types of colors,” Dean said. “So, I whip out my dollar store sewing kit, do some triangle things on the sides of the waistband to make it fit a little better, and then I’ve got pants that fit perfectly.” Her favorite adaptation was the combination of two pairs of too-big jean shorts into a mini skirt. She patched the two types of denim into a checkered skirt, all hand-sewn. Reworking her clothes to be what she wants eased some stress in Dean’s day-to-day life. When she knows that she’s wearing clothes that fit both her and her personality, it remove any anxieties she has about how she looks. She loves using patterns and designs to decorate one-of-akind pieces. “I think of fashion like I’m decorating myself, so why wouldn’t I want to decorate

everything on me?” Dean said. Dean finds comfort in the convenience of the thrift store. In Ann Arbor, there’s always one close enough to walk or bus to, and in Colorado, there was one just down the road. Thrifting has been an essential part of Dean’s life since before she can remember. When she watches wealthy peers thrift as a trend, and not out of necessity, it hurts.

from the thrift store, I’m like, ‘Please don’t do that.’ It means so much to me, and it means so much to a lot of people.” When those wealthy peers are the same ones who bullied Dean for thrifting, it hits her even harder. However, their hypocrisy and lack of empathy gave her room to accept the reasons behind their unawareness. “Being low income is hard; it’s hard for people that aren’t low income to understand,” Dean said. “The best way I can [explain] it is to think about every single problem you have right now, but then imagine how hard it would be to deal with those if you also weren’t sleeping or eating. But I think working to understand people makes everything hurt a little less. I want people to realize that thrifting is not gross — it’s a necessity for some people.”

“I always feel like Barbie in her Dream House closet,” Dean said. The romanticization of essential services for low-income families through social media makes Dean angry and upset. “Seeing people thrift just to post and be trendy is hard to watch,” Dean said. “It’s upsetting because some people don’t thrift to be cool. A lot of people thrift out of necessity. When people go to the thrift store, even though they don’t really need stuff

Photography by Grace Wang and Cate Weiser Cutouts of Helen Dean stand around an empty Barbie Dreamhouse. Dean has been in love with the endless possibilities of thrift stores, much like Barbie’s endless closet. Feature | April 2021 | 35

How Interesting! How Interesti A look into the life of the Ann Arbor’s Nature Man, Mr. Szczygiel BY CY VEILLEUX

The name Szczygiel might not ring a bell when it’s written due to its wildly Polish spelling, but when it’s pronounced ‘Seagull,’ a certain man might come to mind to those familiar with Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS). Almost anybody who has attended kindergarten within AAPS in the past 25 years has met the ambiguous, yet notable, David Szczygiel. He has met over 30,000 kindergartners while serving as the Environmental Consultant for the district. Commonly seen educating on field trips, Szczygiel does a lot behind the scenes, as he is in charge of developing and continuing the entire Environmental Education program. As a true outdoorsman, his freetime transitions seamlessly with his work, which has contributed to his passionate and long-lasting career. Szczygiel’s life has been heavily influenced by nature from the beginning. As a kid, he and his family sustainably used nature as a resource. They hunted, fished and foraged for food that only cost them their time. “I would go out over to Forsythe field

36 | The Communicator Magazine

where I lived, and I would collect hickory nuts,” Szczygiel said. “I would try and talk my mother into making brownies, which she never liked to do because I would leave too many shells mixed in with the meat, and they hurt your teeth. So ever since that time when I was really young, probably around four, I was interested in all that, and I had some family support with it as well.” Szczygiel attended Wines Elementary School, Forsythe Middle School and Pioneer High School. After graduating from Pioneer, he continued to stay close by and got a wetland-focused biology degree from Eastern Michigan University. He decided to add a teaching degree from the University of Michigan after teaching at Camp Birkett for many years and falling in love with it. Szczygiel went on to get hired by his old principal and returned to Forsythe with the title of a teacher rather than a student. During his time at Forsythe, Szczygiel actually lived on the grounds of Camp Birkett with his wife “We lived in a little log cabin that was

about 600 square feet,” Szczygiel said. “A lot of the year didn’t have any running water or gas, so we would sort of make do. At that time, I was going to school and working, so I would shower at the YMCA, go to Forsythe to work, then go to Eastern to get my master’s degree and then drive back to Camp Birkett out on Silver Lake.” Szczygiel taught at Forsythe for just one year before moving to Clague Middle School where he taught for ten. Then, in 1997, he became the Environmental Consultant once his predecessor, Bill Browning, was retiring and Szczygiel happened to be on the top of Browning’s list. This was an opportunity he decided to take a chance on, and he was very glad he did. “I thought I should try the experience, and if I didn’t like the program, I could always go back to the classroom,” Szczygiel said. “But you see, I’ve never gone back to the classroom. I like the program a lot.” Browning’s character and long career was surely one to live up to, so stepping into the Environmental Consultant role, Szczygiel was worried he would be “swimming in his shoes.” He wanted to fill his shoes, but also

ting! flaunt his own pair; Szczygiel added new aspects to the job to establish himself. Although teaching on the bus was already a part of the job, Szczygiel decided to start using props and artifacts to pass around so kids would grasp the subject easier while staying quiet and intrigued. He also used a walking stick, which intrigued the kids. And lastly — possibly one of his most famous qualities — is the phrase, “How Interesting.” Coined by Janet Kahan — a close friend and colleague of Szczygiel — the phrase was a way to give kids a planned response. Szczygiel wanted kids to see nature the way he did; he didn’t want them to shy away from things that are completely natural. Whether it be dissecting a deer in amid a field trip, or bringing roadkill onto a school bus, the words “How Interesting” have been repeated for 25 years to show that disgust should be a rare response when learning and experiencing nature. Ultimately, he ended up preferring the Environmental Consultant position because it provided new opportunities and methods of education he couldn’t get in the classroom. “I really like being free to teach in the moment,” Szczygiel said. “You don’t know what’s going to be there ahead of time. You might have an idea that you could find an oak tree or a maple tree, but then a snake comes out or bird lands, and you have all these opportunities to be creative in that moment.” It took Szczygiel about 10 years to feel like he had established himself as the Environmental Consultant, but now, each year is like clockwork. He has organized field trips for all grades up until seventh. He kicks off the year by visiting every kindergarten class in the district, and for the remainder of the year, he takes grades first through seventh on a rolodex of field trips, ranging from gravel pits to water treatment plants to the beloved Winter Survival — something that has had a complete transformation once Szczygiel took his position. Fifth grade Winter Survival under Browning took place where Skyline High School now sits. When Skyline was contracted to be built in 2004, Winter

Survival had to take place elsewhere. Thankfully, the melding of Szczygiel’s work and free time came in handy. “Some of the winter survival sites that I have are actually my hunting sites,” Szczygiel said. “I had been hunting there for years, and I was able to talk the landowner into helping me do my job.” He now has about ten sites and can run two different field trips in one day, with the help of his lovely team of volunteer naturalists of course. He isn’t Batman … or at least not proven to be. The Environmental Education program has seriously benefited from Szczygiel. He has expanded the program up to seventh grade and is now working on implementing more eighth grade and high

school activities. He also has added another position known as the Environmental Teacher, which has been taken over by his fellow teacher, Coert Ambrosino. And most recently, the two of them have added the Freeman Environmental Education Center to the program: a project that has been ‘in the works’ for years. Freeman used to be an elementary school and was approved by the Board of Education to be a nature center in the 1970s. That idea was lost for some time and Freeman, along with a few other schools, were sold by the district. Freeman became Go Like

the Wind Montessori School, which later moved to Whitmore Lake and Freeman was barren once again. Finally, in 2018, the building was rededicated as the Freeman Environmental Education Center. Now, there is a youth council composed of AAPS students to run activities and activism for the center. “We want it to be something that connects the community and focuses on environmental issues,” Szczygiel said. “It’ll be new and different and not going to compete with Leslie Science Center, or any of the other places around. We’ll be different enough and filling a niche that hasn’t been traditionally filled by the program.” After being up and running for just over a year, Freeman was placed on a hiatus due to Covid-19. Since the pandemic, Szczygiel, Ambrosino and the naturalists have been developing several virtual field trips. And personally, Szczygiel has been spending quarantine on a new 50-acre plot of land, doing all sorts of things from splitting wood, bike riding and hunting. More than anything, though, he loves experiencing nature. “Hunting is not always getting something,” Szczygiel said. “Most of the time you’re out there sitting and watching nature go by and that’s fine with me.” Szczygiel has been sharing his love for nature throughout his entire career, and though he has enough years in education to retire, he has no plans to do so any time soon. In the meantime, he just has some simple advice: “Get outside and enjoy the world. Just be cautious that you don’t over love it.”

Photographs Courtesy of David Szczygiel Above: ‘Nature Man’ Dave Szczygiel has been the AAPS Environmental Consultant for nearly 25 years. He organizes and educates on field trips, develops programs partnered with organizations — including the University of Michigan and the city of Ann Arbor — and operates the Freeman Environmental Education Center. Right: Szczygiel installs a filter into an observation pond known as the Reptile Pit located in Camp Birkett to study creatures in clearer water. He started his career there in 1976, cleaning bathrooms, and he worked his way up eventually, having a nature hut named after him. Feature | April 2021 | 37

Finding Happiness Sofia Stern-Koreck’s journey of how she found happiness through the disconnection of Covid-19. BY SEBASTIAN OLIVA

Photo courtesy of Sofia Stern-Koreck Sofia poses to take a photo of herself. She took this photo in the effort of creating a memory for herself that she could look back at in the future. “I know I’ll look back at these memories thinking of who I was and [be] even more proud of the person I have become,” Stern said. 38 | The Communicator Magazine

A year ago Sofia Stern-Koreck was in school. Then, suddenly, she was off for two weeks and then for three weeks. And then, the whole state was locked down. She couldn’t go anywhere. And, of course, she didn’t know what was going to happen with school, social events or activities. She is in her freshman year, and it has been a challenge. “Being isolated in my room and not being able to differentiate home life and school life was really hard,” Stern said. The semester has been so difficult that she has worked with different support systems to help her with her mental health. “For me, spending a lot of time alone isn’t necessarily the most healthy option,” Stern said. “I find that when I spend too much time alone, my brain kind of goes into darker places, and it’s not very fun for me or the people around me. I will isolate, and I won’t come out of my room. I won’t go do stuff with my family. But, I think how I’ve coped with that is just trying to be more open with my family about my struggles and what I need, what I don’t need, what’s helpful and what’s not helpful.” One thing that has been helpful is that she has been spending a lot of time with her animals. Over quarantine, she got a kitten and hermit crabs. She also found having her family there has made it easier for her to talk more freely about her mental health. “It’s just been really good to have more than just seeing my family in and out throughout the day and just being able to be with them and my animals,” Stern said. The pandemic has given her the ability to be more open to trying new things. “I know a lot of just a lot of kids my age, in general, are dealing with a lot of mental health stuff that the pandemic hasn’t necessarily been good for,” Stern said. One thing she found that she enjoyed was going on non-directional drives with her mother. This has helped Stern build a closer bond with her. “One of the things my mom and I do, which is something that I found that I liked, is we wouldn’t go anywhere specifically, but we would just go on drives and maybe stop at the gas station and get something. Something about being in the car makes everything easier. If I’m in a bad mood, or if I feel down. It’s just something that I can work through. But, I don’t have to be necessarily alone, and what we’re talking about isn’t the main focus.” As much as Koreck loves to spend time with her mom, she also spends quality time every Tuesday night with her family and pets watching “This Is Us.” She enjoys watching it collectively with her family. They all love spending quality time together and not having to worry about work or school. “One thing that we’ve all started doing is getting into TV shows like as a family, which is something that I’m really enjoying,” Stern said. “We’re all downstairs on

the couch watching a show. And we’re just with each other.” Stern has three hermit crabs that live in one tank. She also has a guinea pig, two cats and a dog. Her hermit crabs are named after Canyons: Topanga, Copper and one with no name. Her guinea pig’s name is Minnie and her two cats are named Ella and Tiger. Her dog’s name is Frida. Stern has built a stronger relationship with herself and forged habits that truly made her happy without the need to go out. “I really took a look during quarantine and spending time at home to just figure out what is good for me and what’s not,” Stern said. “ [I] find stuff that I like and can enjoy doing that doesn’t really require going out too much.” Stern has been really getting into Bath and Bodyworks and taking better care of her personal hygiene. “Something about taking care of myself and washing my face, washing my body, exfoliating my face and body is just something that I can do to make myself feel a little better,” Stern said. Stern has also been playing a lot more music and writing more songs than she had before prior to the lockdown. “I think music is one of the things [where] both listening and playing are things that I’ve used to kind of get out my feelings and turn it into something productive,” Stern said. She has always been a musically inclined person, ever since she can remember. “I think spending a lot of time at home and a lot of time by myself has made it easier to experiment with different things,” Stern said. She has begun writing more music because she has taken the time to recognize how she feels before putting it down into words or into a guitar. “It just makes me really happy that I can do that,” Stern said. “Music has just been something that I’ve loved forever because it can make you feel such big emotions.” One other thing that makes Stern happy is spending time with her cat that she got in early July. “Since I had nothing else to do besides stay home, we grew a really strong bond,” Stern said. “Every morning, she will come into my room and sit on my lap or my eyeballs [or] sit on my lap when I do my makeup. I’ll brush her with [a] little spooly. She really likes that. That’s just something small that I just appreciate so much.” Through the pandemic, Stern has learned to appreciate her time with her cat and animals that she cares for so much and has raised since they was little. “It’s just really nice,” Stern said. “It’s just our bonding time, and she’s really helped me through the pandemic. She follows me around everywhere. She’ll sleep with me, she’ll cuddle with me. It just gave me something to not worry about myself so much and how I feel, but worry about something else.”

Photo courtesy of Sofia Stern-Korck Sofia plays her solo with her white Silvertone guitar. She spends countless hours playing, trying to find the feeling of each track. “It’s nice to be able to accompany myself while singing; it takes me somewhere where I know I can’t mess up,” Stern said.

Photo courtesy of Sofia SternKoreck Frida (pictured above) and Ella (pictured right) are gently sitting as they get their picture taken. Sofia and her family always talk about the comfort they bring to each of their lives. “Knowing that [my pets] don’t judge me or anyone and are always there when I need them is what I love most about them,” Stern said.

Feature | April 2021 | 39


40 | The Communicator Magazine


BY STAFF | Photography by Mia Goldstein, Ella Rosewarne and Cate Weiser

A lost and found bin can be unassuming. At first glance, it may appear to be a heap of items not worth a second glance or thought. It might be stowed away in a corner, kept out of the way of school hallways and classrooms. It might be a temporary home for sweatshirts, jackets and lunchboxes. And it might be a last resort when looking for something missing. But sometimes, things that are lost and things that are found are not always physical objects to be neatly kept in a bin. Sometimes, personal growth or societal change may underline transitions in our life — transitions where we disxcover something new of depart from something familiar. In this edition, The Communicator jounralists sought to explore these changes. CHS students and community members featured in this edition gave reflected on what they have lost and found: hobbies, obsessions, emotions, relationships. The stories presented provide a glimpse into the growth that accompanies losing and finding not just items and objects, but larger, more complex emotions and problems. We hope you enjoy.

FOUND Feature | April 2021 | 41



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Abby Abby Frank, a CHS sophomore, has been looking forward to college since she was three years old. To avoid stress later on in the process, Frank is already looking into options for college. She has been searching for the perfect university since she was 10 years old and now finally feels like it is okay to be excited. Frank is trying to find the best ways to utilize her time before she heads off to college. This year, Frank decided to no longer play softball and focus on theater and her studies. Cutting back on multiple extracurricular activities is helping Frank discover the passions and interests she would want to pursue after high school. “I’ve just realized the things that are important to me and what I really want to dedicate my time to,” Frank said. Though Frank is happy about her new lifestyle, this was not a decision that she made on her own. Her parents have been supportive this year and have been looking out for Frank in ways they never have before. They are constantly trying to help Frank find what is best for her; right now is crucial as Frank begins her college search. “[My parents] have definitely helped me find things about myself before, but this is such a big life change to think about,” Frank said. “Going to college and starting to think about what I want to do with my life once I move out of their house has created this new little pocket in our relationship.” Frank’s parents share their own college experiences with her. They discuss regrets and things they wish they would have done differently, and they share the things they enjoyed. Her parents are really good at talking through situations and not just telling Frank what to do, she said. For Frank, these conversations have been intriguing and helpful. Her parents have provided her with their friends’ contacts, so she can hear other experiences and know that everyone’s experience and route is different in college.

Frank has always been certain that she wants to go to medical school, but she is still exploring all the options and finding out her passions. One of her big interests right now, which she is unsure if she wants to continue after high school but has looked into, is theater. “I definitely never thought I was going to end up being a theater kid,” Frank said. “Now, I’ve dedicated this whole chapter of my life to it, and I absolutely love it.” Frank found theater when she was a freshman at CHS. She heard that clubs were a great way to make friends. This led her to choose theater, more specifically because of a character from a book that she looked up to who was part of theater. Another factor that led Frank to theater was the fact that she grew up sewing with her grandmother. “I’ve definitely discovered that I’m more of a creative person than I thought I was,” Frank said. “I’ve always been really into science and math, and I just assumed that was where my life would go. I hadn’t considered doing anything artsy in high school, and so it really helps me just see that I can be a science and math nerd, but I can also enjoy things that bring out my artistic side.” Frank is finding new things about herself and gaining confidence through theater. Her parents have reassured her that she made the right decision to focus on theater. This was just one of the first decisions that Frank’s parents had assisted her with. These hard choices and discussions are building a deeper relationship. “I feel like I’ve always had a good relationship with my parents,” Frank said. “But it’s even stronger now as I figured out what I want my life to look like —I’ve been able to connect with them more. I like having a little more time on my hands — because I’ve stopped playing softball — to hang out with my family. So that’s really grown my relationship with them, and Covid gave that to us as well.”

Feature | April 2021 | 43

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Ryan The global pandemic that began prompting closures and lockdowns just over a year ago created massive job disparity, with over 22 million people losing their jobs at the start of the pandemic alone. However, even in the face of that loss, many people have been able to bounce back. Many jobs have been lost, but many are now being found. This is the case for one CHS sophomore, who recently found a job at Goodwill. This is Ryan Villanueva’s first job, and one he picked up about a month and a half ago while browsing the Goodwill where he would often shop. “I wasn’t looking for any other jobs,” Villanueva said. “I just saw it and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just do it.’ I didn’t expect anything to happen, but I got hired.” Villanueva says that this experience has been much better than he thought his first job would be. His bosses and coworkers have played a large role in that.” “I like how casual it is,” Villanueva said. “At some jobs, you have your break at a certain time, and it has 44 | The Communicator Magazine

to be exactly 15 minutes. But here, I could just tell my boss that I was tired and ask for a break, and he would usually say yes.” Of course, working a job in retail during a pandemic is a whole different issue than it would normally be. Especially since it was only two weeks in that Villanueva started working the register in addition to the clothing restocking he already did. Customers can be difficult and rude, especially when it comes to mask wearing. Luckily, for Villanueva, that has rarely been the case. “Everyone’s pretty respectful,” Villanueva said. “If someone doesn’t have a mask, we quickly tell them they need a mask, and so far it’s all been okay.” But on the rare occasion that customers are unkind, Villanueva has his coworkers there to help. “They’ve been showing me how to deal with pressure better and how to talk to people who are kind of snappy,” Villanueva said.

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tion.” irec Margaret Alpern was unaware of the number of fans One Direction had until July 23, 2020 — One Direction’s 10 year anniversary. Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter were flooded with reposts commemorating the anniversary. Alpern began listening to One Direction right before the pandemic hit in March of 2020. She quickly became obsessed. “I didn’t actually look into [One Direction] a lot before,” Alpern said. “It was just their popular songs on the radio, that aren’t their great songs, and then I heard a song by Harry Styles.” Now, Alpern listens to all of the band’s music and the members’ personal music; her favorite member is Harry Styles. Their music was never something Alpern would skip on the radio, but became a means of expression. One Direction’s lyrics surround mental health and their personal struggles — which are both things Alpern can relate to. Alpern’s new obsession with One Direction, right around the 10 year anniversary, also helped her reach

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out to peers that she had never really talked to before. “I didn’t know that so many people loved them that much,” Alpern said. “There are people that go to Community that I interacted with a lot more now because we bonded over our love for One Direction.” This was a new experience for Alpern. She had never been a huge fan of any artist of band before. But the biggest change for Alpern were the kinds of people she was attracting and the emotional connections she was able to make with those people. “We felt more comfortable sharing our feelings and talking about deeper things with each other,” Alpern said. She has made friends from other interests and extracurricular activities before, but non have been like the friendships she has formed around One Direction. “[Making friends from soccer] is not something you can really look into,” Alpern said. “It’s just kind of like, ‘Oh yeah, I play soccer, too.’ Whereas with music, you can look at the lyrics and find out what they mean. That was just something that we could bond over more deeply.” Feature | April 2021 | 45


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Eliot Ziolek has always made up stories in her head, but it wasn’t until this year that she began to write them down. A junior at CHS, Ziolek has certainly not always considered herself a writer. In fact, she used to greatly dislike writing. “I guess I just decided that I hated it for my entire life,” Ziolek said. Writing in classes at school always seemed like a tedious task. So during winter break, when she sat down in front of her computer screen and started to type, Ziolek was surprised to find that she really enjoyed creative writing. “It’s really fun to make up stories and have it be anything I want,” Ziolek said. “I especially like the characters, trying to make them realistic and giving them actual personalities.” Though she writes realistic fiction most often, Ziolek also enjoys experimenting with new genres and techniques. Most recently, she has been writing magical realism, making new words come to life through her writing. 46 | The Communicator Magazine

Eliot Ever since Ziolek discovered this new interest, she has learned a lot about the writing process and what works best for her. She keeps a running list of story ideas in her notes app on her phone so that she will be ready whenever she has the time to sit down and write. However, for her, the hardest part of the writing process is simply getting started. “I have a lot of ideas, and once I get started, it’s very easy,” Ziolek said. “But [until then], I’m just sitting in front of my computer with the first line.” Once she has finished, her stories tend to range between 800 and 13,000 words. Though she spends a lot of time writing them, Ziolek doesn’t usually like to share her stories. Instead, she likes to keep them for herself, or occasionally share some with close friends, while focusing on enjoying the time she spends writing. Despite her years of hesitation and dislike surrounding writing, Ziolek is so glad to have found this new passion. “I learned you’ve got to try things to realize if you like them or not,” Ziolek said.

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Lydia In March of 2020, Planet Rock Climbing Gym closed by virtue of Covid-19. Without the ability to go to the gym, Lydia Cocciolone — a rock climber at Planet Rock — had to get creative with rock climbing, so she and her dad decided to build a rock climbing wall in her backyard. At the beginning of March — when everything shut down — Cocciolone had no where to rock climb, so she easily convinced her family to help her build a rock climbing wall in her big backyard. Cocciolone and her dad made trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot to get materials foreign to her over the course of the few weeks it took them to build the rock climbing wall. Cocciolone and her dad became much closer via this father-daughter project and found something they both could enjoy; they had a lot of fun with the spontaneity of this rock climbing wall. “My dad was like, ‘Yeah, I have a plan,’ and then he didn’t really have a plan, which was fun,” Cocciolone said. Not only did Cocciolone have a good time building the climbing wall with her dad, but she also learned the basics of building. She learned how to use plywood, T nuts and more. Cocciolone was especially

excited about the adjustable system they set in place; the rock climbing wall was able to become steeper or more level, depending on how she adjusted a certain cable that was attached to the trunk of a giant tree. This enable Cocciolone to practice harder and easier climbs. With this new rock climbing wall and an absence of competitions, Cocciolone began to enjoy her sport more. She could go on her rock climbing wall to have fun instead of to practice for an upcoming competition. However, without these events, Cocciolone was less motivated to continue training for future competitions. The break Cocciolone had to take from rock climbing via the pandemic caused her to lose motivation and certain skills. “Over those few months I was scared,” Cocciolone said. “We were all scared that we were going to lose our skills, so this [rock climbing wall] was to make sure [my teammates and I] kept them. It was mostly fun just to hang out outside.” Cocciolone has faced so many challenges during the pandemic. She overcame this by spending more time enjoying her sport freely, rather than trying to meet an expectation — as well as finding common ground with her dad and building that relationship. Feature | April 2021 | 47

Coming of age

The Communicator staff members reflect on the experiences that allowed them to cross over the threshold from childhood into adulthood. Being Alone in Downtown Ann Arbor BY MCKENNA DUMAN

My parents have always been the more controlling type of parents: hard restrictions on my phone, in bed every night by 9:30 on weeknights, no profane language, stuff like that. I will never forget the first time they finally kind of let go and let me be a teenager. It was a Saturday night, and we had just wrapped up the evening show of School of Rock for Community Ensemble Theater (CET), and a bunch of people were going over to Pinball Pete’s and Bubble Island to celebrate after. I remember calling my parents, and they were kind of skeptical at first. After I explained to them that it was a large group of people, so I wasn’t going to be alone, and that I was sticking with my friends, they said yes. Then, they said they would pick me up around midnight. I was in shock; they had never let me stay out that late before. Soon after, we all piled into one of a senior’s car. It was super tight because we squished four of us in the backseat — like sardines in a can —and we drove across town to Bubble Island, where lots of people were already there. We all crammed into booths and chairs — there were even people standing because it was so crowded. It felt so nice to be able to not have to worry about my parents embarrassing me or telling me what I can and cannot do. When we all finished our bubble tea, we headed on over to Pinball Petes. I don’t think Pinball Pete’s was expecting that big of a crowd at 10:30 on a Saturday night. We played pool, pinball, the dancing game — all of it. One of my friends won the mega jackpot on the ball drop game. They cashed in their tickets and got a giant pirate flag and a bunch of little eye patches. I still have mine. I used my tickets to buy a bunch of Trolli gummy worms to share with everyone I was with. When we had all wasted all of our coins and cashed in all of our tickets, the crowd started to disperse. Since my dad had said he was going to pick me up around midnight, I still had about twenty minutes to wait, which made it a little bit awkward since I was just standing there in Pinball Pete’s not playing any games. It was much better than waiting outside, though. Outside, there were a ton of drunk college students having the time of their lives. Since they were everywhere, my dad had to park around the corner. All in all, I will never forget that night because that was the night I actually started to feel like my parents were finally starting to let go and let me grow up and be a teenager.

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Taking the City Bus BY MAGGIE WOLF

When Grace Bradley was eight years old, she used to take the city bus with her older sister. On snow days, the two of them would catch the bus to go on fun outings to Target. Bradley always felt very excited and grown up by being able to get around without her parents. However, when she entered middle school and began playing field hockey, she had to take the bus to practice all by herself. This seemed much more daunting. “I was always so unexplainably nervous,” Bradley said. “I had my three quarters and I knew [the bus stop] was at the top of my street. All I had to do was put my quarters in and get on the bus, but I would get so nervous.” Despite her younger adventures to Target by bus, Bradley always seemed to have trouble getting to where she needed to go. “I was so bad at it,” Bradley said. “My mom would always plan out my routes for me. I would know exactly what I would have to do, but I would get on the wrong bus, or go at the wrong time. Or the bus would be late, so I would just take the wrong bus.”

One particular afternoon, in the sixth grade, Bradley remembers needing to take the bus home but accidentally catching the one traveling in the opposite direction. “I was supposed to be going home, but I took [the bus] to [Ypsilanti],” Bradley said. “I called my mom, who works in [Ypsilanti], so she just picked me up. It worked just fine, but I was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s so embarrassing.’” However, once she got the hang of the schedules and the routes, Bradley reached high school knowing how to take the bus by herself. “It gave me a kind of freedom,” Bradley said. “I knew that I could go places if I wanted to, [like] if my parents weren’t at home or something.” Even though she can now bike or drive herself wherever she needs to go, Bradley enjoys looking back and laughing about her city bus struggles.

Getting a Driver’s License BY ELIJAH KLEIN

Getting my driver’s license was always something I looked forward to. Having a single mother for a large portion of my life, occasionally there were times where I wasn’t able to get a ride somewhere to hang out with friends or go to an event, and it frustrated me. Receiving my license helped with that. For me, having a driver’s license is a sign of growing up, and all the things that come with it really emphasize that. The feeling of being able to be in the car without my siblings talking, yelling, complaining or causing any other form of annoyance that comes from their presence is pure bliss. For me, driving alone has been one of the first times I have been thrown into the world as an individual. My safety and the safety of other drivers is my responsibility, so I need to act accordingly. Driving comes with a sense of empowerment and a realization that I am a functioning member of society. Being able to drive by myself and not having to rely on my mom to take me somewhere has been a huge relief for me. It gives me a sense of adulthood and allows me to create my own life experi-

ence. I do not have my own car yet, so I need to make sure that the car I share is in good condition, so I can continue driving. The freedom that comes along with driving alone is something that I am always going to try to maintain. I know it is a privilege, so I need to be responsible. Being able to choose my own music, or listen to a podcast in the car, are ways I am able to relieve stress now. I can escape from the bad things and the hullabaloo of the surrounding world by being in the car, driving along the road carefree in my own little world. Driving by myself and driving my friends have been things that I’ve desired for years. Finally reaching those milestones and being at that point in my life has been great for me, and it helps me look at how far I’ve come and how much I have grown up and gotten more mature and responsible. Driving alone is a milestone that makes me feel grown up, while also giving me perspective on the other freedoms and responsibilities I will have as I grow even more.


I was driving home from the YMCA, and I stopped at Costco to get gas. My whole day was going great until I took the pump out of my car. I have had my driver’s license for four months, and I have had no trouble getting gas in the past. I heard the gas stop filling up, I felt the pump stop moving and the price and gallons on the machine had even stopped going up when I decided to take out the pump. When I took the pump out of my car, gasoline started spraying everywhere — it completely drenched all of my clothes. For a second, I was just in shock. But soon after, I felt the cold and clammy liquid dripping from my jacket and shorts, and I inhaled the unpleasant and overwhelming smell. I looked to my left where a worker was standing who walked over to me. “Oh man, isle five has been having issues all day,” he said. “I’m really sorry.” I was angry at first and thought to myself, ‘Why didn’t he mention that before I got covered in gasoline?’ But at the same time, I was glad I could fully confirm it was the pump’s issue and not my

mistake. As I drove home, I decided that the freezing cold air blowing through the open windows was better than keeping the smell trapped in the car. When I got home, I immediately threw my clothes in the washing machine, only to find out that letting gasoline-covered clothes sit out for 24 hours before putting them in a washer is crucial. Also, vinegar will help save your clothes from getting damaged. For the next three days, every time I walked by my laundry room, I got a whiff of gasoline. Finally, after five washes and two days of my clothes hanging outside, the smell went away and they were undamaged. As frustrating and uncomfortable as it was being covered in gasoline and having to smell it for three days, I learned a lot from my experience: How to properly wash clothes covered with gasoline, that the odor of gasoline lasts a very long time and to never get gas in aisle five at Costco ever again.

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We as The Communicator journalists have worked to cover the stories of our community. But our responsibilities as journalists are accompanied with gravity. What are the stories we do not cover? STAFF EDITORIAL As youth journalists, we are told that we are writing the first draft of history. Our endeavors as Communicator journalists start from our first minute on staff. AP style grammar lessons, interview exercises and pages of transcriptions were not established practices to help us earn a good grade. We were preparing for our role as youth journalists. Our articles seek to underscore a narrative — to communicate the stories of our peers and neighbors in our community. We have the opportunity to listen to countless stories, all of which capture the essence of our surroundings: the joy, the frustration, the sorrow. Our journalism is ever changing and diverse, and through our articles, we are creating a web across our community, providing a platform to connect people with one another. The stories we write across our publications are meant to encapsulate the interviewee in 50 | The Communicator Magazine

that particular moment in their life. Our stories are the first drafts of their history. A large portion of our reporting is situated around our peers, and this is where we derive our unique power as student journalists. A generation shaped by the internet, smartphones and, now, Covid-19, we are approaching the brink of adulthood — and we’re expected to change the world. We know the stories that are most summative of our generations’ experiences because we, too, are living through them. And without youth journalism, there would be little documentation of our understanding of the world and the events shaping us. We are working to create a local history through our reporting. But our responsibilities as journalists are accompanied by immense gravity. As we congregate in the newsroom to decide which stories to cover, the narratives that we do not choose to write about are almost as significant as the ones we do. If our reporting

is the first draft of our local history, then our interviewees stand as important figures in this relative history. The Communicator journalists have worked tirelessly to provide truthful and accurate reporting, but what is lost from the stories we do not cover? The stories bound in between the pages of our magazine, published on our website and posted on our social media are amplifying the voices of those we interview. But it would be naive to assert that our reporting is not excluding a narrative or a story. This is a dangerous line to walk across. While we have the power to choose which voices are an accurate representation of a certain event or issue, we also have the power to solidify these same voices into a dominant narrative — especially if these voices are homogeneous. Thus, we can easily lose a multifaceted understanding of our society. As youth journalists, we are told the most powerful form of persuasion is storytelling. In many history classes taught at CHS, we examine history from the perspectives of those not traditionally regarded as a part of a common or accepted narrative. For example, in the U.S. History class taught by Chloe Root, she incorporates readings by Howard Zinn — a champion of social justice and a teacher of history through a critical lens — throughout her course. In the first semester of this school year, history teacher Ryan Silvester led a small course about the 1960s, allowing students to understand the decade through the multitude of people’s movements coupled with more well-

known events. Our teachers lead us to conclude that our past history lessons were missing large, nuanced understandings of events because we were spoon-fed a discourse rooted in homogeneity. But through a process of unlearning, our classes allow us to experience history through the lenses of those that are siphoned outside of the boundary of a dominant narrative. Often, this unlearning is conducted through close examination of testimonial literature and journalism that provides the experiences of marginalized communities. And often, these narratives are a persuasive call to social justice. Through our reporting, we can actively include diverse voices into the very local history we are working to write. Our reporting should work to encompass the stories traditionally lost in our history books: the stories of Black, Indigenous, People of Color; the stories of those from every sexuality and gender identity and expression; the stories of every religion; the stories of those with different abilities; and the many stories that work together to create a complex history. Without the representation of these voices, we would be publishing and solidifying a first draft of history that has excluded important sources impacted by the same societal phenomena we experience. As student journalists, we are not only providing our readers with a persuasive first draft of history, but a better understanding of the intricate communities and societies we live in.

Opinion | April 2021| 51

When looking at Michigan, do not be surprised to see another unfair map come 2022. A nuanced look at gerrymandering. BY HENRY COLLINS-THOMPSON

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No, independent commissions will not fix gerrymandering. Often in my discussions about gerrymandering, people have the false pretense that independent commissions are the savior to combat the evil scourge that is gerrymandering. However, this is not the case. To break it down, the classic and most common method of reapportionment in the U.S. is controlled by state legislatures. This leads to parties in power unfairly drawing district lines to favor their party in future elections. In the past decade or so, many states, including Michigan, have transferred the control over the process of reapportionment into the hands of independent commissions instead of legislatures. I can not stress enough that this is generally a net good for the process of reapportionment, specifically on the state House and state Senate levels. Considering 2021 is the year that an independent commission decides the legislative and congressional districts for Michigan, it is a good time to cover what to expect from this process. To get one thing out of the way, squiggly districts do not necessarily equal bad, nor do round or square shapes equal good. Generally, the compactness of a district is prioritized, as they keep communities of interest together, so squiggly districts can be used positively as well. For example, Illinois Congressional District 4 is quite a horrendous shape, yet it is used to create a majority Hispanic district to give a voice to the Hispanic population of Chicago. The same goes for the three majority southern Hispanic districts in Texas — Districts 15, 28 and 34. All three of those Texas districts are required by law to have a large majority of Hispanic constituents. Most congressional maps have to prioritize compactness, Voting Rights Act regulations, communities of interest, interests of incumbent representatives and racial equality before looking at partisan lean. Due to this, Democrats are always disproportionately hurt by the priorities of redistricting. When majority-minority districts are required of a state, that normally comes at the expense of multiple districts for Democrats. Geography hurts Democrats,

as their voter base is compact in cities, compared to the spread out Republican vote in suburbs and rural areas. One example of this is the state of Indiana. Currently, the state has seven Republican districts and two Democratic districts. In 2018, Republicans got 55% of the vote in House races, while Democrats got 44%. This means the proportionality of seats was off by 44%. However, when looking at the political geography of Indiana, it seems pretty clear why this is the case. A majority of the Democratic vote in Indiana is concentrated in the suburbs of Chicago and the urban center of Indianapolis. Other than that, there are tiny blue cities in seas of rural red. If one wanted to make a fair Indiana map, they would end up with a heinous looking map, splitting minority communities and rural communities to concoct a disaster. When looking at Michigan, do not be surprised to see another unfair map come 2022. Despite the efforts of the beloved independent commission, the map will most likely give a slight advantage to the Republicans simply due to geography. Detroit will be grouped together to keep compact majority minority districts, while the largest net of democratic votes in the west in Kent County will be grouped with the deep red Ottawa County to keep the suburban vote and urban vote of Grand Rapids together. If one wanted to make 100% fair and proportional maps, they would have to gerrymander in order to do so. Attempted gerrymandering of a state can also go horribly wrong for the attempting party. This is called a “dummymander” and it normally occurs when partisan shifts in a state erode a carefully crafted gerrymander. The most notable case of a “dummymander” is the 1992 Georgia redistricting map. The Democratic legislature turned a safe 9D-1R map into a hilarious flop of a 7R-3D map, effectively costing their party 6 seats. Gerrymandering is not a generally corrupt practice, and a large amount of U.S. congressional maps are not redistricted to favor one party over the other. However due to priorities of redistricting and poor geography, most states always have a political slant in one party’s favor. despite the visual fairness of the map.

Despite the efforts of the beloved independent commission, the map will most likely give a slight advantage to Republicans, simply due to geography. Opinion | April 2021| 53


at Home Order How my father’s love of board games had a surprising impact on my family.


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Opinion | April 2021| 55

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He played his final move, and we all sighed. My dad had won again. Handing me his laptop, he started cleaning up the board game. A blank Google Doc was open, waiting for me to write my review. “Very engaging,” I started. “I like working with a partner and playing against another team.” Too basic, I have ten other reviews that start the same way. “Fun to play, even when you are losing,” I wrote. Meh. Whatever I wrote had to seem fresh and creative; this was my 127th board game review of the year. My family publishes new reviews on our website every week. Each review has a photo of us playing the game along with reviews from each player. We all rank the games and place them into categories: cooperative games, card games, word games, party games, etc. My father has always been a board game fanatic. Throughout my childhood, if I ever found myself without something to do, he was there asking me to play 7 Wonders, or some complicated strategy game. Sometimes, I would gladly participate, but more often than not, I would make excuses and conveniently find something else to do. Then, the pandemic hit. Suddenly, we were sitting and staring at each other for days on end with no prospect of leaving the house. My brother and I were at each other’s throats, my mother was on Zoom calls 10 hours a day and it seemed like there was no end in sight. To my dad, it was the perfect opportunity to corral us into a year-long family project. The first few weeks were hard. I was so in my head about the pandemic and what I was missing; it was hard to concentrate on anything else. My life was on FaceTime, and the anxieties from all the change were almost too much to bear. I was laying in my bed, calling a friend and looking through camp photos when my dad called me downstairs. “I want you to write a review of the game we played last night,” he said. “This is ridiculous,” I thought to myself. It was enough that he had gotten me to play a game that took an hour to teach, but to have a writing assignment that came with it? Ugh. For the next few weeks, this continued. It became our routine.

Every night after dinner, he would pull another from the shelf. Sometimes it was something new, or sometimes it was an old favorite. The rote, repetitive nature ensured, per my dad’s dastardly plan, that we had face-to-face family time every day. We were no longer in our own little worlds. We weren’t on different screens. We weren’t even in different rooms. It sometimes felt adversarial, but we ended up getting to know each other really well. As the weeks rolled on, we figured out how to make each other laugh. We developed inside jokes. We knew how to push each other’s buttons. We got to know those little quirks of our personalities that we usually missed from rushing past each other. It became a snapshot of who we were as a family. We really saw each other, and the games were a vehicle for that. Besides, the games themselves were pretty cool. They weren’t all Monopoly and Scrabble. They have names like Tokaido and Terra Mystica. Each of them is challenging in a different way. They focus on strategic skills, collaborative skills, patience and ingenuity. Some are just silly party games. My favorites ended up being the social deduction games, like Avalon, Secret Hitler and Coup. “Social deduction” is an overly formal term for a game where everyone claims to be telling the truth, but some players are lying. These games not only brought out my competitive spirit, but also played into my pent-up desire for social interaction. Even the simple act of convincing someone of something was refreshing. I learned more about the kind of social skills that I am good at. As much as I might hate to admit it, it helped me grow and appreciate my strengths and weaknesses as a social being. There is no quicker snapshot of personality than playing a board game. You can tell whether someone is fair-minded, creative, competitive, artistic, cooperative, funny or none of the above based on a simple 30 to 45-minute experience. I ended up learning a lot about the people in my house. Over the last year, we have stormed away from the table; we have cried and flipped the game board; we have laughed until we cried; we have played a single game for over three hours (and have walked away from another after five minutes); we have cooperated and we have committed traitorous acts against each other. In a way, board games encapsulate my family’s experiences over the last year. They helped us turn sedentary nothingness into something challenging and constructive.

Opinion | April 2021| 57

Stare at the Sun My fear of looking at the sun turned into a passion for sungazing. BY ELIJAH KLEIN

What’s one thing that you became scared of almost solely because you were repeatedly warned about it as a child? For me, it was looking at the sun. Ever since I can remember, I have always been told I would go blind if I looked at the sun. And as a reasonable person, I didn’t want that to happen, so I made sure not to set my gaze on the sun. I would wear sunglasses most days of the summer to make sure that I wouldn’t slip up and lose my vision. I had this fear of looking at the sun until I was 15. One random day, I was thinking about how the sun makes things grow: How it is the power source for life and energy; how plants need sunlight to get bigger and stronger. Then, I thought about how I have been instilled with this fear of the sun. That I would go blind by looking at it or that I would get cancer from sitting in the sunlight too much. Hearing these things can make you put off from the idea of cherishing and using the sun as an energy source. I wanted to see if anyone else had thought along the same lines as me, so I looked up, “Is looking at the sun good?” I scrolled through some articles and then went on YouTube, and I found a video of a man staring at the sun and talking about how it has benefited him. This is where I got my start. Ever since that day, I have been a big supporter of sungazing. Looking at the sun can be safe, but you just have to make sure you are doing it right. It is safest for people to sungaze either within the first hour of sunrise or an hour before sunset, and this is due to the ultraviolet rays of the sun being the weakest at these times. The way to

“[Sungazing] has been an excellent way for me to clear my mind and replenish my soul.”

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start sungazing is to get in a comfortable position, either sitting or standing, and then align yourself with the sun. Position your head to where the sun will hit your face, and close your eyes. This way, your eyes can adjust to the sun. While your eyes are closed, you will feel the sun and see a reddish color, and this is okay. From this point, you should focus on your breathing, allowing your body to relax. At some point, your vision will begin to darken to the point where you just see black. This step can take anywhere from five to 10 minutes for beginners, so don’t get frustrated or try to force it; it will come. Once your vision changes from bright to dark, this is the time when you open your eyes. Start out slowly. Don’t start staring right away. But as you slowly start opening your eyes, you will feel the ability to look at the sun. If you don’t feel this, close your eyes and try again. It will come eventually. When you open your eyes towards the sun, you can see the circular shape of the sun without having to squint and seeing all the glare that comes off of it. And once you find a steady gaze, you just sit there and take it in. You can think about the things that come across your mind, or focus on your breath, but try to be present at the moment. Once you finish sungazing, you should feel revitalized, and your mood will feel lifted. Your vision will feel brighter than normal, and there will be a sense of calm throughout your body and soul. As a beginner, try to only sungaze for about 10 minutes at first, and slightly increase the time by two minutes each time, or whatever time length feels comfortable. Sungazing is a meditative and spiritual technique that I am very lucky to have stumbled upon because it has been an excellent way for me to clear my mind and replenish my soul. If you have been feeling down recently and have been lacking energy, I would recommend giving sungazing a try. Whether it becomes a hobby for you that you do occasionally when you need an extra boost of energy and recharge, or it starts you on your spiritual journey, I hope it can increase your quality of life in any way, shape or form. We all could use a little something more.

Opinion | April 2021| 59

How I found the balance between being a perfectionist while stuck in the confined spaces of my home for over four months. BY AILISH KILBRIDE


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Be perfect. Be merely mistakeless. That’s not enough. Unproductive. Waste of time. Those are just thoughts. Right? In kindergarten, we are taught how to write our names, how to read, how to play with other kids, how to keep our clothes on with the exception of the bathroom. The moment I took my first test in kindergarten and tried to sneak a peek at my score in hopes that it was perfect, I knew that I probably wasn’t like other kids. I spent most of my elementary school days yearning to get a perfect score on everything I did. Even if it was putting the red crayons in the red container and green crayons in the green container, I always had to be perfect. I often would lay awake in bed at night thinking about all of the things that needed to be perfected. By the time I had made it to fifth grade, it meant getting 100% on every spelling test I took. My mom and I would rehearse in the car everyday leading up to the test. I would ask my mom if she could quiz me once more, and she often responded with, “You know these spelling words better than your own name. You don’t need to be quizzed again.” My mom spent my early days explaining to me that perfection was something that could help me, but it could also destroy me. She often told me that my anxiety could be used as a way to succeed in my life, but it could also be used in a way that would drag me down. She helped me find ways to manage my anxiety with productive ways to put my mind at ease. We worked on making a robust and manageable study schedule as soon as a test was announced. She made sure that I didn’t study too much, but enough that my anxiety would be put to rest. I carried these study habits into middle

school. During middle school, my mom helped me manage my anxiety in a way that would help me live my life to be fulfilling and productive, but also enjoyable. As I was in the throes of quarantine, I thought about our teachers, leaders and parents. Our teachers do their due diligence teaching us what they know; our parents carry us through life’s highs and lows. One thing that we aren’t taught is how to think for ourselves. As humans, we all surmise and think in a million different ways. The freedom to think freely was something gifted many decades ago. As we grow older, we are granted more freedom and more thoughts are conceived. That freedom comes with one life’s biggest challenge: figuring things out for yourself. As the globe started to experience something that even the world’s most prestigious physicians could not crack, our leaders, commanders, teachers, role-models and loved ones were at a loss as to what to teach. The youth, the middle-aged and the elderly were forced to change their lives in more ways than ever imaginable. As we started to adjust our lives in a way that would keep us safe and away from Covid-19 — as a civilization of people who are used to socialization and getting tasks done — people were at a loss of how to proceed. How could we be productive if we were stuck in the confined spaces of our home? How were we going to stay sane? As the media started to implode, we saw that the world was, in fact, in crisis mode. Every morning, I would wake up in those dark days of March to Anderson Cooper reading the drastic statistics of Covid-19 cases starting to enter the United States. As I started to replay those numbers in my head throughout the day, daunting thoughts bubbled to the surface. I was unsure of how I was going to make do sitting in my house all day everyday: not seeing my friends, not going out to restaurants, not attending in-person school, not going to any extracurriculars. Perfectionists thrive off of being productive and getting tasks done. Tasks that involve being out in the world and bettering myself and others. As the days started to turn into weeks, I knew that I was going to

be forced to rearrange my life. I wasn’t going to be able to go to school and get good grades; I would have to get good grades in virtual school and not be able to receive much help from anyone. I wasn’t able to go to the gym to workout to stay in good shape; I would be forced to workout from home. I would not be able to socialize with my friends; I would instead spend time with my immediate family and our pug, Lulu. I couldn’t babysit. I started to run into things that couldn’t be done from my home. As I encountered these irreplaceable tasks and events in my life, I started to get lost. I knew that not doing anything would send me into a spiral of unproductive days. Instead of being swallowed by isolation, I used it as a tool to better myself. I wanted to become stronger physically and mentally. I started reading every morning in my quiet room as the sun hit the horizon. I did my schoolwork and then a workout followed. I spent time with my family during the day and then wrapped up the evening with a Facetime with people I missed. This routine made quarantine bearable. Learning how to still practice simple tasks of productivity was something that I cherished for those tough months. As humans, when we have to face the reality of not being able to get our daily tasks done, we often break. The world that we live in is built off of the productivity of humans. The economy took a big hit and started to dip up and down as humans were not able to perform tasks to keep it stable. Learning to find the line between being a perfectionist and staying sane mentally was challenging. We learn, we adapt and we change. The youth has been unequivocally challenged in these tough times, but as most of us can attest to, we have all learned more about ourselves and each other than anyone could have predicted. This time period will be marked in the history books for years to come, and we must consider ourselves lucky that we made it through the toughest of times. We have now lost around 500,000 lives to Covid-19.

That freedom comes with one of life’s biggest challenges: figuring things out for yourself.

Opinion | April 2021| 61

Ten Years On

A personal reflection on the 2011 East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. BY MORI ONO

A decade ago, I woke up to the news on CNN. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake had struck Japan. The words of the news anchor escape me, but the images I saw in the following days are forever etched in my memory: aerial footage of refineries blazing amongst flooded fields; a black swell of water topping a barrier and turning over cars; and, from afar, an explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Day after day, the death toll would rise and rise. Ultimately, the costliest disaster in history claimed the lives of 15,899 — and thousands are missing to this day. Though they had endured an eerie multi-minute shaking, my extended family was safe, having been located far from the epicenter. Like so many others, the disaster would slowly fade from the news cycle in the following weeks, and eventually, it faded from my thoughts too. But two years later, I found myself in Japan for half a year when my dad went on sabbatical. Near the end, in August, I found myself on the Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train north from Tokyo to Sendai with a group of a few dozen other kids. We were on a trip organized by Meiji Gakuin University students for children in the Tokyo area. In Sendai, we shuffled into a chartered bus and traveled onto the highway towards our destination: Rikuzentakata. Sheltered on three sides by forested mountains and opening into a bay on another, the city of 23,000 was known centuries ago for its gold mines, in modern times for its oysters and seaweed (“wakame”) and for the Takata Matsubara — a grove of 70,000 pine trees that protected the city from winds and waves. And, it was the place where, on March 11, 2011, a 13-meter high tsunami swept away three-quarters of its homes and killed 1,656 of its people. It was August 2013, and many of the scars on the landscape it created remained unhealed. What remained of much of the city were grassy fields, 62 | The Communicator Magazine

interspersed with rusting wreckage. As for the buildings that remained standing, their windows up to the third floor were completely smashed. In the distance were the remains of a never-once-used baseball field, its light fixtures towering ominously. However, a single tree stood tall: the Miracle Pine. Out of the 70,000 that were once a part of the Takata Matsubara, this was the only one that remained. While a preservation effort — criticized for its expense — could not save the original tree from the ocean’s seeping salt water, a replica remained as a symbol of hope for a gradually recovering city. Now, excavators scooped earth in an effort to elevate the city’s ground level by 10 meters. Just a short drive away, I would be greeted with a homestay: the first time I would spend nights away from family, from home. Already being in a land far from home as usual, the warmth my host family shared with us stuck with me, especially in a community that had lost so much. The third day of the trip, we witnessed Rikuzetakata’s version of the Tanabata holiday, which brought two festivals on the same day. Celebrated across Japan, I mainly knew the “Star Festival” as an opportunity to write tanzaku — wishes for the year on a colorful piece of origami paper that I hung from the wall. This Tanabata, however, would bring much more. In the Ugoku Tanabata festival, dazzling floats traveled throughout the city, with people in each playing flutes and taiko drums. Then came the Kenka Tanabata, which brought similarly decorated floats and instruments. This time, however, dozens of people pulled ropes with all their might. They slammed the two floats together — both of them buckling — and a tug of war ensued. Most of the floats had been destroyed by the tsunami, but even then, the city’s 900-year-old tradition endured. In the years since, efforts to rebuild have continued. A 12.5 meter high concrete seawall now looms over Rikuzentakata, and an effort to replant the Takata Matsubara has begun. However, the city struggles from the challenges of recovering in rural Japan. Much of the city center still consists of unused plots, with thousands of people having never returned. Out of those that remain, many of them are retiring from work. Searching through photos I took and the notes I scribbled, along with the letters I once exchanged with my homestay host, the memories at the back of my head spring to life. Perhaps, Rikuzentakata may never return to what it once was. But like its lone Matsu tree, the resilience and traditions of its people will survive, even if they do so in unexpected ways.

Photography by Natsume Ono TOP: A comparison of a street in Rikuzentakata before and after the tsunami. The nearby train station was completely leveled and has since been replaced by a bus station. BOTTOM: Two floats face off in the Kenka Tanabata. Each has a telephone polesized log at the bottom, which provides a clear point of impact that keeps the rest of the float undamaged.

Opinion | April 2021| 63

Can the lost aspects of my ancestry ever be found? BY TAI TWOREK

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My grandma has told me bits and pieces of her childhood in South Boston, Virginia. She remembers watching the Annual Tobacco Festival parade down Main Street. She remembers the one room school house she attended where he mother was the teacher; in the harvesting months, she remembers some of her peers that were the children of sharecroppers would be granted an excused absence to harvest the tobacco. She remembers riding the train back and forth every weekend to stay with her cousin to attend high school in Danville, Virginia. But there are also a lot of details my grandma doesn’t remember or even doesn’t know — especially about her family. I have pestered her with questions about her family tree. I connotate her family history with an old photograph taken outside of her home in South Boston shortly after she was born in 1934. In this photo, my grandma sits on her mom’s lap as a child, surrounded by her extended family in front of her own grandma’s house. My grandma and I have labeled her family members in this photo to the best of her ability. But still, a superficial understanding of her family tree still leaves me with a feeling of unfamiliarity and anonymity. My grandma’s family history is not told in research, news articles or official government documents. This story is rendered through folklore. My grandma’s grandfather and my great-great-grandfather, Matthew Hale Coleman, was born enslaved. We are unsure where and when he was born; there were no records kept that documented his birth. But rather, my grandma was left to estimate his age through his first memory: the town crier announcing the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln’s death. Later, Matthew Hale became the principal of South Boston’s first Black grammar school, the M.H. Coleman Grammar School. Once the schools in Halifax County, Virginia were integrated, the school was renamed the Washington-Coleman Elementary School. And from there, I know almost next to nothing about my grandma’s family, other than that, during her life in South Boston, the then recent past was barely talked about. My grandma has mentioned she believes it was embarrassing to talk about slavery — that the trauma was still so recent and fresh. My family history on my mom’s side can be convoluted. In my fourth grade class, we were tasked with creating a PowerPoint presentation about our family history. Naturally, I chose my dad’s side: as the son of two first generation Eastern European immigrants, he knew his family history quite well. As a 10-year-old, his history was straight forward, and I could easily conjure slides and secondary research about Belarus and Poland. I distinctly remember my mom asking why I hadn’t

chosen her side of the family to study. She even pulled out old Patterson Family Reunion brochures that advertised the annual reunion her dad’s side would organize. But still, I was intent on presenting about my dad’s family because I knew it was the easiest to research. As I have gotten older, I have realized that the complicated composition of my own identity is largely attributed to my mom’s obscure family history. Often, I am bombarded with questions from strangers regarding my identity and racial heritage. Because I do not fit a romanticized version of a half-Black and half-white teenage girl, I am usually pestered with confused looks or intrusive questions when I tell others my identity. I try to meet their questions with a crude explanation of my family history, hoping that, if they could understand the stories of both sides of my family, they would begin to see me for what I am. Usually, I would start my explanation with my grandpa’s family history. This is the one aspect of my mom’s history that is more tangible. The branches of this family tree, the Pattersons, have been solidified through an annual family reunion. The Patterson Family Reunion is the longest running family reunion in the state of Virginia; this celebration is for the descendants of Rev. William Harvey Patterson, a free black man born in New Kent County, Virginia in the 19th century. From the little information I can muster from the few historical New Kent County newsletters and the minimal access to, I have learned that William Harvey supposedly had 14 children. As a reverend, he is attributed with being an integral member of the church, as well as a Virginia State Legislator during Reconstruction. There is even evidence that he testified for himself and his neighbor to assess the damages done by General Philip Sheridan’s troops when they occupied their property during the Civil War. In the seemingly minuscule history of my grandpa’s family, my relatives have done as extensive of research as possible on my ancestor. With Facebook groups and photographs of my family in t-shirts reading “Patterson Family Reunion, 1990,” my relatives have webbed the Patterson posterity together with the pride that accompanies the surname. But, it would be impossible to do my family history justice in a brief synopsis to explain my identity to someone else. It is complex, unknown and, above all, lost. Unquestionably, much of my family history holds an ominous characteristic of anonymity. Stories and names have vanished as years go by and people grow older. I recognize a few names and faces of my ancestors, yet I have no knowledge of their stories, leaving gaping holes in a consecutive family tree. Now, I am left to fill in the gaps of my ancestors with guesses, and my grandma’s knowledge of her grandparents are

preceded with “probably.” This lost ancestry goes far beyond an incomplete family tree diagram or heritage presentation. My ancestry and identity are not compartmentalized aspects of my life, but they are tethered factors that lead me to wonder if the lost links in my family history are the cause of my complicated sense of self. I have always tried to grapple with this uncertainty, but I have started to ruminate on it more heavily over the past few weeks. Currently, we are helping my grandma move out of her small condo, and amidst all of the clothes and trinkets lie old photographs — a clue into history. Besides old wedding bands and a few letters she has kept, these photos feel like a small piece of a larger puzzle, as they only provide a small hint into my grandma’s long and complex genealogy. Searching through the cardboard boxes that have collected dust over the years, I desperately trifle through my grandma’s possessions to try to find an artifact that will validate my identity. So far, I have found none. I could point to the brochures and photographs of the Patterson Family Reunion to justify my light complexion; the descendants of William Harvey Patterson span the shade spectrum. Yet, these have only provided me with an even more pressing prowess for my relatives’ stories. I want to know more about them outside of fuzzy photographs and family reunion brochures. I always figured that, if I could retrace my grandparents’ family trees and find the lost facets of history, I could explain my identity to others. But maybe my ancestry will always be lost. It is impossible for me to travel back in time to the Civil War to document my great-great-grandfather’s birth. It is impossible for me to mend the unraveled ties of the past. Although sorting through my grandma’s belongings has established a connection to a deeper history, the majority of the items in her closets are remnants of her personal history: purses, hats, clothes, trinkets from different cruises, books, worn Bibles, figurines, wedding china and bills. Instead of grasping at the lost aspects of my identity and extended family tree, helping my grandma move has, above all, helped me realized the nuances in her personal history. She is a mother, a grandmother, a widow, a retired first grade teacher, a Hampton Institute alumna, a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, a breast cancer survivor and an Anglophile. My ancestry might be lost forever. But I have begun to focus on the stories that are known and found through conversation. And these stories, like those that my grandma likes to retell, are the ones I will carry with me.

Opinion | April 2021| 65

A Worthy Part

Minority groups are still continuously thrown into the shadows and encounter oppression everyday despite our aid in forging this nation. I, a Black and Latino young man, still face the struggles of my fallen ancestors. BY SEBASTIAN OLIVA

My Latino and Black brothers’ and sisters’ continuous antipathy has gone on for far too long. As a Black and Latino high school young man, I have been discriminated against countless times. I’ve been called racial slurs, followed home, called a “beaner” and a “monkey,” too. Since the dawn of slavery, and the end of the Mexican Revolution, racial tension persists. Mexicans, Native Americans and Chinese immigrants provided cheap labor, which created a booming agricultural economy. Because of the cheap labor coming from Europe, the U.S. relied on ethnic laborers to build the great aqueducts. Mexican workers, called Braceros, were exploited, paid very low wages and worked in poor conditions. During the depression of the 1930s, competition for scarce jobs grew fierce; U.S. citizens replaced Mexicans. Latinos have always had to hide in the shadows to not be persecuted. We are reckoned as the “invisible minority,” an expansive community withdrawing from public life and retreating into a kind of shell. How can it be that the lives of so many minorities still haven’t changed in 100 years? Perhaps one of the problems is our tendency to rely on authority figures, including U.S. presidents. Minority communities still live on lonely islands of poverty because of the segregation our nation created 400 years ago, and it still affects our reality today. In the U.S. alone, severe poverty affects 16.1% of Latinos and 12.2% of African-Americans. Many Latinos live in the shadows because they are not welcomed or recognized as citizens and risk deportation. While some conservatives question their right to be here, many come to earn high wages they can send home to their families. Yes, our world is not nearly as segregated as it once was, but Latinos’ lives haven’t changed much since the 1930s. During that period in time, Mexicans were persecuted and coerced out of the U.S. During that same period, Americans wanted to expel Europeans, Italians, Poles and Jews, but they were never gathered in mass and sent back to their home countries. How different does that sound from today? What would life be without Latinos and immigrants? What would the “American dream” be like? It is projected that by 2028, 20.9% of the labor force in the U.S. will be made of Hispanics and Latinos, making it the largest minority and immigrant group in the U.S. Latinos have had the highest workforce percentage of any other immigrant group since the 1950s and have been growing ever since. Latinos have taken rural towns and turned them into 66 | The Communicator Magazine

industrial metropolises, but that story is largely untold. Without Mexican labor, much of the infrastructure in the U.S. would not exist, as Latinos make up 27.3% of the construction workforce in the U.S. We Latinos are labeled as the “invisible threat” because some peopleS tend to believe immigrant groups “steal jobs,” but it’s actually the complete opposite. Immigrants tend to work unpleasant, back-breaking jobs that native-born workers aren’t willing to do. Immigrants work in “essential critical infrastructure” jobs that improve the labor market efficiency and support the aging U.S. population. They keep Americans fed, healthy and poised for economic recovery. When I’m 39, it’s projected the U.S. will be minority white, but we can’t live with discrimination until that point. Things need to change. Not so the white population can experience the tribulation of discrimination, but so nobody will. Being Black and Latino, I face the hardship of hatred from both angles, as Latinos have been racialized throughout history. Every Latino or Hispanic is automatically categorized by their racial characteristics as a “Mexican” or “an illegal” and are looked upon as second-class citizens. I’ve had to face being profiled, stereotyped and looked at as a criminal. I’ve even had to watch my back from those who are supposed to protect me. We’re treated as the enemy, but hasn’t the Black community been treated similarly for the last four hundred years? The Black community has faced ineffable hardships that come from corroding bitterness. We face hatred, violence, lawlessness and watch communities perish. What is it that has poisoned souls and filled the world with hate? I’m tired of living where I am discriminated against. When I’m looked upon, people look at something they are afraid of; they aren’t looking at me. Black is evil. Latino is evil. I’m not a man, I’m simply evil. I want to be able to freely walk across the street, drive my car or work as a free man. Discrimination won’t stop because one man is or isn’t in office. It will only stop when every person in America realizes that I, along with all of my Black and brown brothers and sisters, are a necessary and worthy part of the American Dream.


Graphic by Sebastian Oliva Opinion | April 2021| 67

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Please contact if you would like to become a donor. April 2021 | 69

Discovered Destinations: Our Favorite Nature Trails and Spots in the Ann Arbor Area Two summers ago, my friends and I spent a majority of our free time swimming at a nearby lake. One of these specific times, the weather wasn’t very promising, but my friend and I were determined to go. Although we were told that a rainstorm was going to hit soon after we arrived, my friend and I grabbed our bathing suits and headed on our way. The moment we parked the car, we began to notice the raindrops hitting the windshield. We both glanced at each other, let out a small laugh and bolted to the water. We were both soaked before we even set foot in the lake. With no longer than a 30 minute drive through Dexter from Ann Arbor, this small, but beautiful, lake is called Pickerel. Ever since I was introduced to the secluded spot, I have been going there with family and friends for as long as I can remember. The crowd usually ranges from young adults to small families who spend their spring and summer days on the waterfront. Although the beach area isn’t as big as I want it to be, the walkway gives enough room for several families to squeeze in. For some, swimming, canoeing, paddle boarding or any water activity isn’t the ideal activity. But Pickerel still has other options. The area offers different trails for walking or biking that could go on for several miles. This past summer, I spent almost every weekend taking the girls I nannied out there for several hours. Some days we spent fishing and swimming, and others were spent just strolling through the woods, taking pictures of the wildlife spotted there. From downtown Dexter, Pickerel is about a 10 minute drive. If you are looking for a quick bite, there is an A&W right on the side of the road on the way to the lake. Being such a small lake, no boats are allowed on the water. Thus, it is a quiet and peaceful location. Another perk is the fact that the cell phone reception is lost when entering the parking area. If ever in need of a media disconnect, Pickerel Lake is the spot to be.

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Dexter-Huron Metropark 6535 Huron River Dr. Dexter BY DELIA BINETTI

For those looking for an ideal year-round nature location for walks or bike rides, then Dexter-Huron Metropark is the right spot to be. The metropark spans about 122 acres along the Huron River. About two minutes right outside of downtown Dexter, the entrance leads to a never-ending boardwalk that makes its way through the small town and eventually leads to the Hudson Mills Metropark. Ever since I was introduced to this park by my parents, I haven’t been able to stop going. The fact of it sitting right outside of Ann Arbor — but not too far — makes the urge of wanting to head out there every weekend even stronger. The newly built boardwalk sits right next to the water, while on the other side are houses and more nature areas. The area is very family friendly and gives enough space for bikers or runners to be on one side of the path. At a certain point, the path breaks off into more trails leading to different directions: Some heading towards forest areas, while others to a more urban setting. As someone who prefers built-in walkways, I definitely recommend checking this location out if dirt paths aren’t your thing. When going further into the wooded area, picnic tables along with a playground, a fishing area, a softball diamond and a canoe livery are present. When warm weather arrives, I find myself spending several hours there doing whatever I want to do. Several times that I have been there, I have spotted hammocks and people throwing around a frisbee. For this current situation, socially distanced walks are definitely offered at this park. Since the land ranges several acres, there are different entrances offered to the area.

Photography by Delia Binetti Constants |April 2021| 71

Nichol’s Arboretum 1610 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor BY ARISTA LUONG | PHOTOGRAPHY BY ARISTA LUONG

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I sit in my kitchen, staring into space, thinking about the deadlines that have crept up on me and the seemingly endless work that won’t do itself. In my head, I debate whether or not I will retain my sanity without my head imploding. I receive my answer in the form of two muddy paws and a puddle of drool on my leg. My bear-like dog, Bailey, looks at his leash then back at me. The snow outside beckons. It’s time for a walk. One short car ride and an entire bag of treats later, we arrive at Nichols Arboretum. I look out over The Prairie, which is now covered in a layer of ice, and think about what it will look like when it thaws. As much as I love the snow, I look forward to seeing it displaced by multicolored flowers and tall grass. I think of spring. I’m reminded of when my friend and I got lost in the Arboretum last May and ended up finding the perfect spot for hammocking. Since then, we have memorized the many trails we used to get there. The hike always takes a long time, but it’s worth the journey. It is quiet and secluded, like a scene in a bad horror movie. That day, we spent hours lying in our hammocks, laughing and eating green grapes while listening to music. Bailey and I pick up our pace, and I put my AirPods in, silencing my surroundings and leaving me alone with my thoughts. Now back at home after our snowy walk, I feed Bailey, make myself a pot of green tea and sit at the kitchen counter. I open my laptop as Bailey falls asleep on my feet, snoring so loudly it makes me laugh. I turn to my homework, feeling refreshed and grateful for my dog, my friends and the Arboretum.

Bird Hills 1850 Newport Rd. Ann Arbor BY SANA SCHADEN

When I think of the natural beauty in Ann Arbor, Bird Hills is one of the first places that comes to mind. These trails have been a large part of my life for many years. When quarantine shut everyone out, my family turned to nature trails for everything from family bonding to physical activity to mental clarity. Although the term “family walk” has been used so many times in the past year, it no longer feels like a phrase. I have always loved Bird Hills. The area features about 166 acres of trails and is home to a variety of plants and animals. A large part of Ann Arbor is it’s sense of community. Living here means being a part of something, and this concept definitely applies to Bird Hills. For as long as I can remember, a large tepee fort has stood at the top of a hill near the center of the property. I’ve watched this large wooden structure grow and change as different trail go-ers add logs, and sticks. The tepee once featured a bathroom-looking area, as well as a kitchen with log stools for visitors. This community tepee has marked the halfway point of nearly all my walks in Bird Hills since I can remember. Being extremely directionally challenged, the sight of this structure provided a sense of comfort to me and left the heavily wooded trails seeming less daunting. I have never been able to fully navigate Bird Hills with its twisting trails and confusing loops, but it has become a frequent destination for my family.

Photography by Sana Schaden

Argo Park 1055 Longshore Dr. Ann Arbor, Mich. BY SANA SCHADEN

Photography by Sana Schaden

From growing up in Ann Arbor, summer means the Huron River. The Huron River means kayaking, tubing, canoeing, friends and lots of other things that all center around the Argo Canoe Livery. It was always the little things that made summer feel like it would never end. Watching camp counselors yell at teens to get off the railroad bridge, only to witness the backflips and excited screams seconds later were a daily occurrence. In the background, kids drifted through the cascades, clinging to their donut shaped tubes and swerving to narrowly miss the sharp edges of kayaks splashing by. The final cascade spit kayakers directly into the Huron River, where they could begin the trip down the river. On a quiet day, the peaceful rush of water trickling over stones would meet the ears of those on the water. Argo is one of Ann Arbor’s most popular nature spots, so most days, the sound of water trickling is often drowned out by groups of tubers laughing as they bounce from shore to shore, never really able to steer the bulky inflatables. Kayakers scrape their boats off the jagged and far too shallow rocks. When the water level was at its lowest, I got out and dragged my boat across the river in hopes of avoiding tipping the kayak. After several years of attending Argo’s summer camp, I can say that my kayak, canoe, raft and overall paddling related skills have improved greatly.

Constants |April 2021| 73

When I


CHS students reflect on their lives at different ages. BY MCKENNA DUMAN AND LILY SICKMAN-GARNER



robin sickman-garner martha ribant “A lot of it is the pressures of social media. Also, the summer when I was nine, I went to Iceland, and I got into fashion because I found this one book at a bookstore. That really influenced me a lot because I started really getting into that kind of thing. But also, the social pressures changed a lot when I got to middle school. Then I just started high school and haven’t actually gone to high school, but I think when I’m in-person it’s going to change again. So, probably just social media and social pressure is different.”

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“I was a really quiet kid. I was really shy, so I think I got a lot more talkative and a lot more confident in myself and being stupid in some ways, and not taking myself so seriously. I think my anxiety has gotten a lot better. I was such an anxious kid about just about everything, and I think I’m better [now]. That’s, I would say, an achievement. I’m a better person than I was. I was really, really shy, I talked to no one. I was a lot shyer, a lot quieter and a lot less sure of myself.”


moose gultekin “I was so used to media portrayal, specifically High School Musical and Disney stuff, of the ideal lifestyles, specifically with middle school and high school. I was really excited [for it] to be perfect, I guess, and that never happened. Fifth grade was — for the most part — I’d say it was good. It was the last time I remember feeling like a kid and not feeling like I was forced to just grow up and be an adult.”



nadya matish

mali chappell-lakin

“I mean, I actually do my homework. It’s all just me now. So, don’t say I’m cheating. We definitely do less imaginary games now. I guess that’s just how growing up works, or whatever, [which is] kind of sad. But yeah, less fun imaginary games and more homework. I miss not having to worry about a bunch of stuff and just having fun and running outside in the grass and stuff.”

“I’ve always just been a more quiet person, I’m definitely an introverted person, but I think I’ve just gotten a lot more comfortable with myself. I still don’t really know who I am, but in sixth grade, I really didn’t know who I was. I feel like I’ve kind of just grown into myself a little bit more.”



ireland johnson

noah webb

“I was a very obnoxious child who was kind of ignorant, I guess, to money and the cost of doing things and going places. I feel like I never really appreciated that stuff until I got older. I feel like, sure, people don’t appreciate being young when they’re young, and when they’re older they wish they could go back and be childish again.”

“I’ve gotten a slight interest in school now, and [I didn’t when I was working]. I learned a lot about being an adult so far since then. I’ve gotten a bit more responsible. I just figured out that I actually had to do school.”

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Sophomore at CHS shares aspects of her life through a Proust Questionnaire. BY ELLA ROSEWARNE


What is your idea of perfect happiness? Being able to see all of my friends and knowing everyone in my family is safe and okay. What is your greatest fear? Swimming deep in the ocean. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Being awkward around people that I meet for the first time. Which living person do you most admire? My mom. I admire her because she radiates so much positivity on the days that she might not be feeling her best. What is your greatest extravagance? Going skiing with my friends. What is your current state of mind? Peaceful. Nothing much is going on, and I don’t have anything to stress about at the moment. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Someone that is easy to talk to. On what occasion do you lie? When I’m talking to my parents. What do you most dislike about your appearance? My face. Which living person do you most despise? My father. What is the quality you most like in a man? Caring and a good personality. What is the quality you most like in a woman? How easy they are to talk to. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Sorry. 76 | The Communicator Magazine

What or who is the greatest love of your life? I don’t have one. When and where were you happiest? When I was eight. I was in the Dominican Republic; life was carefree at the time — no stress or anything. I could just live how I wanted to and didn’t have to think about my appearance. Or how much homework I had due at midnight. Also, there wasn’t a deadly pandemic during the time. Life was just easier to say the least. Which talent would you most like to have? Being able to speak another language fluently. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Being shy. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Keeping friends for a long period of time. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? I would want to come back as a turtle. They just get to swim all of the time, but they can also go on land. But I would only want to be one if the pollution isn’t bad in the water or on land. Where would you most like to live? I really want to live in Alaska. It is so pretty, and they have a lot of things that you can do throughout the seasons. What is your most treasured possession? Pictures

of my friends and my family. Pictures are a big part of my life: it’s a snapshot of a moment that I really enjoyed that I get to keep for however long I want to. What is your favorite occupation? Workers who care for others, like a vet, a nurse or a doctor. What is your most marked characteristic? My eyes. What do you most value in your friends? Our relationship, and the ability to be able to talk to them about anything. Who are your heroes in real life? My mom. What are your favorite names? Merle, Billie, Tatum, Camri, Maeve, Rue. What is it that you most dislike? When people lie about things that don’t need to be lied about. What is your greatest regret? Not doing more things when I was in middle school and didn’t have that many things stopping me from having free time. How would you like to die? Floating on the water surrounded by my family with complete silence. Nobody crying or being sad for me, just accepting it and enjoying my last seconds. What is your motto? Will you regret not doing it when you’re unable to?

Photography by Ella Rosewarne Lauren MacNeil holds her kitten, Marty, outside. Her family rescued two kittens and fostered seven others in quarantine. “I love connecting with animals; having kittens in quarantine helped me stay distracted through the unknown,” MacNeil said.

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Dressing Sustainably BY SOPHIE NUNEZ

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Margot Donoghue, a junior at CHS, has a simple, but unique, style. Many of her clothing pieces are made one of a kind with her own two hands. “I’ve made a lot of shirts,” Donoghue said. ¨I’ll take an old piece of clothing that I don’t wear anymore and reuse that fabric. I turned it into a shirt that I would wear now.¨ Donoghue learned how to sew in second grade, and has just recently found a love for it. “I like to make a lot of my own pieces, so [they’re] things that nobody else would have,” Donoghue said.

Along with sewing her own clothes, Donoghue also likes to shop sustainably by thrifting. “I think the fast fashion industry is a really big issue, so I try to do my part to shopping sustainably,” Donoghue said. She has been thrifting with her mom for as long as she can remember, but in more recent years she has adopted it as her main source of clothing due to the ethics of it. “You’ll find a lot more than you think thrifting,” Donoghue said. “I think a lot of people don’t want to thrift because they think they’re just gonna find old clothes that they don’t like, but once you look, you can find really good stuff.” She has found some of her favorite pieces from thrifting, including her favorite jeans and corduroy jacket.

Donoghue likes to spice up her outfits with jewelry. She adds earrings, necklaces and bracelets to complete the outfit. “One of my friends makes a lot of jewelry, so I like to buy jewelry from her,” Donoghue said. “I wear that a lot, or if I get jewelry as a gift from someone, I like to wear it just because it’s special and has enhanced meaning.” Along with jewelry, Donoghue paints her nails with colorful polish. Some of Donoghue’s staple ways to add to an outfit is by adding a jacket and some black Doc Martins.

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Finding Fashion

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Taking inspiration from knick-knacks he finds around his house, Seamus MacFarland enjoys creating unique looks that stand out. By layering his outfits, MacFarland mixes different styles, colors and patterns and creates cohesive ensembles. While he doesn’t skateboard, MacFarland considers his style somewhat skate inspired, wearing a lot of skate shoes and streetwear. Although he tries to avoid clashing patterns, he likes to incorporate different styles into one outfit, making it his own. MacFarland first started paying attention to his own style during his freshman year, as he became more comfortable with his own identity. His clothing is a way for him to express his individuality and stand out.

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With activewear on the bottom and a relaxed pink t-shirt on top, MacFarland enjoys the two different styles represented in this outfit. “I like that it’s a hard line in the middle,” MacFarland said. “On the bottom, I’ve got activewear, and then on top it’s mixing it up a little. It’s great for running around in summer because it’s high mobility.” Under his Adidas shorts, MacFarland has layered long Ethika underwear with an eccentric pattern. He likes the subtle way the underwear peaks out the bottom of his shorts.

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MacFarland’s sweater was made by his mom and adds a pop of color in his monochromatic look. By adding the muted pink sweater over his black and grey outfit, he’s able to add color and highlight the knitted sweater. “I usually wear a lot of black — black hoodies and stuff,” MacFarland said. ”Getting a gray [turtleneck] is an avenue to wear more colorful stuff, like this sweater.” Most of McFarland’s outfit is from Doomsdayco, a clothing company based out of South Wales. They focus on collaborating with tattoo artists to create tattoo inspired designs. MacFarland found them on Instagram one day and has been buying their clothes ever since. MacFarland loves to layer his clothes. Under his grey Doomsday turtleneck, he has a long Doomsday t-shirt hemmed with tassels. His bag helps add to the layers, creating a bigger, more powerful look. For Christmas, MacFarland’s mom got him his Doomsday turtleneck, and while he wasn’t expecting it, he loved it. “I looked at, [and] I was like, ‘this is the sickest thing ever,’” MacFarland said. His ring was another find from his mom; it used to belong to his grandmother. “That’s kind of the theme of a lot of my stuff,” MacFarland said. “My mom will throw something out on the table, and she’s like, ‘I don’t know what to do with this,’ and I’m like ‘I’ll take it’.”

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Media Reviews POP


When thinking of songs that have defined the past decade, “Friday” by Rebecca Black is the one that comes to my mind. Friday does not sound particularly good. Friday does not have any deep meaning behind the lyrics, and the music video itself is absurd. However, it is a song that I have always cherished, as it triggers a sense of nostalgia that no other song does. Friday, originally uploaded to YouTube on Feb.10, 2011, started to gain traction almost exactly a decade ago in March of that same year. Its spike in popularity was due to the web blog Tosh.0 highlighting the music video under the caption, “Songwriting Isn’t For Everyone.” This article garnered a large amount of hate for the song, as well as for Rebecca Black herself, quickly skyrocketing the video to the most disliked on YouTube, surpassing Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” But what made the song so hated? To start, the song is melodically dull. While not terrible, it does little to distinguish itself from other popular songs of the time. It follows the classic four chord pro86 | The Communicator Magazine

gression with a rap section in the middle. This alone is not bad, but the song needs exceptional vocals or lyrics to stand out. It does neither well. The vocals of Black, while better than those of most 13-year-olds, are nothing to write home about. She often sings the notes flat and mainly “sing-talks” her way through it with lyrics that are downright terrible. The topic of the song is that Black is excited, because it is Friday and almost the weekend. Some lyrics of the song include, “Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday/ Today i-is Friday, Friday (Partyin’)/ We-we-we so excited,/ We so excited/ We gonna have a ball today” and “It’s Friday, Friday/ Gotta get down on Friday/Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend.” The topic is bland and the lyrics are repetitive. Also, lyrics such as: “Kickin’ in the front seat/ Sittin’ in the back seat/ Gotta make my mind up/ Which seat can I take?” were widely mocked due to the absurdity that Rebecca can not make up her mind where to sit in a car.

Finally, the music video is hilarious and illogical. Some highlights include a calendar flipping through the days of the week with a CGI Black singing on the pages; Black not being able to decide which seat to take when she joins her friends in their car to party, instead of going to school; and finally, the video randomly cuts to Patrice Wilson, founder of Ark Studios, the production company that made “Friday.” However, despite the song’s flaws, it has always been a favorite of mine to come back to. The song itself is catchy and I find myself singing some of the egregious lyrics. “Friday” also covers a topic that I myself can relate to. I always find myself anticipating the weekend when it is Friday and the lyrics embody that child-like excitement. Finally, the song captures the zeitgeist of the early 2010’s and it transports me back to that time. Whenever I hear the song, all memories associated with my childhood are brought along with it, which is what makes “Friday” by Rebecca Black so meaningful to me.

Nomadland Directed By Chloe Zhao BY HENRY CONNOR

“Nomadland” directed by Chloé Zhao, released worldwide on Feb. 19. A film about the life of a nomad, Frances McDormand shines as the lead role “Fern.” To be a nomad is to be someone who is a member of a community that is always traveling from place-to-place, never having a permanent residence. Fern loses her job after the Gypsum plant in Empire, Nev. shuts down, which is the job she had for years alongside her husband who has recently passed away. Fern decides to move out and sell most of her belongings and begins a life in a van, traveling across the world looking for work. She takes jobs at places like Amazon and meets different people along her journey, but she never truly feels satisfied. If you are looking for a film that has spectacular acting and beautiful cinematogra-

phy, this is the film for you. A part of what makes this film so interesting is that some of the characters in the film are actually nomads in real life. It plays out in a documentary-like fashion when these people take the screen; you can’t tell what’s real and what is scripted. While Nomadland succeeds with its beautiful performances and stunning visuals, it can lack in other areas, such as pacing. At times, the film can feel slow moving, but it still captures a sense of isolation in doing so. It touches your emotions as you get pulled into this person’s life. If you are willing to stick with it, it will leave you feeling fulfilled. It is essentially a plot about nothing, but that is what makes it so beautiful: how real it is. People like this exist in the real world, and we get a fascinating look at what their lives consist of. It takes a deep dive into the life style of these people and it fascinates you along the way.



Overdrive Conan Gray BY ABBI BACHMAN

22-year-old singer-songwriter Conan Gray followed his 2020 album, “Kid Krow,” with the upbeat pop number “Overdrive.” With synthesizers and danceable beats, the song definitely feels different from Gray’s earlier, quieter works. You can hear it in the song, which seems to have no restrictions. as Gray sings about not caring about labels, possibly referencing fans debating his sexuality. Gray also released a music video for “Overdrive” that fits the song perfectly. It shows Gray running and singing around with a girl in a car, kitchen and a bright red phone booth. In the end, the whole story comes alive, showing he was merely fantasizing about a girl at the train stop. Almost a form of escapism, this song gives a feeling of freedom and existing without labels and worries, something definitely needed these days. This dance-worthy song is something to be played on repeat this season.


Touch-Tone Telephone By Lemon Demon BY SANTIAGO FIORI

Released Feb. 29, 2016, “Touch-Tone Telephone,” by Alt Rock/Indie Rock group Lemon Demon, tells the story of a conspiracy theorist and his interactions with a paranormal radio talk show host. The protagonist is “working on a unified theory” and wants to share his truth with the world. The song’s fast tempo is representative of devolution into madness from getting caught up in conspiracy theories and becoming less and less able to distinguish between reality and fantasy. Throughout the entirety of the song, the protagonist begs the talk show host to allow him to share his theory and is adamant about being right, which he mentions multiple times in the lyrics. He believes that they are both experts of reality and need to inform the masses. After the second chorus, there is a sud-

den change of pace as the song gets to its bridge. The tune goes from upbeat and hesitant to quiet and confident in the same way a villain garnering power would sound. The protagonist seems to have a sudden psychotic break and begins rambling about his superiority in the field, mentioning how he has been wronged by society and how he’s being persecuted for his knowledge — comparing himself to famous thinkers like Galileo. The song then ends with a final remix of the chorus, which resumes the conspiracy theorist rant and his begging to spread it. Although the song doesn’t have many lyrics, Lemon Demon makes perfect use of them and stretches them out enough to really intrigue the audience. Even if you aren’t into Alt. or Indie Rock, this is definitely a song you should listen to. It’s beautifully sculpted to tell a story and the track perfectly fits with its conspiracy theorist theme. Other songs worth checking out from the same album are “Cabinet Man,” “Eighth Wonder” and “Ancient Alien.” Constants |April 2021| 87

An Ode to Reading

Our favorite books that helped us rediscover our love for reading. BY JENNA JARJOURA AND TAI TWOREK

A love for reading always seems like a characteristic subject to fluctuation. Reading is an active love, constantly changing with our levels and interests in genres. When school gets hectic and classes assign piles of required reading assignments, it is easy to fall out of the habit of reading for fun. But when we are presented with ample free time, like during vacations, reading feels like an indulgence. It is almost like a reminder of our childhood — a period when we had copious amounts of time to study our favorite picture books. Now, curling up with a good book and getting lost in the story feels like a luxury. Although a love for

reading might be “lost” at certain times, finding this love again almost feels more than worth the while. These books are all meaningful to us in different ways. They are funny, informative, heartbreaking, historical and fictional. Not only have we taken away important lessons underscored in these texts, but we enjoyed every paragraph presented to us in the books. Above all, these books have helped us rediscover our love for reading and dig back into the habits that were once “lost.”

FEATURED: “BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME” I read this book on a college road trip with my dad. I devoured through it, trying to soak up every word Coates chose on the page. It is written in a format reminiscent of James Baldwin’s “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation.” This book taught me how history can be passed down from generation to generation, as Coates describes the lessons he has learned to hand off to his son. While reading this, I could not help but think about the lessons I have learned from living in a multi-generational household — how history has percolated through each generation of my family. And, of course, the writing reads like poetry; once I finished reading, I was desperate to read more. - Tai 88 | The Communicator Magazine

The week before the lockdown, I was sitting in my American Lit. class fidgeting with anything I could to stop myself from picking up this book. It was filled with long chapters, so I dreaded finishing only a couple of pages around my fast-paced peers. It was not until I was lying in bed, tired of scrolling through TikTok, that I reluctantly picked up “Between the World and Me.” It taught me how fear is in all walks of life, along with the fact that my fears are drastically different from others like Ta-Nehisi Coates. A world fueled by fear is the all true notion I took away from this book that was read in one day after finally picking it up. -Jenna



“Brown Girl Dreaming”

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”


Woodson tells her life stories through poetry, which makes a reader like me — a sluggish one — stay intrigued. With short anecdotes told with great descriptions, I could see everything. I could see her grandfather smoking tobacco next to her as a child. I could see ribbons blowing in the wind “anchoring her to childhood.” I could see her face, filled with despair as she saw her uncle for the first time in years, no longer carrying his wide smile and cheery attitude. This book opened my eyes to how different forms of writing can be impactful in different ways. Woodson could have easily written this in paragraph form, with chapters every ten pages, but instead, she expressed herself through poetry. It gave me a new respect for this form of art.

“Bossypants” BY TINA FEY

I originally got this book because the cover made me laugh, and I didn’t know much about Tina Fey. Once I started reading, I was grateful to have come across it. “Bossypants” is full of relatable, awkward, coming-ofage stories that I don’t necessarily have the courage to talk about freely like Fey does. I read the majority of this book in my dimly lit piano room on an old leather couch, where I had my phone handy to watch all of the different Saturday Night Live skits she mentioned as well as different scandals she talked about that are not entirely true. Her humorous memoir made it feel like she was sitting with me, late at night on my leather couch, telling me her life story — from discrimination in workplaces based on gender, to finally creating “30 Rock” and feeling comfortable in her own skin.


I sat in my friend’s dining room and watched as her mother unveiled “The Prophet” like it was a newborn puppy. She stood there and told me all about it — a book of 26 prose poetry fables that was originally written in 1923 in English and was later translated to over 100 different languages. The way my friend’s mother explained this book was “the closest thing she was going to get to a religious text.” The book starts with telling the Prophet’s story. He waited in the city of Orphalese for 12 years when, finally, a ship arrives that is supposed to take him back to his homeland. Before he leaves, he is asked a handful of questions from his thoughts on love to his opinions on good versus evil. Each “chapter” of the Prophet’s advice on different aspects of life left me with a different understanding of the life we live in as a society and as an individual.


This book was stuck on the bottom shelf of a bookcase I almost never look at twice. During the Covid-19 lockdowns last spring, I found myself reintroduced to my love of reading and happened to pick up this book one day. I read it around the time the racial health inequities from Covid were coming to light, which made the book even more timely. The intricacies of Henrietta’s story, as well as the difficult questions her children had to grapple with in terms of health, opened my eyes to the disparities in our healthcare system.

“Don’t Be Afraid Gringo” BY ELVIA ALVARADO

I actually read this book for a class, but I ended up enjoying it more than anticipated. It is a testimony about a woman named Elvia Alvarado in Honduras. As a farmer, she writes about her struggle as a farmer in general, but also specifies her role as a woman. This testimony is the perfect example of intersectionality, where both of her identities are impacting her life. From this book, I take with me not only that feminism is more than a purely academic idea, but that those at the intersection of two identities are in a unique position.


I finished this book on a dreary, rainy day last year during the lockdown. This setting is almost perfect to accompany the book. Arguably one of Morrison’s most influential books, the heartbreaking narrative of Pecola Breedlove in “The Bluest Eye” made me wonder how her situation is translated into everyday life. Not only does the storyline make for an interesting book, but Morrison’s writing propels the story forward. Her book is even alluded to in the song “Thieves in the Night” by Black Star.

“The Underground Railroad” BY COLSON WHITEHEAD

In Matt Johnson’s Harlem Renaissance class, one of the first books we read was “The Underground Railroad.” Despite the historical and social metaphors that underscore the plot, the story itself is incredibly compelling; Whitehead uses many elements of magical realism to convey his message. The historical parallels I drew from this book made me truly realize the importance of how history is told and from what perspective. Constants |April 2021| 89

Art Gallery



2 Art by Ayla Soofi TOP LEFT: The first of Soofi’s vectoring series was a painting of her mom. She started in April 2020 and finished in May 2020. BOTTOM LEFT: The second in her vectoring series was an experiment for Soofi to work with color and texture. TOP RIGHT: The third is her grandparents porch in Lahore, Pakistan. It serves hanging in her house as a reminder of her family. BOTTOM RIGHT: The fourth piece pushed Soofi to practice with different shades of mainly pink. She started this in early January and finished in midFebruary. 90 | The Communicator Magazine



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My family’s go-to road trip fast food stop was always Subway. Even though Subway isn’t much healthier than any other fast-food chain, sometimes on a long drive, it felt better to have a sandwich than more fried and processed food. For years I got the same sandwich: Italian bread with ham, cheese, lettuce and mayo. But when I stopped eating meat, I wasn’t sure what to get anymore. The fact is that if you’re not at a specifically vegan or vegetarian restaurant, the sandwiches section of the menu is usually of f limits, or is just a pile of cold vegetables on bread. Vegan sandwiches can be a lot more than that. For this sandwich, I used my absolute favorite bread, Sourdough, though any bread would work. The most important part of the sandwich is the tofu. Most people who say they don’t like tofu just didn’t like the one type of tofu they tried. The fact is, tofu is whatever you make of it. There are so many different types and textures of tofu that it can be completely different every time you try it. For this recipe, I used extra firm tofu.

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The preparation and seasoning of tofu are extremely important; the meat substitute itself has so strong flavor, so it will taste like whatever you put on it. I cut my tofu into small, even slabs and soaked each piece in a mix of balsamic vinegar and a little maple syrup. It sounds strange, but it is good. Then after soaking, I rolled those in a cornstarch coating with a ton of spices: smoked paprika, sweet paprika, cayenne powder, salt, black pepper and dried oregano. I added a little canola oil to a pan and fried these up. The rest of the sandwich was simple. I spread some tomato paste and veganaise onto the bread. I used tomato paste because I hate tomatoes and veganaise because, even though I wanted to stay away from the vegan version of non-vegan things, it adds nice moisture. I added the tofu and drizzled some balsamic on it. I put on some pickled carrots and lettuce for crunch and, finally, some onion. This sandwich was good enough that even my meateating dad loved it and ate the whole thing.

Our Turn

Communicator staff members discuss what they are going to do after the pandemic BY SCARLETT LONDON AND ARISTA LUONG

Sam Cao “I would go on a run without having to wear a mask. I also want to see all my friends that I haven’t seen since Covid started. I’ve only been able to hang out with a few people, mostly people from my neighborhood. I’d want to go downtown, maybe go to the Arboretum, just to hang out and relax. It would also be nice to be in school without having to worry about masks and a crazy schedule. I am going back in-person this year, and I know that it is going to be hard. I think we have to go through the bad before the good.”

Eleanor Niman “I’d definitely like to go somewhere with my family, just drive somewhere that’s not in our neighborhood. It would be fun to go somewhere that’s out of Michigan. We’ve gone to my grandparents house in Baldwin, Mich. at the beginning of Covid. And then last summer, we went to an Airbnb in Michigan. Whether it’s like a hotel or someplace, it would be nice to get out. But when Covid kind of dies down, I’d love to go someplace that’s warmer and to get on a plane again.”

Geneve Thomas-Palmer

“I don’t think there’s going to be one moment where the pandemic is clearly over. I think that’s going to be a very slow transition. But once I’m able to do whatever I want, I would love to hug my friends goodbye before I leave for college, or go driving with them. Probably a combination of the two. I have seen a few people, though. Both sides of my family own a family cottage. One of them is in Newaygo, Mich., which is a really small town on a lake. The other is in Wisconsin. I’ve been able to go to the one in Michigan probably five times. Usually my sister and I will each take a friend up there, or we’ll spend time with my dad’s brother and his wife and kids. We’ve also gone up to Wisconsin once. My sister and I both brought a friend, and we saw my grandparents.”

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