The Communicator, v. 48, Ed. 4, 2021-2022

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VOL. 49, EDITION 4, APRIL 2022

CHS students and staff share their most defining moments. Page 34

April 2022 | 1


The front cover of our fourth edition features CHS junior, Zakiya Fortner. The theme of this edition is “Bloom,” and Fortner is one of the 18 students and staff featured in the series. In the stories, CHS students and staff share their “blooming” moments in life, ranging from surviving cancer, coming out, finding love and much more. We have tried our best to capture these moments in our community and share some hope with our readers. 2 | The Communicator Magazine



News 06

April 2022

Math in a New Light BY SYLVA DAS

CHS’ newest club, Math Club, held their first event on Pi Day.



CET presents the show Pippin. As CHS seniors have their last show, they say goodbye to the program.

Feature 12

Voices from Future Stars BY LUCY TOBIER

Pioneer Theater Guild presents Future Stars 2022 at the Power Center for the first time.


An Appetite For Innovation BY LEWIS PERRY

Two restauranteurs hope to change the farm-to-table restaurant business.





CHS juniors and staff share their attitudes towards the upcoming spring SAT.

Opinion 60

Guest Essay



Guest essayist, Judith DeWoskin, shares the importance of trust, teaching and reading.

Fashion - 80

Crave - 94

Humans of Community - 92

Reviews - 86 Games - 98 April 2022 | 3

Letter from the Editors Dear Readers, This is a momentous occasion for The Communicator staff — we have created the longest edition yet for the 2021-2022 school year, with over 100 pages of content. This edition nearly didn’t exist, either. We pulled edition four of this year’s Communicator together at the last second after deliberating for days on whether or not to delay its production. And here it is, in all its glory. Glory can be found throughout this edition. We chose to focus on the numerous ways people grow and change. What we found, however, is that these moments seemed to happen when CHS students and staff least expected them. As we enter spring and many of us become adults and looked towards taking our next steps in life, we wanted to create an edition that reflected how much is changing in the world and in our individual lives. It can feel isolating to live through a pandemic, to experience polarization and dismissal within our government, to constantly feel like our voices aren’t being listened to. Now and always, we want The Communicator to serve as a connecting source. We want our readers to feel connected to each other, even from afar — it’s in the name of our publication. We’ve attempted to portray this desire in our fourth edition by sharing stories of seemingly regular lives, and how these lives are truly extraordinary. We hope this edition of The Communicator inspires you to let go of your fears and expectations, at least for a singular moment. You are not alone in this world. Let yourself bloom. Thank you, and enjoy reading. Your editors,

Noah Bernstein






Mia Goldstein

Ria Lowenschuss

Ella Rosewarne

Grace Wang

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

4 | The Communicator Magazine

Graphic by Bee Whalen School News Coverage | Humans of Community | Movie & Book Reviews Fashion | Podcasts | Artist Profiles | & More

April 2022 | 5

An End to PHS Men’s Basketball Season The PHS Varsity Men’s Basketball Team lost their last game of the season to Saline. More than just another game, for seniors, this was the last time they would play for Pioneer. BY JADA HIKARY

On March 9, 2022, Pioneer High School (PHS) lost to Saline High School (SHS), 42-47, in the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) District Tournament, ending the men’s basketball season. In a nail-biting game, the teams were more or less tied up until the last quarter when the Hornets finally took the lead. When the final buzzer sounded, the loss stung even harder for seniors, as the game marked the finale of their high school basketball career. “It’s a sad way to go out,” said star player and CHS senior Elijah Klein.

“But I’m really proud of what we did. Watching the game back, it felt [like] everyone was giving their all and we really left everything we had on the court. Anyone that beat us was going to have to go just as hard.” There was no doubt that the PHS team was in it to win. They went on a nine-point streak during the third quarter, even ending the quarter with a field goal. Going into the fourth quarter with a tie, with a couple free throws and strong drives from Saline, the game was soon over. Seniors weren’t the only ones

Photo By Jada Hikary Elijah Klein hugs his coach after the big game. The loss hit the Pioneers hard. “There was so much going on that as soon as it ended, and as soon as I realized it was going to be over, that’s when all the emotion struck me and took over,” Klein said.

feeling emotional after the game — coaches, underclassmen and the PHS student section were heartbroken by the loss too. “We all just sat [in the locker room] crying and hugging each other,” Klein shared. “The coaches came in and told us how proud they were and all the stuff they hadn’t told us before and it just made everyone cry even more.” After the locker room debrief, the team took some moments in the Ypsilanti Lincoln gym, where the game was held, to reminisce on the bittersweet end to the season. “It was probably the closest I had been with a team of individuals.” Klein said. “I loved being in the gym with them and even doing stuff out of practice. It hurt even more that it was coming to a close.” Klein has been making the after-school commute from CHS to PHS since he started playing on the freshman team. Reflecting on the years, he said there wasn’t much he would’ve done differently. Each year the team grew with each other, maturing on and off the court. “What I maybe could’ve done differently is taking everything a bit more seriously over the years,” Klein said. “But looking back, it’s kind of hard to ever see it that way. Really, I would’ve wanted to take every moment as if it was my last, because when it was my last, it was a whole different experience.” The CHS senior hopes to continue with basketball in college, either through intramural teams, clubs or involvement with his school’s team. “I know I’m not done with basketball,” Klein said. “I’m going to continue playing in any form because especially after the game, I realized my true love for the sport.”

Banned Books: A Tactic of Control Governments have been banning books they view as dangerous for centuries. In the past year, book banning has made a resurgence. CHS English teachers consider how these restrictions are harmful to students and society. BY SYLVA DAS

“Their Eyes Were Watching God,” a book often read in CHS English classes, is notorious for its numerous appearances on banned book lists since 1997. However, rather than a gory horror scene or an instance of mass murder, the novel highlights the life of a Black woman, Janie Mae Crawford, suffering in a white, male-dominated world. As top banned book lists from 2021 are coming out, many titles accompany “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” including “Persepolis,” “The Bluest Eye” and “Maus.” Although vastly different, these books share two commonalities. They are books that factually depict certain topics — racism, the patriarchy, the Holocaust and

Photo By Sylva Das A row of banned books lines the white bookshelf. The media has been removed from classrooms across the country, but remain in CHS to promote important conversations. “These are the stories that need to be told,” Hamstra said.

more. The second similarity is that copies of these books all reside on the bookshelves of CHS English teachers who view banned book releases as reading lists for themselves and their students. “One of the great things about being here [at CHS] is that we have access to many books in our book room that were on the banned book list at some point,” said Jessika Whiteside, a CHS English teacher. “These books lead to important conversations — ones I want my students to have.” But why are books banned in the first place? Who is responsible for putting together these lists? And what criteria is used in the process? These are questions that Whiteside

and fellow CHS English teacher Emma Hamstra have thought about often. “[Banning books] is a form of censorship,” Hamstra said. “What’s scarier to an adult than young people saying the world that they grew up in was wrong?” Banned books make people think and ask questions — questions about the harmful systems we live in. People ban books because they are afraid. They ban books which they have not even read to erase topics from the conversation. To Whiteside, discussing this in classrooms is a way to grow and make change. “How can we look at a particular piece from the author’s perspective and use that to inform how we look at the present and future?” Whiteside said. For example, “The Handmaid’s Tale”—a story about classifying women, regulating uterus owners and living in a hierarchy of power—is set in a dystopian future but parallels seamlessly to our current society. Because this is a scary connection, it has landed a spot on banned book lists worldwide in an attempt to prevent these conversations from happening. But at CHS these conversations are happening every single day, because banned books like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “Dear Martin” thankfully fill our curriculum. “These are the stories that need to be told,” Hamstra said. “Who are we to say we can’t handle them when there are people living these stories out every day?”

Math in a New Light The newest CHS club is dedicated to learning about, exploring and applying math to the world. They’ve started by revamping Pi Day with games and celebrations. BY SYLVA DAS

Community High School (CHS) math teacher Maneesha Mankad believes that math is so much more than formulas, grades and AP test prep. To Mankad, math is magical and it is everywhere — in nature, in the perfectly symmetrical CHS building, in our sturdy desks and especially in the dreams and future careers of many students. After hearing that some of her students were questioning why Algebra II was a graduation requirement because they thought they would never use math in their lives, Mankad decided to think of ways to show people how much math mattered. And thus the new CHS Math Club came to be. “In today’s day and age, not having exposure to Algebra II eliminates many options, particularly in technology-oriented work that everybody will encounter no matter what they go into,” Mankad said. Technology is just the beginning of the lengths that math reaches. From solving complex problems

and learning how to question the world to creating art and understanding pandemics, math is the foundation of this world and at the center of understanding it. In Math Club, Maneesha hopes to show this by helping students explore all the hidden realms of math. “I hope that we can get together and explore why it is important to do math,” Mankad said. “My goal is for us to discover what it is that we want to do with math. How is math meaningful to you? What makes math beautiful for you? It will go in any and every direction.” This will be done through countless activities, with something for everyone. Art talks, podcast listening, origami making, drawing and even the newest activity of planning the famous CHS Pi Day. Mankad believes that by building student leaders in math, some of the stigma surrounding it both inside and outside of CHS can be broken. During the past month of

Photo By Sebastian Oliva Maneesha Mankad distributes slices of pie during the annual Pi day celebrations at CHS. Mankad’s Math Club organized Pi Day for the school to inspire kids to continue to explore math. “My goal is for us to discover what it is that we want to do with math,” Mankad said. “How is math meaningful to you? What makes math beautiful for you? It will go in any and every direction.”

middle school information sessions, Mankad noticed how many parents came into her breakout room to question her about the rigor of CHS’ math program. The fact that CHS math classes are not labeled AP or AC perplexed many of them, leading them to believe that CHS does not challenge students in the subject or provide those who excel with options. In reality, not only does CHS math do this and teach the same content as AP and AC classes, but the CHS math teachers also make a conscious effort to show students real-world applications in mathematics and make it about more than just studying for a test. As Mankad emphasizes, Math Club is for students who love math and for students who don’t. She would like to say to anyone who is contemplating dropping into Room 320 the next Monday at lunch for a meeting to come in with an open mind, and make it what you want it to be.

Classroom Life: Beth’s Mural CHS Art Club works hard to come up with a design for a new Ann Arbor mural. They aim to produce a one-of-a-kind mural for Ann Arbor’s FestiFools celebration. BY MIA WOOD

On Thursday, March 10, 2022, the Art Club met to decide on a design for CHS’s new mural. The installation will be a little under 50 feet tall and located on the outside wall next to the North West entrance. The mural will be painted on several panels and will be professionally installed. Ann Arbor’s FestiFools committee welcomed CHS to participate in FestiFools, a celebration that takes place downtown on April 1. The committee applied for a grant to give CHS $12,000 to create a mural. CHS artists will be collaborating with Mary Thiefels, the owner of Tree Town Murals, for this installation. In previous years, Mary Thiefels created non-permanent murals for FestiFools which were washed away by April showers. Ann Arbor does not allow FestiFools to create permanent installations on Ann Arbor property. Collaborating with CHS allows FestiFools to create a permanent mural that adds to the celebration. Beth Portincasa, CHS art teacher, is excited for the amount of student involvement that this project will offer. “It’s a great opportunity to have the kids really jump in and be part of this,” Portincasa said. “They will navigate how to plan, design and paint. It will be nice to finally have a mural outside where the community can see what we do inside [the school].” The design for the mural will incorporate FestiFools’ unique theme of foolishness and unworldliness while still capturing CHS’ atmosphere. Bee Whalen, a member of Art Club, is one of three to come up with a mural design so far. “I’ve always wanted to do a big scale piece,” Whalen said. “I’m a person who hates drawing very little. It just feels so restricting to me and I prefer drawing and painting

on very large canvases or spaces. Having the chance to create a mural is just amazing. It’s exciting for me personally.” Whalen is excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with FestiFools. Living in Ann Arbor for his whole life, the celebration on April 1 has become a part of his life. “It’s cool seeing all the art and beautiful creations that FestiFools brings out,” Whalen said. “It’s definitely helped influence me as an artist. It means a lot and is super exciting to work with them on this project.” Felix McKenna, another club

Photo By Mia Wood CHS students work in the art studio during lunch. Beth Portincasa and students are looking forward to Ann Arbor’s art festival, FestiFools. “It’s cool seeing all the art and beautiful creations that FestiFools brings out,” Whalen said

member creating a mural design, is looking forward to working with Tree Town Murals. “I always see Tree Town Murals’ work around downtown Ann Arbor,” McKenna said. “It’s really amazing to be able to work with them.” All students are eligible to participate in painting the mural. Anyone who is interested in participating should contact CHS Art Club members or Beth Portincasa. Painting will start during spring break at the Neutral Zone and is planned to wrap up just in time for the FestiFools celebration on April 1.

Return to Musicals The theater fills again for CET’s final show of the year and seniors say goodbye to the program that has shaped their high school careers. BY LUCY CASSELL-KELLEY

Stage lights flickered on, illuminating the darkness. John Reed, Community High School (CHS) senior and star of “Pippin,” took the stage. After months of preparation, the cast of the Community Ensemble Theater (CET) opened “Pippin,” a lively musical following a young man through his quest to find his true purpose in life. The audience watches as the character known as Leading Player narrates the trials and tribulations of Pippin on his journey through youth. Leading up to opening night, cast members have spent countless hours working on sets, memorizing lines and perfecting their performances. The stress of preparing for the upcoming performance comes to a head during tech week. Tech week is the week leading up to opening night, where actors and crew stay late hours hoping to perfect transitions, run as many dress rehearsals as possible and focus on the details. “Pippin” actor and seasoned crew member Felicity Rosa-Davies has been preparing for opening night by constantly reviewing her lines. “I run through my lines and scenes as I’m going to bed, on walks and pretty much whenever I can find time,” Rosa-Davies said. In addition to knowing her lines, Rosa-Davies has to know the blocking of the show, where she is on the stage at all times. For many CHS students, CET has provided a safe outlet for creativity throughout their high school years. CET is student-led, allowing students of all ages the opportunity to take on new responsibilities. For CHS seniors in CET, this performance will be the last opening night of their high school careers. CET seniors are committed to making their final performance successful and passing the torch to underclassmen. “I feel like I need to take up the mantle from the peo-

Photo By Grace Wang John Reed and Jasmine Lowenstein act in a Pippin scene. Reed has been looking forward to doing what he loves and getting to share it with others. “I’m excited to get to share the theater with people again,” Reed said.

ple who made CET so special for me when I was an underclassman,” Reed said. “I owe something back to the community that made me feel accepted and welcomed, especially as the pandemic has made us forget some of what it’s like to be together.” The pandemic has presented CET members with a new set of challenges. From performing virtually to rehearsing in masks, CHS actors have faced a plethora of barriers. “I’m excited to get to share the theater with people again,” Reed said. “It’s been a long time, too long, since we did a proper musical physically together.” While most of the audience’s attention falls on the actors, many of the CET stars work behind the scenes. The CET stage crew takes on the logistical details, from costuming and set design to the soundboard and lighting system. “Everything that gets moved around is the crew. For this show,

the actors have to move things because there is a group of actors in the play that have to move props on to the stage. One of the big [challenges] of ‘Pippin’ was the crew showing the actors how to move the sets,” said Felix McKenna, prop crew head. “I really like being a part of a creative team that works on things and CET is the main creative team that I get to be on, which is amazing.” As the final CET production of the year comes to a close, it’s hard to ignore the bittersweet emotions the performances bring. “It’s a bit hard, knowing that because I’m not going to college for it, I’m not likely to do more musical theater in my life. It takes the collaboration of a lot of people, and I don’t think I’m gonna get to experience that again,” Reed said. “CET has been a wonderful, accepting community for me and many others. I’m glad to be able to further that for people younger than me, to get to pay it forward.”

Forum Council FoCo co-president discusses end of year celebrations and forum subcommittees. BY AVANI HOEFFNER-SHAH

Counselor’s Corner CHS counselor Brian Williams shares his own senior year struggles to alleviate students’ stress. BY NATALIE MYCEK-CARD

As spring is officially in the air, the warmer breezes carry the lovely gifts of pre-summer burnout and procrastination. Brian Williams, a CHS counselor, advises against falling behind in classes, particularly for seniors suffering from “senioritis.” “I think that the historical mindset is ‘Oh, I just want to give up and not do anything. I’ve done it for three and a half years. I’m done,’” Williams said. Williams adds that seniors may feel as though they don’t need to do anything for the second semester but states how that is a false statement. Williams sympathizes with the seniors saying that this pandemic has made life incredibly difficult as a student, teacher and person, among other things. “But just remember, we still want to finish strong enough,” he said. Williams goes on to explain how, when he was a senior in high

school, he felt the effects of senioritis and felt unmotivated to do a project of his. “I went to my teacher and I said, ‘Hey, I just don’t want to do this final project … I’m not motivated to do it,’” Williams said. “And he said, ‘Then don’t do it.’” Williams stresses the importance of high school transcripts and GPAs to the junior class. “This semester is the last time our juniors have any control over their transcript and GPA when they apply to colleges,” Williams said. “So this has to be a real strong finish for them. Know that you’re gonna send out your transcript next year and you want this to be a shining moment for you.” Williams also offers words of advice to the underclassmen who have experienced a strange first year of high school. He explains that underclassmen should find what their passions are and how they’ll contribute to this school.

Photo By Natalie Mycek-Card Brian Williams sits at his desk in the counselor’s office. He reflects back on his time as a senior. “Try to sit back and kind of soak in all the fun things that you can and should be doing. But just remember, we still want to finish strong,” Williams said.

As we approach the end of our school year, Forum Council (FoCo) has started planning our spring events. Earlier this semester we split into subcommittees focusing on lunch, community resource accessibility, college application help and event planning. The lunch committee has identified more common spaces and classrooms to eat lunch. These new lunch spots have been listed on maps distributed throughout the school. The CR accessibility and college application committee is working on increasing equity in the college preparatory experience for students. Finally, the event planning committee has started on prom planning. The prom-planning committee meets Friday’s at lunch. Commstock, CHS’ annual music festival, will be held on April 28, 2022. The event will include food trucks, ice cream and popsicles, games and live music performed by CHS students. The class of 2022 is the most recent to have experienced the event, and FoCo is hoping to keep the tradition alive for the next generation of CHS students; that’s why this year we will be opening Commstock to prospective students and families. As we race toward the end of the year, we hope that events like Commstock and prom will serve to keep traditions alive. We know the last couple years have been difficult, and we want to ensure students still get a chance to have fun. As always, we are open to your suggestions and look forward to ending the year on a high note.

60th Ann Arbor Film Festival

Lovers of experimental film prepare to return to the Michigan Theater for a beloved Ann Arbor tradition. BY RUTH SHIKANOV

The 2022 Ann Arbor Film Festival will commence on March 22 and end on March 27, 2002. Leslie Raymond, the festival director, is taking the opportunity to look back on the festival’s past, given that this will be the 60th anniversary of the festival. “[The 60th Anniversary] looks back at filmmakers that have played at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in the past,” Raymond said. “But I think even more importantly than just bringing back old filmmakers, we’re doing things like how it relates to something today.” Richard Myers, an experimental filmmaker, will have a film shown at the festival, an addition to his work being shown in past years. “The kinds of themes and things that he was interested in came through his films and omissions,” Raymond said. “Given that we’re [a] 60-year-old organization, when you look back at our past, even though experimental film is very broad and inclusive, we have anecdotally a sense that we are inclusive and broad.”

The film industry undeniably has a disproportionate amount of white men in positions of power. “Over the last five or six years, we’ve done a lot to steer the ship toward [becoming] more diverse and really welcoming,” Raymond said. “It’s important as we look back at that history, to not pretend that’s what it was and we want to acknowledge it, but we also want to show how we’re moving forward.” A wide array of films will be shown, including the work of the founder of the film festival, George Manupelli, to Ariel Dougherty, one of the founders of Women Make Movies. “By including this program of early women making movies, it’s saying ‘these we didn’t show back in the ’60s or the early ’70s,’” Raymond said. When deciding whether the film festival should be held in-person or online, multiple factors were taken into consideration. The organizers learned a lot about their active international audience from all over the world that were interested in

attending the film festival. “Based on what we learned, I thought we should try to do a hybrid this year and see what kind of response we get,” Raymond said. “There’s no telling if we’ll do it again, regarding what the audience response is versus the work and resources that went into it.” Following the theme of extending boundaries, Raymond encourages anyone and everyone to attend the festival, despite not knowing if you will like the films or not. “You’re not going to like every movie but there are going to be some that totally blow your mind and you might fall in love,” Raymond said. “It is truly a really unique experience and one that is home here in Ann Arbor.” Raymond refutes claims that the festival is niche, that only filmmakers go and that it’s an insiders-only experimental film festival. The festival staff is excited to be back in the prominent Michigan theater and is enthusiastic to showcase a multitude of films to a diverse and willing audience.

Photos courtesy of MLive/The Ann Arbor News Michigan Theater, the venue for the recurring Ann Arbor Film Festival. This year’s festival will be hybrid, with in-person showings at the theater along with an online component. “Based on what we learned, I thought we should try to do a hybrid this year and see what kind of response we get,” Raymond said.

Lessons From an Unqualified Ethicist Using her own opinions and experiences, senior Cate Weiser answers an ethical question from a CHS student. The question is: Can you separate the musician from the music? BY CATE WEISER

In today’s world, music is more accessible than ever; as record players turned to VCRs turned to streaming platforms, this accessibility is a gift to artists and fans alike. The addition of social media into the music industry — especially TikTok, where a three-second clip of a song can make it an international hit — only exacerbates the spread of music. With this miraculous sharing of music comes the infamous sharing of controversy. It feels like there is some new scandal about some artist every day. Was Ariana Grande queerbaiting in her music video for “break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored”? Was Lana Del Rey targeting women of color in the caption of her announcement post for her album “Chemtrails Over The Country Club”? In a more extreme scenario, is Travis Scott responsible for the deaths of ten people at the 2021 Astroworld Festival? Is Kanye West’s treatment of Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson criminal abuse? Love for all of these artists runs deep. For better or for worse, this love means that it matters when those artists do something controversial. But, is it okay to keep listening to those artists? Let’s take Billie Eilish, for example. On March 4, 2019, the 17-yearold artist released a song that she had written when she was 14, “wish you were gay.” Eilish immediately faced backlash, and was accused of being homophobic. The song was written when a boy she liked didn’t like her back, and she believed he didn’t like her because she was a bad person; desperate for a different reason, she chose to “wish he was gay.” After making this explanation, along with a public apology,

Art by Mia Wood Balance scales that are tipping to one side. The scales are used to weigh things, like decisions.

the teenager seemed to be extricated from the conflict. Personally, I love Billie Eilish. I continue to listen to her music; the career of a 17-year-old shouldn’t be destroyed over a mistake that she repented for. It felt as simple as that. However, after Kayne West’s behavior, I will never play his music of my own volition again. He himself publicizes his abuse of Kim Kardashian and his incessant harassment of Pete Davidson. He uses Instagram to spread those messages virtually every day, to the point where he is both hypocritical and a danger to the subjects of his harassment. It got so bad that Meta (Instagram’s parent company) suspended his account for 24 hours for violating their policies on hate speech, harassment and bullying. Separation of music from musicians is complicated, but I believe making the decision comes down to two easy questions: If an artist does something harmful, did they adequately apologize? Did they do it again?

If the answers are yes and no respectively, then separating the artist and the music doesn’t matter; mistakes and education are a key part of life, as well as allowing those who make mistakes to grow and change. There is no reason to argue for separation if artists follow through on fixing a mistake. A mistake that comes without a genuine apology or behavioral correction can’t be forgiven. Sometimes, the results of extreme controversies can’t be fixed no matter what the artist does. In any scenario without reparations, separation is unethical. It’s easy to press skip, or delete an album from your phone. Millions of people create music; find another artist you love. *In this piece, I am talking about musicians who made reparable mistakes. There is an obvious and crucial difference between a “mistake” and an artist who was charged with a federal crime. Anyone charged with a crime against another human being can’t ever make amends.

Voices from Future Stars After a global pandemic and a mold infestation, Pioneer’s Future Stars made a triumphant return on Feb. 26 at the Power Center. BY LUCY TOBIER

Charlie Duke

Suri Gaiana


ioneer High School’s (PHS) Future Stars has finally returned to the stage in full force, following the COVID-19 pandemic and a mold infestation of PHS’ Schreiber Auditorium. The singing competition was hosted at the Power Center for the Performing Arts due to PHS renovations and featured 30 performers, as well as the Rising Stars (a group of freshman and sophomores). This year’s winner was Charlie Duke, a PHS senior who has been in choir since middle school, was a Rising Star freshman year and sang “Your Man,” a country song by Josh Turner. Duke has always appreciated country music because it often fits his vocal range. “Your Man” was one of the first songs he learned to play on guitar after friends said his deep voice reminded them of it. “A big thing that kept me going in choir was that my voice dropped,”

Duke said. “I was one of two basses in the seventh grade, and I liked having that unique factor.” At Future Stars, Duke’s voice earned him a rousing cheer from over 1,000 members after the opening line. Although Duke said he was expecting a reaction, its enthusiasm shocked him. “I was expecting maybe a little something,” Duke said. “I wasn’t expecting anything near the kind of reaction I got then, at all. I mean, that was insane. It was very reassuring. I think that kind of helped me get into it a bit more.” Kid Jay, a rapper from Ypsilanti who received four “yeses” on America’s Got Talent and judged Future Stars this year, said Duke’s voice was “pearled and perfect,” especially for a young age. Jay started his own music career at 15, but he was creating beats with friends at his elementary school lunch table long before that. His main advice for those wanting to perform is to be true to themselves.

“Just be you,” Jay said. “Don’t try to fall into the stereotype of the industry or feel like you have to be a particular sound to be heard. As long as your music is authentic to you, and as long as you’re consistent with it, somebody has to eventually listen to it.” For Suri Gaiana, a finalist who performed “Misery Business” by Paramore, Future Stars has allowed them to be authentic. During Gaiana’s performance, they played into the “rocker energy” as their performances often do, knocking over mics and kicking into the air. They worked with the vocal coach to find a song that allowed them to dance across the stage and interact with the audience while not having to rely on a guitar. “I decided this year to put myself out there a little bit more because I use the guitar as a bit of a crutch,” Gaiana said. “I don’t have to do as much and there’s no awkward standing when I have to play [guitar] so I challenged myself to do

Photos By Cate Weiser Suri Gaiana performing at Future Stars. Gaiana performs to inspire others and make them happy, and having an audience this year was one of their favorite parts of the show. “As a performer, the biggest thing about performing isn’t showing off,” Gaiana said. “It isn’t any of that. It’s more the energy that you feed off of the audience...” Charlie Duke performs “Your Man” at Future Stars. Duke discovered using a strap and standing while performing helped with his stage presence. “I wasn’t expecting the reaction I got then, at all,” Duke said.

Cali Hill songs where I wouldn’t get to [do] that.” Following a sophomore year performance of “Welcome to the Jungle,” peers expected rocker energy from them, which they didn’t mind. But, this year, Future Stars gave them the chance to try new things with their voice, which they did in a trio performance of “Hallelujah.” “I got to showcase different sides of my voice,” Gaiana said. “I really like that about Future Stars and that everyone has two songs. They tend to be different so that you can showcase a more soulful, belty side or a super high energy side or a cutesy side or anything. You can show the judges and the audience that we’re all multifaceted, multitalented performers.” Future Stars, Choir and the Pioneer Theatre Guild (PTG) have not just allowed PHS senior and thirdtime finalist Cali Hill to showcase her voice; it has allowed her to craft

an entirely new identity. “I feel like as an artist I’ve been able to create this person on stage where I can just generate this energy,” Hill said. “And it’s super electric and it’s different than when I’m not on stage where I’m just fun, bubbly, goofy and making jokes. But when I’m onstage, it’s like a whole other person…I feel like the person has always been there, especially when I was younger because I’ve always had really big aspirations in life to be a performer. But PTG helped me release that person [by] putting me in so much exposure like Future Stars.” Hill, who performed “Think” by Aretha Franklin, grew up surrounded by music. Her mother was a performer and most of her family plays an instrument. Hill plays guitar, piano and writes songs, which she is waiting for the right time to release. When Hill is performing in front

of a live audience, she believes she can reach her potential in terms of energy and quality. While she did participate in last year’s virtual Future Stars, it didn’t feel the same to Hill without an audience. Matthew Altruda, an 11-time Future Stars judge, radio host, local music promoter and concert curator, said the pandemic has been hard for many in the music industry who depend upon live shows and have had to turn to office jobs. Despite the challenges, he is hopeful for the future of music. “My hope is this, if you think about the 1920s, there were the roaring ‘20s,” Altruda said. “Why was it the roaring ‘20s? Because they just got done with the Spanish flu. And they were ready to roar. And I hope that we can come out of this pandemic and people who haven’t been to live music for a while will be revved up to do so. And I really hope that shows will do ex-

Photo By Cate Weiser Cali Hill performing at Future Stars. This was the first in-person event in a long time Hill had performed at. “[Music] is just really what I love to do, and I don’t really see myself doing anything else but that,” Hill said.

tremely well.” Altruda believes music is the ultimate community builder and at the core of the human species. Future Stars is his “most favorite thing ever” and, this year, he saw a certain quality in the performers after them being separated from audiences and each other for so long. “Every one of those musicians and future stars worked for weeks singing songs, playing songs, putting their dance recital together, whatever it may be,” Altruda said. “When they finally hit the stage, it is their time to enjoy it and all their hard work, it’s a celebration. And when you have a live audience, and that many people sharing energy with you, you can feel it. It was great. I thought all of them were super fired up, to say the least.” For students looking to become more involved in the music industry, Altruda recommends getting started with college radios, bands and finding something you’re passionate about and seeing how tal-

ents and interests can peak. “My love for music has been rooted in me from growing up in my house with my family,” Altruda said. “I was always listening to The Beatles growing up and listening to just great music and as a teen I realized early on that if you hung up concert posters, you got free tickets. So I was street teaming and helping the bands I love and really that street teaming just got me one step closer to the industry. And then I just kept on doing it and then it just opened up new jobs and I was working music retail, like anything I really could just to be involved with it.” For Zoe Reséndez, a senior and finalist who has been a part of PTG since freshman year, the most important part about theater and performing is the community. “The heart of PTG is its people and our traditions, and the beauty of carrying the traditions that we know as seniors down to our younger generations of PTG,” Reséndez

said. “The most important part of PTG to me is a sense of community and inclusion and my hope is that I have contributed and done my best to keep that sense of community.” Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor, a five-time Future Stars judge, also values the event’s collaboration and community-building. “It’s personally satisfying, of course, to perform but the process, the collaboration with, in this context, a partner if you’re singing a duet or trio or quartet, the backstage camaraderie, is often incredible,” Taylor said. “Working with the band too. It’s such an amazing project and I’m so glad that so many students were able to do it again this year.” Hadden VanDorn Greer, a freshman and PTG student house manager, said despite constant changes due to the new location and pandemic, the flexibility of the cast and crew allowed Future Stars to go on without a hitch.

Photo By Cate Weiser Zoe Reséndez performing at Future Stars. Reséndez has been singing since she was young, and comes from a musical family.

Zoe Reséndez

The Voice Voice The Among Among the Crowd Crowd the Following a life of twists and turns, CHS graduate Mark Wiseman is serving his community while fulfilling his childhood dream of being a sports broadcaster. BY KURT HAUSMAN

“Well, maybe that’s not going to be the route my life goes down,” Mark Wiseman thought to himself. It was the day he graduated from college, in 1998, when he found out the company he had planned on working for had been bought out and he had been dismissed. “It’s odd to think back to that and see where I am now,” Wiseman said. “I never would have thought that in 20 years I’d find myself calling games for Pioneer.” As a kid growing up in Ann Arbor, Mark Wiseman listened. Whether it was to the sounds of his favorite punk rock bands or the voices of his favorite local sports broadcasters, Detroit Red Wings’ Ken Kal and the former voice of Michigan football, the late Frank Beckmann, Wiseman always had an ear open. Wiseman grew up on the northeast side of Ann Arbor, in an area now known as Dixboro. His mother was a school teacher and his father was an engineer. “I remember my mother, being a teacher, would always have me doing flashcards every night,” Wiseman said. “It’s kind of fitting, seeing that now I’m making my own flashcards every night to help me memorize rosters for upcoming games.” It wasn’t until Wiseman was an eighth grader at Clague Middle School, when he and his class took a tour of Huron High School, that he began to consider CHS as an option for high school. 18 | The Communicator Magazine

“I’m still not sure how it happened, but I got lost in the building,” Wiseman said. “It was very overwhelming. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I realize it showed me that I maybe could benefit from an alternative type of school like CHS.” With the help of a friend and a little convincing to his parents, in the fall of 1989, Wiseman entered his freshman year at CHS. Throughout his years at CHS, Wiseman pursued his interest in music and radio. “I didn’t have any sort of actual musical talent,” Wiseman said. “I was interested in the music industry and I wanted to try and work with recording bands or some sort of managing or producing.” It was Wiseman’s senior year at CHS, in 1993, when he was applying for a Community Resource (CR) class, that he found his motivation for the career he wanted. “I tried to put [a CR] together with WAAM, an Ann Arbor radio station,” Wiseman said. “I missed the deadline due to procrastination, and I still regret that. That experience lit a fire under me as I approached and got to work at WCBN, Michigan’s student radio station, where I was a DJ for about eight years.” After graduating from CHS in the spring of 1993, Wiseman headed east of Ann Arbor to Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, where he earned a degree in telecommunications.

“[I had] a plan on trying to get into the music industry,” Wiseman said. “I ended up with a telecommunications degree. I interned for Polygram Records for two different semesters.” It was at Polygram where Wiseman began to establish what he thought would be his future career. “It was a really good experience,” Wiseman said. “Learning how to market and build up hype for an album, things of that nature.” Suddenly, Wiseman’s life took an unexpected turn. Polygram was purchased by Universal Records, half of the staff was fired on either side and Wiseman was out. “I thought I was on my way [at Polygram],” Wiseman said. “[Following that,] I said to myself: ‘Well maybe that’s not going to be the route my life goes down.’” Following his graduation, Wiseman moved away from Ann Arbor, bouncing around the country with different jobs. He spent time in

Photo Courtesy of Mark Wiseman Mark Wiseman (center) speaks into his headset while broadcasting a Pioneer hockey game. Wiseman, his wife (right) and his father (left) have worked together for the last six years to run Arbor Broadcasting. “At this point it’s me and I’ve dragged about every family member that’s related to me into [the company],” Wiseman said. “I’ve dragged my dad all over the place. He runs the second broadcast team when there’s two games at once. My wife is a big part of the team as well.”

Ohio, Nebraska and South Carolina, working a variety of jobs. He was a record store manager, a control engineer and eventually found his way to his way back to Ann Arbor in his current career, a training accountant for Thomson Reuters. Wiseman always had the idea in the back of his mind that he wanted to try broadcasting in some way, but didn’t know how to begin. “I always loved sports. I thought [broadcasting] would be the coolest thing in the world,” Wiseman said. “But there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to start off around [Ann Arbor]. I had a theory that streaming would be something cool to try, so I kind of looked at the technology and finally, right around 2015 or so I decided that: ‘you know what? I think [I] could do it.’” With his plan gathered, Wiseman reached out to the local high schools in Ann Arbor and proposed his idea. In 2016, Wiseman got his shot. Pioneer High School

(PHS) athletic director Eve Claar reached out to Wiseman and expressed interest in his proposal. Wiseman was put in touch with the PHS men’s hockey team, and in the fall of 2016, Wiseman held his first broadcast. “It turns out I wasn’t too bad,” Wiseman joked. “[Broadcasting] was something I wanted to do since I was a kid but I didn’t know how. It’s something that people seem to appreciate as well.” Following his early success, Wiseman’s broadcasting company, Arbor Broadcasting, has since expanded to covering a variety of sports, leading Wiseman to experiences he’ll treasure forever. “Our second year we started to broadcast for the Michigan women’s hockey team,” Wiseman said. “They get to play a few of their games at Yost [Ice Arena]. To be in the pressbox, that was something special.” Wiseman was soon approached

by more teams and expanded his realm of broadcasting. One sport in general Wiseman considers to be a turning point in his broadcasting career. “Growing up in Ann Arbor, obviously football is special here,” Wiseman said. “The sport that has the most eyes on it, it’s cool to be a part of it. The first time I [broadcasted] football [for Pioneer] was amazing. ” Wiseman recognized that in order to broadcast for football, he had to tap into a new set of broadcasting skills. “It took a couple years to work up to earning the trust to be able to [broadcast] football,” Wiseman said. “In football you have that moment between the snaps where the chess game is happening. I could feel that time and still try to describe the game and let people feel like they were [at the game].” As more teams approached Wiseman about broadcasting and Arbor Broadcasting began to grow, Wiseman soon realized that he needed some help. “At this point it’s me and I’ve dragged about every family member that’s related to me into [the company],” Wiseman said. “I’ve dragged my dad all over the place. He runs the second broadcast team when there’s two games at once. My wife is a big part of the team as well.” Wiseman has branched out into a variety of sports since beginning broadcasting in 2016. He and his team now call games for both the PHS men’s and women’s teams for hockey, lacrosse, soccer, football and field hockey. As hectic as his schedule gets (he travels two to three times a week for games, and out-of-state for some), Wiseman always remembers his love for his work. “The coolest part is trying to try to do my small bit [to help out],” Wiseman said. “To make sure that the grandparents and the parents who can’t make it get a chance to connect. Being a part of the energy of everything, it’s amazing.” Feature | April 2022 | 19

An Appetite for Innovation Two Ann Arbor restaurateurs look to revolutionize the traditional dining experience through a farm-to-table lens. BY LEWIS PERRY

Nestled in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, Spencer is an abstract farm-to-table restaurant that curates menus unlike any other in the city. 10 years ago, co-owner Steve Hall met his now wife and co-owner, Abby Olitzky, while working in San Francisco. Olitzky, a chef at the time, had hopes of owning her own restaurant. The two of them teamed up to create what is now Spencer. Hall, a Community High School (CHS) alum, decided that Ann Arbor fit their needs as a location for their project. Detroit was another option on their list. However, Hall figured the restaurant wouldn’t end up serving the city of Detroit as 20 | The Communicator Magazine

they had planned. “There was such a disconnection between the neighborhoods where property was available and how downtown Detroit felt,” Hall said. “We wouldn’t be serving the city of Detroit which was something we felt really strange about.” Choosing downtown Ann Arbor made much more sense to Hall and Olitzky. They found it welcoming while also having a much more direct connection to the immediate community. Hall’s idea was for Spencer to be part of people’s daily routines. Building bonds with customers and having a shared experience was a philosophy Hall and Olitzky held close to heart. Spencer originally opened as a

casual, counter-service restaurant. Hall believed a layout consisting of two long, communal tables would allow customers to converse with one another as they ate. Spencer has evolved to become more contemporary than it once was, but since the quarters within the restaurant are so small, the communal table layout stuck. The blend of casual with contemporary helped Hall achieve his goal of having a shared dining experience, even with the change that the restaurant underwent. A key aspect that sets Spencer apart from other restaurants in Ann Arbor is how their menu rotates every two weeks. The creation of each menu begins with ingredients that are available and in-season. Olitz-

Photo By Lewis Perry Spencer’s vast wine collection surrounds the interior of the restaurant. Hall memorizes the taste profiles of these wines to pair with dishes. “It’s really fun because now I have all of these different wines to choose from at my fingertips,” Hall said.

ky, who runs the kitchen, gets inspiration for these dishes through cookbooks, magazines, friends and elsewhere. “[Olitzky] thinks about menus in this broad and cohesive way, which I find fascinating,” Hall said. “Each dish is great on its own, but you can also have a bite of everything on the menu together.” The menu cycle allows the kitchen to immerse itself in creativity through the exceptional ingredients the chef uses. While it not only benefits the kitchen, it also serves as a way to help bring in new and returning guests. “The inadvertent effect is that it allows us to have more regular customers because people know that they can come back and try something new,” Hall said. Supporting local farms and businesses is at the top of Spencer’s priorities. Even if there is an ingredient that cannot be purchased locally, they gravitate towards outof-state businesses they know, or people like Olitzky’s mom, who periodically helps them source ingredients. Spencer has proven over the years that they can produce meals of the utmost quality while being able to ethically and sustainably

obtain their ingredients. Hall and Olitzky take great pride in the staff they have assembled since the restaurant opened in 2015. Hiring great staff meant looking for people that could help keep up with Olitzky’s rapid pace in the kitchen. Along with cooking, Spencer cross-trains their staff to work both the front and back of the house. This allows the staff to have more ownership, as Hall described, rather than showing up to work a single role. Around four years ago, Spencer started a wine program as a complement to the restaurant. Wine was a new area to Hall prior to starting this program. He had to explore different wine-making regions and gain more confidence with the subject as a whole. The original purpose of the program was to have wines that pair well with their dishes to make more well-rounded meals. However, it quickly grew into a wine club that offered a bottle delivery service to subscribed customers. The club skyrocketed in popularity during the pandemic in 2020 as customers attended Zoom meetings and discussed the featured wines. Following the creation of each

new menu, Hall goes through the dishes and pairs them with a wine they have in store. In addition to the wine pairings customers love, it allows Hall to understand the menus on a deeper level by comparing and matching taste profiles of each dish. The philosophy of sustainably-sourced ingredients for each menu ties into the wine pairings as well. “Our wine program focuses on natural wines, which is really the idea of wine as agriculture, wines that are made by farmers that have minimal intervention with not a lot of treatments,” Hall said. “These transparent and expressive lines are what people find so engaging and synonymous with [Olitzky’s menu] approach.” Perhaps the best part about Spencer is the dining experience itself. Hall and Olitzky will come out in between courses to introduce each dish. They go over the origin of the ingredients, the aim of the dish and how to enjoy it. The patrons leave feeling like experts and the experience elevates food to theater. The length Spencer goes to have such strong relationships with customers shows how much they fulfill their distinctive dining experience.

Photo courtesy of Spencer Restaurant “Patio Snacks”Spanish sardines, asparagus with pistachio aïlade, pickled carrots and housemade focaccia.

Feature | April 2022 | 21

Making the Most of Summer Camp How CHS students are preparing to go to college by going to camp. BY CLAIRE STEIGELMAN

As spring comes into full bloom and the end of the year approaches, summer comes into view. One way people spend at least part of their summer as children is by going to summer camp. At this point, there is a great variety of camps covering all sorts of activities, from exploring the outdoors, to playing sports, to creating art, to experimenting with STEM. In high school, though, it’s not just about having fun anymore. It’s about what you want to do with your life. Emmy Wernimont, a sophomore at Community High School (CHS), plans to become an engineer after college, so she’s applying to Summer Engineering Exploration (SEE) Camp – an engineering camp run by the Society of Women Engineers at the University of Michigan (UM). The camp is six days long and the campers stay overnight on campus. ”It’s an introduction to all different types of engineering, which I think will be nice because I know I want to go into engineering, but I don’t know specifically what I

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want to do,” Wernimont said. “I’ll be able to get introduced to a ton of different possible fields.” Summer camps can be put on a college application, and Wernimont hopes that they will see her effort to educate and familiarize herself with the world of STEM. Natalie Serban, also a CHS sophomore, will be attending an ID camp this summer. ID camps are sessions of only a few days and their purpose is to provide athletes with the opportunity to showcase their talents to the specific college hosting the camp. Their overall goal is to help colleges scout out potential players for their athletic teams. Serban currently plays for the Michigan Hawks Soccer Club, and she has been playing since she was in preschool. She wants to play in college, but she is thinking about becoming either an engineer or going into business after that. At the ID camps, they begin with drills and then move on to scrimmages, where the coaches assign the players different positions

based on where they think a particular athlete will perform the best. “I’m a midfielder, so I want [coaches] to see my passes and my skill,” Serban said. “ I want [them] to see that I’m dedicated and that’s what they really want to see: a team-player [who has] dedication.” Tate Zeleznik, a CHS junior, also wants his prospective colleges to see his interest in the field he wants to venture into: theater. “I want them to see that I am interested in always learning and trying new things, and going to a camp or something [like] that is a great opportunity to show that you are interested in making a deeper connection with whatever you’re planning on doing,” Zeleznik said. This summer, Zeleznik is going to Interlochen Center of the Arts with the Pioneer High School (PHS) band, an annual tradition in which students from all four different bands can bond and play music together. Although Zeleznik plans on going into theater, not band, he still believes that the experience is invaluable.

“With musicals I think my background in band really helps. Because especially with band you get to play in a lot of different styles. Like, I’m in jazz band and symphony band, and so across those two we get to play in so many different musical styles,” Zeleznik said. “Each musical is written in completely different styles and even each song within a musical is in a different style, so it really helps with reading rhythms and learning notes and all that,” Zeleznik said. Camps can be expensive though, especially if the campers stay overnight. Attending a camp may not be possible for all people. Brian Williams, a CHS counselor, believes that while summer camps are a great experience, they aren’t entirely necessary in order to get into college. “I don’t want anybody to feel like they have to pad their resume or really build up a transcript or the application if they have to pay money to do that,” Williams said. “To me, that’s just inequitable. So for some students who do [summer camps], it works out great if they can afford to do it, but it’s not a general requirement that colleges need to see.” Williams points out that scholarships can be obtained in order to go to camp, and UM has some programs that cost less since they’re not overnight. There are also other ways to show your commitment and interest to colleges and universities without having to pay. “[Colleges] like to see students who are engaged and working

within the community,” Williams said. “It could be volunteering, it could be coaching, it could be any of those things that just shows somebody being engaged and being passionate about what gets them excited. That all goes a long way when it comes to looking at college admissions because they want to see well-rounded, balanced students, and that looks different for every student.” Williams also believes that colleges like to see a variety of students with different backgrounds. It’s part of his belief that there isn’t one particular path to get into a certain school. However, Williams does think that summer camps are valuable experiences and worth attending. “I think when you think about a camp setting, it’s an experience,” Williams said. “[In] a camp setting, you’re not only doing content, but you’re working with [others]. When we go off into whatever career we do, rarely are we just isolated beings doing content, you know, we’re working with other people. I do see the value in that kind of experience.” Going to college may be nerve-wracking to some people. It’s a new world — one many high school students may have never gotten the chance to experience before. Getting into a school may seem daunting, but camps can allow people to explore their options while still having fun. They are also not completely necessary. There are other fun alternative options to express your interests.

Feature | April 2022 | 23

SAT Stress

As some juniors get ready to take the SAT this spring, students and staff discuss how they’re feeling. BY ANJALI KAKARLA ART BY MIA WOOD

Lydia Cocciolone, a junior at Community High School (CHS), was upset when she found out that the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) she had signed up to take was canceled due to Covid-19. She had taken a seven-week SAT preparatory course and felt prepared as the testing day approached. Despite her weeks of preparation, Cocciolone was forced to postpone her test by three months. “I was really frustrated because it was such short notice,” Cocciolone said. “I feel like since I missed the test and so much time has passed 24 | The Communicator Magazine

now I lost a lot of the studying I did before that.” Unlike before the pandemic, the majority of higher-education institutions are no longer requiring students to take standardized tests to apply. Many schools have adopted test-optional policies, allowing students to decide whether or not to send in SAT or American College Testing (ACT) scores. Even though these scores are no longer required, Cocciolone still feels pressure to take the tests and perform well on them. “I think especially in Ann Arbor

it feels like everyone has to do well on [the SAT] and study a lot for it,” Cocciolone said. “Everyone seems to be putting in a lot of effort to do well on it, and I want to give my future self a good opportunity.” Karim Mohamed, another CHS junior, is taking the SAT in hopes of boosting his college application. Mohamed has been studying for the SAT since his freshman year of high school. After doing virtual learning starting at the end of ninth grade and throughout his sophomore year, Mohamed was worried about tak-

ing the test because he didn’t feel prepared enough. He considered not taking the test and almost didn’t take it after he began feeling extremely stressed from doing SAT prep. But then Mohamed’s parents sat down with him. “[They told me] that I need to put stuff on my application and that the SAT looks really good, especially when it’s not required,” Mohamed said. “So, I got the Official SAT Book and I have someone who helps me. We just go through the book and read everything and practice.” Mohamed is glad that many schools are turning away from requiring standardized tests for admission. However, he still feels that there is too much emphasis put on the tests. “Even though it’s not as important as it was before, it’s still unfair that a test you take when you’re 17 years old determines so much,” Mohamed said. Cocciolone agrees. She believes that by becoming test-optional, colleges are headed in the right direction. However, she feels that it would make the application process easier for students if colleges changed their policies to go either one way or the other: Require tests or don’t accept them at all. Rosie Mellor isn’t sure whether she’ll take the SAT. Mellor is hoping to apply to art programs where admission is not decided by your SAT score. However, if it’s required for her high school graduation, she wants to take the test. Even if it’s not, she is still considering taking the SAT because it’s the “norm.” “I feel like I should take them because everyone else does,” Mellor said. “Maybe one day I’ll need to use my score for something else.” Mellor is glad her future plans aren’t dependent on the SAT. “People I know and people I love are already panicking and spending a lot of their time studying for it,” Mellor said. “It’s really stressing them out. It’s a relief that I don’t have to worry about it. It gives me more time to work on things like my college portfolio, which is, in my case, far more important than my SAT scores.” CHS counselor Brian William

says that the most important thing for students to keep in mind is that their test score is not a reflection of who they are. Williams recognizes the amount of pressure that comes from standardized tests and he doesn’t like students to believe that their scores are a measure of their worth. All CHS students will be taking the SAT this April due to a state requirement. Williams hopes that all students try their best on this test for a variety of reasons. “If students do well on the test they can end up using it [for college applications],” Williams said. “It also helps the state see how our school is doing and we want to make sure that we are being represented well. If we have to take it, let’s go ahead and try our best.” Although Williams encourages students to do their best on the test, he believes that there are many issues with standardized tests such as the SAT. “If you have a student in Ann Ar-

bor and a student that’s in a lower income area, it’s only natural that some students might not do as well, just based on where they live,” Williams said. “I think schools know that and I hope they’re moving towards a more equitable practice in terms of admission.” Cocciolone believes that there are many ways to make the test more fair and less stressful for students. She believes it takes everybody a different amount of time to take tests and that not having a time limit would help students be judged more fairly. Cocciolone also feels that making the test cost less would help to give more students access to it. In the end, Cocciolone thinks that SAT scores shouldn’t matter as much in the admissions process as they currently do because not everyone is a natural test-taker. “There’s so many other things that make a student right for a school,” Cocciolone said. “Colleges should be for educating people, not just accepting educated people.”

Feature | April 2022 | 25

The Scope of Ourselves CHS students reflect on their time as children in therapy and discuss how it has influenced them — positively and negatively — throughout their lives. BY FELICITY ROSA-DAVIES

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When eight-year-old Mira Schwarz saw an unfamiliar man in her Lawton Elementary School (LES) class, she had no idea he was a psychiatrist. Schwarz’s teacher told the class that this man would be ‘hanging out’ with them for the day and Schwarz didn’t think much of it. But two weeks later at an annual doctor’s appointment, the same man was in the office to assess if Schwarz needed therapy in the future. “What I didn’t know [is that] with little kids in therapy, [psychiatrists] come in to watch you and take notes on how you’re doing

to evaluate if you need therapy,” Schwarz said. “They asked me very personal questions which made me confused and nervous.” After this surprise appointment, Schwarz began attending weekly therapy appointments to work through bullying issues she faced, having recently transferred to LES. With the exception of a few short breaks, Schwarz has attended therapy ever since. Now a 17-year-old CHS senior, Schwarz’s nine years of therapy have helped her grow and evolve. From wrestling her embarrassment of therapy as a child to finally un-

derstanding therapy’s importance, Schwarz has seen and felt firsthand how isolating the process of going to therapy can feel. “I remember the stigma I thought in my own head when I was starting [therapy],” Schwarz said. “I thought there must be something super wrong with me [since] I needed to go to this person who was supposed to talk to me about my issues. I didn’t feel normal.” Schwarz’s eight-year-old feelings of shame towards therapy were not irregular, according to Angela Fish, a supervising clinical psychologist at the University of Michigan Center for the Child and Family Department of Psychology. She defines the uneasiness surrounding therapy as a completely normal and understandable experience that nearly every child in therapy goes through. “Many children have internalized the message, coming from anywhere, that they are not doing as well as they should be doing or that there is something wrong with going to therapy, and therefore wrong with them,” Fish said. “Children in this position are likely more cognizant, maybe, of their challenges than the strengths in their lives, and this can be a difficult feeling to overcome.” Schwarz’s discomfort was further heightened by having to leave school every week for her appointments, drawing her classmates’ attention to her absence. “I just told my friends I went to doctor’s appointments,” Schwarz said. “[Therapy] wasn’t something I felt comfortable sharing with other kids because I thought for sure [that] they were going to make fun of me.” Despite her poignant childhood sentiments, Schwarz now looks back on her time in therapy with gratitude. As she went through especially anxiety-inducing school switches throughout her childhood, having a long-term therapist

Graphic By Felicity Rosa-Davies A child sits in a therapist’s office. Fish thinks that children and adolescents have an especially difficult time with therapy. “It’s harder because when you’re a kid or teenager, you don’t yet have a full sense of yourself and confidence to be advocate for yourself,” Fish said. “There’s every challenge with being a being a kid.”

to help work through her complex surrounding emotions has meant everything to Schwarz. “Therapy helped me figure out how to navigate the challenges of growing up and how to handle myself with patience,” Schwarz said. “Every session was an hour of reflection and advice [where my therapist and I] figured out how to go about everything that I’m experiencing, and that way of sorting through myself worked very well for me.” Juxtaposing Schwarz’s current stance on therapy, Jocelyn Kincaid-Beal, another CHS senior, had an experience with child therapy that they describe as ‘unhelpful.’ Kincaid-Beal’s parents signed them up for therapy at five years old after noticing Kincaid-Beal’s exhibiting self-image issues, but therapy was not something they took to as a child. “When I went [to therapy] as a young kid, I simply didn’t talk to the therapist,” Kincaid-Beal said. “They would ask me questions, and I just wouldn’t say a word.” Another common occurrence in child therapy, avoidance and muteness towards a therapist can have a multitude of different meanings. As Fish explains, some children may not be ready to discuss emotions that they have trouble acknowledging. Factors such as timing the first appointment and the relationship between patient and therapist are key determinants of success. “Sometimes a longer process is needed to build rapport [between the patient and the therapist] and really hear what’s going on from the child or adolescent’s perspective,” Fish said. “When we can get there, usually we can come up with some shared goals between the child and the parents and therapist and do some real, good work. But sometimes, it’s not the right time for therapy, not the right therapist or not the right type of therapy, and that is completely acceptable too.”

Now, nearly 13 years since their first appointment, Kincaid-Beal reflects on their relationship with therapy with mixed emotions. Specifically, they reflect on how therapy helped them see themselves and what it was “supposed” to help Kincaid-Beal with as a patient. “For a long time, I thought that I was cool with therapy,” Kincaid-Beal said. “I knew that it was helpful for me, but it felt like I was supposed to be doing it. It felt like a chore, and I never liked it [as a kid].” Despite facing several personal setbacks through therapy as an elementary and middle schooler, Kincaid-Beal recently begun seeing a new therapist. They researched therapists and found one who they believed would work better for them, instead of seeing one who their parents chose on their behalf. “I’m going to have to try to unlearn a lot of bad stigma I found when I did therapy as a kid,” Kincaid-Beal said. “I’m not making a huge effort at that now, but I think [that] going to therapy again is a good step for me to take.” Therapy can vary in how much or how little it helps the people who use it. Kincaid-Beal and Schwarz have experienced varying degrees of this help since they started as elementary-aged children, but both have come to the current conclusion that it is a system they want in their lives. This variance is something that Fish acknowledges, and she views therapy with an open and honest perspective. “Although therapy is an option that works well for many, it doesn’t work for everyone,” Fish said. “Working towards any goal in life can be as enriching as therapy and [can] teach self-control too. There are many other ways for people to get that same fulfillment that therapy can supply. It’s no easy task to work within the stigma of therapy, to work within the scope of yourself, and to navigate being human.” Feature | April 2022 | 27

T Toxicity Through Influence

Artists have had immense amounts of influence over their fans. Since the start of social media this influence has only gotten stronger. BY SAM CAO AND HENRY CONNOR

With the introduction of an artist’s social media presence, fans have had a much stronger connection with their favorite artists. The ability to speak openly to a large audience about their opinions has caused many creators to make their likes and dislikes known. Recently we have seen the power that artists have behind their social media audience, and how fans can take things too far when wanting to contribute to the wills of their favorite creators. Kanye West made his return to Instagram on July 21, 2021, only days before he released his album, titled “Donda.” After the release, West and his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, divorced which immediately blew up all over social media. After a multitude of drama between the couple, Kardashian was believed to be in a relationship with comedian Pete Davidson. After TMZ broke the news, West took to Instagram and began a tirade of posts against Pete Davidson and others. West’s Instagram takeover began on Feb. 4, 2022, and fans from all over the world immediately accumulated interest in the conflict. With West frequently updating his feed daily and then deleting all of it just a day later, West’s Instagram following slowly became greater with each new target. An example of this divide is with a post West made on Feb. 13. In this post, he poorly photoshopped celebrities on opposite sides of the “Captain America: Civil War” poster in place of the Avengers. Fans who saw this post immediately began liking and spreading the news, with the photo reaching millions of likes quickly, until it was eventually deleted alongside every oth-

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er post that day. Posts like these portray the influence West can have on his fans. He paints these people as villains, and changes the way his fans view them. West gave comedian Pete Davidson, Kim Kardashian’s current boyfriend, the nickname “Skete.” This has led to some of West’s supporters only referring to Davidson that way. That’s not all for Davidson. Kanye West’s new single featuring The Game titled “Eazy” recently got an accompanying music video, and it’s very alarming. On March 2, a four-minute-long Instagram post was made by West revealing the video. A claymation version of Kanye West appears to be driving around a desert on a motorcycle. After being dug up underground by The Game, West leaves and kidnaps a claymation version of Davidson with a bag over his head. West then buries Davidson up to his neck and pours rose seeds on him. After watering Davidson, West then starts collecting the newly formed roses and drives away. The terrifying video ends with a black screen with text that reads: “Everyone lived happily ever after,” then “Except you know who” with the word Skete crossed off. He ends the video saying “JK he’s fine.” Nothing about this video is normal and it shows the twisted side of West. Imagine being Davidson and watching a video of you getting buried in the ground by your girlfriend’s ex. West has shown time and time again that he goes too far when taking out his anger on others. His influence on fans can be detrimental when he portrays his feelings in ways like this. When it comes to fan bases for artists, there’s al-

ways two sides to the story. On one side, the artists and influencers are typically to blame for the skewed mindsets that fans can have. However, sometimes the celebrities have no control over the ferocity that goes on over social media about them. For example, k-pop (Korean Pop) has a mass reputation of Twitter drama that goes over the line. CHS student Amy Boeving gave us their perspective of the online presence as a fan of k-pop themselves. “I have been into BTS since I was 11,” Boeving said. “BTS is the biggest K-Pop group in the world. Their fan base is massive. However, the only fans you hear about are the ‘Stans.’” Stans are people who are supporters of a certain influencer or group who take their affection for their favorite creators too far. Boeving described how as a K-pop group’s following gains in size, more toxicity ensues. “It’s definitely the bigger groups and the ones that have more of an international audience,” Boeving said. “BTS is the biggest K-pop group in the world, but their fan base is so huge that [other k-pop group] fans and them will go back and forth. I’ve seen people online threaten to kill other people, dox people, and super violent and graphic things.” If it’s coming to a point where debates go past friendly and into life-threatening claims, it’s not hard to see how toxic it’s become nowadays. It comes to a point where being a K-pop fan can shed a bad light on you even though you are simply enjoying the music. “Anytime somebody says something negative about

K-pop or a stereotype, there’s two sides to how K-pop stans will respond to it,” Boeving said. “Either super aggressively like ‘this isn’t true, oh my god, you are so wrong,’ or somebody who will try to properly educate them.” It gets worse. There are certain fans who will stalk their idols, find their address and invade their personal lives. They threaten to leak this info if their idols do something that they agree with. So what’s the root of all of this hate? Well, it depends on the artist. For K-pop, Boeving shared their perspective on the roots that caused this fanbase collapse. “Fan cams are a really big part of it,” Boeving said. A fan cam is a video of idols performing onstage. After one fan cam of K-pop went viral in 2017 and people started sharing it everywhere, it caused a debate and divide about whether or not you can add random fan cams under tweets not even related to the topic at hand. “Ever since then, I feel like that started the whole ‘annoying k-pop stan’ stereotype because people would spam underneath tweets for someone not affiliated,” Boeving said. The damage social media can create not only an influencer’s content, but also in the way fans perceive things is clear to see in today’s society. Toxicity flows from platform to platform and it’s grown from simple punchlines to death threats, stalking celebrities and music videos portraying celebrities burying other celebrities in the ground. It’s as clear as can be that the influence an artist has over their fan base has become too massive. Feature | April 2022 | 29

It’s Not Always Greener

A look at the role that race plays in the disparities with cannabis dispensary ownership in Washtenaw County. BY GRACE WANG

Ann Arbor’s marijuana laws have been lenient since the 1970s, when the city was the first in the U.S. to decriminalize simple possession, opting for a five-dollar fine instead. Still, cannabis convictions are never clear-cut. Historically, marijuana was prescribed in the early 1900s through southern Asia for asthma, bronchitis and loss of appetite, and it was seen as safe and health beneficial. Then, the U.S. started production of their own cannabis products, selling extracts at pharmacies. Increasingly after this point, cannabis was stigmatized, regulated and then criminalized. In the 1960s, counter culture movements heavily used the drug, among others as an act of rebellion. And in the 1970s, marijuana was categorized as a schedule one drug. The quick shift to the War on Drugs from the Nixon administration took the nation by storm. However, this criminalization was not enforced equally, biases in the legal system caused Black people to be incarcerated at alarmingly high rates in comparison to their white 30 | The Communicator Magazine

counterparts. “Too many people of color have been disproportionately impacted by this war on drugs,” said Teesha Montague, an employee and daughter of the owner of the Huron View, a local cannabis dispensary. “There was a war on just Black people period. There still is.” According to the ACLU, in Washtenaw County, Black people were 4.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related crimes than white people were in 2018, before Michigan’s recreational legalization of the substance. And as the era of marijuana reform rolls into the current American climate, the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office, led by Eli Savit, has decided to stop prosecuting cannabisrelated offenses. The office holds the view that since cannabis criminalization is not equally enforced, affecting Black community members much more than their white counterparts, even outside of the limits set by Proposal 1 (voted on in 2018 to legalize small amounts of recreational marijuana), they will not prosecute any offender. Unless

the offense is harmful to the community, like distribution to middle schoolers or driving under the influence, they see no valid reason to punish recreational cannabis users. “It’s caused far too many people to be put through the criminal legal system, and disrupted and destroyed a great many lives,” Savit said. “The people of the state of Michigan have spoken very clearly, they don’t want to be a part of that anymore. And that’s the guiding principle that we’re abiding by in our office.” It must be considered though, that with these statewide changes, as well as local leaders’ push to provide equality for citizens, there is only one Black-owned marijuana dispensary in all of Washtenaw County. The Huron View opened in 2017 as a medical dispensary and then shifted to both a medical and recreational provider after Ann Arbor’s legalization. The store is owned by Christina Montague and managed in part by Teesha Montague. Their business, while successful, didn’t come as easily to them as some of the other owners

in this town. “When you’re locally-owned and family-owned, you don’t have the funding or capital that some of your counterparts and your competition do,” Teesha Montague said. “It’s tougher because we don’t have the same opportunities. We’re not on the same playing field. We don’t have Wall Street investors and big pharma investors and big corporate investors. Here we are, [with] refinanced houses, putting 401ks [down] and getting small loans from family and friends.” The lack of opportunities at the very start of the family’s business changed the way Montague viewed their success. After noticing that other cannabis stores had a much larger budget, she began to measure their achievements only in relation to her family’s sole store. “Systematically [the industry] hasn’t been set up for us to be successful,” Montague said. “And so we have to be creative, and come up with new opportunities, and work 10 times as hard as our counterparts just to get a 30th of the way.” Montague believes that the way to overcome the equity problem in the cannabis industry stems from the government’s involvement. While Washtenaw County’s leaders are ahead of many other Michigan municipalities in terms of cannabis equity programs, Montague still believes they are far behind where they need to be. The current social equity program in the county provides discounts on adult-use licensing

fees for those within disproportionately affected communities. This adds up to nowhere near the capital that owners like Montague need to fund their businesses. “It’s just not enough,” Montague said. “We’re talking not more than 10 grand, and it takes a million-plus to start in the cannabis industry. It all comes down to funding. We have the knowledge, we have the wherewithal, we’ve built this industry on our backs, literally. You need to create better opportunities. Shell out some of those millions of dollars and put it back into the industry so that people have the same opportunities.” It is clear through examining the fact that of the over 20 cannabis dispensaries in Washtenaw County, only one is owned by a Black person, that fee reductions are not significant enough to combat the multitude of setbacks non-white community members face. The impact that the disproportional legal system has had on the Black community heavily contributes to the disparities in dispensary ownership. “There are a number of white people that are making a lot of money legally now simply because they weren’t unfortunate enough to be arrested or convicted for their previous cannabis use,” Savit said. “Which is not something that is true as to Black people and people of color. Those disparities in arrest, those disparities in criminal legal

involvement, they affect so much.” The cascading effects of a criminal record from petty cannabis use in Washtenaw County thin out the pool of potential Black owners of dispensaries. However, Savit’s office is working to expunge the records of those negatively affected by the legal system. “They have an opportunity, but that criminal record is holding them back,” Savit said. The Conviction Integrity & Expungement Unit ( at Savit’s office, partially funded by Ypsilanti’s excise marijuana tax fund, is absolutely free of charge to anyone in need of expungement assistance. The program connects people with Washtenaw County convictions with all the resources to clear their records. And if it is a cannabis-related conviction or anything on someone’s record that is now legal, there is no waiting period to get started. Going forward, Montague hopes that Ann Arbor’s progressive nature will help to create a more functional system for people of color. “[The city] needs to create a better social equity program and create opportunities, real opportunities [so] that more people of color can be successful,” Montague said. “Ann Arbor’s always gotta be the first. I don’t see why anything would have been different this goaround.”

“It’s just not enough,” Montague said. Feature | April 2022 | 31

Bloo m i n Into g Iden Quee tity r For q com ueer tee an id ing out is nagers a and entit y ca a big st nd adu seen comfor ta n createep. Growlts alike, stude in the e bilit y, w confide ing into nts a xperie hich c nce nd st n aff. ces of Can be HS





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In the 2016 movie “Love, Simon,” there is a scene that portrays straight characters coming out to their parents as if they were queer. One woman says to her parents “I like boys” and is met with sobbing. Another man informs his parents that he is straight and his mother blames his father’s side of the family for their son’s sexuality. The scene is meant to be an inception of the status quo — what if being straight was not the socially accepted norm? Coming out is defined by Planned Parenthood as “the process that people who are LGBTQ go through as they work to accept their sexual orientation or gender identity and share that identity openly with other people.” Since being straight is accepted as the norm in our society, coming out is generally an experience unique to the queer community. And it is a process to get to the point of coming out, as many Community High School (CHS) students and staff have experienced. For Marcy McCormick, a science teacher at CHS, coming out was a big deal. Although she had known who she loved for what feels like forever, there were no gay people around her for her to look up to or learn from. McCormick also knew that there was no guarantee that her family would support her sexuality. When McCormick was figuring out her sexuality, her partner was the person who helped her feel confident in coming out to her friends and family. McCormick met her current partner when they were both freshmen in college at the University of Michigan (UM). Although they fell in love quickly, McCormick remembers her relationship feeling very complicated, especially related to the journey of coming out. “We were definitely up against the possibility that we were not going to be accepted,” McCormick said. “It was a journey but my family has , for the most part, been supportive. My partner’s family has not and that’s heartbreaking and heart-wrenching when your greatest fear comes true.” For CHS students Bella Stevens and Olivia James*, the fear of not

being accepted has kept them from coming out to their family. Stevens came to terms with her bisexuality in April of 2021 after questioning her sexuality in freshman year. She felt supported by her friends, many of whom had also come out, but almost a year later, she hasn’t felt comfortable telling her parents. Although Stevens feels confident in her sexuality, there are moments that make her feel back in the “closet.” “I remember the struggles of denial and not feeling comfortable in your own sexuality,” Stevens said. “I was always worrying about hiding it, even when you’re out. It’s still scary.” In order to combat these feelings of insecurity, Stevens uses her style to express herself. She describes taking “baby steps” to slowly feel more comfortable in both her clothing and who she loves. James describes realizing that she was queer as “connecting the dots.” High school, specifically CHS, has allowed her to explore herself and become more confident in who she is, including her sexuality. James doesn’t identify with a specific label, which is one of the reasons she hasn’t come out to her family yet. “I didn’t really know how I labeled myself and I thought that if I started feeling a different way then I would have to do it all over again,” James said. As she grows more comfortable in who she is, which she attributes in part to accepting her sexuality, James has begun dropping hints about who she loves around the house. Her parents have started asking if there are any boys or girls she is interested in, instead of assuming that James is straight. “I think that now I feel that I could just tell them that I don’t identify as straight,” James said. “But it’s still a big step from the subtle hints to straight-up telling [my parents].” Tate Zeleznik and Felix McKenna, however, don’t view coming out as a big deal, at least for them. Zeleznik has known he was gay since he was in middle school and he cannot even remember coming out to his family. However, it took a long time for him to become con-

“I think that now I feel that I could just tell them that I don’t identify as straight,” James said.

fident in who he was. It took until high school for him to grow comfortable with himself and his sexuality. “In high school, I definitely transformed into a more confident person and was able to own my sexuality a lot more,” Zeleznik said. “I think [I grew more confident] because I have a lot of gay friends and seeing that they’re very successful [and happy] people made me a more confident person.” It took McKenna a long time to realize that being anything except cisgender and straight was an option. When McKenna was younger, he would daydream about being a boy when he grew up. “You know how when you’re younger you daydream that you’ll grow fairy wings in math class so you can fly away from math class?” McKenna said. “[Thinking about being a boy] was like that. I was like, ‘someday I’ll be a boy,’ but in a wish sort of sense.” When McKenna was in fifth grade, the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) at his school held an assembly where they read the book “I Am Jazz,” which is about a transgender teenager. This reading helped McKenna realize that it was okay for him not to be cisgender and he was allowed to explore his identity. Coming out is a big deal, as CHS students have experienced. It is a unique and personal experience that varies on a case-to-case basis. “I feel like sometimes I’m still not exactly confident in it because it feels like I’ll never be accepted by everybody,” McKenna said. “But it is just a thing. A part of my identity.” Feature | April 2022 | 33

Living on the Lines Multiracial students from Ann Arbor reflect on their identity in a racially-rigid world. BY IZZIE JACOB AND MORGAN MCCLEASE

When you’re multiracial, simply existing is walking a tightrope between the oppressed and the oppressor. Ela Khasnabis-Upton has felt this pressure all her life. A freshman at Washtenaw International High School, Knasnabis-Upton is half-Indian, half-white. She identifies as biracial and remembers becoming aware of this identity as early as first grade. “When I went to a new school I remember some of the other kids and parents would ask me if I was adopted, because I didn’t look like either my mom or dad,” Khasnabis-Upton said. She would often get comments from her peers in elementary school like, “Why is your skin color different from your mother’s?” This prompted a rude awakening in Khasnabis-Upton’s life that forced her to think about identity at an early age, which left her confused. “I was almost separated from my mother and father because I looked different,” Khasnabis-Upton. “It was as if we weren’t what a ‘real family’ in America is supposed to look like. I think it has to do with the fact that interracial families have only legally existed since the 1960s.”

The landmark case Loving v. Virginia was a monumental civil rights case that legalized interracial marriage and stripped previous “racial integrity laws’’ in Virginia which made interracial marriage illegal. According to an article from, “The Lovings appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously that so-called ‘anti-miscegenation’ statutes were unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.” Interracial families have been legal for less than 70 years. How normalized can interracial families in American society be if they’ve only been granted the legal right to exist for a single generation? “Our country was founded on segregation,” said Khasnabis-Upton. “Being multiracial, you’re existing on the lines of oppression. The whole goal of segregation is to keep races separate and when you’re multiracial, you’re walking the borderline between that and I think that’s very powerful.” Embracing all sides of her identity is something Khasnabis-Upton gradually learned to do. But she finds herself leaning towards one side more than the other due to the ways she is often perceived. “The world perceives me when

I’m in spaces that are majority white like an outsider. This is because I present differently than the other people in the room. I think because of that I fall subject to certain forms of harm. I also think that there’s a certain privilege to it as well, that I try to be aware of as much as I can, because I have a lighter skin tone for example. When I walk into a space I carry that with me like having those traits. And I think that gives me certain privileges in certain spaces,” Khasnabis-Upton said. “Both things can exist. I still fall subject to the harm as a Brown woman, but I also have certain privileges as well in the way that I look.” Khasnabis-Upton makes it a point to identify with all of herself instead of individual parts. “Society pushes us to choose either side, we’re forced to fit into one box,” Khasnabis-Upton. “I think that if you can grow from that feeling of having to fit in, then you can grow and bend the boundaries of race.” Being forced to reckon with your identity at a young age is a common pattern among multiracial kids. Sadie Todd knows this familiar feeling from staring at the fine print on medical forms at the doctor’s office,


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checking off the boxes – instead of box – for the races she identifies with. Todd is a sophomore at Community High School and identifies as Jamaican, Chinese and white. Growing up, Todd realized that she didn’t look like the other people around her. She grew up in predominantly white communities, which made her feel like she stood out among the crowd. When filling out medical forms, Todd never knew what to check for her race because she wasn’t just one. “My entire life I have not looked like everyone else,” Todd said. “Nobody quite looks like me. I didn’t quite match up with anyone.” In elementary school, Todd would identify herself as white. When she was younger she was unable to understand her peers’ questions about the way she looked and found that saying she was white was the easiest default answer. Growing up, Todd could tell the difference between how people treated her mother and father. “When I’m with my mom, I often feel more comfortable with her because I look more like her,” Todd said. “When I’m with my mom, people still treat her differently… they will speak to her differently, in a condescending way and that’s due to the experience of being a woman and woman of color. It’s interesting to see the privilege my dad has.” Todd often confronts the privilege that she has over other people of color because she feels as though she can be white-passing and how in some situations that can work to her advantage. “In the winter, when I’m pale, and straighten my hair and things like

that, it makes me look more like the description of someone who’s white,” Todd said. “Then I get some more of those privileges and people will treat me differently. I think that’s interesting.” Todd and Khasnabis-Upton still have the discomfort of being multiracial, but have now reframed their identity to view it as empowering, as proof that the systems that hold us back were meant to be broken. “You couldn’t separate the races that I come from,” Khasnabis-Upton said. “In order to separate that you would have to fully untangle my DNA. It’s very beautiful that the ethnicities, races and communities that I come from are inseparable within me. We are living proof that race is a social construct and that we can exist without race and that it’s only limiting us from everything that we can become.”

Photo By Izzie Jacob Khasnabis-Upton’s mixed heritage is a vital part of her identity. “My identity will continue blooming, always becoming more beautiful day after day,“ KhasnabisUpton said.

Feature | April 2022 | 35

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For the fourth edition of The Communicator, we chose to embody the theme Bloom. As we enter the spring season, spend more time outside and reflect on the last two years, we acknowledge the ways in which we have grown. In this 18-page spread, we recognize and appreciate the pivotal moments in our lives that have shaped us into the individuals we are today. Small or large, sad or happy, these moments are the crux of our existence; each moment opens new doors in our lives in nuanced and unexpected ways. In this series, we try to capture a range of stories from people of differing backgrounds and experiences to create a well-rounded collection of stories for readers to find themselves in. A black and white photo accompanies each article; the up-close portraits were intentionally taken to capture people in their most genuine and intimate states. We are deeply appreciative of the people who chose to share their stories with us.

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ZAKIYA FORTNER Zakiya Fortner doesn’t have it easy; between school work, a job, a social life and mental health, they often find themselves struggling to find the right balance. As the hefty workload of junior year increases and the end of the year becomes closer to reality, the question really becomes: What do they prioritize first? For the past nine years, Fortner has struggled with ADHD, anxiety and depression. When their mental health declines, other responsibilities take a back seat. During their freshman year of high school, their mental stability worsened and manifested itself into an ongoing cycle of depressive episodes. “When I get into an episode, it becomes very dark — very black and white,” Fortner said. “Everything moves in slow motion. It’s hard to get up, hard to do normal human things like basic hygiene, eating and drinking regularly.” Fortner frequently has to sacrifice one thing for another, and navigating the line between giving too much or too little can be a delicate task. Keeping their mental health stable is often bargained with getting their work turned in on time and spending time with friends can be regularly swapped for taking on more shifts at work. “Sometimes I find myself taking weeks off of work because I need time to myself and to take time for my schooling … I’ll fall so far behind and then it’s really hard to catch back up,” Fortner said. “It’s really complicated, because it’s like what comes first, what is important? Do I take a break from doing schoolwork to better my mental health? But if I do that, I come back to all this work that I have to do. And then what was that little break for? It’s really hard to find a good balance.” Meeting Rachel Pashturro was Fortner’s moment of growth. The two best friends met through a mutual friend in an English class freshman year and immediately clicked. Pashturro has become someone Fortner consistently re38 | The Communicator Magazine

lies on — a shoulder to cry on, a voice of reason, an escape for fun. Without Pashturro, Fortner doesn’t know where they would be; Pashturro made the process of getting out of bed every morning less of a struggle. “Before she was in my life it was very hard to keep going and live and breathe,” Fortner said. “I come to school just so I can see her because if I didn’t have her, I probably would not be coming to school very much.” When Fortner was questioning their identity and gender in 2021, Pashturro showed unwavering support and acceptance throughout the process. “I’m not a boy and I’m not a girl; right in the middle is perfect for

me,” Fortner said. “[Pashturro] was like, ‘No matter what, I will listen and I will help you. We can go shopping for new clothes if you want. We can try to find some more masculine clothes for you and more feminine clothes for you.’” For the past three years, Pashturro has been a steadfast lifeline for Fortner in times of uncertainty and darkness. With Pashturro’s support and friendship, Fortner has been able to evolve into a confident and genuine person. “She lets me know that it’s okay that I am struggling,” Fortner said. “She wants to be around me when I’m stressed and [let’s me know] that I’m allowed to be all of the things that I am.”


When Julia Harrison was seven years old, his older sister explained what it meant to be non-binary. Immediately, Harrison felt like that fit him. As he grew older and went to middle school, he learned more about himself and started to identify as non-binary. The term felt safe for a long time, but the label that once made Harrison feel open and content in himself shifted into a title that held him back. During the summer before ninth grade, Harrison started question being non-binary. Harrison felt like it didn’t fit. He started to have thoughts that were more trans-masculine. And started to realize he wanted to be a boy. He would make statements in his head saying things like “when I become a

boy that’s gonna be so fun.” Harrison took what he already knew about himself and made his identification fit more than just his exterior. He wanted to be seen as a boy, not just as transgender. Although being transgender was and is a part of himself, he was not confined to what people wanted to see. Harrison is a person first, he wanted to stay true to himself, and build around the person he already was. During the summer before ninth grade, one weekend night Harrison slept over at his grandma’s house. He lay on the hardwood floor of a small room so he wouldn’t fall asleep. He scrolled through his phone as his mind strayed away from the absent abyss of the internet and the strong realization

of who he was became clear in his mind; a piece of his identity clicked into place and he felt it needed to be shared with a friend. He needed it to be shared with someone other than himself. He sat up straight and texted a good friend: I’m a boy now. Harrison typed those four words to his friend and the message felt real. He told a friend who he knew wanted nothing but for him to be comfortable in his identity. Harrison had been close friends with her for a long time and although it didn’t feel like a strain on their friendship, Harrison worried that a part of himself was being hidden; that worry faded into knowledge. The honesty between the two of them fueled him and his friendship. “I wasn’t only hiding something from her, before I told anyone, but I was also hiding it from myself,” Harrison said. “Telling someone made it real. It wasn’t just something that I was thinking about.” There was a significant change in himself after signifying this part of his self-image to someone. That night, Harrison shared a piece of who he was with what felt like the world, or a part of the world that mattered. Harrison’s identity didn’t come from telling someone what “category” he fit into, but it did change what person he knew he wanted to be. Feature | April 2022 | 39

Ekaterina Angelova’s story began on a cliffside overlooking the Black Sea on the coast of Bulgaria. It was at this moment that her life unfolded before her eyes and, for the first time, she could see herself for who she truly was. Angelova, a current CHS teacher’s assistant (TA), originates from Pleven, Bulgaria. Nine years ago, she left the capital of Bulgaria where she attended college to move to the U.S. with her husband and two kids as he pursued his career. Since then, she has found herself taking on multiple volunteer pastimes including working in school gardens at local elementary schools and as a science olympiad coach at Dicken Elementary School. After learning about the opportunity to become a TA from a friend four years ago, she took the chance; she has always had a love for being in a learning environment and finds fulfillment in providing additional support for students. “When I learned from a friend about the opportunity for being a teacher’s assistant, I decided I wanted to do something that helps others,” Angelova said. “I see a meaning in helping a young person overcome difficulties… and helping somebody else believe in themselves and go forward.” It was Angelova’s personal experience in high school that encouraged her to serve others. She loved spending time outdoors: She was part of a cave club that explored and studied undeveloped caves as well as a skydiving club. However, Angelova struggled with self-confidence and bullying as a child. “I was quite shy and I lacked confidence,” Angelova said. “I thought I was very skinny and often kids laughed at how skinny I was. So I had this [perception] that I was not good-looking. And even for two years, I believe, I wore only long pants because I didn’t like how skinny my legs were.” But her outlook on life and herself changed during one sunrise in Kamen Bryag, a quaint town in

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the northeast part of Bulgaria. Angelova was 18 years old and on a camping trip when her long-term boyfriend broke up with her. “[The breakup] was really hard for me at that point,” Angelova said. “When you’re that young, everything seems so extreme and final. I had this feeling that this was the best person in my life and I’m losing something really valuable.” The next morning after a sleepless night, Angelova witnessed something beautiful; she stood on a rocky cliff overlooking the sea as the sun rose above the horizon and dolphins swam through crashing waves. This was a moment of enlightenment. It showed her that no matter what difficulties she was facing, something beautiful would always await: she just had to have

the eyes to see it. “This was a moment that showed me that things are beautiful and it depends on how we look at them and the world. After that moment, I was not so sad that the relationship ended. I will open up to see what the world has to bring me.” Angelova applied her new outlook to her career, livelihood and family. She now carries with her the lessons she has learned and hopes to pass them on to the students she works with. “Difficulties are an opportunity for growth,” Angelova said. “We should not be brought down by difficulties but consider them like a challenge, and when we overcome this challenge, we will be able to see life with different eyes. Something good always awaits.”

In 1996, Jeri Schneider, CHS librarian, spent her days driving around in a large van, filled with all different kinds of books. The Ypsilanti District Library’s bookmobile drove throughout the local neighborhoods, parking by community areas and waiting for residents to make their selections. The traveling library helped to distribute books to those who couldn’t access the physical buildings. “One day [this] little girl said to me, ‘We’re so happy that the bookmobile comes. Before the bookmobile came we used to watch too much TV. Oh, and now we just read books and we love it. We’re so happy,’” Schneider said. “[That] is why I do what I do.” This college job wasn’t necessarily supposed to turn into Schneider’s career: She originally wanted to be a truck driver. However, the path she followed eventually led to a bookmobile conference in Bismarck, ND. The Ypsilanti District Library tasked her with figuring out what kind of new bookmobile to purchase for the program. Through all different kinds of specs, prices and vendors, Schneider stumbled upon a transcript of the talks that had occurred at the convention. A certain talk from a previous meeting stood out to her: detailing the new technology and changes occurring in the world of librarians. “He was talking about disparities in wealth and income and how that was going to impact information with all this technology, and how we’d have to make very concerted efforts to make sure that technology was allocated equitably,” Schneider said. “So everyone would have access to all this stuff that was going

to be coming and we didn’t even know what it was going to be yet. I decided right then and there that I wanted to become a real librarian and go to graduate school.” The process wasn’t easy or cleancut, but Schneider was determined to make a difference. After reading through the transcript on her plane ride home from the conference, she determined that she would go to graduate school and obtain her master’s degree. “I was a single mom,” Schneider said. “I had a baby who was one year old. So it was like, ‘How am I going to do this,’ but I knew it was what I wanted to do.” After graduating, Schneider worked at the University of Michigan for a few years, but it didn’t

fulfill what she had imagined. So, she decided that she wasn’t done with school. “I had lunch with [a friend] about a week or two before school was getting ready to start,” Schnieder said. “And she was just going on and on about how much she loved being a school librarian, told me all these stories about students and cool things that happened. I got really excited. I thought, that’s what I want to do. I want to get out of the boring university and I want to work with kids.” After a handful of years working in an elementary school and one year at Pioneer High School, she finally found home at CHS. “I’ve been happy ever since,” Schneider said.

JERI SCHNEIDER Feature | April 2022 | 41


Zion McLilley sang for an audience for the first time at eight years old. His grandma volunteered him to sing at church, and after he sang the first couple of lines, rows of people responded with an overwhelming applause. At 11, McLilley feared where his singing career was going because he was mainly singing in a place where he didn’t feel accepted or share beliefs: church. At this point, he was considering stopping singing. “I [didn’t] want to be stuck singing gospel if that’s what I chose to do with my life,” McLilley said. “But meeting [Jacky Clark-Chisholm], who dibble dabbles in other genres too, I knew that I wasn’t going to be stuck in a box.” Jacky Clark-Chisholm is one of 42 | The Communicator Magazine

his biggest inspirations. McLilly sang for her when he was 11 years old and she told him, “Never give up on your dreams. You have an amazing voice [and] it’s only going to get better.” This moment motivated McLilley to keep singing. McLilley, a sophomore at CHS, takes vocal lessons with Travis Pratt, an opera and Broadway singer. He works with Pratt and a group including Brandon Gray, Ciasia Greene and Laurriah Jackson, who have been on programs including America’s Got Talent, American Idol, Apollo and The Voice. McLilley met with the group for the first time virtually in October 2020. He immediately felt out of place, but the group welcomed him and his talent. As McLilley has stuck with sing-

ing, he has grown into the singer and person he is today. In an eighth grade music studies class, he was presented with an opportunity to appear on America’s Got Talent, but he was not ready at the time. Now, he feels ready for that step. “I feel like I could now [because] I have come into my truth,” McLilley said. “I’m Black [and] I’m queer. Those are identities I live in every day and I wasn’t exactly comfortable with that three years ago when the opportunity was presented to me, but if it was presented to me now — knowing who I am, accepting my truth and walking in my truth — I 100% would be able to do that.” Continuing on, he plans to start a YouTube channel. For the past four months, he has been ordering equipment, planning episodes and crafting his message. He plans to share his experiences and give advice as a Black and queer teen. “I know that I live with anti-queerness and anti-Blackness internalized in me, and I feel like a lot of Black, queer people go through that too,” McLilley said. “I want to let them know that they’re not the only ones [and] share my experience.” While planning the channel, McLilley has looked to one of his favorite influencers, Tarek Ali, a Black, queer man who shares his day-to-day and life experiences only. McLilley hopes to take what he loves about Ali as an influencer and channel it into his position. “My goal is just to touch somebody and let somebody know that they’re not alone,” McLilley said. While McLilley makes this step, he continues to touch people with his gifted voice and soon inspire his peers with a new connection.


Chris Anderson, a CHS freshman, started running in sixth grade. He has stuck with it since, and now is a freshman on Pioneer High School’s (PHS) Varsity Cross Country team. Already used to the training, Anderson found the high school races to be much more competitive and he enjoys being part of a team. The team is close-knit and knows how to support and engage as a team by hyping each other up, giving running advice, joking around, welcoming underclassmen and motivating each other to improve. Anderson also appreciates how his team members are always happy for each other, even when they don’t win. Anderson’s last race for PHS was the Portage Race, less than halfway through the season in the fall of 2021. After leading the majority of the race, he ended in third place after twisting his ankle in the first loop and dislocating both of his patellas, the kneecap bone. Anderson put his patellas back in place and continued to run through the pain. “Everything was hurting and I was just trying to keep my position. It was a big race so I was just thinking of doing well for the team. In the last 600 meters, I was already drained [and] I was in third at that point. I was really hurting and I pushed right through it. I saw my teammates, and I was like, ‘Might as well, if this is my last race, [I’ll] give it everything I have.’ I was disappointed, more at the end. After I crossed that line, I just fell to the ground. My legs were done, my arms were hurting, [and] I was really dehydrated.”

Anderson knew this would be his last race of the season before even crossing the finish line. No longer able to run for over three months, Anderson went through physical therapy, several visits to the doctor and many x-rays. After a while though, he stopped to take time for himself. “I wasn’t really doing much without running, because running is more of a stress mechanism for me to relieve stress and get away from problems. So without it, it was like bringing all my problems together.” Anderson sees running as an extremely mental sport, and without it he felt the impact. He talked to another runner who left the team for personal reasons and how he coped with it, and this helped An-

derson. He also kept in touch with teammates and the season’s schedule. Last month, Anderson went on his first run since the Portage Race with the Ann Arbor Track Club at the Eastern Michigan University (EMU) track. He went to one of their practices to prepare for the track season, and he left feeling drained. While gaining his strength and speed back, Anderson plans to run track for PHS during the spring. Going into the season and beyond, he is taking the important lesson he learned this fall at the Portage race. “I learned that sometimes it’s better not to push ourselves, in races or in anything, to be the best [or] to give the team something,” Anderson said. Feature | April 2022 | 43


May 18, 2021 was a day Hannah Margolis, CHS junior, will never forget — it was her 16th birthday. For her, this meant getting her driver’s license. “I’m not typically a morning person, but on the morning of my birthday, I had never been so excited to get out of bed,” Margolis said. “I sat in the passenger seat by my mom as she drove me to the Secretary of State. After that appointment, I felt older already.” All through middle school, Margolis couldn’t wait to turn 16. She would see her sister driving around and that’s all she wanted at the

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time. Right when Margolis turned 14 and nine months, she started driver’s education. She wanted to make sure that on her 16th birthday she would get her license. Growing up with an older sister, Margolis admired her sister’s ability to drive. After years of watching her sister drive, Margolis wanted the promised freedom of getting her license. To Margolis, the feeling of driving without an adult is much different than driving with your permit. “The feeling of driving is unexplainable,” Margolis said. “Driving away from my house for the first

time was an experience I will never forget. It almost felt illegal because I was so used to driving with my parents.” Getting her license has played a big impact on Margolis’s life. She has gained responsibility and maturity ever since. She picks her brother up from school and is able to hang out with friends more often. However, there is some sense of loneliness for Margolis. She often finds herself driving alone and wishing she spent more time with her parents. “I was so used to asking my parents for rides and I didn’t realize all the time I was taking for granted,” Margolis said. “Being able to drive to the places I used to go to with my parents feels nostalgic. The first place I drove was Target, but being alone in the store felt unreal. I’ve been dropped off places before, but now I am able to do things on my own time and I am given all this unspoken trust. ” There were many changes made in Margolis’s life after turning 16. Her family has been supportive of her the entire way and she is very thankful. Margolis is now almost 17, but she remembers her sixteenth birthday like it was yesterday. She isn’t one to have regrets, but looking back on her younger years, she wishes she would’ve done some things differently. “If I could go back in time, I would worry less about getting my license and more about enjoying my time being young,” Margolis said. “Once you turn 16, the years begin to fly by. Turning 16 was definitely a life-changing experience and it’s a birthday I will never forget.”



In December 2020, Karim Mohamed, a junior at CHS, left for Egypt. Mohamed, his two younger siblings and his parents were restless; it had been nearly ten months since Covid-19 swept through Michigan. So, with that, his mother took a break from college, and he and his entire family left home. One 13-hour flight later, Mohamed touched down in Egypt, expecting to stay only until the summer. However, after some of his family members became sick, the Mohamed’s extended their trip an additional six months.

In the year that he spent abroad, Mohamed split time between his maternal grandma’s home in Faiyum — one of the country’s oldest cities with a population of nearly four million people — and his paternal grandma’s house in Beni Suef, an agricultural town on the bank of the Nile River. “All of my family lives in this huge house,” Mohamed said. “It went from just five of us [in Ann Arbor] to 25 [in Egypt]. It was really fun, and I liked it a lot more.” In both places, he was surrounded by completely different — but familiar — social standards. Mo-

hamed, a fluent Arabic speaker, had visited Egypt twice before. Nevertheless, his most recent trip was full of weekend visits to Cairo and cultural surprises. “[Egyptians] are a lot more direct,” Mohamed said. “Here, people are nice about everything. If you’re doing something wrong, they’ll kindly tell you to fix it. There, they’ll directly tell you to stop, and not in a nice way. I had to get tougher skin to deal with all their comments.” More personally, Mohamed also saw this cultural difference play out at home. “Family is the most important thing,” Mohamed said. “My grandma, she’s obviously not a “woke” person. She says a lot of things that are kind of questionable, but no one says anything because we have so much respect for elders. Talking back is extremely offensive.” But between these constant adjustments and heated soccer games in 95-degree weather, Mohamed was ready to go home. “I was done,” Mohamed said. “I wanted to go back … I feel like Egypt isn’t really a place to live, for me at least … Even when I lived there for three years, I lived in an American neighborhood. I went to an American school. This time, I lived in the middle of an Egyptian city, and it was just completely different for me … I was ready to go back to my normal life. I had finished my driver’s license, but I haven’t gotten it yet, that sort of thing.” Regardless, Mohamed believes that Egypt has changed him for the better. “Before I left [for Egypt], I was a lot more insecure,” Mohamed said. “I would always overthink everything. When I came back, I was more confident. I knew that not everyone would be happy, but I’m gonna do the best I can. I don’t really care what happens after that.”

MOHAMED Feature | April 2022 | 45


Evers Baskey has lived the nightmare of calling your teacher mom. For him, however, it had slightly different connotations. Baskey’s mom is a teacher at Clague Middle School (CMS) and he was a student in her class during seventh grade. Having his mother as a teacher allowed Baskey to experience school in an entirely different context. “It opened me up to different perspectives,” Baskey said. “I was [witnessing] both sides of the class: both what I was doing and what the teacher was doing.” Baskey went to CMS because his mother wanted him and his brother to be in the same school as her. 46 | The Communicator Magazine

However, this meant that Baskey wasn’t going to school with any of the people he had grown up with, like neighbors and family friends. At first, Baskey felt disconnected from the people he was learning with, but being in his mom’s class helped to remedy that. “When my mom was a teacher, it was easier for me to talk about different things that I do,” Baskey said. “I was able to just be one person and not act differently at school than at home.” Although having his mother as a teacher helped raise his confidence, Baskey also remembers the awkwardness of this experience. One anecdote that stands out to

him is a time when he was trying to get his mother’s attention in the classroom. He didn’t want to call her Ms. Baskey, but he couldn’t call her ‘Mom,’ so he was at an impasse. Awkwardness aside, Baskey and his mother became closer as a result of her being his teacher. They were able to share funny experiences in and out of class, and being together all day gave them more time and space for each other at home. “There’d be a good moment in class and then that would become an inside joke between [my mom and I],” Baskey said. “It was just spending more time with my mom, which helped our relationship grow.”


DATHAN It is Dathan Austin’s birthday and he feels lucky to be in high school. All day, he has been greeted by waves and smiles and friends saying “happy birthday!” He feels accepted by those around him and loves spending time at CHS. However, this was not always true. Austin, a CHS sophomore, struggled throughout middle school and into the pandemic with feeling uncertain about who he surrounded himself with. Middle school in particular was difficult for Austin; He didn’t feel like he fit in with the boys, so he spent most of his time with the girls. Austin felt out of place in both groups, but still he was able to accept himself as he

was. “In middle school, not being accepted by people around me [really changed my perspective],” Austin said. “I was like, ‘Okay, I guess I’ll just live with the people who accept me, because that’s all I’ve got.’” Transitioning out of middle school, Austin was able to find people he truly connected with. High school brought with it a community of people that was similar to Austin, allowing him to learn more about his identity. Specifically, Austin realized more about his sexuality and explored his own definition of love. However, high school has not been a piece of cake for Austin. The

Covid-19 pandemic made school work extremely hard for Austin during his first year of high school. He struggled with completing his work and nearly failed his classes. He attributes this to a lack of socialization with his friends and peers. Coming back in-person helped Austin get his grades up. “I did a bunch of work [and] grinded [freshman year] out,” Austin said. “I’m doing work now, I’m not failing. I’m getting back on my grind.” Overall, Austin appreciates the small moments of friendship that he experiences in high school. “I found people that I connected with [and] I feel seen,” Austin said. Feature | April 2022 | 47


The discrepancy between CHS and Pioneer High School has become apparent to CHS senior Ava Lowen as she reflects on her time in high school. CHS’ curriculum and the block schedule create a unique environment that stands out in comparison to PHS. Her teachers and peers alike foster a welcoming and well-balanced sense of school and life. CHS brought Lowen some of her best friends through a pivotal experience that she had her freshman year on an overnight forum trip. At first, Lowen was not going to attend the trip because she didn’t know anyone and found herself lost in the preconceived notions of high school: cliquey friend groups, homework for hours at night, un48 | The Communicator Magazine

matched stress and not enough sleep. On that trip, Lowen remembers Matt Johnson, her forum leader until January, 2022, stressing the importance of branching out and not taking life too seriously. Johnson’s advice helped Lowen create friendships that have carried her throughout high school. “Once we got to the campsite, it was disgusting, cold and raining,” Lowen said. “We all pushed into one cabin, and we played games together. We talked as a whole class and it felt just like a safe space.” This forum trip up north helped Lowen gain confidence socially. As she interacts with a group of people, she now feels that she can be more open with new faces right

away. This has helped her to become more relaxed and outgoing. Johnson also helped Lowen structure her future goals and aspirations in a way that has pushed her to find out what she is truly interested in. One of her goals being to potentially pursue a career in the healthcare field. Without Johnson’s advice to split enroll at PHS and explore alternative classes that aren’t offered at CHS, Lowen wouldn’t have been able to discover her passion for classes in the health field. “Matt just really pushed us to focus on what we wanted to do,” Lowen said. “He never tried to tell us that there was one right way or one right path to take.” Lowen has also developed habits in high school that she will carry into the years to come. She tries to split her days into different pieces to make sure that she isn’t taking on more than she can handle. She reserves a few hours after school to get her homework done, but she tries to get the majority of it done during the day. At night, and on the days she isn’t at school she focuses her time and energy on extracurricular activities, spending time with her friends and family and getting things done for herself. High school has been a time of major change for Lowen, but she is proud of all of the things that she has learned. Johnson’s advice pushed her to find balance in her academics and social life. Being able to choose classes for her career at PHS and stay close to her support system at CHS has allowed her to feel satisfied in her high school experience. Although they are different, each has led her to a different part of her journey. “Coming out of high school, I am most proud of finding friends that inspire me to be my best self, and exploring my interest enough to understand what makes me feel fulfilled and happy,” Lowen said.


Allison Mayer is a firm believer in the bad being as important as the good. In second and third grade, Mayer learned the fundamentals of academics like everyone else. She also learned how a toxic friendship can camouflage itself. “When something bad happens to you, it really sticks,” Mayer said. Even at the ages of seven and eight, Mayer knew that she was not being treated kindly by another student. For a while, she viewed a girl in her grade as a friend and was able to brush off the painful jabs and violent spats. At the surface, this seemed like any other elementary school relationship. They played together on the playground, they sat next to each other in class

and even had play dates. After a while, Mayer came to the eye-opening realization that this was no friend of hers and was in fact her bully. “We were pretty close and then she started doing jerky things and I was like ‘okay, but she’s my friend,’” Mayer said. “Then after a year, I realized that this was not normal, this was not a friendship.” She began to be fed up with getting her lunch knocked off the table, being hit or having to brush burrs out of her hair after school. She realized that the friendship was growing increasingly more one-sided. At such a young age, Mayer was still learning what it takes to stand up for herself. She worried adults

wouldn’t listen or would disregard her complaints due to her age. She didn’t think that adults would be able to understand what she was going through or that they would even believe that she knew what bullying looked like. When she ultimately decided she had enough, she pushed past her fear and decided to open up to her parents about what had been happening at school. After the years of torment and working up the nerve to tell the adults in her life, Mayer was finally able to achieve peace. To this day she is grateful for the individuals in her life who listened to her and advocated for her, even in elementary school. “My parents helped me because they told the school and then I wasn’t in a class with her for the next few years,” Mayer said. “My teachers [allowed that to] happen so I appreciate that the relationships with the adults were good.” Mayer hopes that no one has to go through this kind of experience, especially at such a young age. However, she is unable to ignore the lessons this experience taught her. She fears that if it didn’t happen so early in life, she wouldn’t be able to say “stop” or “no” to someone today. “I’m glad that I can stand up for myself,” Mayer said. “I feel like now I can be like, ‘No, I’m not interested,’ or ‘That hurt my feelings.’” What stuck the most from having a second grade bully was being able to recognize a real friendship and knowing when to ask for help. Mayer didn’t know she was getting bullied when it happened. Now, nearly eight years later, she is able to acknowledge what a true friendship looks and feels like. Feature | April 2022 | 49



Contemplation and time away from screens gave Walden Jones-Perpich, senior at CHS, the space to change his habits. Jones-Perpich went on a backpacking trip for two weeks last summer with Outward Bound, a group that hiked through the Gore Range in Colorado, just outside of Silverthorne. One of the days brought about a unique experience that helped Jones-Perpich discover aspects of himself through the physical and mental toughness of the day. “We had a solo day,” Jones-Perpich said. “It is supposed to be a reflection-type day, because for 24 hours you are alone. I picked a camp spot away from everyone

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else… we weren’t allowed a book or anything.” This isolation made him realize that he had spent the better part of his life being distracted by his phone. Through pure boredom, he discovered that he often gets distracted by his phone and pulls him away from being in the moment. Re-joining the group after 24 hours alone helped him realize what changes he wanted to make to his own life; one of those changes was to live in the moment more. Being without electronics for two weeks helped him realize that his phone is not something that he should prioritize. The trip also helped him discover

valuing the difficult things that life presents. “[The trip] taught me a lesson about determination and finishing things even if you don’t want to do them,” Jones-Perpich said. “We were in the middle of the wilderness. There was no way to get out of what we were doing.” In the summer of 2022, Jones-Perpich plans to head back out to Colorado for another trip — this time it will be for 30 days. “This trip has helped me find motivation in pursuing the things that I love and find passion in,” Jones-Perpich said. “I can’t wait to go back.”



Freshman Meghan Pillote’s life -changing moment occurred in a matter of minutes. Pillote and her friend were having a sleepover, and they decided to climb out onto Pillote’s roof. It was around 3:00 a.m., and they wrapped themselves in a blanket to shield themselves from the February cold. It was dark and there were no cars; the atmosphere was peacefully silent. Pillote was suddenly hit with the realization that she was growing up. The sleepover was a few weeks after Pillote’s fifteenth birthday, and she had been grappling with getting older. Maturing brought anxieties over new responsibilities. “It was like, ‘I’m not in elementa-

ry school anymore, I’m not in middle school anymore,’” Pillote said. “What I do actually affects me.” When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Pillote lost connections with her middle school friends. “In quarantine, I didn’t have anyone, which really changed my mindset,” Pillote said. “But then, coming out of eighth grade, I made new friends and I started finding myself again.” Pillote’s new friends make her a better, more mature person. In middle school, Pillote wouldn’t have climbed out onto her roof, but she feels more comfortable with her friends now. Being with her friend on the roof helped her come to terms with be-

ing 15, as it was recently her friend’s birthday as well. Sitting with her friend reminded Pillote of their unspoken, yet shared experience. Before this night, Pillote pushed away the thought of getting older. She didn’t want to face the changes, pressures and drama that comes with being 15. After being hit with the realization a few times before, that night on the roof finally helped her accept it. “Before, [growing up] was kind of a sad thing that made me upset,” Pillote said. “But [at this sleepover] I was actually fine with it. I think it was because she was there. Because I realized, ‘I’m not in this by myself. Everyone else is going through this.’”

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Vara James, a CHS freshman, was diagnosed with cancer at nine years old. She had a Wilms tumor in her right kidney, a disease that mainly affects young children with malignant cancer cells. Her third-grade experience was forever changed. As a kid, James wasn’t able to interact with her classmates in the ways she wanted to; The treatment she was receiving greatly impacted her ability to fight off infection. “I didn’t feel normal because I would see my classmates play outside and I couldn’t go outside,” James said. “I couldn’t be in the classroom because my immune system was straight garbage.” Nine months after getting over her first bout of cancer, James became sick again, this time with the cells in her lungs. After surviving cancer two times, her total time in the hospital, through out-patient and in-patient treatments, lasted over 100 days. “I missed a lot of social stuff with students my age,” James said. “But I’m also an only child. So, I never was around kids too much, it wasn’t really that big of a deal. But, it was just a lot of hanging around adults and people who ask you stupid questions. Like, ‘How are you feeling?’ I’m like, ‘Well, let’s think about it. Yeah, sitting in a hospital bed. Feeling sick. Yeah, feeling great, actually.’” Through James’ days in the hospital, and during times of reflection, she found herself thinking about the fleeting nature of being alive. 52 | The Communicator Magazine

“Well, now that I’ve lived through this I can’t take life for granted anymore,” James said. “I see people doing stuff that limits their life on purpose. And they’re taking it for granted. I get a little upset because [they] don’t know what could happen. I basically got three years of my life just taken away.” James’ perspective on being alive changed her life. “I always say commit or quit,” James said. “It gave me courage to take more chances. Like applying to Community. I wasn’t actually going to do it in the first place, but then I was like, I want to do it. Why not?” James used the same mindset to reach out to celebrities like James Corden, eventually getting herself

onto his popular series “Carpool Karaoke” as a 12-year-old, and acting in commercials with Jim Harbaugh. “[It was] all really fun, but I would rather not have the deadly illness, but you know, pretty fun otherwise,” James said. “I’ve done a lot of fundraising, public speaking and stuff like that. [Those] opportunities prepared me for high school because now I can give presentations without being shaky or nervous.” Now that James is in her fourth year of remission, she hopes that others will take advantage of the good opportunities presented to them. “[It’s] so cliché, but live your life to the fullest,” James said.


Rebecca Westrate, CHS assistant dean, views her life in phases. According to her, she’s had three specific moments of growth: becoming an educator, an administrator and a mother. In all of these instances, Westrate relies on certain bedrock characteristics — independence, risk-taking, logic, common sense and boundary setting — that she learned as a child, growing up in a Dutch and Indonesian immigrant household. Westrate’s first bloom moment came as she briefly lived in South Africa, studying the country’s school systems. At 20 years old, she compared and contrasted the various cultures and, more specifically, the various pedagogical approaches. She split her time between a di-

verse boarding school and a township school and noticed differences in funding models, access to education and society’s perception of schooling. “I was young, just finishing school,” Westrate said. “I was in the first experience that no one could get me out of … What I did mattered and society functions very differently there. I had to understand, switch and read the situation. When you’re young, you tend to be impulsive or believe that the world is constructed the way your childhood world was constructed. That was the first time that [my reality] was really tested.” It was this experience that helped Westrate decide to become a teacher — and eventually an administra-

tor — instead of entering academia. After more than a decade pursuing her professional goals and working in various leadership roles, Westrate took a job at CHS as assistant dean in 2017. With the freedom of the school and the support of its staff, she was finally able to focus on a more personal identity: motherhood. Two summers later, she had her daughter, Francesca, through in vitro fertilization. In the time since, Westrate has loved raising her as a part of the CHS community. “You want your children to be around good people, so even in the pandemic, I don’t feel afraid to have her [at CHS],” Westrate said. “When I had her I think everyone came to visit, which was incredible. It’s a different side of my identity because of the role that other people now play in my life, because they can be a support system. That new relationship can be really hard to accept when you’re raised to be totally independent. This place allowed me to have the support I didn’t know I needed until I was here.” Feature | April 2022 | 53

Falling in love is a monumental moment in anyone’s life. It can lead to many things, including self-growth and heartbreak. But nobody can deny that love is not always an easy thing to tackle. Steve Coron, a fine arts teacher at CHS, would agree. Coron described the most life-changing moment in his life as when he met his wife. Coron has been married to his wife for 40 years and has children with her. “I finally found the person that I clicked and connected with,” Coron said. “I like the fact that my wife was an incredible artist and her family was a bunch of artists and musicians and really creative people. So I fell in love with her family.” Karie, Coron’s wife, was the rea-

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son he chose to stay in Ann Arbor instead of going back to his hometown in Northern Michigan. Eventually came the birth their kids, who Coron describes happily with a smile on his face as “big shits.” Coron went on to explain that commitment is often a scary thing that comes along when doing something life-changing, like marrying someone. “And I’ve noticed this has been harder for young folks like my kids,” Coron said, “To find that one person you want as your partner and someone you think you can be with as a partner your whole life.” Coron thinks that many instances of love come with trade-offs, sacrifices and reconciliation. “When you commit to someone,

you may think, ‘Okay, I need to know this about myself; I’m willing to realize this about myself; I might need to change this about myself to make this work,’” Coron said. “And when it’s easy, when you look at that person and go, ‘It’s easy for me to change for you,’ that is rare.” This is where Coron thinks the struggle to commit comes from for younger generations. “I always ask people, when they say they have a boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, I say, ‘Is it easy to be with that person?’” Coron said. “And sure, it takes a lot of work. You know, people say, you’ve been with me through thick and thin, through good and bad, all that. All those platitudes and it sounds hokey, but it’s true.” He describes, with a sparkle in his eye, his 40 years of marriage as: “not coming without its hardships. I had to quit drinking. Otherwise I would have lost my relationship with Karie. And it was an easy decision to make, but it was hard to do the work. It has always been easy with Karie and that’s part of the reason she has changed my life so much and continues to change my life.”

“In 1990 I made the decision to move down to Texas,” Kevin Davis said. Davis, a staple at CHS, did not always plan on working in the education system. In 1990 Davis dated someone who had a teaching job in Texas. He decided to follow her to Texas, changing the course of his life in a way that he did not anticipate. His plan was to finish his schooling with a Business Administration degree while he lived with her, but after a year and a half together, they broke up. Regardless, Davis decided to stay in Texas until ‘97, inevitably shaping him into the person he is today and leading him to the pivotal moment in his life; Davis’ decision to stay in Texas changed his life drastically. “It created more of an independence for me. I learned to rely on myself more — be more independent,” Davis said. Davis was met with many challenges to overcome, his hardest being finances. Davis didn’t have the luxury of being able to ask his family for financial assistance, nor did he want that luxury. “Every once in a while you can ask mom or dad for a couple bucks, I couldn’t do that,” Davis said. “I had to learn how to financially be independent, and I discovered myself that way. I had a lot of deep thoughts about what I was going to do, who I was going to be.” Between self-questioning and juggling how to become financially independent, Davis came to the realization that, despite him being all he had, he was all he needed. “The only person I could rely on

was either myself or the person I was dating, and we broke up,” Davis said. “I then came to the realization of ‘Oh hey, I’m on my own,’ and I discovered myself that way. I had made friends and did things here and there, but it was one of those things where I knew I had to know myself a lot better,” Davis said. Faced with self-reflection, Davis discovered himself. In doing so, it helped him establish things he normally would have never done, such as working with kids. Before Davis moved back to Michigan, he had no intentions of working with kids. Davis had gotten his business administration degree and worked for a company called Baby Superstore, traveling around the country open-

ing the stores. After the company was bought out and switched to Babies R Us, he realized he didn’t want to work for the company anymore and that there was nothing left for him in Texas. “You just get to the point where you decide it’s time,” Davis said. “When I decided to move back [to Ann Arbor], I started pursuing more educational purposes,” Davis said. “In time, I ended up here.” Shaping him into the man we know and love today, Davis’ decision to stay in Texas changed his life drastically. He still thinks about moving away again, but he will know when he’s ready to move again. At the moment, he isn’t. He loves CHS and what it has brought to his life.

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Everyone has defining moments that shape who we are, but how do they happen? As students, we push ourselves to create experiences that make us bloom, but in reality, those defining moments are often unintentional. STAFF EDITORIAL The theme of this edition is “Bloom.” We chose it as a gate to spring, an entrance to adulthood and a reflection of growth. As high schoolers, our lives are constantly changing and adapting to what our futures might be. Every moment shapes who we will become, but some influence us more than others. Regardless, no GPA, school award or varsity letter will be as defined as these “blossoming” moments. In five years, we won’t remember our SAT score or the AP classes that we pushed ourselves to take. As journalists, we have experienced many life-changing experiences through our writing, interviewing and leading. We spend hours talking to new people and digging into stories. These experiences are important; however, the moments that truly let us bloom have been when we let go of our preconceived notions and embrace uncertainty. 56 | The Communicator Magazine

Letting go is difficult, especially for high school students. We spend every day on a strict schedule, shuffling from class to class. We are supposed to be discovering who we are — we are constantly told this is the best time of our life — but we are given no time to spend on ourselves. High school students are expected to be “grinding” at all times. We must prioritize our school work, take the hardest classes available, focus on college and standardized testing and decide what we want to accomplish in our lives. This leaves no time to live in the moment or to let go, even for a second. Life-changing moments look different for everyone. For some people, it could be winning a Grammy, but not for most high schoolers. For us, it might be playing an instrument at a live show for the first time, sitting at a park watching squirrels run up and down the trees, talking to someone on the street you never would have

spoken to otherwise or just simply walking your dog. Although there are expectations for moments that influence how we view the world around us, it truly is not about the action. Instead, it’s about the experience that we live through. The experience allows us to grow into ourselves. After all, isn’t that what high school is really about? High school students deserve the space to not know what comes next and to not have everything planned out. This is the best way for us to grow with dignity and safety. We aren’t flowers, but we still have the ability to bloom if we are given resources, nutrients — emotional and physical — and a safe environment. Putting pressure on us to burst out of the dirt will never encourage us to let go, especially given that we are constantly pressuring ourselves, as well. In our cover story this edition, we hope to show the strength, grit and growth of people at CHS. We want to inspire others to step up and give something — anything — and everything they’ve got. We also hope to let people know that it’s okay to step back and take a

break. As high school students in 2022, there is pressure to be doing everything: APs, clubs, sports. There is no room for mistakes, for rest, for love. We are told to enjoy our teen years while they last, while held to the highest expectations for grades and extracurricular activities. This is not realistic for any high school students — especially not this year — when we are living through multiple global disasters and are constantly unsure of what to expect next. What is the end goal of the pressure that school and societal systems put on us? We hope to remind people of what bloom moments look like — and the struggles we may go through to get there. There is no one right way for your life to change, or for your perspective to focus. We are all made up of a different collection of small moments that join together to form our reality. High school, and life, can be both complicated and simple, emotional and monotonous. We are constantly working on bettering ourselves and our world, but we cannot force the moments that allow us to grow. Opinion | April 2022| 57





Social media’s influence on fashion trends is hurting our planet. BY GRACE WANG

Every time I open TikTok, a barrage of new fashion trends and copious amounts of clothing flood my For You Page. Influencers hold up each plastic-wrapped item of clothing, try it on and promote the new trends, many of which are unachievable for the average consumer: “$500 Shein Haul!” “What I got from the 60% off Princess Polly Black Friday Sale!” “Shop $10 Items All Day!” The House of Sunny “Hockney” dress first comes to mind when I consider the influencer effect on trends. The green-knit, swirled midi dress consumed my social media through the spring and summer of 2021. I remember seeing Kendall Jenner and other women with enviable lives on the internet wearing the dress, looking at the brand’s website and wishing I could afford the $130 piece. However, I was in luck! Shein, the popular fast-fashion brand offering perpetual sales and thousands of new items every week, had a replica. Once again, my feed was filled to the brim, but this time with dupes of the dress, from Amazon, YesStyle and other drop-shippers on Etsy and similar sites. Influencers used their unique and relatable platforms to review the off-brand items and provide handy links to purchase with just

a few clicks. It’s too easy. It happens too often. These lower prices draw in consumers, the brands use cheap, unethical labor to fast-track the design and creation process, harmful, unsustainable materials are woven into the trending style and items are shipped out within a few days. The traditional trend cycle no longer exists. Production in an average fashion house has just two seasons: spring/summer and fall/winter. And trends that used to last five to 10 years, defining decades with their construction, now last two to three months. The reign of microtrends has altered the landscape of fashion and created a damaging and unsustainable cycle for consumers to keep up with. To stay on-trend, they must keep buying and changing their wardrobes. Huge, platform-wide promotion by influencers of each trend boosts them into the mainstream and then wipes them out when something newer and more eye-catching hits the feed. Microtrends’ quick rise and departure from popularity leaves hundreds of garments unworn, unwanted and tossed out. As the trends die out, the pile of waste grows. These ultra-fast fashion brands take an enormous toll on our planet to sustain their role in trend cre-

ation. For the low prices offered on these websites, consumers can have a new, trendy wardrobe shipped to them overnight. Today, the current industry has doubled the amount of clothing produced compared to 2000. According to The Carbon Trust, for every five garments produced, three end up in the landfill or incinerated. The unmanageable amounts of cheap clothing that no longer fit consumers’ needs are swiftly thrown away as the next trend rises. While this continues to benefit the apparel industry, creating a profit of 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars in 2021 alone, according to, our environment can’t handle it. According to the Carborn Trust, an average t-shirt created in the current market is expected to be solely responsible for 15 kilograms of CO2 over its lifetime. Looking at the issue as a whole, fashion production accounts for 20% of water waste worldwide; from 2015 to 2020, approximately 22 million tons of microfibers are expected to be added to the ocean, and the industry must reach a sustainable energy target of 78% to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030, per the sustainable website Woolly Green. To continue at this rate is to set the future of our planet on fire. Opinion | April 2022| 59

R PR DUCT V JUST C FR M QU R W M N’S PERSPE TIV For decades, people with uteri have been fighting for the right to control their bodies with grace and dignity, including the right to have an abortion. What does this mean for queer women? BY RIA LOWENSCHUSS

I am a queer woman. I am in a relationship with a person who cannot get me pregnant and who is unlikely to give me STIs. I will not need to access abortion care, nor do I need hormonal birth control to prevent unintended pregnancy. I have never been to Planned Parenthood. But reproductive justice will always be my first and foremost fight. Recently, I started watching “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a dystopian show based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name. This story 60 | The Communicator Magazine

takes place in a world that forces fertile women to carry children for high-up men. In the second episode of the show, one of the main characters is brutally assaulted and subjected to female genital mutilation because she is a “gender traitor” — a lesbian. I could barely watch this scene through my tears. This woman, already oppressed simply because she has the ability to carry children, was forced to watch her lover murdered and her ability for pleasure

taken away. However, female genital mutilation is not uncommon. Both western countries like the United States, Canada and Britain, and eastern and African countries subject women to genital mutilation, which usually takes away people’s ability to experience pleasure. According to Equality Now, an organization dedicated to ensuring the rights and safety of women and girls throughout the world, about 513,000 women and girls have undergone or are at risk for female

A world in which women are controlled for their reproductive capacity will always bring with it a world in which sexuality is taboo. genital mutilation in the United States in 2022 alone. More than 200 million living women have been subjected to female genital mutilation, according to the World Health Organization. Reproductive control does not end there. Legal access to abortion is slowly being stripped away throughout the United States, with the Supreme Court upholding medieval laws like Texas’ ban on abortions after a heartbeat is identified. Laws like these are popping up across the country, and more like them already exist in state and local constitutions, although they are not in effect currently. If Roe v. Wade, the historic Supreme Court case that allowed access to abortion, is overturned, these laws could become policy yet again. A world in which women are controlled for their reproductive capacity will always bring with it a world in which sexuality is taboo. I cannot help but think of “The Handmaid’s Tale” when I am watching these events unfold in the news. Reproductive justice extends beyond abortion. It is defined by

three human rights: the right to not have children, the right to have children and the right to parent with respect in a safe environment. This affects all people, queer women especially. I have experienced reproductive control related to my queerness since I was in fourth grade, when I was diagnosed with ruptured ovarian cysts. I had a flare-up when I was twelve years old, after I had come out as gay, and the doctor asked my mother if we had considered birth control. My mother said no, and the doctor informed her not to worry, that the birth control would only be to control my hormones, and in fact, we could refer to it as hormone therapy instead of contraception. My mother and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. Neither of us were worried about me using contraceptives to prevent pregnancy — I was not having sex, and even if I was, I was in a relationship with a woman. There was no possible way for me to get pregnant. Even as a young person, I have

experienced being reduced to my reproductive capacities. I am only thought of as having the opportunity to have children — it is self-evident, a plot line waiting to happen. My sexuality is irrelevant when it comes to my body’s ability to reproduce. As a queer woman, though, I still want to have children. A key part of the definition of reproductive justice is the ability to choose when to have children, and to parent with dignity. I deserve the right to grow my family and have agency over my body, and to do so, I must fight for both reproductive and queer justice. Living in the world as it is today, it is more important than ever to continue the fight for reproductive justice in the United States and around the world. And it is not a solitary fight. The only way we can preserve reproductive justice — our right to decide when and how our bodies function, our right to parent with respect and with dignity — is if we fight hand-in-hand. Queer women should be just as dedicated to this fight as anyone else. Opinion | April 2022| 61

I urge students and teachers to keep reading, the old and the new, the favored and the out of favor. A teacher’s job is to help students confront new ideas and experiences, not avoid them.

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Guest essayist, and former CHS English teacher, Judith DeWoskin on the importance of trust. BY JUDITH DEWOSKIN

Over 33 years ago, when I began at CHS, the dean made clear the core identity of CHS. It was to focus on trustful student-teacher relationships, enabled by allowing teachers to design their own curriculum and students to choose from a wide range of content and ways to study it. We were in the bookroom on the first floor; she was both showing me what we had and asking me what I wanted. Wanted? Why then not teach my two favorite books: Maxine Hong-Kingston’s “The Woman Warrior” and Ken Kesey’s “Sometimes a Great Notion”? It’s telling now to look back on those two choices. “The Woman Warrior” demonstrates my early interest in Hyphenated American authors; the other shows my lack of smart timing as Kesey’s work is a rip-roaring ride but too long to include in an 18-week course. What’s critical is that I was always allowed and encouraged to make choices, changes and curricular decisions. As years went by, I changed American Literature radically. I took out authors I loved (or loved teaching) but realized there were others as important or more current. I had to accept that when you add, you have to subtract to keep your course load manageable. For example, removing “The Grapes of Wrath” was a big step. Steinbeck’s heart was in the right place. He was concerned about migrant workers, unfair labor practices and starvation during the Great Depression. His treatment of women was imperfect to say the least. I simply swapped him out, but not out of disrespect. Taking his place were Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between The World And Me,” James Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son,” Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” and Jacqueline Woodson’s “Brown Girl Dreaming.” Change was exciting. I didn’t just change titles for American Literature. I designed a semester of Hyphenated American Literature that featured authors with roots in two cultures: Irish American, African American, Chinese American, Haitian American and more. And, in my last year, I taught my version of Women’s Literature, featuring mostly dead and living Black and white authors. That is a brief history of teaching at Community. We were given the freedom to bloom afresh, over and over, and a fresh bloom is always super lovely. One lesson here is that these blooming changes were made by me, not dictated by political pressure, right or left. There were standards of course, and standards have a place. Consistency has its value. But like the perennial horse designed by a committee, which is a camel, too much standardization and prescription about what happens in the classroom deflates everyone’s passion for the material and deprives students and teachers of the best parts of the student-teacher relationship: the building of mutual understanding, the engagement of genuine current interests and the

human need for honest and uniquely individualized personal interaction and trust. When the school system and administrators allow these “best parts,” teachers thrive and bloom with each lesson taught. Students feel that and engage deeply. We all know about “the teachable moment,” an unpredictable magical moment that flips a teacher’s lesson in the air only to land in some other important and relevant place. It validates students’ input. It puts smiles on faces and makes everyone smarter. This “allowance” given to teachers and students is what makes great education possible. The trust and freedom to develop curriculum over the years brought our department together. We crafted core classes while admiring the work we each did individually for others. A favorite part of every new school year was when our chair asked us to talk about what books we had enjoyed over the summer. Our tastes were diverse, and the respect and affection we had for each other was profound. Our courses were not legislated 100 miles away, though there were always standards that we followed. It is concerning, even alarming, to read about current legislation that would require teachers to present all lessons, quizzes, assignments and field trips to some higher authority on day one for our 32 Ann Arbor schools with some 18,000 students. What does that say about trust, in both students and teachers, in their commitment, motivation, ability and intelligence? Curricular control by administrators and politicians is not an answer. I urge students and teachers to keep reading, the old and the new, the favored and the out of favor. A teacher’s job is to help students confront new ideas and experiences, not avoid them. That creates the ideal student experience. What do we do with events, ideas, or even people we disagree with or even abhor? Spring blooms follow challenging winters. Read would-be banned books to understand the contexts in which they were written; try to understand their authors’ intentions, their flaws and how in so many ways we think differently today. Read “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. His take on book-banning is terrifyingly relevant and smart. He understood that engaging with people, ideas, language and books that we do not agree with will strengthen our own deepest beliefs, not pollute them. Throughout life, we experience pleasant and unpleasant things. From the pandemic we gained as well as lost. I believe the pandemic, with its lockdowns and isolation, has amplified and clarified the great strengths of CHS’s identity: the value of personal relationships, a flexible, and responsive scope of ideas and educational activities and a nurturing of personal freedom balanced with a strong sense of personal responsibility. These are the keys to developing confidence, capability, creativity and leadership, for both students and teachers, whose love of content and each other nurtures the blooms. In short, CHS has always strived to create a more perfect community, within and around its sturdy and now renovated air-conditioned brick walls. In the bookroom, with our dean so long ago, that was the offer. Its importance, if anything, is even greater today. Opinion | April 2022| 63

AGREE TO Schools are forcing students to wake up before sunrise to go to class, hurting our mental and physical health. BY ANJALI KAKARLA

I sit, half-asleep in my second hour class. The teacher has been lecturing for the last 20 minutes, but I haven’t heard a word. My eyes are heavy and my mind is foggy. I know that my homework will take twice as long tonight, but I can’t bring myself to focus. I’m too tired. As a sophomore in high school, I’ve become used to this feeling. Every morning, I struggle to get out of bed and start the day. Instead of feeling energized, I wake up drowsy and exhausted. I’m not alone. The GENYOUth Foundation found that 74% of high school students identified as sleep-deprived. Notably, a majority of students, 63%, recommended delaying school start times. Administrators are forcing students all over the country to wake up before the sun has risen to go to school, causing our mental, emotional and physical health to suffer. The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that students who receive the recommended amount of sleep — approximately 8.5 to 9.25 hours — have improved memory, less difficulty paying attention, better control over their emotions and an easier time staying awake during class than their sleep-deprived peers. Furthermore, the APA reports that insufficient sleep increases the likelihood of disciplinary issues and classroom conflict. Just a 55-minute delay in the start time caused students at one Seattle school to have improved attendance, decreased tardiness and higher grades. This is not just teenagers whining about going to 64 | The Communicator Magazine

school early. According to a study by Michigan Medicine, biological sleep patterns change when humans enter adolescence, causing teenagers to both wake up and fall asleep later than when they were younger. Thus, there is evidence that teenagers need delayed school start times in order to get adequate sleep due to our changing biological sleep patterns. Critics dispute this overwhelming evidence by citing issues such as the cost of transportation as well as the reduced time for extracurriculars and sports. However, I argue that officials should prioritize the potential benefits for students when determining policy instead of looking at possible economic costs. Even though delayed start times does mean a delayed release time for schools, which affects extracurriculars and sports, there are advantages of delayed start times for sports as well. A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics found that student athletes who received less than eight hours of sleep each night were 1.7 times more likely to experience a sports injury than student athletes who slept the recommended amount. The study also found that the likelihood of injury increased for sleep-deprived athletes as they entered higher grade levels. Although delaying school start times may cause an increased cost for transportation and reduced time for extracurriculars and sports, these minor inconveniences are worth it to ensure students get enough sleep and are able to feel rested and safe during the day.

DISAGREE Delaying school start times would create unnecessary disruptions for working families and after-school activities. BY SERENA O’BRIEN

For almost the entirety of the spring of 2020, I had no reason to get out of bed. In fact, as a general rule, I didn’t. I typically spent the first two hours of my day laying in bed with my phone or a book. If I wasn’t in my bed, I had probably dragged myself down the hallway to chase the sunny spot to the couch. I wouldn’t say the experience was objectionable; in fact, if I could be curled up in a sun-kissed ball at all times, I assuredly would be. However, I also got approximately nothing done for the first three hours of every day. There is an argument to be made for sleeping in. Many teenagers might cite circadian rhythms, but the unspoken motivation is more selfish. It’s simply easier to lay in a warm bed than it is to get out of it. Delaying the start time of school would definitely allow for more comfort on a cold winter morning, but it would be unlikely to solve any of the issues that we typically associate with the current school start time. I understand that many high schoolers don’t get an adequate amount of sleep. Amid the flurry of homework, extracurriculars and socialization, not much time is left for sleep. I myself have been guilty of staying up too late and reaping the consequences in the morning, but I find it difficult to believe that an extra hour or two in the morning would have changed anything. In fact, when I know that I can sleep in the next morning, I just stay up later. I could have my contacts out and my retainer in and still completely backtrack from the concept of “bed” upon hearing that school is canceled. No

matter what time students have to get up, the majority of us are likely to sleep until the last minute. Furthermore, pushing back the start of the school day will only cut into student’s valuable after-school time, particularly in terms of daylight. If we were to push the school start time just an hour later, students participating in outdoor sports would lose practice and game time. By adding more time in the morning, we would be taking away time in the afternoon — highly utilized time for many students. Changing the start time could also pose an often overlooked problem for many families. In many households — particularly those with children and working parents — scheduling can be difficult. My parents, for example, drop me off at school on their way to work. If the start time is delayed, a transportation issue would arise. For me, the problem is solvable, but for families with younger children or single-parent households, significant conflicts could arise. Not to mention, families with students in different school districts would encounter more problems as the current start time tends to be approximately the same nationwide. Our current school start time is not exceptionally harmful, and the minor inconveniences it poses do not warrant inviting further issues by overhauling our schedule. An extra hour in bed is not worth uprooting the historical school start time, particularly when that extra hour would not necessarily change anyone’s sleeping patterns. It surely would not change mine. Opinion | April 2022| 65

Why is anxiety surrounding math so common, and what can be done to change it? BY MAGGIE WOLF


I cleared the stack of papers off my desk. As sixth hour grew nearer, I felt more and more sick to my stomach. 10 minutes later, I sat down, tied my hair back, got out my calculator and opened Schoology to begin my math test. I had not always felt this anxious about math tests. In fact, as someone who does Sudoku for fun and is considering majoring in math in college, I have always thought of myself as a strong math student. I love applying my knowledge to solve increasingly complex problems, untangling webs of numbers and variables. Why then, as a junior in high school, did my whole world grind to a halt each time I had to take a Calculus BC test? This type of testing anxiety is common among high school students. According to Mayo Clinic, test anxiety is a performance-based type of anxiety, characterized by intense “feelings of worry and self-doubt.” Such feelings can interfere with academic performance and lead to further mental health struggles. While test anxiety is not exclusive to any single class or area of education, it is extremely common when dealing with math. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, approximately 93% of adult US-Americans indicate that they experience some level of math anxiety. This is also most common among female students. Like many of my peers, I tended to attribute my own math anxiety to the high-pressure testing environment of our class. After 60 minutes, finished or not,

Changing Narratives: Math Anxiety and Why it’s so Common

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we had to submit tests composing a majority of our grade. With complex material and AP-style problems, this inevitably generated stress. However, the environment alone does not explain why math anxiety is such a widespread issue, nor how to approach finding its solution. For many students, stress associated with math begins very early in life. If a student struggles to learn foundational material or is surrounded by negative stereotypes, such as girls being worse at math, they may begin to lose confidence, labeling themselves as “bad at math.” This mentality sticks, and when they reach higher levels of math, they lack confidence and experience anxiety when faced with pressure-filled testing situations. I believe that removing the “bad at math” label is an important step toward easing this anxiety. Encouraging and supporting students from the very beginning may make them more likely to pursue higher levels of math education in the future without having their performance impeded by test anxiety. Giving students confidence takes math off its pedestal of difficulty and stress, making comprehension and mastery of the material feel attainable. Making changes to the actual testing environment may also help to relieve anxiety. The aspect I often found most stress-inducing about Calculus tests was the time constraint always looming over my head. While simulating the time pressure of an AP exam is important, it may also prevent students from demonstrating the full extent of their knowledge on tests. Especially in non-AP classes, relieving some degree of time pressure might also relieve anxiety. It is true that competition and high expectations can drive greater levels of achievement in all academic areas, including math. However, this environment is not necessary for students learning math in high school. At this stage of learning, the focus should be on comprehension rather than competition or the speed with which students can complete problems. Changing the narrative surrounding math may even encourage students who don’t plan to pursue a career in the STEM field to expand their knowledge by studying higher level math. The buzz in the halls on Calculus test days and the stress I felt each time I clicked “Begin assessment” might be eased if students study math in an environment that prioritizes their understanding. As with all other classes, anyone can learn and excel in math with dedication and guidance.


Sexual Health Education Should Empower Teens Current health class curricula are failing to empower teens with the comprehensive information they need. BY SANA SCHADEN

If you are a teenager living in America, you deserve better access to education surrounding your body and sexual health. Although most teens across the U.S. do take a health class over the course of high school, the content of this class varies based on state-by-state laws. For example, Michigan’s health curriculum fails to emphasize the importance of sex education by creating laws that obstruct teachers from providing all-encompassing, medically-accurate information, and instead, requiring them to follow restrictions regarding the content that is taught. In Michigan, sex education laws require health teachers to emphasize the practice of abstinence while discussing topics like birth control and contraception, if they choose to include sex education in their curriculum at all. Most do. However, sex education should be a required element in all high school health courses, because withholding this information is both unethical and unsafe. Educators are not allowed to discuss or even mention abortion as a form of family planning, which places unnecessary restrictions on content that teens need access to. According to the Michigan Department of Education, school districts are required to teach about the risks of HIV and AIDS. However, they are not required to teach about sex education in general. Parents and guardians have the right to opt out of this education on behalf of their children, which is extremely harmful to the child’s development and understanding of their own bodies. Putting laws in place that encroach on educators’ ability to provide this information is extremely harmful because it puts teens at higher risk of pregnancy and STIs. Even when schools teach their students about sex, teachers are required to emphasize abstinence as a method of preventing pregnancy. Although the goal

is to keep students from having sex in the first place, the result is teens having unsafe sex because they are not able to access contraception or STI treatment and testing. As a Peer Educator for Planned Parenthood of Michigan, I spent over 60 hours in training to present contraception and LGBTQ+ topics to teens. This role has given me a first-hand understanding of sexual topics where teens lack knowledge. For example, many of the students I have taught about contraception and LGBTQ+-specific topics lack empathy or acceptance towards other people’s right to make their own sexual health decisions and choose their own partners. When I say that sex education is important, I mean much more than teaching kids the simple analogy of birds and bees. Sex education is only as valuable as the content that is taught within the curriculum. In order to teach safe sex that promotes healthy relationships, students need to be taught about consent. According to Teach Consent, over half of all rapes against women occur before the victim is 18 years old. 22% of these rapes occur before the victim reaches the age of 12. The only way to prevent further sexual violence is to teach consent in a comprehensive manner early on. When I say early, I do not mean by the end of high school, when you are forced to take a semester of health in order to fulfill graduation requirements. I mean that we need to teach young people about their bodies as early as elementary school. Conversations about consent in non-sexual contexts allow children to learn boundary-setting skills. By providing teens with reliable resources from the time they enter high school, we are equipping them with the tools necessary to keep themselves safe and healthy. Education is most powerful when it is both comprehensive and empowering. Opinion | April 2022| 67


As a child, I had two specific, recurring dreams. One was pleasant. One was a nightmare. The nightmare is the one that I cannot forget. It started like any normal dream. I was at the park with my mom — a short walk from my old home — on a beautiful, sunny day. But there were two twin girls, similar to “The Shining,” with perfect little pigtails. My mom was watching over us on the park bench until I crawled through a rainbow tube. When I exited from the other side, the world was an eccentric, abnormal place. I was in the same park, on the same day, but it was no longer beautiful nor sunny. It was gloomy and overcast. My surroundings resembled a scene straight out of a horror film. But the part that truly terrified me was the disappearance of my mom’s face, replaced by an ominous, white mask with only the eyes and mouth visible. I knew that it was her because the figure 68 | The Communicator Magazine

was clad in the black zip-up hoodie that my mom always wore. The two twins were dressed in matching Wednesday Addams outfits. Why I kept having this dream is something I can’t figure out. I had this nightmare once, maybe twice, a year up until middle school, but I haven’t had the dream since. The odd part is that I was not growing up in the dream. I remained eternally five years old. Some part of me always wonders if it’s going to come back. Maybe in a new form with new people. It’s been a few years since I’ve had this dream, four to be exact. But I still remember everyone looking at me as if I were a ghost. I tried talking to the twins, to my mom, and yet there was no response, just long, eerie stares. Then silence, until everyone started chasing me. I ran and ran and ran until I woke up. Why they were chasing me, I was never able to find out.

Many people, myself included, think that dreams are an ode to our subconscious. Maybe this was a fear of mine manifesting itself in the form of a nightmare? I was a child: What big fears could I have had? I was afraid of not fitting in, public speaking, letting people down. Being chased through a playground, never knowing where I was going to end up, could fall into any one of those categories. As I grew older, my environment, my friends and my surroundings all changed. But the fears I had still stayed with me. I was more afraid of letting down my parents instead of my friends. I was more afraid of saying the wrong thing as opposed to messing up a word while reading aloud. As I grew into my identity, I was afraid that as a biracial female I was never going to fit in. I guess these fears became more normal as I grew up, considering my dream hasn’t returned. But never knowing where I was going to end up, that’s what haunts me the most.


I sat in my parents’ bed, curled under their covers. I liked to think that they felt like the clouds would if I had the ability to fly high into the sky and wrap myself up in its cotton-candy feel. But that was a childhood dream, meant to be forgotten. My mother wrapped her arms around my trembling body, pulling me into her warmth. My face was wet with tears and my nose couldn’t decide between being stuffy or runny. As my mother stroked my hair — trying to soothe me — I tilted my head at an angle that allowed me to see my father’s face, which was impossible to read. “Oh Ads, you’ve always been my little Peter Pan,” my mother said, barely over a whisper. The nickname was scattered throughout my childhood, but in that moment, understanding exploded within me, shocking me with the obvious truth I had learned to fear. The truth was apparent in the way I was, even with a simple comparison between me and my younger brother. As children,

late at night, we would lay awake in our shared bedroom. I would listen to him chatter about the plans for his future that consumed his thoughts and dreams. I had plans as well, but as I matured with age, I came to understand my plans were those of fiction. I could not shape and mold mine into my future the same way my brother could with his. I could not fly away to Neverland. My mother’s comforting hand had stopped stroking my hair. I continued to stare at the white comforter — my childhood clouds. I could feel their eyes on me, searching. I heard my dad clear his throat, but I refused to look up. I already knew what he was going to say. “There’s no way to prevent growing up,” my father said, breaking the silence I had settled into. Anger rushed through me, spreading like lava and burning my skin with strong emotion. I was angry that he felt the need to tell me this, angry that he thought I hadn’t heard it enough, angry that there were no signs of comfort in his words, angry that I couldn’t change

the truth. But soon, the anger began to melt away. The lava dissolved from my skin, leaving behind the little scars of my childhood that would soon come to an end. I could not protect my five year old self from her fear of maturing, from being forced to leave her fantasies of Neverland behind. My mother’s hand had begun to stroke my hair again, reminding me that I was not alone. Somewhere during the time I had been trapped in my mess of thoughts, my father had sat down across from where my mother and I sat huddled together. I allowed myself to breathe. It felt almost forced, like I hadn’t taken a single breath during the time I had been sitting here, staring at my childhood clouds. My eyes shifted to my father’s hand that now rested on my knee – his way of showing he was there. My eyes returned to the comforter, my forgotten Neverland. “I guess sometimes even Peter Pan has to grow up,” I said, almost chuckling. I had come to an agreement with myself that I could not prevent the inevitable. It was time to leave Neverland and my beloved Peter Pan behind. Opinion | April 2022| 69

The Search For Perfection As high school students narrow down their college application list, stress intensifies as they seek to find the “dream school“ that doesn’t exist. BY LUCY CASSELL-KELLEY AND FELICITY ROSA-DAVIES

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As I waded through the swamp of college admissions, I realized that I didn’t have a dream school. Like so many of my peers, I felt the pressure of finding a university that would suit my interests in every way. But after months of researching colleges all over the world, I didn’t find any school that checked every box for me. This was initially daunting, but it quickly provided a sense of relief; without having a dream school to discover, there was no standard to reach in finding my future college. I could set my own standards for myself. Despite this personal realization, I found that few of my peers felt the same. As my college application stress levels lowered, my classmates’ increased. They continually searched for their dream school to no avail. Why? Because they don’t exist. Realizing this, I began to wonder, who is setting this ingenuine standard in high schoolers to find their “perfect school,” and how can it be undone? This misconception stems from the idealization of elite universities. As attending college has become more standard, students seeking high-rate education look toward universities with incredibly selective admissions. Top universities have become frequently sought after, making incredibly low acceptance rates commonplace. Applicants can get stuck researching rigorous universities that have a history of elitism, but attending a prestigious university does not always guarantee success or happiness. Suniya Luthar, a psychologist and professor at Arizona State University, studied the stress put on students attending Ivy League schools. Through her research, Luthar found that Ivy students rank two to three times higher than the national average for anxiety, depression and substance abuse. Attending a highly ranked school such as an Ivy does not ensure top achievements — idealizing specific schools makes universities unattainable and hyper-competitive. This competitiveness bleeds into the universities as enrolled stu-


dents feel the pressure to succeed, leading to burnout and exhaustion. Growing up in Ann Arbor, there is even more pressure to attend a prestigious post-secondary school. This pressure creates an atmosphere of intense competition among students who plan to attend university. While this competition allows some students to thrive, it can also breed anxiety and an unhealthy obsession with peer comparison. Students have a warped view of the importance of a collegiate experience, making the facade of the supposed “dream school” increasingly vivid. According to Signature College Counselors, the acceptance rates of the top 50 universities have dropped by nearly 40% since 2006. Top colleges have never been more difficult to attend, and the number of applications these schools receive grows every year. In the competitive environment of college admissions, many applicants are deferred and rejected from top universities — a common reality for many applicants, but one that can have a devastating effect on a student’s confidence and mental health. With the pressure of attending a top college, students are often set up for disappointment before they even begin the admissions process. The intense stress placed on applicants stifles individuality; each year more students apply to the same top universities in the country, narrowing their view of what would be considered a successful college education. If less pressure were placed on students to be accepted to prestigious, overly competitive universities, deferments and rejections would carry less weight. As the “dream school” search continues, extracurricular activities are a necessity for a strong college application — they allow admissions boards to get a sense of what the prospective student does in their free time and where their passions lie. Despite this, genuine interest in classes and extracurriculars has been lost in the effort of padding a college application. Sue Rexford, the director of col-



lege guidance at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, says that it is not necessary for students to list 10 activities in their application. “No college will expect that a student has a huge laundry list of extracurriculars that they have been passionately involved in for an extended period of time,” Rexford said in an email with U.S. News. Like extracurricular activities, final-year courses and priorities become pivotal for impending applicants: instead of taking high school classes that would further support a student’s personal interests, many high schoolers enroll in rigorous classes solely for the sake of enhancing their college application. This is why the college admissions process is so anxiety-inducing for students: not only are they tasked with a plethora of schools to research and supplementals to write, but many applicants enroll in challenging courses for the sake of college prep that causes more stress than enjoyment. If high school seniors had a classload that accurately reflected their personality and interests to colleges, there would be less pressure to get into top-tier post-secondary schools. Additionally, missing out on important parts of teenage socializing and relaxing during high school is common among overachieving students. Attending to basic needs like sleep, eating and mental health in addition to a variety of extracurriculars and challenging courses is nearly impossible to balance. A survey from the Princeton Review, “Student Life in America,” found that 50% of high school students reported feeling burnt out and stressed. The obsession with scholarly perfection among high school students is overwhelming and unhealthy as students push themselves to exhaustion. There is no perfect application, just like there is no perfect school. As soon as we let go of the idea that there is a flawless school that is meant for us, we let go of the idea of perfection. Our advice to current and future college applicants is to keep this in mind throughout the application process. Opinion | April 2022| 71

An Unachievable Standard

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Will I ever be perfect? Should I keep going? Am I enough? Just stop. Give up.

How the idea of being perfect is unachievable and wrecks personal standards of those trying to do their best. BY MADISON BELL PHOTO BY CHRISSY KUIPER

As an older sister and a first daughter, I have felt the pressure to perform and be the best that I can – in anything and everything I do. The pressure to be perfect. Given the highly competitive nature of today’s society, being “perfect” is average, and if you’re not there, get better. In third grade, my parents placed me into Kumon, an extracurricular program that helps sharpen math and reading skills as young as three. The program requires participants to attend weekly center visits and complete four to five pages of practice each day. Doing worksheet after worksheet every morning before school set a pattern and standard for school work. I had to overachieve to perform well, academically. After three years of Kumon, my math and reading skills were well above my grade’s requirements. I began taking classes meant for those who were grades ahead of me. As a freshman in high school, I was placed into Algebra 2, a class normally meant for sophomores and juniors. I was integrated into a learning community of students one or two years older than myself, and I was expected to have the same maturity level and skill. These classes set me up for a lifestyle where I was expected to be at the top of my class and excel in everything that I did. For the longest time, I thought I had to achieve this notion of perfection. No matter what I did, it had to be perfect. I gave 200% on everything I did, even when putting in half of that energy would have sufficed. Once I embarked on this perfectionist way of thinking, it was hard to stop. I thought of myself only in terms of a successful student, role model and perfect daughter. But after years

of this mindset, it got harder and harder to maintain, and I started negatively viewing myself: “You’re not good enough.” “You don’t matter.” “Stop trying, you aren’t perfect.” Getting perfect grades, maintaining a perfect GPA and having perfect test scores was everything to me. I adopted an all-or-nothing aproach, instead of rationing where I should put my brain power. It wasn’t until months into the pandemic, weeks of wondering if my life meant anything and hours spent with my therapist that I realized the problem was never with myself but with the standards I had set. Perfection is unachievable. If you ask anyone, their definition of perfection will be a little different. Mine was being the best, being at the top of the class and never failing at anything. While it is healthy for people to have their own definitions, it makes it difficult for those holding themselves to this standard to fully understand what they are supposed to achieve. The Oxford Dictionary definition of perfection is “the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects,” but I know now that making mistakes is at the very core of being human, and you’ll never be flawless. The very concept of perfection and the concept of humanity contradict each other. To be human and to have flaws means that you can never be, by definition, perfect. Although it was a long time of trying to maintain the notion of perfection, I finally know my limits and have stopped holding myself to the unachievable standard of perfection. Opinion | April 2022| 73

Why Do We Need Religion? An evangelical Christian argues that religion gives us purpose through communities, values and rituals. BY SEBASTIAN OLIVA

Nowadays, it’s tough to defend religion. Respect for it has pared in almost every corner of modern life – especially among a younger demographic. According to Pew Research, millennials’ faith in religious institutions is weaker than ever before. There are good reasons for discontent: continued chronic abuse by clerics, campaigns against “infidels” and Christian hostility toward diversity and secular culture. To the typical “non-believer,” all this looks to be irrational and therefore unacceptable. After all, religion needs to align with rational evidence and scientific knowledge, right? Wrong. In fact, I argue that its irrationality may even be the fundamental source of its power: a way for humans to understand themselves and the world. I will first define religion and its applications in the real world. I believe religion means living a spiritual life that is morally and inherently virtuous. To me, religion is an organized system of beliefs designed to facilitate closeness to the transcendent or foster an understanding and responsibility to live together in a community. I practice my spiritual principles — or faith — because I believe that the word of God or the devotion to a higher power can lead to inner contentment. However, what we get wrong about faith, it seems, is our approach to believing. Often, individuals try to convince themselves of a transcendent power the same way they would convince themselves of new scientific findings. I don’t think this is the right standard. Instead, we should measure religion by the meaning it gives to our lives. A primary source of meaning that religion creates is found in its communities, including places of worship and study groups. For a millennia, connection and community have allowed us to bring out our true selves. Adherence to other people enables us to bring out who we are meant to be. Without this commitment, we lose something about

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ourselves. These religious communities develop culture, too. Religion cannot be a self-contained area of culture, nor indifferent to other cultural developments. It helps to create traditions and knowledge that span generations and geographies. There is ample evidence that religion is positively related to high levels of subjective well-being. According to Professor Daniel Mochon at Tulane University, religion can result in positive emotions, high self-esteem and psychological traits like compassion and altruism. Social science-based evidence from the Mayo Clinic corroborates Mochon’s claim, saying “Most studies have shown that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes, including greater longevity, coping skills, and health-related quality of life (even during terminal illness) and less anxiety, depression, and suicide.” I always wondered whether my happiness derived from an external source or a higher power. As a spiritual and religious individual, I asked myself if my devotion and sacrifice towards a transcendent or divine power brought me this satisfaction. I have realized it did. As we are currently facing the obstacles of a global pandemic, people need communities to feel they are a part of something larger than themselves and share the experience with other human beings. Being a part of a community is the most important aspect of joining a faith. Humans need a place where we feel we sincerely belong. We seek to belong in like-minded communities. When we are engaged in the life of a congregation, it helps make our lives richer. Religion and faith are more than just a claim to moral virtue or a belief in God. It is aligning yourself with the divine, believing and swearing allegiance to it.

The World in Lines BY MIA WOOD

“We never asked to be rescued.”

“Put Ukraine’s successful declaration of independence to an end.”

In 1991, Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union, leaving Russian president Vladimir Putin, with a bitter feeling; Russia’s power and influence was slipping away. Putin has a deep-rooted feeling of Russian superiority. For centuries, Russia has tried to subdue Ukraine by policy and law that would suppress language and culture. Russia has also used other forces such as invasion. Putin has a goal of putting Ukraine’s successful declaration of independence to an end. During his attack on Feb. 24, 2022, Putin told Russia’s people that his goal was to “demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine” in order to rescue those who have been subjected to bullying and genocide by Ukraine government; yet there are no Nazis nor genocide in Ukraine. Russia has imposed brutal force on Ukraine. Putin clearly doesn’t have a motive to “rescue” any of Ukraine’s people from the Ukrainian government. Through the years of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, it’s safe to say that the people of Ukraine have only been endangered and torn apart from their families. Despite Putin’s absurd actions and words, Ukraine will continue to fight for their independence. Opinion | April 2022| 75

Ukraine & Russia: A Timeline

Fraudulent presidential election

Viktor Yanukovich returns to power

Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian candidate, was elected president in the fraudulent 2004 Ukrainian presidential election. This sparked protests from supporters of his opponent, pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko. This movement was later referred to as the Orange Revolution. On Dec. 3, 2004, The Supreme Court ruled that the election was invalid and ordered a runoff. Viktor Yushchenko earned 52% of the votes; although Yushchenko legitimately won the election, he and Yanukovich continued to vie for influence throughout his presidency.

By 2010, Yushchenko had lost his popularity among Ukrainian citizens. He was replaced by the winner of the 2010 election, formerly-deposed Yanukovych. Months after his election, Yanukovych made a deal with Russia to extend their use of Ukraine’s port in Sevastopol from 2017 to 2042. In return, Ukraine got a reduced price on Russian natural gas. Yanukovych then abandoned Ukraine’s plans to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which furthered his relationship with Russia.




The Budapest Memorandum is signed After the Soviet Union fell, its extensive nuclear arsenal was inherited by four newly independent states: Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia. The United States did not want any new nuclear states to emerge from the collapse of the USSR, so the Budapest Memorandum was created. This agreement was signed on Dec. 5, 1994 by the United States, the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation, assuring Ukraine that they were recognised as a sovereign state with their existing borders. Ukraine was also promised that threats or violence would not be used against them. Although Ukraine was hesitant to disarm themselves, they agreed and turned over their nuclear arsenal (which was the third largest in the world) to Russia to be dismantled.


Russia’s recent war against Ukraine has left the world wondering, “Why?” A brief look at recent history reveals it may be more complex than it seems.

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The Soviet Union collapses In early Dec. of 1991, the leaders of three Soviet Socialist Republics – Belarus, Russia and Ukraine – signed an agreement to dissolve the Soviet Union (USSR). Weeks later, on Dec. 25, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev, then leader of the USSR, resigned and the USSR collapsed, relinquishing totalitarian control over its citizens. The fifteen republics that comprised the USSR, including Ukraine, declared their sovereignty from the USSR. Like its counterparts, as a newly independent country, Ukraine struggled with supply chain issues, building a military and formatting its new system of governance. To combat these issues, Ukraine and 11 of the other former Soviet republics formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) – an organization that facilitates the movement of goods, services, labor and capital between the countries.

The Euromaidan protests In 2013, President Yanukovych rejected a deal from the European Union (EU) that was widely popular, and instead took a large amount of aid from Russia. Ukrainian citizens retaliated by gathering on Kyiv’s Independence Square in the largest wave of mass protests since Ukraine’s independence. These demonstrations lasted into 2014 and although protesters were subjected to unlawful arrests, kidnapping and assault, they only grew in numbers. These protests would later be cited as Euromaidan, after the nickname of Kyiv’s Independence Square, Maidan, and the desire to become closer to Europe. Russia took advantage of the unrest by annexing Crimea, a peninsula in the Black Sea that was transferred to Ukraine in 1954. Russia then shifted focus to the Donbas Region of eastern Ukraine where separatists had taken up arms against the Ukrainian government. On Feb. 12, 2015, the Minsk II Agreement was signed by representatives from Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia. These accords were supposed to initiate a ceasefire, withdraw heavy weapons from the front line, release prisoners of war, begin constitutional reform in Ukraine granting self-government to certain areas of Donbas and restore control of the state border to the Ukrainian government. The agreement was never fully implemented, although a ceasefire did take place; while the armed confrontation stopped, the conflict never did.

2013 Volodymyr Zelensky is elected President.



Russian troops invade Ukraine. In 2021, Russian troops began to gather on Ukrainian borders, prompting warnings from US intelligence that an invasion was imminent. But Russia denied these claims. Then, on Feb. 24, 2022, at the order of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Russian troops launched a war on Ukraine. It is Putin’s belief that Ukraine is not a sovereign state. He has asserted many times that the Soviet Union deserves credit for creating Ukraine as a geographical and political entity and that it should have remained part of Russia. This falsehood, combined with the concern that Ukraine would move closer to the West under Zelensky, motivated Putin to launch the violent and unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

In March of 2019, current president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, was elected in a landslide vote of over 70%. Zelensky ran on a pro-Western, pro-NATO, pro-EU platform and stood firmly against political corruption. Zelensky’s first goal as president was to bring peace between the Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed insurrectionists in eastern Ukraine. He soon began to promote a peace settlement that would have resulted in both sides of the conflict disengaging. Over the next two years, tensions rose between the two countries. Ukraine suffered economic hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic and the military aid that the United States had guaranteed to Ukraine was withheld by the Trump administration. Opinion | April 2022| 77

Is Ukraine the U.S. in the War of 1812? A comparison of the current conflict and one in the past. From King George to Putin, horse messengers to cellphones, muskets to nukes and nothing to NATO. BY SAM GIBB-RANDALL

In the time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 22, 2022, the conflict has been constantly compared to World War II. But I have noticed similarities with a conflict further in the past: the War of 1812 between the U.S. and Britain. Similarities: I made the connection when I noticed the dates were similar. The U.S. won the Revolution in 1781, and the War of 1812 happened 31 years later. Ukraine gained independence in 1992, which places this invasion 30 years later. A key similarity is that for both wars, the aggressor country has an authoritarian government, while the defending country has a democratic government. Though royal power was broadly on the wane in 1812 Britain, it was still a monarchy, and the King chose the prime minister who led them through the war. If not autocratic (one ruler), Britain could be called an aristocracy (another form of authoritarian government), because only 3% of its people could vote in parliamentary elections. Russia is categorized as authoritarian by the Democracy Index, due to rampant political corruption and lack of free and fair elections. The defend-

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ing countries are both mostly Democratic. Although Ukraine deals with political corruption (to the point of sacking its president in 2013), it is considered close to a flawed democracy by the Democracy Index because of its generally fair elections. For early America, though, voting was extremely restrictive, the function of government was that of a democracy, with presidents stepping down when directed by voters, a new constitution being signed when it was needed in 1789 and the ideal of democracy was held above all. Both countries could be considered ‘developing democracies.’ Another similarity between the two is the role of the economy in Britain and Russia during both wars. Britain was already fighting another war against Napoleon in 1812, and the added cost and stress from the war in America was unpopular among English citizens. That, as well as the wartime halt on trade between the two nations, made Britain willing to participate in peace talks in late 1814. During the first two weeks of the Ukrainian War, Russia’s economy has been crippled. They closed their stock market (to try to stop the bleeding), and their currency has lost 30% of its value. This economic situation in Russia could lead to peace at an earlier date, as it did in the War of 1812. Putin may de-

cide to cut his economic losses and seek a peaceful end to an unpopular war in the same way that Britain did. And the damage Russia is doing to Ukraine and its citizens doesn’t rule out the possibility for peace. In our case, Washington D.C. was burned to the ground just six months before peace was struck. To me, the most interesting similarity between the two wars is that the aggressor country was an imperial power dealing with a loss of territory and pride, and the defending country was establishing its own national identity both before and during the conflict. Britain was reluctant to sign the terms of peace in the revolution, and kept their soldiers in forts in the U.S. until the end of the War of 1812. They treated America with such disdain in the years leading up the war that they boarded their ships and kidnapped their sailors. Meanwhile, the U.S. was transitioning from a fledgling nation to a global power and beacon of new ideas — a possibility that Britain couldn’t seem to handle. In losing Ukraine in the breakup of the USSR, Russia lost their most prosperous farmland. But they also lost imperial pride, a pride that inspired music like Tchaikovsky’s “Little Russian Symphony.” In the time since that loss, they have refused to recognize Ukrainian independence, have invaded twice and have meddled endlessly in Ukrainian elections. Overall, I would argue that both wars have been fights between imperialism and nationalism. Differences: Though the similarities are illuminating, I believe the differences are even more essential to understanding the conflict in Ukraine. Maybe the biggest is the difference in communication technology between 1812 and now. Arguably, the War of 1812 started due to the long time it took for messages to be relayed between the two sides. President Madison declared war on Britain because of the British trade embargo, only to find out soon after that the British had already ended it. The Battle of New Orleans, tragically, was fought after peace was struck: the soldiers hadn’t gotten the message. Contrast that with

Ukraine. Through social media, the world knows much about the atrocities of the conflict. Not only that, but crippling economic sanctions have been put on Russia just a week after their invasion, a feat that 200 years ago would’ve taken months to achieve. It is much harder for Russia to get away with their actions than it was for Britain. Another key difference is the role of outside countries and alliances. There were few broad alliances in 1812, in part because America had lost its relationship with France in the time since the revolution, and because Britain and the rest of Europe were in the midst of war with Napoleon. As a result, there was very little outside influence in the war. Today, however, NATO plays a key role in Ukraine. Prior to the war, Ukraine tried unsuccessfully to join the NATO alliance. Given this, and the threat of Russian nukes, NATO has thus far not taken an on-the-ground fighting role in the war, despite the war crimes Russia has continued to commit. As Ryan Sylvester, a World History teacher at Community High School, puts it, “The War of 1812 was not a major world conflict because there were no true systems of alliances, while the Ukraine/Russia war is not a world conflict because of alliances.” NATO is hesitant to let Ukraine in, because of the Russian threat and the retaliation decree that is a tenet of NATO, and therefore world war has not begun because of the alliances in place now. The parallels between the situation in Ukraine and the War of 1812 can help us understand our present. In the time since I’ve begun writing this the situation has worsened, with thousands losing their lives and millions losing their livelihoods. The Belgian Prime Minister called the conflict “Europe’s darkest hour since World War II.” Some have reasoned that this may open the door for other conflicts between world powers, which is scary to me. But, there is still hope. On March 16, the Russian Foreign Minister signaled willingness to compromise. And Russia is left with few allies in their fight. The world has changed since 1812. And even if it hasn’t, the world can heal nonetheless. Opinion | April 2022| 79

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Changing Styles Eye

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How three CHS students changed their styles to fit themselves. BY MORGAN MCCLEASE

Society has taught us to dress a certain way. “Dress for the male gaze” has been pushed down our throats for years. A question to be proposed is how do you change the way you choose to dress for yourself? Izzy Stevens used to dress the way everyone around her did: leggings or sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Stevens thought that was the way she needed to dress, because it was the only style she had ever been around, and therefore she stuck to what she thought was normal. Stevens had been wanting to change her style ever since the pandemic began. Stevens started her journey by online shopping and making Pinterest boards of some outfits she admired. “I started to get a feel for my own personal style along the way with finding out what clothes I like on me,” Stevens said. Today, she is more confident in her style. Stevens realized before she wasn’t dressing to be confident. “In the past I wasn’t really dressing for confidence,” Stevens said. “I was just dressing because I needed to have clothes on… now I feel dressing in my style gives me more confidence. I really do not want to go back to my style from middle school.’’ Stevens often gets her fashion from TikTok along with Pinterest. With that there are a lot of mainstream media fashion trends she sees. Stevens is inclined to follow the trends mainly because as they get more popular they show up more in the stores she gravitates towards. When participating in a trend Stevens likes to look on Pinterest to find trendy items styled in certain ways that she could see on herself. Even though that’s what she started with, Stevens does not like to shop online because of her tedious shopping methods. She likes to try stuff on in real life before she

commits to making a purchase. She also tends to get bored online shopping because it is more difficult to find pieces that she is drawn to. “I don’t really like to buy something if I don’t know how I’m going to wear it,” Stevens said. “If I haven’t seen pictures of people wearing it a certain way then I probably won’t get it or I’ll wear it in a different way.” Stevens is still trying to cultivate her style and continues to have it evolve everyday.


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RYAN Lila Ryan also changed her style during lockdown by experimenting with different outfits to find what worked and what didn’t. “It started at home when I was in quarantine and I would just be like, I’m not going anywhere,” Ryan said. “No one’s gonna see me, let’s try this combo.” In middle school Ryan was constantly surrounded by people who did not like to dress up. Her style consisted of Lulu Lemon leggings, Converse and Nike Air Force Ones which Ryan quickly discovered was not her. 84 | The Communicator Magazine

“It was just not the best environment and I definitely felt pressured to dress how my friends were,” Ryan said. A specific memory Ryan has is when she was getting ready for a choir concert. They were having a short musical and were allowed to wear different outfits besides the standard all black choir outfit. Ryan chose to wear a jean skirt and remembered her peers asking why she was so dressed up even though she did not feel that way. “I wore a skirt and afterwards all my friends were like why are

you wearing a skirt, like you’re so dressed up, and I was like, this is just a jean skirt and a T-shirt that is not dressed up,” Ryan said. When the pandemic hit Ryan found this as an opportunity to dress the way she wanted to. She was stuck in her house and started to experiment with different outfits. Ryan’s decision to go to CHS had a vast effect on her feeling more confident in the outfits she decided to wear. Ryan has a prominent memory of her first day at the school. “I remember the first day of my freshman year, there were these two seniors… I remember they had bright green hair, and they were both wearing prom dresses,” Ryan said. “I asked them why they were wearing prom dresses on the first day of school and they were like ‘we wanted to, it’s the first day of school.” Being at such an accepting and creative place like CHS has allowed Ryan to express herself through the clothes she chooses to wear and she no longer feels obligated to fit into the style that she had previously. She also no longer lets social media influence what she chooses to wear. It has actually shown her that there are many styles than just the one she was exposed to by her friends in past instances.

Similar to Ryan and Stevens, Zoë Simmons has also used quarantine to expand her personal style. The time spent at home was really helpful for her and being able to break out of the cycle she was in. “No one was influenced by what everyone else was wearing because you weren’t seeing other people,” Simmons said. Throughout middle school and her freshman year she was not wearing what she wanted to wear. Simmons often wore lots of black and athleisure clothes. Coming to CHS, the main goal of her freshman year was to fit in.

“I definitely felt some external pressure to dress in a way that conformed to the way everyone else dressed,” Simmons said. Simmons still feels pressured in certain situations to dress the way society wants her to. When she is trying to get a job or have a presentation she will lean towards dressing more the part than what she would wear on a normal basis. She has made a lot of progress when dressing the way she wants in social situations, now she does not think about how society wants her to dress in everyday life. During quarantine Simmons


would often stay in her room and create different outfits to find her individualized style. She would filter through clothes and outfits to find what worked for her and what didn’t. While Simmons did not get inspiration from social media sources she would get it from Disney Channel characters. She loved the bright and fun colors as well as the eccentric nature in how they are dressed. Before, Simmons wore mostly black clothing. Now, her closet contains a multitude of colors. She finds that the way she dresses often affects her daily mood. “I feel like when I dress colorful, I am inclined to act colorful and happy,” Simmons said. “Which is good because I enjoy being happy.” Simmons confidence grew with her age, as she got older she stopped thinking about what other people thought about her and how she dressed. She was able to express herself more through her style. “I know everyone kind of develops their own personal style and confidence at different times,” Simmons said. “Mine just so happened at the end of freshman year beginning of sophomore year.” Fashion is a common way to express yourself and gain confidence. Throughout the pandemic and looking on social media sites like Pinterest, and Tiktok or even the Disney Channel animation characters, these 3 CHS students have been able to find their styles and learned to feel confident. Peer pressure has no longer compelled them to stick to society’s version of fashion.

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Sumaya Berki’s favorite part of this outfit is the boots that she got and shares with a friend. She thrifted the sweater with her sister and she has had her dress and jeans for awhile. Until recently, Berki did not generally wear this dress, but now it is her favorite piece of clothing. Over the years, Berki’s style has changed and she has grown her confidence. In middle school she felt everyone wore the same leggings and hoodie each day, but at Community she feels a difference. “People dress more interestingly, and it’s more free,” Berki said. “It makes me more confident and feel more cool walking around. I feel like if I was wearing boring clothes, I wouldn’t be as confident in myself.”

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OUT LOUD Three songs to hear now. BY SAM CAO AND EVAN OCHOA

“2Alivë” YEAT L.A.-based rapper Yeat released his album “2 Alivë’’ on Feb. 18, 2022, after a strong year with three new albums. After receiving a Drake co-sign along with signing to Geffen Records, Yeat’s popularity sky-rocketed. The album, “2 Alivë,’’ features many songs with members of fellow artist Young Thug’s record label YSL, which came at no surprise due to the close friendship between YSL member Yung Kayo and Yeat. Yeat makes “rage rap” reminiscent of the music we have seen from rappers like Playboi Carti and Ken Carson, but with his own twist. Vocal range and melodies are major components on almost every track; This is part of what has made him so popular. Yeat’s beats are some of the best we have heard, producers such as Filthy Beats and Earl on the Beat deliver strongly on every song on the album. The album is Yeat’s introduction to the mainstream as it sat at number one on the Apple Music Top Albums list. Yeat gained over four million monthly listeners on Spotify after “2 Alivë’’ was released. The album has been all over social media; major artists like The Weekend, Marshmello and Offset have all promoted it heavily. The album’s biggest struggle is how many of the songs are similar. The middle of the album almost feels like one song. The transitions from one song to the next in the album is sometimes hard to hear when you listen from start to finish. Overall, “2 Alivë’’ is a great album but has some struggles with repetition. There are many songs that have the same exact ambiance, which makes songs like “Outside” and “Call On Me” stand out because of their contrast to the rest of the album. The production is the strongest aspect of the whole album: Every beat is unique and different from the trap beats we normally hear today.

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Rex Orange County has returned with his follow-up to “Pony.” To be frank, I was skeptical going into his next project, since much of his latest work has been underwhelming to me. However, I didn’t come away from the album disappointed at all. To start off, the tunes are easy-going, immersive and engaging for the listener. The beats and compositions sound crisp, successfully walking the line between bedroom pop and orchestral ambience, playing into Rex’s gimmick – his work with strings. This avant-garde approach, clearly highlighted in the intro to “WORTH IT,” is one of my favorite things about the record. From the topical matter, it’s obvious that much of what Rex wrote was inspired by the pandemic and feelings of isolation. This existential dread is magnified by the bigger-than-life sounds that make up the album. Despite this portrayal of loneliness, many songs still bring a silver lining to it all. Whether or not you feel indifferent towards the opener “KEEP IT UP,” its uplifting message and mood set the tone well for the rest of the record. The following song “OPEN A WINDOW” shines in acoustic bliss and colorful strings; with frequent collaborator Tyler, The Creator making it sound right at home. While “ONE IN A MILLION” isn’t the most unique song Rex has come up with, its catchiness is undeniable. Outside its quirks, much of “WHO CARES” isn’t much different from the rest of his work. While its catchiness and bedroom pop aesthetic is likable enough, “WHO CARES” plays it relatively safe where it feels like background music. However, while some of his other work at times felt like a chore to get through due to its monotony, “WHO CARES” felt charming and even gratifying like the grandiose presentation of penultimate track “SHOOT ME DOWN”. To summarize, I was not at all disappointed with Rex’s new project and would revisit.

With his underground songs blown up and elevated to his current status, Florida-native Edy Edouard, better known by his stage name, $not, has come out with his latest full-length LP. On first impressions, you can hear the increased budget and refined sounds of “Ethereal.” While this, at first, seems to be a good thing, $not does not take that to his advantage and instead comes out with mediocre results. The overarching issue I have with $not as an artist is his lack of ability to differentiate himself as a rapper. From his tone to delivery to word play, $not doesn’t offer anything new to grab the ear. The moments where this record shines or, at its least, is mildly interesting is with some of its production. The quirkiness of the beat to “Fighting Me” or the nocturnal, sensual setting “Halle Berry” portrays with its smooth verses from $not and Juicy J respectively, it sometimes feels like a sort of beacon of hope to the rest of the project. However, even songs where he attempts to experiment with new genres or styles comes off one-dimensional or extremely surface level. “BLUE MOON” and its aesthetic, adopting this emo-rap approach, doesn’t leave much of an impression, despite trying to create vocal chemistry with feature Teddi Jones. The following track, “Go,” has a beat that sounds like a Pierre Bourne or Playboi Carti rip-off. While much of it isn’t entertaining, it’s not offensively bad, and I can commend $not for stylistically keeping the track list diverse in style. However, it doesn’t go much further than that. Hopefully, seeing this album was more experimenting, this is a sign he’s going in the right direction to finding his sound. The most exciting thing about “Ethereal” is $not name-dropping Doja Cat for clout and the Juicy J feature. That’s it.

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An audacious adventurer embarks on a journey connected to a deep rooted desire. BY RAFFI AVEDISSIAN

Starring Tom Holland and Mark Whalberg, “Uncharted” is an action adventure film based on the critically acclaimed video game series. The film focuses on Nathan Drake (Tom Holland), as he works with Sully (Mark Whalberg), to find the lost gold amassed by explorer Ferdinand Magellan. The film also features Sophia Taylor Ali in a supporting role as Chloe Frazer. One of the standouts of this film was the chemistry and the dynamics created by the actors. Although Mark Whalberg and Tom Holland weren’t pushing any sort of boundaries in terms of their acting, they 90 | The Communicator Magazine

worked off each other very well and provided a tension break at times when it was needed. The progression of the adventure components was done effectively. The way the writers had the characters thinking through the puzzles put in front of them made for the most engaging part of the story. In terms of specific performances, Tom Holland was doing a good job. He provided a performance that was quick and witty, but that many have criticized for not being accurate to Nathan Drake in the video game. This relates to my biggest problem with the film.

The film strays away from the narrative principles of the video game. I don’t personally believe that an interpretation of a work can’t take creative liberties. However, the film deviated from the parts of the video games story that made that story work so well. Even though I enjoyed Sully and Nathan’s dynamic, it wasn’t accurate to their dynamic in the video game. The casting, performances, and villains were also not accurate to the video game. It presents the question: “How much better would this film have been if it was more faithful to the videogame?”

In theaters and streaming on Roku.


MUSTLIST A collection of movies, rated on the Bechdel test and out of 10. BY OLIVER LETE-STRAKA

1. Dope 9/10


Minari An immigrant Korean family looks to redefine the American dream.

2. Superbad


“Minari” follows an aspiring farmer who takes a gamble by moving to a mobile home in remote Arkansas to establish a new career. Steven Yeun, playing the main character, Jacob Yi, strives to provide for his family while working towards the American Dream. Director Lee Isaac Chung bases this autobiographical drama on his experience as a Korean farmer in Arkansas. Jacob deals with constant neglect from his wife, Monica, following their move to the new home. She can never choose to trust him with his new career, constantly believing the leap of faith he took to start this farm wasn’t the right choice. Along with the business side of the story, the hardships faced by the family add depth to this film as they face discrimination, doubt and exposure to a new way of living. Throughout the film, new characters are introduced, keeping the story feeling fresh and persistent. More specifically, the introduction of Monica’s mother, Soonja, seems to be one of the more important scenes. She is characterized as an atypical, lively grandma who doesn’t bond well with the family at first. Nominated for the Academy

Award for Best Picture in 2020, the cinematography is the true aspect this film excels in. The shots in this film portray the 1980s perfectly and authentically with a warm color palette and consistent widelens shots, head cinematographer Lachlan Milne hones in on making “Minari” feel like a “single-camera shoot.” The film’s B-plot is based on the minari plant that Monica’s mother brings to the family’s house as a gift. Minari is known for its versatility in cooking; the grassy, peppery flavor pairs well with almost any dish. Symbolically, the plant shines light on the adversity faced by Jacob and his family as they adapt to a new life. While it doesn’t solve all of their problems by any means, it helps create a special bond between Jacob’s son, Alan and Soonja. Alan never seems to bond well with her, until she chooses to go to a nearby pond and plant the Minari. His interest in farming allows Soonja to finally fit in with the family and show how similar Alan’s interests are to his father. “Minari” manages to blend many common themes within the American pastoral drama with Korean culture to captivate a compelling immigrant experience.



3. Licorice Pizza 7/10


4. Billy Elliot 8/10


Available for streaming on Hulu, Youtube and Prime Video Constants | April 2022 | 91

Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Mrs. Maisel continues her career as a comedian in a mans world. She performs in night clubs in NYC. BY CLAIRE STEIGELMAN

The long-awaited day finally came in February. After a three-year wait, season four of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was finally released on Amazon Prime.This season follows Miriam (Midge) Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) as she is recovering from the heart-breaking finale of season three. Her career as a stand-up comedian seemed to be on the rise, but it came crashing down when she implied that a celebrity was LGBTQ during an act on stage in early 1960s New York City. Building herself back up from the bottom, she finds work in an unusual place and struggles to make enough money to pay off the apartment she bought when she thought she could afford it. The careers of her hilarious parents Abe (Tony Shaloub) and Rose Weissman (Marin Hinkle) are beginning to take off, but not without their difficulties; the characters struggle with the decision to follow their hearts 92 | The Communicator Magazine

or their heads. The new nightclub that is owned and operated by Midge’s ex-husband Joel (Michael Zegen) is hopping, but Joel is not without his own problems, which will affect the whole family. Susie (Alex Borstein) is also growing her talent managing business to more than just Midge as a client, and even has a new apartment combined with an office and a secretary – but that doesn’t come without a cost either. Familial ties are redefined as Abe and Rose are forced to rely on their daughter; family secrets from the past are revealed and a heart-stopping event makes everyone reconsider previous grudges. Despite the consistently on-point humor the show is renowned for, the tone is a bit more cynical than in seasons past. It’s understandable considering the end of season three, but it’s not like Midge’s life has been a cakewalk since the show began. The whole reason she be-

came a comic in the first place was because her husband left her — which was even more life-shattering in the late 1950s than it is now, as being unmarried was a social taboo. Usually I watch seasons one through three over and over again, but season four is heavier. While it’s still bingeable, I suspect that I may not watch it as many times as I have the other three. Overall, I would say that if you loved the first three seasons of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, season four is definitely worth watching. Loose ends from previous seasons are tied up and new ones form, leading into season five, the final season according to Amazon. If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching an episode of the show, I would highly recommend watching from season one. The cast of characters are hilarious and the large budget of the show is spent on costumes and filming on location pulls the whole show together.

Seasons One through Three now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Books That Change Lives Jessica Whiteside reflects on her experience with high school English curriculum and how she prioritizes diverse readings in her own classroom. BY RIA LOWENSCHUSS

The Power


The Giver

Fahrenheit 451





A story that takes place in a world like this, except women have developed the power to control electricity.

After a world war was fought over the right to abortion, parents were given the option to send their children to be “unwound.”

A dystopian society in which colors don’t exist and everyone must conform to the status quo.

The story of a world where books are outlawed and firemen burn books whenever they are found.

When Jessika Whiteside was in high school, the curriculum looked very different than it does today. However, she was lucky — her “outgoing” best friend frustrated their shared English teacher so much that she was sent to the library to do independent reading, instead of disrupting the class further. The first book she was assigned? “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Whiteside was inspired by her friend’s love of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and picked up a copy herself. As soon as she read it, she knew there was something important about this story and how it connected to the world around her. “I remember thinking, why aren’t we reading really challenging books like [‘The Handmaid’s Tale’]?” Whiteside said. “That really got me thinking and questioning the world.” At the time that she read “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Whiteside was friends with a boy outside of her friend group that she described as having “traditional and conservative values.” Reading this novel made Whiteside realize that this friend truly thought of women as less than men, because she could see him in the male characters of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” “It was this interesting moment for me to realize the ways that women grow up and the expectations that [we face],” Whiteside said. As an English teacher herself, Whiteside uses what

she learned from her high school career and from reading books like “The Handmaid’s Tale.” She tries to include books that are representative of everyone in her classroom and introduce books that students might not pick up on their own. Whiteside herself was introduced to “The Handmaid’s Tale” almost by accident — if her friend hadn’t been sent to the library, she would never have read it. She also thinks that it is important for students to know what their teachers are reading, as it gives them a glimpse into other kinds of literature. “I think it’s important to expose people to things that they wouldn’t pick up on their own, ideally,” Whiteside said. “I think sharing what teachers are reading [is important], because obviously, [my high school English teacher] had some experience with [‘The Handmaid’s Tale’] and obviously, he was reading much more diverse things than we realized at the time.” Whiteside views making diverse books accessible and even required in her classroom as one of the most important parts of being an English teacher. She also likes to introduce students to different genres, like science fiction, as “The Handmaid’s Tale” was the first non-realistic fiction book that she’d ever read. “[I prioritize] looking at what books do we have access to that students can read that they might not read somewhere else, but contain super valuable voices,” Whiteside said.

“[I prioritize] looking at what books do we have access to that students can read that they might not read somewhere else, but contain super valuable voices,” Whiteside said.

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Humans of Community: What are you looking forward to in spring?

Anthony Wang

Hazel Derry

GRADE: Freshman

GRADE: Junior

“I’m very much looking forward to the spring season. Students have a lot more activities to do in the spring compared to the winter. I’m interested in doing rowing now, which is fun. It will be my first year doing rowing and I’ll be a new member of the Huron rowing team. I’m excited. [This second semester] I’m looking forward to learning more stuff about all of my subjects. I really enjoy my subjects right now. So I’ll be working on Khan Academy for improving my math. I’ll also work on reading people’s articles to improve my writing skills, and maybe reading, too. I’m really getting tired of snow. [When it is warm outside] I do a lot of jogging and I go to the gym. I like to take walks with my mom outside. My favorite thing about spring is that there are more activities that students and people can do, compared to the [winter]. It’s not too hot, but it’s not too cold. That’s also part of the reason why I like spring so much.”

“I’m looking forward to spring because when I walk to school my pants won’t get wet in the snow because they’re too long. I can have my window open a little bit and I can change my Spotify playlist to the spring playlist instead of the winter playlist. I can wear just one coat instead of two. I like the end of the second semester, I really like my classes a lot this quarter. I’m excited to go to Maine to visit a college. I’m looking forward to a concert, I’m going to Big Thief. I love the metaphorical awakening of the world and just the beauty of spring. I just love nature and the unbridled joy that the popping up of perky leaves brings. I can bike to school, which is nice. I get exercise and energy because right now I have none. When the weather starts to warm up, I can [take] cooler showers instead of hot ones because I really like cold showers. It’s my favorite season.”

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Micah Stevens

Michael Gronewold

GRADE: Sophomore

GRADE: Sophomore

“In general, my favorite thing about spring is that the weather is starting to shift towards summer. So the temperature is higher and things actually look alive, instead of going outside and all the trees are dead. [In winter] I don’t want to go outside because it’s snowing and it’s cold. This spring, in particular, a certain show is coming out and I look forward to watching that. There’s this manga called ‘Chainsaw Man.’ I’ve been waiting since last year for it to get adapted into an anime, now that’s happening this spring. I’m excited because I know people prefer to watch instead of reading, [the adaptation] means more people will see a story that I really like. In spring, I walk to a park that’s not too far from my house. Sometimes I play sports outside, but I also like to draw, sometimes I like to draw nature. Other times I just draw what comes to mind [while I’m] in nature.”

“My favorite thing about spring is that it gets nicer outside, the [change in] weather means I can ride my bike more. Since I bike all year round I usually use the indoor trainer during the winter. It’s not fun, but it’s the only way to train. When the weather gets warm, I can go outside and ride my bike and feel the breeze and be in nature. The weather is one of the reasons I really love biking so much. I bike competitively. The spring isn’t the season where races happen but it’s definitely the pick-up for training. Because everyone can get outside, it’s much easier, in terms of mental capacity, to bike for hours on end. In spring, it’s much easier to get outside and talk with people. It’s much harder in the winter to be social. For me, it feels more natural to see people outside [in the spring]. [In] warm weather things are more open, and I feel happier.”

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Sadie Agranoff BY IZZIE JACOB

Photo One What is this picture? This is a picture of my friend Karina Roberts. Where was it taken? This was also along the Huron River. I was taking their senior pictures. What’s your favorite part about the photo? I think it really captures how beautiful they are. Just like the happiness in that moment. I really like how they stand out against the background. Were you using any techniques when taking this photo? I believe I turned the saturation up a little bit and the exposure down. Did you take this one with your camera? I took it on my camera. Yeah. Do you prefer taking portraits on your camera or on your phone? I think I prefer taking portraits on my camera because the focus is a lot easier and there’s a mode on my camera for portraits. It’s not too much where I think portrait mode on iPhones is just a little bit too much.

Photo Two When was this photo taken? This photo was taken in April, 2021. Do you like taking photos on your phone or a camera? It depends. I do have a camera that my grandpa gave me, but I feel like most of the photos I’ve taken that I’ve really liked are ones 96 | The Communicator Magazine

that I take on my phone. I think it’s easier to see something you want to take a picture of and just pull your phone out and take it. Did you do anything to edit it? I definitely turned the vibrance and saturation up a little bit just to capture the ethereal look of the rainbow and like the trees together.

Photo Three What is this? I’m not 100% sure what is on the branch. They’re not pine cones but they kind of look like small pine cones.I actually took this one on my cam era. What’s your process when taking photos on a camera? I tried to make sure the zoom is exactly where I want it. I try to position when I’m capturing in a way that

I think makes sense. Just making sure to focus on whatever I want to see, that is the main point of interest. Do you know where you took this photo? I think it was like it was definitely on the Huron River again. It was probably on a walk with family or friends and I took it. Do you remember what you did to edit it? I turned up the saturation and vibrance down and turned the warmth up. Just to capture the mood of the photo again. Do you like to capture in color more or black and white? It definitely depends on what I’m taking pictures of and the weather. On cloudy days, I definitely like to make my photos a little more moody and gray. Then on sunnier days, I turn the colors up a little bit but not too much.



I turned the vibrance and saturation up a little bit just to capture the etheral look of the rainbow and trees together.” Constants | April 2022 | 97



Shakshuka, a dish originating in North Africa, is a flavorful and vibrant dish that is made of everyday household ingredients like eggs, tomatoes, herbs and spices. Its ease and popularity spread throughout the Middle East and comes in different variations. Some recipes add cheeses like feta or sheep milk based cheeses or meats such as chorizo, lamb or ham. Every Saturday morning, I would hear my dad getting pans out and immediately know he was making eggs of some kind. The aromatic smell of tomato sauce and fresh garlic filled our kitchen, and without instruction, I got eggs out of the fridge. Cooking with my dad has been about more than my culinary skills improving but also learning the art of cooking and the importance of cultural dishes.



Two tablespoons olive oil One medium onion, diced One red bell pepper, seeded and diced Four garlic cloves, finely chopped Two teaspoons paprika One teaspoon cumin One-fourth teaspoon chili powder One 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes Six large eggs Salt and pepper, to taste One small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped One small bunch fresh parsley, chopped

1) Heat olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. 2) Add chopped bell pepper and onion, and cook for five minutes or until the onion becomes translucent. 3) Add garlic and spices, and cook for an additional minute. 4) Pour the can of tomatoes and the juice into the pan and break down the tomatoes using a large spoon. 5) Season with salt and pepper and bring the sauce to a simmer. 6) Using your large spoon, make small wells in the sauce and crack the eggs into each well. 7) Cover the pan and cook for five to eight minutes or until the eggs are done to your liking. 8) Garnish with chopped cilantro and parsley, and serve with bread on the side.

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Constants | April 2022 | 99


Games - Doubles Match & CHS Crossword

Fill the grid with pairs of letters — like those already given below — to spell out words across and down. Clues, though not in order, appear below. Every pair of letters you fill in will also go in another box elsewhere in the grid, as indicated by the color coding. Hence, the “doubles match.” Good luck!

Thing falling in a line · “___ of the Shrew” · Small amount · Musk of Tesla and SpaceX · Christmas hanging · Tennessee NFL Team ·What yeast should make bread do · Writing in the margins · “The Picture of ___ Gray” · The wives of A2’s founders, among others · 16-wheeler · Exhausting · Soon · They might be carmelized



1 Artist Taylor whose lyric was the theme of last edition’s puzzle 6 Cases 11 Louse egg 14 UNESCO Heritage site in Jordan 15 “Thus...” 16 Praiseful poem 17 *What one might call their first stranding 18 *Sifting group? 20 Actor George of Star Trek 22 Semi-hard cheese 23 *Court mandates 29 Like a canyon, maybe 30 Female follower of Dionysus, in myth 31 Call at sea 32 Joint pain relief cream 34 Homer’s cry 35 *Curl a button 37 Expert 40 “Have patience” 41 Spotted 42 Focus of energy in the body of Hinduism 44 Matt Damon action hero Jason 46 “I don’t want to hear another word about it!”... or how to read the 5 starred clues 49 Vacant, or with “pre-”, prevent 50 Patronize, as a restaurant

51 *Testify 56 *Tributes 59 Yankees 3rd baseman Urshela 60 Eccentric 62 “___ So Fine” (The Chiffons Song) 63 Scornfully smile 64 Deviate (from) DOWN

1 Resort 2 Sopping 3 End of many exonyms 4 Beer pong participant, maybe 5 Dish made with masa harina 6 Satisfies completely 7 Not up on the trends 8 Chemical suffix 9 Recipe measure abbr. 10 Actress Phillipa of Hamilton 11 “Beats me” 12 Drivers licesnse, for one 13 Is full of 19 Comedian Bruce or musician Kravitz 21 Poet Francis Scott ___ 23 Uncharged, as a phone 24 Eight, in España 25 “Whoops!” 26 Response to “Are too!” 27 Meaty pasta sauce

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18 20
















16 19








30 32

31 34




40 42

















28 Spot to suckle 32 Gilded Era Politician William Jennings ___ 33 Barely survive, with “out” 35 Pan one might use for a stir-fry 36 ___ vez (Sp., “again”) 37 Machu Picchu’s country 38 1996 Jonathan Larson musical




39 Smallest denominations of dollars 40 The USA is a member of it 41 Underlying meaning 42 Downtown Ann Arbor high school, familiarly 43 Their jaws can crush with 1800 PSI of force 44 Annoying spammer, likely 45 Gives a speech


46 Barnyard sound 47 With “al”, how pasta might be cooked 48 Greek myth goatman 52 WR’s stat 53 Charged atom 54 French season 56 Title for Patrick Stewart 57 Airport hassle 58 Pig pen

Our Turn

What is something new in your life and how has it impacted you?


“This fall, I became a peer educator for Planned Parenthood. The application process consisted of an interview where I talked about why I was interested in becoming a peer educator, and after getting accepted, I did about 60 hours of training during the month of October to learn more about sex education and how to teach sex education to high schoolers. It’s really impacted me because prior to this experience, I took a lot of things for granted. I took abortion laws for granted which are now being threatened constantly and I also took access to knowledge about my own body for granted. And that’s really not the case for most high schoolers because our sex education system is so flawed and it’s extremely un-inclusive. Being able to help has changed how I see the issues and changed how I interact with people on a daily basis, as well as growing as an individual.”



“A big change that I’ve made is that I took my learning into my own hands and am learning about things I am passionate about instead of fitting a narrative. I started taking AP Chemistry and AP Computer Science because I want to go into STEM. I also started looking for internships over the summer and I got into one which is a Biomedical Engineering research lab, which is what I want to do. I also took a class at the University of Michigan about game theory which seems like a pretty weird class, but it’s one I was really interested in. To summarize, the changes I’ve made this year have been about me and my future, and what I want to do rather than what others want from me.”

CATE WEISER “I play tennis for Skyline and have been on varsity for all four years, and I’m one of the captains this year. I knew I was going to be a captain at the end of the season last year, but I didn’t start doing anything until a month ago when [my team] didn’t have a coach because our coach stepped down at the end of last year. The other captain and I set up conditioning all on our own, and normally that is something the coach would do. I sent out multiple emails and I was communicating with parents. It has been really nice because I like having this leadership position for something that I really care about.”

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