The Communicator, v. 47, Ed. 2, 2020-2021

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The Politics Edition January 2020 | 1


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Our cover features one of the “I Voted” stickers given to Ann Arbor voters during the 2020 General Election. This sticker was designed by Eric Opitz, one of the three artists commissioned to create this year’s stickers. The large, overwhelming size of the sticker represents how prevalent politics has been throughout our lives as teenagers. The sticker is peeling up to represent the often covert work of youth interns and volunteers in politics — especially in regards to the local election this past November. To stay on the theme of our edition, we wanted our cover to highlight local politics. However, much like the angles of our stories in this edition, we saw it best fit to cover politics from a group traditionally excluded from political spheres. As teenagers, our lives thus far have been deeply situated within political discourse, as major events have shaped our upbringings. Although we are ineligible to vote, our civic duty extends far beyond the ballot. In fact, because of the work of teenage organizers, we have elicited change, influenced elections and supported politicians. Teenagers are a political force to be reckoned with.


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Volume 47, Edition 2 | January 2021

10 Senior Season Cut Short BY HANNAH BERNSTEIN

CHS Senior Nate Mosher’s high school football experience was cut short due to a knee injury.

12 FOS Online: The Freshman Experience BY MAGGIE WOLF

The Foundation of Science (FOS) program is unique to CHS. For freshmen who have never taken a high school class in person, adjusting to the integrated curriculum has proven to be challenging.


16 Capturing Moments BY ARISTA LUONG

Cate Weiser has a love for capturing the essence of people through her portrait photography — a passion she hopes to continue throughout her life.


2021 College Applications BY MAGGIE WOLF

Lockdowns and protocols for safety during the pandemic have impacted the classes of 2020 and 2021 in regards to college applications and admissions. Current and past seniors share their perspectives on the process.


Love, Judith

You Feel Like You’re the Unlucky One



CHS’s beloved matriarch retired this fall, ending an era. She looks back on her years of teaching secondary education and her relationships formed with students and families, and most importantly, forward to what lies ahead.

Many have still contracted Covid-19 — even after following recommended precautions. The virus not only takes a toll on one’s physical health, but one’s mental health as well.

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48 Best Political Moments of 2020 BY EVAN ASH

2020 has been a year chock-full of politics. The Communicator’s opinion editor highlights some of the year’s best.

60 The Case for the Gap Year BY DAN GUTENBERG

Many seniors decide to attend college straight after graduating high school. Gap years — an underutilized path — should be made the norm.



Eli Savit on Learning, Teaching and the Law

Deep Waters



Washtenaw County Prosecutor-elect Eli Savit is not only bringing a year of clerking experience for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg to his position, but the large participation of Ann Arbor teens.

Journalist Sebastian Oliva reflects on his childhood and being the son of a Latina woman.



My Right to Marriage

Tyranny of the Minority: The Electoral College Must Go


Columnist Ria Lowenschuss reflects on legislation surrounding LGBTQ rights and her right to marry.


The Electoral College is an archaic institution in this country. But is it finally time for it to be abolished?

CONSTANTS Proust Humans of Questionnaire– 82 Community – 96 Fashion – 84

Artist Profiles – 98

Media Reviews– 88

Art Throb – 102 Crave – 106

Playlist – 94

Our Turn – 107

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Letter from the Editors Dear Readers, We have almost made it to the end of our first semester online. It has been a long few months. Since our last edition, we participated in our annual national journalism conference — virtually, of course — through the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA). There, we won our second Pacemaker award in a row for our magazine. And of course, we celebrated with a restful break over the holidays. As we wrap up our first semester of online school, and mourn the loss of chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon sticks and Hello Faz pizza — our newsroom traditions — we are also ending a monumental year. Politically we have seen an impeachment, protests and a presidential election. As teens, many of us are not eligible to vote, but we still have power. We hope this edition will shed light on the way teens are involved in the world around them and the importance of civic engagement. Through this edition, we gave CHS students the voice to speak on their experiences as young people, from how they feel about having a female vice president to their opinions on the top moments in politics this year. Now, the election results have come in, but one question remains: What happens now? Continuing to understand politics will remain essential. To ensure the government serves the people, we need to know if newly-elected candidates will follow through on their promises. But before that, an understanding of their stories and the policies they plan to pursue is a necessity. In our Politician Profiles, we highlight many candidates. We focused on those at the local level, who are often overlooked and unknown, yet play critical roles in our immediate communities. While many of us may be burned out from weeks of scaremongering political advertisements, refreshing election results every three minutes and watching multiple mind-numbing debates, we hope that this edition will provide a refreshing take on politics that you can connect to. Your Editors,

Zoe Buhalis

Mia Goldstein

Mori Ono

Taisiya Tworek



Policy & Mission Statement: 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 January 2020 | 7

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Spending over 40 years at CHS, the beloved Judith DeWoskin reflects on her long-lived career from employment to retirement. BY JENNA JARJOURA & HANNAH BERNSTIEN

Judith DeWoskin spent the summer learning about the new programs the district was planning to use for the upcoming school year and was pushing through, but she felt overwhelmed with new district frameworks for teaching as much or more than the new technology. As September approached, she grew nervous. Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) implemented a uniform style of teaching all throughout the district, and it concerned DeWoskin. She had never expected to teach canned information, and she wanted to teach students in person. “This isn’t the way I want to teach,” DeWoskin said. “This isn’t what I signed up for. My younger colleagues were miserable. My older colleagues who were closer to me were all very unhappy and worried. So I just decided that this was the time to say, ‘It’s time to transition to retirement.’” DeWoskin said her final goodbye to her forum on Sept. 3, 2020. It was the most difficult part of her retirement process. When DeWoskin met with the whole fo-

rum the previous week, she seemed excited for the start of the school year; the news of her retirement came as a surprise to her forum. Once DeWoskin’s retirement started to set in, she reflected on the work students created within her classroom. Essays, creative writing, poetry and letters fueled DeWoskin and made her job eventful as she learned new things from her students every day. “There’s nothing more fabulous than being inside of the heads of 14 to 17 year olds because they’re deeply concerned about everything they read and see and do,” DeWoskin said. “It’s thrilling.” The passion that DeWoskin had for papers and literature radiated through everything that she did. Students wanted to learn from DeWoskin because of the amount of attention she gave to detail and the consistent vivaciousness she brought to class every day. There was always competitive energy around who was going to get into De-

Woskin’s classes since there was always the mystery of when she was going to retire. What the students didn’t know was that DeWoskin’s goal was to make it to 87, like her father. “If we had gone back to the classroom, I would have been there,” DeWoskin said. “I might have grumbled and said, ‘Oh, I should retire because I’m 77,’ but I wouldn’t have done it.” DeWoskin’s love for teaching English to high school students was a lifestyle, not a job. But two years ago, DeWoskin decided to take a small step to ease into retirement. Photo courtesy of Tracy Anderson ABOVE: DeWoskin picks out choice reading books provided by the district with the CHS English department. Her fellow teachers are not only her colleagues, but they are friends whom DeWoskin adores. “Those are my babies,” DeWoskin said. “It’s just a wonderful place to be.” Photo courtesy of Judith DeWoskin LEFT: DeWoskin is teaching at Manhattanville 43 Junior High in Harlem in 1968. Her teaching career started outside of AAPS: she taught in St. Louis, a public school in Harlem and a private school in New York City.

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DeWoskin’s colleague and close friend, Tracy Anderson, told her she had to try the “60%” part-time teaching style first if she ever considered retirement. When she ended up making this change, it was perfect. She had plenty of time for her students and colleagues, and she had two days out of the week to devote to personal activities and projects. However, once AAPS moved to online school, there was a shift in the amount of work DeWoskin was taking on. “When this pandemic hit, the 60% turned into 120%,” DeWoskin said. “The 60% just disappeared, and it wasn’t that I was being greedy or ungenerous about the 60%, [it] just wasn’t possible anymore given the need for daily online learning and meetings.” DeWoskin started teaching at CHS in 1984, and her teaching career lasted for almost 40 years. When she came to AAPS, she began at Pioneer High School. She also had a stint at Huron and another year at Tappan between her times at CHS. Before her streak at CHS, she was a longterm substitute in the building for one year before she moved to another school because of the teacher’s return. DeWoskin connected with many students in the single year that she spent at CHS — so much so that when the students found out that she could no longer stay, a petition was made. Students got 300 signatures to keep DeWoskin at CHS and went to the Balas Administration Building with hopes that DeWoskin would be offered a staff position. Unfortunately, DeWoskin was not allowed to stay and went to Tappan Middle School the following year. Then, in 1986, she had the opportunity to return to CHS permanently. Since then, DeWoskin has inspired many students with her engaging curriculum. Her inspiration came from a high school English teacher as well — Malcolm Jackaway. DeWoskin knew that she wanted to do more than just get a “Mrs. Degree”: going to college solely for marriage. One conversation that she remembers vividly with her father was advice he gave her: “Come out of college with something that you can do to support yourself.” She planned to go to college and become an elementary school teacher because she did not want to stray too far away from the norm. But when asked why by Jackaway, she didn’t have an answer. Jackaway quickly disagreed with De10 | The Communicator Magazine

Photo courtesy of Judith DeWoskin DeWoskin has worn the same hairstyle for the past 50 years. In 1969 at a private girls school in New York City, a student walked down the hall with her hair pushed up and pinned; it left DeWoskin in awe. She looked at how straight the student’s hair was and thought she could never pull off a style like that. But she tried it anyway.

Woskin’s plan and insisted that she should teach at the high school level. DeWoskin was hesitant to pursue secondary teaching because the students would be too close to her age. But Jackway told DeWoskin they wouldn’t be close in age forever. From that point on, DeWoskin pushed herself to be as good a teacher as Jackaway, if not better. DeWoskin takes great pride in her grading. Jackaway was one to give easy As to students, even if they didn’t deserve it. Now, DeWoskin grades her students carefully, with precision and thoughtfulness. She strives to look beyond the paper and into who the student is. “Being a part of [student’s] writing and thinking is amazing,” DeWoskin said. “But

it’s also about being a part of your growing up because I watch the increased sophistication and intellectual development of all [my students’] sweet little brains, and it feels wonderful.” Although DeWoskin is missing her favorite parts of teaching, she is finding ways to stay involved in her students’ writing. Supporting students with their college applications and writing letters of recommendation has allowed DeWoskin to rehash students’ work from past years; completing her role in “The Tempest” — Community Ensemble Theater’s (CET) postponed play from last spring — this fall has also allowed her to stay connected to CHS. More specifically, “The Tempest” has given her an activity that will take up some

time. But once again, it’s just another activity that will come to an end. During the past eight months, DeWoskin has tried to find peace in all that is changing for her and the world. She is constantly telling herself to be calm and accept change. “I’m aware of the fact that when I don’t have the play, I won’t have the play,” DeWoskin said. “So, you know, that’ll be another change. That’ll be another transition, and that’s something else I will have to figure out.” DeWoskin is filling her time with things she loves to do most: cooking new exotic recipes, quilting, going on walks with her husband, reading a lot of different books for fun with a book group and staying connected with her students as they apply to universities Though the activities DeWoskin is surrounding herself with are entertaining, she

had a different plan for how to fill her time under normal circumstances. DeWoskin planned to volunteer for two organizations that she has worked with before: Planned Parenthood and Food Gatherers. “I have felt very strongly about women’s choice for a long time,” DeWoskin said. “I’ve thought about how important it is to plan for one’s children for a long time.” DeWoskin served as a teen advisor in previous years and loved the work that she did for the community. She hopes to be “an informed educator and a passionate advocate” for women and help fulfill essential healthcare through Planned Parenthood’s Platform, but for now, she is still trying to settle into her retirement. Around 25 years ago, DeWoskin became a supporter of Food Gatherers. The first time her forum got involved, they sent out envelopes throughout Ann Arbor soliciting

donations. DeWoskin plans to continue the fight against hunger through Food Gatherers in the near future. “It’s so important to feed people,” DeWoskin said. “I don’t just feed us, I feed lots of people.” After 35 years of leading her forum in room 303, teaching various courses and building relationships with countless students and families, DeWoskin found that it was the right time to say goodbye. Now, while she still communicates with students and staff, she finds herself in a new stage of her life with different goals, activities and aspirations. “[Retirement] is normal, it’s expected,” DeWoskin said. “And so I have to face it gracefully and with curiosity, and hopefully with the same passion that I brought to teaching.”

Photo courtesy: Tracy Anderson DeWoskin stands with her forum after raising over $7,000 for Food Gatherers. She plans on continuing to make a difference in the community through organizations to fight hunger and other global insecurities. “It’s so important to feed people,” DeWoskin said. “I don’t just feed us, I feed lots of people.”

News | January 2020 | 11

Senior Season Cut Short An ACL tear ends CHS senior’s career and final season of high school football. BY HANNAH BERNSTEIN

Nate Mosher has been a center for the Pioneer football team since his freshman year. As a center, he never got to run routes. But after practice one day, Mosher was running routes with his teammates for fun. He went up to catch a ball, and when he came down, he landed wrong; his knee snapped. Mosher was out for the remainder of his final season with a torn ACL. “It was brutal for my mentality just because I connect so much of my life with football, and I have been working for 10 years,” Mosher said. “It just seemed like my best season was taken away. Football was on Mosher’s mind all the time. He started playing football at a young age for an Ann Arbor peewee team which inspired him to continue playing at Pioneer High School. Mosher started playing because of his brother and friends, and he grew up watching Michigan football as a family ritual. Mosher’s injury coincided with that of his teammate and friend, Conor Easthope. Easthope was the quarterback for Pioneer and also faced a foot injury that took him out for the rest of the season. This was a great loss for the Pioneer Football team as two of their starters were out for the rest of their season. “The first practice was so tough [after my injury,]” Mosher said. “I got there and I just started crying. It was so hard because l was watching them do everything that I’ve been doing for so long. Also I’ve noticed that I’m probably never going to play the sport ever again. For the remainder of the season, Mosher helped coach his teammates and showed up as much as he could, but he felt like he had to move on and fill the extra time with new things. “I just kept [the injury] out of my mind and am 12 | The Communicator Magazine

constantly doing stuff,” Mosher said. “I keep checking stuff on my lists because there’s so much going on. I watch a lot of TV, take a nap. I can’t function without a nap.” The injury itself was hard enough for Mosher to cope with, but alongside it he has been trying to keep up with school work, adapt to virtual learning, apply to college and stay grounded in the middle of a pandemic. His recovery has taken away from the amount of time and energy Mosher has to complete work and his applications. He has been working hard to keep up with all the stress of senior year while rehabbing his injury. “It used to be that I would only think about football pretty much all the time because I was such a big part of the team,” Mosher said. “But now I’m focused a lot more on the next chapter of my life: college.” Mosher has had thoughts about playing college football, but his size puts him at a disadvantage to compete playing as a high level center. He intends to go to a big college, preferably a Big Ten school, and has recognized that what he is looking for futuristically, doesn’t accommodate football. Even though Mosher has decided not to play football in college, he plans to find a way to incorporate it in a future career. Mosher is interested in sports analytics and working behind the scenes in sports. “I love sports, and I’m pretty good at math,” Mosher said. “So I think combining those would be pretty fun. Coming to terms with a life-changing experience is hard. Mosher went from football filling up the majority of his time, to it disappearing. He has decided to think optimistically about his future rather than sulk in the moment about his injury — which is extremely hard to do during the state of this world.

Mosher is looking at his phone right before surgery. He was waiting for the drugs to set in before going to to the operating room for reconstructive knee surgery.

This is a couple of days after his surgery, and Mosher was having touble moving. A package of Insomnia cookies just came in the mail, which cheered him up.

Mosher is laying outside in his backyard. This was almost a week after his surgery and was his first time outside since his surgery.

Photo courtesy of Nate Mosher Nate Mosher stands attentive as the Pioneer High School center. After tearing his ACL, however, his high school football career ended sooner than expected.”It was brutal for my mentality just because I connect so much of my life with football, and I have been working for 10 years,” Mosher said.

Features | January 2020 | 13

FOS Online: The Freshman Experience An entirely virtual introduction to high school and the CHS Foundations of Science Program BY MAGGIE WOLF

When Emmy Wernimont first found out that her freshman year of high school would be online, she not only felt exceedingly disappointed, but also very nervous. In September, she entered ninth grade feeling even more uncertain than most students in previous years. Learning online is a challenge for any student, but especially for those who have had no prior exposure to high school classes. One subject area that is particularly difficult to teach and learn online is science. The CHS Foundations of Science (FOS) program combines biology, chemistry, physics and earth science into three years of high school, with the purpose of providing an integrated science experience. When informed of the transition to online learning, Christia West, one of the FOS II and III teachers, said she worried most about preserving social interactions and allowing students to experience labs. “We can’t do labs, so the big thing is trying to have a meaningful lab experience, and I think we’ve used the tools that we have available as best we can,” West said. “If I had a year to create labs online, it would probably have been better, but I think we’ve been doing as well as we can.” Though students and teachers have faced difficulties adapting to teaching and learning FOS in an online environment, resources like self-guided lectures, breakout room discussions and lab simulations have been integrated into FOS classes, providing resources for students’ learning, as well as replacing some of the in-person experiences that students would have in normal years. Another concern of many teachers has 14 | The Communicator Magazine

been the freshman class: students who have never been introduced to the FOS program, or even experienced a high school science class. “I didn’t really know much about science or high school, so I honestly didn’t really know what [FOS] was going to be like,” Wernimont said. “I feel like I’m definitely missing out on more of the lab hands-on stuff because we don’t really have those materials at home.”

“I didn’t know much about science or high school, so I honestly didn’t know what [FOS] was going to be like.”

Freshman Michael Gronewald agreed that it has been difficult to replicate the handson experiences that FOS classes would normally include. However, he has enjoyed the work they have been able to complete, especially when students get to work together in groups. “We haven’t done as much collecting data, but we have done research on Michigan riv-

Photo courtesy of Emmy Wernimont Freshman Emmy Wernimont sits at her computer, completing work for her FOS I class. Many students have struggled to adjust to learning in an online environment, especially freshmen, who have never attended an in-person high school class. “I didn’t really know much about science or high school, so I honestly didn’t really know what [FOS] was going to be like,” Wernimont said.

ers and Traver Creek,” Gronewald said. “It’s a little bit disappointing [not being able to do labs], but I also feel like teachers are doing a pretty good job [adjusting].” Even online, Gronewald has enjoyed the structure of his FOS I class. “[In middle school], it was a lot of experimentation with science, but now we’re doing research and learning more by reading about things, talking about them and discussing them in class instead of just doing [individual] work,” Gronewald said. Teachers have also been experiencing dif-

ficulties adjusting to FOS online. Not only does the curriculum have to be modified to work in the virtual format, but also, teachers have to figure out the best way to present this information to students and help them learn in a completely new environment. “It’s harder for me as a teacher,” West said. “I’m trying my best to keep up on who’s falling behind and who’s struggling, but because I don’t have that normal day-to-day interaction, I can’t just give [students] that extra help in class.” Though FOS classes are inevitably differ-

ent online, teachers have been working tirelessly to make the most out of our current situation. This includes collaborating with other instructors throughout the district, as well as supporting students during this transition. “I think that the biggest thing is being flexible and being able to give the students some choices,” West said. “Not everyone has the same parameters, but everyone has the parameters in which they can succeed.”

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2021 College Applications Current and past CHS students reflect on their college application experiences and how Covid-19 has changed the process. BY MAGGIE WOLF

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Lily Sickman-Garner looked forward to her senior year of high school: a year like 2020 was not what she envisioned. Spending time with friends, attending classes and participating in extracurriculars were all experiences that she assumed would shape her last year, and she hoped that the excitement of these activities would make the daunting task of applying to college seem a bit more manageable. She certainly didn’t imagine that she would be attending classes on a computer or opening college acceptance emails alone in her basement. “I literally had no idea what was going on, and I think my parents didn’t really understand the process any better than I do,” said Sickman-Garner. Students from past years have shared this feeling. Even though they had the advantage of in-person guidance from teachers and counselors, completing college applications, while balancing life and schoolwork, is rarely an easy undertaking. “It was hard for me to find times where I felt like

Photography courtesy of Chloe Kurihara Chloe Kurihara, a freshman at the University of California San Diego, stands in front of the Eleanor Roosevelt College. Having applied to college in 2019, Kurihara recalled the stressful anticipation of this process.

my college applications were a priority over other things I had going on in my life, like school and extracurriculars,” said Chloe Kurihara, a current freshman at the University of California San Diego and member of the CHS class of 2020. Kurihara began her college application process in the fall of 2019 and recalls the stress and exhaustion of trying to figure out how to present herself to schools. “An application is a very one dimensional view of a person, so I had to choose which side of myself I felt was best to showcase,” Kurihara said. She recalled feeling a need for guidance from CHS teachers and other close adults

during this process, a necessity that many seniors share when applying to college. One person who is there to provide this support is CHS school counselor, Amy McLoughlin. McLoughlin concurs that the beginning of senior year is always a very stressful time for students, especially because living in a college town like Ann Arbor can place additional pressure on students to excel. “We live in a community with a school that ranks in the top 25 public universities consistently,” McLoughlin said. “That puts a lot of pressure on our students to think ‘I have to go to the elite of the elite schools,’ when in reality, 40% is the national graduation rate for four years of college.” Additionally, in a year like 2020, full of unprecedented changes, finding the right college fit may involve more challenges for students than it has in recent years. Visiting campuses, meeting with college representatives and taking standardized tests are all opportunities that current seniors have had limited or no access to. The policies dictating these events, especially those related to Covid-19 safety, are constantly changing, which only generates more uncertainty among students and families. “I kind of get the sense that nobody really knows what the deal is this year, and it’s stressful to feel like I’m figuring it out at the same time as everyone else who normally would be able to help me,” Sickman-Garner said. Aside from the distance between students, counselors and colleges, another of the greatest changes to the college application process has been the widespread adoption of test-optional policies. Even some of the highest ranking universities in the United States — like Harvard, Yale and MIT —have suspended their testing requirements for the class of 2021. The motivation behind this change stems from the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic has prevented many students nationwide from taking the SAT or ACT, leaving those applicants without test scores to submit. According to McLoughlin, this change contributes to addressing both longstanding and new issues of inequity within the application system. “When the pandemic started we had to cancel our testing, which really penalizes those who have a chronic illness or have somebody in the family that’s immune compromised,” McLoughlin said. “They can’t go take a test in person.” The inequity of the standardized testing

process is not a new concept. In fact, even before the Covid-19 pandemic other factors, such as race and wealth, were recognized to impact test scores. McLoughlin believes that making standardized test score submission optional is a step in the right direction. “The college admissions process is a little broken and really skews towards privilege and whiteness,” McLoughlin said. “I’m glad to see some things like test-optional [policies] level the playing field a little bit.” Sickman-Garner and Kurihara both agreed that moving away from standardized testing would be beneficial to future classes of students. “I think [testing] is a very poor measure of anyone’s intelligence or qualification for a certain school,” Sickman-Garner said. “My hope is that schools, even after this year, will realize that they don’t need test scores to admit a good class of students.” Kurihara emphasized that she did not have the option to forgo submitting scores, as her schools required them, but she wished she had been able to apply without them. “A test score is just a snapshot of one single day, one single exam,” Kurihara said. “The fact that you can get wildly different scores on the SAT with the same brain and same knowledge [on different days] shows that the test is not a very good indicator of somebody’s actual abilities.” Moving into this new year, the class of 2021 will have to make difficult decisions about their plans going forward. Whatever their concerns, whether it be unfamiliarity with a certain campus that they have not visited, or uncertainty about taking and submitting standardized tests to universities, Kurihara hoped to offer some reassurance. “It is totally okay if you go to [a school] you’ve never been to before because there will definitely be a lot of other people on campus that are in the same position,” Kurihara said. Just as importantly, McLoughlin emphasized that college is not the only option for students and that no matter what they end up choosing, it is important to take some time to reflect on and appreciate their high school years. “I think it’s okay to hit the pause button and hang out with your friends when this is over,” McLoughlin said. “You [should] be able to have time where you’re just being a regular teenager before you have to embark on [your] college journey.” Features | January 2020 | 17


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Cate Weiser, CHS junior, has focused her camera lens on people. Her passion for portrait photography allows her to capture moments that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. BY ARISTA LUONG

“Whenever I see something beautiful, I take a photo of it,” Weiser said. “It’s amazing to be able to capture a moment between a mother and daughter on the sidewalk or to take a photo that my friend, who isn’t normally self-confident, feels amazing about.” Weiser wants to show hidden beauty. She thinks of her photos as moments in time — memories — to look back at and smile. Weiser hopes to spread happiness and positivity through her photography. “Life is so beautiful,” Weiser said. “I want to do what I can to capture it. That is so cheesy, but it’s true.” Weiser has a knack for portrait photography. She loves to take photos of friends, loved ones and strangers. “It’s capturing this moment in time,” Weiser said. “Whatever the person is doing, whether it’s a really simple thing or candid photo of them doing something or a posed photo of my friend looking beautiful.” However, this has not always been possible during Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay at home order. To stay safe while taking pictures, Weiser has had to adapt. She often gets together with one friend at a time and takes photos outside, six feet apart, while wearing masks. “My friends have been the focal point of my photography recently,” Weiser said. “I’m not really allowed to go to places where I can just photograph people.” Even though Weiser’s lenses no longer all fit in her camera bag, she still uses it to carry her photography essentials. Arguably the most important item in her bag is her Canon DSLR camera, which she

Photography by Cate Weiser This photo was taken at Clear Water River in Montana. Weiser and her mom went on an 11-mile bike ride to get to this spot: the intersection point of Black Foot River and Clear Water River. “I really love the way the photo is composed,” Weiser said.

uses to take the majority of her photos. Weiser carries two lenses with her: one of them 70 to 180 millimeters the other 670 millimeters. “[My lenses] are really nice for social distanced photography,” Weiser said. “I can still take a clear portrait shot without having to get super close.” Weiser always keeps an extra battery for her DSLR camera in her bag. She also makes sure to have chapstick or lip gloss on her at all times. The newest addition to her camera bag is a film camera. “Over quarantine, I started doing a lot of film photography,” Weiser said. “I always take a couple of extra rolls of film [with me].” Weiser is currently infatuated with editorial-style portrait photography. She gets every issue of Vogue magazine and spends hours looking at the photos in them. She has a collage on her bedroom wall of pictures from these magazines that she admires and takes inspiration from. “I’m in love with the originality behind them,” Weiser said. “There’s so much personality.” One of her favorite photographers at the moment is 22-year-old Deon Hinton, who she found through Instagram. Weiser shares Hinton’s fondness for film photography. “He photographs people,” Weiser said. “He does these very out-there, editorial shoots.” Weiser enjoys scrolling through his photography account, which is called ‘blondecaptured.’ She takes inspiration from his one-of-a-kind portrait photography. “My style is very natural and soft,” Weiser said. “My photos are colorful, and the subjects are very obvious.” Weiser takes almost all of her photos outside. She feels that it furthers the intention of the photo. She takes her pictures with positivity in mind. Her goal

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is for them to be uplifting and airy. “They’re happy photos,” Weiser said Weiser dreams of a career in photography, but she doubts her abilities. If she does end up taking photographs for a living, she would explore the world of photojournalism. “There’s a difference between being out in the field taking photos and being in a studio that is perfectly set up every time where kids rotate through and sit on a stool,” Weiser said. “I would never want to do that.” Weiser has never pictured a cookie-cutter career for herself in the photography industry. She wants her photos to be creative and unique. For now, photography is a hobby for Weiser, though she would love to get better and make money off of it one day. Being a photographer has let Weiser see the world in more detail. “You have to do what you can to enjoy the little things in life,” Weiser said. “Find joy in small things.” Taking photos has helped Weiser to do just that — it makes her happy. Weiser finds herself taking a picture of her cinnamon sugar bagel and fruit as the morning sunlight hits her plate. Photoshoots have allowed Weiser and her friends to make memories while being safe. “Taking photos of them is a really nice way to spend that time,” Weiser said. “They get to put on a fun outfit and do their makeup. Then we hang out and walk to different places.” Weiser has been taking pictures of her friends with the new camera lens she got over quarantine. She captured photos of her friend Mia Wood, a junior at CHS, in front of a sunset on Huron River Drive. “There’s a little bit of treeline, and then there’s her and the sunset with these beautiful clouds,” Weiser said. “I love that photo. I took it with flash because the sun was standing behind her. She really stood out against the sunset.” On another outdoor adventure with Wood, the pair were caught in the rain while sitting in hammocks. “It was on my film camera, and Mia is opening an umbrella while looking up. It’s a great candid photo,” Weiser said. “It’s so funny because we were under trees, and we weren’t getting that wet, but it was pouring around where we were. It was this perfect spot.” Recently, Weiser and her friend Grace Wang, a junior at CHS, went to a parking 20 | The Communicator Magazine

Life is so beautiful. I want to do what I can to capture it. That is so cheesy, but it’s true.

structure in downtown Ann Arbor for a photoshoot. “[Wang] put on this amazing outfit,” Weiser said. “She matched a cow print mask to a cow print bag. She’s sitting in this little pool of sunlight, and it’s an eyelevel shot, [where] she’s looking into the camera. It was so much fun, and the photos are so cool.” In 7th grade, Weiser and her best friend would take pictures of each other using their phones. It was a fun activity to pass the time, but Weiser’s photography soon evolved. Weiser’s grandma is also a photographer. She gave Weiser one of her old Canon DSLR cameras. Weiser fell in love with the camera and started bringing it to all of the photoshoots with her friends. “Eventually, I realized that I really enjoyed taking photos of people and that I wanted to capture these moments,” Weiser said. “I’m going to want to remember them when I’m older.” She decided to continue photographing people while broadening the scale. Weiser loves having pictures of her friends and loved ones and plans to continue taking them. “[Photography] has given me a different perspective and helped me pay attention to the beauty around me,” Weiser said. “Sometimes you walk through life too fast to notice.” With a camera and good lighting, Weiser can capture unique moments that would otherwise go unseen. “I was doing some photos for [The Communicator’s 2020 first] edition, and I went to Kerrytown on a farmers market day,” Weiser said. “There was this little booth that’s been there for years, as long as I can remember. It’s this woman’s [booth] who makes children’s clothes. There was a little girl with her mom, and she’s getting a dress. She was holding the hanger with two hands and walking around with her a little mask on. I got a photo of her standing there holding it, and I thought that it was really adorable.”

Photography by Cate Weiser Weiser’s summer was spent taking pictures and hanging out with her friends while keeping socially distant. Her go-to spot was Barton Dam, where she began to experiment with film photography. “You have to do what you can to enjoy the little things in life,” Weiser said. “Find joy in small things.”

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SARS-CoV-2, otherwise known as Covid-19, is a new and deadly virus sweeping the globe. The virus has already claimed 1.6 million lives worldwide, with almost 300,000 in the U.S. alone. It has shut down schools, offices and businesses and has overwhelmed hospitals. Covid-19 has dramatically changed the way of life for Americans: the way we learn, what we wear, what we value, who we see and how we interact. One CHS student recounts his experience with the virus.

like he one. BY: SOPHIE FETTER

“It started with my dad,” said Casey*, a CHS student. “At first we thought he had allergies. That was normal. [But] in a few days he went from being the occasional sneezing to full-on symptoms: fatigue and coughing. He lost his sense of taste. Once he told me that, I knew. He got tested, and the results came back positive.” Casey and his family had been careful. They followed the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. They wore masks and stayed six feet apart. They didn’t leave the house unless it was for food. “We tried,” Casey said. “We were sanitizing everything, even our masks, but there’s only so much you can do. I would say we got unlucky [given] the circumstances.” Casey’s father initially took the test as a precaution, but his condition became more evident as time passed. Casey’s family anxiously waited for the results of his test. “I was very upset in the days leading up to his diagnosis,” Casey said. Casey had just woken up when his father came to the door. He didn’t say anything, just showed Casey his phone. On the screen glowed the words: “Your results have indicated you’re positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.” “I didn’t really feel anything,” Casey said. “I already knew that he had it. I just had a feeling. [The results] confirmed it.” Over the next three weeks, Casey’s family was kept in strict quarantine at the doctor’s request. Friends and family brought them food and left it outside the door. Casey’s family tried to prevent each other from getting infected. Once Casey’s father started showing symptoms, they wore masks and socially distanced themselves from each other. It wasn’t enough, though, and other members of Casey’s family began to feel sick. As the days passed since his father’s diagnosis, Casey started to feel extremely fatigued. It hurt to walk. Even going up and down the stairs left him out of breath. “I felt tired,” Casey said. “Not tired as if you wanted to go to sleep all the time. I still wanted to do things. It was more of the fact that you couldn’t do things without your legs or your body aching, or that you wanted to sit back down the second you stood up.” Casey participates in an exercise-based extracurricular, which

holds Zoom meetings where students practice together. As much as he wanted to, Casey didn’t have the strength to participate. “I’d just sit there on Zoom watching other people,” Casey said. Besides his fatigue, Casey’s other symptoms were mild, and luckily no one else in his family developed a serious case. “Mentally, I think it was more of a struggle than physically,” Casey said. “It was a deep frustration that we have done this work to avoid getting sick, only to get sick out of nowhere.” Casey was lonely too. He hadn’t been seeing his friends since the pandemic began, so that didn’t change with his diagnosis. Even though he could FaceTime people, it was harder to connect with them. “It felt like a battle you had to fight by yourself,” Casey said. “You felt like you were the unlucky one. Nobody else had it. You see all these other people doing all these [irresponsible] things, and they don’t get it. But you did. It was just a hard thing to come to

“It felt like a battle you had to fight by yourself.” terms with.” Casey is asking everyone to wear masks, social distance and quarantine when necessary. He recognizes that his experience with the virus is relatively mild, but that’s not always the case. Casey’s biggest fear was that he might have infected others. “You don’t want to be the person responsible for getting anyone else sick,” he said. *Name changed to protect anonymity Features | January 2020 | 23


The theme of this edition is politics. However, it specifically incorporates local politics from the youth perspective. As testified by many of the local politicians in this section, their political career would not have existed without the hard work of high school and college-aged interns and volunteers. This theme section also reinforces the idea that teenagers’ lives are deeply impacted by politics from being situated within discourse of current events. The Communicator journalists have explored the multifaceted nature of the discourse of Ann Arbor politics and the issues most important to teenagers.

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OFFICIAL BALLOT 2020 Presidential Election

PRESIDENTIAL AND VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (D) Donald Trump and Mike Pence (R)



Debbie Stabenow

Donate to a campagin

Gary Peters

Encourage those who can vote to register



Howie Hawkins and Angela Nicole Walker (G)

Bryan Johnson

Intern with a local campaign

Jo Jorgenson and Spike Cohen (L)

Jessica Kelly

Write your Senator or Representative

Simone Lightfoot

Attend a protest or help organize an event

Rebecca Lazarus

Join your community’s civic life

Jeffrey Gaynor

Attend town hall meetings

Eli Savit

Susan Baskett

Attend city council meetings

Jerry Clayton

Glenn Nelson

Read American history and civics

ANN ARBOR MAYOR Christopher Taylor


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Photos courtesy of Eli Savit Washtenaw County Prosecutor-elect Eli Savit speaks with voters before Covid-19. Savit, born and raised in Ann Arbor, ran a sweeping, progressive campaign, driven in large part by youth organizers. “I’m sitting here preparing to take office right now, because of the work that [my volunteers] did, and the ideas that they had,” Savit said.

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In 2014, the now-Washtenaw County Prosecutor-elect stood head and shoulders above Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as they posed for an annual photo of the U.S. Supreme Court justices and their respective clerks. With a neatly buzzed haircut and an energetic smile, Eli Savit, the former starting center for the Kalamazoo College basketball team, was, by almost any measure, in contrasting posture to Ginsburg. Understanding how their qualities worked in harmony, and its impact on Savit’s prosecutorial principles, requires more context than just their ambitiously progressive values and love for the law. To do this, we have to rewind to a time before Savit’s time as a clerk, law student, history teacher or basketball player. We must look back to 1989, to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Upon hearing that 11 million gallons of oil had rushed into Alaska’s Prince Charles Sound, Savit did what few first graders would: He started a club. Savit’s “Stop the Oil Spills Club” brought a dozen classmates — out of a grade of 25 — together, and they discussed how to prevent environmental crises in the future. This effort was not overlooked by parents either. On the occasion that Savit and his friends asked their parents politely, they would march around downtown Ann Arbor, posters in hand. In fourth grade, Savit built upon this experience. He took his first, true foray into politics: going door-todoor for Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign. In the decades since, he has worked for every Democratic nominee for the White House. As a high schooler, Savit attended Pioneer High School (PHS) in Ann Arbor, Mich. and quickly found his footing yet again. He worked his way to Editor-in-Chief of the Pioneer Optimist, the student newspaper, and captain of the basketball team. Nevertheless, Savit, a self-described teenage rabble-rouser, maintained a tense relationship with the school’s administration. In Savit’s tenure as the Editor-in-Chief of The Optimist, he uncovered, of all things, that someone had rigged the homecoming court. Prior to printing the 28 | The Communicator Magazine

article, however, the principal stepped in and blocked the story’s publication. Upon learning this, Savit and his friends tore through Supreme Court case law on students’ rights to free speech in a last-ditch effort to publish the story. They eventually discovered that they could, in fact, run it with one substantial contingency: they had to pay for it. “Once [the principal,] in my view, censored our newspaper, some friends of mine and I actually raised a couple thousand dollars from our classmates to get it printed,” Savit said. “We printed up copies [of the story] on our own dime and distributed it to our high school classmates.” In 2001, Savit graduated from PHS and headed to Kalamazoo College, where he split time between the classroom and the basketball court. Upon getting his bachelor’s degree, he became an American history teacher at a public middle school in New York City. It was there that he learned how to work with kids, not just teach them. After Savit’s stint as a schoolteacher, he returned to school, not as a teacher, but as a student. Back in Ann Arbor, he studied law, political science and philosophy at the University of Michigan (UM); he is now a law lecturer at the UM. When he got onto campus and analyzed legal texts for the first time, he realized that if he wanted to make a difference, law was his best bet. So, after graduating, he turned to the justice system. Becoming a clerk on both the Court of Appeals for the Ninth and District of Columbia Circuits, Savit became acquainted with the processes and broad applications of federal law. Regardless of this experience, he did not see himself as a contender for a Supreme Court clerkship. Dubbed by legal experts as the holy grail for newly-minted law graduates, out of more than a thousand applicants, nearly all of the 32 accepted Supreme Court clerks attended the top four or five law schools in the county. Because of that, Savit thought that working for the Court was merely a fantasy. This felt more tangible, however, once Judge David Tatel of the D.C. Circuit encouraged him to apply. Tate had a close relationship with Justice Ginsburg — one that was all but necessary to aid Savit’s application. Savit was denied the position the first time. He turned to Williams & Connolly, one of the most selective law firms in the country. But after further encouragement from his former professors and Tatel, Savit applied again. The second try was the charm, and he was accepted as, not just Ginsberg’s, but also Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s clerk. “You always listen to the judge,” Savit said, laughing. “It was no different in the application process. I was on cloud nine for a couple of months after I got [the clerkship].” Selected applicants, like Savit, must wait nearly a year before stepping into the Court as a clerk. During this time, he reflected on how he got the job. “It is just human nature that when you succeed, you think it’s because of your own hard work,” Savit said.

“And when you don’t, it’s because of bad luck. But the truth of the matter is that luck is involved with everything.” It was with this in mind that Savit bounded up the Court stairs in October of 2014 for his first day. As a clerk, he was primarily responsible for summarizing upwards of 10,000 petitions, asking the Court for a writ of certiorari. The justices reviewed his recommendations and ultimately selected around 60 to actually hear. In scouring thousands of cases, he would find hand written petitions from clients themselves — once, even from a prisoner alleging mistreatment at the hand of prisoner guards. “I had this 30,000-foot view of everything that’s going on in the American legal system,” Savit said. “It struck me how many people were suffering and how many mistakes we might be making.” When Savit was not dissecting the petitions, he worked closely with Justices Ginsburg and O’Connor. Being a night owl, Justice Ginsburg worked until three or four in the morning and expected her clerks to do the same. He and Justice Ginsburg would go over every word of that night’s opinion until it was perfect. “In those wee hours of the morning, alone in this marble palace with Justice Ginsburg, it hit me what an incredible opportunity it was to be sitting there at that particular moment,” Savit said. “She kept human beings at the center of everything that she did. She saw the law as a potential driver of equality and saw the promise of the law as being something that could impact people’s lives for the better.” Justice Ginsburg was Savit’s idol since his childhood, but it was Justice O’Connor, the first female justice of the Court, who most fervently pushed him to go into public service. By 2014, she had retired, but was still a major advocate for civil education in schools. While Savit wrote speeches and essays with her, she persuaded him to go back to Michigan. In Oct. 2015, when his clerk term expired, Savit returned home. Upon arriving back in Detroit, he took a job at Jones Day, the same firm that Justice Antonin Scalia previously worked for. In Savit’s time at Jones Day, he worked closely with corporate clients. At the same time, however, the Detroit Public School (DPS) system was careening into bankruptcy. Citing his passion for education that was sparked by teaching and sustained by Justice O’Connor, he began to offer the DPS pro bono legal assistance. After three months of this back-and-forth, Savit left Jones Day and took the job as senior advisor and counsel to the Detroit mayor, Mike Duggan. There, he worked on correcting the course of the DPS. “I had to give back a lot of the money that [Jones Day] had paid me, but it was worth it,” Savit said. “I wanted to get up in the morning and do work that I thought was meaningful and valuable. I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines in Detroit at that point in its history.” Savit’s political involvement from his first grade club all the way to Supreme Court clerk and Detroit’s chief

counsel proved fundamental in his recent campaign for Washtenaw County Prosecutor. But the cornerstone of his candidacy was not centered around his resume. Instead, outstanding youth and progressive support stole the show. His platform of eliminating cash bail and re-examining the criminal justice system with a fresh perspective captivated most all who listened. Bernie Sanders, a stalwart of the Democratic Party’s liberal wing and two-time presidential candidate, and John Legend, an eleven-time Grammy winner, were two of those people. Accordingly, both Sanders and Legend endorsed Savit’s campaign. “What happens in [prosecutor’s] offices across the country is critically important and will impact millions of lives,” Sanders said in a press statement. “We need district attorneys and prosecutors who understand that their job is not throwing people in jail but that their job is fighting for justice.” Savit’s younger volunteers ­— all 120 of them — echoed this enthusiasm. He remarked that in a traditional county prosecutor’s race, he would be thrilled to have only 20. With such a massive campaign footprint, Savit and his team made over 350,000 phone calls, canvassed nearly all of Washtenaw County and designed policy. “Once that snowball started rolling, it just kept accelerating,” Savit said. “We won the campaign because of our incredible team of largely high school and college interns and volunteers.” Savit’s widespread student involvement was rare, but the responsibility he delegated to them was even more unorthodox. He attributes his ability to engage and confide in students to his time as a teacher. With teenagers in charge of entire outreach operations and contributing to policy, Savit viewed it as one more chance to foster a learning environment. “[My volunteers] may be young, but they’re creative,” Savit said. “And if you give them responsibility, they’re going to run with it. They’re going to do things that you could never have imagined. I’m sitting here, preparing to take office right now, because of the work that they did and the ideas that they had. So, get involved and don’t be afraid to speak up.”

“I had this 30,000-foot view of everything that’s going on in the American legal system,” Savit said. “It struck me how many people were suffering and how many mistakes we might be making.” Features | January 2020 | 29

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When Krystle Dupree found out she won, she cried. It was 3:33 a.m. Seven years earlier, she had recently left the army and was utilizing Washtenaw Community College’s food pantry for women to sustain her son. Now, DuPree is one of the newest members to Ann Arbor’s Board of Education. Photos courtesy of Krystle DuPree Before running for Ann Arbor’s Board of Education, Krystle DuPree largely considered herself to be apolitical. But after getting involved in the Ann Arbor’s educational discourse because of her son, DuPree was encouraged to run for office. “When you’re sitting at the ‘bottom,’ everybody looks the same at the top,” DuPree said.

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But before her election to the board, DuPree was considered apolitical for much of her life. DuPree’s social consciousness was sparked when she was a student in the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) system. And as an adult, she still exercised her right to vote — an act she considers important due to the historical struggle her predecessors endured to achieve this liberty. But she did not believe in the system.

guaranteed clothing, food, shelter and an education afterwards. She stayed for about four years, and her position in the morgue allowed her to learn inclusivity: because they were somebody’s loved one, DuPree learned to treat everyone with respect, even if they were an “enemy combatant.” These lessons inspired her career path. After her service, she began taking classes at Washtenaw Community College, eventually switching her major from occupational therapy to social work — allowing her to focus on her ultimate goal of helping others. However, DuPree’s political pursuit began with her son. Her son has been to several different schools. His first educational experience was excellent, according to DuPree. But as they moved, the quality of the education began to decline. Now nine years old, DuPree’s son has had to grapple with ADHD throughout his educational experience, and these challenges have only been exacerbated by the stigma DuPree is met with from being a single mother. Often, the suggestion to help her son’s ADHD include the need for a “strong male influence.” Thus, to achieve changes on her son’s behalf, DuPree had to advocate for herself. DuPree brought light to the issues that her son was facing over Facebook. She learned the Special Education jargon to amplify her voice to create change. Many

“There’s somebody waiting for an advocate. I want to be there for folks [so] that they know there is a voice at the board that understands how it feels to go through these things. It’s different for you to see them on the outside. To actually know what it feels like to be on that end of the spectrum, I think it’s important to have that voice and perspective.”

“When you’re sitting at the ‘bottom,’ everybody looks the same at the top,” DuPree said. “It doesn’t matter what party you’re associated with, group, whatever. I mean, to me, [you all] are just privileged. And I just wasn’t.” DuPree was laid off from her job at OnStar, a company that provides a built-in car safety system. Faced with homelessness, she enlisted in the army so she could be

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other parents in the district with children in the Special Education programs had experiences similar to DuPree’s, and eventually, she had a network of parent allies. It was one of these parents who suggested she run for Ann Arbor’s Board of Education in 2020. “I could have fought tooth and nail to get the situation worked out for my son,” DuPree said. “But there’s somebody’s mom right there that worked too many hours to be doing all of that fighting. There’s somebody’s mom that can’t afford a special education lawyer…there’s somebody waiting for an advocate. I want to be there for folks [so] that they know there is a voice at the board that understands how it feels to go through these things. It’s different for you to see them on the outside. To actually know what it feels like to be on that end of the spectrum, I think it’s important to have that voice and perspective.” DuPree’s personal experiences put her into a unique political position: her time advocating for her son gives her a relatability to a specific group of Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) families. DuPree may have testified that she was sitting at the “bottom” when she was largely considered apolitical, but now, she is a voice with experience, advocating for her constituents among her Board colleagues. DuPree’s campaign for the Board of Education garnered endorsements from several major political figures and organizations: Abdul El-Sayed, the former Michigan gubernatorial candidate; several nominees and incumbents of the Washtenaw County Commissioner positions; the Washtenaw County Democratic Party Black Caucus; and Jeff Irwin, the Michigan State Senator for District 18. Ann Arbor’s local high schoolers also played an influential role in DuPree’s campaign. Because this was her first time running for office, DuPree felt inexperienced. She also had to balance her duties as a mother with that of her campaign. She worked with

her campaign manager to research topics that DuPree could reasonably tackle –– even if she lost her election. Accordingly, she used the support of local teenagers to her advantage. Many youth interns on her campaign texted and called registered voters to convince them to cast their ballots for DuPree. “I wouldn’t have had a campaign if it wasn’t for [youth],” DuPree said. “I am so immensely grateful for all the support and help.” As an official board member, DuPree is ready to take on the educational challenges the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about. A plan for a safe school year for all AAPS students is intertwined with the discussion of equity. DuPree emphasizes the racial health disparities perpetuated by the virus, underscoring the high likelihood of contraction for Black and Indigenous people, especially those that live in intergenerational households. Although school-aged children may have a lower risk of developing severe symptoms due to Covid-19, they may pass it on to a high-risk individual they live with. “I want to be a voice of collaboration, so we can actually get stuff moving,” DuPree said. “I hope that we will be able to talk more about making sure that we have student voices represented adequately.” With the challenges of the pandemic in addition to pre-existing issues, DuPree hopes to incorporate student voices into the Board of Education. She even hopes to have student representatives present at board meetings to gauge the diversity of the problems at hand — especially because DuPree and her colleagues are not the ones attending school. Seven years after her service in the army, DuPree has become a local politician, inspired by her son’s struggles within the public schools system. Although she may have been apolitical at one point, she now symbolizes a relatable voice on Ann Arbor’s Board of Education.

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Jen Eyer’s political interest started when she was in high school. But it wasn’t until she was an adult when she decided to run for a local office — to bring the change her constituents wanted to see. Photos courtesy of Jen Eyer Jen Eyer’s interest in politics began when she was in high school after being selected for the National Younger Leaders’ Conference. She eventually returned back to politics after a career in journalism to elicit change her community. “I wanted to hold people accountable and communicate what decisions were being made,” Eyer said.

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Jen Eyer was recently elected to serve as one of Ann Arbor’s city council representatives. Eyer is a mother of two and has been a Michigander for her whole life. Senior year is when Eyer’s interest in politics all began after she was selected for the National Young Leaders Conference that took place in Washington D.C. After meeting her current congress representatives and taking place in a mock debate with her peers, Eyer was offered an internship to work in the office of her congressman at that time, Howard Wolpel. Once Eyer was ready to begin her college career at Michigan State University, she decided to take journalism because she believed it was the best way for her to be engaged in politics and be able to report back on whatever was happening in the world. “I wanted to hold people accountable and communicate what decisions were being made,” Eyer said. “I worked in journalism for 20 years, and as soon as I left, I immediately jumped right back into politics.” Once Eyer started back up in politics, she was taking part in jobs one after another, eventually leading her to working as the spokeswoman for Michigan Governor

self and not worry what those around you say. “I think it’s really important as a woman in politics to be very assertive and very clear in your communication and in your knowledge on any issues,” Eyer said. “Haters gonna hate. You must learn to let it go.” Being one of Ann Arbor’s city council representatives, Eyer’s biggest role is making sure that she is representing her constituents. “Residents will reach out to me with concerns that they might have,” Eyer said. “I try to help them get answers for questions that they have by finding the information that they need, communicate concerns that they may have for City Hall and help get resolution to issues.” One of the main concerns is the ongoing issue in our environment of climate change. Eyer’s team hopes to make Ann Arbor a carbon neutral city by 2030, which will be a major contribution on Eyer’s part. “Going forward, we are making sure that we’re positioning ourselves to recover economically from the Covid pandemic and get people back on their feet and get businesses open and thriving again,” Eyer said. “Those are two huge things that I work on as a city council member in a variety of ways. The third thing is really creating more housing in the city for people who commute and want to live here.” On a more personal level, Eyer is looking forward to creating a new culture for city council where council members can respect each other and learn from one another. “I’m going to be rolling out some new ideas in terms of how we can really make it more part of our culture that, when we disagree, we disagree respectfully, and we make our disagreements about policy, not about personalities,” Eyer said. Younger generations have flourished in political engagement on issues that have risen in these past couple years, such as climate change and gun violence, and most recently, the 2020 election. “I do think that high school students are more politically engaged now,” Eyer said. “It is really exciting to me to see how much more involved teens are and how they have the ability to get information about politics through channels that they use socially, such as Instagram, YouTube and even TikTok. I think that the younger generation is a lot more informed about the big issues that we’re facing in the future.”

“We are a progressive community. But it didn’t seem to me that the decisions that were being made by the city council in the past couple of years were as progressive as residents wanted. That is why I chose to run for office here for city council.”

Gretchen Whitmer. Later on, Eyer was also appointed to serve on the Washington Community Board of Commissioners. After taking part in several job opportunities Eyer knew she wanted more. “When I looked around at the different opportunities, I really felt that locally was where I could make the most difference here in Ann Arbor,” Eyer said. “We are a progressive community. But it didn’t seem to me that the decisions that were being made by the city council in the past couple of years were as progressive as residents wanted. That is why I chose to run for office here for city council.” Being a woman in politics can be challenging at times. Throughout Eyer’s experience, she explains that you need to focus on your36 | The Communicator Magazine

Photos courtesy of Jen Eyer Jen Eyer wants to be the middle ground between City Council and her constituents. She was inspired to run to enact some of the progressive policies Ann Arbor communtiy members desired, but were not achieving. “When I looked around at the different opportunities, I really felt that locally was where I could make the most difference,“ Eyer said.

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Ann Arbor Board of Education President Bryan Johnson started his political career through his advocacy work. This experience was the empathetic underpinnings to his service and leadership on the board. Johnson has deep ties to the Ann Arbor Public Schools district; in addition to himself, his parents, his wife and his children attended AAPS. This, and more, is what Johnson believes makes him a great leader. “I’ve had a fair amount of exposure and contact with the district and know a lot of the history of it as well,” Johnson said. “So I bring all that to the fore, as I serve my capacity on the board now.” Johnson was vice president of the board last year, but performed many of the presidential duties for half of the year while the current president was out. He was elected this year in January by the board, and he also leads the Governance Committee, which directs the operations of the district. Board members are elected to four-year terms (Johnson was elected in 2018) and then elected internally for leadership. Johnson first got involved with the board through his advocacy work. He was president of The Districtwide Black Parents’ Support Group and on a transportation board where they dealt with a past school transportation issue. His advocacy work gave him the empathy and listening skills needed to connect the community and help students and teachers. “I’ve done things such as really tried to influence the types of curriculum that are being delivered at different levels to make sure that it’s representative of our students and their backgrounds,” Johnson said. “We made a couple recent purchases of services that gave students access to [electronic] books. We have curated collections that ensure that they’re diverse.” Johnson’s top priorities are equity and social justice, and in the past, he has worked on fair teacher compensation and AAPS bonds. Although currently his main priority is ensuring that students are safe from Covid-19 and receiving the best education possible.

“What that [virtual learning work] has really looked like is trying to understand or gather the information that we have and make the best decisions that we can based on emerging information,” Johnson said. In the beginning of the pandemic, Johnson’s focus was on making sure that students had food and internet access. Now, he is looking towards the future. “There isn’t any type of push just to keep us out of classrooms because people don’t want to go back,” Johnson said. “We just really, honestly, want to protect all our kids.” Johnson is also thinking about how to prepare buildings for the future and make them pandemic ready. While building and updating, he wants to remain as carbon neutral as possible. Whether that means planting trees to offset emissions, making buildings more sustainable or developing more policies on sustainability. “The goal is that we want to do as little harm to the environment as possible,” Johnson said. Through the challenges of this year, Johnson is seeing the silver lining. He invites students to share ideas for a better school with teachers and administrators. “I challenge high school students the same way that I challenge the superintendent, the cabinet and staff

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“I understand that the pre-Covid education system and Ann Arbor Public Schools wasn’t doing the job for all children either. And we had a lot of improvements that we needed to make.” every day to think about how we can create innovations through this crisis that help to improve school overall,” Johnson said. “Because as much as we want to talk about going back to the way that school was before, a lot of my experience through working with the Black parent support group and working with these different parent groups, and just being a student in the schools and having kids in the schools, I understand that the pre-Covid education system and Ann Arbor Public Schools wasn’t doing the job for all children either. And we had a lot of improvements that we needed to make.” Photos courtesy of Bryan Johnson Bryan Johnson has been the Ann Arbor Board of Education President since 2018. He initially got involved through the Districtwide Black Parents’ Support Group before running for office. “I challenge high school students the same why I challenge the superintendent, the cabinet and staff everyday,” Johnson said.

Features | January 2020 | 39

The Failure of Democrats in the 2020 Election While Democrats were dreaming of a landslide victory in the House, Senate and Presidency, reality settled in on election night. BY HENRY COLLINS-THOMPSON

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The 2020 election was a failure for the Democratic party, and more specifically, moderate Democrats. While Democrats won the presidential election, they lost key down ballot races in the House, Senate, Governor races and State Legislatures. In the exit polls following the election, 68% of voters who said they voted against a candidate chose Biden; while those who voted for a candidate, rather than against, gave Trump a 53% to 46% lead. This clearly shows that the 2020 election was a referendum on Trump, rather than an enthusiastic embrace of Biden and the Democratic party.

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One of the problems the Democrats faced in key swing districts was a lower voter turnout than expected. 538’s election model had districts such as Fla. CD-26 giving the Democrat a comfortable 54% forecasted vote share, while in fact, they lost with a disappointing 48%. The past couple of years have demonstrated that high voter turnout equates to Democratic party victories; while low turnout has an adverse effect. A key example was the 2014 midterm elections: many of the Democrats who attempted to appeal to a more moderate base ended up getting lower turnout and lost. In 2014, liberal policy ideas were very

popular and succeeded where the Democratic party could not. States that Republicans flipped in Senate and Gubernatorial races like Arkansas, Illinois, South Dakota and Alaska, all voted for raising their state’s minimum wage. Additionally, Alaska, a ruby red state, voted to legalize marijuana. Progressive ballot measures had similar successes in the 2020 election. Florida, a state that voted for Trump, voted to raise the minimum wage, while other deep red states, like Montana and South Dakota, legalized marijuana. Most notably, Utah and Nebraska voted to end the practice of allowing slavery as a just punishment for

criminal offenses. All of these states fully rejected the Democratic presidential nominee, yet embraced their ideals with open arms. People do not get out to vote for moderate Democrats. Why would they? People vote if they feel passionate about issues, or they have some reason to care to vote. Moderate Democrats do not inspire passion amongst voters. For what reason would a younger person have to register, vote or campaign for a party that does not bring forth ideas or issues out of fear of alienating their moderate voter base? Democrats would have more success appealing to the liberal ideas that will get people out to vote. After the Black Lives Matter protests against the murder of George Floyd, Democratic registration surged, particularly in states where the demonstrations were taking place. A very recent issue the Democratic party has been facing is that some voters, many of whom were once passionate supporters of the Democrats, have moved to the Republican party. This is most notable in states particularly affected by economic globalization and automation in the Rust Belt and Midwest, such as Iowa, West Virginia and Missouri. The branding of Democrats by the Trump campaign as “Coastal Elites,” who do not care for the working man, along with the failure of policies to restore jobs and the decimation of unions in the Rust Belt, have moved these key voters to the right. This is why we have seen so much support for more populist inspiring candidates in the past couple of years. Candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have had massive successes electorally, as they inspire hope in people like Barack Obama did in 2008. While Trump boasts a high popularity with Republicans, Sanders is pushed to the wayside due to the lie of unelectable radicals perpetuated by the Democrats. Photo courtesy of The Democratic Party was able to gain control in the Electoral Branch with the victory of President-Elect Joe Biden over incumbent Donald Trump. However, The Communicator journalist Henry Collins-Thompson argues that recent victories for progressive policies outweigh moderate onces.

Opinion | January 2020 | 41

The Role of DownBallot Voting in the 2020 General Election The election not only determined the next president, but the influence of gerrymandering. BY SANTIAGO FIORI

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Democrats managed a big win in securing the title of President-Elect on Nov. 3, but they missed out on one of their biggest goals for the 2020 general election: taking control of State legislative chambers and consequently the power to draw electoral districts. Although the eyes of the nation were set on the presidential election, the down-ballot races for State-level governments were of equal importance. The outcome of these elections would determine the role gerrymandering would have in our country for the next decade. Every ten years, the Constitution mandates a national census be taken. The census brings updates on population densities and distribution, which are then used to determine the number of representatives each State gets in the U.S. House of Representatives. This requires redrawing the district lines for political offices. The necessity to redraw Congressional District boundaries presents the opportunity for gerrymandering, or the manipulation of boundaries (of an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class. This becomes a problem when that power is abused to an extent where the results of the elections can be changed to favor one political party. One method seen groups a high percentage of the opposing political party into a few districts, then shapes the other districts to give their political party a slight advantage, resulting in a minority of voters for one party still holding the majority of congressional seats. This is a clear violation of the democratic voice of the people and is the main reason gerrymandering needs to be addressed and reformed. Many legislative seats at the state level were up for reelection on Nov. 3, 2020. Democrats hoped to flip seats to gain the majority in key States, such as Pennsylva-

nia, Minnesota, Texas and Iowa, to prevent Republican gerrymandering. However, despite an estimated $50 million invested by the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee to win congressional seats at the State level, no legislative chambers were flipped in Democratic favor. How Congressional Districts are redrawn every decade varies from state-to-state. The most common method has the districts drafted and passed by the legislature with gubernatorial approval. This method is most commonly seen in Republican Trifecta States — a term which is used when the same political party holds the position of governor and the majority in both legislative chambers. This “trifecta” fundamentally gives the Republican party their way and allows easy access to gerrymandering. Democratic trifectas do also exist, however, they are generally less known for extravagant gerrymandering. Some states use a slightly varied version of the method mentioned before. In some of these state’s cases, the governor does not have veto power, and in others, Congress can overturn a gubernatorial veto with a simple majority as opposed to a supermajority. Although most states rely on legislative chambers to redraw electoral districts, there are a growing number of States that either utilize independent or political commissions. In Arizona, Montana and Alaska, among a few others, an independent commission with members appointed by both political parties convenes to redraw congressional district lines. In theory, this ensures that both sides get a say in how the district lines are drawn, creating a compromise. But it is important to note that because political figures appoint commission members, one political party can have the

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majority within the commission, effectively dismantling bipartisan support. Another method, utilized in states such as Hawaii, Pennsylvania and Ohio, also employs a political commission in place of state legislative chambers. However in this case, instead of political figures appointing representatives, the commissions are a combination of members appointed by the congressional majority and minority leaders and major political figures, such as the governor and the secretary of state. Again, the method slightly differs from state-tostate, but the basic idea remains the same throughout. While gerrymandering continues to be a major issue in our political society, there are already steps being taken towards reform to prevent this infringement on our democracy. In states such as California, Arizona, Michigan and most recently Virginia, congressional districts are redrawn by an independent commission. In Michigan’s case, a randomly selected commission of citizens is responsible for redrawing U.S. Congressional and Michigan State House and Senate district lines every 10 years. Although the independent route is relatively new in our country, and many states have yet to adopt it, this is a step towards eliminating the dangers of gerrymandering. While there is still not a system with bipartisan support used nationally, we are already making great leaps of progress to ensure everyone can agree on how districts are drawn and votes are represented. While a bipartisan solution seems farfetched based on where we stand now, we are already making great leaps of progress to ensure every American voice is democratically represented in a fair and legitimate way.

Opinion | January 2020 | 43

Trumpism: The Lasting Impression of Trump on the Republican Party BY HENRY COLLINS-THOMPSON

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In 2016, the Republican Party had little to no prospects of regaining the presidency, with Clinton holding a comfortable lead in many swing states. However, all Americans know what went down on Election Day 2016: Trump defied polls and stumbled his way into the presidency of the United States of America. Trump’s scandalous and crass campaigning left pundits scratching their heads, questioning the viability of “Trumpism” in future elections. “Trumpism” is a bizarre combination of Ross Perot’s populism, Reagan’s MAGA and petty playground insults. Despite this bizarre combination of campaign tactics that are tangential to the usual stiff moderate politics of politicians like Mitt Romney, it somehow won over the hearts and minds of Americans in 2016, along with 2020 to some extent. However, Trumpism ceased to leave when Trump took the White House. Rather than a campaign strategy, Trumpism had evolved into a personality cult surrounding the sitting president. It affected the political and governing philosophy of President Trump and those in the Republican Party. Republicans who had originally run against and subsequently criticized Trump in 2016 such as Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham and Susan Collins, eventually gave in to the cult of Trumpism. After four years of Trump in the White House, one has to ask: “To what extent will Trumpism affect the electoral viability and political philosophy of the Republican Party in future elections?” Due to the fanatical personality cult

around Trump, one could deduce that Trump will play a pivotal role in future electoral successes of the Republican Party. Moderate Republicans would not invoke the same fanaticism amongst right wing Trump supporters that comprise 30% of the electorate. This may result in another Trump-esque Republican nominee in 2024, such as Sean Hannity, Tom Cotton or anybody with the last name Trump. Perhaps in 2044, we could see a President-elect Barron Trump. It is clear then that the Republican Party will employ Trumpian tactics to galvanize the Trump voter base. The same populist tactics of Trump may arise in future Democratic Party strategy, as seen with the electoral viability of Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020. The rise of the populist rhetoric and brash style of Trump has severely damaged the intellectual integrity of the Republican Party and the United States. However, it has not drastically affected the support for Republicans. The personality cult of Trump has highlighted, if not created, the polarizing political tension that many Americans find themselves entangled in right now. It seems like quite the perilous prospect that the political polarization of Trumpism leads to an increase of support for the Republican Party. It will be a reality that Americans will have to face in future elections. Politics will no longer be stale debates on foreign policy and abortion. Politics will become a game of enthusiasm and popularity.

Photo courtesy of Tribune President Donald Trump speaks during a rally to support Republican senate candidates at Valdosta Regional Airport in Valdosta Georgia, on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Opinion | January 2020 | 45

tyranny of the minority The Electoral College must go. BY ANJALI KAKARLA

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Throughout our history,

the role of the electoral college in American democracy has been a disputed issue. In 2016, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College to Donald Trump. It has happened five times before: in 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016, and each time, the voices of the American people were undermined. Five times the presidency was stolen by a person not elected by the people. Under our current system, a presidential candidate could win just 22% of the popular vote, but still get a majority in the Electoral College. Although this is an extreme situation, it shines a light on the flaws of the Electoral College. Established to fight against the “tyranny of the majority,” the Electoral College presents another problem: the “tyranny of the minority.” A voter in Wyoming has four times as much power as a voter in California; that is not the definition of democracy. Supporters of the Electoral College believe that it forces presidential candidates to campaign in small areas that would otherwise be passed over. However, 94% of the places where general election candidates campaigned in 2016 were concentrated within just 12 States. When these results are contrasted with gubernatorial races — where every vote matters — it is evident that candidates running for governor have much higher incentives to campaign in both urban and rural areas. This was evident when former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams visited all 159 counties in the state during 2018. But the electoral college doesn’t prioritize individual

votes. Candidates are free to campaign in places that strategically help them get Electoral College votes instead of visiting all places and people. A common argument for maintaining the status-quo is its tedious creation by the Founding Fathers in 1787. The Electoral College may have been a good compromise for the country in the 1700s, but as the political divide widens in the 21st century, this outdated system is unethical and dangerous to the democracy of America. When it was first created, the Electoral College served as a buffer between the people and the government. The Founding Fathers decided the power of the people to elect would not work, so they turned to electors more suited for the job, creating the Electoral College. However, this logic is illegitimate in 2020. Citizens are fully capable of electing their own government without a middleman. While an amendment to eliminate the electoral college from the Constitution would be very tough to pass, there is another way. In 2006, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact was created. Under the compact, States pledge to award their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote. The way it is set up is States pledge their electoral votes to the compact, and for it to go into effect, 270 electoral votes are required. A State can pledge their electoral votes by voting in their State congress. A total of 15 States, plus the District of Columbia, have joined, accounting for 196 of the 270 electoral votes. Even if this passes, there is not a clear legal path that has been set out for this type of issue and many legal forces may try to stop it. Although a general election where every person’s vote is equally counted has its challenges as well, the benefits are far greater. Our current system does not provide us with what we need: a fair, democratic system in which we elect a president who represents the voice of the people. If you want your voice to count, reach out to your local legislator. Tell them how you feel about the Electoral College. You have the ability to affect change.

Opinion | January 2020 | 47

Speaking Truth to Power How you can engage lawmakers and make a change from the comfort of your own home. BY SCARLETT LONDON

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I don’t know about you, but until recently, I’ve never had much interest in talking to legislators. Every time I’ve wanted to let someone know how I felt about an issue, I posted something on social media or talked to my friends. Maybe I was nervous, or maybe I thought my voice would not make a difference. In light of recent events, however, I have been considering the idea more. Lawmakers, both State and federal, have the chance to make change that we all feel, and they often act as a check on executive power — something we’ve needed recently. But I had questions, lots of them. I didn’t know how to communicate with a legislator and how to put aside my cynicism about it. So, I found someone to ask. Leigh Greden was U.S. Representative John Dingell’s Chief of Staff and acted as transition director for Congresswoman Debbie Dingell when she was elected to fill her late husband’s seat in 2014. During his time in Washington, Greden took many calls from constituents and spent days working through — and responding to — emails. “When a communication comes in, it is first logged into a database,” Greden said. “A lot of communications are received, and we need to keep track of them. Then, we respond.” Once logged, the communications are shared with the congressperson. “Members of Congress can’t look at every constituent email they receive because there are too many, but they’ll share information,” Greden said. “Some members of Congress may say every week, ‘How many constituents have we heard from? What issues are they writing about? What position are they taking on the issue?’ There might be some surprising things that the member

of Congress learns about that.” It calmed my nerves to understand this process. But I still didn’t know how to go about it. Should I call? E-mail? Snail mail? Drive to Lansing, Mich. and tell them myself? If I did, what would I say? Lobbying legislators is an essential part of the Democratic process, and I needed to make sure I was doing it right. “Don’t write a letter in the U.S. mail,” Greden said. “Mail to the Capitol has to be screened through an anthrax screening center, so it takes weeks to get there. Calling is also not as efficient. When you call, either an intern or a staff assistant will pick up. You’re relying on them to write down

urge you to vote yes on this or no on this.’ [Also,] include your U.S. mailing address. It’s important for lawmakers to know that you are their constituent. It’s very common for people to write to lawmakers outside their district. Focus on writing your own member of Congress — it is much more effective. Put in the body of the email, ‘I am a resident of your district, and I am urging you to vote no.’” Talking to Greden helped me realize that voicing concerns to elected officials is an important — and even a necessary — part of effective advocacy. It’s not that difficult; we can — and should — do it. Spreading awareness is helpful, but in order for change to

“It’s very common for people to write to lawmakers outside their district. Focus on writing your own member of Congress — it is much more effective.” all of your information correctly — both what you’re saying and your contact information. There’s a risk that [your message] could get lost in the shuffle because they’re doing other things.” Email is the best way to reach representatives. All of their websites have email databases set up; sometimes you can write to them on the website, where a template is provided. “Put what you’re writing about in the subject line,” Greden said. “Be very concise right off the bat. In the first sentence, repeat what you’re writing about: ‘I am writing to

come, legislation needs to be enacted. The people voted to put these lawmakers in office, and they want to represent us as best as they can; they pay attention to what we tell them. Talking to lawmakers is a right we have as citizens, and there is no age limit. Debbie Dingell represents Michigan’s 12th District in Congress. Find out how to contact her on her website. Scarlett London writes a column on teen activism for The Communicator. Read her column every Sunday at

Photography by MCT Campus U.S.Capitol building is seen during a sunset in Washington on Oct. 17, 2019.

Opinion | January 2020 | 49


Best Political Moments of 2020

As we enter the last month of 2020, I felt it was only right to look back at some of the most hysterical, and often dangerous, events from this past year. From a global shut down, to a selfish Commander-in-Chief, I decided to choose eight moments that stood out during a year of countless setbacks. The list of entries for my eight spots was decided solely on personal opinion. BY EVAN ASH

2020 Election Turnout: That’s a lot of votes! Experts predicted that the turnout of the 2020 election would be high, and with mail-in ballots being used more than ever, the results would most likely

2020 Wildfires: A scary reality. Scientists have concluded that any possibility of saving the earth from irreversible damage from climate change must be done within the next eight years. According to the Center of Disaster Philanthropy, Colorado saw nearly 700,000

QAnon: People really believe this stuff? Labeling stories or mainstream media as ‘fake news’ has been a driving force for Trump and his staff to save their butts whenever they deem fit. The problem: most of the information being sent out to supporters of the president is fake news. Considering it is a far-right

Presidential Debates: And the winner goes to… I was excited to watch the first Presidential debate between Democratic nominee Joe Biden and the Incumbent Donald Trump. In the first Presidential debate hosted by Fox News commentator Chris Wallace, Trump continuously avoided questions and interrupted Biden whenever the opportunity came.

8 7 6 5 be complicated as well. At the time I am writing this, the total number of votes cast in the election is 157,824,475. Wow. Joe Biden received more votes than any presidential candidate ever, currently sitting at 81,012,489. All the hard work by campaign staff and political organizers paid off, and we saw the most secure election ever conducted .

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acres burned in 2020 alone, including three of the state’s largest fires ever. California was impacted by 9,279 wildfires, which burned 4,197,628 acres of land. Wildfires are naturally occurring events, but the extreme rise in wildfires and their danger is due to human activity.

conspiracy that believes there is a Hollywood pedophile sexring where famous celebrities and politicians drink the blood of children, amongst other things, is why this the platform is so outrageous. The spread of this dangerous misinformation was a motive in the 2020 election, as Trump was seen as the savior, and outside involvement from other groups like the Proud Boys — a far-right, all male neo-facist political organization — just added fuel to the flame.

Both candidates seemed off track at times, and viewers were left with little information about the two candidates’ platforms and agendas. Trump’s actions resulted in him being recognized as the loser of the debate from multiple news sources, and after the first debate, a mute button was installed into the candidate’s microphones for the second debate. Biden took advantage of Trump’s biggest debate tactic being stripped away from him. Without the ability to interrupt, Biden had time to actually lay out a plan related to the chosen questions by the commentator. Without the ability to interrupt, Trump was forced to actually listen to Biden and generate a response to whatever he was able to pick up. It worked out splendidly.

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BLM Protests: The Year of Activism

Kamala Harris becomes the first Women of Color to be chosen as Vice President: A Historic moment of representation Kamala Harris gained popularity in last year’s primaries, but didn’t make it as far as the other candidates, dropping out on Dec. 3, 2019. When we learned that Joe Biden would be choosing a woman Vice President,

4 Harris seemed to be a viable choice for the nominee. While many celebrate this historic event, others seemed upset about the choice. Harris’s past as a prosecutor made her an unpopular choice for many progressives. Harris received criticism on national television and seemed incapable of taking responsibility for the outcomes of her decisions in California. What surprised many was the claims made by Republicans that she was a radical leftist who would change the country into a socialist nation, something so far from the truth that it hurts. Harris and Biden as the party’s choices for the Democratic presidential ticket made me extremely upset, but hopefully, they’ll learn that progressive policies are what get the votes.

When footage of the murder of George Floyd hit media platforms, the country erupted. Police brutality in this country, along with systematic injustices for non-white folks, has always been a problem. We waited for things to change as weeks of protests and hashtags took up our lives, and for good reason. We saw peaceful protests turn into riots due to police and counter-protester interference, leading to massive misinformation about the Black Lives Matter movement, ANTIFA and the protests as a whole.

Covid-19: I miss school. Donald Trump: His worst year yet. Trump lost this election. Not because it was rigged, but because of who he is. We have had to live in the shadow of Trump’s reign for years, and the President’s incompetence and ignorance made it clear that American Democracy was on the brink of collapse. I think we started to see Trump for who he was and stopped the normalization of his actions. We saw his clear in-

3 2 Surrounding messages like “Defund the Police,” “ACAB” and “Say her name,” these protests led to serious changes in parts of the country. At the federal level, though, the inability to support the movement and listen to the voices of Black Americans while defending racist groups and messages increased the power of the ones who hate. Our president’s uninformed and racist opinions, refusing to condemn white supremacist groups and calling for the attacks on American citizens made being a supporter of the president a supporter of this injustice. Now more than ever, our country’s racist institutions are being seen for what they are, and the American justice system is finally being questioned.

tentions, his narcissism and his bigotry popularize the beliefs of the new American Fascists. Joe Biden’s win will not get rid of the millions of people who still support and trust Trump. The insane conspiracies — and dangerous hate groups — will continue to gain support and accessibility. He damaged America to its core, failed on his promises and did everything he could to benefit himself. Trump’s America is not what we fly our flags for, but Trump’s America is just America as it has always been. Now, we see it for what it is, and it’ll be a little easier to save if he is gone.

I first learned of Covid-19 when it hit Washington State earlier this year. For some reason, the thought of a deadly virus affecting my everyday life seemed impossible. It wasn’t until it began to spread, and hospitals began to fill, that I changed my mind. I couldn’t remain positive as the months continued, and our country stayed dangerously behind our counterparts. Months of lockdown, a singular stimulus check, millions of cases and severe personal and political separation made the virus something it should have never


been. As of Dec. 8, 2020, we currently have 15,027,423 cases in our country, according to The New York Times. We haven’t seen a national mask mandate, and we haven’t seen any type of strong leadership through any of this. I hate this. So why have we done nothing to fix it? How are we seeing more daily cases and deaths than we ever have, yet nothing is changing? Scientists don’t agree with the president, so they are not heard. Small business owners are still waiting to receive unemployment payments, as well as a second stimulus check. We are having to fend for ourselves because of an incompetent, ignorant cabinet led by a failed steak salesman.

Opinion | January 2020 | 51

CHS Women Speak on Harris BY ANJALI KAKARLA



“I think that representation is very, very important in all aspects, especially in such a high office. Regardless of what you feel about Kamala Harris, it’s a very historic moment. I think it’s very important, and I remember in her acceptance speech she said something along the lines of, ‘I may be the first one in this office, but I won’t be the last.’ I think that’s very inspirational because it gives young girls something to look up to, to be like ‘Oh, I could do that if I wanted to.’ It provides a lot of opportunity for people to see themselves in such a powerful position. I think it is a very, very good thing. Regardless of whether you support her or not, it’s very historic and very important.”

“I was definitely very excited [when Kamala Harris and Joe Biden won]. I think the first thing that I was worried about was the fact that I wanted a new president to be elected. I didn’t want to have the old president, but just knowing that we would have a woman for vice president was shocking. It’s crazy that it took this long to even have a woman in office. She isn’t the president, but she’s the vice president, and it’s already such a big step for women in general. Her being a person of color is even more amazing — just to think that we finally accomplished these things is amazing and makes me hopeful for future elections. I think it gives younger girls the hope that they can accomplish things when they get older and that they shouldn’t listen to what is being said around them about their gender.“


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“When Hillary Clinton lost I was like, ‘Well, that was the time that we would have a woman president.’ Then when Joe Biden was picked as the Democratic candidate I was like, ‘Oh, there goes another chance for us to have a woman or a person of color in office.’ But then he picked Kamala Harris, which was awesome because I thought we would have no chance of having a woman in the office. But he picked her, so we did get to have a woman. Representation always matters, especially in government because having only men in the Executive Branch means there will be only men’s opinions and values represented. I think it’s important to have as much representation of as many people as we can. And so having 50% of the population not being represented is a mistake. So I think that’s why it’s important. It makes me feel like I can do anything. It feels like history is being made, and that’s amazing for all the girls out here.”



“I was really excited because she’s a woman of color. That position would mean a lot because all the little girls see her and they think, ‘Oh, wow. She can do that? I can do that.’ It’s really inspiring for everyone to see that happen and also be able to change society and the way people think. I think it’s important that [Kamala Harris is vice president] because when people see that, they know that change can happen. It’s good to see change and that women are able to get to the top like that. They’re not just a senator, they can get there, they can do those things.”

Opinion | January 2020 | 53

The majority of CHS students are not eligible to vote. However, we are still impacted by politics in our everyday lives. We have grown up in the shadows of a divisive political climate, and because of this, we are more eligible than ever to be involved in politics — even if we cannot vote. STAFF EDITORIAL Most high school students were in middle school when Donald Trump was elected in 2016. We grew up in the midst of the Trump presidency, and our classes, birthdays, school dances and graduations have taken place under a haze of political turmoil and global tension. We were forced to engage at a young age, and most of us do not go a day without thinking about politics and world news. By the beginning of 2020, the political climate had driven a wedge into our friendships and family dy54 | The Communicator Magazine

namics. Dinners have become debates, and we spend hours arguing with one another without making any actual progress. In the past, political ideology was just one part of a person’s character. Two people who held vastly different views could maintain a friendship by simply avoiding the topic of politics. Now, the way someone voted in a recent election is often all the information we need to make assumptions about them. We know our friends’ and relatives’ political affiliations and levels of involvement, and this affects how

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we see one another. Because so many moral and social issues have become politicized, party affiliations have started to feel like personal betrayals, setting off friendship-ending and family-splintering arguments. Even the coronavirus pandemic quickly became political, turning into yet another social divider, with recommendations from public health experts drowned out in a tidal wave of partisan misinformation and misplaced anger. On Dec. 12, 207,444 new Covid-19 cases were reported in the U.S. and 4,557 were reported in Michigan. Most of our generation will miss a full year of in-person school and CHS traditions: prom, graduation, the spork game, field day, forum days. Many of us are also contending with increased financial instability, the loss of loved ones and the incessant stress of catching the virus and inadvertently spreading it to an at-risk family member. Our generation has been forced into awareness of and engagement in politics and social issues. Historically, young people have been less likely to vote than almost any other age demographic, but the youth vote hit somewhere between 52% and 55% in the 2020 election, compared to somewhere between 42% and 44% in 2016. Those of us who are not yet 18, though, because we are shut out from directly participating in the electoral process, worked indirectly, volunteering for political campaigns or activist organizations. The U.S. government is currently enacting policies that will shape the rest of our lives, and it is discouraging to

realize that despite the hours of volunteering and the months of stress, the system is set up in a way that bars us from voicing our opinions directly. It is also important to remember that the past several years, which to older generations represent an anomaly and a shocking shift, to us represent the only political climate we know. This hyper-partisan environment is our baseline and the standard against which we will judge future administrations and politicians. This combination of a lack of power and an adolescence defined by drastic politics has created a generation with a cynical sense of humor and a tendency to assume the worst. While some adults may feel that we lack perspective and experience, our unique outlook is valuable. Our entire experience with politics has been intense and deeply divisive. We have only vague memories of the political climate that adults see as “normal.” Because of this, we may be able to present more creative solutions to the problems currently facing the U.S. and society as a whole. We will not easily get stuck in the idea of returning to the way politics were in the past, because we barely remember what that was like. The flaws in our system may have been especially apparent in recent years, but they have always been present. Backtracking to the way politics used to be will not actually fix anything. We need to move forward, and let young people offer a fresh perspective that could be a vital part of the conversation. Opinion | January 2020 | 55

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Got Cabin Fever? Covid-19 won’t keep us down! Reach out! In unusual times like these, it is important to take care of yourself. Depression and anxiety are real brain illnesses. You can’t just “snap” out of them. Know the symptoms of mental illness and get professional help when you need it. Contact a Depression Awareness Group student representative, your forum leader or a counselor for more info!

Youth/Family Counseling

- Corner Health: 734-484-3600 - Ozone House: 734-662-2265 or 734-485-2222 - Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools: 734-998-2163

Tips for at home or compromised family situations during Covid-19 and/or winter break: - Call/text/facetime friends or family members often - Acknowledge and talk openly about feelings - Stick to a healthy routine - Hydrate and eat well - Get enough sleep - Be physically active for at least 30 minutes everyday - Get exercise for at least 30 minutes everyday - Practice self care activities daily - Limit social media and news exposure - Focus your attention on the things you can control - Spend time doing hobbies you enjoy

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Depression - Change of appetite - Persistent sadness, anxiousness, or emptiness - Irritability/ aggression/ anger - Lack of energy or fatigue - Excessive feelings of guilt, worthlessness or hopelessness - Significant changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little) - Regular unexplained aches/ pains - No longer enjoying or caring about things you used to enjoy - Thoughts of death or suicide

Anxiety - Excessive worry - Feeling restless, increased heart rate - Feeling tense all over - Avoiding anxiety-provoking situations - Feeling “foggy” or like you can’t think clearly - Not being able to fall and stay asleep - “Butterflies in your stomach” or nausea - These feelings/ reactions impacting your daily life

24-Hour Help Lines - Ozone House Crisis Line: 734-662 2222 - University of Michigan Psychiatric Emergency Services: 734-936-5900 - Crisis Text Line: Text “START” to 741-741 - National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) - Trevor Lifeline (For LGBTQ+): 866-488-7386 - Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860

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The Art of Self-Defense After a complicated conversation with her cousin during a Covid- safe Thanksgiving get-together, Geneve Thomas-Palmer evaluated the way she has to defend her identity as a queer woman. BY GENEVE THOMAS-PALMER

At 10 o’clock on Thanksgiving morning, my dad, mom, younger sister and I all hopped nto the minivan and drove two hours on I-94 West to see my dad’s family in Kalamazoo, Mich. Bundled up in coats, hats and masks, the 13 of us made camp in my uncle’s backyard. An hour or so of socially distanced corn hole later and we were rearranging our lawn chairs into a wide circle to sit and talk before my family had to head home. My mom and I began discussing gender — specifically, a new study that could enable women to reproduce using stem cells harvested from bone marrow. “Wait,” my cousin interjected, clearly confused by this concept. “Two women would get married?” “Yup,” I said. Eyebrows furrowed, my cousin’s face revealed shock and bewilderment. “That’s disgusting!” he said. My cousin is nine years old. He has lived in Kalamazoo his whole life, and most of his education has come from a private Christian school. He had, from what I understood, little knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community until this Thanksgiving. “Why is that disgusting?” I asked. “Because all throughout history and even in animals, most men choose to marry a 60 | The Communicator Magazine

woman and most women choose to marry a man,” he said. “That’s actually not true,” I started. I continued to explain how humans have been attracted to members of the same sex for centuries, how queerness has been observed in 1,500 animal species, and how I — as a lesbian — hope to marry another woman one day. “But how can you marry another woman if you can’t make babies together?” he asked. We went back and forth like this for a half-hour: he’d ask me a question and I’d answer him, only to spark another slew of curiosities from him. Politely, the rest of our family sat listening from their lawn cahris, silent save for the occasional comment to clarify my answer. At first, I left the day with a sense of accomplishment. For years, I’d cultivated information to protect my identity in any confrontation I might become involved in (though this wasn’t what I’d imagined); I enjoyed the chance to use it. But, as our minivan drove across I-94 East on our way back home, I realized the horrible truth that my feeling of fulfillment had masked. Since I was 15, a newly-out high school freshman, I’ve been searching for and clinging onto any evidence I might need to

prove to someone that my identity is valid, and that I am worthy of the same rights as any straight person. I have pre-planned arguments against those who oppose gay marriage, those who don’t believe queerness is natural, those whose religions consider homosexuality a sin, those who don’t believe homophobia still exists. When I can’t sleep at night, I practice conversations with homophobes. I review my facts: the world’s oldest tortoise has been with a same-sex mate for 26 years; Jesus never said anything about homosexuality; Alexander the Great, living in the 300s BCE, was attracted to other men. I am so afraid of others and of society valuing me less because of my sexuality,

that I have prepared to defend every aspect of my identity. Because I was once just like my cousin. Just as naive about gender and sexual orientation. Just as disgusted by the idea of something that didn’t fit my ideas of the way the world worked. But I grew out of it. With the help of my friends, my family and the queer representation I found on social media, I grew out of my preconceived notions of normal and natural and I grew into myself as a gay woman. I believe my cousin will grow out of it too. Still, I have a cross to bear. I may be comfortable with myself and confident in my sexuality, but I know there are people and institutions that do not accept me and

that wish to cause me harm. With the way society is set up to teach children to reject anyone who is not straight, white, male and privileged in every other way, I know I could have grown up to be one of them, disgusted by anyone who didn’t conform. I hate that. And I hate feeling like I have to prepare myself to convince other I am worthy of basic human decency. But because of that feeling, I am prepared. I may have to fight my whole life to defend my rights and my inherent value, but if that is what it takes to help this world become a better, more accepting place, then so be it. And thus, I have a message for anyone who would question my worth: I’m ready. Opinion | January 2020 | 61

The Case for the Gap Year

Would you choose to fall a year behind your peers on the academic track? BY DAN GUTENBERG

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The overwhelming answer for a while has been no, as the percentage of students taking the year off before college has hovered around 3% for the past few years. If we want students to find their ideal path forward, however, it is imperative we ask a contrasting question: If the norm was to take a one-year break from schooling, would you pass over this opportunity and choose to jump ahead of your peers? For many, I think the second question yields the same answer as the first: no. At least it does for me. Unless you have found your focus and are certain about your academic path moving forward out of high school, it is tough to justify deciding to head back to school for a 14th straight year. By framing the gap year as the typical path forward, we find an important distinction: high school seniors like myself are choosing to immediately head to college because it is the norm — not necessarily because they want to. This is the problem. After working our hardest throughout high school, the freedom that comes after is a coveted reward. But many people are not recognizing what you do after graduating is your choice. Some are excited to head right to college, but many students attend a university simply because their peers are doing so. These students want to be with their friends, and only a select few actually consider what taking a gap year could entail. CHS graduate Gabe Tesar understood exactly what a gap year could be. Although cut a little short due to Covid-19, Tesar split time last year between Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland. With his mom going on sabbatical from the University of Michigan the same year Tesar graduated from high school, the timing was perfect for a year off before beginning college. He was able to tag along with his mom on the trip, staying with her in the two cities for the duration

of his time off. Indecisive and unsure about college after his senior year, Tesar was excited about the idea of change. Living in Europe for a year meant slightly amending his path forward — something he did not stray away from. On a student visa, he was required to take intensive French and German language courses. It allowed him to have new experiences living abroad while also keeping his brain active away from traditional school. “I was really happy to take a break from school,” Tesar said. “I felt like I needed that. I realized [going straight to college] was not for everyone. Some people like to dive right in and get started, but I don’t feel like I’m in any sort of rush to get my career going or college going. I feel like it’s better just to take the opportunities that come to you and just take time off if you need it. I don’t feel like there should be any pressure to stay on track.” It is important to understand what a gap year is and how it works. Personalization is key, and there is no defined structure. If you will miss being in school, there is a wide variety of year-long educational programs; if you want to travel but are financially restricted, there are other organizations dedicated to sending students to different regions of the world; if you want to learn a new language, you can spend a year immersing yourself in a different culture; or you could volunteer or take a break for personal growth. In a hypothetical world where taking a gap year is the “normal” path, students may find that returning to school might not even be the right fit. But without taking a gap year and exploring the other aspects of our personalities, we may force ourselves into an unhappy future. In Tesar’s case, he went away without knowing his major interest in college but returned home with a much clearer vision of how he wanted to move forward academ-

ically ­— a common theme among gap year participants, as over 60% of students say the year off either inspired or confirmed their career choice or academic major, according to the American Gap Association. “I came back, and I decided I wanted to do a major in psychology to start out,” Tesar said. “I felt like it was really good to give myself time to process information and really think about what I like doing in my daily life, what I wanted and what I want my career to be.” But we don’t have to think of this reversed structure as a hypothetical. Deciding to take a gap year is much more popular and sometimes even typical in other parts of the world. In the U.K. and other areas in Europe, more students statistically participate in the year-long break before university than in the U.S. And in Asia, students are also commonly encouraged to find different opportunities abroad by enrolling in exchange programs. “There’s this idea in America that you have to go to college right away,” said Josh Moss, a CHS senior who — ­ prior to the Covid-19 pandemic — had planned on taking a gap year. “And then you have to go straight from college into the workforce, and then you’re in the workforce until you’re 65, and you’re done. And I even have friends who want to finish college even earlier so can get into the workforce even faster and get an even higher headstart. To me, it just seems like a race to nowhere.” Growing up in a college town, it took me until sixth grade before I heard of someone taking a gap year. I was more familiar with the track that Moss laid out. I did not even realize that the gap year was an option, and I was hooked on the idea of doing something different. I could travel throughout Europe, learn a language or work a job — every choice excited me. It was not that I disliked school, but it was the idea of doing something different that intrigued me.

I’ve loved being at school throughout high school, but I have to admit that taking a break before college is undeniably the more appealing option. I love learning in a school environment, so I am excited about eventually spending four years at a college. But I don’t know for certain what I want to study yet, and I feel a little overwhelmed about college next year. I also want to travel and learn a new language. Still, I am conflicted about taking a gap year because I don’t want to fall behind my friends. The solution is simple: normalizing the alternative option. Put another way — make the abnormal, the normal. If students feel eager to begin their freshman year of college, they should go right ahead. But for the many other students like myself who feel there is another beneficial way to spend a year, they should explore those opportunities. The student taking the gap year should not have to fall behind, and the student opting to head back to school should instead be jumping ahead. For this to happen, high school students across the country simply need to understand that there is this other option before heading to college. You can find something fits your interests, and if you do not want to be alone, convince others to do it with you. You might find college is not your next step, or you might find it is and return to school excited to learn more about a specific topic. You will never know for certain unless you take advantage of this invaluable opportunity. If you would find it hard to head straight back to school after you graduate as a senior, understand you can take a year-long break doing something else worthwhile. And equally as important, be careful not to let that exciting opportunity dissipate at the hands of an inability to be different from the rest.

Opinion | January 2020 | 63


The 2020 California wildfire season has produced four of the five largest fires ever recorded in the state, killing 31 people and destroying 10,488 buildings. Throughout the disaster, an array of scientific instruments on NASA satellites and aircrafts mapped fires from above, helping firefighters locate fires and providing public health officials with information on the spread of dangerous wildfire smoke. Since NASA built the first weather satellite in 1960, the information the satellites provide have warned many of oncoming natural disasters. This is just one of the many ways NASA — which receives a mere half-percent of the total federal budget — saves and improves lives worldwide. NASA tracks worldwide changes in ice sheets, sea-level rise and carbon dioxide levels, which is particularly important in unreachable locations. By providing the information gathered freely, they play a critical role in

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the fight against climate change. Furthermore, innovations developed by NASA have come to the rescue in immediate life or death situations. When an Iraqi village’s only well failed, its population rapidly dwindled without access to clear water. In response, a filtration system developed for recycling wastewater on the International Space Station was set up and has since been installed in communities worldwide. Out at sea, a satellite-based search and rescue system has helped rescue 30,000 people, even in the middle of the Indian Ocean. While space exploration is sometimes seen as shifting the focus of government spending away from solving issues on Earth, NASA is critical to innovating novel humanitarian solutions that were only created because of space exploration efforts. Instead of seeing these two aims as mutually exclusive, we need to think about the ways in which they complement each other.

Exploring space also satiates curiosity, enabling us to seek answers to questions. Notably, investigating other planets helps us understand our own planet. Venus could have had oceans of water on its surface, but a runaway greenhouse effect has replaced it with surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead. While Earth will likely not resemble Venus, what happened there can provide insights on climate evolution. Through space exploration, we have the opportunity to gain a fuller perspective of our place in the universe by answering questions we can currently only speculate about: whether life on Earth is alone, where it came from and much about the earliest moments of the universe. We depend on NASA to protect against interplanetary threats. The NASA Authorization Act of 2005 gave the organization the responsibility of cataloging 90% of all asteroids near Earth over 140 meters in diameter — an impact from an object of that size would cause an average of 43,600 deaths and injuries. Currently, several telescopes search the night sky for Near Earth Objects that could pose a risk, helping us discover asteroids that could strike Earth. In 2022, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will test the technology necessary to deflect asteroids from a collision course with Earth. The spacecraft will impact Dimorphos, the moon of the asteroid Didymos, and telescopes on Earth will analyze the subsequent effect on the moon’s orbit. For now, however, we have no way of stopping death and destruction from above. In February 2013, a 13,000 ton asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia with the energy of a nuclear weapon, blowing out windows and seriously injuring nearly 1,500 people. Aside from a blinding fireball streaking overhead, there was no

warning. As Apollo 8 orbited the Moon — the first crewed mission to do so — the Earth emerged from the horizon. When the last crewed mission to the Moon, Apollo 17, returned, they were the only people to witness the fully illuminated disk of the Earth. The photos taken in those moments depicted a lonely, fragile world in the endless void of space. Known as “Earthrise” and “The Blue Marble” respectively, both photos became quintessential symbols for the emerging environmental movement and became some of the most distributed photographs in history. Through the cultural impact of a new perspective, NASA empowers people to take the action necessary to protect Earth. Though space exploration may take humans farther from the Earth, NASA improves countless lives on Earth with a modest budget. While private companies like SpaceX have brought a flurry of innovations to the space industry, NASA is critical to supporting those very companies and pursuing initiatives without the need for profit. When those initiatives concern the future of human life on Earth, their importance cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, NASA projects, from crewed Moon landers to satellites investigating the carbon cycle, constantly face the threat of cancellation or underfunding in the tug of war between the houses of Congress and the President when finalizing federal spending. NASA may not be the most immediate political issue, but the contributions it makes with just a half penny on a tax dollar show why it deserves the funding necessary to truly fulfill its mission: “Reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.”

Opinion | January 2020 | 65

Deep Waters Being the son of a single Latina mother. BY SEBASTIAN OLIVA

Part One: Upbringing Growing up, it was always just me and my mother. We lived in a small, white townhome on the outskirts of Ann Arbor, Mich., near the border of Ypsilanti. There was a maple tree outside — ­ over 16 feet tall —and every October, it shed its orange leaves that would crumble on the grass. The dark brown wood fence chipped away over time, and the front green door always stood welcoming and strong. At six years old, I had a key on a University of Michigan keychain, and I knew how to open the door. Inside, there were burlywood brown carpets, and rough, yet fuzzy, black couches. In the dining room, there was a lucent glass dining table that I was always afraid of breaking and the frail white chairs that me and my mother sat in — always across from each other. Our small kitchen had gas burners where my mother taught me how to cook eggs. I cooked eggs by myself for the first time when I was six years old. As I turned on my gas stove, I heard the “click, click, click.” When I cracked the large, brown, viscid eggs into the crackling pan, I usually dropped a piece of the shell; I would always pick it out with my hand, terrified I was going to burn myself. When making eggs, I always stood on my green stool with white legs, and I was constantly stretching my arm to toss and turn my eggs until the outer edges turned crispy brown. I always had a fear that I was going to burn the house down. When my mom was at work, I would often sit alone in the living room and stare outside through my frosted white glass door. I would watch as the birds chirped and searched for worms, tearing the worm’s body into two. 66 | The Communicator Magazine

Our townhome had two stories, and I would fill some of my time jumping single legged up the stairs; I wanted to see how far up the stairs I could get up without having to use our white, wooden staircase railing. I hopped my way up the stairs to my room. I would sit on my red plastic chair with blue legs at my undersized wooden desk that was two feet tall and was rutted and dry. It made a “zip-up” sound whenever you scratched it. The chair also had a hollow slot in the back where I kept my coins and stuck dentist stickers. I learned and taught myself how to become an adequate problem solver, and if I ever had trouble on a math problem, YouTube became my teacher. I never wanted to feel like a burden on my mother because she was always weary. She became my last resort: I only bothered her if I really thought it was necessary. At my desk, I also built many of my favorite Legos. One in particular was my Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, which had over five-thousand pieces. I found building Legos to be my escape from the desolation in my heart. I learned very young, I had to find ways to pass my time and learn new skills. The only teacher I truly had was YouTube. It was my only credible source. When no one was around, YouTube taught me the answers to my questions: How do I

Photography by Sebastian Oliva This mother and child statue is an important piece of art that is in Oliva’s home. It reminds him of the strong connection that he has with his mom. One day in the car his mom said to him, “I always want the best for you, Sebastian.”

Opinion | January 2020 | 67

do a backflip? Will a watermelon grow inside of me if I swallow the black seeds? Will I die if I swallow gum? When I had enough of being inside, I would ride my candy red bike with black handles around my neighborhood. YouTube taught me how to do tricks, how to ride with no hands, how to stand on the seat while having my hands still on the handle bars and how to sit on the metal rail in between the seat and the handlebars while still riding the bike. Somedays, I would be able to perform the tricks, and some days, I would lose my balance and fall down on the rocky, beige, cracked pavement, scraping my hands and knees. Right after school one day, I practiced the new tricks I had learned. I collided with the ground, and my forearm skidded along the pavement. Luckily, YouTube also taught me how to take care of my wounds: Pour hydrogen peroxide on a wooly cotton ball and dab it on my gory, surging wounds. I never put bandages on my wounds because I always thought, “I’m too tough. I don’t need them.” I learned many of my childhood activities alone because while my mother was constantly working; I also didn’t have a father to teach me anything. He was completely and utterly out of the picture. He had never been around and had left us before I had been born. When my mother moved away, all the photos of him were lost. The closest source I have to him is myself. My mother said I look just like him, so looking in the mirror is my gateway to and from my sorrow. The day my chain broke was the day that it really hit me. If he was there, he could have shown me how to fix the chain. But I never had a dad to show me how to fix my bike chain, how to catch a baseball or how to throw a football. I was tired of ruminating on what my father might look like and creating notions of what my life would be like with him in it. I learned to throw a baseball by throwing a faintly dirty tennis ball I had found at the park against a jagged brick wall. It was the only way I could throw the ball at “someone,” and it would come back. I didn’t have any friends in my neighborhood — only at school. The wall filled that void. I started going to Peace Neighborhood Center when I was six years old. It was there — sitting on a foldable wooden table inside the cafeteria with my mom — that I first heard about my dream school; it was a private institution. On the morning of my “in-school” visit, my mom 68 | The Communicator Magazine

dropped me off in her Jeep that we called “Turtle.” It was green and older, and it was ours. Later, I told her how amazing my day had been. I knew that my dream school cost a lot to go, and I didn’t know how we would pay for it. Months passed, and sometime during the summer, my mom and I were driving down the street. I had been thinking about the school, so I said to her, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could go Emerson?” As we were driving, my mother looked at me and told me, “You’re going there next year.” I smiled so hard that my face muscles began to hurt. All I could say was, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I reached over the seat towards my mother while keeping my seatbelt buckled, and I began to give her a monumental amount of kisses. With all of the incoming kisses, she responded to me with, “Of course. I always want the best for you, Sebastian.” We sang on our car ride back home until we lost our voices. I remember singing “Treasure” by Bruno Mars with my mother singing right alongside me. I had never been so grateful. When I started at my new school, I noticed the cars at drop off: Maseratis, Porsches, Mercedes. It was my first time being around cars like these. I asked several of my peers what their parents’ occupations were, and their responses were always the same: doctor, lawyer, entrepreneur. It was then — when I was nine years old and in thefourth grade — that I realized how I could repay my mother’s constant sacrifices and lost opportunities. My mother had me at a very young age. She was 21 and never got the chance to travel the world or finish her degree in computer science. Working night and day, and still coming home late nights to study, funds became harder, especially as she had to pay for my dream school. My passion to go to Harvard University began in fourth grade. I knew I had to make the same efforts my mother made for me, and I had to try and go to a prestigious university and earn my degree in neuroscience, so I could be in a position to repay all of my mother’s lost opportunities. Photography by Sebastian Oliva Sebastian plays with his memorable toy. His mother takes a quick snapshot of him, to capture the impermanent moment of innocence.

Opinion | January 2020 | 69

Natalie Mycek-Card on Finding Herself Through Arts & Crafts BY NATALIE MYCEK-CARD

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At the beginning of quarantine, I thought I would have so much to do, both online and off-screen, that I would never get bored. 40 books, two friendship bracelets and over 48 hours worth of binging later, I was bored out of my mind. However, a few activities have held my attention for months, and they’re not found online. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved board games. My house has a cabinet filled with board games that I’ve associated with family bonding and hours of enjoyment. I love to play against members of my family. My mother is my main opponent in board games, and we’re both evenly matched and highly competitive. Our games can last between hours to days. My favorites are Risk, Monopoly, Clue, Master Detective, Yahtzee and Battleship. I used to find online games more interesting than board games. However, unlike online games, board games are classics and force me to think about problems, use deductive reasoning and strategize. Although board games force you to use deductive reasoning, they’re not the only things that need logical thinking. While rifling through a drawer filled with used notebooks, trying to find something that could entertain me, I came across a variety puzzle book. This red-covered book was filled with different mind-challenging puzzles including Sylla-crostics, Sudoku, Crosswords and Logic Puzzles. I found that I had an affinity towards logic puzzles. I was awed by how simple, yet complex, the puzzles were and how the answer was right under my nose as long as I was willing to put my mind to it. After realizing that I love logic puzzles, and anything to do with deductive reasoning, I purchased a set of three logic puzzle books. For each logic puzzle, there are a sparse number of clues. There are also three variables and a grid to help you cross eliminate certain variables using the clues provided. For example, say you had five people, five days of the week and five houses. If person one went into house B on either Wednesday or Friday, you could eliminate the other days of the week. Another thing I enjoy doing is anything to do with molding or hands-on activities. I’ve always loved to work with Play-Doh, and recently, I decided to use that passion with something a bit more mature. I purchased polymer clay and started working with it. I grew to love it and found that polymer clay, unlike modeling clay, is a bit less toxic for the environment and is much easier to use than other clays. I got into clay-molding after watching a YouTube video from an account named ClayClaim, who made a scale replica of The Skeld, which is a map on the ever popular game, Among Us. At the moment, I’m only just beginning to work with the clay and gain more skills. So far, I’ve made a strawberry, a mouse, a flower and my cat’s face. Something that has recently started is synchronized swimming. It’s an art, as well as a sport. Think of performing a dance routine that has to have all of the choreography performed at the exact time. Now think of that in water. But that’s not the hardest part. The hardest part is you cannot touch the bottom of the pool or your team is disqualified. During competitions, you have to wear gelatin, or Knox, in your hair. This acts as a clear swimming cap, to some degree, and it keeps your hair back and out of your face when you’re performing. Also, you can’t have goggles on during competitions. In a synchronized team, we have certain roles we assume. In all honesty, I never thought I would have gotten bored during quarantine. I thought that I would have so much to do. However, the harsh reality hit me. I spend so much time on mind-numbing online games that I never truly thought about things I liked to do off-screen. I never truly thought about hobbies. After hours of Zoom, I wasn’t really eager to look at another screen, even if it meant I was having fun. I found myself and what I truly liked through reflecting on what I’ve loved ever since a little kid, and I hope that people can find what they truly like over the course of this pandemic.

Evan Ash’s Response to the Oregon Written Question BY EVAN ASH

In sixth grade, after a fellow classmate was sent home for violating the dress code, friends and I decided to come to school in tank tops and hats. For me, the dress code wasn’t really an issue, as the limitations set on male students were minimal and straight forward. The dress code for female students was quite the opposite. It was apparent, even back then, that the true motive and purpose of the dress code was to limit any distractions for the male students. This caused great confusion because to determine if something was against the dress code, the length of certain clothing items had to fit certain standards. I didn’t understand how, as a male, I had rules in place that benefited me at the cost of another group: the problem is, the system is designed to benefit me. It wasn’t just the gender of a student that played a role in whether their clothing was acceptable or not, but also the race of the student, too. Students from completely different socioeconomic situations were present in every classroom, and more often than not, played a role in how the student was treated compared to their classmates. A white male sagging their pants wasn’t the same as a black male sagging their pants, and before even understanding the harms and dangers of microaggressions, teachers’ comments on black and brown students’ hair felt rehearsed and normalized. The presence of racially driven favoritism was poorly hidden. I knew that my teachers judged kids, but I was the one who benefited from it. Was it poor training, or their internal biases? If I, a cisgender, white male, interrupted a teacher or caused a distraction, my punishment was never more than being removed from the situation or to work on my own. For my black and brown classmates, that same behavior would more often than not result in disciplinary actions and much harsher responses from teachers. Special personnel were assigned to some of my black and brown classmates, and even the littlest things would see some teachers calling in back-up to control an otherwise laughable offense. My middle school experience was a stepping stone in finally understanding the systems America was built on to benefit people like me while hurting those who do not. Were it not for my early introduction to progressive policies and disgust of years of American propaganda, as well as first-hand experience seeing fellow classmates targeted and ridiculed, I would have continued to see America as I was taught to see America. To understand America’s relationship with racism, you do not need to look very far. From the moment settlers stepped foot on the East coast, the problem began. Still, I was told of great stories where Natives to this land and amazing explorers coexisted. The reality was, unbeknown to me then, that Thanksgiving, like many other holidays celebrating America, is to whitewash and glorify this nation and its history. I knew that celebrating a country that was birthed out of insane genocides and enslavement was not going to be for me, but rather fighting the institutions generated through these ideas. Anger swept through my community this summer, as the murder of George Floyd sparked an outcry in the forms of protests. I attended one of these protests in my city, marching through the streets chanting for justice. While listening to the stories of youth activists, I knew that the problems they were facing were nothing I had or would ever have to experience; my white privilege runs deep. I began researching the root causes of the problems and quickly familiarized myself with the systematic racism in this country. I learned about the privilege I possess as a white male, the wealth gap, housing discrimination, the justice system and the quality of health care for minorities in our country. I attended discussions on microaggressions and allyship at local nonprofits on days off of school and realized that the problem was no longer just the acts of individuals, but rather the unwillingness to dismantle the system in our country. My strong desire to revamp the American establishment has always been something I’ve fought for. That first protest, while small in comparison, will lead to so much more.

Opinion | January 2020 | 71

Ria Lowenschuss: My Right to Marriage BY RIA LOWENSCHUSS

72 | The Communicator Magazine

I was ten years old when the Supreme Court ruled to legalize gay marriage. I remember the day vividly, though I am not sure I knew exactly what it meant until years later. It was a warm June day, and I was at summer camp, sitting on a picnic table bench and making friendship bracelets. Next to me, the counselors were discussing the Supreme Court decision. I heard one of them say, “It is finally a good day for the Supreme Court.” I have never forgotten those words. Although gay marriage has been legal in the United States for only a third of my life, I have always taken my right to marry for granted. I have dreamt about my wedding day since I was little — the flowers and the location and, of course, the person at the end of the aisle. Even now, when I know that person will be a woman, I can continue to dream without needing to consider leaving my home state or worrying about whether our marriage license will be approved. The generations of lesbians and queer people who came before me did not have this privilege. For centuries, they were forced to hide their relationships, their love. For centuries, queer people have been categorized as less than straight people. The sexuality of Emily Dickinson, a famous American poet and a lesbian woman, has been essentially erased from the world and in her poems. From 1952 to 1973, the American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disturbance. The Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges, took place in 2015. This case was a momentous victory for the LGBTQ community, but in the grand scheme of LGBTQ rights in the United States, it feels small and fragile. Before Obergefell v. Hodges, 13 American states banned gay marriage by Constitutional amendment. Michigan was one of those states. Even now, bans on same-sex marriage are written into state constitutions across the country. Florida’s ban on gay marriage defines marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” The Supreme Court decision overrides all of these laws, but the homophobic rhetoric remains rooted in American society and culture. This is scary and upsetting, especially as the current Supreme Court puts the right to same-sex marriage in jeopardy. In October, Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito released a statement that claimed Obergefell v. Hodges violated religious liberty. The newly appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett supported the dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, and Justices Roberts, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are strong defenders of religious freedom. This Supreme Court and the homophobic country I live in scare me. I am scared for my wedding that I have dreamed of so dearly, for the woman waiting for me at the end of the aisle. But I also have hope. In the 2020 election, Nevada became the first state to recognize marriage as “between couples regardless of gender” in their state constitution. Virginia repealed two laws that banned same-sex marriage in February. There is change occurring every day and maybe, when it is time for me to walk down the aisle, I will no longer have to worry about my rights.

Elijah Klein Explains the Search for Employment in a Pandemic BY ELIJAH KLEIN

There are many difficulties and hardships worthy of being talked about that people have endured during this pandemic. One specific struggle that I have personally had is not being able to secure a job. Since the beginning of summer, my mom and other people around me have been constantly reminding me that it is time to get a job. They said that it is important to get the experience of a first job and that it is the perfect opportunity to work. I agree that it would be great, if only I could get a job. Since mid-June, I have been looking for a job. My family has been in the process of moving, so I was looking for a place around our new neighborhood to get more accustomed with the area. In the beginning of my employment search, I was looking to be a golf caddy, but I was open and willing to do any job on a golf course. My reasoning behind this was that I wanted to be outdoors: I enjoy sports, I would be able to learn about golf and selfishly, I knew that more wealthy people go golfing — so I knew the tips would be pretty good. My venture for a position at a golf course was unsuccessful. I applied to four different golf courses that are in the general vicinity of my neighborhood. I did some online applications, and I also turned in some applications in person. Only one place got back to me, saying they didn’t need any more staff. I appreciated the response because none of the other courses responded. Little did I know that this would be a trend for the future. When the weather began to cool down and golf courses were looking less appealing, my hope for employment at a golf course also started dwindling day-by-day. I started looking for other opportunities. Lucky for me, there were a good amount of stores not too far away from where I live. One day while driving, I saw that a Coney Island was opening up and they were hiring. I gave them a call and got an interview the next day. It was my first interview, but I feel like it went well. I had a conversation with the owner about hours and days I could work and what roles I could take on — the normal job interview things. They said they would get back to me soon. I left feeling confident that I would be able to get a position on the staff. But as the days went by, I heard nothing from them and after about a week, I realized that I wasn’t going to get a call back. I was not too distraught because around the same time, I saw that the Culver’s near my house was hiring. I filled out the online application and waited for an email. A few days later I checked my voicemail and there was a message from someone at the Culver’s saying to give them a call back. I immediately went to a secluded area in the house and gave them a call. It rang for about 40 seconds, but I got no answer. I called again, no answer. I called later that night and someone picked up the phone, but they told me the person I needed to talk to wasn’t there and that I should call the next day. So I did call the next day: every 30 minutes for a few hours without a single response. My hopes of being on the Culver’s crew were shot down. The most recent place I applied to was the Starbucks not too far from me. I filled out their application online about three weeks ago, and I am still waiting for a response. Hopefully it will come, but I have my doubts. In a more normal world, my luck may have turned out differently. Maybe one of the golf courses would have had more positions available and would have hired me early in the summer. But maybe they wouldn’t have. There is a chance that I am not meant to get a job, and it is a sign from the universe telling me to create a business, drop out of school,and make millions of dollars. It’s a possibility, and starting a business isn’t something I am opposed to — but in all honesty, I just wanted to get a summer job. Opinion | January 2020 | 73

Life After Community Every college student must adapt themselves to a new lifestyle in some capacity, but these four college students have had to navigate unfamiliar terrain in their transitions to college this year. This is what they have to say. BY SHANNON KAHAN


“I graduated in June of 2020. I worked all summer and I got to see some friends. Obviously, it was a little harder because we were in a pandemic. In August, I started college. It was a weird transition, especially during a weird time. It’s definitely been really cool. I met lots of new friends, and I’ve been able to find a deeper sense of comfort about where I want to be in the future. Since starting college, I’ve noticed that all the things that you cry about or get really upset about, in a way, they’re worth it, but at the same time, they’re gonna pass. They’ll be minor worries in the future. During high school, I had a lot of work, but it paid off because it helped me prepare me for college. Being on a journalism team definitely helped me. Almost all majors require you just take a writing-intensive class, so journalism definitely prepared me for that. In addition, if I didn’t have that structure that I built for myself when I was in high school and on that journalism team, I would be really overwhelmed.”

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“After graduating last year in 2020, I moved out of my house. I go to Michigan State, so my classes are online. I got an apartment here in Ann Arbor, and I have been doing my online classes from my new apartment. My classes are difficult. I always knew that college was going to be hard, but I didn’t think it would be this much harder than high school. I’ve learned about the importance of planners. My teachers don’t give out assignments and remind us when they’re due, so I have a planner where I keep track of every single assignment I’m given. That’s helped me a lot to stay on track. I think a big difference in college is that you have a lot of freedom. I think thatthe freedom of Community helped me prepare for that. Having an open campus and long classes helped me adapt quickly to those aspects in college.”



“I’m currently a junior at the College of Wooster studying environment and society studies. I graduated from Community in 2018. Since graduation, I’ve traveled almost every summer for internships. I was in San Francisco most of summer 2019. I’ll be in Connecticut in summer 2021, hopefully. I’ve gotten involved with mutual aid work and racial justice organizing in Ann Arbor, and I made lots of really good connections. Since quarantine started back in March, I’ve learned that I’m more of an introvert than I thought. I need time to rest, be away from people and kind of go inward. I think that Community prepared me for the work that I’m doing, like my senior thesis, which is influenced by high school experiences. Taking Cindy Haidu-Banks’ Native Studies class was huge for me.”

“I graduated in June of 2020. I was supposed to go to Michigan State University (MSU), but since Covid canceled our in-person classes, I decided to just take online Washtenaw Community College (WCC) classes instead. I wanted to give myself some time to figure out what I really want to do. I’ve learned that it’s hard to focus when classes are online. It’s so easy to get distracted. I’m glad I decided to go to WCC instead of MSU because I find myself spacing out quite a bit. Since graduating, I assume I’m smarter because I took all those Community classes. But in terms of the online, virtual nature of it all, it’s unprecedented, so Community couldn’t help me too much with that. But I definitely am grateful for all of the opportunities that Community gave me.”

Constants | January 2020 | 75

When I


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




mary margaret hatch felicity rosa-davies

johana horvath

“I used to just spend hours outside, from the time I got home from school until it got dark out. I didn’t really get any homework until fifth grade. I didn’t have anything I had to do, so I would just spend hours outside. I miss not having to worry about doing homework and school and being able to go outside all day. Now, even if I do have time, I mostly spend that time just being tired and not wanting to do anything because school is so exhausting. I miss not having responsibilities.”

I remember thinking that I needed to have the newest iPhone — stuff that now I realize you don’t need to have as a fifth grader. I think I wanted to be older than I was. I was also around people that were pretty confident, and at that age, some people were starting to get phones and stuff that I didn’t have that I wanted. There was this thing that I did with my class called Parents Night Out, and basically, the class babysits younger kids. It made me realize that I didn’t really want to grow up as much. It made me realize my age and that being 10 was a good place to be.”

76 | The Communicator Magazine

“One of my friends had two pet guinea pigs, and one of them died. She came into class, and she was so sad. I remember my teacher, who is still one of my favorite teachers, let her just sit in his office alone so she could have a day off while still being at school, and I remember thinking that was such a nice thing to do for someone. That was also the year that I got my dog that I still have right now, which was a big thing. I think that year was a good transitional period for learning compassion. Getting a dog, you learn to care for something that isn’t yourself, and even as a kid, that’s a big thing.”



mckenna duman

ana morgan

“I was carefree and just crazy. I loved to do random stuff. In elementary school, no one really cares what you do. And then in middle school, people judge you a bit more. Things were a lot simpler before I got social media and everything, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a little bit addicted to my phone. Back then, instead of going on technology, I would do a puzzle or go play with Legos, but now I’m just constantly focused on my phone.”

“All my life I’ve been very into pink and traditionally girly things, but then in middle school, it was a trend to not like any of that stuff. And, even though I always felt comfortable being feminine, I felt like I couldn’t be. I remember trying very hard to dress a certain way and act a certain way and have specific interests; a lot of it never really felt like me. Switching environments and going into high school ended up being a lot better for me. I was able to learn from everyone around me, but also feel comfortable in the fact that there were people like me. I could like the things I liked without feeling embarrassed.”



jocelyn kincaid-beal

lacey cooper

“In elementary school, I didn’t talk to anyone for entire summers, and I was totally fine. Then in eighth grade, I really started hanging out with my friends a lot more. I remember going to Top of the Park with my friends. It was summer, maybe 8 p.m. on a Saturday, and we were hanging out. We couldn’t drive, and our parents were going to pick us up at 8:30, or something. All of a sudden, somebody was like, ‘Let’s walk to CVS.’ I remember it being such a rebellious thing to be like, ‘We’re supposed to be at Top of the Park, but now we’re going to walk to CVS.’ One person stayed behind. They were like, ‘No, I can’t do anything like this.’ And I remember going into CVS and feeling like such a rebellious teen. That was really fun. We just bought Cheetos, or something, but that was a good moment.

It was [a good year]. It was kind of a weird one, and it came with a lot of anxiety about the future, but generally speaking, it was a good year. I don’t know if where I am now is where my past self would have expected to be, but honestly, I think that’s for the best. I’m happier now than I would have been had I followed my eighth grade plans. I wanted to hyper-focus on my grades and my academics. At that time, I hadn’t really discovered that singing was something that I could do outside of musical theater, so I still had a whole world of art and music to uncover. And as I went into high school, I did still focus on my grades and stuff, but it just didn’t go down the way I was expecting it to.

Constants | January 2020 | 77

Checking in with Jada Hikary An unexpected jump across the country took one former CHS student from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Palmdale, California. BY GRACE WANG

What is your life like? Well, currently, I’m visiting Ann Arbor. But I live in Palmdale, California, with my dad, my stepmom, [my] two stepsisters and my brother. I moved at the beginning of June. As much as I love Ann Arbor and I love my school, Community, I didn’t have a good home. And my dad retired recently from the Air Force, so I could live with him. That was the main reason why I didn’t live with him before; he was stationed all over the place. So he brought up, ‘Oh, well why don’t you just come to live with me in California?’ That’s kind of how it started. What do you miss about Community and Ann Arbor? I miss everything. I miss my teachers at Community. I miss them so much. I miss having a forum. I miss going to Kerrytown for lunch, getting Sweetwaters every day [and being] downtown. There’s none of that in my town — in Palmdale. Everything felt so much more personal at Community, [and] because everything’s online, I haven’t been able to form any sort of relationship with teachers and even my fellow students. What has been the hardest part of moving? Just the isolation. I know a lot of people are going through that with quarantine, obviously, but I’ve been 78 | The Communicator Magazine

in complete isolation because I haven’t been able to meet anybody because of [Covid-19]. I live in [Los Angeles] County, so everything’s been on complete lockdown for a very long time. I’m a very social person, so I don’t like being by myself, but I’ve kind of been forced to. How does it make you feel to be back? It feels so good. It felt really good to see my family and friends. I missed the cold weather; I used to hate it. But after months of 100-degree weather and the wildfires, you miss having four seasons. We almost had to evacuate [because of the wildfires], and I have asthma, so I had to be careful. The air would be super smoky and gray, and I would walk outside, and my car would be covered in ash. It was really bad. I couldn’t go outside for a while. What has been good about moving? Well, it’s been really good to spend so much time with my dad because usually I only see him [for] a week or two at a time [about] two or three times a year. Three times [was] a lot. So now I’m with him all the time, which has been really cool. And I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with my dogs. I have three dogs in California,

Photography by Grace Wang

and that’s definitely been nice; I’ve always wanted a dog, and I didn’t have any here, so now it’s an overload. Also, I’ve had a lot of time to focus on myself and school. I don’t really have any other distractions. What do you wish you could have told yourself before you moved? I would tell myself to take the time to enjoy everything I have. And tell people that I love them and that I care about them. Because when you go four months without seeing anybody, you really realize, ‘Oh, dang, I miss this person more than I thought I would.’ So I would tell myself to go and tell everyone that I love them. And enjoy all the things that are available here — like all the things to do outdoors here in Ann Arbor. I totally took that for granted because there’s not much to do in Palmdale, unless you want to drive out to L.A. There’s so much to do here [in Ann Arbor]. So I would tell myself to go to the Arb more, and go to the [Argo] Cascades, enjoy the Huron River, go downtown and eat at all the different restaurants. There are such cool restaurants here. [I also would tell myself to] just appreciate my friends. Try not to be on your phone when you’re with them because you can be on your phone all you want when you’re by yourself.

What helps you feel better in Palmdale? Being physically active. I’ve found that I like super intense cardio — like sprinting and stuff like that. Because you get so tired, you don’t have the capacity to think about your anxieties and your fears and all the things you have to do. The only thing you’re thinking about is, ‘Oh my god, I can barely breathe right now.’ I also really like reading. It helps me relate to people. I just finished “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou; I totally recommend it. “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates is also really good. What is your plan for the future? It’s still kind of up in the air, but I think I may return back to Ann Arbor for my senior year, which is really exciting. And then there’s college. I’m really excited about college: super, super excited. I’ve been working hard this year with my classes for that reason. I would really love to be some type of medical doctor. I’m not sure what specialty or any of that yet, but I’ve been talking to a couple of people that work at the [University of Michigan], and I’m seriously considering medical school.

Constants | January 2020 | 79

Child’s Section, Not Childish Picture books are often ignored and cast aside as children’s books. But maybe they are exactly what the world needs right now. BY RIA LOWENSCHUSS

This beautiful book is filled with family fun and important messages on belonging and acceptance. Lemony Snicket would describe the year we are living through as a series of unfortunate events. With a global pandemic, online school, a crazy political landscape and an endless cycle of news available at our fingertips, it is hard not to become overwhelmed and pessimistic. Books are helpful at times like this. They provide hope, they grow our awareness, they are steady anchors in the sea. Picture books fuel these warm feelings even further -- these stories are full of love, compassion and fun. “In Our Mothers’ House,” written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco, is a celebration of all kinds of families, no matter how untraditional or different they are deemed by society. It spreads the message that love is what matters, not the opinions of others, and that loving fully and without apology is the fiercest kind of protest. This picture book tells the story of Marmee and Mee80 | The Communicator Magazine

ma, two moms who are raising their three children in an old house on Woolsey Street. The eldest daughter, now grown up with her own children, narrates the stories from her childhood with her moms, remembering block parties, pierogi making, the arrival of siblings and pets. Not everything is perfect on Woolsey Street; there are people who say mean things to Meema and Marmee. But led by these fierce mothers, this family prioritizes love and connection and does not back down because of the words of others. “In Our Mother’s House” pulls you right into the story, so you feel as if you are growing up alongside these three siblings. It makes you long for their sturdy, brown house, so full of love, acceptance and family. Polacco illustrates the scenes of family life with such color and fun that you want to jump right in. “In Our Mothers’ House” is a wonderful story that reminds us of the importance of loving, no matter what.

Winnie-the-Pooh is a beloved character featured in everyone’s childhood. But what is the true story behind A.A. Milne’s book? Everyone knows Winnie-the-Pooh, the famous little bear in a red shirt, who has a hankering for honey. We have read the books by A.A. Milne, we have watched Pooh and Piglet wander around Hundred Acre Wood on a Twos-day or a Winds-day. “Finding Winnie,” by Lindsay Mattick, is the true story of Winnie, the black bear that inspired the books of Winnie-the-Pooh. Mattick herself is the narrator, telling her son his favorite bedtime story: that of his own great-great-great grandfather, a soldier who finds a friend in a lost bear cub. This tale weaves the story of Harry Colebourn, this soldier, and Winnie’s adventures, with Mattick telling her son a nighttime story. “Finding Winnie” takes a tale of our childhood and

reminds us that there is always more to the story than we think. Readers will delight in the connections this story makes in history and in fiction. It shows that friendships can last even longer than a lifetime. Although Winnie and Harry Colebourn are no longer alive, their spirit of friendship lives on in Mattick and her son. This story is an adorable and fun panorama that will bring you the joy that A.A. Milne’s books brought you all those years ago. Sophie Blackall’s gorgeous and whimsical illustrations add another dimension to an already wonderful book. “Finding Winnie” will reconnect you with your childhood self and the fictional friends you left behind.

Constants | January 2020 | 81

Although the Statue of Liberty and her features are famous, she has a secret. What is her true meaning? Every child knows the Statue of Liberty; they can picture her torch and crown, her long robe and her green-colored body. She is special; but do you know what is most special about her? Dave Eggers delights readers with “Her Right Foot,” a timely and memorable book that you will pick up time and time again. “Her Right Foot” is a nonfiction story about the Statue of Liberty’s most mesmerizing fact: she is mid-stride. Her foot is in the middle of taking a step, as she wades out into the ocean to meet those she was created to welcome: immigrants, coming to the United States to forge a new, and hopefully better, life for themselves. “Her Right Foot” reminds readers of an important, and highly forgotten, fact: those who fight against oppression and injustice will not stay still, no matter how many obstacles they encounter. They will continue fighting, protesting and moving, even if they seem as still as a statue. Packed with wonderful collage illustrations by Shawn

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Harris and entertaining prose by Eggers, “Her Right Foot” will enthrall and delight you. The last pages will bring tears to your eyes as you realize what the United States should truly stand for. This is a picture book fit for the times and should be read by all who live in the United States. Picture books are powerful. We sometimes forget that although they are “children’s books,” that does not mean they are childish. These stories are strong, important and passionate, just like children themselves. They are often works of art as well, with passionate and deeply felt illustrations. We must listen to the knowledge of children and continue reading picture books, even when we consider ourselves much too old for them. These works of art are more precious and knowledgeable than we know. When life gets overwhelming, there is always the option of walking to a bookstore, picking up a picture book and diving in.

Our Favorite Picture Books CHS students reflect on picture books that shaped their childhood. BY RIA LOWENSCHUSS

Martha Ribant “Firstly, the dog’s name is absolutely sick. I think the reason that this book stuck with me was because Martha the dog was really loud and always liked to talk and have her opinions heard. I have always found a lot of similarities between her and myself. When I was really young, I was super shy and unsure of myself. I liked seeing someone find her voice. Also, alphabet soup tasted great.”

Sage Iwashyna “‘Stellaluna’” was the book my mom used to read to me every night, and I remember it being the best thing to fall asleep to. I named the kitten that I got when I was three after the titular character, and cuddling her in a house in Philly is one of my most treasured childhood memories.”

Leah White “When I was three and four, I went to a preschool for three days of the week, and the other two [days], I would stay home with my mom, and we would do crafts and read books together. This was my favorite [book]. I thought it was very amusing at the time that she was only slightly older than I was [and was] basically living by herself in this grand hotel. Looking back, [on] the days I wasn’t in preschool, my mind would always drift to this book, which by now is in extremely poor condition from all the times I’ve read through it.”

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PROUST QUESTIONNAIRE Bella Weier, junior at Pioneer High School shares her true nature through the questionnaire created by French essayist and novelist Marcel Proust.


What is your idea of perfect happiness? Doing things that make you feel light and not worrying about being someone, just worrying about the way you feel. [My idea is] doing things in life that make you feel proud of yourself doing things that make you inspired. What is your greatest fear? Dying before I’m satisfied with the life I’ve lived. Or, dying young because I feel like before I die, I don’t just want to do things and go places, but I just want to feel satisfied with the person I was and how I treated people. I still have a lot of things to work out, and my greatest fear is never getting the chance to do those things. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I guess my tendency to overthink and be a perfectionist because I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about things when it just wasn’t that bad. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Ignorance. Not seeing other people’s side of things and having so much pride that they can’t admit when they’re wrong. If something is wrong with my friend, I want to have a mature discussion about it and not an argument. Which living person do you most admire? There’s a YouTuber named Hannah Lee Duggan. She lives in a cabin, and when she’s not in her cabin, she travels in a van. She makes a living off YouTube and selling thrifted clothes. I like her because she’s not trying to impress people. She’s very carefree. She’s kind of the person I want to be because she just explores and doesn’t hesitate to do what she wants. What is your current state of mind? I’m doing okay, and I’m getting by, but I’m insecure a lot. I’m always filtering what I say, and I don’t know if it’s the people I’m around, or a personal issue. On what occasion do you lie? I lie and say I’m happy when I’m not. I know people will support me, but I just want to be seen as someone who has their life together. I want

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to be a role model for people, but a lot of time I just need help, and I’m afraid to ask for it. What do you most dislike about your appearance? I have a butt chin, and I hate it. What is the greatest love of your life? My passion is art, and it’s something that I’ve always been a natural at. But it’s also something that I’m very passionate about growing in. I love and see art in everything. I’m a very visual person and just getting outside, taking a walk or making food — I see it as art. Which talent would you most like to have? I want to learn how to knit because I want to be a grandma, and I can’t be a grandma unless I know how to knit. Also, I like making people presents. It feels more personal. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would make myself have more of a work ethic because even though I stress out about school, sometimes I’ll just stress out and then not do it. I’ll just find it hard to get started. I can work once I get going. But I wish I had a lot more motivation than I do. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Being good at drawing. When [I] have a creative vision and execute it successfully, that’s when I feel the proudest. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what would it be? I’d come back as a deer. My personality is like theirs. What is your most treasured possession? My phone. I would like to say something pretty, but honestly, I would be the most upset if I lost my phone. It has so many memories in it and conversations I’ve had with people, and I feel like a lot of my life is held in there. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Not understanding yourself. In times of my life where I didn’t really have anyone else, I always thought, ‘At least I have myself. At least I know who I am, and I know what I want.’ And I’m still inspired

by things. I’m still feeling things, and the worst thing would be not knowing who I am and not really having a sense of identity. What is your favorite occupation? It would be really cool to own a shop or an art gallery. I don’t want to work for a big corporation or anything; I want to work independently. What do you value in your friends the most? I like friends that I can be funny and serious with, where it doesn’t feel like there’s pressure on me to be a perfect, happy person. Who is your hero of fiction? He’s not really a hero, but it’s someone that I find comfort in. Noah from “I’ll Give you the Sun.” I see a lot of myself in him. The way he’s very timid and very much a perfectionist and hard on himself if he doesn’t do everything the way he wants to. What are your favorite names? I like gender-neutral names like Peyton, Robin or Alex. What is it that you most dislike? When people judge other people for the things they love to do. And if I see someone doing something weird in public, like dancing, or just doing something weird, I try not to assume because I don’t like it when other people do that with me. What is your greatest regret? Not living in the moment because I really didn’t know how special that moment was going to be later. A lot of the things I can’t do now. Like going to camp when I was little and going on vacations with my family when I was a kid; I wish I cared about it a lot more. How would you like to die? I don’t want to be afraid. I want to be at peace with it. When I’m old, maybe on vacation, after a really good night. Not in an ugly hospital in pain. In my sleep — when I’m happy. What is your motto? Regretting things can’t change the past. Photography by Grace Wang Bella Weier poses in Saginaw Forest. She believes the lowsest depth of misery to be not understanding yourself. “In times of my life where I didn’t really have anyone else, I always thought, “At least I have myself. At least I know who I am, and I know what I want,’” Weier said.

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Photography by Sophie Nunez

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The Perfect Fit

Hope Hesseltine, CHS senior, is usually wearing a pair of baggy pants with a tight shirt with a flannel or sweatshirt on top. Her outfits are often paired with her go-to white Vans or staple black Converse. Hesseltine found a love for fashion towards the end of middle school and started putting more thought into the clothes she purchased and wore. “In sixth and seventh grade I dressed really sporty,” Hesseltine said. “I think I started caring and experimenting with fashion in eight and ninth grade.”

Hesseltine loves to experiment. She finds most of her clothing inspiration on Pinterest or TikTok. Throughout the past few years, she has started to find more unique and sustainable clothes. When Hesseltine does buy new clothes, her go-tos are Urban Outfitters and Target. Along with clothes, Hesseltine also likes to spice up her outfits with accessories. “I don’t really wear a ton [of jewelry], but I always have on these three necklaces and a pair of earrings,” Hesseltine said. “I think they add a little something to my outfits.” She has found most of her pieces from thrifting, crystal shops and Target.

Hesseltine’s outfits are rarely perfect the first time; she often goes through a few outfit changes before settling on one. “I know when I have found the perfect outfit when I just feel really comfortable and confident,” Hesseltine said. Once she has found the winning outfit, Hesseltine is most likely going out with her friends or to Starbucks. She never leaves the house without her phone, small green Coach wallet and a cover up.

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Fashion is a Part of Who We Are Style is a way of communicating without words. In a time when people stay six feet apart, outfits are an indicator of who we are. From the type of shoes they wear, to the necklaces they put on their necks, fashion has become an even more important piece in society then ever before. BY CHRISSY KUIPER

JOSIE REED It’s all about layers. “I really like layers, but I generally think wearing something that makes you feel happy and confident is important. For me, I always wear a lot of rings and darker colors, especially browns because they make me happy. I usually thrift most of my clothes, but since the pandemic, I’ve been ordering online more because it’s a lot safer. Every time I pick out my outfits I think to myself, ‘Can I imagine an old person wearing this?’ And if the answer is yes, I will wear it. I also have two chunky sweaters — both with ducks on them — that I really like because I just know some old man used to wear them like once a week, and I love that.”

RACHAEL PASHTURRO Wear things you fall in love with.

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“This was my outfit for Thanksgiving. It’s basically made up of four items: a crewneck, collared shirt and New Balances, which were thrifted, and my skirt, which was from my golf uniform. The most important items in my outfit, I think, are the crewneck and the shoes. I really like the birds and trees on the crewneck, and my shoes are old New Balances that are pretty worn out, but I really like the color of them. When I see certain things in the store or online [that] I fall in love with, I just have to have them, like the crewneck. I just loved the birds and trees on it so much, I had to add it to my collection. ”

CAROLINE ANDREWS Stay sustainable. “My jewelry just makes me feel like myself. Most of it stays the same, like my bracelets and most of my rings. I change my earrings the most probably. Recently, I’ve been wearing the same necklaces because I really like the stack I have right now and the special meaning behind each of them. I get most of my jewelry while traveling, but since that’s not an option right now, I get it off of Etsy. Or my friend Chrissy has a jewelry business that I get stuff from. One of the necklaces I wear is rose quartz, and I wear that because it represents love and self love. I normally thrift all of my clothes, but it has been a lot harder during Covid, so I’ve been trying to online shop at secondhand or small businesses to stay sustainable.”

EVA HANNIBAL Jewelry can change any outfit. “Everything in my outfit was thrifted. My mom and I have been going to thrift stores my entire life, but since Covid happened, it’s a place we go together to just get out of the house. I think my favorite part of [my] outfits is my jewelry because it can change any outfit. I’ve always liked jewelry made of crystals, especially. I want my outfits to express who I am to strangers, and I try not to wear a lot of dark clothes because it makes me feel happier when I don’t. When I’m thrifting, I like to find things with patterns on them and things that make me laugh. I really like the show ‘Euphoria,’ and sometimes when I get dressed, I ask myself if I look like I could be my own character in the show, even if it’s just a background character.

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Media Reviews Pluto x Baby Pluto By Lil Uzi Vert and Future



On a two weeks notice, Lil Uzi Vert and Future dropped “Pluto x Baby Pluto,” a collab album, on Nov. 13, 2020. This project provides an upbeat and futuristic 16-song tracklist that includes a solo song from each artist in the mix. While there are no featured artists on the album, Uzi and Future manage to make a jampacked album that has several hits. “Marni on Me,” the second track of the album, brings an upfront bass, as well as a hi-hat cymbal, making for an electronic and catchy beat. Uzi and Future go bar-for-bar in many instances, making the verses a lot more interesting. The chorus is very repetitive, but coming from a rapper like Future who is somewhat notorious for simple choruses, it flows well with the rest of the track. Uzi and Future bring their A-game on the fourth track, “Real Baby Pluto.” Uzi brings some of his signature designer flair to this track with the line, “I’m rocking Louis V right with some Goyard.” Uzi takes a step back from his usual moderate rapping and singing flow and goes with a unique, faster flow, which keeps this track at a steady pace. The second-to-last track, “Bankroll,” engages the listener with more a vocal and melodic input. The

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heavy use of autotune on this track allows the artists to complement each other’s verses throughout the song. This track’s lower energy provides space for the listener to relax as the album closes out. The album does slow down at some parts, lacking variety between certain songs. Tracks like “Plastic” and “Moment of Clarity” seem like filler songs with the intention to only make the album longer. These tracks don’t fit the tone that much of the album brings, and there isn’t anything remarkable about them either. In an attempt to improve the lineup of tracks on the album with no features, Uzi and Future each had solo tracks, “Rockstar Chainz” and “Lullaby,” respectively. These tracks seemed somewhat insufficient and had high hopes that were not lived up to. In “Lullaby,” Uzi sounds off-beat for nearly the entire track, providing for what many said was a rough listen. Future’s “Rockstar Chainz” is not necessarily a bad track; it just felt average. The track really brought nothing new to the album and felt out of place. As these two artists are some of the most popular in the rap game, there were a lot of feelings given from fans. Some posts called the album mediocre with one tweet saying, “I’ve gotta keep listening to this ‘Pluto x Baby Pluto album’ it’s gotta grow on me I guess…I hope.” The people who enjoyed this album thoroughly tended to be die-hard Future fans. Another review on Twitter claimed the “entire Pluto x Baby Pluto album is fire.” Overall, there were mixed reviews of this album from each of the artist’s fanbases This album has hits here and there, but lacks depth and slows down in many instances. It could have used some features to spice up different songs and to give variation. However, there are several good songs that could definitely see the top charts. This won’t be one of the best albums in Future nor Uzi’s discographies, but it is a solid addition nonetheless. This album shows that this duo has the potential to make great music, however, “Pluto x Baby Pluto” does not demonstrate their best work.

The Queen’s Gambit

Directed by Scott Frank



Released on Oct. 23, 2020, “The Queen’s Gambit” is a Netflix original miniseries, created by Scott Frank and Alan Scott, and written and directed by the former. “The Queen’s Gambit” is an adapted story based on the book written by Walter Tevis in 1984. The story revolves around an 8-year-old girl named Elizabeth (Beth) Harmon, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. Beth is orphaned into a girl’s home after her mother dies in a fatal car crash. One day when Beth goes to the basement, she notices the janitor, Mr. Shaibel, playing chess and asks him to teach her. After only a couple days of learning, Beth is progressing incredibly fast, and Shaibel notices. This was the beginning of her chess career. Beth isn’t adopted until her teenage years when a troubled marriage takes her in. Things get complicated, and Beth is worried she will be placed back into the orphanage, but her new parents lie so they can keep her. This is when Beth enters her first chess tournament and wins against dozens of older men. This is when her professional career began. Throughout this mini-series, Beth struggles with addiction, drug abuse, depression, stress, love, death, sexism and many more challenges that come her way. A big part of this movie is feminism because Beth was one of the only female chess players at the time. Many times, she was told “girls don’t play chess,” or “she’ll be an easy win” by older men; she beat them all. There are


also her high school friends and tormentors, who, although they were very intelligent, were married and turned into housewives right out of high school. This mini-series has many ups and downs, which you feel like you’re experiencing along with Beth. The characters and settings convey so much emotion and you feel like you’re there with them. From the moment I started, I watched right up until I went to bed and watched until the end the next morning. There was never a time while watching when I wasn’t fully engaged and paying attention to every detail, emotion and event. “The Queen’s Gambit” was recommended to me by multiple friends, and although I was skeptical, I watched it — and I’m so glad I did. I didn’t know chess could be so entertaining, and I promise you’ll be entertained too.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 Written and Directed By Aaron Sorkin BY HENRY CONNOR

Released on Oct. 16, 2020, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is a Netflix original courtroom drama written and directed by the legendary Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin has written for many well known films in the past and has taken a recent swing into the directing world as well. His directorial debut was with “Molly’s Game”, released in 2017, which had one nominee at the Academy Awards for best adapted screenplay. Since then, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” has been his only other film to direct. The plot revolves around a true story of a trial, which consisted of seven defendants being charged by the Federal Government with concepts related to conspiracy. It started from many anti-Vietnam war protests being held at the 1968 Democratic National Convention led by the seven defendants at the trial. The film brings up the question on whether or not the law favors the truth and the people, rather than the money and the elite. We see examples of this many times in the film, so it is clear that this is the main message that Sorkin was trying to get across. When talking about Sorkin’s skill as a director, it is important to bring up how he keeps the audience engaged. He knew from the start that making a courtroom drama interesting throughout the film was going to be a hard task. His solution was to have a nice blend between what is going on in the courtroom and what went

on during the protests. The scenes flipping from the trial to the protests, and even to Abbie Hoffman’s comedy shows, worked very well in keeping the audience engaged. The viewer stays focused and never feels bored because right when you start to lose interest, he brings the viewer back in by changing the scenery. Anyone who still needs a wake up call to the flaws in our system should watch this film. We are seeing day-by-day examples of racism in our country and the law favoring the wealthy. Hopefully, this film can help open the eyes of some people and can start ideas from those inspired by the story itself. Sorkin has shown the audience his potential as a director while still maintaining his reputation as a writer. Constants | January 2020 | 91

Baby Directed by Andrea De Sica and Anna Negri



The thrilling series “Baby” reached the top charts of Netflix’s best shows when the first season was released in 2018, and season two being later released in 2019. The series is based on a true story that took place in the streets of Rome, Italy. Chiara and Ludovica are the main characters of this dramatic story plot. They find themselves getting mixed into the young prostitution ring going on in Rome. Ludovica is in need to make money for her and her mother, and she uses this as a way to support them. Chiara, on the other hand, uses it as a way to escape her “perfect rich life.” Both girls conceal their true identities by going undercover. Friends and families of Chiara and Ludovica are unaware of the circumstances.

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The show brings us through the Italian high school experience day by day, but it is far from a “normal high school experience.” Heading into season two, word gets out about the girls; they are faced with choosing how to proceed in the mess they have been caught in. Every episode leaves you hanging on the edge of your couch just wanting to know what happens next, making it impossible to stop. Romance, lying, friendship and sexual identity play key roles in the characters of this show, which is where the average teenager can find themselves relating to the characters. The producers find a way to keep us involved in the life of almost every person in the show in order for you to not get warped into only the main characters’ lives. Although these girls find themselves with older men in order to secure jobs, they each have their own personal love affairs. With their hidden jobs, they struggle to keep their relationships honest. Ludovica finds herself falling in love with one of the pimps who reeled them into prostituting. The girls also deal with friendships that are slowly dwindling one after another. The main circle of friends (“comitiva” is the word most commonly used for a friend group in Italy) is Chiara, Ludovica, Damiano and Fabio. Deeper into the plot you wonder how the girls made it as far as they did with their fake identities. Taking sides on who’s telling the truth takes a toll on the girls when they are fighting a legal battle that has the whole community in distress. Some say the girls are at fault and lying, and others put the blame on the true criminals: the pimps. Prostitution is a prevalent issue that takes place in many areas all around the world including the U.S. This story only gives us a glimpse into what a life of a young prostitute could be. Many are waiting for season three after many questions in season two were left unanswered.

World$tar Money by Joji



“World$tar Money” by Joji has been around forever, having been initially released in 2018. But every time I come back to it, the song seems entirely new. While the original song is great, Trash’s remix takes the qualities that were so special about the original and amplifies them, making the piece more interesting overall. Stylistically, the remix doesn’t stray too far from other songs in the sad, lofi genre: a genre characterized by low fidelity or audio imperfections that imitate the sound of old recording and playing devices. Just like other songs in the genre, the grainy sound and prominent guitar create an undeniably nostalgic atmosphere. While on the surface, the song evokes the same sadness and nostalgia as other lofi pieces, the little details take this song to another level. One of those details comes at the very beginning. The song starts with a clip of people talking, but since the remix is considerably sped up from the original, the words that are being said are completely incomprehensible. Because of this, the voices act as a distorted texture on which the rest of the song is built. While musically this isn’t the most revolutionary concept, it paints a picture of a distorted, muted world that perfectly fits the rest of the melancholy themes in the piece. Right as these voices end, Joji’s lyrics continue to elaborate on this sad existence where nothing ever works, and his relationships end with him saying, “Don’t


hate me. Am I crazy?” Over the last two years, “World$tar Money” has been with me through so much. It has been the soundtrack of both happy and tremendously sad times. Every time I listen to it, I’m forced to think and reflect on those two years. I’ve noticed those happy moments seem to get caught in this song, but depending on my mood, my perspective on those happy moments shifts. When I’m feeling down, the song exacerbates that and drowns me in a melancholic sea of all the happiness I can’t have, but when things are going well, this song is entirely different. The song’s energy becomes very positive, and I revel in all of the happiness trapped in those iconic bass or chord progressions. While some of the song’s power over me comes from my own history with it, I think that “World$tar” is a song that everyone can appreciate. It’s a piece that paints an enlightening image of the balance that many people have between emotional suffering and joy.

The Social Dilemma Directed by Jeff Orlowski BY ZARA GREENE-KALESKI

The average teenager spends seven hours and 22 minutes on a screen, which is not including time spent on education. That’s seven hours and 22 minutes of a kid’s day- spent with their eyes glued to a device. In Jeff Orlowski’s documentary, “The Social Dilemma,” he talks to former head members and employees of various social media platforms like Google, Gmail and Pinterest. He digs deep into what social media creators have been hiding. “The Social Dilemma” intertwines both documentary style interviews and acting to portray the effects of technology. The actors depict the stereotypical life of a teen who’s living in a world of social media. Having this family perspective makes the film more engaging and relatable. The members of the family represent the two different opinions on social media highlighted throughout the film. The mother and older sister are against social media, and the younger brother is someone who struggles with nomophobia: the fear of being without a mobile phone or without access to a phone. “When I was there, I always felt like fundamentally it was a force for good, but I don’t know if I feel that way anymore,” said Alex Roetter, a former senior vice president of engineering for Twitter. Roetter explains that although the intentions behind the creation of social media platforms were initially good, they’ve become corrupt. “There’s a cacophony of grievances, scandals and ‘They stole

our data,’ said Tristan Harris, the president and co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology. “And there’s tech addiction, and there’s fake news and there’s polarization and there’s some elections that are getting hacked.” Harris also worked at Google. He makes the audience question,“Is there something that is beneath all these problems that’s causing all these things to happen at once?” Addiction. “Let’s figure out how to get as much of this person’s attention as we can,” said Tim Kendall, the former CEO of Pinterest and the current CEO of Moment. “How much time can we get you to spend? How much of your life can we get you to give us?” Addiction is the goal of social media, and it’s the root cause of why former members of the tech industry are concerned about today’s generations and the generations to come. Constants | January 2020 | 93

The Haunting of Bly Manor


Directed by Mike Flanagan BY KEVIN DUTTON

The nine episode series “The Haunting of Bly Manor’’ is an ominous and scary mystery story that is roughly based on the novel “The Turn of the Screw.” The first episode starts off at a wedding party, where an unknown woman asks a few guests, including the bride and groom, if they would like to hear a ghost story. The ghost story follows a character named Dani Clayton, played by Victoria Pedretti. Dani is a girl in her twenties who lives in London and is looking for a job as an au pair. After an odd and short interview, Dani accepts a job to work as an au pair in the U.S. for two siblings who are orphans. She explains to the interviewee later at a bar that she wants the job because she knows what it’s like to lose someone special, and she thinks she could make a big impact on the children. Something about Dani seems off, and her true intentions to

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go to America seem skeptical. When Dani looks in the reflection of a car window, she sees a man standing next to her, who is not actually there. She then covers up mirrors in her house with bedsheets and avoids looking into reflections. Dani is picked up by Owen (Rahul Kohli) the chef at Bly Manor where the kids live. When she arrives, she is immediately greeted by Flora (Amelie Smith) and Miles (Benjamin Ainswort), who are both glad to meet their new au pair. The kids give Dani a house tour and introduce her to Mrs. Grose (T’Nia Miller), the housekeeper. Dani also meets the gardener Jamie (Amelia Eve) during dinner. Everyone living at Bly is nice to Dani, except the gardener who ignores her. All of the characters seem normal and level headed most of the time. But all of them have something odd about them: Flora is very protective of her dolls; Miles often says disturbing things to Dani; the housekeeper refuses to eat and even fakes taking a drink; the chef talks about Bly as if it is a trap; and the gardener treats Dani as if she already knows her. Dolls move when no one is looking, and Flora warns Dani to never leave her room at night because of the Lady in the Lake. After the first few episodes, there is still so much unknown. Who is the woman telling the story? Who is the man Dani sees in the mirror? What is wrong with the people at Bly? Who is the Lady of the Lake? Each episode adds a new question about the peculiar people and events at Bly Manor. During Thanksgiving break, I was looking for a scary show to watch, and “The Haunting of Bly” manor definitely exceeded my expectations. Even though it is not your typical scary movie with gore and jump scares, the unknown mysteries, constant plot turns and surprises kept me engaged. If you enjoy mystery, or if you are looking for a short and exciting series to watch, this is the show for you.

Books that Changes Lives


Rhonda Bryne Sebastian Oliva

“Everything that’s coming into your life, you are attracting in your life. And it’s attracted to you by virtue of the images you’re holding in your mind,” wrote Rhonda Byrnes, author of “The Secret.” “The Secret,” is a self-help book that describes a “secret” that has been practiced and passed down and understood by some of history’s most prominent figures: Ludwig Van Beethoven, Albert Einstein, Galileo Galilei, Thomas Edison and others. The “secret” described in this book is “The Law of Attraction.” It posits that everything one experiences in their life is manipulated by the thoughts that run inside their head. Every individual has the power to attract positive and negative outcomes, but they also have the ability to put this law into action. “Every thought of yours is a real thing — a force,” said Prentice Mulford, a literary humorist and one of Bryne’s sources.

Accordingly, the book professes that the manipulation of your mind and thoughts are “key to the success of an individual’s life and experiences.” Byrne describes each individual step to using the “secret” in every aspect of your life. The “secrets” are presumed to help with life struggles: money, relationships, health. “You contain a magnetic power within you that is more powerful than anything in this world, and this unfathomable magnetic power is emitted through thoughts,” Byrnes said. “According to Byrne, every individual is the ‘biggest energy magnet’ in the universe, and the energy you radiate will be the energy that you receive. Thoughts are magnetic, and thoughts have a frequency. As you think, those thoughts are sent out into the Universe, and they magnetically attract all like things that are on the same frequency,” Byrnes wrote. Byrne illustrates that everything is possible with the power of the “Law of Attraction,” and one can manifest anything they desire into reality if they implement principal thoughts in their mind. She also promises the book will grant you the opportunity of untapping the “hidden power within you” that will help you achieve success and high virtue. During the lockdown, I began to think that my thoughts affect the outcomes in my life. I began to notice the bad tendencies I had created and was unconsciously applying into my day-to-day life. I blamed anything unpleasant on other matters up until I began applying a positive mindset and began to use the power of the “Law of Attraction.” As I’ve applied this “law” into my life, I have begun to acquire my desires: it has resulted in me changing my mental and physical wellbeing, and it turned my life around. This book could be of great power to anyone, and it is perfect for anyone who wants to change their life and train of thought. The book’s invocation of Buddha nicely summarizes its philosophy: “All that we are is a result of what we have thought.”

WHAT TO READ NEXT For more books featuring similar themes and ideas, look at these titles. If you enjoyed “The Secret,” you might enjoy these books too! THINK AND GROW RICH NAPOLEAN HILL

This is a personal development novel based on the 13 most common habits of wealthy and successful individuals.


This novel illustrates evidence that will enable the fundamental laws of nature and putting yourself in harmony with them.


Another self-help alternate, this novel argues mastering the power of your thoughts and helps cultivate the stance of a successful individual.


This book sets the importance of how your ego is the creator of personal dysfunction and how to reach self-fulfillment.


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A new genre of music has newly emerged in the 2010s and has gained more traction in the past couple of years. Commonly called Hyperpop, this new genre exaggerates and expands the concept of music itself while staying within the lines of pop music. From the ‘80s until now, many of the pop hits are popular because we can’t get them out of our heads. They might play a chorus three times in a song with a catchy melody, but in Hyperpop, a song could be strictly made up of choruses repeated over and over again. Much of Hyperpop blows the idea of pop completely out of proportion, and it can come off as almost satirical. Songs sound so happy and upbeat, but the lyrics tell a deeper — possibly darker — tale. The rhythms and beats feed the brain what it likes, which allows the listener to completely and subconsciously disregard its message. The common dog-piling of voice effects and autotune makes the vocals something so strange, it’s intriguing. In the past, hearing an accidentally heavily autotuned song could be cringe-worthy, but Hyperpop songs use this technique so much, it is noticeably intentional. Being such a sonically intense genre, many of the artists also produce their own music, and if not, they work closely with their producer. Established producers collaborate with many artists to make countless remixes of others’ work, which gives this collection of music a cohesive sound that is worth giving a name to. 96 | The Communicator Magazine


bloodstains - 100 gecs

Paradise - Charli XCX & Hannah Diamond Full Circle - EASYFUN XS - Rina Sawayama This Is for Me [baby blue] - Banoffee & Planet 1999 H8R - Madge IPHONE - Rico Nasty Never Thought - Danny Sunshine HUGE SPINEE - GFOTY & Spinee It’s U (Diamond Version) - Petal Supply & Himera Modest - Gupi Beautiful Superstar - A. G. Cook Ocean of Tears - Caroline Polachek Only Acting - Kero Kero Bonito Melancholy Princess - Zora Jones


“Immaterial” represents the fluidity and the unimportance of external identity. SOPHIE, who identifies as a trans-woman, is an omnipresent producer within the Hyperpop arena. She was also nominated for best dance/ electronic album in the 2018 Grammys with “OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES.” On that album, the song “Immaterial” fills listeners’ heads with serotonin. Guttural bass and sing-song chanting makes it an anthem that challenges constructs like gender, nihilism and existentialism. Either blast this song through some headphones by yourself or in the car with some friends to cherish the metaphysical bonds created within your identities.

Hey QT by QT While being one of the most mysterious songs, “Hey QT” is undoubtedly a bop. The song was produced by SOPHIE and A. G. Cook, sung by a fictional singer named QT, who is played by a performance artist and voiced by an edited British artist. The visuals for the project ended up being one big commercial for a fictional energy drink, which comments on consumerism and the personas within the music industry by blowing those elements out of proportion. The repetition, the high pitched voice and the bubbly feel will keep this song in your head forever.

@@@@@ by Arca Heavily exploring the production and experimental side of Hyperpop, Arca’s “@@@@@” is a sonic journey for those willing to dive deeply. The album was released as a single, which spans over an hour long. It stands as one piece as it embodies an undeciphered radio transmission from a distant universe — and it sure sounds like one. Like SOPHIE, Arca also identifies as a trans-woman. Hyperpop was pioneered by the LGBTQ+ community, specifically the trans community with additional artists like Kim Petras and one half of the 100 gecs duo, Laura Les.

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Immaterial by SOPHIE

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CHS students and staff share moments of joy. BY ZOE BUHALIS

“Watching a t v show, play, or movie and disappearing into a different story for a while. It’s a nice escape from the real world and a hopeful reminder that everything we’re going through right now will all be just another story we tell one day. - Ana Morgan

“Recently I’ve started reading about self-love languages and I thought that was really interesting because a lot of the things I’d say make me really happy fall into one of the love language categories. I think mine is physical touch, so warm blankets and soft sweaters: sensory stuff.” - Anna Stansf ield “Squirrel watching from my window.” - Caroline Andrews

“I think the thing that makes me the happiest is being around my friends and the people I love the most.” - Toby Jones

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“Nice warm hugs, especially when they’re from my boyfriend, they comfort me and make me feel safe. I also love when I walk out of my room to see my dog run towards me and jump up on me with his little tail wagging and ears back. And one last thing that makes me happy is driving down Main Street on my way home from work seeing all the Christmas lights illuminate everything, it’s so peaceful.” - Josie Boylan

“I am at my happiest as a teacher when I see my students laughing, smiling, and genuinely enjoying their time at school. The days where I see students enjoying the learning process make my job 100 percent worth it.” - Ryan Silvester “I’ve been listening to a lot of music recently and it’s been helping me get through quarantine. I really like Último Tour Del Mundo by Bad Bunny, Positions by Ariana Grande, and Good News by Megan Thee Stallion. My sister and I have been going on a lot of drives recently, so we’re always looking for new music.” - Martha Ribant

“Music makes me happy and also the strange things that humans do like decorating their bushes with christmas lights and interacting with animals they pass on the street.” - Grace Catchot

“What makes me happy is talking to people, especially people I don’t talk to often. Before Covid, I talked to people who I wasn’t super close with, but at this point I really only talk to a few people, that’s why communicating with other people makes me happy right now.” - Simon Cassell-Kelley

“Listening to Christmas music and taking long walks with my family.” - Grace Thomas

“I love watching the sunrise or sunset, especially if it’s on a lake. It’s so peaceful and relaxing and is one of those things that gives you permission to take a break and not do anything productive for a little while.” - Lily Sickman-Garner

“I loved going swimming this summer at the Huron River. we would spend all day at the rope swing spot and then afterwards we would listen to music and drive to Dexter creamery. I guess just being with good people who have similar music taste as I do.” - Chloe Durkee

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Humans of Community What are you passionate about? BY SAM CAO

Ivy Prochaska “I started painting again. I was painting over the summer, just because I had a lot of free time. Over Thanksgiving break I got into it again. I’ve been doing that in my free time. I like the freedom about it. I can do whatever I want and make a mistake and it doesn’t really matter — it’s not a grade.”

Sid Hermann “Investing is a lot of work. The way it works is a risk, but the reward at the end — like you see the end of the tunnel — it’s nice to be able to have a reward from my work. It’s fun because there’s obviously a risk, so it’s not easy coming on to it. Yeah, there’s some effort involved, but you get some sort of reward at the end.”

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Sadie Barber “Music has always been my thing. When I was little, me and my sister would compete over who liked Taylor Swift better. I would try to write songs all the time; they never came out good, but I always enjoyed doing it. But I guess what makes me love music is just how unique things can be and the infinity of songs there are. Songs can help you understand your emotions and make you feel certain ways. It’s always been super important in my life. I can define different parts of my life by what music I was listening to.”

Ella Roberts “I like working at the cookie store a lot because it’s like an assembly line. You make the cookies, and you make the frosting. We’ve been making these kits and putting them all together. It’s motivated me to try and do better in school. I’ve just seen how effective I can be and do work, and I think I’ve tried to motivate myself to do my schoolwork and [have] the same efficiency I have at wor-k.”

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Photo courtesy of Rosie Mellor

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CHS sophomore Rosie Mellor has always been interested in art, but since quarantine started, she has focused on and developed her own style. “When I get an idea, I’ll initially start with a sketch on paper,” Mellor said. “But for bigger pieces that need to be thought out, I’ll do it digitally on my iPad. Then I transfer that onto watercolor paper and paint it.” Mellor describes her art style as surreal and strange. In the past year, she has found comfort in her art and the process. “It’s really my only escape from stress and the general events from this year,” Mellor said. When creating her art, she likes to add weird twists: a trend in her art is adding eyes or limbs onto objects. She enjoys sharing her art on instagram for others to see and enjoy. “I post there for myself and I guess the people following me are just kind of along for that

ride,” Mellor said. “I would like to sell my art and do commissions, but I’m in no rush to do so,” Mellor said. “I’m still a kid and I just want to paint for myself. I don’t need the added stress of making art for other people.” “I do want to be a full-time artist. I don’t see myself doing anything else,” Mellor said. “It’s what makes me the happiest. Even if it wasn’t my full-time job, I think I’ll always be doing art regardless of whatever hypothetical job I’ll have.” Mellor mostly paints random objects, but she also explores with portraits. “I’m more comfortable drawing random things and putting eyes on them, but I do like the portraits that I’ve done,” Mellor said. “It is more difficult, especially if they’re portraits of real people, to get it to actually look like them. I do like experimenting with that. But I think I’m more comfortable doing things that don’t involve people.” Mellor likes the creative vent that she gets from being an artist. “Being able to create something that probably no one else has ever done before [is my favorite part],” Mellor said.

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art throb Elliot Rhodes

“I like to create art with queer couples in it,” Rhodes said. “When there are queer relationships in the media, it’s typically very sexual. And I wanted to create pieces that just show normal couples, not in a sexual manner, because often when gay people are shown in media, it’s overdramatized. I really just wanted to find a way to incorporate transgender bodies and media in a casual way.” 104 | The Communicator Magazine

“I like to think of this one as someone who’s proud of their body,” Rhodes said. “There are two hands, the torso and the hip, and the lower hand is touching the thigh. I chose earthier tones because I feel like they’re more connected to calmness.”

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“The second I saw this photo on Instagram, I just knew I wanted to draw it in some way,” Thomas-Palmer said. “The fist in the air is a big Black Lives Matter sign, and when I saw the photo, I was really moved. I like to shove my political views in people’s faces — it’s a big part of who I am. That’s one of the reasons why I drew this. The climate around politics right now is really dangerous; something that a lot of people like to brag about America is how unified we are, and how welcoming we are. But we’re not right now. We’re so separated between Trump 2020 and Biden 2020, or red and blue. We’re more divided than ever, and that can be really dangerous.” 106 | The Communicator Magazine

art throb Ryan Thomas-Palmer

“I chose this picture of AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] because it’s good quality, and you need a good quality photo for a drawing,” Thomas-Palmer said. “The original picture has the American flag in the background, but I took it out of the picture. I feel like her being a part of the government isn’t the biggest part about her. It’s more about what she stands for. When people look at my art, I want them to feel emotion. I think that’s why people do any form of art: to get an emotional reaction out of their audience, whether it’s anger or happiness, sadness or just to get them to think about their beliefs.” Constants | January 2020 | 107

Social Media


Fall 2020

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Song of the Day CHS junior Alec Simon loves his rap and hip hop. After the release of “Savage Mode 2” by 21 Savage and Metro Boomin, he’s found himself blasting “Brand New Draco” while he’s skateboarding or just hanging out with his friends. His favorite verse from the song is “I’m rich for real I could press a button and have the opps go down, so many choppas in the spot I keep the door open.” “I like that verse a lot because I enjoy listening to well written and performed music,” Simon said.

Post and graphics by Tane Patel

Communicator Eats For this week’s installment of Communicator Eats, our treat is blueberry lemon bread! The prep time is around 40 minutes, and the bake time is around 50 minutes -- it depends on your oven. It’s great before-school breakfast and a different way to start the day. Check the link in our bio for the recipe. Post and photo by Cate Weiser

Election 2020 Although CHS Senior Sophie Fetter was nervous heading into her first-ever voting experience, she was able to prepare ahead of time by creating a list of her choices. She recommends this to other young voters and urges them to take part in all elections - no matter how large or small.

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Built with only a few simple household ingredients, this tasty s’mores pie can be made in under a half an hour. The cookie crust, made with brown sugar, graham crackers and butter, is the perfect base for this delectable dessert. After the crust is baked, it is then filled with decadent chocolate and topped with gooey mini marshmallows. The pie then returns to the oven until the marshmallows are just burnt on the top. Pulling the pie out of the oven is a treat in and of itself: the delicious smell of fresh s’mores wafts out of the oven and makes the kitchen smell wonderful.

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Our Turn

Communicator staff members discuss what they are grateful for. BY SAM BERKOOZ

Amy Boeving “I am really grateful for my family. I’m really glad that I have a support system during the online school situation and being confined to my home. I’m also glad that if I ever need something, I can always go to them. I’m grateful that they are there for me because in some classes when I would have a really hard time, I would go during the five minute break and talk to mom. When I talked about my struggles she would help me form a plan and figure out what to do.”

Dan Gutenberg “There are many things I am thankful for. With school online and a busy list of things to do, I am grateful for the teachers I have at CHS. I think they do a lot more than what they are asked to do and what’s in their job description. Their attitude and approach has made online school easier for me, compared to friends at other schools. I think CHS teachers do a lot just for the benefit of their students. I really appreciate their attentiveness and genuine interest in our wellbeing. For example, in the beginning of the year when we were overloaded with work, they listened to us and decreased our work.”

Jenna Jarjoura “I am grateful for a lot of things right now, like friends and family, good health and a roof over my head. Something more specific, I realized how fortunate I am to have consistent wifi and technology that doesn’t interrupt my learning. I have heard that unreliable technology has been taking a toll on people, especially in a fast-paced class like Calculus where attendance is very important. In general, all these changes to my senior year really taught me how to accept change and be appreciative of little things.”

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