Falconer November/December 2023 Issue

Page 1

Vol. 49, Issue 3, 24 pages

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

constructing a c ur

There’s a lot of openness to this graduation requirement that is very complex and is very unique to how we adopt [the requirement in schools].” Bryan Marcus





CREATING A CLASS: As SDUHSD staff works to implement a new Ethnic Studies requirement in accordance with California law, they face some debate over which department this class belongs in. Both the Social Sciences and English department Chairs have attended meetings to determine what this new course will entail when it becomes mandatory for the class of 2030.

SDUHSD explores future of Ethnic Studies requirement Ellie Koff


California State Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 101 into law in Oct. 2021, mandating that students, beginning with the graduating class of 2030, take a semester of an Ethnic Studies class in high school. This new requirement aims to introduce high school students to the “interdisciplinary study” of histories and cultures underrepresented in traditional U.S. and World History courses, according to California 100, a policy research collaboration by the University of California and Stanford University. California is currently the only state that has made Ethnic Studies a graduation requirement. Now, California school districts are determining how to implement this requirement within the next year; chief among these conversations in SDUHSD is which department this requirement

will be housed in. SDUHSD board members met with English and Social Sciences Chairs to discuss how the district will meet this standard, according to Associate Superintendent of Educational and Student Services Bryan Marcus. “There’s a lot of openness to this graduation requirement that is very complex and is very unique to how we adopt [the requirement in schools],” Marcus said. “It could be in a math class, it could be in an English class, it could be in a social science class.” Due to this, the way an Ethnic Studies course looks at one high school could be different from the way it looks at another; however, both will meet the state standards. In the Sweetwater Union School District, plans for this requirement include a stand-alone Ethnic Studies course, according to SUHSD Board Member Nicholas Segura.

“They are thinking about starting in ninth grade because there is no history requirement,” Segura said. SUHSD is considering offering the class as a mandatory elective for students by the 2024-25 school year. This means that students would take a year-long course, such as the AfricanAmerican or Chicano Studies elective already in place on some SUHSD campuses, to meet the Ethnic Studies course requirement. The San Diego Unified School District also has courses that would meet the Ethnic Studies requirement already in place, according to their website. SDUHSD currently plans to

create a new curriculum to meet this requirement, with a pilot model projected to be offered in the 2024-2025 school year, according to Marcus. “My guess is that [the requirement] will be integrated into a current course rather than a stand-alone course because that creates some pretty significant master schedule implications,” TPHS Principal Rob Coppo said. “There seems to be some logic in embedding it into English. You don’t have a freshman social science class.” The other option considered was to implement the requirement into a continued on A2

Now, California school districts are determining how to implement this requirement within the next year; chief among these conversations in SDUHSD is which department this requirement will be housed in.

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ETHNIC STUDIES continued from A1

social science class — a debate over which department would feature the requirement that sparked conversations among faculty. “I think the historical component is really important, and that’s not my forte as an English teacher,” English Department Chair Lisa Callender said. Social Science Department Chair Catherine Mintz declined Falconer requests for comment, as well as two other English teachers and three other social science teachers.

I think it’s an essential learning piece for our students if they are going to truly be global citizens and contribute to the communnity locally and on a larger scale.” Rob Coppo


Asian American Studies

Arab Studies

With the proposed plan to implement the requirement into an existing course, Callender said, if added to an English class, Ethnic Studies would add “new life” to current western-centered English curriculum. “I think it would really benefit everyone to hear about how some of

Mexican American Studies


committee and the two ASB Diversity, Equity, Inclusion officers declined Falconer requests to comment for this article. Whichever approach the district takes to implementing this requirement — creating a new class or implementing it into existing curriculum — the available funds from the state are approximately $200,000, according to Marcus. “We are taking the time to build capacity around what this graduation requirement is [and] how we’re listening to student experience and how we are training our teachers to make sure that they feel confident and they understand what they’re teaching in order to be in alignment with the graduation requirement,” Marcus said.

African American Studies

Bryan Marcus

our greatest contributors to American history and society were people of color or immigrants,” Callender said. Coppo voiced similar sentiments. “I think it’s an essential learning piece for our students if they are going to truly be global citizens and contribute to the community locally and on a larger scale,” Coppo said. Fabiola Theberge (12) and Sofia Behrend (12), previous students of Social Justice — a course offered at TPHS in the 2021-2022 school year — said Ethnic Studies curriculum would be a “valuable” offering at TPHS. Social Justice, which examined current events and the experiences of marginalized groups in America, taught Theberge and Behrend to “be opinionated” and “respectfully disagree.” AP Government teacher Micheal Montgomery, who previously taught this class, was among the teachers who declined to comment for this article. At Canyon Crest Academy, students also voiced opinions on the Ethnic Studies requirement, forming a committee that has spoken with several teachers on their campus about how the course should be implemented. “It’s important that we work on communicating with teachers and thoroughly read through the curriculum,” Hayden Chang, a junior at CCA and a member of the CCA Ethnic Studies Committee, said. “There’s no point in implementing Ethnic Studies curriculum without doing it well researched; otherwise, you’re just checking off a box.” TPHS does not have such a student

december 13, 2023

Latin American Studies

There’s a lot of openness to this graduation requirement that is very complex and is very unique to how we adopt certain graduation requirements. It is a much different approach than before.”


NATIVE American Studies

SDUHSD to join One San Dieguito Alliance in 2024 Liv Weaver COPY EDITOR

SDUHSD is set to partner with the National Conflict Resolution Center to form the One San Dieguito Initiative in January 2024, the latest development in efforts to “create a sense of belonging and inclusion for all students across all campuses,” according to SDUHSD Superintendent Anne Staffieri. On multiple campuses in the district, accounts of a “heightened sense of polarization and an increase of hatebased incidents” have been reported, Staffieri said in an email to the Falconer. Only last month, a swastika was found painted on a boys’ bathroom wall at TPHS [story on A5 of the October Issue]. The NCRC — founded in 1983 by the University of San Diego Law Center and the San Diego Bar Association — is a company that employs directors, mediators and trainers specialized in conflict resolution across the nation. The NCRC will aid SDUHSD with specialized training including effectively implementing skills centered around inclusive communication, the bystander effect and restorative practices. Prior to commencing training, the NCRC will survey community members in January, a practice that will ensure families and staff in the district “have

SDUHSD will partner with the National Conflict Resolution Center beginning in Jan. of 2024 in what is being called the One San Dieguito Alliance. This partnership aims to help teachers, students and staff throughout the district opportunities to be seen as we work to be more inclusive and accepting of everyone. to become healthier as a community,” according to Staffieri. The collaboration will also aid to “build culture and help resolve conflicts more effectively,” Staffieri said. While the SDUHSD partnership with NCRC was not in direct response to the TPHS incident, according to Board President Rimga Viskanta, there are many on the TPHS campus who see this as an especially positive change given the recent hate incident on campus. “It’s important that our school is aware of the impact of hate on our entire community,” TPHS PALS President Alyssa Nguyen (12) said. “I think that it is important that the initiative does create change in our community and is not just something to say we are a part of, as it is necessary that changes are made to make TPHS a safe and inclusive environment for everyone.” Adi Adatiya (9), one of two Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commissioners for ASB, agreed. “It’s super important to continue to connect with our students, especially when [incidents] happen,” Adatiya said. “If we don’t acknowledge it, and instead just try to bring people together without changing anything, it’s going to keep happening over and over again, which is why this new deal is such a

good idea.” With this, Staffieri said she expects that “incidents of bullying and targeting” will decrease as a result of the One San Dieguito Initiative. “I’ve seen firsthand … how the restorative approaches [the NCRC] practices and teaches can hold students accountable in communities for the harm they cause, thereby reducing the chance for escalation or continued incidents,” Staffieri said. Staffieri hopes to first build up a “culture of tolerance,” so that the path toward true acceptance can be met in the future through SDUHSD’s work with the NCRC. Nguyen agreed. “TPHS should be a place of learning, friendship and positive experiences that will prepare us for adulthood. It should never be a place to spread or experience hate,” Nguyen said. “It is [PALS’] goal to make all of TPHS a safe place for students and staff. While this is an ambitious goal, I believe that by spreading kindness, celebrating our differences and educating our community — just like this program sets up for us — we have a chance to make everybody on campus feel included.”

On the board, similar sentiments were expressed. “I hope this initiative provides common understanding through the district of how we can work together to create an atmosphere of acceptance and belonging so that, ultimately, we may fully embrace and celebrate the beautiful diversity that strengthens our school community,” Viskanta said. Board Clerk Katrina Young also acknowledged the importance of this initiative to SDUHSD. “While misunderstandings and conflict are inevitable in any community, my hope is that we continually strive to find ways to seek understanding, even if and especially when we disagree. To that end, I believe that this initiative is absolutely essential,” Young said. Outside of the boardroom, Adatiya voices a similar view, with hope for the future of TPHS and all other students in the district. “I truly hope that every student is listened to. There are students that don’t get a voice and who want to be heard, but it’s hard for them because of circumstances like with the bathroom and such,” Adatiya said. The One San Dieguito Initiative is set to conclude in June 2026.



Hit o z Sn o e.

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How many TPHS students can really say that they got enough sleep last night? Counselor Christina Hooton advises students on how to achieve a good night’s sleep. Establishing a nightly pre-sleep routine can set your mind and body up for success. This will look different for everyone, but when you have the same nightly routine before bed, it cues your body to wind down and be ready to sleep.” Christina Hooton TPHS COUNSELOR

States sue social media company for youth harm Joy Ma OPINION EDITOR

California Attorney General Rob Bonta led a coalition of 33 attorneys on Oct. 24 in filing a federal lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Inc., the parent company of social media platforms Instagram and Facebook. The lawsuit — filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California — accused Meta of intentionally designing and using features that led to the addiction and harm of children and teens, according to ABC News, a conclusion derived from a 2021 investigation into Meta and Instagram. In a press release by the California Department of Justice, Bonta said that “Meta has been harming our children and teens, creating “an addiction to boost corporate profits.” This joint filing joins eight other state lawsuits against Meta and an

& with Dr. Sina Gharib by Sarina Feng

ongoing investigation into TikTok. According to the same press release, “[Bonta’s] bipartisan effort seeks to hold Meta accountable for what is perceived as a blatant disregard for the well-being of its youngest users.” The lawsuit rests on federal and state laws which included the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, California’s False Advertising Law and California’s Unfair Competition Law, according to a federal complaint filed by multiple states in October. The violation of COPPA — an act designed to protect the online privacy of children under 13 — is a focal point in Meta’s alleged harmful business practices. Much of the lawsuit revolves specifically around Meta’s alleged misconduct of maximizing young users’ screen time and employing psychologically manipulative features, while “misleading the public about their

safety,” according to Business Insider. Madeline Polonia, a clinical psychologist based in San Diego, said social media reliance has risen recently. “Parents have shared many concerns that their teens are constantly on their phones, worried if their posts are being liked, and they have fewer conversations at home,” Polonia said. Some students are aware of these addictive qualities. Sinaya Sharabi (10), who abstains from social media, sees apps like Snapchat and TikTok as distractions and potential sources of dependency. She said she “weighed the pros and cons of downloading [a social media app],” but she is “happier without it.” Nolan Greer (11), a user of various platforms, shared another perspective. “We should reconsider who is to blame [for social media addiction in adolescents] ... what I find and what

I’ve heard is that children are given technology a lot younger than they were 20 to 30 years ago,” Greer said. “With that, we have to consider where we went wrong as a society by not considering the dangers of giving our kids technology and access to social media so early.” As the legal battle against Meta unfolds, the attorneys seek injunctive and monetary relief to address the alleged misconduct.

“[Bonta’s] bipartisan effort seeks to hold Meta accountable for what is perceived as a blatant disregard for the well-being of its youngest users.” California Department of Justice PRESS RELEASE

As finals week approaches, TPHS students are likely to increase their study habits. To learn more about the importance of sleep for teenagers, the Falconer spoke with Dr. Sina Gharib, a sleep expert and physician scientist at the University of Washington. How do you define sleep deprivation? Sleep deprivation is defined as not getting adequate sleep ... generally, for teenagers, we recommend somewhere between eight to as high as 10 hours of sleep every night. Unfortunately, I think what we see in our society nowadays is that most teenagers aren’t getting that. In fact, when we do surveys of teenagers about 70% or so, they don’t actually get that much. So they’re technically sleep deprived.

Is sleep more critical during stressful time periods, for example, final exam weeks for students? Yes, one of the consequences of not getting enough sleep is impaired cognition. So that means that you can’t think as well and think as clearly. I think it’s very important to get enough sleep those final nights before finals. Doing all-nighters and not getting any sleep may give you more time to learn, but you also aren’t going to remember and may not perform as well.

Have you seen any other trends in sleep deprivation, maybe related to the rise of technology or increases in mental health issues, especially with teenagers? The main thing we have seen is that they’re becoming huge distractions, causing delay in sleep. So people are sleeping later and later, even though they tell their parents “I’m going to sleep” they go and they’re texting and doing other things. Second, if their phone is next to their bed, they may fall asleep and then they often wake up and check things in the middle of the night. Answers have been cut for length and clarity.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SINA GHARIB SLEEP STUDIES: Dr. Sina Gharib is a physician scientist at the University of Washington. He has helped many patients, both adults and teenagers, to regulate their sleep cycles.


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Decorating Contest Winner:

Ms. Smith’s Period 1


Updates from the SDUHSD Board AGENDA

Public Comment

During the Oct. 26 regular board meeting, the board planned to debut a new meeting format, pushing public comments on non-agendized items to the end of opensession. However, after backlash from the public, the meeting format was returned to its previous order. In the past, the public could comment toward the beginning of the meeting in three periods — for closed session, opensession and non-agenda topics. The change in non-agendized comments was accompanied by more time per comment — two to three minutes; agendized comments also were moved to after a presentation on the given topic, a change in compliance with board policy, Board President Rimga Viskanta said. However, multiple people voiced disapproval of the change to non-agenda comments, ultimately leading Viskanta to revert the format to the previous order for the remainder of the meeting “We want to respect what folks are used to,” she said. Chief among community concerns was that non-agendized speakers would need to sign up to speak before the meeting and then wait two or more hours to speak. However, at the next meeting on Nov. 14 when non-agenda comments were kept at the end of the meeting, Viskanta clarified that non-agendized speakers would be able to sign up at any time before the comment period. Trustee Phan Anderson spoke against the format change, voting nay on approving the agenda. Moving forward, Viskanta said the board could “revisit” the format change.

School Bus Purchases

On Nov. 14, the board voted 3-2 to not replace three school buses with diesel fuel vehicles, against the district’s recommendation to purchase them before diesel vehicles will not be purchasable in California effective January 2024, as the state moves toward the goal of zero vehicle emissions by 2035. Currently, the district has 17 buses used for extracurricular activities like field trips and athletics. Of those buses, 10 are more than 20 years old, which Tina Douglas — associate superintendent of Business Services at the time — said during the Nov. 14 meeting is a reliability concern. While four of the 10 buses will be replaced with zero-emission vehicles, the board discussion centered around what to do with the remaining three, whether to replace them or wait to purchase zeroemission buses. Board President Rimga Viskanta recommended the district direct the funds that would be used for purchasing the new diesel buses to zero emission infrastructure. However, with a bus driver shortage, concerns of the ability of zero-emission buses to drive long-distance SCHOOL BUS and the cost of zeroemission vehicles being higher, this decision went against staff recommendation. Ultimately, the motion failed 3-2; Trustees Michael Allman and Phan Anderson supported.

JUUL Settlement

On Oct. 26, the board voted unanimously (with one member absent) to settle their class action lawsuit against JUUL, an electronic cigarette company. The district was awarded a settlement of $125,821. Back in March, the board advised their legal counsel to settle the suit against JUUL, which SDUHSD joined in 2020 to stand with school districts across the U.S. in alleging the company marketed to minors and disrupted learning environments. The district has not yet received the money, but it will use it for preventative training and support for students, staff and the community, according to the Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Bryan Marcus. Vaping has been an on-going discussion both at the district level and at TPHS. At TPHS, a vape sensor was piloted in a campus bathroom in January 2022. Multiple board discussions have centered around vaping in bathrooms; one notably regarded the prospect of parent volunteers being assigned to bathrooms to monitor and deter such activities. As of now, the board has not taken public action on a program of this sort. WORDS BY ANNA OPALSKY/FALCONER



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CSU system announces multi-year tuition increase Makaylah Gerling SPORTS EDITOR

A “multi-year sustainability plan,” which will increase tuition, was approved by the California State University Board of Trustees on Sept. 13, effective in the coming 2024 term, according to The California State University. The plan will raise tuition for the CSU schools by 6% over the course of the next five years, the second tuition hike in 11 years, according to the Los Angeles Times. In doing so, the CSU system is aiming to “provide the necessary resources for each university to further the CSU’s core values, provide tuition stability and predictability for students and parents and enhance financial aid and affordability,” according to CSU website. According to a CSU report, only 86% of their costs were covered by their revenue in the 2022-2023 school year. The sustainability plan is projected to raise $840 million, which will help to fill this budget gap, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I would definitely say that this 6%

increase is almost a ‘sneaky’ way to increase tuition prices,” student Eva Lefferdink (‘22), a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obisbo, said. “This was a discussion in one of my classes before, and the students who specifically pay tuition themselves were very upset after hearing this news and were frustrated.”

It really caught me and my family by surprise as we now have to navigate the burden of paying college this increased tuition moving forward.” Nicole Gross (‘22) SDSU STUDENT

“I honestly understand the board of trustees’ reasoning behind the tuition increase,” San Diego State University student Nicole Gross (‘22) said. “However it really caught me and my family by surprise as we now have to

navigate the burden of paying college this increased tuition moving forward.” With nearly half a million students enrolled in the CSU system, Gross certainly is not the only student that will feel this burden. More specifically, increased funding would go toward improving existing university programs and infrastructure. With SDSU class sizes reaching around 100 students, Gross suggested that some of the funding should go towards creating a more comfortable and engaging learning environment consisting of smaller lecture sizes. She also mentioned the fact that SDSU could provide professors with the resources necessary to “better meet the needs of larger class sizes.” According to Lefferdink, Cal Poly SLO’s dining halls, classrooms, housing facilities and library could also use more attention. Aside from campus improvements, faculty members throughout the CSU system went on strike for better pay in early December, according to the Los Angeles Times. The union was demanding a 12% increase for the 20232024 school year.

Let’s break it down



$ 840 million

tuition increase over five years

expected to be raised by increase

According to CSU, one of the priorities for increased tuition includes “compensation to attract and retain outstanding faculty and staff.” After the July Board of Trustees meeting, members came to the conclusion that in response to feedback that the wage and tuition increases would be reassessed in five years.

Expression Session

The , held on Dec. 8 and 9 in the TPHS Proscenium Theatre, featured performances from Dance PE and Intermediate and Advanced Dance, as well as varsity and junior varsity dance teams. This is the second of three dance performances this year.


Originating in the 1960s, Black Friday traditionally marks the start of the holiday shopping season in the U.S. Although this event may fuel our nation’s growing consumerism and has shown a statistical spike in physical alterations, its proven financial benefits for customers and retailers alike should not be dismissed. ART BY OLIVIA WONG

Cass Love


As early as October, many people have probably shaken their fist at their device, saying: “If I see one more advertisement for Black Friday…” But with a holiday shopping list clenched in the other fist, it would be wise to heed such sales, for the deals on your screen — namely Black Friday — stand to benefit not only the retailer, but also you, the consumer. The holiday deals that retailers offer amount to approximately 19% of total retail sales for that year in the U.S., according to the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail association. These big retail companies reap large profits each year, and events like Black Friday are important to these companies as they head into the next year. However, it is not only large corporations who benefit from such deals. According to Forbes, Black Friday is “a great time for small businesses to sell stock — either clocking up early festive sales or shifting stock to make way for more Christmas products.” This proves that holiday deals, which some people associate with big corporations taking advantage of customers for profit, are also helpful for small businesses. Small Business Saturday — the Black Friday equivalent for smaller companies — is also starting to gain traction. According to a survey conducted by Bankrate, a financial advising website, “61% of holiday

shoppers are likely to choose Small Business Saturday for holiday shopping. That number is slightly higher than the number of shoppers likely to shop on Black Friday (56 %).” This year, Black Friday shoppers spent $9.8 billion, according to an Adobe Analytics report. Lower or higher Black Friday sales can indicate “the overall health of the retail industry,” according to Investopedia, a financial media and review website. Additionally, Investopedia said that “some economists consider Black Friday to be a good gauge of consumer confidence and consumers’ likely discretionary spending going forward.” With this perspective in mind, Black Friday, beyond the fun and frenzy it brings, can be used as a legitimate measure of the U.S. economy. Consumers also benefit from holiday deals. According to Adobe Analytics data, “discounts this holiday season ... hit record highs of 35% off the list price” between Thanksgiving day and Cyber Monday. Further, for families with young children, taking advantage of deals is crucial to stay ahead of the costs of fast-growing kids. Despite the clear benefits of holiday deals, some criticize Black Friday for the perceived danger of chaotic shoppers — the stereotypical image of hordes clambering for the perfect deal. This is a valid concern: according to the Black Friday Death Count, between 2006 and 2021, there were 17 deaths and 125 injuries. However, an Adobe study reveals that 51.2% of Black Friday shoppers will opt for online shopping, which will drastically reduce crowds, especially as cybershopping becomes more efficient for many. Holiday deals, a viable indicator of economic health, are an important aspect of the holiday season for both retailers and consumers; therefore, holiday deals must remain a part of the holiday season.

Reese Carsley STAFF WRITER

With the holidays right around the corner, people are caught in the rush of purchasing the next shiny item. But once you slow down and pay attention to what you are buying, you will find the flawed nature of these holiday deals. Despite the financial allure and added convenience of online sales, the Black Friday shopping frenzy is an outdated, bitter reflection of consumerism that directly opposes the moral values that the holiday season represents. Originating in the 1960s, Black Friday is now a well-oiled machine, inspiring overconsumption, unsustainable practices, physical harm and inauthentic deals. Between 2006 and 2021 there were 17 deaths and 125 injuries on this day, according to Black Friday Death Count, an online record of all incidents. These incidents involve shootings, stabbings, stampedes, car accidents and more atrocities. Inside stores, there is a 69% chance of getting into an incident, and just when you think you have made it through the mayhem, you have an 11% chance of getting into an incident outside the store. These acts of violence not only illustrate the chokehold corporations have on us, but also society’s tendency to abandon all morals in search of the next shiny product. “One in every three shoppers return what they buy on Black Friday, with approximately 30 million unwanted

goods being sent back to stores,” according to Motesque, an online website specializing in data reports. This brutal display of overconsumption begs the question of where these returned items are really going. According to a 2019 study from a Population Matters report, up to 80% of Black Friday purchases are thrown away and deliveries from all these sales are estimated to release more than 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. As Black Friday prices encourage the rise of impulse-buys, wellmeaning consumers are often left in financial debt while large corporations walk away with their pockets lined. This ensures the longevity of the fast fashion business model: a toxic system based on short-term supply and fleeting trends. Black Friday is built on a system of deals, most of which are inauthentic and effectively unravel the very fabric of the event. According to The Guardian, just one in 20 Black Friday deals are genuine. A prime example: a consumer group price-checked 83 items on sale in the U.S. for Black Friday last year and found nearly all of them were cheaper at earlier times in the year. Companies even tend to mark up their prices in the month before Black Friday just to flaunt misrepresented “deals.” To this regard, Black Friday puts stress on small businesses who simply aren’t equipped to compete with larger corporations that can afford to offer bigger so-called “discounts.” While Black Friday poses statistical benefits to the economy, the reality is these benefits are inaccessible to the majority. Instead, the holiday further fuels the monsters that are these large corporations, while simultaneously dismantling our environment. So, next year, when you look at your holiday shopping list, don’t get blinded by an alluring discount, as it’s merely a marker of our society’s consumerism.



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It’s Christmas time: deck the halls and dim the lights

Gabrielle Gonzales STAFF WRITER

“What a bright time, it’s the right time to rock the night away.” Bright and extravagant light displays have evidently become an irreplaceable sign of holiday cheer. In reality, such displays represent mass and mindless energy consumption. Holiday lights date back to Edward Johnson in 1882, but attained popularity in 1927 with the development of safe outdoor bulbs. The popularity of holiday lights burns on today. NASA satellite data shows that nighttime lights in many U.S. cities shine up to 50% brighter during the holidays than throughout the rest of the year. Since 2013, NASA scientists have detected holidaylight-induced brightness from outer space. This lavishness exists at the detriment of our environment, ecosystems and ultimately, our wallets. According to energy bill data from Arcadia, a climate software and renewable energy company, Americans funnel $645 million into running holiday lights. This bill is accompanied by a frightening environmental price: the

consumption of 3.5 billion kilowatthours in December alone, which equates to the emission of nearly two million tons of carbon dioxide. Since heightened energy bills and our slowly deteriorating planet have long-proven insufficient incentives to make change, the more immediate threat of light pollution should convince Americans to cut back on holiday lights this season. Light pollution — the brightening of the night sky by man-made sources — poses the greatest direct harm to our communities. Holiday lights carry with them numerous consequences: harm to human health, wildlife and our ability to observe astronomical objects. According to an article by National Geographic, artificial light upsets the circadian rhythm, the internal clock that determines day and night activities and influences physiological cycles. This internal clock regulates the melatonin hormone that tells our bodies when to sleep and eat, all while strengthening our immune system. Beyond our own health and wellness, the ecosystems that make San Diego the beautiful city we call home are also hit hard. In warmer climates like our own, where wildlife is more active in the winter, holiday lights pose a great threat. For nocturnal animals, artificial light “represents the most drastic change human beings have made to their environment,” Dr. Christopher Kyba, an artificial light pollution researcher at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, said in Dark Sky, an international association campaigning to reduce light pollution.


Many birds that hunt or migrate at night depend on moonlight to do so, and the presence of artificial light can cause them to wander into dangerous urban centers. Furthermore, these birds may migrate too soon or too late, missing ideal environmental conditions for settling or scavenging. Birds are not the only wildlife threatened by these excessive displays. Scott Henke, a professor in the department of Rangeland Wildlife Fisheries Management at Texas A&M University in Kingsville, facilitated an experiment to observe changes in wildlife activity due to the December lights on campus. Henke tracked eastern fox squirrels and found that their foresting and sleep habits dramatically shifted as a result of the lights. Normally, these squirrels forage by day and retreat to their roosts before sunset, but with the introduction

of intrusive artificial light, the squirrels foraged after sunset, putting them at greater risk of predation. The best way to reduce possible harm to the environment is by changing the type of lights we use. Switching incandescent bulbs to LED bulbs — which use 75% less energy — is the first step in conserving energy and mitigating CO2 emissions. Another method is to reserve white lights for indoors, as this will provide the least interference with wildlife. Red spotlights, on the other hand, are indistinguishable to animal eyes, making it the less disturbing option. These small concessions are invaluable to the environment not only during the holiday season but also as we look to the future. Americans need to accept our harm to the planet, and what better time to do so than the season of giving and goodwill?

For seniors, a day off is just what the doctor ordered


Senior year: the pinnacle of high school life. As the final chapter in a journey marked by countless memories, it is only fitting for seniors to partake in a tradition that has become a rite of passage: Senior Ditch Day. A treasured event that not only holds immense significance for

seniors but also stirs anticipation among underclassmen, Senior Ditch Day represents more than just a day off from school. It serves as a celebration of the achievements and hard work of the graduating class. As students approach the end of their high school journey, they deserve a light-hearted break to unwind and reflect on their accomplishments. It is a time to bond with classmates and create lasting memories before venturing into the next chapter of their lives. Throughout their final year at TPHS, seniors tackle many challenges — from college applications to demanding coursework. Senior Ditch Day offers a reprieve from the pressure, allowing students to recharge their batteries and de-stress. By taking the day off to hang out at the beach, seniors can regain their focus and approach their

to ditch or not to ditch ... ... that is the question

The Falconer spoke with two students to learn more about why senior ditch day has prevailed, despite never being officially endorsed by TPHS.

remaining academic obligations with renewed energy and enthusiasm. The anticipation of Senior Ditch Day permeates the entire school community, including underclassmen. They eagerly await their turn to experience this cherished tradition, creating a sense of excitement and solidarity. Witnessing the seniors’ exuberance serves as a source of inspiration for younger students, giving them something to look forward to as they progress through their high school journey. The tradition strengthens the bond among students across different grades and fosters a positive atmosphere within the school. Opponents of the tradition of Senior Ditch Day often champion that the mass absence of the senior class causes schools to lose money in the form of state funding, which is in part based on school attendance.

While this concern is valid, it is essential to put it into perspective. By having a designated ditch day, seniors may be less inclined to skip on other occasions, which would help to maintain the attendancebased funding for the school. Additionally, Senior Ditch Day — which occurs unofficially two times a year at TPHS — falls first on Nov. 1 and second toward the end of the academic year when all major assessments and exams have concluded. Consequently, the impact on educational content and learning could be greater. The benefits gained from this cherished tradition far outweigh the potential financial strain. Considering the tradition’s potential to mitigate other absences by providing seniors a reprieve from stress, preserving this tradition is vital for students’ overall growth and happiness.

“It gives seniors a break from all the college stuff because this is usually when all of us are really nervous about it. So we don’t have to go to school, we get to just have a relaxing day where we have fun.”

Natalia Herman




“You realize, ‘oh my god, I’m not going to be around all these people next year.’ And that’s so sad ... It’s almost like a group bonding type of thing.”

Talia Buzi




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december 13, 2023


NATALIA MOCHERNAK Feature Editor Natalia Mochernak seeks to answer a question posed by poet Mary Oliver as she explores the love formed between herself, her mother and her sister. I have written and rewritten this many times. I cannot seem to find the words, which is frankly flabbergasting seeing as anyone who knows me even a little is familiar with the fact that I can never seem to shut up. So, instead, like every good writer, I have decided to tackle my personal perspective by stealing someone else’s work, that of the lovely Mary Oliver in “Devotions:” “On the beach, at dawn: / three small stones clearly / hugging each other. / How many kinds of love / might there be in the world, / and how many formations might they make and who am I ever / to imagine / I could know such a marvelous business?” Good question, Mary. Who am I to say anything about love? Though I am armed with the wisdom of every romcom known to man, it is probably true I don’t have anything revolutionary to add to the conversation. But still, I am going to attempt what every book, song and movie has tried to do because after all this is my personal perspective, so if it’s dull or been done before, then boohoo. Here is my ode to love.

When I first read Mary’s poem, I immediately recognized the three small stones hugging each other. My greatest blessing has been the stones I’ve spent my life sandwiched between — my mother, Yuliya, and big sister, Tasia. My sister is nothing like me. She is brunette; I’m blonde. She’s a righty; I’m a lefty. Pixie cut; long hair. Organized; messy. She can shoe shop at Marshall’s for hours; I break down and sit on the cold floors in the first 10 minutes. Tasia is seven years older than me, so she sometimes tries to act like my mother. But then she tries to put me in a headlock and the illusion is broken; such is the life of the younger sibling. No one can do such a vast amount of things as perfectly as my sister, which is immeasurably annoying when I have to compete against her in anything, but ideal when I want her to crochet me a sweater or edit one of my essays. In true older sister fashion, she still reminds me of the many offenses I committed against her as a child, like a cupcake charm I “stole” from her (and promptly lost) when I was in kindergarten. And


yet, one of the hardest things I have had to do is live 500 miles away from my sister. I would never admit it to her, but when she comes to visit, I feel like me. I feel complete. My sister and I are completely different, but she is my best friend. She is my protector, my mentor, my soulmate. It is just my mom and me in our house right now. Anyone who has met my mother immediately senses her immense gumption and courage; she is the strongest person I know. Often when people have faced such tribulations and developed a deep-seated and acute resiliency, they turn cold. My mom, on the other hand, is a fierce lover with the tenderest heart. She has shown me what it means to do even the smallest things with love — she takes daily walks through our neighborhood with a bag of treats for dogs who pass by, and remembers the birthdays of everyone she meets. She makes each and every person around her feel as though they matter, as though they have something indescribably special about them. My mom has given me everything I could

have ever dreamed of and more. One day I’ll have children of my own who I will make the world beautiful for as my mom has for me, and they too will forget my name and just call me mom. I truly believe that the bond we have between the three of us is magic if there is any. The best portion of my life has been the moments I have spent smiling with these women. They understand my heart as if they carry it within their bodies. They understand me because they are me. I am what they could have been and they are what I might be. We laugh in the same way, we hurt in the same way. We hide ourselves in the same way, remain unsure in the same way and criticize in the same way. When I cry about something, I know my mother has once cried about it, and my sister too. Our ice cream flavors and haircuts are different, but we swallow the same fears and hold the same dreams closest to our hearts. I know how to love because I love like my mom and sister. My love is theirs, and theirs is mine. I love you Tasia. I love you Mama.

Homework shouldn’t be a chore, but rather an asset

Nadia Fadlu-Deen STAFF WRITER

A brain-numbing 30-hour work week with no paycheck and a workload that follows you home: welcome to high school. The transition from nothing but free time — blowing bubbles and doing whatever it is that elementaryaged children do — to pulling allnighters to complete homework is a nightmare not discussed nearly enough. A troubling lack of elementary and middle school teachers assign enough homework sufficient to condition students for effective time management and comprehension, and it is coming back to haunt the students as they enter high school. A wide scope of issues hold today’s high school students back, ranging from procrastination to study skills. While elementary school policies seem to vary between teachers, homework is a necessary tool that

should be utilized nonetheless; believe it or not, bawling while attempting to take AP World History Cornell Notes at ungodly hours can be avoided by investing in educational conditioning outside of the classroom. Focus must begin in elementary school. If children approach constructive learning habits from the beginning of their educational journey, all of the qualities that come with the discipline of homework — beyond its original intention of academic focus — will be learned and applied progressively, and later accepted as their own tried and true methods of studying. Having the ability to complete work outside of the classroom as early as elementary school helps create familiarity with studying, a concept so foreign to many students that it causes undue stress later in their educational careers. Even the idea of having to complete any type of assignment outside of the confines of a classroom seems to be lost on so many students, because they have never done anything like it before. A study done at Duke University went into detail about the correlation between the assigning of homework and academic success in response. The study proved that the correlation between homework and academic success is more defensible for grades beyond elementary. It is often said that homework

can be detrimental to students. An elementary student is too young to be under so much stress and pressure, breaking down over homework in third grade is not very healthy. First and foremost, the benefits of homework shouldn’t be measured for their short-term effects, but rather for the conditioning it implements. Lead researcher of the Duke study, Harris Cooper, concluded that as long as the homework is adjusted towards the age and maturity of the students, it is a positive thing. The pressing task ahead of us is to determine how homework can be assigned more intentionally at a younger age. For example, the workload of an elementary student needs to be based on multiple factors such as maturity and capability. Incorporating education into everyday aspects of a child helps to solve this prevalent learning gap as school gets harder. Judi Strang, executive director of San Dieguito Alliance, explained her stance on the issue after working at an elementary school for many years: “I do think that families that read together, talk at the dinner table, visit museums, travel, do service projects together,

create an advantage for children, but it doesn’t have to be based on academics.” Our idea of homework doesn’t have to be defined by a paper filled with numbers and letters, yet the incorporation of academia in everyday life can still prove to be very helpful. If the idea of academics is introduced to a kid in a more fun and inviting way, like museums or experiences, then the dread that’s associated with things like homework no longer exists. What we historically believe to be homework does not have to be what we carry with us to the future of education. As we introduce a new generation of students to school, let us try to help them benefit from what we know.




STAFF EDITORIAL “This was an act of terrorism, launched on a major Jewish holiday. What should have been a quiet weekend of rest turned into days of unspeakable terror and shock. The violence is sickening and incomprehensible, and as of this moment, we still do not know the fate of the hostages. This act deserves and requires our collective condemnation.” This statement was shared by the University of California President Michael Drake and Board of Regents Chair Richard Leib on Oct. 9. Across the U.S., many other universities chose to issue similar responses to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel. In publishing such statements — some vague, some strong — universities received varying levels of backlash from their respective communities. However, other institutions, like the University of Chicago, chose not to take a definitive stance. The statements made by some universities — and the lack thereof by others — raise the question of whether or not universities should remain neutral on political and social issues. Based on the general reactions of schools’ student bodies to presidential and administrative statements, it is clear that stances taken by such institutions do not contribute to solving social issues — they only create more division on campus. Part of the issue with broad statements, especially when applied to multifaceted issues like the IsraeliPalestine conflict, is that they, more often than not, sound glaringly shallow and insensitive due to the sheer impossibility of accurately capturing a deep-rooted history. Furthermore, most of these statements are made by presidents and

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When it comes to a university’s political stance, less is more select administrators, which does not ensure they reflect student opinions. And, with student backlash to such statements demonstrated on campuses like Harvard and MIT, a statement falsely portraying a school to have a unified political or social stance is bound to clash with, and possibly alienate, other opinions. College campuses are designed for learning and collaborating, and that can’t be done if people feel unsafe expressing their ideas. But what is arguably most demonstrative of the futility of such statements in bringing any political or social ease to students is the fact that they have fostered greater tensions on campuses. At Harvard, after initially not responding to a letter from Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups that blamed Israel for the conflict, University President Dr. Claudine Gay issued two statements — the second more forceful than the first — condemning the attacks by Hamas, a seemingly direct response to calls from students and faculty to respond, and then to respond with more conviction. Similar situations erupted on campuses nationwide, with statements from administrators only issued after backlash from community members. It’s clear that such statements are entirely unproductive, and only issued to appease. There is another option that some colleges have opted to adopt: institutional neutrality, a doctrine established in the University of Chicago’s Kalven Report, “a statement on the University’s role in political and social action.” Student groups already engage in passionate debate and discussion on various topics without university statements. It should be a college’s first priority to make sure all students feel


safe expressing their opinions while also preventing any sort of extreme escalations, neither of which statements accomplish. By staying neutral, colleges give students the freedom to engage in civil and intellectual discourse both inside and outside of the classroom, without pressure to mold to the university’s stance or devote energy to fighting administration. However, the absence of any statement from a university could also pose problems. With the choice to stay neutral, some may interpret a university as saying they are not qualified to speak on the matter, thus calling into question the intellectual weight we accredit to such prestigious institutions. Furthermore, silence can be interpreted as indifference, leading universities to appear impassive to suffering. And yet, neutrality does, in fact, align with the missions of many of these universities. For Harvard, it is “to advance new ideas and promote enduring knowledge;” for

STUDENT VOICES Should universities issue political statements in response to sociopolitical issues?

MIT, in part, it is to provide the “support and intellectual stimulation of a diverse campus community.” A college refusing to take a stance does not signal the absence of active discussions and support systems on campus. In reality, it provides students with the ability to freely inquire about complex issues and express their own opinions — core tenets of the Kalven Report. Institutions with the knowledge and resources the likes of Harvard and MIT know that people are hurting on both sides; their students don’t need a university to take a stance that is bound to leave many dissatisfied, if not unsafe. Overall, a brief statement that cannot capture the complexities of a sociopolitical issue shows less sympathy for those impacted than not saying anything at all. The most effective way to support students through conflict is to have discussions in classrooms rather than using blanket statements that alienate many to appease a few. - The Falconer Staff

I’m unsure about the idea of a school president making a controversial statement … It might make the students who go there feel obligated to follow the crowd even if they don’t agree.”

Assistant Editors-in-Chief Adriana Hazlett

3710 Del Mar Heights Road San Diego, CA 92130 PHONE: (858) 755-0125 x2245 FAX: (858) 523-0794 E-MAIL: falconer.ads@gmail.com WEBSITE: www.tphsfalconer.com

The Falconer is the student newspaper of Torrey Pines High School. Its content, which is the responsibility of the Falconer staff, is not subject to administrative approval. Unsigned editorials represent the opinions of the staff, while opinion columns represent the writer’s perspective. Advertisements do not represent endorsements. The Falconer, an open forum, welcomes signed letters or guest editorials on pertinent issues from the TPHS community, which may be submitted to room 102, via email at falconer.ads@gmail.com or to Mia Smith’s mailbox in the administration building. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

- Kei Tashiro (11)

- Eila Andresen (12)

Editor-in-Chief Anna Opalsky

We, the Falconer staff, are dedicated to creating a monthly newspaper with the intent of encouraging independent thinking, expanding our knowledge of journalism, and providing the TPHS student body and community with a truthful, unbiased news source, in accordance with our First Amendment rights.

When there are multiple ethnicities or groups in the school, the best option is to represent them evenly and take political neutrality.”

Caroline Hunt Kathryn Reese Managing Editor Rami Kabakibi Copy Editor Liv Weaver News Editor Cass Love Opinion Editor Joy Ma Feature Editors Sophia Gorba Natalia Mochernak Assistant Feature Editor Eric Lee Entertainment Editors Elsa Goodman Ellie Koff Sports Editor Makaylah Gerling

Reese Carsley Nadia Fadlu-Deen Sarina Feng Gabrielle Gonzales Hinano Kato Sneha Lele Ari Rosenthal Macy Swortwood Melina Toppi-DeLeo Photographer Hope Dennis Staff Writers


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december 13, 2023

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A NEW AGE OF ADHD A long the sides of Abby Doan’s (12) in-class notes are caterpillars — doodled caterpillars, that is. There are other drawings too: some hearts, some cats. They can’t hear the voice of Doan’s teacher. But then, neither can Doan. “I can’t listen to lectures,” Doan said. “I always draw when teachers are talking because if I try to only listen to somebody talking, I’ll just zone out.” Doan was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder, a neuro-developmental condition that involves attention difficulty, impulsivity and hyperactivity. She is one of the estimated 9.8% of U.S. children aged 4-17 who have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to 2016-2019 Center for Disease Control and Prevention data. Clearly, ADHD is a prevalent disorder. But the number of ADHD diagnoses has been increasing in recent years too. According to the same CDC data, the prevalence of ADHD in children rose from 6% in the 1990s to almost 10% in 2016. The number of adults diagnosed with ADHD has also increased. But exactly why this rise has occurred is less clear; there is not one simple answer. Instead, there are a plethora of factors — many of which are intertwined, some of which are debated — that could have played a role. It seems that a significant one is the expanding awareness of ADHD. “A lot of people have more information about what ADHD is, so people are seeking more treatments,” Dr. Esther Samadi, a local psychiatrist, said. “Before, people weren’t aware that they had it.” Heightened awareness of the condition also helps deconstruct stigmas, leading to more individuals seeking a diagnosis. “I think there’s certainly less shame over it,” Dr. Lori Rappaport, a local clinical psychologist, said. “I think people are recognizing that it’s not a behavioral issue — it’s how your brain is wired.” Along with these transformations, the medical diagnosis itself has changed in recent years. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the professional guide to definitively diagnosing mental disorders. The fifth and newest edition, published in 2013, raised the age of symptom onset from seven to 12 years old, meaning a child who exhibited symptoms before they were 12 could be diagnosed. It also removed the requirement for symptoms to cause impairment and allowed for Autism Spectrum Disorder to coexist with ADHD — all of which broadened the group of children eligible for an

The Falconer looks into the possible causes for the recent increase in ADHD diagnoses.

A D H D diagnosis. According to Samadi, it is extremely “important to get a proper assessment.” The symptoms of ADHD, however, can overlap with those of other conditions, making misdiagnosis something to consider as a contributing factor to the rise. “Oftentimes if you go to a pediatrician, they will give you a questionnaire of 20 questions, and if you meet whatever their criteria is, that may be indicative of ADHD, but it’s not enough to diagnose someone because a lot of things overlap,” Rappaport said. “ADHD symptoms can also be the same symptoms caused by anxiety or depression, executive function or autism.” Another worry, which could be an element of the rise, is overdiagnosis. There is no clear consensus on this by experts, though some recent research found evidence of it.

I think people are recognizing that it’s not a behavioral issue — it’s how your brain is wired.” Dr. Lori Rappaport

CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST “I do think maybe there’s a slight overdiagnosis at times,” Samadi said. “I think because of the hyper-competitive nature of the academic world right now, there’s much more of a push for being diagnosed with these things … Because of that, everybody wants an advantage.” An alternate explanation for overdiagnosis could be misinformation spread on social media, which has made it so “a lot of people don’t understand what ADHD is really like,” according to Doan. “They tend to see it as this small little quirk, but it’s actually something that is really life-halting,” Doan said. However, for Doan, and potentially for many other girls struggling with attention or hyperactivity, these “life-halting” effects may have gone unchecked longer than necessary. According to the CDC, girls are underdiagnosed with ADHD compared to boys, the latter being three times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis. A further explanation for the surge is that experts are more informed about how girls specifically exhibit ADHD. “Who’s the more obvious patient: the kid who’s bouncing off the wall, a troublemaker, or a really quiet girl in the back [of the classroom] who maybe doesn’t have a behavioral problem, but she’s totally zoned out?” Samadi said. Similarly, recognition of how ADHD manifests in adults has been a large contribution to the rise. That in mind, experts seem to have numerous potential explanations for the uptick in ADHD diagnoses. Yet one angle has not been considered:

does the increase in diagnoses actually reflect a rise in symptoms or incidents of ADHD? One of the most common ideas is that stimulating technology, especially social media, is leading to more cases of ADHD, though this is also contested. “I think we live in a world where we’re bombarded with information,” TPHS AP Psychology teacher Lynn Leahy said. “I think all of that trains our brain to constantly look for distractions.” Though some studies have linked social media usage to ADHD symptoms, Rappaport said “you can’t cause [ADHD] and you can’t catch it.” “If you take those [distractions] away, people who don’t have that neurological underlying issue don’t have the ADHD issue,” Rappaport said. Even though social media might not cause ADHD, it makes “attentional issues for people who are genetically predisposed to ADHD get worse,” according to Samadi. Ultimately, regardless of exactly why ADHD diagnoses have increased, Rappaport said support systems for those with ADHD, like Section 504 plans and Independent Education Programs that provide accommodations, can be “behind.” “Often what the school will say when we try to get [a 504 or IEP] for, let’s say, a high school student who’s a straight-A student but super anxious and dealing with depression is, ‘You’re doing fine. You have to be failing to get [support],’” Rappaport said. “We’re not helping because what we’re reinforcing is that ADHD is something related to intelligence. When we perpetuate those myths … we’re invalidating them.” At TPHS, 7% of the student population has a 504 and 9% has an IEP, according to Assistant Principal Robert Shockney. Shockney declined to specify how many of these accommodations are related to ADHD. Doan herself has an IEP that she’s used, particularly for homework because she can turn things in late. The caterpillars, the hearts, the cats continue to dot the page, but a sense of support is also there. Whether the evident rise in ADHD diagnoses is rooted in misdiagnosis or overdiagnosis, deconstructed stigmas, even our culture — perhaps the most significant element is simply awareness, not only as a cause of the increase but as an approach to treating and handling ADHD in the future. by Adriana Hazlett

They tend to see [ADHD] as this small little quirk, but it’s actually something that’s really life-halting.” Abby Doan SENIOR

g e i D n a S g e i s u D o n n e a g S i d s IInndigenou A12 the falconer


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e i D n a S g e s i u D o n n e a g i S d g s e n i u IIndigeno s San D u o n e g i d In


t the turn of the new year, TPHS will be celebrating its 50th anniversary, California will celebrate 174 years of statehood and the U.S. will reach 248 years since becoming a nation. The new year will mark 482 years since Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo arrived in San Diego Bay. However, for the Kumeyaay, the original inhabitants of San Diego County, the start of a new year is just a fragment of the fabric of their over 12,000 year history. “Before the Europeans came, our nation [spanned] all the way from Riverside, through the border and into Ensenada in Mexico and east to the Colorado River,” Ana Gloria Rodriguez, the director of the Sycuan Kumeyaay Cultural Center, said. For thousands of years, these first Californians lived in harmony with the land, traversing the area where TPHS now stands. And yet, much of their history remains buried, both literally — with modern development eroding many villages under the sea — and figuratively — diluting past events with white-washed narratives dispersed by colonizers. “We were faced with a genocide of California Indians,” Jacob Alvarado Waipuk, Tribal Liason for San Diego State University from the San Pasqual Kumeyaay Reservation, said. However, even after being subject to continuous attempts at eradication, the 12 Kumeyaay Nation Bands of San Diego County remain steadfast in the celebration of their culture. “We’re still alive. We’re still here. Our language and culture is still very strong,” said Rodriguez, who resides intermittently on the Sycuan Kumeyaay reservation

in San Diego as well as those in Baja California, Mexico. “We haven’t left; what does that tell you?” Waipuk said. “We’re very resilient people. We still believe in our way of life even though we are in another world that was built around us.” Until the colonizers arrived, the Indigenous peoples of America had no written language. Instead, they passed down their knowledge through different avenues. “Art is really how we have been able to communicate historically,” said RuthAnn Thorn, an artist and member of the Rincon band of Payómkawichum/Luiseño Indians, another local San Diego tribe. Thorn’s heritage and time spent living on the Payómkawichum reservation are the driving forces behind all of her work as an art collector and documentary filmmaker. “My grandparents grew up going to residential schools, so we never really talked about the horrible things that happened generationally,” Thorn said. “But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized how important it is for us to have a voice and tell our stories from our own perspective.” Many Indigenous people residing in San Diego share the same reinvigorated passion for preserving and sharing their heritage — even those who are not from local tribes. “I pass down my knowledge to the younger generations,” Chuck Cadotte, an Elder from the Lakota Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, said. “I teach them what to expect at PowWows [traditional indigenous dance gatherings]: the styles of dance and the meaning behind all of them. I read them stories that aren’t mainstream but from Indigenous peoples.” Indigenous students, from elementary school to university, are often a minority in education. “A lot of these children are by themselves in these schools, so sometimes it feels scary to want to indulge in your culture and be proud of it,” said Marcia Hunter,




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o g ego go


We’re still alive. We’re still here. Our language and culture is still very strong.” Ana Gloria Rodriguez


chairman for the Parent Advisory Committee to the Indian Education Program at San Diego Unified School District. Hunter is of Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa (Northern Cheyenne) heritage and has a daughter who attends a SDUSD school. “Being around other children that have similar backgrounds really encourages them. It makes them feel nice about themselves, like they have an identity,” Hunter said. Indigenous students of SDUSD are provided such an opportunity through the American Indian Education Center, a safe-space for not only children but also adults to connect with their Indigenous roots through smudging, beadwork and pottery. “I believe it keeps [the children] grounded so then that way they have something to fall back on,” Connie Greybull, coordinator of the SDUSD Indian Education Program and AIEC, said. Greybull is of Shoshone-Bannock (of Ft. Hall, Idaho) and Hunkpapa Lakota (of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe) heritage. “Our programs teach our kids it is okay to be native,” said Julie DePhillipis, of Aleut (Alaskan) heritage and the Sacred Pipe Youth Coordinator at Southern California American Indian Resource Center. “At school they get bullied for the length of their hair or their regalia, but we protect them and give them a balance in life.” This kind of community support toward Indigenous students is similarly reflected at a collegiate level, especially at SDSU, which boasts one of the nation’s first American Indian Studies Departments, a Native Resource Center and a Native American Student Association. “We try to nurture our students’ mind, body and spirit,” said Faculty Scholar for the Native Resource Center Matthew Fowler, who is of P’urhépecha and Chichimeca descent. “It’s a place where they can feel at home because we have a lot of students who are leaving their communities for the first time. It’s a space of solace.” In fact, many universities across the county are implementing more intensive programs surrounding Native American history. San Diego Mesa College has quickly followed suit. “We want to institute not just a land acknowledgement, but a program for Native American students, so we can reconnect with the community,” Dr. Thekima Mayasa, the former chair of Black Studies at Mesa, said. “We want it to be a very authentic endeavor, so it’s not just performative.” Conversely, Indigenous education at a high school level is still limited, with Native American history not currently required for public high schools in the Social



Science Department by the California State Board of Education. This is especially true of SDUHSD, where only 0.2% of the student body is Indigenous, amounting to about 25 students across the four schools, according to U.S. News. As per an anonymous survey conducted by the Falconer with 182 student respondents, 61.5% of students did not know of the Kumeyaay and 95.1% did not know of the Luiseño. Additionally, 96.7% of these students responded that they had not learned about the Kumeyaay or Luiseño in any of their high school classes. “I don’t believe that a majority of TPHS students have a proficient understanding of Indigenous history [because of the] lack of emphasis in the curriculum,” Lucia Franke, TPHS U.S. History teacher, said. Brothers Trevin (12) and Gavin (10) Henry of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (Kamloops) Indian Band from British Columbia, agreed. “If you look at Torrey, we don’t even have a good, centered club for native students, so it does make it difficult for us to connect with our culture,” Trevin said. Currently, no SDUHSD high schools have Native American student clubs or associations listed on their websites. However, The Falconer’s survey found that 58.2% of TPHS students believe Native American curriculum at TPHS should be expanded and 29.5% believe that TPHS should implement a land acknowledgment honoring the Kumeyaay people whose unceded territory our school stands on. Dr. David Kamper, associate professor and Chair of American Indian Studies at SDSU and NASA faculty adviser, is a so-called “settler scholar,” the term for nonnatives in his discipline. Kamper has a first-hand understanding of the importance of educating non-indigenous people about native history. “I communicate to my students that even though they might not see a lot of native people, this is because of a dominant culture in the U.S. that has tried to make them invisible,” Kamper said. “They aren’t. I see their expressions of vibrancy all throughout my work.” In a time where a lack of Indigenous representation in education persists, the native community of San Diego hopes that people of non-Indigenous heritage will open their hearts and minds to native culture. “We welcome everyone, even if you are non-native,” Greybull said. “We have been pushed aside for so long. We want to teach you that we are not who the books say we are.” by Natalia Mochernak

We’re very resilient people. We still believe in our way of life even though we are in another world that was built around us.” Jacob Alvarado Waipuk


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In an unassuming portable classroom tucked behind the old TPHS lunch counters sits a world of power tools and scrap metal. Diagrams and formulas fill every inch of the whiteboard. Royal blue banners that read, “First Robotics Competition, Winner” line the walls, showcasing victories from years past. This is the home base of the TPHS robotics team, the Millennium Falcons. Today, the team is fixing a broken wheel on their robot, AV7, that was damaged during one of the Falcons’ last competitions, Tidal Tumble, where the team won first place. As team President Eric Grun (12) and Head of Design Ethan Lemke (12) service the faulty wheel, they embody the most “appealing” factor of robotics in Grun’s eyes: how different each practice is.

It doesn’t matter what thing you like doing because we have a place for you here … It’s a place for everyone.” Klint Kirkconnell LEAD MENTOR

“Some days I’ll be building a new mechanism for the robot, a gearbox for the arm or whatever. And then the next day I could be taking it apart, trying to fix whatever broke,” Grun said. “You get a lot of breakages. That happens with the game.” This dynamic environment is what drives the robotics team. With four technical departments — Build, Design, Programming and Electrical — and four non-technical ones — Media, Finance, Outreach and Scouting — there are many moving parts that work together to create the Falcons’ bots. However, according to Head of Build Ella Ju (12), team members are able to branch out of their respective departments. Ju demonstrated this as she took a lesson on wiring with Head of Electrical Seobin Oh (12). “That’s the thing about robotics. It’s not like you’re assigned a certain topic or group and you’re sticking to that. You help each other in every aspect possible,” Ju said. “Since I have a lot of time right now, I’m also trying to learn a little bit about electrical because with that knowledge I could also help if I can.” Oh agreed that team members are always learning. “Even though I’m the head of electrical, I still have a lot to learn. Every time I come [to practice] I feel like I’m learning something new,” Oh said. Last year, after placing fourth at the FRC Idaho Regional Competition, the


Millennium Falcons qualified for the FRC World Championship. There, teams from across the world took part in competitions during which their robots intake cones and cubes and methodically place them into grids — displaying the robots’ autonomous and manual abilities. The Falcons placed 18th in their division at the world championship. “We didn’t get too far [in the competition],” Lemke said. “Even if we lost, it’s all about the community. It’s a huge stadium and there are so many people who are just like us who love robots. You’re so easily able to interact with everyone and everyone has the same feelings as you.” The Millennium Falcons continue this idea of cross-team interaction by making the code for their robot publicly accessible on their website. “We make all of our code public so other teams can see it and reference it if they need to,” Head of Programming Edison Shen (12) said. “Because one of the big parts of First, the organization that runs robotics, is gracious professionalism.” From collaboration between departments to “gracious professionalism,” the Falcons foster an environment centered around learning. Most important in the team’s mission to make robotics accessible is how they do not require previous knowledge of robotics to join the team. “Most of the people that come in have n e v e r b u i l t

anything in their life and yet, after a couple years, they’re at the top of the game,” Lead Mentor Klint Kirkconnell said. “And we don’t just need people who are good at designing — we need people who can write because we have to write to companies to get our money. So it doesn’t matter what thing you like doing because we have a place for you here.” This ability to find one’s place results in what, to Head of Media Talena Ladendorf (12), feels like a “little family.” “The friendships that you make within the team are just really wholesome,” Ladendorf said. “Even going to competitions, you don’t really feel outcast by anyone because you all have one thing in common and that’s robotics.” Joined by a shared passion for the world of robotics and fueled by the principle of continuous improvement, the Millennium Falcons welcome the TPHS community to their award-lined classroom, which, like Kirkconnell said, is “a place for everyone.” by Kathryn Reese



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aylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s relationship has seemingly captured the world’s attention, sparking opinions ranging from frenzied excitement to fierce opposition. However, whether commenters are as thrilled as “swifties” or as irate as conservative NFL fans, the substance of these opinions doesn’t really matter — it matters that they’re watching. On Sept. 19, Vote.org reported a 1,226% jump in participation an hour after Swift posted a link to voter registration on Instagram. This effect was profound among young voters, showing a 23% increase in youth registration from 2022 alone. Since 2018, Swift’s stardom has transcended traditional pop celebrity jurisdictions and entered politics. In 2018, Swift endorsed Democrat Phil Bredesen in a Tennessean Senate race and condemned Marsha Blackburn, his opposition and the incumbent, for her vote against the reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act. Swift explored the decision to endorse a candidate in her 2020

documentary, “Miss Americana.” “If I get bad press for saying, ‘Don’t put a homophobic racist in office,’ then I get bad press for that. I really don’t care,” Swift said. Swift let this untamed voice enter her music with the 2019 release of “Lover,” her seventh studio album and the first with Republic Records, a label that granted her full creative freedom. Just as Swift’s “Eras Tour’’ grosses nearly $1 billion and spans 151 tour dates — revitalizing the economies which it visits — Swift was crowned Time’s Person of the Year. Swift’s expanding relevance is not limited to her music, as her new public relationship with Travis Kelce has shocked the football and music worlds alike. Not only this, but his entrance into her circle has the potential to amplify her political influence. Travis Kelce, NFL Kansas City Chiefs tight end, is a spokesperson for the politicized COVID-19 vaccination with pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Via NFL commercials, social media and his podcast “New Heights,” Kelce promotes getting vaccinated against COVID and the flu. Even after being mocked as “Mr. Pfizer’’ by N.Y. Jets Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Kelce refused to stand down. “I got [the vaccination] to keep myself safe, my family safe and the people in this building, so yeah, I stand by it 1000% — I’m fully comfortable with him calling me Mr. Pfizer,” he told reporters in October. Further, Kelce’s partnership with Bud Light has sparked controversy, as the beer company was — and still is by some conservatives — widely boycotted for its partnership with Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender influencer. While Kelce may experience backlash, his football record stands for itself; he has the most

The political potential of America’s most influential power couple

receiving yards in all of the NFL and is a two-time superbowl champion.

With their media prominence and potential for major social influence, Swift and Kelce redefine the term ‘power couple.’” In the upcoming 2024 presidential election, a political endorsement from either Kelce or Swift may be the impetus the Democrats need to win. In 2020, Swift endorsed Joe Biden for president and publicly denounced then President Donald Trump for attacking the LGBTQ+ community and women’s rights. While it may be safe to assume Swift will continue in her same political endeavors, Kelce’s involvement brings in a new uncharted audience and fanbase. Even Swift’s appearances at Kelce’s games have upset viewers, as they are peeved by the distraction her presence brings to games. With their media prominence and potential for major social influence, Swift and Kelce redefine the term “power couple.” And, as the U.S. prepares for an election next year, Swift and Kelce — Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince — mark refreshing voices in politics, voices that invoke the younger generation to speak now. by Hope Dennis

taylor swift Travis

& Kelce



198 4 “[Theater] is so much like being a chef,” Xavier Carrillo, the technical director of the TP Players’ most recent production, “1984,” said. “You have so many seasonings and ingredients, with different recipes for different shows. If you are even missing that pinch of salt, everything is going to be thrown off.” Between creating the set, adjusting the lighting, controlling the sound, acting out the plot and directing, each of these contributions serves as an equally integral ingredient in the creation of a successful show. “1984” was no exception, running for 8 shows between Nov. 7 and Nov. 18. A rendition of the famous novel “1984” by George Orwell, the play told the story of a dystopian society lorded over by an almighty power called Big Brother. The base ingredients upon which the TP Player’s “1984” depended were established during rehearsals, which took place almost every day after school for around seven weeks prior to opening night. “During rehearsal, there’s always a schedule of what we’re going to do, but it is somewhat flexible — [we are] constantly fine-tuning,” Gwynnie Kermorris (12), president of TP Players, said. “We really take time to grow the characters we play and connect with them … Most importantly, we get to know each other as a cast.” These rehearsals usually opened with a funny story from Visual and Performing Arts teacher and TP Players’ adviser Marinee Payne, after which the cast socialized before walking through the scenes, according to Keira Murray (12), vice president of TP Players. Both Kermorris and Murray acted in the play and took advantage of rehearsal time to prepare. “You have to get used to memorizing everything and understanding what’s about to happen on stage,” Murray said. Not only do actors study the script to memorize their lines, they do so to gain an in-depth understanding of their character. “ T h e e n t i r e backpage of

the falconer A17

: a behindthe-scenes look

my ‘1984’ script is completely filled with writing of how the [the playwright] sees my character, how my character sees themself and how other people might see my character,” Murray, who played the female lead, Julia, said. Student Director, Avani Raturi (12) recognized the actors’ character-building techniques. “They’ll develop whole backstories [for their characters], because when you [first] get a character, it’s super two-dimensional,” Raturi said. “Even in ensemble, people will come up with [backstories].” Raturi’s role as student director not only allowed her to help the actors, but it was integral throughout the entire creation of the show.

The entire backpage of my ‘1984’ script is completely filled with writing of how my character sees themself and how other people might see my character.” Keira Murray SENIOR

“As a third point of view, I’ll see [the actors] and I’ll make suggestions of what looks best,” Raturi said. “Then me and Marinee collaborate on furniture, props and what outfits [actors] should wear.” Alongside Raturi, Payne and Carrillo work months in advance to create the perfect environment for the spirit of the show, much of which includes set construction aided by students in the Drama Production class. Even with Carrillo seen as a set mentor by the students, Payne goes out of her way to make sure each play is still primarily student-run. “[Carrillo and I] let the designers run what they’re thinking, and if we need to make corrections, we discuss the corrections. It’s a really wonderful, collaborative, mutual, respectful space,” Payne said. The final mood shown on opening day — the eerie atmosphere shaped by dim lighting and foreboding music — is the result of months of hard work by Lainey Costabile (10), the lighting designer, and Seb Pinnick (10), who worked in

sound design. “When I go [to rehearsal] … I have to look at the mood of the scene and make decisions on the lighting,” Costabile said. “You have to be very careful to make sure there are no shadows and that it’s specific to the [areas on stage] people use in the show.” As Carrillo put it, each part — the acting, the scene placement, the lighting, the sound — are all equally important ingredients to produce a show. And, in the TP Players, anyone can be a chef. “The inclusion of everybody who wants to be a part of [TP Players] is such a mission statement to me,” Murray said. “We just want more than anything for more people to feel comfortable joining a group like this, and for more people to see what we do and what we are capable of.” Payne agreed. “I always used to jokingly say we’re like a gang. We come to school, we have a place where we belong, a place where we can live and a place where every person is accepted,” Payne said. “There’s no judgment here about the individual. Everything we do is all related to the show.” As for upcoming performances, the TP Players’ next show, “The Play That Goes Wrong,” is already in the works and set to debut after winter break. by Liv Weaver and Sophia Gorba


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december 13, 2023

In The Music Industry



verybody has their song: windows down, music blasting and a connection with every word and detail. The lyrics of these songs touch us because of the people behind them; hearing an artist perfectly describe something we have felt before makes us feel less alone. But these songwriters and the musical feelings they share with us are threatened. The significant introduction of artificial intelligence into the music industry presents the daunting question of the authenticity of and future for songwriters in a world where their musical feelings could turn artificial. It is hard to grasp the true limitations of AI at this point in time. Its power to reincarnate unreleased music, brushing the dust off of songs deemed inadequate or incomplete for release, is just one way AI is making its mark. Notably, the Beatles used AI’s “audio enhancing technology” to continue producing music some 40 odd years after the passing of legendary Beatle, John Lennon. Subsequently, the Beatles were able to publish the track “Now and Then.” According to the magazine Wired, director Peter Jackson and his team developed an artificial intelligence tool that had the power to dissect an old cassette tape from the ‘80s in order to identify and sort various instruments and voices. For TPHS teacher Austin Wade, who teaches the Socio-Political History of Rock N Roll, the possibilities of this technology in unearthing lost music are exciting. “There are so many unreleased pieces of music sitting in literally a closet somewhere from so many amazing artists and bands — many who have now passed away,” Wade said. “Artificial intelligence could be a fun way to bring some of that music back.” However, for some artists, the idea of artificial


intelligence gaining the ability to write a song in a more systematic fashion raises concern over the authenticity of future works. By letting technology take over, artists’ passion for creating original content may fade away with their creativity. With this, the question arises of whether — and then, how — artificial intelligence will gain the ability to maintain listeners in the absence of human connection, as traditional song-writing often stems from human experiences.

One of the beautiful parts of music is that it is a human connection with somebody else who has lived through an experience, or a perspective ... We all have those songs for those moments in life; whether it be a celebration or a breakup, you listen to a piece of music and it’s like ‘wow, this person went through what I am going through,’ which is really powerful.” Austin Wade TEACHER

“One of the beautiful parts of music is that it is a human connection with somebody else who has lived through an experience, or a perspective,” Wade said. “We all have those songs for those moments in life; whether it be a celebration or a breakup, you listen to a piece of music and it’s like ‘wow, this person went through what I am going through,’ which is really powerful.” But aside from the current skepticism, Samuel Sheffield (‘22), who plays in a band called Black Sweater, points out that the public will gradually be provided with the opportunity to adapt to the coming changes in the industry, as it will “mirror the evolution of other music technologies.” “As AI continues to enhance and refine its capabilities, its presence in the music industry is destined to become increasingly commonplace,” Sheffield said. In Wade’s class, guest speaker Mike Halloran, a radio personality and past music director, recently discussed how artificial intelligence may become the next influence on the music industry; according to Wade, he brought forth the idea that AI isn’t necessarily the destiny of future music production, but rather a tool to assist the growth of the industry. Wade agrees with Halloran. To him, a music industry without a human element “does not seem feasible.” by Makaylah Gerling


the falconer A19

Snapshots of a Season: a look at TPHS fall sports PHOTO BY ANNA OPALSKY/FALCONER

Hinano Kato and Sarina Feng STAFF WRITERS

As the fall sports season at TPHS comes to an end, 11 new banners line the ceiling of the gym. Seven league titles and four CIF championships later, TPHS athletes and coaches look back on their season.

We started off with a bunch of challenges, but after a couple of games, we really got together as a group and we became closer and started playing a lot better.” Jake Sweeney

VARSITY FOOTBALL CAPTAIN For Charlenne Falcis-Stevens, TPHS athletic director and head track and field coach, there are many factors that lead to this level of athletic success. “Team chemistry is a major factor in the success of a program,” Falcis-Stevens said. “[So is] a solid coaching staff and athletes willing to work hard for their team.” After losing the past two CIF San Diego Section Open Division finals, the TPHS varsity field hockey team — the Avocado League champion — brought home the title this season, defeating the La Costa Canyon High School Mavericks 1-0. “For the seniors, it was our third CIF finals, and we needed that win. It was time for us,” midfielder Sophie Rosenblum (12) said. “For everyone else [on the team], I think [they fed off] our energy.” Courtney Spleen, the varsity field hockey head coach and English 9 teacher, agreed. “The girls realized that we have to learn how to play together as a team and not rely on just one person,” she said. On the tennis courts, yet another open division champion was named. TPHS

varsity girls tennis, the North County Conference Coastal League champions, emerged victorious in the CIF SDS Open Division championships, defeating the two-time reigning champions, Canyon Crest Academy, when tied at 9-9 sets, but triumphing in games 76-71. Natalia Mochernak (12) and Rebecca Kong (12) also won doubles in the CIF SDS girls tennis individual championships [story on A22]. At the Division I level, TPHS varsity girls golf won the NCC Coastal League tournament and the CIF SDS championship. At the CIF state level, the team tied for first, with Zoe Jiamanukoonkit (10) taking home the individual title. The TPHS varsity flag football team also scored a league title in its inaugural season, finishing with a record of 16-1, with 16 consecutive undefeated games. “Because the sport was new, we had a lot of different groups of people trying out, so we worked on bonding as a team, in and outside of the sport,” defensive safety Mia Mosebrook (12) said. The team advanced to the CIF SDS Division I finals, where they lost to Bonita Vista High School 0-19 to close out their season. Also named league champions, both the TPHS boys and girls varsity cross country teams won their respective NCC Coastal League Championships and both teams finished third at their CIF SDS championships. Bryce Conover (12) of the boys team and eight members of the girls team went on to race at the CIF state championships, where both Conover and the girls team placed sixteenth in their races [story on A21]. Varsity girls volleyball were also NCC Coastal League champions, but lost in the CIF Open Division championship for the third consecutive year.

The varsity football team ended with an overall record of 7-3. Despite missing both a league and championship title this fall, varsity football team captain Jake Sweeney (12) said it was a “really good season.” “We started off with a bunch of challenges … but after a couple of games, we really got together as a group and we became closer and started playing a lot better,” Sweeney said. Off the field and in the pool, the TPHS varsity boys water polo team ended their season with a record of 16-12, losing

10-13 in the CIF Division I Semifinals against Coronado High School (12-15). From the sidelines of games to a state competition, the TPHS competitive cheer team won the CIF SDS Division II championships for the small intermediate category. They will proceed to the CIF state championships in January. As the winter season kicks off, TPHS teams hope to keep adding more banners to the Olive Garden’s collection with their team chemistry, energy and leadership.

Let’s break it down: 2023 TPHS Fall Season League Titles









CIF Titles


Recognition by LA Chargers


Individual State



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december 13, 2023

DAY IN THE LIFE For the TPHS cross country team, the 3:25 p.m. bell doesn’t just mark the end of the school day, it signals that it’s time to head to the track. A team stretch — ropes and resistance bands — and 2-mile warm-up greet them, followed by more drills — hill runs, interval training and fast-paced track runs. “Cross country is such a wonderful sport to coach, so we take special care and put in a lot of effort when implementing our workout plans,” Assistant Coach Colin Cornforth said. “We try our best to get in as much stretching alongside each intensive running workout as possible.” This focus on prerun preparation doesn’t go unnoticed by the team. “We [stretch] every practice and they help prevent injury,” Abel Ducom (11) said. “The coaches devote a lot of time to injury prevention, as it is very easy to get injured running five times a week.” The practice proceeds with a recovery run — 50 minutes of running in areas near TPHS, usually around seven miles. Only as the sun sets does the team cool down. “I personally find the motivation to do a sport like cross country from the desire to perform at a college level, have fun with my fellow teammates and drive to limit procrastination in my life,” Jonas Rickert (12), who is committed to run at Claremont McKenna College next year, said. “Running is an amazing outlet [for] stress, as it is a really social sport and can often focus you for other tasks you have throughout the day.” Many people on the team value this community. “I really like getting out there and

running with them, I like that they are self motivated too, so even when I’m not out there they still do all the workouts,” Cornforth said.

“Watch us during track season and come watch us win. We are gonna have fun at the falcon relays and treat that season how we would’ve wanted our season to end.” Bryce Conover STUDENT

This season, both the TPHS boys’ and girls’ varsity team won the NCC Coastal League Championships and finished third at CIF SDS championships. Bryce Conover (12) and the varsity girls team then finished sixteenth at the CIF state championships [story on A20]. From practices to states, the team’s camaraderie shows through, according to Katie Friedman (11), who competed at the state championship. “The team supports each other,” Friedman said. “We’re there for each other through all the tough workouts and race days. It’s a great community where we’re always pushing each other to do better, celebrating our wins and working hard together during practices.” Though the teams fell short of their dreams of making it to nationals, Conover encourages the TPHS community to keep supporting our fastest Falcons. “Watch us during track season and come watch us win,” Conover said. “We are gonna have fun at the falcon relays and treat that season how we would’ve wanted our season to end.” by Nadia Fadlu-Deen


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december 13, 2023

TPHS girls varsity tennis finishes strong amid challenges Rami Kabakibi


The TPHS varsity girls tennis team defeated Canyon Crest Academy on total games won (76-71) after tying in sets 9-9 in the CIF San Diego Section Open Division team championships on Oct. 28, clinching the title for the 32nd time in TPHS’s history and the first time since 2017. Prior to this five-year drought, TPHS won the CIF Open Division title 28 times in a row. So the 2023 team has not only brought back another trophy, but something much more powerful: the formidable legacy of the TPHS girls tennis team. “It’s been a long time coming,” Anna Ding (12), one of the four co-captains of the team, said. “We’ve been trying to win it every single year, and I feel so lucky and happy to have finally won, especially in my senior year.” In the last two years, the team lost in the CIF semifinals. According to cocaptain Ava Elleraas (12), this was in part due to a lack of camaraderie and unity overshadowing the team’s talent. “[The team] was very separated and a lot of people were not involved,” Elleraas said. According to Bruce Taub, the team’s assistant coach, the team’s success this year largely stemmed from a palpable shift in this culture — one that stressed complete dedication and diligence. “Our four [new] captains all agreed to start the process of building a new

culture where everybody [is] committed to the team, with all oars in the water rowing in the same direction,” Taub said. “After academics, the team needed to understand that it had to be their number one extracurricular activity and that if they [committed to] that, they would build a bond that’s different from what we had in years past.” This bond is exactly what the team built. “Everyone this year was very into the team and really wanted to be there, so it was easier to do bonding activities, go to team dinners and it just created a better environment,” Elleraas said. Another major factor in the Lady Falcons’ triumphant season was the addition of five new freshmen to the team, each of whom, according to Elleraas, brought immense quality and depth to the roster. But weaving the freshmen’s talents and characters into the team was paramount, and a responsibility that the group’s seniors took on with great care, according to Head Coach Don Chu. “The nine seniors took [the freshmen] under their wing and helped them grow up, both as tennis players and as young adults,” Chu said. Juny Huh (9), one of the five freshmen, said she felt the effects of this support. “Going into the season, I was expecting just to know [a few] people,” Huh said. “But after [meeting the team], I was friends with every single person, and I didn’t really expect that.”

Still, the team’s victorious season did not come without adversity. Throughout the regular season, the girls faced the challenge of having to play each of their matches away, due to the remodeling of the TPHS tennis courts. Even more formidable were the challenges they faced in post-season. A slew of scheduling conflicts in the North County Conference Coastal League individual and San Diego Section CIF team tournaments “made it even more difficult for the girls,” Chu said. According to Huh, the girls received the Coastal League competition schedule one day prior to the tournament, which explained that all matchplay would be completed within one day. However, on the day of the tournament — after some matches were already completed — the tournament organizers unexpectedly shifted the semifinals and finals matches to the next day. Co-captains Rebecca Kong (12) and Natalia Mochernak (12) were forced to withdraw from the tournament due to prior commitments. For the players like Elleraas, Ding and Huh that were able to attend the added day, a poorly scheduled starting time prevented them from finishing their final matches before sunset. “It just ended up being like, ‘Oh, you guys are co-champions. You guys tied for the final,’” Huh said. Shortly before the commencement of Coastal League, the team was relayed information from the CIF SDS seeding committee by TPHS Athletic Director

Charlenne Falcis-Stevens that they would be first seed moving into team CIFs. The girls were shocked to discover that they were bumped to second seed upon receiving the draws, while their rival, CCA, was placed at seed one. “When we heard that we weren’t the first seed as we had expected, there was a lot of confusion,” Ding said. “We felt that it had been stolen from us, like we were supposed to have had that draw.” Even amidst all these difficulties, the team found the resilience to emerge triumphant as a united force. “[The challenges] created an opportunity for the girls to deal with adversity,” Taub said. “It didn’t feel right at times, but it forced us to galvanize as a group and push forward.” As the nine seniors of the team take a bow and head off the sparkling stage of their high school careers, trophies in hand, the spotlight is now on the future. “I’m very excited for the freshmen to come back [next year]. They will be the nucleus of the team,” Taub said. “They will continue to develop and get better and the team will get better as a result.” And though they have big shoes to fill and will likely face challenges as the team did this year, Chu believes that this season’s experience was vital in preparing the young players for the years ahead. “To do as well as we did with the challenges we faced, it gives the girls and anyone who watched their season this year the hope that we can overcome anything,” Chu said.

Five Lady Falcons represent at the national soccer stage Caroline Hunt


For Gianna Owens (11), playing professional soccer has “never really been like a ‘dream.’” “You know those little papers you get on the first day of school, that [are] like, ‘Oh, write down your dream’ — I would never put [professional] soccer player,” Owens said. “I already knew that was what I was going to do.” On Oct. 10, Owens received a letter inviting her to play with the Mexico Women’s U-20 national football team in Mexico City from Oct. 22 to 31. Multiple students at TPHS have received similar letters to this — Ella Emri (12) briefly played for Canada before moving to the U.S. Women’s U-20 national team. Similarly, Ines Derrien (12), Edra Bello (11) and Tanna Schornstein (12) also joined the U.S. roster. With eligibility based on the player’s parents or grandparent’s national descent, players have the opportunity to represent multiple countries at different times, according to FIFA regulations. “Even when I was younger, my goal was to go pro,” Bello, who is committed to play Division I soccer at the University of Southern California, said. “I feel like I’ve always loved [soccer] and had a passion for it. [More than that,] it’s a serious thing to me and it’s what makes me happy.” Whether they consider a call-up to be a goal, all five of the players expressed their excitement for the opportunity. “At the end, that’s the goal: to be on [the national] team and then stay

on that team, to succeed there and get accolades for that,” Emri, who is committed to play Division I soccer at Stanford University, said. Youth programs — ranging from training camps to tournaments — for national teams run from ages 14 to 23. Athletes compete in showcases in hopes of recognition from national team scouts; at every game, players must perform at their highest level. “I feel like consistency within your sport [is most important],” Owens, who is committed to play Division I soccer at the University of California, Berkeley, said. In the ten-day women’s youth national team camp that brought Bello to Carson, California, daily schedules were packed with two or three team meetings every day on top of rigorous training and practice. According to Emri, “nothing is promised.” “Just because you’re the captain [of your team] doesn’t mean you’re making

the next camp,” Emri said. “It’s a highstress environment, it’s demanding, but it’s … what we love about the sport.” Still, reaching the height of the experience does not come without immense sacrifice and challenges. “My sport is something I hold to a whole other standard,” Owens said. “So I won’t be missing practice to complete an assignment, or I won’t be taking a break from soccer to focus on school. [Sports are] labeled like extracurriculars, but for those who play at a higher level, it’s like a lifestyle.” TPHS women’s head coach, Martyn Hansford recognizes the special qualities that such athletes possess. “The common denominator with these players is the ability to deal with adversity and keep on pushing,” Hansford said. While the goal is to keep their passion for their sport alive on their current pitch, the five athletes all have teams they dream of playing for.

PHOTO BY HOPE DENNIS/FALCONER EYES ON THE PRIZE: Gianna Owens (11) starts as the center back for the TPHS girls varsity soccer team. Owens previously played internationally in Mexico City, facing off against Colombia.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ANNA SCIPIONE FOCUS ON THE FIELD: Tanna Shornstein (12) serves as one of five captains on the TPHS varisty womens soccer team. Last season, Shornstein participated in San Diego Surfs winter development program.

“I think Chelsea or Manchester City, either one,” Emri said. “Spain 100%,” Schornstein said. “Barcelona,” Bello and Derrien said in unison. In the meantime, soccer fans can watch Shornstein — who is committed to play division one soccer at Northwestern University — and Owens in action representing the Lady Falcons on Ed Burke field, Schornstein as one of the varsity team captains. For all five, they look ahead to successful college careers and continuing their journeys by registering for the NWSL draft or playing professionally overseas.

“[Sports are] labeled like extracurriculars, but for those who play at a higher level, it’s like a lifestyle.” Gianna Owens



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december 13, 2023

Scott Ashby, TPHS Varsity Football Head Coach, and Ryland Wickman , Flag Football Head Coach, were recognized by the LA Chargers last month.


The lights are bright, the Cardinal Chaos fills the stands and the football players rush out of the tunnel with sheer adrenaline and determination. The entire school waits for these moments all year. Win or lose, the Friday Night Lights atmosphere is unmatched. At the center of this is Varsity Head Coach Scott Ashby, a TPHS football coach of 30 years. After retiring from

the position in 2014, he served as varsity head coach this season with the absence of Robby Collins. Ashby declined to comment further on why he filled the position. This fall, Scott led the team to a 7-3 record, giving TPHS the number one seed in the CIF Division I playoff. But not only that, he also won the Los Angeles Chargers Coach of the Week award, an honor given to three high school coaches each week in Southern California during the high school football season [story on A20].

“It’s a great honor for TPHS, as well as myself,” Scott said. With the award, the Chargers donated $1,000 to TPHS, which will go toward the football program. Scott’s coaching runs in the family, as his son, father and uncle have all coached football. “I always knew that I wanted to coach and teach,” Scott said. In fact, Scott’s son, Varsity Offensive Line Coach Jake Ashby, played for his father as a Falcon. “The award highlights [Scott’s] 30

“It’s a great honor for TPHS, as well as myself.”



As he led the first-ever CIF girls flag football team at TPHS to a league victory, Ryland Wickman — TPHS special education teacher, girls varsity softball coach and former boys football coach — added yet another achievement to this season: a nomination for the Los Angeles Chargers’ Flag Football Coach of the Year. Prior to being named head coach of the girls flag football team, a new offering that attracted nearly 100 girls to try-outs, Wickman coached football for nearly 13 years at both La Costa Canyon High School and TPHS, as well as girls softball for 12 years at TPHS. Off the field, he has taught as an education specialist in the TPHS special education department for 16 years. “When girls flag football started up and I got offered the job, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it,” Wickman, a former professional football player, said. “But looking back, I really couldn’t be more stoked that I took the job — it’s been amazing.” One of Wickman’s favorite moments from the season was when the team won in their league, beating the LCC

Mavericks in overtime on Oct. 26 and subsequently finishing the season with a 16-1 record [story on A20]. “It’s always good to beat our rivals,” Wickman said. “But what was incredible was that the girls were reading and seeing things on the field that they hadn’t before, telling me things and scouting themselves.” Zoe Lau (12), a starter on the team, reflected on how Wickman’s dedication and commitment helped the team reach their league success. “Wickman is the most dedicated, tireless and focused coach I have ever played under,” Lau said. “He would drive for hours to scout the teams we would play, and his passion was evident. [He] pushed us as athletes to play not only for ourselves, but for him.” Alina Hsu (12), another starter on the team, agreed. “He was extremely enthusiastic and created a great atmosphere for us to play in,” Hsu said. “He was always willing to learn with us, and he really made sure to show his love for football and coaching.” Wickman will continue to coach the TPHS girls flag football team for the 2024-2025 season. “Watching the girls learn football

was awesome,” Wickman said. “I’m super excited for the team, and I think

“I’m super excited for the team, and I think I found something that I’ll continue to do until I retire.”

plus years of hard work and dedication to the TPHS community,” Jake said. “Outside of his recognition, it continues to place TPHS in the spotlight as the number one public school for athletics in the state of California.” According to Jake, part of that hard work and dedication includes Scott’s ability to make connections on campus that “foster a school culture.” John Prior (11), a defensive back who was awarded the honor of being named to the Avocado League second team defense, agreed with Jake’s sentiment. According to Prior, no coach in California “puts in as much work into preparation as [Scott] does.” Prior said that whenever he came to school before sunrise, the only car in the parking lot would be Scott’s — a testament to his dedication. “Without a doubt, Coach Ashby is a worthy recipient,” John said. Scott’s role on the team this year has also inspired Will Shreckengaust (11), who plays defensive lineman and was also awarded second team defense honors. “Coach Ashby winning coach of the week is amazing for the program and him,” Shreckengaust said. “Winning a big award like that goes to show why he’s an exceptional coach.”

I found something that I’ll continue to do until I retire.”


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december 13, 2023

The Falconer’s

G i f t y G a d u i l ide o H Mom An ugly mug you made in Ceramics An A on your next AP Calc test Fixing the ding in her car from trying to park in the student lot Letting her take pictures of you and your date before winter formal

Dad Tools stolen from the autotech classroom One month free of emailing the attendance office that you’re “sick” A coupon voucher for lunch with Principal Rob Coppo A dub on the soccer pitch

We know finals week can get stressful, so here are some easy presents you can find around campus.



Spare change for the vending machine

Actually focusing in class

Mechanical pencils because you know they’re out A Drake Coin

The Chromebook charger you stole last month Your 57+ missing assignments

A ride to McDonald’s at lunch

Tissues (of course they ran out during finals)

Taking their water bottle when you go to fill yours

A promise to stop emailing about your Aeries grade

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