The Oracle May 2024

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Tentative agreement between PAUSD and PAEA marks end of impasse

Editor’s note: In order to minimize the appearance of a conflict of interest, The Oracle worked with an outside journalism adviser in the reporting of this story.

increase in the Santa Clara School District. If the tentative agreement is approved, PAUSD’s salary increase would become 15.2% for this year.

PAUSD’s current maximum salary is $154,366, which is 24.8% lower than Mountain View-Los Altos School District, 9.8% lower than Fremont Union High School District and 7.1% lower than Santa Clara Unified School District. PAEA President Teri Baldwin stressed that this gap plays a significant role in communicating the value of teachers.

PAUSD and the Pwalo Alto Educators Association reached a tentative agreement on May 6, weeksafter an impasse was declared on March 29.

This agreement will be voted on by the teachers’ union from May 13 to 17 and the result will be announced on May 17. It has also been added to the agenda for the upcoming school board meeting on May 21 to be discussed by the district officials and school board members, where the entire contract is slated to be ratified.

Every year, PAUSD negotiates new terms with PAEA, which represents the certified staff such as teachers, and California School Employees Association Chapter 301, which represents the classified staff such as aides and custodians. Usually in this district, negotiations end in an agreement after early discussions. However, this year, the district and union could not come to a compromise after initial negotiations, setting the precedent for the first impasse between PAUSD and PAEA.

A closer look at the numbers

The original proposal by PAEA included an 8% increase from the 2022-23 teacher’s salary which was responded with a 2% counteroffer from PAUSD. PAEA’s best and final offer was 5.5% which is 2% higher than PAUSD’s final offer of 3.5%. The tentative agreement reached on May 6 proposes a 4% increase for this year.

According to PAEA’s website, PAUSD has significantly lower salary growth and maximum salaries than neighboring districts. Going into this year’s negotiations, PAUSD’s salary growth from 2021 to 2024 was 10.2%, compared to the 15.8% increase in the Mountain View and Los Altos district, the 15.8% increase in the Los Gatos and Saratoga districts, and the 19.0%

“We always want our community to know that we are trying to recruit and retain the best teachers for our students, and we’re falling behind in salary in the area,” Baldwin said. “If we’re the number one district, we should be the number one or at least close to the number one in salary in the area.”

Beginnings of negotiations

In the context of these district negotiations, the impasse was prompted by a disagreement from PAUSD and PAEA’s final offers regarding the teacher’s contract for the 2024-25 school year. As a result, a third-party mediator stepped in to aid both sides to come to an agreement. The mediator assigned to this case was from the California Public Employment Relations Board. According to Superintendent Don Austin and Baldwin, both negotiation teams are separated and the mediator worked with both parties to reach an agreement.

The negotiations cover a variety of topics including class size, working conditions, evaluations, and salary — the subject cultivating the most discourse. The negotiations, which happen every year between PAUSD and PAEA, are not open the public. This year, the union and district called for an impasse, prolonging the negotiations for another six months.At the school board meeting on April 23, PAEA members expressed dissatisfaction during the

Graphics by Jesse Li 780 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306 Friday, May 17, 2024 Volume 61, Issue 7 Palo Alto Unified School District Henry M. Gunn High School 780 Arastradero Rd Palo Alto, CA 94306 NON-PROFIT ORG U.S. Postage P A I D Permit #44 Palo Alto, Calif. LIFESTYLE
rock climbing journey, niche community, healthy balance PAGE 13 FORUM An analysis of modern tipping culture and its issues PAGE 5 Impasse—p.3

Monthly Highlights: Global Cultures Week

“I took away that different cultures around the world have different ways of celebrating things depending on where you are in the world.”

William Jia, 9

“I really liked the food and music throughout the week.”

—Jack Lamis, 11

2023-24 PAUSD Promise shifts focus towards Innovation

Eanam Maor

With the objective of maintaining positive, balanced organizational goals, student outcomes and innovative practices, PAUSD replaced typical strategies with the PAUSD Promise plan.

In 2023-24, PAUSD replaced “Healthy Attendance,” which aimed to increase the attendance of K-12 students by creating a new district-wide attendance system and implementing the “Identifying and Responding to Student Engagement” tiered-response protocol and interventions. “Innovation” was established in its place this year to compel students to become more independent, self-sufficient, socially aware and self-reflective.

PAUSD developed the PAUSD Promise in 2018, which according to the district website, focuses on instructional choices, teaching methods and fostering a sense of belonging to advance five certain values of the district.

In March 2020, PAUSD transitioned to distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to social studies teacher Tara Firenzi, when COVID-19 broke out, the district realigned its focus to remote learning, retraining teachers and providing services to students that the school was used to providing in a certain way and couldn’t provide anymore.”

“(The district) had to shift their focus massively, as did everyone,” she said. “For the particular benchmarks set for the (PAUSD Promise), the district wasn’t able to keep up with that in the way that they had been planning to during the pandemic. When they did refocus all of their attention on the Promise, it required an update from three areas to five areas.”

“I think it’s important to talk about how education can best be delivered to all of our students in new ways that are spurred by technology.”

Social Studies Teacher Tara Firenzi

Prior to the focus of “Innovation,” the district noticed a rise in the usage of artificial intelligence, such as ChatGPT. According to Firenzi, the district is finding new ways to incorporate new innovations to better teaching and learning in classrooms.

“I think it’s important to talk about how education

can best be delivered to all of our students in new ways that are spurred by technology or are the result of best practices that we’re becoming aware of, (or) that (have) just recently developed,” she said. “I think that’s great because then we can best serve our students.”

Principal Dr. Wendy Stratton believes the innovation priority’s goal is to push for an environment where students are able to achieve their own levels of proficiency. She also highlights the significance of students’ learning on how to assess themselves, converse with teachers and use external resources to reach their goals.

“The listening session was also a really huge step forward that incorporates a lot more student voice into decision-making.”

Principal Wendy Stratton

PAUSD has set up key strategies for “Innovation” across four themes: Curriculum & Instruction, Enduring Skills, Incubator Hub and Partnerships. New implementations that have been incorporated into Gunn have consisted of promoting more evidence-based grading, creating teacher groups and teacher training.

Stratton mentions that positive outcomes have resulted from this new “Innovation” priority, such as transparency from the administrative team to the student body, increased student leadership through different platforms, and an improved partnership between the administration and student leadership to increase student voices.

“The Titan Talks at lunch with me, the Titan Town Halls, (and overall) the degree to which SEC has been partnering with admin (has increased),” she said. “(There is an) opportunity to bring students into a space with all of the leadership in our district and our team to ask questions and feel heard. The listening session was also a really huge step forward that incorporates a lot more student voice into decision-making.”

An example of the focus on innovation is a change in career technical education. The Mar. 12 PAUSD board meeting reported that over 4,000 students have participated in CTE programs with industry-aligned pathways, along with 500 work permits being issued through work experience programs with 174 local businesses.

Firenzi notes that the CTE pathways, Advanced Authentic Research course and ethnic studies course are also implementations of “Innovation.” Additionally, Middle College High School, an alternative high school on the Foothill College campus that is launching in the fall of 2024, has offered another opportunity to ensure all students with different needs and preferences are getting resources to reach the independence and self-guided learning goals of the “Innovation” priority.

Evidence-based grading is another key focus that improves instruction efficiency and students’ content mastery. According to a presentation at the March 2024 PAUSD board meeting, 76 secondary teachers and administrators were trained in 2023, and evidence-based grading will be implemented completely by fall 2024.

The removal of “Healthy Attendance,” which included prioritizing student engagement and well-being, has raised concerns of whether the removal of this focus was a positively effective choice.

“PAUSD also makes progress in many areas beyond the focus in these five priority areas.”

Assistant Superintendent of Innovation & Agility Jeong Choe

However, according to both Stratton and Assistant Superintendent of Innovation & Agility Jeong Choe, there are still many present steps taken, one being the System-Wide Integrated Framework for Transformation plan which was designed to counteract inequalities and ensure that equity is present in all aspects of PAUSD, to ensure Healthy Attendance remains strong.

“PAUSD also makes progress in many areas beyond the focus in these five priority areas,” Choe wrote in an email. “Changing a priority area does not mean it is removed from district initiatives. For example, you can find details of healthy attendance metrics and progress as part of the SWIFT plan.”

As present initiatives are taken, PAUSD is ensuring “Healthy Attendance” remains strong.

“(Although) attendance is a no-brainer, we have that goal all the time and it’s listed in our annual discipline as a whole, even though it’s not in the book (as part of) the five areas,” Stratton said.

On Monday at lunch, senior Jose Morales performs an Aztec dance with a group. On Thursday, Powwow dancers perform at lunch on the senior quad. On Tuesday of Global Cultures Week, Chinese dragon dancers perform to an audience in the senior quad during lunch. On Wednesday, students line up for International Tastings, receiving portions of food from different cultures. On Friday, world culture clubs showcase their activities to students. —Quotations compiled by Sylvie Nguyen Chloe Wu Chloe Wu Vin Bhat Chloe Wu
Chloe Wu
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780 Arastradero Rd. Palo Alto, CA 94306

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Kristy Blackburn

Teachers union and district reach tentative agreement

open forum about the PAUSD salary schedule, and their experiences in the district. CSEA 301 Chapter President Mrigendra Steiner announced CSEA’s alliance with PAEA in hopes for a quick resolution of the negotiations that honors the professionality of the teachers. Retiring Gunn math teacher Kathy Hawes spoke about her 32 years at Gunn and the salary gap between MVLA and PAUSD.

“I’m concerned that people aren’t going to stay (in PAUSD) because (I talked to) my good friend who left for MVLA, and if I was there now I’d be making 37 thousand more a year,” she said in the meeting. “I love my department, I love my collaboration, I love the people I work with, but at some point I have to think about what would that $37,000 do for my retirement? What would that do for my cost of living? Can I afford to keep working in Palo Alto? And if we lose our experienced staff, how are we going to keep our traditions, culture and history?”

Teacher librarian Daljeet Gill also compared his current position to a higher salary at MVLA, but decided to stay at Gunn because of his long term affection for the school. In his opinion, the negotiations are not just about money but about convincing teachers to stay.

“If all we cared about was money, none of us would be in education,” he said. “The people that I see on campus, this staff, is incredible. They do so much for students that go above and beyond. But the more the pay gap increases, (the more that) you don’t necessarily feel like you’re able to do these things (for the students and) support yourself and your family as easily. Maybe there’s a little bit of not feeling as valued, and that maybe you’re more valued somewhere else.”

A popular solution suggested by the teachers union is to pull from the district’s large reserves to fund a salary increase since PAUSD does not have an upper limit on the reserves, and its size has increased 187% since 2021, currently containing $135 million.

According to the district website, PAUSD’s $135 million reserve is 17% of its operating budget, which is the recommended size by experts. PAEA members made the argument that a fraction of these funds can be allocated towards teachers’ salaries. However, according to Austin, drawing money from the reserve is not as simple or advisable as it may seem.

Austin likens the reserve to a savings account, asserting that regularly drawing from it for an ongoing expense is unsustainable because it won’t replenish itself if the district spends at a deficit from relying on the reserve.

PAUSD Chief Business Officer Carolyn

Chow provided an example for this analogy, explaining that the reserve is used for onetime costs and budgeted purchases.

“In your savings account, you might have to (pay for) a new washer and dryer, tuition for college and a vacation, right?” she said. “Once you spend it, it’s gone, you have to resave again. So in our case, we have a whole list of things that are in the reserves. So for example, we have textbook adoptions that don’t come up every year but we have to set aside money for so in our budget, maybe every five or 10 years we try to save up for it.”


Teacher Librarian Daljeet Gill

PAEA negotiations team member and Gunn economics teacher Jeff Patrick agrees that it is unwise to use the reserve funds for an indefinite amount of time, but he thinks that the analogy of a savings account isn’t accurate to this situation.

“I think it’s a sort of disingenuous analogy given that the district’s not saving that money for retirement or college expenses, whatever it is that families typically save money for,” he said. “So we further don’t understand, and I would say have not been adequately given an explanation of why the district continues to expand that reserve over time.”

Patrick thinks that regardless of how the reserve is spent, the important next step is to address how much money is being added to it.

“In my personal view, and this is reflected by a lot of people that I’ve talked to about it, (it’s like), ‘Fine, you’ve got the reserve and it is what it is, let’s (just) stop making it bigger,’” he said. “So (going forward) making sure that any surplus money that the district has gets put into compensation or something that’s going to directly affect students rather than to sit in the reserves.”

Public Reception

Throughout the negotiation process, PAEA has aimed to raise visibility by organizing rallies and encouraging teachers to wear their PAEA shirts on Fridays and during events to show their support for the union.

One such example is on the morning of April 30, when teachers at all PAUSD schools assembled by school entrances and held signs such as “honk for teachers” or “supporting PAEA = supporting students.” Baldwin thought this rally was a great success and received a lot of community support.


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“I think it’s been great,” she said. “Students have been out here and I’ve seen them out at different sites as well. And parents seemed very receptive. And even if we aren’t asking, they’re honking and showing their support.” PAEA and PAUSD have both been committed to keeping the public informed about this process. All negotiations prior to the impasse, which must legally remain confidential, and the current proposal of the tentative agreement are published on both websites. Each website has summaries of the proposals to make it more digestible for the public, however, due to the complexity of the negotiations Austin emphasized the importance of keeping the discussion contained so that its nuances are not miscommunicated.

“(Students) can have opinions, but really, this is between two negotiating teams that have a total of 10 people (and) that’s where it should stay because it’s impossible to explain every nuance,” he said. “I have concerns about involving students in this negotiation because if the question is ‘do you love your teacher,’ I’m going to hope the answer is always yes. I love our teachers. Everyone should love our teachers.”

School Board President Jesse Ladomirak echoed Austin’s sentiment.

“If your teacher is telling you something, our hope is that you trust your teacher,” she said. “If your teacher is telling you something, we don’t have a lot of interest in trying to get you to think the other way.”

These negotiations have been the subject of many campus conversations and for good reason: PAUSD, which has never been at an impasse for teacher contracts, may be the outlier in district negotiations. According to Chow, the district and union requests were farther apart than normal this year, but mediation is a normal and helpful part of many similar negotiations.

“I’ve been in other districts where they’re at an impasse all the time, every day of the year they’re in there at impasse,” she said. “It’s just what happens when you’re negotiating and you get stuck and need a mediator and come in and help parties (with) out of the box thinking.”

Although this impasse is a rare and complex topic, both the union members and district officials are committed to maintaining professionalism and respect in the midst of this negotiation.

“If (people) take anything away (from this), it’s not a fight, it’s a negotiation process which happens every year,” Austin said. “This year, we’re bringing in somebody to help us work through the tension. And it’s all going to be fine.”

Letters and Comments may be edited to meet space requirements, and the writer is solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Letters to the Editor, Comments and ideas for coverage may be sent to oraclegunn@ These letters do not need to be from current students.

“I liked the cover page story about parking passes because it was interesting, and I didn’t know it was happening”

—Tae Park, 9

“I liked how the chosen topics piqued interest and were relevant. This made me enjoy reading the paper because it was more like a story rather than a report.”

—Jayden Ishihara, 10

“I liked the sections about preps and students’ favorite buildings. I thought that [they were] fun reads.”

Akhlaq, 10

News Friday, May 17, 2024 3
—April 17, 2024—
Go to to read our online exclusives! Fill out our feedback form at OracleMay2024
the graphics
the vibrancy of the colors throughout the issue.
enjoyed the colorism story because of the graphics, historical background, and diversity of sources.”
“I love
—Charlie Ott,
Budget Reserves
there’s a little bit of not feeling as valued, and that maybe you’re more valued somewhere else.”
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In pursuit of Wellness: Wellness Center adapts to feedback, needs

In 2016, Gunn established the Wellness Center to support students’ mental health. Staffed with mental health professionals and licensed therapists, the center was built in response to the community’s input. As part of The Oracle’s revived “In Pursuit of Wellness” series, this article continues to investigate the following question: Is the Wellness Center adequately supporting students?

Located in P-231, the Wellness Center allows students to seek professional mental health services, destress with friends, engage in activities designed for relaxation and have a quick snack.

Around 300 students visit the center each day for appointments, quick breaks, eating lunch and relaxing, according to Wellness Coordinator Michelle Ramos. Students can drop in at any time between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and

8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, including during class time. The center is also open to those enrolled in summer school. When the Wellness Center is closed, students are directed to allcove in Palo Alto, which is a separate wellness center that offers similar services.

If a student needs to connect with a therapist, they can either have a drop-in session or refer themselves to their counselor or Ramos for ongoing therapy sessions.

For drop-in sessions, students are prompted to fill out a short form on an iPad by the entrance so that the wellness team is aware of their needs. They are connected to a therapist right away if one is available.

Students have up to three drop-in sessions without officially notifying guardians. Counselors may be notified in case of academic concerns or stressors, and parents may also be notified unless they are perceived to be a barrier to mental health. However, according to Ramos, about 97% of students who believe that their parents are against therapy find their parents to be supportive. All content during therapy sessions remains confidential with a few exceptions.

Student response

Results from the Panorama Survey in the fall of 2023 show that 56% of respondents have often felt sad and 31% respondents often felt worried, increasing from fall of 2022 by 12% and 6% respectively.

For junior Mia Saad, who visits the center once a week, the Wellness Center is a safe space.

“I go whenever there are drop-ins to take a break or for food,” she said. “Talking to people is nice, especially therapists, and it is also just a quiet place to relax. The (therapists) help you clear your mind and help you look at other thought processes. If you have issues, then you can think about your own thoughts, but they can help you think from a different perspective.”

However, some students believed that the Wellness Center lacked visibility, making students feel unsure of utilizing the center for their mental health needs. One such student is sophomore Milcah Morrison, who upon coming to Gunn, recalled the Wellness Center being only briefly mentioned during the freshmen orientation.

“It wasn’t enough information for me to be like, ‘Oh, I

can go there. That’s a safe place,’” she said. “If we invest more into wellness and mental health, I think that people will definitely start to consider going there in general.”

Although the center originally had a 15-minute time limit placed as an agreement by teachers and administrators when the center was first established, the mandate was lifted after a student’s death in March and will remain lifted for the rest of the school year with plans to transition back in the fall of the 2024-25 school year.

“We knew that some students were in grief or upset, and we wanted to make sure that they didn’t feel rushed to go back to class,” Ramos said.

The wellness team has also made efforts to become more visible and promote their resources. Recently, the team created an Instagram account called @gunnwellnesscenter, with information on how to sign in for a drop-in session and how to make the most out of the Wellness Center space. The team has also set up tables in the senior quad during lunch with activities promoting mental health and designed a logo for the wellness team.

“We want shirts with our logo so that everybody knows, ‘Oh, this is the wellness team and these are the people that we are going to talk to when we are in distress or upset,’” Ramos said.

Growth and future development

The wellness team has seen growth in the number of students in the center, with over 1500 visits in the past two months. Castillo shares that she has met more people addressing mental health issues and helping their peers.

“We have more occurrences of people coming up to the Wellness Center and saying, ‘Hey, I don’t know this person but they posted this on social media and I’m concerned about them. It seems kind of serious. Could you please check in on them?’” Castillo said. “I feel like this represents how (students) are so insightful, aware and have really good instincts when to seek out support for your friends. As a student population, (students) are so resilient, and I think it speaks out about what (they) are involved in and push through.”

4 News
THEO RACLE 45.5% 48.2% 2.7% 3.6% How often do you visit the Wellness Center? Rarely Never Weekly A few times a week Source: Self-selected survey sent out to Gunn students by The Oracle from April 30 to March 10 with 114 responses To read the full story, visit: What is the Wellness Center?
Yueun Hong Reporter

Gunn P.E. courses should teach self-defense, martial arts skills to improve student safety

Before the 2022-23 school year, a self-defense unit was taught every other year in Gunn’s required P.E. 9 and P.E. 10 courses. Over the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this program was removed due to the limitations of the online learning format. Although Gunn has moved back into a physical setting, the self-defense unit has not been reinstated.

In the case where avoiding a dangerous situation fails, it is important that students learn some form of self-defense in order to keep themselves safe. In fact, according to the data analysis company Statista, 23.6% of high school students in 2017 reported that they have been in a physical fight. In order to supply students with the physical and mental tools necessary to protect themselves, Gunn should reinstate and expand upon its old self-defense unit as a part of the required P.E. classes, drawing inspiration from martial arts programs.

The self-defense unit taught in the past focused on teaching students how to get away as quickly and safely as possible. Some years, P.E. teachers were able to invite police officers to teach students what to do if confronted by someone with a gun. The main objective of these selfdefense courses was to prioritize escaping over attacking.

The self-defense unit was taught at the beginning of the second semester of a students’ freshman or sophomore year. Although not taught for an extensive period of time, even minimal training can make a significant difference.

One example of the utility of self-defense training is shown in the case of sexual harassment. According a study by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 62% of women surveyed had experienced some form of physical sexual harassment at some point in their life. The prevalence of this issue shows how impactful self-

defense training can be. In addition, a study by sexual assault prevention specialist Jocelyn A. Hollander found that among women in college, those who had not taken a self-defense class reported that they had been in unwanted sexual situations twice as often as women who had taken a self-defense class. The students in the study participated in a 10-week course with three hours of instruction each week, which, although longer than Gunn P.E. units, is not an especially long period of time, given the significant results, proving the efficacy of even minimal self-defense training.

By reinitiating the self-defense program, Gunn would have an opportunity to expand upon their former framework by combining practical self-defense with the currently unexplored world of martial arts. This would include teaching stances, strikes, defensive techniques, among other skills. The main difference between martial arts and self-defense is that while self-defense often focuses on easy-to-learn, general-purpose escapes and strikes, martial arts is much more of a workout and consists of more advanced and complex maneuvers.

According to the Physical Education Framework for California Public Schools, which Gunn’s P.E. program complies with, the goal of physical education in schools is to teach students how to take full advantage of their bodies in athletics. Martial arts disciplines, which also fall into the category of self-defense, fits well into the Physical Education Framework since they exercise a variety of skills that are applicable to other sports and activities.

For example, many martial arts disciplines make use of stances, which require strength and mobility, both of which are important in many sports. According to a study conducted by Faculty of Sport and Physical Education at the University of Novi Sad Patrick Drid, youth who participated in martial arts programs showed a significant improvement in many areas, including cardiorespiratory fitness, speed and agility, strength, flexibility, coordination and balance. All these benefits are relevant in many other forms of movement, making martial arts a worthwhile unit.


Despite the benefits that come with martial arts, some feel trepidation at the idea of teaching it to students. This concern is valid, as many students may use martial arts skills to participate in fights, rather than to avoid them. Additionally, the risk of injury while learning deters many.

Youth who participated in martial arts programs showed a significant improvement in many areas, including cardiorespiratory fitness, speed and agility, strength, flexibility, coordination and balance.

However, the value of martial arts outweighs the risks. Although teaching martial arts has inherent risks, many martial arts disciplines, such as Aikido, prioritize avoiding injuries for both the attacker and defender. Additionally, martial arts training does not need to incorporate sparring and can instead focus on slow, defensive techniques. Not only this, but physical education classes are already dangerous. A study conducted by University of Ljubljana Sports Faculty Teacher Ana Šuštaršič found that more boys were injured playing basketball at school than practicing martial arts outside of school.

Although Gunn made a reasonable decision to initially remove the self-defense unit from its curriculum during COVID-19, now that the pandemic is over, they should bring it back and consult martial arts teachers to expand the unit. By doing this, Gunn can provide all students with the training they need to defend themselves and expose all students to a new form of exercise.


Forum Friday, May 17, 2024 5 FORUM
Sarah Xie Source: Self-selected survey sent out to Gunn students by The Oracle from April 30 to May 14 with 102 responses. Source: Self-selected survey sent out to Gunn students by The Oracle from April 30 to May 14 with 101 responses.
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Spending $8 on a boba may seem like nothing, and spending $60 on a pair of jeans might seem like a steal. In the end, though, these prices add up. As a teen, money consumption can be careless and easy to overlook. However, prodigious spending habits are unsustainable for a teenager without a significant source of income and often lead to inadequate financial skills.

Much of the overspending by teenagers stems from a pressure to buy things seen in the environment surrounding them, including classmates and social media. This increased consumerism drives students to spend a substantial amount of money to fit in. In the fall of 2021, teens spent 22% of their own income on clothing, according to a Piper Sandler’s Taking Stock With Teens survey. This causes a discrepancy between the amount most students spend on clothing and how much they should be allocating towards wardrobe shopping. According to financial planners, only around 5% of one’s income should be allocated towards buying clothes. This 17% difference highlights the inability of teens to recognize the proper ways to spend and save money, which contribute to a lack of financial awareness.

Another way overspending has become normalized are the rising prices of consumer goods. As the eleventh most expensive city in California, according to Reader’s Digest, students in Palo Alto may feel pressured to contribute to the consumerist culture and spend more than anticipated in a short period of time. Inflation significantly contributes to teens’ increased spending. According to Mercury News, fast food prices in the state of California have risen by over 7% in the last six months

alone. While 7% may not feel like a large increase, small increments over a longer period of time may lead to more noticeable differences.

Many of these issues stem from an absence of financial responsibility. Countless students do not receive sufficient monetary education, contributing to a lack of motivation to save or invest their personal wealth. Additionally, teenagers rely on their parents for income assistance, whether it be a total dependency for cash or occasional borrowing. While common, this reliance is detrimental to the futures of these students, who are missing out on learning economic skills at an early age. It is important to teach children the importance of money management from an early age to encourage sustainable financial habits.

A majority of high school students do not have an official form of income, and while getting a job may seem like an obvious solution, this is often difficult for students with significant academic and extracurricular commitments. Part-time employment could affect a student’s academic performance. According to a study conducted by Penn State, having a job negatively impacts scholastic achievement, creating an incapability for students to maintain their grades while acquiring a source of income conducive to their preferred spending habits.

As children grow older, more time is spent independently with one’s friends. These excursions with friends encourage spending money, but without a steady income, this lifestyle is unsuitable for individuals attempting to be money-conscious, introducing the conflict between spending time with friends without going over budget. Teenagers encourage each other to make impudent decisions, ultimately leading to a lack of thoughtful monetary consumption. CollegeData refers to this as “financial peer pressure,” in which individuals are influenced to spend a larger amount of money around friends than they normally would while alone. These negligent social influences promote an ignorance towards responsible financial habits.

As societal coercion grows with age, student spending habits increase with it. Teens often feel pressured to buy unnecessary products due to their environment and the money habits in Palo Alto. To prevent excessive consummatory behavior, students should be aware of their spending and remain money-conscious when with friends. Instead of buying a $7 coffee simply because others are, money should be saved for more important occasions. Contrary to the popular mindset within Palo Alto, not all activities need to be expensive to be fun, and not all friendships need to involve money to stay strong.


Tipping, whether for quality service or gratuities at a restaurant, has been a norm in many places around the world, including the United States. The practice has been around for decades, but has recently become excessive due to the dramatic increase in expected tipping rates.

Originating in Europe during the Middle Ages, tipping was a way for the wealthy to pay servants extra money for excellent service. Slowly, however, tipping in London became present in coffeehouses and other establishments. Eventually reaching US in the 1800s through wealthy Americans who had just discovered this custom on a journey to Europe, tipping has become increasingly popular and has firmly rooted itself in almost all establishments in the country.

Tipping has been disliked since its inception. It came with many racial and economical problems, including many white store owners wanting to profit off of black labor by replacing wages with tips.

The many issues that came with tipping prompted journalists to describe it as un-American.

Additionally, labor leaders opposed it so much that it was outlawed in different states including Iowa, Tennessee and South Carolina in 1915. This controversy in the United States shows how much of an issue tipping is and has been.

One downside of tipping is that it enables employees to be paid less, preventing them from earning the minimum wage they deserve.

Employers achieve this by paying tipped workers a wage that reaches the federal minimum wage only when combined with tips. According to the National Restaurant Association, it is estimated that every $1 increase in the federal tipped wage could cause a 6.1% decrease in employment and up to a 5.6% loss in quarterly earnings for employees. The decrease in employment due to the slow transformation of wages into tips has become another issue resulting from modern tipping standards.

Not only has tipping culture negatively affected the pay rates of employees, it has also proven to be a disservice for customers. The custom of gratitude is now a demand rather than a choice within the past decade.

Changes in the economy, such as inflation, have also contributed to why tipping has gotten out of hand. This phenomenon became more apparent during the pandemic, when many businesses began “guilt-tipping” customers to support service industry workers at a time of crisis. According to a poll from Talker Research, the average person tips $37.80 a month and $453.60 a year due to guilt-induced gratuity, with 26% feeling they are always or often forced to tip more than they would like. If someone truly wished to tip, they wouldn’t feel unhappy to do so. Additionally, roughly spending $500 a year on undeserving service shows how excessive tipping culture has gotten.

which further eliminates customer decision. With this format, customers are automatically charged an additional 15-20% of their total bill regardless of the quality of service provided. Policies like these contribute to why tipping is losing its definition. It diverges negatively from being a token of appreciation to a method of forcing people to pay extra.

In conjunction with auto-tipping, “tip-inflation” is a term is a term that describes the increase in expected tips due to inflation. Tipping is based on a certain percentage of a total cost of a product or service, and when the price for that product increases, so does the tip amount. According to financial media company Investopedia, digital payment systems with screens that display preset tipping recommendations, often start at 20%. The lowest tip amount being 20% forces someone to pay an amount they may not feel comfortable paying and contributes to extreme tipping rates.

Once a method to express gratitude, tipping has slowly become a way to unfairly profit off of people. Tipping has strayed so far from its original purpose that it has taken on a new form of consumerism, a way for businesses to increase their revenue without charging upfront. An increase in tipping culture due to inflation has caused people to feel obligated to spend their hard-earned money on service they’ve already been charged for. This method of forcing gratitude has reached a tipping point, and therefore needs to end.

Additionally, many restaurants have turned to “auto-gratuity,”

6 Forum
lead to teen overspending
by Jesse Li THEO RACLE
AVERAGE AMOUNT OF MONEY SPENT IN A YEAR ON TIPS ALONE Source: Poll surveying 2000 Americans by market research company Talker Research from April 3 to April 8

Pretty privilege impacts self-perception, contributes to social, economic inequity

People have vastly different perceptions of what beauty is. However, there is one commonality among these ideas: How people treat what they find beautiful. Typically, abnormal acts of generosity and kindness are reserved for certain people solely based on their attractiveness. This treatment can be seen as a seemingly innocent transaction, but on the other side of this, the absence of privilege can have deprecating impacts on people and their self-esteem, as well as diminish the equity of everyday life. Furthermore, the presence of this privilege can be a disservice because it fails to teach important lessons such as struggle and prejudice.

Before divulging into the negatives of this privilege, it is important to understand the depth behind it. According to Vice News, “pretty privilege” is the idea that those who are conventionally attractive, based

benefits after fitting themselves into a beauty standard.

Pretty privilege also affects one’s likelihood of being hired, according to an article written in April 2024 from Business Insider. Labor and employment attorney Robert I. Gosseen told Business Insider that despite the existence of hiring laws that protect candidates against biases, whether racial, economic or due to other circumstances, employers still typically weigh attractiveness as a key factor in hiring. Because the concept of appearance over personal matters is so deeply integrated into aspects of everyday life, from what is seen in the media to the chance of being successful in a career, attractiveness becomes associated with prosperity, wealth and overall wellbeing, furthering the Halo Effect.

While pretty privilege can be seen as beneficial to the people who have it and unaffecting or neutral to those who don’t, it is extremely demeaning and degrading to both parties. Of course, the absence of beauty advantages in a person can be incredibly detrimental because it engraves the message in their head that they are unattractive and undeserving, greatly impacting their self-image and worldview. Having a negative perception on one’s own attractiveness can taint their

of inferiority, decreased confidence and limited aspirations, as they believe their efforts will be undervalued due to their appearance. Living without advantages as a reward for one’s beauty while seeing others be rewarded can make them second-guess themselves, which can be frustrating if the more attractive but less qualified individual consistently receives better treatment. It is unfair to judge one based on their appearance in a societal setting, as it undermines the true value of an individual and bases their quality on something they have little control over. This fosters a divided environment where superficial qualities are valued over true abilities and character. This notion is shown in a study conducted by Stress Health in 2019, which concluded that perceived appearance judgments can affect an individual’s willingness to do something, as well as increase their depressive and stress symptoms.

It is unfair to judge one based on their appearance in a societal setting, as it undermines the true value of an individual and bases their quality on something they have little control over.

Society’s emphasis on appearance over personal value creates imbalance and undervalues intrinsic qualities, ultimately shaping people’s life outcomes based on looks rather than abilities.

“ ”
Forum Friday, May 17, 2024 7
Jesse Li

The cost of construction: Why it takes $1.4 million to build a classroom

Starting with a simple sketch on paper, the demolition and reconstruction sites of the administrative, food services and K- buildings, which first began in the fall of 2022, is now a prominent part of Gunn campus. There are, however, many aspects of construction that are often overlooked behind the sights and sounds of drilling and assembling, including months of planning, budgeting and adapting to the rising expenses.

Just the like typical grocery store item that has increased in price, inflation has triggered a rise in construction costs in Palo Alto. According to PAUSD Facilities and Construction Director Eric Holm, each square foot of commercial construction costs $700 to $1100. Additional soft costs for aspects of renovations and constructions such as designs, furniture planning and permit fees can add more than 30% to the construction’s non-interior costs. Classrooms range from 900 to 1,100 square feet, and the average cost of building a classroom has increased from $750,000 to $1.5 million in the last ten years, with projections estimating the total cost to reach around $2 million by 2028.

In PAUSD, construction receives its budget from government bonds which are proposed, voted on and authorized by members of the Bond Citizens’ Oversight committee. According to the PAUSD website, The Measure A Strong Schools Bond and Measure Z Strong Schools Bond, approved by Palo Alto voters in 2008 and 2018 respectively, authorized $378 million and $460 million respectively for the district’s construction use. The amount requested is calculated with potential price growth in mind, and is utilized towards improvement in the district.

While supply chain and worker shortages due to COVID-19 have factored into this price increase, according to Holm, one of the main contributors to the total cost is the safety requirements that must be incorporated into every classroom.

School buildings are considered tier two emergency services buildings, second

buildings are the most critical, but just a hair below (them are) schools,” Holm said. “The state mandates parents to send their kids to school, (so the district) has to make the school safe for kids.”

PAUSD is responsible for following certain mandates that ensure student safety. School buildings are under the authority of the Division of the State Architect, which operates under strict structural and accessibility requirements such as compliance with the American Disabilities Act, the installation of fire safety devices and air filtration.

The construction team goes through many inspections. which according to Hixon has not interfered or slowed down the project’s progress, to make sure they are following regulations.

“We adhere to all state and city guidelines for construction safety,” he said. “The experience has been great so far.”

The necessity of modern technology is another large cost in classroom construction projects. As classrooms continue to modernize, they need to be equipped with the best materials. While it is an expense, digital projection boards and enhanced audio systems are essential to supporting teacher and student education experiences.

“Just putting a whiteboard up on the wall is a lot cheaper than putting a massive 72-inch or 60-inch TV and having all the controls to run it,” Holm said. “But all of that improves the educational experience.”

Itcost tobuIldthe centralbuIldIng $24,887,216

As parts of a building become detrimental to student safety, they must be replaced or repaired. These upgrades include gas phaseouts, electrical service upgrades, repairing aging infrastructure, installing air filtration and temperature control technology.

The new A-B-K building has an estimated budget

arts classroom. Holm says that scope of the project contributes price.

“The two factors (considered) of the space and the number of Holm said. “Similar to a house, costs less on a per square foot basis house because the base costs of amortized over the entire space. bathroom build or renovation will on a per square foot basis than According to Holm, general expensive, followed by specialty music. This is because they are specialized modifications and the Career Technical Education as they require extensive customization such as gas filtration systems. tend to cost even more due to the walls and specialized spaces. spaces like food service are reflected in the construction of food service section is the most due to the required installation other pieces of technology required

A common misconception, classrooms, Holm noted, is Rather than a bedroom or living be the size of a small house or “A classroom is 1000 square size of a small house. A 900 for $1.8 million (in Palo Alto). house is the same size (as a) classroom.”

Many displaced classes have classrooms — a part of Gunn’s — including history and less lab-based rely on any underground resources, their classes. However, despite the price of a classroom, they are “A relocatable classroom is temporary basis,” Holm said. 20 years. They might be used longer

Problems may involve a leak materials. Portable classrooms, to $150 per square foot, have logistics for heating and cooling. classroom where everything is balanced manner, portables occasionally temperature regulation, especially

“The roofing is “They’re

Vanisha Vig features editor

that the large contributes to its hefty (considered) are the size of modifications,” house, a big house basis than a small of construction are space. A small kitchen or will cost significantly more than a bedroom modification.” general classrooms are the least specialty classrooms such as art and are typically larger and have casework. A step above are Education and science classrooms customization and equipment systems. Administrative offices the large number of interior spaces. Finally, highly specialized the most expensive. This is of the A-B-K building, as the most expensive per square foot installation of stoves, filtration and required for cooking. especially about specialized the size of each classroom. living space, classrooms tend to apartment. square feet,” he said. “That’s the square foot house is selling Alto). So, by that metric, (a small) classroom.” have relocated to portable campus known as the Village lab-based sciences that do not resources, such as gas lines, to run despite portables being almost 40% are only temporary solutions. designed to be used on a “Their general life is about longer than 20 years, but not leak or general wear-and-tear of classrooms, which can range from $50 have thinner walls and different cooling. In contrast to a physical is designed to circulate air in a occasionally have issues with especially when smaller units are not as robust,” Holm said. “They’re not as waterproof, (and)

founda - tion.”

Another contributor to the cost of facilities are the constant upgrades required to ensure safety. Holm noted that if a construction team doesn’t update an establishment after it is built, they are not obligated to keep making changes. However, once they do, they must keep updating it and the other buildings around it, whether it means smartboards, alarms, HVAC systems or full renovations.

Member of the Gunn Facilities Committee Laurie Pennington says that need, impact and safety are taken into account to determine the priority of construction projects, which then determines the typical order in which projects are carried through and how they allocate funds.

“The front office building for instance, was one of the oldest buildings on campus,” she said. “It had no ventilation whatsoever. It wasn’t going to be possible just to put ventilation in that building (since) the walls were old and everything was bad.”

and equipment, Holm believes that a major aspect of a successful construction project is finding an optimal time frame for each project.

“We can do a mid-year (transfer), but that’s really stressful for the teachers and students because the new room is not set up,” he said. “In a history class, (teachers might put up) historical posters, or literary (posters in an English class).(And if classes are moved,) a lot of those teacher touches are kind of invisible.”

Pennington realized that her years of experience at Gunn has allowed her to help make decisions about temporary classrooms and lodgings, which have been useful for minimizing disruption in the past.

“I’ve been here a long time,” she said. “I said, ‘If Culinary Arts is going to move out, why don’t we just put (them) back to the science (building) because all the gas is still all underneath there?’ And they hadn’t thought about that. So, it’s nice to have people that have been around for a while or people that are concerned about different departments.”

Construction has proven itself to be a far more complex process than just slotting bricks together. It takes months of planning, pitching and budgeting to finally spur a project into action. While a large part of construction cost has to do with the economy itself, directors and committees continue to strategize effective financial resource utilizations when it comes to a project that requires such a large sum of money.

Having observed the campus construction since she moved to Gunn, Principal Dr. Wendy Stratton feels the A-B-K project, set to end in December, has been worth all the time and resources and is grateful for the construction team and their work.

“I have a lot of confidence in our construction team,” Stratton said. “They’ve been really good about being communicative and inclusive. I’m really looking forward to the move and the energy that move will bring and that feeling of new beginnings.” $12,450,948

With the constant need to improve the quality of
In-Depth Friday, May 17, 2024 ConstruC tion at Gunn sinCe 2008 aquatIc center (2009) • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • $4,862,530 IndustrIal arts renovatIon (2010) • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • $5,065,128 new aIr condItIonInG (2011) • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • $2,092,366 tItan Gym (2013) • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •• • • • • • • • • • • • • $12,450,948 n- and l anGuages buIldIngs (2013) • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • $24,808,488 MIranda ave ParkIng (2014) • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • $3,940,000 e & k buIldIngs renovatIon (2014) • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • $1,629,175 central buIldIng Project (2019) • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •• $24,887,216 tItan Gym aIr condItIonInG (2020) • • • • • • • • •• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •• $1,960,500 total • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • $81,696,350 9
Source: PAUSD Citizens’ Oversight Committee 2020–2021 Annual Report
Graphics by Vin Bhat


USACO programs opportunities, success for students

Juniors apply their coding skills and advance through the United States Coding Olympiad

How many ways can you divide a field filled with cows into two groups by moving a horizontal or vertical line? This is an example of the many problems junior Samuel Ren spends his weekends solving to practice for the United States of America Computing Olympiad.

Ren has been involved in coding for seven years, beginning his journey with the First Lego League, an international robotics competition for elementary and middle school students. Although FLL included some coding, he only began competing in USACO two years ago.

“Competitive programming is a pretty niche part of coding, so I got into it relatively recently,” he said. “A lot of it doesn’t have to do with anything else in coding.”

This type of coding may be less known, but Ren isn’t the only one at Gunn participating in the competition. With two years of coding experience prior to his introduction to USACO, junior Agastya Goel began competitively coding in sixth grade, an endeavor propelled by his existing interest and family influence.

“My dad does a lot of computer science and my sister had also done competitive programming, so I decided to try it out and see what there was,” he said. “I found out very quickly that it was a lot of fun, so I continued.”

While Goel has participated in many coding competitions, USACO is the largest and most popular, with the organization holding four monthly competitions a season from December to March. Participants are divided into four divisions — Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum — depending on their compiled scores from each round. Each round lasts four or five hours and consists of three problems contestants must solve from scratch, which are then run against different test cases. The more test cases the program passes, the higher the contestant’s score.

“The great thing (about USACO) is that once you reach a certain division, you’re there permanently,” Goel said. “So, for most people, they aren’t worrying about joining the camp, but just to progress to the next division by scoring well. It’s like you’re competing against yourself.”

Not only is USACO accessible because participants can sign up online and participate from home, but online coding resources are also widely available. While preparing for the competitions, Goel focused on individual studying, including reading free blogs on Codeforces, a platform with over 20,000 community members, to learn new techniques and algorithms.

Goel noted that while his previous coding experience helped him at the beginning, the content he’s learned from most coding classes differs from the competition-style prompts in USACO.

“You have a math problem, but now you have a computer to help you solve it,” he said. “Instead of building something like a website, what you’re doing in competitive programming is you’re given (a) math problem with different constraints and variables and you need to write a computer program that’s going to solve the math problem given to you.”

Therefore, Ren’s practice approach prioritized building the experience and mindset to think about

throwing them at the problem.”

Something else that differentiates USACO from traditional coding are the requirements in coding language. While the competition accepts any language in the lower divisions — most popularly C++, Java and Python — if chosen for the camp, participants must use C++, a generalpurpose coding language used by many competitive programmers for its fast speed and well-developed Standard Template Library, which is used to find common algorithms.

Out of the 24 candidates selected for the training camp, only eight students — four for the girls team and four for the boys team — are chosen to represent the US at the International Olympiad in Informatic, the most prestigious computer science competition for high school students. Last year, Goel traveled with the IOI team to Hungary, where he received a gold medal.

“We got to meet lots of people from other countries, we were able to try out local Hungarian food and it was a lot of fun,” he said.

Nonetheless, Goel’s journey to IOI hasn’t always been easy. During the six years that he has been competing, mental blocks have been a major obstacle for him to overcome.

“I think that the biggest challenge for me was the initial four divisions because sometimes it seemed impossible to get to the next division,” he said. “I think that USACO does a really good job of breaking up the process to IOI into many stages, but even with that, when I was in the Gold division, reaching the Platinum division seemed almost insurmountable. I very seriously considered giving up.”

As Goel’s experience and passion for coding grew, he was able to push past these challenges.

“At the beginning, it felt like I spent four hours coding when I was really only coding for 90 minutes,” he said. “Now, it feels like every minute I spend coding is really worth that time, so I think that when you enjoy something, you get much more value out of doing that thing.”

Having achieved his goal of competing internationally, Goel hopes to continue fostering his passion while spreading it to students at Gunn as co-president of the Competitive Programming Club.

“We ran a very successful coding competition this year,” he said. “It was the Bay Area programming competition with 80 or 90 in-person participants. That was a great experience, and we’re just trying to make coding accessible to everyone who wants to

Although Ren has met a few fellow USACO participants, he is not active in the online or Gunn competitive programming community. Instead, similarly to Goel, Ren attributes his success to his

“Follow your interests and do what you think is fun,” he said. “Don’t do anything for college because it doesn’t

While USACO is competitive, Goel hopes to highlight the

“It does feel like every competitive programmer is on the same team,” he said. “I think this is clearly seen in the camp, where after a very long and exhausting five hour contest, everyone just gathers downstairs in the dorm and starts playing games, or on the last day of camp, everyone stays up super late chatting or coding.”

Photo Illustration by Naomi Wang, Sarah Xie and Ya-An Xue Graphics by Chaewon Lee

Student Pen Pals form unexpected bonds, bridge cultures

Sophomore Rayla Chen opens her mail box to discover letters instead of report cards, advertisements and other packages. Inside the letters, she finds herself teleported to France through the writing of her international pen pals.

In an era where technology often mediates our interactions with others, Chen’s choice to engage in letters allows her to put more thought into her communication than a simple text.

“I’ve done two pen-pal programs,” she said. “The first one was in eighth grade and I was paired with a girl who lived in the French Alps. We talked for a bit online before we started writing to each other. I wrote to her in French and she wrote to me in English.”

This program was orchestrated by her French teachers and their English teacher friends in


France. Although not participating this year because her teacher chose not to, Chen was involved during her eighth grade and freshman year.

Teachers paired students up with someone from their partner class in the other country, and in cases of unequal class sizes, someone may be required to write two letters. From there, students received basic information about their pen pal and gave teachers the letters to mail out — beginning the exchange cycle.

Through the program, Chen matched with many students from diverse backgrounds whom she wouldn’t have had the chance to meet otherwise. One example of this enlightenment is her second pen pal — Clemence from Albi, a village in the South of France

“I exchanged social media with (her), and despite only having one semester to communicate, (found out she was) a very lovely person,” she said. “She’s a tri-athlete and she’s super cool.”

For Chen, every envelope that arrives creates a new and lasting friendship, as well as an opportunity to explore unique experiences. Regular curriculum is taught through an outside perspective with basic grammar and textbooks, while the letters take those skills to a more advanced level. They help improve her understanding of foreign lifestyles and cultures and enhance her knowledge around language use.

“(The pen-pal program) enriches your class experience a lot more because you get to see the

culture a lot more and you get to learn first-hand what life is like in the country of the language that you’re speaking,” she said.

Pen-pal programs also opened Chen’s eyes to the cultural differences in other parts of the world and helped her learn how to adapt to them. Each letter unveiled new perspectives and ideas from France, allowing Chen to experience the country through a mere piece of paper.

“I’ve definitely learned more about French culture, and when I did my exchange program with the Council on International Educational Exchange over the summer, I had my pen-pal programs before that,” she said. “Learning about French culture through someone who was living there actually helped me a lot during my exchange because I got to learn about French customs a lot and adapt there quicker.”

Chen also emphasizes the importance of keeping contact with others around the world as a way to connect, meet new people and expand one’s horizons.

“I think that all language students should do pen-pal programs because you’re able to immerse yourself into the culture a lot better and you’re able to learn the language and cultures a lot better,” she said. “It’ll open your eyes up to the world a lot more.”

unior Samhita KRISHNAN

Junior Samhita Krishnan had discovered one issue that many people hadn’t — the gap between the elderly and the youth. To build a better community, Krishnan decided to take action and create a pen-pal project called BuddyBonds.

In Gunn’s Advanced Authentic Research class, each student has the opportunity to research a topic chosen in an area they find interesting. Alongside juniors Namya Kasturi and Lia O’Donovan, Krishnan created BuddyBonds, a program to connect seniors from Ivy Living — an assisted living community in Menlo Park — with Gunn students. So far, ten students have sent out a combined total of six letters and received one in return.

BuddyBonds aims to mend the disconnect between older and younger generations. Writing letters provided a way to build friendships between unlikely individuals, all from the comfort of home.

“We originally started a pen-pal project because we wanted to bridge the intergenerational gap between the elderly and students here at Gunn,” Krishnan said. These letters cover a variety of topics, such as hobbies, sports, academics or anything else the students choose to include about themselves.

The founders of BuddyBonds created basic prompts intended to promote interesting conversations and encourage those writing to

share more about themselves.

“In one of the letters, one of the other people who participated talked about her love for music and how she’s part of the orchestra,” Krishnan said.

Writing these pen-pal letters transcend the benefits of casual correspondence. According to Krishnan, the experience of a senior citizen — someone who is over 60 years old — is incredibly different from that of a high schooler, and writing to them would provide students with a chance to understand unique points of view and learn from their vivid life experiences. Krishnan adopted a newfound sense of understanding towards those who reside at Ivy Livings through her pen-pal letters. The project also left a positive impact on the community at Ivy Living by helping to introduce more social aspects to the seniors’ lives.

“Only one out of the 10 people we interviewed said that they got contact with people outside of the retirement home,” she said. “And after we did the pen pal letters, (we) can safely say that there’s been a difference and that they feel a little bit more connected, specifically to the students that were involved with the pen pal program.”

This pen-pal project has also created a chance for students to meet one of the residents in person — Alison. Alison, who has lived and studied in Edinburgh, Scotland, was one of those individuals. This experience has proven that taking initiative to reach out can lead to potentially life-changing opportunities like these.

Although the project is relatively new,

looking for a way to connect with others.

“Reaching out and communicating is definitely a great way to get involved in writing letters,” she said.

The practice of writing letters has become less and less common, vanishing in the age of technology. While less convenient, the authenticity of writing, addressing, stamping and mailing a letter can’t be beat. Despite its decline in popularity, however, the art of pen-palling is still occasionally seen today in initiatives such as BuddyBonds, which are intended to connect people of different ages.

Features Friday, May 17, 2024 11
Mailbox, grass and polaroid graphics by Sarah Xie. Letter graphics by Chaewon Lee.

German exchange program offers opportunities, connections

From April 2 to April 18, Gunn students in the German program hosted 16 junior and senior students from the Hohenstaufen-Gymnasium Göppingen High School in Germany. These students were selected for the program and chaperoned by exchange program heads and teachers from Germany, Tobias Koppisch and Annette Staudenmayer. The German American Partnership Program allows for high school bilateral transatlantic exchanges between secondary students in the US and Germany. This year marked the first exchange between Gunn and HohenstaufenGymnasium Göppingen.

Seeing American life on TV and various media was what originally inspired junior German exchange student Noemi Mayer to apply to GAPP.

“Not only seeing (American life) in school books, I also saw the ‘American Dream’ and American high school on social media and TV, so this was a big opportunity to experience this firsthand,” she said. “I really wanted to go outside of Europe because I’ve never been.”

Stanford University, LinkedIn and Google. Schroeppel invited all students in her classes to host exchange students in their homes but prioritized her German 3 and AP German classes because of the students’ higher German proficiency. In the end, 10 Gunn families volunteered to be hosts and were connected with 16 exchange students’ families in Germany.

I also saw the ‘American Dream’ and American high school on social media and TV, so this was a big opportunity to experience this firsthand.

—Junior exchange student Noemi Mayer

does and we’re both learning from each other.”

A feedback form sent by Koppisch and Staudenmayer for the visiting German students found that the majority of students felt fluent or comfortable talking in English after their visit. This data complimented Koppisch’s hope that the students, many of whom are enrolled in the Advanced English course in Germany, were moved by the language and will gain valuable experiences from the trip.

“For me, as an English teacher, this is the coolest thing ever because I always tell my students that you will learn more (from) a trip abroad than (from) two years with me in my class,” he said. “I can tell them all I want, but it’s the ability to feel and experience the culture that is moving. For us, it’s really the biggest benefit to give the kids a chance, to be part of the culture, live American school life and embrace the diversity of families.”

The German exchange students’ first four days took place in the bustling environment of San Francisco. There, they were assigned their first assignment: To present a five-minute report in English about the technology, landscape, diversity, political situations, sports and any other cultural-related topic concerning San Francisco. Afterwards, the students visited local attractions such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium,

Gunn sophomore Hannah Vu, who hosted Mayer, found that her interest in the German language and culture has grown into an interest in participation in a future immersion program.

“Doing these programs is a unique way to connect with the outside world and see what other cultures are like,” she said. “I learned about new cultures, which I also see myself doing more in the future, as I want to travel around the world after graduation. I definitely hope to visit Noemi.”

Sophomore Toby Parker, who hosted Laurin Friton, found that while tradi tional laguage classes often focus on grammar rules and vocabulary, the immersive nature of the exchange allowed him to practice speaking German in real-life situations.

“I feel like the program helped me gain touch with the language that I spoke, and just helped myself learn how to speak better German,” Parker said.

Through this experience, Parker and Friton have shared their differing styles when speaking the German language.

“(One cultural difference) I’ve noticed is that the German that I speak is quite different than the German language for (Friton’s) specific region,” Parker said. “I speak a different kind of slang than he

At the start of each school day, the exchange students chose classes they wanted to shadow. Sophomore German exchange students Max Rieger and Tim Langbein enjoyed biking to school with their American hosts and visiting Gunn’s Physical Education, Geometry and Automotive Technology courses.

“This was my first time working with cars in school,” he said. “We helped build a go-kart. It is different in Germany, where non-traditional subjects (like automotive) are held as clubs rather than classes.”

Reflecting back, Parker wishes he was able to provide Friton with a broader view of America.

“I thought that there would have been more time for me to introduce new people to (Friton), but with the short time that we had I wasn’t able to show him everybody that would have given him a good time,” he said. “Most of the people that I introduced were from Gunn, Paly, and Los Altos (High School).”

In her travels back to Germany, Mayer’s experience is one that she will continue to cherish.

“Coming to America was a dream of mine,” she said. “I don’t know if I’m going to come to the US again ever in my life. Maybe I will, but not in this way through a student exchange, so this was very important to me. I will back to Germany the openness and calmness from the US.”

Left: Sophomore Hannah Vu (left) poses with junior German exchange student Noemi Mayer, whom she hosted during the exchange Middle: Assistant Principal Rebecca Shen-Lorenson (far left) and German teacher Claudia Schroeppel (left) hosted exchange program heads Annette Staudenmayer and Tobias Koppisch. Right: Sophomore Toby Parker (right) poses with sophomore German exchange student Laurin Friton, who he brought to his classes and explored the city with Sylvie Nguyen
Features 12
The flower pictured throughout the page is a cornflower, Germany’s national flower.
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Graphics by Elise Hu


Rock climbers scale up effort, engagement

Although not as popular as sports like basketball or football, rock climbing has found its niche within the Gunn community. For many students, rock climbing isn’t just a sport to train and compete for — it’s a hobby that fosters camaraderie and personal growth among the demands of school life.

One of these climbers is junior Cameron Ennis, who began his rock climbing journey in middle school after his dad brought him to a climbing gym on the Stanford University campus. Ennis shares his personal journey of improvement using the V scale, where the difficulty of climbs increase from V0 to V14.

“(At first), I didn’t take (rock climbing) that seriously,” he said. “Then when COVID hit, I stopped entirely. About a year ago, I got back into climbing, but this time, a lot more seriously. When I started, I could only climb V1’s and occasionally V2’s. The progression that you get from working your way up the grades was really motivating for me. A year later and I’m climbing V5’s and V6’s.”

According to Ennis, rock climbing is especially appealing to students due to its inclusivity regarding one’s physique and skill level.

“A lot of sports are significantly easier for people who have a specific body type that’s optimal for that sport, like basketball with tall people,” he said. “Climbing, on the other hand, is a lot more accessible since people of any height or weight can climb and have fun. Climbing gyms are made to be for everyone, and the community is super supportive, so you don’t have to feel embarrassed about not being able to climb stuff that really experienced people can.”

Sophomore rock climber Annika Kulawik echoes Ennis’ points about the inclusivity of the rock climbing community, saying that accessibility is one of the many common misconceptions that deter participation in the sport.

“Some people think in order to rock climb you have to be super strong and need a ton of special equipment,” she said. “You don’t. Gyms make climbing way easier and more accessible now, and you are unlikely to hurt

yourself falling.”

According to Ennis, many people, especially those afraid of heights, believe that rock climbing is dangerous. In reality, many safety precautions are taken before even one begins climbing.

Sophomore Joshua ReneCorail believes that the importance of rock climbing comes from the necessity of perseverance and character building.

“Rock climbing is for everyone, because it can be both an individual and team sport, and you don’t need a lot of experience to start out,” he said. “It’s all about setting goals and challenging yourself.”

Rene-Corail has been rock climbing for five years, during this time, he has achieved a healthy balance and between his schoolwork and sport.

“(Rock climbing) definitely removes a lot of pressure and stress that I have with different classes or assignments,” he said. “It’s an easy way to escape work sometimes.”

To Kulawik, although rock climbing takes up a lot of time, she believes that its benefits greatly outweigh its costs.

“I’ve met friends at the gym and it can be fun to work on climbs together,” she said. “It does take a lot of time. Sometimes I spend three hours from when I leave my house to when I get back, which gives me less time to do homework, but it’s worth it.”

Rock climbing at Gunn embodies the spirit of community and resilience, welcoming all students to challenge themselves and find solace in a sport that transcends mere physical activity. As rock climbing continues to establish itself in the Gunn community, it fosters student connections and inspires individuals to pursue their own unique paths.

According to Ennis, Gunn’s Rock Climbing Club

Sailing team navigates in passion, finds success

“When you’re on the water, you cannot just quit. It’s just like life. When you make a mistake, you need to rethink and learn from it.”

Peninsula Youth Sailing Foundation coach

Juan Pablo Del Solar Goldsmith

Friday, May 17, 2024 13
Chaewon Lee Sarah Xie
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Cliquing up: High School portrayals in media create false perceptions of students, exacerbates stereotypes

Move portrayals encourage misconceptions about high school student life. Some movies, such as “Mean girls,” depict a social ladder where people attempt to be as pretty and popular as possible. Others, such as “The Breakfast Club,” send the message that adolescents should stay true to themselves.

However, in the process of creating these plots and themes, the media industry inadvertently creates many stereotypes, such as the “dumb jock” and “unpopular nerd.” These stereotypes cause cliques to form where individuals with similar traits separate into exclusive groups. Consumers of this media internalize these stereotypes, even though in reality, they are little more than fiction.

According to Visual and Performing Arts teacher Kristen Lo, these stereotypes must be established in the beginning of a play in order to kickstart the main plotline.

“(High School Musical) starts out (with) everybody in their little cliques, and it’s like, ‘Don’t get out of the status quo,’” she said. “And so, when everybody is coming up on stage, you basically have the four different cliques that you have established.”

These stereotypes in media depict jocks as large, muscular bullies with little intelligence, but popular for their prowess in sports, and nerds as thin, unfashionable and unsociable, picked on by the jocks. The girls are also portrayed similarly, with popular, pretty and unkind girls bullying those seen as social outcasts.

These stereotypes almost always have a defining quality as well, such as jocks only playing basketball or nerds being weak and thin. This forms the belief that certain traits are mutually exclusive to a designated social group.

The light in which stereotypical cliques are portrayed is also of paramount importance in terms of influencing the way teens act. Whether or not these actions in movies enable teens to replicate them in some form or another is a key factor in evaluating the impact of this genre of high school movies.

“This is always the (issue): ‘Does art influence people in bad ways?’” Lo said. “Do people see things take place in art and they say, ‘I’ll do the thing that they did in Mean Girls?’ That is the catch with art – can that happen?”

The messages portrayed in media significantly influences students’ perceptions of high school cliques: Some imply that students should stay in the roles given to them by their community, while others present the idea that students can be anything they want to be and do anything they want to do.

The idea of students striving for popularity can be seen in “Mean Girls.” In this movie, students are either a part of “The Plastics” – the group of popular and pretty girls – or social outcasts. The expectations of their actions portrayed by these cliques create a stigma around the average high schoolers’ acts. For

because it was a violation of one of their rules. This scene conveyed the message that students should stay within their cliques’ ideals and that having different personal beliefs is unacceptable.

“This is always the (issue): ‘Does art influence people in bad ways?’ Do people see things take place in art and then they say, ‘I’ll do the thing that they did in Mean Girls.’ That is the catch with art; can that happen?”

Visual and Performing Arts Teacher

However, other examples of media offer an exception to these characterizations, such as in the movie “High School Musical,” where a jock falls for a nerd and they both end up auditioning for a musical together. This plot broke stereotypes by bringing individuals of different social groups together.

It is important to promote the creation of pieces of media such as these, as they act as examples for students to act in accordance to their own feelings rather than how others believe they should. Encouraging the embrace of individuality makes space for an expansion of interests past what society deems acceptable for a certain person to do. This will not only help enrich a teen’s personal growth but also promotes a more inclusive culture that values authenticity within the high school community.

Unfortunately, however, movies that feed into stereotypes are still extremely prevalent. According to theater performer Connor Engstrom, in certain films, these stereotypes may not be apparent, but can still be implicitly involved.

“I feel like, to an extent, Harry Potter did perpetuate stereotypes,” he said. “It’s like the jocks (are) the Quidditch team, and then other characters are nerds. I think it’s more tamped down in terms of stereotypes than (other) movies.”

These forms of media are also not as free in expression, according to Engstrom.

“I think other mediums of art are a lot more stringent with the rules that they apply in terms of who you can be and what you can do,” he said. “I think of movies and TV shows as being very restrictive of stereotypes. For instance, (in) “Modern Family,” you’re either a nerd or you’re popular.”

Even though these forms of media can have wholesome themes, many of these movies seem out of touch with present high school norms.

“I feel like the stereotypes are a thing of the past in most cases, or at least a thing of twenty years ago,” Engstrom said. “People are still cliquing up, and they’re hanging out with others who have similar interests to

broadly spanning than before.”

Gunn also defies these long-standing stereotypes with a culture that applauds individuals for striving for intelligence rather than popularity. This value breaks the stereotype that prioritizing academics automatically means that being unathletic and a target for bullies.

“Gunn is a really special place,” Lo said. “I have worked at three different schools, and Gunn is the one that bucks stereotypes the most, mostly because it is extremely cool to be intelligent here. Everyone here is being pushed towards wanting to go to an elite college, and so the stereotypes don’t really fit here.”

Gunn students participating in a diverse amount of extracurriculars also decreases the hostility that some characters feel in high school movies when attempting to cross their group’s boundaries into another: The feeling of belonging to more than one group is not frowned upon, perhaps even normalized at Gunn.

“I feel like the stereotypes are a thing of the past in most cases, or at least a thing of twenty years ago. People are still cliquing up, and they’re hanging out with others who have similar interests to them. But I think those interests are more broadly spanning than before.”

The perpetuation of stereotypes can play a role in forms of media besides on-screen entertainment. Although many stereotypes may stem from plays and other theater productions, theater offers a way to defy these stereotypes. The ability to do other activities, like sports, while also being in drama, is a direct contradiction to the portrayal of only being able to do one at a time.

“I don’t think my basketball teammates think any less of me because I do theater,” Engstrom said. “They’ve seemed relatively supportive and have asked interesting questions, like ‘What do you do during rehearsal?’, which is indicative of a good school space in my opinion.”

To break out of this representation of high school as an exclusive landscape where each person is automatically sorted into a group that is completely polarized from another, literature and media creators should seek to catch up to the current high school culture. Staying in the past creates a division between teens’ perceptions in media and their true identities.

THEO RACLE Lifestyle
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Elise Hu

TheOracle crossword and Olympic mini games


1. Showing poor sportsmanship

Having moral principles

“Call Me Maybe” singer’s middle name

Put on the line

Bordeaux, Pierre Mauroy and Marseille for 2024

Fills with ink

2014 Volkswagen model

Horror star Chaney

Without restraint


Buster brown’s dog

Lith. or Kaz., once

Second Roman emperor

Standard British gun in WWII

From Jan. 1 to now

Not yet scheduled

Home runs, e.g.

Glossy fabric


Swimmer’s unit

901, in Rome

Nine-digit ID

Paris hosting the 2024 Olympics

The Olympic Games are an international athletic event held every four years to foster humane relationships and contribute to world peace. It first originated in 776 BC through 393 AD in Olympia, Greece. It was then reintroduced in 1896 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin who believed that sports contributed to harmonious development of body, personality and mind. At first, only summer sports such as swimming, tennis and track were a part of the program. A separate winter Olympics was created in 1924, featuring figure skating, curling, ski jumping and more. Currently, there are 40 sports in the Olympic Games program and 206 countries represented. Before the games start, the Olympic Torch Relay takes place as a transmission of friendship throughout the route. The torch is lit in Olympia and is traveled by thousands of runners to the hosting country. Participants have taken creative ways to transport the torch including by boat or plane. This year, the Summer Olympics will be held in Paris from July 24 to Aug. 11.


Archery was first introduced to the Olympics in 1900 and was removed for a few decades due to inconsistent rules and formats, but was ultimately reintroduced in 1972 and has remained since then. A game of archery begins with the ranking round, where 64 archers compete in a knockout system: The top player faces off against the 64th-ranked player, the second-ranked player plays the 63rdranked player, and so on.

Hit the bullseye! Find the letter that can be added to each 3 letter word to unscramble to a common 4 letter word. Locate the swimmers! There is one in each column, row and cell. No two swimmers can neighbor each other diagonally.

Table Tennis

Marathon Swimming

Marathon swimming is a 10K race that takes place in open waters such as oceans, rivers and lakes. This is nostalgic of the Olympics from 1896 to 1904 where all swimming events were in open water. The race takes over two hours, requiring stability and adaptability. Marathon swimming was officially introduced in 2008 Beijing.

Table tennis, one of most popular sports in the world, first appeared in the 1988 Seoul Olympics with both singles and doubles matches. In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, doubles matches were replaced by team matches with three players per team, consisting of four singles games and one doubles match. Ma Long and Zhang Yining are some of the most renowned players with five and four gold medals respectively.

Lifestyle Friday, May 5, 2023 15
7. Sightseers
Not that
Track and field
? C A t S A D C U P O W L F U R Finished with crossword or Olympics puzzles?
Come to P-115 during
or 5th
next week for a candy prize!
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 10 8 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 23 21 24
the path of the ball as it bounces back and forth over the net, creating a chain of two word phrases.
— Games by Violet Tivol — Crossword by Ya-An Xue
Graphics by Sarah Xie

The history and evolution of bathing suits

Swimsuits vary in many ways, including design, comfort and color. Some are designed for utility, such as the wetsuit, which prioritizes warmth. Others, such as the bikini, are designed to make a statement, prioritizing aesthetics over functionality. The swimsuit has evolved over time to become what it is today.

Sea bathing began to rise in popularity in the 1700s. Women typically wore loose bathing gowns, while men either wore boxers or, occasionally, swam in the nude. It was deemed unseemly for women to immerse themselves completely in the water, and in order to prevent the bottoms of their gowns from floating up, they were weighed down at the hemline with lead. As the popularity of swimming grew in the 1800s, women’s swimwear grew even more restrictive, especially in England. The Victorian Era had a strong influence and conservative rules on women’s clothing, especially bathing suits. In order to adhere to the restrictions on what to wear, the typical swimwear for a woman consisted of a lightweight and light-colored dress, drawers and stockings. Together, these clothing items ensured that most skin remained covered. The whole outfit was made of absorbent materials such as wool or cotton, and when they were saturated with water, any sort of physical exertion was very difficult.

Around this same time, due to the recent ban on nude swimming in England, men’s swimwear consisted of boxers. As the 1800s progressed, however, the “prison-striped” mens swimsuit grew in popularity, which covered both the upper and lower body.

Also in the mid to late 1800s, the United States, which was less impacted by Victorian values than England was, developed a one-piece swimsuit known as the Princess Suit. This suit consisted of a calf-length skirt attached

allowing minimal arm movement and was still made of absorbent materials, it was a small step away from the complex swimming outfits popular in the Victorian era.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, swimming became more recognized as a sport, and in 1896, men’s swimming was added to the Olympics. Although this new interpretation of swimming required swimsuits to be more hydrodynamic and less absorbent, swimwear remained restricted for both men and women. There still remained concerns about the modesty of women wearing the swimsuit, however, as the fabric behaved in unpredictable ways when wet. By the 1930s, though, most competitors, both women and men, wore onepiece swimsuits that exposed the arms and legs. These one-piece swimsuits remained the norm until 1946.

One of the most ground-breaking developments in swimwear was the invention of the bikini in the 1940s. It was a huge change from the fullcoverage standards that had previously been prevalent dominated women’s swimwear.

Another swimsuit known was the athletic swimsuit made by swimwear brand Speedo. Speedo unveiled their first nylon men’s swimming shorts at the 1956 Olympics, and this new material’s elasticity and hydrodynamic properties made it revolutionary. Soon, women’s swimwear utilized the same technology.

By the 1970s, Speedo had found a combination of elastane and nylon that significantly improved swimsuit performance. The 2000s has brought with it more developments in both the leisure and athletic swimsuits. In 2008, Speedo unveiled the world’s fastest swimsuit, the LZR Racer, which led to such high athletic performance that regulations had to be put in place to

regulations of previous centuries. While more swimsuits are being created all the time, one wonders what other expectations around swimsuits are soon to be rewritten.

of early summer, so does the style across campus. Students’ outfits are transitioning from the boots and warm pants that were favored in the colder months to lighter clothing items, such as sandals and shorts.

Whether it be walking through the halls or sitting in a busy classroom, it is clear that the change in weather impacts student style.

According to junior Kamran Khan, when the temperature changes, he feels obligated to alter the type of clothes he wears in order to stay comfortable. Although the temperature in Palo Alto doesn’t ever become too extreme, he still checks the weather app daily to choose an outfit for school.

“In the winter, I try to dress with a lot more layers just because it’s so cold,” he said. “(And in the summer), I wear a lot more T-shirts, tank tops, shorts and sunglasses.”

Khan also finds that he has fewer outfit choices in the summer compared to the winter.

“(Style in the) summer feels definitely more restricting than winter because you have to wear shorter or thinner stuff just so you don’t overheat,” he said. “In the winter, unlike the summer where you’re just wearing T-shirts and shorts, you can still wear those if you just have a long sleeve layer

winter weather puts more restrictions on her style due to the fewer opportunities to wear unique outfits.

“When I’m in the winter, I feel like I don’t do as much shopping because I end up covering what I’m wearing with a hoodie,” she said. “I feel like I get to express myself more when it’s hot out because I can wear what I actually want to wear.”

Evolving color palettes is another aspect to consider when it comes to style changes in relation to the weather. According to Tuffley, some colors work better than others in certain seasons.

“In the winter, I tend to focus more on cooler toned colors — I graduate more towards blacks and grays and browns and navies,” she said. “When it comes to summer I like to wear (more) vibrant colors (such as) reds, pinks and greens.”

This contemplation of warm and cool colors extends beyond clothing and into accessories.

“In the winter I tend to gravitate more towards silver, and then summer feels more like gold,” Tuffley said. “I think gold is such a great way to elevate a good summer look because it’s such a timeless piece (and) the way gold reflects in sunlight is so pretty.

But the weather and colors are not the only thing that determines what students wear. Personal opinions and attitudes towards the time of year can also be a significant contributor to popular style. Khan finds himself putting more effort into his summer style through planning outfits and going shopping to switch things up..

“I’m tired of the winter — I want to branch out and change it up,” he said. “I might put extra effort to (plan what I’m going to wear) for the next couple of days because I’m excited to wear something different.”

Tuffley echoes Khan’s observation on the

Written by Fenton Zarlengo
Written by Eanam Maor Graphics by Elise Hu

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