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VOL.45 NO.8 • Sacramento Country Day School • 2636 Latham Drive, Sacramento, CA •www.scdsoctagon.com • May 24, 2022
TRAGEDY STRIKES the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Kurilov, his wife and his three children now live in Sacramento. PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL ZACHARIA
BY SAMHITA KUMAR
lthough the war in Ukraine began months ago, its very human impact is continuing to be felt in Sacramento and the Country Day community. Michael Zacharia — father-in-law of high school English teacher Jason Hinojosa — and his wife, Debi, have been fostering a family from Ukraine since March 29. Zacharia, who had been following the news, wanted to do something to help those in Ukraine. He began with an unexpected connection — John, the man who two years prior. Zacharia contacted the family over for a meal.
Although the families had a “wonderful” dinner, Zacharia said John’s family, which was established in the United States, had no immediate need of aid. A few days later, he received a text from John. “There was a picture of this beautiful young family with three kids,” he said. There was also a photo of the family’s bombed-out house. The family, the Kurilovas, had arrived in Sacramento from Mariupol in eastern Ukraine that day, and needed a place to stay, Zacharia said. The city of Mariupol, under relentless attack from Russian forces, has faced bombing and humanitarian crises since the war began. Soon after the family’s arrival in late March, Zacharia and his wife met with the
Kurilovas, along with two Ukrainian-American families who served as translators. Escape from Ukraine The father, Pavel, or Paul, Kurilov, explained that the family had previously been hiding in the basement of a local church after the invasion of Mariupol. “There was no power, there was no water, there was no light and there was no heat,” Zacharia said. “And they stayed there for about a week.” Eventually, the Kurilovas returned to their house, which they had saved for and built themselves over the last 17 years. Kurilov asked his friends whether to stay in Mariupol or evacuate; after failing to receive a clear answer, he turned to religion. One night, he asked God to send him a sign: if his family could get cell service,
which would be vital to planning an escape, he would evacuate the city. Early the next morning, Kurilov and his phones. They had regained cell service. The family promptly set out for the Romanian border. “Two days after they left, their home got a direct hit from a Russian artillery shot,” Zacharia said. Their house was completely destroyed — if the family had stayed, they would have been killed. After crossing the border on foot, the family approached a man wearing a large cross, who gave them a place to stay for the night. “They got to his home and he asked to see their Ukrainian passports,” he said.
UKRAINE page 3 >>
Teacher turnover harms students; Country Day makes changes BY SIMONE DEBERRY For years, freshman Cara Shin participant in the classroom, but, seated in the back of French III, dling. She was overwhelmed by her lack of foundation in French, her teacher calling on her. Shin, like many other students,
was suffering the consequences of rapid teacher turnover in the language department. Day replaced four different middle school French teachers and 2 different Latin teachers. With each replacement, students wasted crucial time adapting to new teachers’ techniques and expectations, falling farther behind on the expected material. “By the time I got to high
school,” Shin said, “I noticed that I didn’t even know a lot of the ‘review’ information.” Country Day arranges the French program in such a way that returning middle school students begin French III upon entering freshman year. As a result of the middle school turnover, high school French teacher Richard Day recently adapted the French III curriculum to include an additional few weeks of review
CAMPUSCORNER YEARBOOK DELAY
ANCIL HOFFMAN -
Country Day hosted its annual whole-
it is scheduled to release in the summer. Before then, students will receive special
match at the namesake park on Friday, May 20. Congratulations to the red team, consisting of the sophomores and juniors, for winning!
at the beginning of the year.
larly surprised by where students’ inconsistencies lie. “They’ll show signs of knowing and understanding more sophisticated concepts, but then they won’t know some of these earlier, more basic ideas,” he said. Much like math, languages build on themselves. For students who lack a strong foundation, this
INSIDE the ISSUE Seniors, signing off... Seniors on The Octagon say their their time in Country Day. (PAGES 12-15) GRAPHIC BY GARRETT XU
“It doesn’t matter if you can remember the new vocab when you struggle to write sentences,” Shin said. Although Shin managed to recover, rising freshmen remain fearful. Following a turbulent few months at the beginning of the year, the eighth-grade French students welcomed their third
TEACHER page 3 >>
02 NEWS STAFF PRINT EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Sanjana Anand Arikta Trivedi ONLINE EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Ethan Monasa Arijit Trivedi NEWS EDITOR Nihal Gulati FEATURE EDITOR Arjin Claire SPORTS EDITOR Miles Morrow A&E/OPINION EDITOR Dylan Margolis PHOTO EDITORS Arijit Trivedi Arikta Trivedi PAGE EDITORS Sanjana Anand Rod Azghadi Jacob Chand Arjin Claire Simone DeBerry Nihal Gulati Samhita Kumar Dylan Margolis Ethan Monasa Miles Morrow Arijit Trivedi Arikta Trivedi Garman Xu BUSINESS STAFF Arjin Claire, manager Samhita Kumar, assistant Willliam Holz SOCIAL MEDIA STAFF Arikta Trivedi, editor Ava Eberhart Samhita Kumar, assistant Lauren Lu
MAY 24, 2022 • THE OCTAGON
Student organizations replace leaders
BY EMILY COOK
he 2021-22 school year is coming to a close, and with the exit of the senior class, The Octagon, Medallion and Student Council have selected new leaders for next year. For The Octagon, the school’s newspaper, juniors Adam Akins and Samhita Kumar are the new online editors-in-chief while Garman Xu and Simone DeBerry have assumed the print editor-in-chief roles for 2022-23. They are taking the places of the online editors-in-chief graduating seniors Arijit Trivedi and Ethan Monasa and print editors-in-chief Sanjana Anand and Arikta Trivedi. Adviser Bonnie Stewart will continue to oversee The Octagon. As for the Medallion, the student-led organization responsible for creating the yearbook, juniors Amaya Anguiano and Jackson Fox are now the new editors-in-chief taking over for graduating seniors Vanessa Escobar and Lilah Shorey. In addition, the Student Council, which organizes the high school’s events, assigned the President and Vice President positions to juniors Jonah Angelo David and Callister Misquitta. They are replacing graduating senior, President Dylan Margolis, and Co-Vice Presidents Arikta Trivedi and Miles Morrow. For the new leaders, there are a multitude of qualities that are essential for success. First off, dedication is a must-have for any person in a leadership position, Arijit said. There also needs to be a drive to help incoming members learn what to do
in their respective positions as well as the ciently, Arikta said. Student Council adviser Patricia Jacobsen said that leadership means incorporating the ideas of all members of the group. “I personally was looking for a lot of passion and all of them have that,” Arijit said in reference to the new Octagon EICs. “In addition to that, you need to have experience, independence, curiosity and a drive to make changes to The Octagon because it won’t get any better by doing the same thing over and over again.” Arikta said each new Octagon EIC was chosen for their unique abilities. For DeBerry, her best quality is her determination in learning, and rather than Arikta said. Xu excelled at page design and consistently offered great story ideas. Kumar’s most outstanding quality was her timeliness as well as her strong work ethic. was passionate about the Octagon which is an important quality for any EIC. As for adding changes to The Octagon, Xu hopes to revive the video sector of The Octagon. For next year, he plans to teach video editing to new staffers to bring back the YouTube channel. Before, the YouTube channel featured videos ranging from teachers, podcasts to cooking videos. In doing so, he intends to increase viewership. Similarly, Xu’s co-print editor-in-chief, DeBerry, hopes to also increase readership by increasing community involvement. Akins also has plans to change the online section of The Octagon.
HEAD OF TECHNOLOGY Nihal Gulati REPORTERS Adam Akins Andrew Burr Emily Cook Ava Eberhart Saheb Gulati William Holz Lauren Lu Ishaan Sekhon Kali Wells Garrett Xu Ryan Xu PHOTOGRAPHERS Adam Akins Miles Morrow Arijit Trivedi Arikta Trivedi Kali Wells MULTIMEDIA STAFF Dylan Margolis, editor Arjin Claire Simone DeBerry William Holz Miles Morrow Arijit Trivedi Garman Xu GRAPHIC ARTISTS Brynne Barnard-Bahn Lilah Shorey ADVISER Bonnie Stewart The Octagon is the student-run newspaper of Sacramento Country Day high school. The print edition is published eight times a year, and the website is updated daily. The Octagon is committed to unbiased and comprehensive reporting, serving as a source of reliable information for SCDS students and the school community. The Octagon will publish all timely and relevant news deemed appropriate by the editors-in-chief and adviser. We seek to highlight high-school-related events and spotlight the voices of those with a story to share. Further policies can be found on our website or by scanning the QR code below.
FILLING FOOTSTEPS Juniors Garman Xu, Samhita Kumar, Simone DeBerry (from left to right) and Adam Akins, not pictured, take over for graduating seniors as The Octagon Editors-in-Chief. PHOTO BY ARIJIT TRIVEDI
BLOOMING EIC Junior Adam Akins will assume the role of a co-onlineeditor-in-chief for The Octagon during the 2022-23 school year. PHOTO BY ARIJIT TRIVEDI “I want to change how we do arts and opinion pieces and give people a platform where they can talk passionately about something,” Akins said. “I think what online is for is to support things that are a little bit more weird or offbeat. Maybe something that doesn’t make it into a standard print story, but something that’s interesting or something that someone is passionate about.” Arijit said he believes that the new EICs will continue to improve The Octagon and remain dedicated to it. “I believe The Octagon’s in great hands,” Arijit said. “The new EICs were chosen because they deserved it, and we truly think that they’re going to make good changes to The Octagon.” For the Medallion, the seniors are not the only ones leaving the elective. Adviser of the elective, Liz Leavy, is handing off the position to librarian Melissa Strong. “While I will still be around to help, she will be the adviser, and I have absolute faith in her,” Leavy said. As for Strong, she is excited to be taking up the position. “It’s a big undertaking because we have to record the history of the whole school year, but I like graphic design and working with everyone, so it’ll be fun,” Strong said. Anguiano too is excited to take on a new position, one that she has worked toward since freshman year. “I’m really glad. It took a lot of work, but it was worth it because I’m really looking forward to designing and creating a book,” she said. “The idea of creating something that the entire school will see is really cool.” Her co-editor-in-chief, Fox, joined the Medallion this year and is nervous but also ready to take on new responsibilities. “I’m a little intimidated by the work, but I think it’ll be fun,” Fox said. “What I want to do is have it so that creating the yearbook is less of a last-minute thing. It needs to be spread out more evenly throughout the year.” Escobar said they chose the right people to be the next EICs for the Medallion and “Amaya will be a good EIC because she’s been working hard this year, and Jackson, even though he’s new to the yearbook, has been really good in copy. Overall, I think it’ll be good next year,” Escobar said. The Student Council also looks forward to next year. Margolis has faith in the new President and Vice President Jonah Angelo David and Callister Misquitta. “They have both worked really hard this year,” Margolis said. “I trust Callister and Jonah to do a great job next year, and I think that they will make me proud.” With all the new leaders from each organization receiving worthy praise from the graduating seniors, next year is bound to have a smooth and successful transition.
MAY 24, 2022 • THE OCTAGON
Ukraine: (continued from page 1) “The next afternoon the same man comes back to his home with an envelope, and he says, ‘open the envelope.’ They plane tickets from Romania to Mexico.” In March, it was only possible to enter the U.S. as an asylum seeker through Mexico, Zacharia said. The Kurilovas arrived in Mexico City then traveled to Sacramento. The members of the man’s church had plane tickets, which would allow the Kurilovas to enter the U.S. After their arrival in Sacramento, the Zacharias prepared to take the family in. “We then put out the word to our church, family and friends for donations and help to try and turn this downstairs area of our home into a place where this family could live as independently as possible, so that they can have as much dignity as possible,” he said. The Zacharias’ church, the Oak Hills Church in Folsom, helped prepare a separate kitchen and bedrooms for the Kurilovas as well as providing new clothes and kitchenware. “This was our neighborhood community coming together at a time when there’s so much division in our country,” he said. Pavel Kurilov and Hanna Kurilova are now planning for the future, Zacharia said. They’re working on obtaining driver’s licenses, strengthening their refugee status, which allows them to stay in the U.S., and improving their English. Another goal is to bring other relatives to safety. Hanna Kurilova recently received bad news about her father, who required daily heart medication and had been forced into hiding from Russian bombing. Unable to leave his basement, her father passed away from starvation, Zacharia said. Her mother, sister and brother, along with their spouses and children, had been is underway for Oak Hills Church to sponsor their arrival in the U.S. Zacharia described the Kurilovas’ journey as one profoundly affected by their Christian faith. “This is not just a bunch of circumstances, this is God providing for this family and drawing us to them through the contact of
seen for two years,” he said. Country Day Family Another Ukrainian family, the Kavranskas, have also arrived in Sacramento. Ilona Kavranska and her three children — including Country Day fourth-grader with host family Helen and John Sundet. “I’m from the city of Odessa, Ukraine,” she said, speaking through a translator, Country Day junior Shakhzoda Khodjakhonova.
“I was alone, and now I’m not.” ILONA KAVRANSKA Kavranska came to the United States to protect her children, she said. Bombing in a nearby city, Mykolaiv, spurred the Kavranskas to take action. “My husband went to protect my country, while I went to Poland,” she said. “We had to travel on a full wagon and we had to erything was done sitting.” The family didn’t have enough funds to afford hotels, so they spent nights in the
pending bombings and signaled residents to take cover in a sheltered location. “But now, after coming here, they are very calm. They’re smiling. They’re happy.” Her children play soccer and basketball with friends from Country Day, and the Sundets have set up a basketball hoop for their use. Diana Kavranska, said that Diana’s presence has “been a gift to our classroom community.” “She has a sunny personality, with a bright smile and lots of enthusiasm,” Gerber said. An issue for both Ilona and Diana is the language barrier; both only speak Russian. “Diana has a choice board with pictures of things that she can do at school. There is a picture of markers, a picture of the bathroom sign, a picture of blocks, her book box, etcetera,” Gerber said. “She may point to a choice in order to communicate with a teacher about her hopes, needs or plans.” Ilona has noticed the ease of communication her children and their classmates seem to have. “If my kids point at the ball, the other kids are like ‘Oh, let’s go to play,’” Ilona
said. “If someone else is running to the swings, they are also running to the swings — they understand each other.” The Kavranskas frequently use Google Translate to talk with others, such as their host family. Ilona is also studying English; she attends volunteer-run classes on weeknights, and practices her English daily. “I sit, read and repeat everything,” Ilona said. The Kavranskas also experienced some culture shock. “Compared to my native city, things are completely different,” she said. The biggest surprise to her was the way Americans interacted with others. “You could go into a grocery store and you could see just two strangers interacting like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. Excuse me. Are you okay?’” she said. “They don’t know each other, yet they’re being nice to each other.” This kindness was “astonishing” to Ilona. The Sundets are not related to her, she said, but are still choosing to support her and her children. “I’m just grateful for everyone’s kindness and everything I’ve been given through my journey,” Ilona said. “I was alone, and now I’m not.”
said. “There was not enough money to get the necessities for a comfortable trip.” ties continued. “When I came to the United States, I was alone and the American people didn’t help me at all,” she said. However, her host fam“They took me in and gave my kids education, food, a warm bed and a good shelter,” she said. This support was especially important to Kavranska because of the impact it had on her children. Before the war began, they were still dealing with the effects of COVID-19 on schooling; once the war began, their education continued to suffer. “My kids, before coming here, they were scared to sleep because they were scared that they would miss out on the siren,” she said. The siren warned Ukrainians of im-
FLAGS UP in the United States. PHOTO COURTESY OF HELEN SUNDET
Teacher: Rapid changes cause sporadic learning (continued from page 1) French teacher in three years, Faten Ghariani. In the transition, the class lost some valuable instructional periods. “I don’t really feel ready for next year,” eighth-grade French student Grace Mahan said. “With the switch, I think we got a bit off track.” Fellow eighth grader Sophia Monasa said she expects to be missing a bit of material at the start of next year.
Day intends to respond accordingly. “I expect we’ll have a lot of review to do at the beginning of next year just because the current eighth-graders haven’t had a consistent teacher, but assuming Madam Ghariani stays for a while, we should see the middle schoolers start to get back on track in the coming years.” And, Ghariani does intend to stay. In fact, she excitedly anticipates starting next school year with her current students. “I feel like I missed a starting point,” she
DISAPPEARING ACT A student exits the empty middle school French room. school French teachers. PHOTO BY ARIJIT TRIVEDI
said. “We had to take time to get to know each other and learn about what worked for each of us, but next year, I will get to meet them all at the beginning of the year like all of the other teachers.” Regardless, French language learners are not the only students affected by the
“However, onboarding is just one piece of the puzzle around retaining teachers. Even perfect onboarding would not prevent turnover because each case is unique.” Currently, Brooke Wells focuses his ef-
Karabelo Bowsky joined Country Day her sophomore year. After just one year, her
been shared between both middle and high school, which some previous teach-
“You think you know what your teacher expects, but every teacher expects different things,” she said. “They all want you to be on different levels, and you have to completely adapt how and what you study.” At Country Day, the rapid rotation of teachers appears, for the most part, connomenon shared nationwide. A 2018 study compiled an in-depth account of the United States’ now 70-year world language teacher shortage. In detail, it tracked the profession’s increased demand, with foreign language becoming the most needed subject in 2017. Today, researchers suggest that the low retention rate stems from many factors, including attrition, retirement and general perception of the profession. To combat it, analysts encourage schools to make active attempts to both recruit and integrate new teachers into the school community. plained Country Day’s structured process of hiring and supporting new educators. At Country Day, new teachers are greet-
“There’s less sense of a community because you’re constantly alternating between two different realms.” Consequently, the school has considered hiring two new teachers, one for the high school and one for the middle school. However, recent yet-to-be-announced changes have complicated the process. Still, the high school intends to move away from the traditional one-subject sition, the school expects candidates to be willing to teach different departments. “With class sizes growing, teachers are an entire subject matter alone,” Wells said. “Now, we’re going to have teachers doing a couple of different things.” Starting in the fall, high school students working in the humanities and a possible new teacher concentrating on ninth-grade history and AP U.S. History, although exact details rely on the hires’ specialties. Meanwhile, the school encourages struggling students to express their concerns.
MAY 24, 2022 • THE OCTAGON
Lower school teacher leaves Country Day for New York
BY ISHAAN SEKHON
ence teacher and the lower school science coordinator, is leaving Country Day after seven years and moving to New York. To sophomore Lauren Lu, a student of Yu’s during the 2016–17 school year, Yu’s strength as a teacher was his ability to balance discipline with humor. Lu said Yu incorporated games, like math
“Jeopardy!”, to increase student engagement. Sophomore Andrew Klieger said Yu could explain concepts easily. “He answered all your questions, and he made it very easy to understand,” Klieger. Yu helped Klieger become more motivated to learn math by awarding prizes, such as jelly beans, for every question solved correctly. The prizes gave Klieger the motivation he needed to focus on learning math.
Head of Lower School Maisae Affour said Yu was passionate about math. “He made it fun for his students, and he tions between math and everyday life,” Affour said. humanities teacher Cameron Bohn, Yu’s decisions. “I think Mr. Yu’s greatest strength is his vides a structure for his students that helps them push themselves while knowing what is coming next without having to guess,” Bohn said in an email. and his projects, including shark dissections. “She’s my complement. A part of a good partnership is going off of each other’s strengths. Her support has allowed me to be more innovative,” Yu said. Yu said his two biggest sources of inspiration for his teaching philosophy are the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics and the National Education Association.
TIE-ING IT TOGETHER cept to his students. Yu also teaches math. PHOTO COURTESY OF YU
for advancing education. Aside from the teacher organizations, I also follow current business trends,” Yu said. “The ultimate goal of education is to get some skills that can help you in college and the future.” Yu also uses Elon Musk as an inspiration and a source to create his entrepreneurship project. The project features students working in
teams to create and sell a product of their choice to lower school students and parents. Over Yu’s seven years, the project has seen a variety of products, ranging from tie-dye shirts and stress balls. “I wanted to introduce a business themed project, and it was the only way I could put business into action,” Yu said. “But when it comes to business, there’s a lot of practical math and science applicaveloping a product shares similarities with In addition to being a teacher, Yu volunteered and attended lower school committee meetings. “If you ask anyone on the team in the lower school, they will attest to what an amazing team player he was,” Affour said. “He was always willing to help. He volunteered all the time. He served on the COVID-19 committee. He attends IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Association) committee meetings. “He was a fantastic colleague and we are going to miss him dearly. We wish him all the best,” Affour said. To Yu, leaving Country Day is like leaving family. “All the students, all the teachers and all the administrators are extremely wonderful. One thing that makes independent schools special is the tight–knit community that tends to form and it is evident here,” Yu said. “Just know that I will absolutely miss this school,” Yu said.
Third grade teacher departs SCDS to pursue challenges BY SAHEB GULATI Mathisen said.
er Lateeka Bradford. She plans to make use of her Country Day teacher Kristi ter’s degree in language and litMathisen is leaving the school af“I’m looking to spread my ter 15 years in search of opportu- eracy and a diversity in business wings and grow my teacher nities in advocacy and education. toolbox.” Mathisen is considering applyAt Country Day, she served as a ing these skills to areas such as KRISTI MATHISEN learning specialization, diversity teacher, high school advisor, the- and administration. ater assistant director, volleyball In her time at Country Day, coach and most recently, a third Mathisen took strides to improve This shift occurred in the wake grade teacher. the student experience. This in- of the 2020 Black Lives Matter “I’m looking to spread my wings cluded re-making the third grade protests. and grow my teacher toolbox,” curriculum with third grade teachIt was intended to focus more
Middle school head moves on BY GARRETT XU strumental contributions to the Santa Rosa, and already have met After four years of dedicated service as head of middle school, Rommel Loria is leaving Country Day with a enthusiastic smile, ready to take his career to the next level as Assistant Head of School at Sonoma Academy in Santa Rosa, California. “I’m really going to miss him,” said seventh grader Siraj Sekhon. Known for his funny and compassionate personality, Loria is most commonly described as a joy to be around by all students and faculty he encounters. “He was like one of those teachers that viewed you as his equal and as his friend, and we’re going to miss a big part of the school community after he leaves,” said seventh grader Jake Tiemann. Loria worked hard over the years to transform the culture of middle school. “Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay Mr. Loria was how he pulled the faculty together in a particular way that they are united as a team far more now than they were some years ago before he got here,” said Head of School Lee Thomsen. In addition, Loria has made in-
diversity, equity and inclusion work on campus, making it what it is today, Thomsen said. Those contributions include developing, leading and making changes to the DEI program, transforming it to its core. The school is very thankful for Loria’s skills, Thomsen said, Loria was not an administra-
a lot of great people there. Loria will be replaced by the current middle school head at Fay School in Boston, Sarah Ostermueller. The process of selecting a new middle school head began when the school launched a national After Zoom and in-person interviews, the school narrowed
Country Day, but he said he is very thankful for the opportunity each spent a full day on campus, he was given during his stay. meeting with staff, faculty and Seventh grade science teacher students. Particularly, a selected group Loria will do a phenomenal job in of middle school student ambasSanta Rosa, using both his prior sadors, including Sekhon, played and learned skills. a part in the selection process. After getting the opportunity he goes, Burns said. “He’s a hard to ask questions and get to know worker, good writer, listener and the candidates better during is also humorous. I’m very hap- lunch, Sekhon said Ostermueller py for him and his family,” Burns was one of his favorites. said. With the experience OsterLoria, his wife, Jessica and his mueller brings, Thomsen said three children, Leah, ’29, Charlie, he has high hopes for a smooth ’32 and Max, will be moving to transition in middle school. Santa Rosa this summer. “She’s really well suited to the “As Country Day parents with position, and I think she’s really our kids being students here, going to be able to build off the successes that Mr. Loria has left here,” Loria said. behind, taking the middle school Still, Loria said he and his fam- forward from here on out,” ily are beyond excited to move to Thomsen said. “I’m excited!”
on marginalized groups that otherwise would not be covered in the classroom. “They did an amazing job making sure a lot of voices are represented in our community,” said Head of Lower School Maisae Affour. Mathisen’s teaching still has effect on her former students. Freshman Priya Chand was taught by Mathisen in lower school and recalls her experiences as positive. “She’s almost like a mother to me,” Chand said. “It’s sad because
she cares a lot about her students and was such a big part of my lower school learning journey.” Connections like these are extremely important to Mathisen. “Every year I’m amazed that I fall in love with a new class of kids that are so excited to learn,” Mathisen said. “It’s hard to leave because Country Day has been really wonderful for me as a person, teacher and parent.” “But I’m looking for more and I’ve got to give it a shot,” she said.
MAY 24, 2022 • THE OCTAGON
Longtime Math Department Head leaves Country Day
BY MILES MORROW
fter 19 years as a teacher, coach, colleague and friend, Christopher Millsback is leaving Sacramento Country Day. He will be teaching mathematics as well as coaching baseball and football at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts. At Country Day, Millsback worked as the math department chair, taught microeconomics and mathematics and coached baseball. His teaching methods, attitude and charisma will forever leave a positive impact on Country Day’s faculty and students. “Being at Country Day has been one of the best experiences of my life,” Millsback said. “The community that we have here is
completely unmatched — it’s what kept me here for so long.” Millsback, his wife and their families are from the East Coast. They originally moved to California for his wife to get her Ph.D. “We had a 5-year plan. We would move to California, my wife would complete her education and then we would go back to the East Coast,” he said. “Country Day is what kept us here this whole time. Being able to see my kids on campus and knowing the education that they are getting was a bonus as well.” Millsback joined the school in February 2003 with mathematics teacher and Dean of Student Life Patricia Jacobsen, who joined halfway through that year. sen said. “He was very obviously extremely bright and good at teaching. I subbed for
MISSING MILLSBACK Math teacher Christopher Millsback (right) raps a song for a student in a high school graduation skit with Head of High School Brooke Wells. Millsback has taught at Country Day since August 2003. PHOTO COURTESY OF AMY WELLS
I was able to see the level of expectations that he expected from his students. It really impressed me.” With Millsback leaving, Jacobsen is now the senior faculty member of the mathematics department. “Part of me is nervous that he is leaving,” she said. “It’s not that I think we’ll do a bad job, he was just such an important part of our team. He made such a great impact on the school and its community that it’s already hard to imagine him leaving.” Millsback’s ability to connect with his students was noticed both inside and outside of the classroom. Senior Dylan Margolis has maintained a strong connection with Millsback since his freshman year. taking the pre-calc course during the summer after my freshman year,” Margolis was connecting over watching the weather channel. He gave me a look like he thought I was just messing with him because we hardly knew each other at all at that point.” In his sophomore year, Margolis said he took AP Calculus AB with Millsback, which was “the hardest class I took in high school.” “I had lots of good times with him,” Margolis said. “I struggled a lot in that class but he never gave up on me, he really wanted me to succeed. I struggled on so many tests that year but I remember getting a really good grade on one and him being proud of me. I could really tell that he cared, which is a phenomenal feeling.” Margolis also joined the baseball team that year. “I remember being sick and missing the next day,” Margolis said. “We had a very
serious talk about it, how I needed to be committed to the team, how it was more serious than little league. To be honest, he scared me straight, but I’m glad he didn’t scare me away.” Through the sport of baseball, Millsback was able to form deeper connections with his students. “I love baseball; it’s a huge part of my life,” Millsback said. “It has connected me with some really great people and really are Miles Edwards ’18 and Nate Jakobs ’19. Miles was our main guy as a freshman. He freshman ball players I have ever seen. Nate is one of the most talented players that I have ever coached. He is at Pomona-Pitzer right now, and is absolutely tearing it up.” After years of classes, baseball and other interactions with Millsback, Margolis has reached a point in his relationship with him where he believes he can now call him a friend. “We have really gotten close over the years,” he said. “We can openly joke with each other about anything and have conversations that will take us through such random topics. He’s a really great person miss him.” many of Country Day’s students, faculty and the school’s community. “Millsback’s personality and teaching style remind us all of why we are here,” he said. “Even though we have a good time together, we’re always aware that we are here to work hard for our futures. We can joke and have fun, but when the time comes, he’s there for that. The intensity that he brings is truly unparalleled and absolutely phenomenal.”
Student athletes reflect on mental health impact in sports BY AVA EBERHART Sophomore Sylvia Valverde was pushing herself hard during a soccer game in 2020, dribbling through opponents and making an amazing cross to her teammate. Suddenly, her whole body froze up and she couldn’t breathe. She was having a panic attack. Sports anxiety is real, and there are ways to cope with it. Valverde, the captain of the girls soccer team, deals with sports anxiety. Someone who has sports anxiety will respond to competitive situations with anxiety and tension, which impairs their usually automatic motor skills. According to a 2019 study published by Frontiers in Psychology, 30 to 60 percent of athletes deal with sports performance anxiety, and found that adolescents are more likely to deal with it than adults. In order to prevent situations like this from happening again, Valverde ensures that her mind and body are in the right place before a game. Although it’s not easy for her to make sure that she’s always mentally doing well, usually knowing that she had a good diet for a couple of days prior to a game is enough to give her reassurance that she will play well. In addition to sports anxiety, many athletes have to deal with injuries from their sport. However, trying to push through it by themselves may not be the greatest for their mental health. Senior Hailey Fesai was sitting with her mother at their dinner table, feeling miserable. She had broken her femur in a tragic ski accident. She couldn’t walk, ski, or go to school, and she felt like she was falling behind. Her mother asked her what was wrong, and she spilled out everything. It helped. Fesai couldn’t do the sport that she loves, skiing, for an entire year after she broke her femur in a ski race. It took a toll on her mental health, but she’s glad that she didn’t keep all of the negative emo-
tions to herself. “I think that if I went into it with a mentality of like, ‘okay, I’m going to be really strong throughout all of this, and I’m not going to cry about it, and I’m just going to be okay,’ I would have been mentally unstable now in my sport,” she said. Athletes should be able to open up about any issues that they have from their sport to their coaches, teammates, family, friends and anyone who they feel comfortable with, Fesai said. Sophomore Zoe Genetos, a member of the varsity volleyball team, leans on the shoulders of her friends who don’t play volleyball. “It kind of makes it easier to just talk about whatever I want to talk about, even if they don’t fully understand it, rather than talking to someone who knows the ins and outs of volleyball,” she said. On the other hand, whenever varsity volleyball team captain Vanessa Escobar feels down or stressed from the weight of her sport, she turns to her teammates. “I think that being able to be that close with your teammates is really essential for the team to work as a whole,” she said. At the start of the season, Escobar was constantly stressed about the pressure of being the captain. “I felt like if I made a mistake, then my teammates would be like, ‘oh my gosh, she’s our captain, and she’s making mistakes,’ so that was always in the back of my head,” she said. But after a while, as her team grew together, she didn’t feel like that anymore. “Everyone makes mistakes, and we just kept supporting each other through them, and we got through every point one by one,” she said. Also, remembering that you’re not alone can be one of the most important things to do as an athlete. “Look around you — your teammates are all going through the same thing that you’re going through right now. You can always rely on them and know that you’re not alone in your anxiety and stress,” Valverde said.
Especially in individual sports such as swimming, fencing or skiing, it’s easy to feel like you’re alone in how you’re feeling, she said. “Your opponent is going to be stressed out — they’re also going through the same thing. So just have that reassurance that you’re not alone and people do this all the time, and just try to manage those emotions,” she said. Competing in a sport should be an enjoyable experience, so doing what you can to get rid of the tension is extremely important. “I think that it’s important in sports to be in your own head, and not let anybody else in it,” Fesai said. “I think that the main thing that I do is block out all of the noise, and I think that music really helps with that and I’m sure most athletes can say the same,” she said. Research has found that music can have a positive effect on one’s body and emotions. Fast music can make you concentrate better and feel more attentive, and slow music can help release stress. Before a game, Valverde usually listens to metal to get motivated or reggae to calm her down, depending on the day. Escobar and her volleyball team listen to a playlist that sophomore Annalucia King created, which consists of upbeat songs. Listening to music loosens her up and helps take her head out of the game a little while warming up, Genetos said. Day, athletes also deal with the intensity of potential college choices. Valverde has attended two college ID camps, where colleges see how you play and can start to decide if they’re interested in you. “Especially during those times, I become really stressed out. It sometimes interferes with how I’m doing at school if I’m stressed out over soccer,” she said. Although sports can be an essential part of one’s college application, they should solely be played for the enjoyment of it. “You race against yourself, and you race
for you. You don’t do it for anybody else place because you love it. That is why we do sports,” Fesai said.
MAY 24, 2022 • THE OCTAGON
First Solar Regatta team competes at Rancho Seco
BY MILES MORROW
y soldering in a Range Rover, on the can, Country Day’s Solar Regatta
Arijit Trivedi thinks. at Rancho Seco Recreation Area, racing in
could: the trash cans near the senior area,
ager yelling at us to
the the races that she
6 PROPS TO YOU 1. Senior captain Arjin Claire (left) and senior Dylan Margolis (right) work on the boat’s steering before the competition. 2. Team members signed their names on the boat after the competition. 3. The team takes a photo after completing all of its races. 4. Trivedi (left), senior captain Nihal Gulati (right), senior pilot Max Wu (middle), senior Jesus Aispuro, junior Adam Akins and sophomore Ike
race. 5. Trivedi and Gulati work on calibrating the motors. 6. Trivedi works on a motor brace on top of a trash can in the senior area. PHOTOS BY KALI WELLS AND SANJANA ANAND
• THE OCTAGON
“Dr. Strange” disappoints with chaotic plot, poor characters
ike most Marvel Cinematic Universe -
million earned so far
Dear Dylan is an advice column that responds to questions from anonymous Country Day students. To submit, write your question on a piece of paper and drop it in the newspaper-wrapped box in Room 9. Please do not include your name. Responses are not guaranteed. Sometimes I just don’t feel like answering a classmate’s personal questions, but I don’t want to be rude. How do I avoid responding without making things uncomfortable for both of us? A: -
largest domestic opening
PLOT: CAST: -
STORY BY DYLAN MARGOLIS; GRAPHICS BY ROD AZGHADI; PICTURE COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
How do I ask someone to prom? A:
MAY 24, 2022
FINDING THE PERFECT FIT 1
will attend a midsize* school
will attend a school outside of the United States
will attend a public school
will attend an urban school
will attend a large school
will attend a small school
will attend a suburban school
colleges accepted at least one SCDS student this year
will stay in-state
will attend a rural school
will attend religiouslyaffiliated schools *Small schools have a total student body of fewer than 2,000 students; medium schools have 2,000 to 15,000 students, and large schools have over 15,000 students.
ARIZONA Arizona State University Max Wu
CALIFORNIA California State University, Northridge Zola Grey
California State University, Sacramento
University of California, Berkeley Nihal Gulati Dylan Margolis
University of California, Davis Tarika Brar
University of California, Irvine Masai Dumisani
University of California, Riverside Kali Wells
Tina Huang Angela McCurdy
Elliot Crowder Miles Morrow
University of the Pacific
Sacramento City College Evan Grijnsztein
Stanford University Jesus Aispuro Arjin Claire
University of Nevada, Reno Dylan Breen
NEW YORK United States Millitary Academy at West Point Craig Bolman
NORTH CAROLINA Duke University Sanjana Anand
University of California, Santa Cruz Loyola Marymount University
McGill University Megan Matus
INDIANA Purdue University Ethan Monasa Arijit Trivedi
OREGON Lewis & Clark College Sicily Schroeder
VERMONT Bennington College Clara Reynen
WASHINGTON University of Washington Lilah Shorey Arikta Trivedi Daisy Zhou
RP O I NT
MAY 24, 2022 • THE OCTAGON
MY ANGLE: I’m used to change by now
“It’s One For the Books” by Brynne Barnard-Bahn
EDITORIAL: Eating, drinking COVID-19 restrictions in Matthews Library stand up to scrutiny
he Matthews Library has long functioned as a place of refuge for Country Day middle and high schoolers, but when COVID-19 guidlines prevented students from eating, drinking and congregating inside, many found the once inviting facility to be anything but that. So, when Country Day lifted the indoor mask mandate and social distancing requirements, many excitedly anticipated the library’s return to the once buzzing center of student activity. When that dream failed to materialize, many became upset, but few took the time to ask why. However, the library is one of few places on campus shared between the middle and high school, so the administration, not the librarians, opted for strict COVID-19 regulations. Since the start of 2022, the middle school and high school have witnessed at -
and high school students and faculty. “The main reason for this was safety,” said Brooke Wells, Head of High School. “When we loosened up other restrictions after spring break, we wanted to be careful. The rules from the beginning of Still, what are these controversial rules? Well, students must be 3-feet apart, and food and drinks, including water, are prohibited. These rules are relaxed at spe-
months. In fact, the school experienced a surge in the month of April that appears to be continuing into May.
Symposium. Throughout the year, the library has also increased the number of people who were originally allowed based on available seats, Wells said. For many students, these rules cause endless frustration. Senior Max Wu is one of many high school students who disagree with the restrictions. “It’s one of the few places on campus where students can seek refuge whenever they want if it’s freezing or burning outside,” Wu said. “It doesn’t make sense that masks are optional, but we still can’t have more than four to a table.” However, these circumstances are ac-
socially combining nature, the library faces unique challenges, challenges that administrators solve by increasing regulations. It’s not just the library that poses this challenge. Other shared spaces, including the Academic Resource Center or even classrooms — such as English and Spanish teacher Diego Panasiti’s — that house students in many grade levels, share the same issue. We just propose that if the rules are implemented in the library for precaution against COVID-19, they should be regulated in all areas used by lower, middle
the number of students to a table. In fact, librarian Joanne Melinson began her job as head librarian with the removal of the previous regulation. “A long time ago, far before COVID-19, when I was the library assistant, there was a rule that only four could be at one table,” she said. “But I didn’t think we needed that rule, so I quickly changed it.” The librarians’ main reason for banning food in the library comes from student behavior a few years ago: they found pizza slices hidden in the library’s bookshelves and plastic water bottles scattered throughout the stacks.
Eating in the library is a privilege that must be earned, and since that incident, the library no longer allowed full meals in the library — only snacks. Juniors meet in the library for college counseling meetings during lunch, and since no food or drinks are allowed, students eat for 15 minutes before the start of the meeting at 12:30 p.m. Director of College Counseling Jane “It worked out well — students get to she said. “Because the meetings are shorter, there’s a lot less repetition, so it’s more after eating.” Despite the previous issues with disposing water bottles, the library anticipates eventually reallowing water. “Since COVID-19, it seems like alwater bottle, which is nice because it means they’ll be more inclined to take it with them,” Melinson said. “Once the COVID-19 rules lighten up, the intention is to go back to the same.” So, as with the majority of recent changes in our community, this issue too tracks back to COVID-19. Even so, the Matthews Library is and should be a hub of student activity. Community is not about the ability to eat and drink indoors or the act of sitting with six people as opposed to four; rather, community is about socializing. It is about sharing experiences and being open to learning from others. Especially for students wanting a quiet environment to study or those living with high at-risk family members, the library has been and will continue to be a safe hub for everyone to use — especially in the rain or cold.
As a junior, all my classmates are constantly in contact with the college counselor — asking questions and planning their futures. When I met with Alicia Perla, head of college counseling, we discussed the classes I was taking and my general path for college, but ultimately she told me that there wasn’t much she could do for me. That’s because for my senior year, I’m transferring to Bentley Upper School in Lafayette, California. When people learn that I’m making this transition, they usually give me a mini-lecture on how hard the transition is going to be. But switching schools before a crucial year isn’t anything new for me. In 8th grade, I transferred to Country Day from Merryhill School in Sacramento. I lost my old friend group and was tossed into a new environment where I had no one. Luckily for me, I am a fairly social person. By orientation day, I had found a group of friends that later developed into lasting friendships. I even had a date to the school dance after only one week! I’m expecting a similar experience at Bentley; well, maybe skip the part about the school dance. Since I’m going to be the only new kid out of about 75 seniors, there is going to be a natural sense of curiosity about me. Students are going to wonder who I am and are probably going to be inclined to come talk and learn more about me, so that’ll make the process a bit easier. I’ve also taken a couple steps to maximize the smoothness of my transition. I have met with Bentley’s dean of academics to select classes that mostly dominated by seniors. That way, my daily life will be surrounded by people my age, and I won’t be stuck having classes with freshmen. However, the way their classes are structured is different from Country Day. Bentley runs on a trimester schedule, and they offer different Humanities classes each trimester. For example, I will be taking a Horror Story English class in the fall and one on “The Odyssey” in the spring. I also hope joining the basketball team will introduce me to a new circle of people. My current basketball coach, Dave Ancrum, offered to reach out to Bentley Upper School’s basketball coach and tell them a few things about me. That way, they will be expecting me and I won’t just be a random show-up at tryouts. Although leaving Sacramento and the connections I made will be fresh start I’m going to get.
A BIG THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS FOR KEEPING US IN THE BLACK! Anand Family, Chand Family, Claire Family, Eberhart Family, Gulati Family, Intel Foundation, Kumar Family, Monasa Family, Trivedi Family
MAY 24, 2022 • THE OCTAGON
Country Day cookin’ Country Day alumns, family go into food industry
en years ago, Sean Melinson quit his job in heating and air
conditioning and started cooking. Now, the husband of Country Day librarian Joanne Melinson is the sous chef at Hawks, a restaurant in Granite Bay. restaurant business occurred in his teen years, when he got a job working as a busboy and dishwasher at a restaurant. “I got along with the cooks,” Sean said. “I learned from them when I was young.” When Sean’s job came to an end, so did his involvement in cooking — until 10 years ago. At the time, a recession caused shutdowns of numerous places Sean worked at, leading him to reconsider his career choice. “Joanne brought up cooking, something I’d been wanting to do for a long time,” he said. “I looked into it and decided that was the way to go.” Sean hasn’t looked back since. He went to culinary school and has worked in the cooking industry for the past eight years. “It’s crazy because I’m doing what I love,” Sean said. “You’re told your
whole life that you need to have a career, and this is a career, but it’s also a labor of love.” An aspect of his career that Sean especially enjoys is the ingredients he gets to use in the kitchen. Hawks chefs prepare most of the food using produce that comes directly from farmers. “Being able to work with these beautiful ingredients to make dishes is one of the best parts of the job,” Sean said. Using these ingredients, Sean can create everything from sauces to pastas. “To take pretty much just bones and amazing,” he said. To Sean, the rewards of the cooking business lie in what you create. These creations range from gnocchi furnished with mushrooms and parmesan cream to al-
In the kitchen, hours are often long, and cooks can’t be above any task; even things like dishwashing. “As a dishwasher, you’re probably the most important person in the restaurant industry,” Sean said. Although it has not come to fruition yet, Sean hopes to someday be head chef or owner of his own restaurant. But for now, he is content with doing what he loves most. “Everyone has to eat, and if you can give them enjoyment beyond eating to live, that’s enough for me.” T h i s story was updated on June 16 to correct a misquote.
It’s an industry where you have to love what you do, he said.
Mackenzie Cecchi Country Day alum Mackenzie Cecchi, ’02 always loved to meet new people and hear their stories. This passion led Cecchi to the hospitality industry, where she currently works as Chief of Staff at Casino Mine Ranch. Cecchi has worked in hospitality for 12 years. Hospitality as a career involves working using their free time to enjoy experiences, such as going to restaurants and wineries or enjoying recreational activities. For Cecchi, this career has usually meant long hours that include manual labor. However, “It’s really rewarding because you get to create experiences for guests and clients that they otherwise wouldn’t have,” Cecchi said. At Casino Mine Ranch, she mainly handles customer relationships, club memberships and wine tastings. Her goal is to give customers unforgettable experiences that ideally end with wine purchases. These customer relationships are Cecchi’s favorite part of the job. “I love meeting new people and learning
their stories, having a true connection with them,” Cecchi said. “Not just a business transaction.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, this was often a challenge. Casino Mine Ranch had several shut downs and needed to resort to using more social media and online methods to maintain sales. Fortunately, the ranch has recently undergone a surge in activity, as more people get comfortable with going out. However, in the past few years, the landscape has changed for wineries. “The millennial experience has changed the tasting experience in Napa and Plymouth,” Cecchi said. “People want something unique and different. They want a real, true story, not just to taste wine.” This has allowed wineries to get creative and tell stories with their brand. For Casino Mine Ranch, this has been easier than most, as the winery’s founding story grasps customers, Cecchi said. In 1936, a newly rich Belgian immigrant purchased the ranch’s plot. At the time, the plot was a gold mine. For the founder, the venture was a gamble,
which led to the appropriate title, Casino Mine Ranch. In addition to Casino Mine Ranch, Cecchi also is involved with two Sacramento restaurants, Canon and Franquette, which were founded by Cecci and her husband
when they returned to Sacramento from Napa. “We had always planned to come back, and starting a restaurant was in the cards for us for a long time,” Cecchi said. In the future, Cecchi hopes to continue being a presence in the region as a tastemaker, elevating people’s experience to another level. “A lot of times, after a long day, I wonder why I do this, but then I get a call from a club member, and I remember. It’s because of the people.”
STORY BY SAHEB GULATI; GRAPHICS BY JACOB CHAND; PHOTOS COURTESY OF JOANNE MELINSON AND CECCHI
MAY 24, 2022 • THE OCTAGON
Seniors, Signing Off . . . The musings of a soon-tobe high school graduate
ow do I begin? The last couple of months have trained me well in the melancholy practice of reminiscing — so many moments, experiences to choose from, to write about, to say goodbye to. So, herein lies the musings of yet another nostalgic soon-to-be high school graduate: New document. 0.13 inch indent. Two inch column. Nine point Times New Roman font. Add byline. BY ARIJIT TRIVEDI A blinking cursor right under my name. I type my position and begin writing the lead to my story. That routine has dominated my life for the past four years — of course, the bylines have changed: reporter, page editor, online A&E/Opinion Section Editor, Online Co-Editor-in-Chief. I remember how excited, hopeful I felt each time I typed in a new position, a step higher up the ladder. But now, there is no higher rung; there’s just the next ladder, college. And as I peer down this climbed ladder, I see all the trodden steps, missed steps, crooked rungs and straight rungs — yet they all gleam in the sunlight from this angle high up. Yes, I do see the dirt and other crum residue, but the beaming metal underneath shines through. In the bright metal I see my friends and my caring teachers. No matter what the day brought, my friends were always there to support and help me climb higher. Truthfully, it has been the hardest for me to come to terms with saying goodbye to that special group of people.
I have loved our walks around the I have loved our talks on the swings in the lower school playground. I’ll miss the stupid, little jokes we made daily — daily shots of laughter and joy. I’ll miss lounging around campus, listening to music with my friends in between classes. I’ve known them and most of my classmates since I came to Country Day in third grade. I haven’t known any different for ten years. And to the many students who have made my senior year — the underclassmen on the track team and Octagon staff, the juniors I’ve become so close with — you too will be dearly missed. Hasta luego, au revoir, but never goodbye, my friends. I can say “till later” all I want but the question still bugs me: How do I end? Everyone, This has been a phenomenal, beautiful high school experience. I love all of you. “He’s alive. The stars rattle him to the core. These lights have traveled for tens of millions of years just to reach him at this moment, and somewhere far away, our own sun looks just like one of these. How many of the stars no longer even existed, but whose ancient light is just reaching him now? An impression from chine every night above his head that he’s ignored for most of his life. He wants to stop people in the street and say: ‘Isn’t this amazing? Isn’t everything amazing?’” — Arijit
The shining crown of Country Day: our student body I thought about writing this formal goodbye on a lot of different things. I could have spoken about how much I’ve enjoyed my Country Day experience because I really and truly and absolutely have. I could have also talked about where I’ve seen Country Day’s fading a little: in academic rigor, in high-achievement culture, in student body quality. have been nice, to talk about the second would have been a little depressing, but I think I’m going to talk about a third option that hits a little on both: the famous/infamous Solar Regatta. The campus has really been abuzz with talk of The Boat recently, so I would be surprised if there are many people still unaware of the competition. For those who don’t know, the SMUD Solar Regatta is a competition where we raced a solar-powselves with solar panels, motors, props and lots of duct-taped wiring. In the end, I had to talk about this competition because of the
fact that it literally took over my life for the last two weeks, and it has been one of the biggest experiences of this year. It has been a perfect mirror of the best parts of my time at Country Day. From the beginning, none of us knew what we were doing with the boat. Nor were we really relying on anyone’s expertise. This was very much a problem. You can’t plan for what you don’t understand at all, and you can’t lead a team of 30 to do tasks if you can’t make a plan. This led, regrettably, to a lot of members doing nothing while a couple of us tried to get our stuff together. Bad leadership on my and the seniors’ parts, really. And this level of progress held constant along with our second-semester senioritis until around two or three weeks before realized that we did actually need to be putting things on the boat. In a manner I never would have expected, everyone got involved. The amount of crazy, unique memories I’ve had over the past weeks is insane. I remember smashing Arithe senior quad, putting together
electronics on a trash can and on boat both at my and Arijit’s pool, the list goes on. If I looked around at any point in our long, frantic worknights, I saw everyone around me laser-focused and accomplishing amazing things. Dylan, with zero prior engineering experience, worked on that steering system up to the Arijit learned to perform literal microsurgery on motors with a soldering iron. The art team painted the boat beautifully within two days. It was inspiring to see us learning and doing actual engineering, especially since we were each feeling that same awe in our ability. As most Country Day graduates mention, the strength of our experience at this school is due to our community. I am so grateful to have been alongside the awesome members of my class. I’ve learned a lot from them, I hope they’ve learned some from me, and we’ve learned so much together. Solar Regatta was a concentrated reminder of that most-powerful side of our school: us.
MAY 24, 2022 • THE OCTAGON
Country Day should stay focused on academics
’ve spent the past 13 years of my life at Country Day. That’s 2,072 days, or 12,098 hours — or a ton of minutes. There’s been a lot to love about this school, and a slew of fond memories. sparked my interest in becoming an author, to Sutter’s Fort in fourth grade, the Faire in seventh grade, a gold-rating at Forum festival in eighth grade, an Ancil Hoffman victory in 10th grade and the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Soccer Championship during my senior year, Country Day has permanently and positively impacted me. Despite being a small school, Country Day provided the well-rounded education any parent would dream of for their child — I’ve had the chance to excel academically, athletically, musically and artistically. Our student body is phenomenal. My class is full of talented and kind students. And the teachers at this school have generally been exceptional. There’s Gillette, sixth grade math teacher Mr. Bolman, eighth grade earth science teacher Mr. Grunst and ninth grade physics teacher Mr. Mangold just to name a few, and the full list of memorable teachers would be far too long to include. In my 13 years at this school, I’ve seen a lot of changes. Some have been wonderful — a renovated middle school science building or new classes in the high school based on student-interest like creative writing and Advanced Topics Calculus, for example. However, it’s also been impossible to ignore some of the more disappointing trends that emerged in recent years. Country Day’s main observable goals while I’ve been in high school have been increasing enrollment and ensuring diversity and equity to create a nurturing environment for the most sensitive students. educational institution. Its job is to educate its students at the highest level. Our administration’s focus should be on academics, especially given the fact a lack of diversity and inequity aren’t substantial issues in our community (21% of school income goes to tuition aid, acscholars program fully funds multiple low-income students tuition). try Day was known for its rigor. Students were leaps and bounds ahead in math, reading, writing — you name it — because the curriculum pushed them to maximize their potential. Our students were the best, taught by the best.
In recent years, a focus on ensuring an equitable, low stress-environment has chipped away at this rigorous curriculum. Gone are the timed math quizzes in some lower school classes which ensured students built a seamless foundation that would set them up for success. Our administration is more focused on dressing the fact multiple classes, particularly in the middle school, are leaving students woefully unprepared for future challenges. A cause for this? Questionable hires in recent years. Look no further than the musical chairs of certain positions in the middle school. Compound this with the fact that recent teacher in-services have been diversity-based rather than skills-based, and you have a handful of teachers who are unprepared for the standards of education Country Day markets as worth $28,000 per year. Beyond this, the teachers we do have are stretched thin because the school is overly-focused on expansion. English teacher Jason Hinojosa no longer teaches all seniors, and he likely won’t teach all freshmen this fall due to a connumber of students taking said courses. It’s a shame some future students won’t get to experience his classes. To make matters worse, the school doesn’t seem to care enough about many of our beloved long-time teachers. When Country Day greats leave after repeatedly being passed over for outside hires in new internal position openings, or feel the need to leave after more than a decade because the alarm bell to those in charge. What made Country Day special vibe. That’s what distinguished us. We had close-knit classes and knew our teachers almost as well as our friends. This still rings somewhat true, but when I look around at the high school classes below me, which are 20-50% bigger than my own, I can’t help but notice the be. As I look at younger classes, whether in the high school or middle school, it’s painfully obvious students’ basic math and writing skills have deteriorated. And based on numerous private conversations with friends, family and faculty, I’m not alone in this observation. Since when did Country Day freshmen struggle with basic algebra? While the school’s efforts of inclusivity are to be commended — it is important to have a caring learning environment
Ethan Monasa — it’s worth noting that as long as I’ve been here, students of all backgrounds, whether based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality or socioeconomic status have been welcomed. Despite these differences, I’ve seen mostly kindness between students. The only issues in behavior along this front have been relegated to larger classes where expansion in enrollment suggests the school cares more about the quantity of students than the quality. I looked through the February 2022 equity report put together by someCountry Day community around issues like diversity and inclusivity. The money spent was a waste — most of what was brought up in the report was common sense or a non-issue, or issues not relevant to Country Day. Country Day does not need to hire a diversity specialist, we
don’t need to develop a more inclusive school calendar and we don’t need to clarify what it means to hire based on diversity — the sole criteria for hiring teachers should be competence, anyway. If the school really does feel the need to improve the inclusivity of the community, they’re better off featuring more events like the Queer Voices Panel, which are genuinely important for building empathy. Simply put, in an attempt to hurriedly grow and simultaneously cultivate a sensitive learning environment, this school’s standards are slipping. As much as I love this school — I’ve spent weeks reminiscing on the good times — I’ve come to a realization as my time here closes: Country Day simply isn’t the academic juggernaut it was when I arrived.
How Country Day changed me in a short four years Country Day and its surrounding community has shaped me immensely since my arrival in 2018, so as this year comes ever before to move on. The departure from my middle school to high school self started with my change in fashion style. Sparkly graphic cat t-shirts, neon leggings, mismatched socks and colorful tennis shoes became apparel of the past. I was a wreck and looked nothing like I do now. But when high school hit, I It wasn’t entirely the school itself but its association with wealth. It’s ridiculous
things year at Country Day was go to American Eagle and a couple of name-brand stores to pick out new clothes. That was or Converse shoes, two parts of my new regular style. It blows my mind that was er to almost an eternity. This year was the shortest school year I’ve ever had, mainly because I loved all of my classes — none of them felt like chores. Or, it’s possibly the college application process that kept me on the edge vored it enough.
in a new environment I can call home, it is time to pack up and head out. With each new day, more classes drop, the homework amount decreases and my schedule empties, yet I still show up to school. Most of the seniors are ready to go, and while I think I’m excited to head out and join the real world, I’m already missing the people I see every day. A token of advice: talk with the teachers, make new friends and cherish the little things in life. After high school ends, those memories will be the only thing you have left. It may be tough to see now, but high school is one of the best times of your life, so take advantage of it.
MAY 24, 2022 • THE OCTAGON
It’s been one hell of a ride
oes Lightning McQueen have car insurance or life insurance? You probably think that this is a stupid question, and you’d be right, it is. But it also got you thinking, even if it was only for a couple of seconds. The reason I’m pointing this out is because it’s synonymous to how I view this story. Unlike any other story I’ve ever written, there are no limitations. I can write about whatever I want, and yet I can’t seem to think of anything to write about. I keep starting, deleting and restarting. I realize now, about five hours into writing, that this assignment isn’t meant to draw out some philosophical, award-winning story about my high school experience. All it’s meant to do is
get me thinking. Thinking about the memories I made every day. Thinking about the multitude of people I got to know. Thinking about the variety of things I learned, or the lifelong friends I now have. And even thinking about the regrets I have as I prepare to leave high school behind. This last one hurt the most. I remember when I was a sophomore I made a promise to myself; I don’t want to live my life with any regrets. Now, two years later, I realize that this was pretty idealistic. I regret not spending as much time with my friends outside of school, not getting my license sooner and not spending more time on things I was passionate about. Although some of this was unavoidable because of
COVID-19, it still hurts — almost as much as saying goodbye does. I know it’s kind of a cliché, but when it’s time to say goodbye, it really is difficult. I’ve been at Country Day for 13 years. I might not be a “true” lifer that was here for 14, but it still has felt like a lifetime. A part of me doesn’t want to give up the day-to-day life I have right now, but the rest of me realizes that I’ve almost overstayed my welcome. It’s time for me to start a new chapter of my life, and I won’t ever be able to turn that first page until I finally step away from the shoreline and make my way toward the horizon I’ve been looking at my whole life. Peace out, Country Day. It’s been one hell of a ride.
A time capsule of memories The cluster around the laptop cart cleared enough for me to grab one of my own. As I finally sat down and opened it up, I heard the directions being shouted across the classroom. I followed the instructions and found myself staring at the Gmail website. Slowly, I typed in the unfamiliar email address “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Suddenly, the number 22 had a lot more meaning. My first thought when I realized it was my graduation number was “wow that’s really far away.” Yet, here I am sitting in the year 2022 struggling to come with the words to sum up my 10 years at Country Day. That email address holds the key to the most significant experiences — from all the last-minute essays to the wonderful memories. As we entered middle school, each of us received our very first iPads, and, with them, access to our Gmail and Google Drive. While most students may have used Gmail to communicate with teachers, my friend group took full advantage of our new technology. Every Thanksgiving, winter and spring break was marked with multiple email chains discussing everything from BuzzFeed quiz results to the life events that had transpired in the time we had been apart, even if it was only one week. One email chain between me and my best friend, Keerti, includes her dramatically exclaiming that whatever happened to her over break was worse than breaking a bone. I didn’t know what actually happened at the time since she refused to tell me until we saw each other again, but those expressive emojis and dramatic words remain ingrained in my brain. Some emails are simply BuzzFeed quiz results copy
and pasted without any other context. I mean, now I’ll always know that, according to BuzzFeed, both Keerti and I belong to the Granger family in Harry Potter. Even now, I can go back and read those memory-filled email chains. Some friends moved on to other schools, others drifted away, but our nostalgic conversations will remain forever in my inbox. At least until my email is deactivated at the end of this year. My inbox will become a time capsule, never to be opened again. My Google Drive is split up into many folders, holding assignments from each grade. Each time I open the Chrome window, it’s like opening windows of memories, including projects — my favorite being “Why my civilization is better than yours” from sixth grade. The document contains a short paragraph outlining what makes Flegentacia the best fake civilization. From famous monuments such as Devil’s Tower to the ability to survive a 300-foot tsunami, Flegentacia clearly takes the title for the superior civilization, at least according to my 12-year-old self. The most recent documents hold the hours of work on my 17 college applications. As I look back on each of those essays, I see visions of a different version of myself. There’s a version there focused ahead on the future, the next four years, and all to come. So focused, in fact, that the present no longer matters. Now, as my last day of high school and last day of school at Country Day comes to a close, I realize that the present that I ignored for so long will soon become my past. I can see the life I’ve known slipping out of my grasp one day at a time, leading up to graduation. Never again will another email be sent or received by email@example.com.
Is there anything in the world that could be worse than physical pain?
The same set of fifty-some 5-foot tall rectangular gym mats has followed me throughout my entire childhood. Fourteen years ago, I first saw them. Black and red paneled with a width no more than a few inches, even less when spread out. They were there the first time the wind got knocked out of me, the first time a tooth was kicked out of my mouth and every moment in between. So, as the fully expanded pad comes hurtling at me, thrown from close proximity, I only see a six year-old-me, with no dodgeballs left to throw, filled with terror, or the 10-year-old me, with most of my blood already rushed to my head, repeatedly falling out of a headstand while using a look-alike cushion for support. I blink back to reality, yet I realize it’s too late to move out of the way, and the pad strikes me in the
dead center of my neck. I feel like I’ve swallowed hot coals as a sharp, warm pain washes over my neck. An uncontrollable cough emerges, initiating the coals’ transformation as I rush to the trash can. And like a magic trick, a blended version of my lunch appears. What I find most interesting about this story, rather than its uncomfortable ending, is its similarity to my writing process. As I pace around my house, back and forth and back and forth, my mind becomes a blank canvas open to possibility. So when I center upon my first structured point, ideas, memories and flashbacks begin racing through my head, vying for my attention until BAM, it hits me. I rush to my computer and regurgitate my possible ideas onto the page, repeating the process until I have established all of my topics.
However, this writing process produces a controversial result that directly contrasts a core principle of journalism, conciseness. Although some only consider news as journalism, so my unending tangents in reviews may be off the hook. But as one reader most eloquently put it, “this is all bad. You should just delete it all. I’m never reading one of these again.” Maybe they have a point, perhaps this whole article is just fluff. Or perhaps it’s an attempt at an allegory for the pain of saying goodbye. If you have already read one of my articles and are reading this, maybe it’s not going as poorly as it seems. In response to the quote, “Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain,” from the novel 1984 by George Orwell: my neck still hurts, but the goodbye hurts a whole hell of a lot more.
MAY 24, 2022 • THE OCTAGON
Competition brings out Country Day’s best quality
entered SCDS in ninth grade, much later than most of my classmates, who had started here in lower school. I didn’t know where any of the classrooms were, and I didn’t know about any of the teachers or students. While I have moved between schools before, I had never entered a class as small as ours where everyone already knew each other and had made their respective friend groups. Although I was intimidated at mense support from the faculty and students. Even though I couldn’t reminisce about the Washington D.C. or Sutter’s Fort come to make new memories and friends. Now, four years later, as I’m looking back at my high school experience and getting ready to leave, that initial analysis still stands. Country Day’s smaller
great, but seeing how much everyone cares about each other whether they’re winning or losing is truly outstanding — something which sets our school miles ahead of any other. I have never felt more like a community than after losing the County Mock Trial Chamnals of the D2 tennis Sectionals this year. And, we still celebrated how far we came because that’s just who we are. It’s unfortunate that such opportunities to offer support to everyone, whether they’re at the top or not, are being watered down on campus.
The M&M Man is a celebration of college admission success, where during high school morning meetings, students can announce colleges they’ve been accepted into and receive a handful of M&Ms in return. High school seniors have worked incredibly hard over the past four years to apply and get into a college where they might be spending their future. However, the M&M Man tradition was removed with the idea that students who might have not gotten into their hurt. However, this tradition is not supposed to put others down. It’s supposed to show how proud the SCDS community is of the countless number of hours the students have put into the application process. The unique strength of our community means that students will not turn on each other in the face of competition. Success and failure is inevitable. It’s not possible or wise for Country Day to remove the ability for students to experience both. By removing the tradition altogether, Country Day is not preparing students for the real world, where their feelings won’t always be protected and some students will end up placing higher than others. It’s better if students face that feeling now, in a setting where they’re comfortable and surrounded by a supportive community as opposed to a completely new environment. And, at the end of the day, this tradition isn’t about failure. So, let’s not make it about that. That same reasoning was
used when the school removed itself from the Cum Laude Society, a national chapter that honored the top 20% of the class in both junior and senior year based on weighted GPA. Instead, the school started its Summa Cum Laude Society. Country Day’s society now only honors seniors who have a cumulative unweighted GPA of 3.9 or higher. I understand that Country Day doesn’t hold class rank, but juniors miss an opportunity to write about getting Cum Laude on their college applications. Furthermore, it means that an A in French 3 has the same impact as Advanced Placement French. Being more inclusive, even if it’s a minor GPA difference, makes the recognition less meaningful. In the annual high school awards ceremony, if everyone receives an award, then the meaning of someone excelling in a certain category gets lost. At the end of the day, we are all happy and proud of how far each of us has come. The school shifting away from rigor has been a small blight in an otherwise fantastic four years. I truly have enjoyed my high school experience so much, and I would not be the person I am today without the faculty and students who make our school what it is. Bringing back these beloved traditions will make our experience just that little bit stronger, not any weaker.
Athletic community spirit is strong Since the moment I was tasked with writing this story, I have been struggling to settle on a topic. The prompt, write about anything you want. the sports editor. The beautiful thing about sports is their ability to be so diverse. In just one game of soccer, 90 minutes, I have felt pain, anger and frustration all soon followed by joy, exhilaration and pure bliss. In the past year alone, I found myself at both emotional highs and lows in my life all due to the impact of sports. From soccer to tchoukball, I have enjoyed and learned from each sport I’ve played (mostly). After 14 years at Country Day and 11 years of P.E., I have explored a wide variety of different athletic activities from around the world. And still, what I cherish most from my early years in P.E. are the friendships I formed along the way, which is where the rest of this story is sports. are clouded, but I do remember the fun that I shared with friends during recess. The sport we played depended on the season and available equipment. In the fall we had baseball, winter was football and spring was soccer. Outside of school, I played little league baseball and recreational soccer, but that never matched the lunchtime rivalries my friends and I shared or the neverending competitions in P.E. Going into middle school, I developed strong connections with awesome friends through different sports we played together and memories we made. In middle school, however, I made two changes to my sportjoining a gym. From sixth grade to eighth grade, I was on the school’s co-ed soccer team. That same year, I joined Aquila Fitness, a CrossFit gym in East Sacramento that my mom had attended for several years. I may sound
like a broken record, but both of these new groups enced me during those years, more so at my new gym. I was then and am still the youngest member of my gym. Many of the members have gone out of their way to teach me new things, whether those be gym or life related, they’ve all succeeded in changing my outlook on life and changing me as a person. Having this group of adults around to support and advise me has been a very positive part of my life. High school was where I really settled in as a person. The majority of my closest friends from lower and middle school joined me for four more years together where, once again, we would be further connected through playing sports. tle league; I continued my Country Day soccer career; and, I maintained my membership at my gym. me both in and out of sports. My coaches, who were often times also my teachers, had already developed good relationships with me before I even stepped foot in their classes. All of these memories and years have led up to now, school sports career. My memories from this year have put me at both emotional highs and lows in my athletic career. My fondest memory, one of the happiest moments that I can remember, is winning the soccer section championship with my friends. I have never felt happier playing any sport; it is truly an unmatched feeling. After missing two seasons of baseball due to was beyond excited, so ready to end my high school located my kneecap. I was done for the season — I felt more destroyed by a sport, but that’s the beauty of it, right? Sports are meant to be enjoyed, but you can easily feel both at the top of the world and the lowest you’ve
Miles Morrow ever felt. The communities that I have built are always there for me. No matter how a sport makes me feel, I’m always surrounded by people that I know care. As much as I love competing, the communities that I’ve built are what always make me want to continue playing.
MAY 24, 2022 • THE OCTAGON
M T W T F S S
We asked students what advice they would give to younger students “Check your email and write things down. Keeping track of my homework could have been a lot easier if I just wrote it down, even if it’s on CavNet.”
“Foreign languages are really hard, and it makes you uncomfortable trying to speak it, but if you ask a lot of questions and be open minded, you’ll be able to do well.” — Juliette Zúñiga, sophomore
“When you get your assignments, I would start working on them from that day. You’re going to get a bunch of tests and projects, so you want to stay on top of it. Also, I would recommend using a planner for organization.” — Grace Eberhart, junior
Dear Ms. Velo . . .
EXCUSES EXCUSES EXCUSES
“The biggest advice I would give to someone taking Advanced Placement exams is practice. They kind of repeat questions with different numbers, especially with math and chemistry. Junior year is pretty much your last year to do everything before you go into senior year and start writing college apps. Keep track of all your activities and make an activity list.” — Ryan Paul, junior
“Start college applications over the summer, which is something that I wish I did. It comes up a lot sooner than you think and it’s going to add a lot of work on top of schoolwork, which becomes stressful, and if you’re applying early, even more ly as the year ends, you really have to put in the work to just keep going. You’re almost done with school, so you might as well end strong.” — Elliot Crowder, senior
To - Do List
INTERVIEWS BY LAUREN LU, RYAN XU & KALI WELLS; GRAPHICS BY GARMAN XU
Most of the class of ‘22 skipped school for an odd variety of reasons on Senior Ditch Day, which took place Monday, April 25. In order to take part in the event, seniors emailed Assistant to the Head of High School Valerie Velo with reasons as to why they would be missing school.
“the senior class got abducted by aliens and it is my duty to go and save them. This daunting task will probably take all day so i will be absent. all the reasons why people say they are absent are just fronts the aliens mind controlled them into saying. Let the truth be known in case something happens to me . . . “
“I won’t be attending school tomorrow due to an unfortunate incident. i couldn’t find the answers to any of your homework assignments online and i don’t feel like doing them by myself. “
“I am now realizing it’s time for school and i’m way too tired to get up senioritis. i’ll be back tommorow.”
. I think I’ve got a bad case of