Issue 4 - February 2023

Page 1

OPINIONS

The Ethics of Eco-columns pg. 10

FEATURES

Campus Couples (Teacher Edition) pg. 12

SPORTS

Recent Athletic Commits pg. 26

65 |

THE

CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF CHATGPT

Examining the implications of advanced AI within institutional education

ISSUE 4, VOL
FEB. 2023
THE PROSPECTOR
IN THIS ISSUE opinions The Causes and Effects of ChatGPT.................................... 08 The Ethics of Eco-columns... news lifestyles features Campus Couples (Teacher Edition)......................... 12 featuring Amy Benson, Jessica Schaetzke, Jennifer Jacobs, Zach Jacobs, Nikki Merrick and Greg Merrick Crossing Guards at Tino............. 15 featuring Shuhong Mandel and Prabha Sriram Lunar New Year Traditions.......... 16 Avatar: The Way of the Water...... 18 Minimum Wage Increase............ 04 FUHSD Wellness Council Comes Off Hiatus................................... 06 16: Lunar New Year Traditions sports Cupertino Football Safety............ 24 Coach Lisa’s First Competition Season....................................... 25 Recent Athletic Commits............ 26 postscript ChatGPT X Prospector................ 28 Date Time Madlib........................ 29 Column: The Struggles of Being Academically Average................. 30 COVER DESIGNED BY THERESA NGUYEN (PICTURED: JOLIE HAN) 10: The Ethics of Eco-columns

THE PROSPECTOR STAFF

2022-2023

editors-in-chief

Katelyn Chu

Saniya Laungani

Theresa Nguyen

news editor

Caroline Cheng

opinions editor

Natalie Chen

features editor

Soha Roy

lifestyles editor

Prithika Sundar

investigations editor

Taruna Anil

sports editor

Lisa Zivanic

postscript editors

Evan Lu

Jolie Han

copy editors

Rajasi Laddha

Taruna Anil

Lisa Zivanic

photo editor

Rishita Shah

A LETTER FROM THE EDITORS-IN-CHIEF

Dear Readers,

Kevin Jia

Jolie Han

Sania Mehta

Tanvee Sai

online editors business manager

Evan Lu writers

Aashin, Alexander Liu, Alisha Sankhe, Andrew Qin, Angie Li, Anika Rao, Anoushka Gokhale, Benjamin Liu, Eliana Aschheim, Evelyn Liao, Hailey Ryu, Joyce Lee, Katie Kim, Meghana

Vinjamury, Riya Malik, Shaona Das, Stefaniya Nava

In our first issue of the year but our last as editors-in-chief, we take in old traditions while ushering in the new year.

ChatGT has been making headlines recently, with teachers scrambling to find ways to condemn the use of its program in their classrooms. Stefaniya Nava examines the implications of advanced artificial intelligence within institutional education on page 8, reviewing its pros and cons alongside real-world examples.

The Prospector also joins in on the ChatGPT frenzy, with Alisha Sankhe sharing this issue’s article prompts with the AI program to see its generated responses on page 28.

In light of new advancements, Lunar New Year will be the latest addition to California’s list of official holidays. Although celebrated internationally, the Year of the Rabbit — or cat! — marks California’s official recognition of the holiday. Evelyn Liao details such customs on page 16.

advisor

Ann Peck, Brian Hazle

Editorial Policy

“The Prospector” is an open forum of expression for student editors to inform and educate their readers. It will not be reviewed by or restrained by school officials prior to publication or distribution. Advisors may and should coach and discuss content during the writing process.

The staff of “The Prospector” seeks to recognize individuals, events and ideas and bring news to the Cupertino community in an accurate, professional and unbiased manner. “The Prospector” will not avoid publishing a story solely on the basis of possible dissent or controversy.

If you believe an error has been made or wish to have your opinion expressed in “The Prospector,” please contact us via mail or email. Letters sent become the sole property of “The Prospector” and can be edited for length, clarity or accuracy.

“The Prospector” editorial board reserves the right to accept or reject any ad in accordance with its advertising policy.

Contact Us: chsprospector@gmail.com

The Prospector 10100 Finch Avenue

Cupertino, CA 95014

Here at Tino, one tradition that may need reevaluating is the freshman eco-column project. While many hold fond memories of their plastic bottle ecosystems, Natalie Chen examines the ethics of placing sentient organisms into eco-columns on page 10.

We hope you enjoyed this issue as much as we did as you flip to the end of this magazine. We look forward to seeing you next issue while we keep up our own tradition and pass it over to our new editors :)

Signing out,

Katelyn Chu, Saniya Laungani, Theresa Nguyen

*edit contributions by Lisa Zivanic

INCREASEMINIMUMWAGE

Examining the effects of the increase on CHS student workers and local businesses

California’s minimum wage is now $15.50 per hour since the voter-approved Senate Bill 3 was enacted on Jan. 1, 2023. The increase is significant due to the state’s famously beautiful and notoriously expensive real estate and living expenses. The bill aims to ensure that low-wage workers in the state are able to afford basic necessities such as housing, food and health care.

Some believe that increasing the minimum wage will positively impact the economy as a whole. According to Investopedia.com, when workers have more money to spend, they are more likely to

spend it on goods and services, which in turn stimulates economic growth. Proponents of this increase asserted that it would improve the lives of millions of people, empowering many of the state’s lower-income workers.

An increase in the minimum wage also offers part-time student workers increased earnings, which can significantly improve their financial situation and support these individuals in keeping up with the rising cost of living in California.

“As a part-time worker, I feel that the economy will be more competitive, and getting jobs and internships will be more difficult. I have a couple of senior friends

attempting to get a job, but they have lucked out,” senior Ivy Nguyen said.

Nguyen indicated that this competition directly correlates to the future of the job market — as the minimum wage rises, more teenagers will be inclined to search for a job and apply to a variety of corporations.

Conversely, some critics argue that increasing the minimum wage will lead to higher costs for businesses, which could lead companies to cut jobs.

Local boba shop, Mr. Sun Tea, said that in comparison to small businesses, larger corporations typically have more money in reserve. Larger companies also tend

NEWS 4 | DESIGNED

to have stronger branding names, so they naturally receive more business and money to pay a higher salary than the minimum wage. Additionally, large companies can easily outprice small businesses, making it harder for small businesses to hire and retain employees. For adolescents, this wage increase reduces student labor demand as employers may opt for more experienced and skilled workers.

Mr. Sun Tea intends to offer a competitive salary compared to other stores in the area. As a small business, they stated that it is increasingly difficult to match the compensation of larger food chains like In-N-Out Burger or Starbucks. In response to the minimum wage increase, Mr. Sun had to slightly raise the prices of their drinks.

“We also had to be cognizant of not drastically increasing the prices where they become a sticker shock to customers,” said Jennifer Menq, a representative of Mr. Sun. Some customers took notice of the pricing change on their menu and posted negative reviews on Yelp and Google. Mr. Sun Tea grapples with financial responsibility while trying to preserve the customer experience — some of which is attributed to satisfactory pricing.

cently by around 2 to 5 percent in response to the minimum wage increase. The Vice President of Operations, Marcus Belardes, said, “As far as morale, I think workers are appreciative of the increase, but then again, in Silicon Valley, it actually doesn’t really make a dent in what their costs deliver.”

31.8% of CHS students have worked a minimum wage job

*According to a survey of 110 students

DAPO

Similarly, Be’Anka Ashaolu, Founder and CMO of Nirvana Soul, said their company increased its prices last year. She aimed to save on labor by working with her sister Jeronica Macey, co-founder and CEO, along with their CFO, Dapo Ashaolu. Small business owners often run their businesses off the ground – meaning they do not pay themselves. Said Be’Ank Ashaolu, “We’re doing our best to operate lean but also ensure that our team is able to get enough hours to do what they need to do.”

To gain a greater financial understanding, the CFO spoke on the minimum wage increase and its direct impact on Nirvana Soul.

crease, and I think a lot of times, people have a hard time separating small local mom-and-pop operations from large companies,” Dapo Ashaolu said. He conveyed that the issue is much more multifaceted than just increasing wages. Once inflation is incorporated, he said, it can leave people either in the same position or sometimes in even more inferior ones. He expressed that this problem must not just be looked at from one direction: a holistic view must be taken.

“How do we make housing more affordable so that the dollar raise does not just go into the landlord’s pockets? Or how do we ensure that education is affordable so that the extra money you’re getting is not just going to pay off student loans? And, in general, how do we transfer wealth from small businesses to large corporations and entities?” said Dapo Ashaolu.

He instills the notion that the goal is not just to raise the minimum wage but to raise people’s standard of living.

Oren Hummus also raised its menu prices re-

“Minimum wage is a very divisive topic for small businesses. It can often mean a very unexpected expense in -

Overall, the minimum wage increase in California is a positive step toward ensuring that lowwage workers in the state are able to afford basic necessities while also helping boost economic growth. Many Cupertino businesses expressed support for the minimum wage increase, arguing that it will lead to a more stable and productive workforce, ultimately benefiting their bottom line

NEWS | 5
“HOW DO WE MAKE HOUSING MORE AFFORDABLE SO THAT THE DOLLAR RAISE DOES NOT JUST GO INTO THE LANDLORD’S POCKETS? ”
ASHAOLU

FUHSD WELLNESS COUNCIL FUHSD WELLNESS COUNCIL

Exploring the district’s new and continuing

Fremont Union High School District’s Wellness Council will return to session with renewed vigor with improved plans for social and emotional wellbeing.

The council had disbanded during the pandemic as the district focused on supporting students and teachers through the crisis.

Associate Superintendent, Dr. Trudy Gross, is working with district faculty to implement the council. The district closed applications for the council recently, and meetings will resume this semester. More than

eighty people applied to be members.

The council believes in integrating schools, families, and communities to effectively address students’ wellness, which in turn aids academic success.

Members discuss issues pertaining to student wellness in groups and brainstorm solutions before engaging in discussion with the rest of the council.

In a zoom interview, said Gross, “Because we’re starting [in] second semester, we will only meet twice [during the remaining school year], but the plan would be to meet four times next year.”

The council seeks a variety of perspectives by encouraging input, according to the Wellness Council page on the FUHSD website. Representatives from the City of Cupertino and El Camino Hospital provide information to other members through presentations and participate as members. Other members include parents, students and FUHSD school-based therapists.

Gross said the council was formed in 2007 to update the food in the cafeteria and vending machine to be more nutritious.

6 | THE PROSPECTOR
“WE PROVIDE STUDENTS WITH THE KINDS OF THINGS THAT THEY CAN LEARN THAT WILL HELP THEM THROUGHOUT THEIR LIVES
DR. TRUDY GROSS

COUNCIL COMES OFF HIATUS COUNCIL COMES OFF HIATUS

plans to provide resources for student wellness

The council previously worked on student sleep deprivation issues by creating a new class schedule that began at 8:00 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m., prior to Senate Bill 328 which required a later class start. They have also surveyed the district to collect information on areas students struggle in.

In the 2023-2024 school year, a pilot course will be implemented district-wide for ninth graders on Ethnic Studies for the first semester, and Health for the second semester. The courses focus on supporting students through lessons on emotional wellbeing, nutrition and physical exercise.

“One of the things we’ll do with the council is

offer them an opportunity to meet with some of our curriculum developers. They can review the course and give feedback on the course proposal that’s going in place… in March,” Gross said.

The wellness council will hear about existing district programs and work with school-based counselors and therapists to find solutions. Cupertino High School’s Wellness Center will open this semester. It is through connection with other district efforts, including wellness check-in forms, therapists and wellness centers like Cupertino High School’s, that FUHSD supports the community, said Gross.

She recognized the district’s work to promote wellness for students in its schools.

fortunate to be part of the district and part of a place where we do really value all aspects of our students and their lives.”

“The most important thing for me is that we provide students with the kinds of things that they can learn…that will help them throughout their lives,” she said.

By learning how to self-regulate and seek help, students will be well equipped to tackle other challenges for the rest of their lives in a healthy, sustainable way, said Gross

NEWS | 7

THE CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF CHATGPT

Examining the implications of advanced artificial intelligence within institutional education

ChatGPT, a cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence technology, is revolutionizing how students approach homework and exams.

Developed by OpenAI in late 2021, the deep learning-based language model generates human-like responses to prompts. With a wide range of applications, one can utilize the chatbot for customer service, blog writing or a language translator.

ChatGPT sparked the interest of website and app developers and students. Its ability to create near-instantaneous detailed responses to requests sets it apart from other AI chatbots.

The AI can access thousands of online resources such as Wikipedia, blog posts, books and academic articles — hence, it can an-

swer seemingly any question. As technology advances and the demands of academia increase, it is no surprise when students look for efficient and effective ways to complete their coursework and research.

ChatGPT finishes work in a fraction of the time it would take to complete it manually. ChatGPT’s capabilities of performing are no less than a passing student.

According to CNN, the new AI chatbot recently passed 4 law tests at the University of Minnesota and a business exam at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Professors at the University of

Minnesota Law School blindly scored assessments to see how well ChatGPT could generate answers on exams for the four courses. The chatbot completed 95 multiple-choice questions and 12 essay questions. It received an average grade of a C+, earning a passing mark on each test.

ChatGPT uses complex AI algorithms that help the bot fulfill unique prompts. Its users and developers can train ChatGPT on specific topics to generate content tailored to the user’s needs. This feature is useful for research projects or essays that require high expertise in a particular subject.

With the benefits of using the chatbot come controversies. Open AI founder Elon Musk mentioned, “AI will be the best or worst thing ever for humanity,” further ex-

8 | DESIGNED
BY NATALIE CHEN
“ ITS ABILITY TO CREATE NEAR-INSTANTANEOUS DETAILED RESPONSES TO REQUESTS SETS IT APART FROM OTHER AI CHATBOTS ”
OPINIONS
STEFANIYA NAVA writer
BY RELYING ON THE MODEL TO GENERATE CONTENT, STUDENTS BECOME LESS INCLINED TO ENGAGE IN INDEPENDENT RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS ”

dependent research and analysis. According to Gov Tech, this situation was seen when a south Carolina professor Darren Hick mistakenly allowed one of his philosophy students to take home an exam. After receiving the exam back, it was

patterns pulled from existing information on the internet. As a result, it will not always generate accurate or appropriate information, leading to misinformation and errors in its responses.

While ChatGPT can be a

ativity development and potential factual errors

OPINIONS | 9

Within the shrubs of the planter box in the science wing at Cupertino High School, KC Olson gently picked up a small white mouse.

“Why would someone bring a mouse? That’s terrible for the mouse to try and put it in an eco-column. It’s a two-liter bottle, so there’s no space for it to live. I thought it was really inconsiderate of the person who brought it,” now-senior Olson said.

The mouse, mistakenly brought in by a fellow student, was eventu-

OF

ally rescued and kept as a pet for more than a year. The animals in side Olson’s eco-column were not as lucky. Two of her three fish were dead within two weeks, and the third perished in less than a month.

“It wasn’t filtered water, and we couldn’t clean it that well, so obviously [they were] going to end up dying pretty quickly,” said Olson. “It really showed the fish’s lack of resilience within a small tank.”

The Biology eco-column project is required for all ninth-grade students at CHS. The course incorporates experiential learning as students work in teams to research, design and create closed

10 | THE PROSPECTOR
NATALIE

ecosystems consisting of terrestrial and aquatic habitats and a compost unit.

According to Biology team teachers Daniel Stavis and Ken ji Mitchell, students can include small fish in their eco-col umns, but all other animals must be in vertebrates and primary consumers.

Typically, stu dent eco-col

mal usage within the project.

“Everyone thought it was a

pretty fun experience to bond with our teams and build everything, who earned a master’s degree in environmental engineering from

Stanford University before joining the Bay Area non-profit in 2006.

chemical analyses throughout the year, students can gain further ecological education while ensur ing all organisms involved remain in sufficient living conditions

CAMPUS COUPLES

A peek into the lives of teacher couples working together at Cupertino High School

12 | DESIGNED
FEATURES

Amy Benson and Jessica Schaetzke are one of Cupertino High School’s newest married couples. Benson is a math teacher who is currently on maternity leave, and Schaetzke teaches Spanish and leads Tino’s World Languages Department.

The two met as teachers at Cupertino High School and started off as friends. Benson asked Schaetzke to join in on a camping trip and their friendship eventually grew into a romantic relationship.

After five years together, they tied the knot last summer, surrounded by their friends and families. They also celebrated the birth of their son, Nico, in April.

They have many things in common,

sharing hobbies like exploring the different foods the Bay Area has to offer and visiting farmers markets. Another hobby they share is visiting national parks as well as camping. They also travel every summer to Minnesota to spend time with Schaetzke’s family. During the pandemic, they stayed in Minnesota and were able to go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Working together on campus is something they said they really appreciate and enjoy.

“We can share our lunch together and have a lot of mutual friends. Having a shared work space means we really understand what the other person is going through,” Schaetzke said. “Sometimes it’s too much togetherness and it’s difficult to turn our work brain off once we leave school. We often have to remind ourselves to not always talk about work.”

The couple is just one of several at Tino who are married to fellow staff members

Amy BensonJessica Schaetzke

FEATURES | 13

ZachJacobs JenniferJacobs

Behind our American Literature Honors novels and our front office lies another campus couple. English teacher, Zach Jacobs, and Assistant Principal’s Secretary, Jennifer Jacobs, have been married for six years of their eight-year relationship.

Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs met through Mr. Jacob’s brother. Mr. Jacobs recalls even being in a large group photo for his brother’s graduation photo before Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs even knew each other. Soon, that would all change, as they would evolve from strangers in a group photo to a happily married couple with a child. Originally, their relationship started with sending each other funny videos on the social media app, Vine. The couple continues this tradition to this day through Instagram reels. The two have collected fond memories over the years – from laughing at funny videos

together to attending San Francisco Giants’ games every Friday. They share these experiences with their 4-year-old daughter.

For two years, Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs have worked together at Cupertino High School. Mrs. Jacobs reflected on her gratefulness for his presence while working.

“It feels comforting to know that if something happens, he’s just across the quad, and I can easily get in touch. It’s nice to know that he’s here too,” Mrs. Jacobs said

14 | THE PROSPECTOR
RISHITA SHAH photo editor

Greg MerrickNikki Merrick

TINO’s CROSsing GUARDS

Greg and Nikki Merrick are beloved teachers at Cupertino High School and a famous couple. Both teachers currently teach AP Literature and 9th grade Literature and Writing. To Greg Merrick, CHS’ campus holds great memories of his wife, Nikki Merrick, as they met on campus during their first years of teaching and are both CHS grads, but during different times. British and World Literature teacher Michelle Avvakumovits introduced Mr. Merrick to Mrs. Merrick in the teachers’ lounge. Mrs. Merrick shared how Mr. Merrick would walk across the hall and ask to borrow paper clips or staplers to talk to her. On a Memorial Day weekend, Mr. Merrick attended a party at Avvakumovits’s house where he planned to ask out Mrs. Merrick.

“Earlier in the week, I was playing basketball with some Santa Barbara friends, and I knocked [out] one of my front teeth,” Mr. Merrick said. “Even though I was missing a front tooth, I found the courage to ask her out. She said yes.”

Mrs. Merrick shared how sometimes they do not see eye to eye on certain curriculum. Said Mrs. Merrick, “One thing that’s been great is that we can work together and even disagree with each other.” By working out their differences through communication, Mrs. Merrick has gained an added respect for Mr. Merrick. Pursuing the same profession, the two can closely understand and empathize with each other

From keeping roads protected to brightening the mornings and afternoons for students, crossing guards keep pedestrians safe and are essential to our Tino community. Shuhong Mandel has worked for six months as a crossing guard at the intersection of Finch Avenue and Stevens Creek Boulevard near Main Street Cupertino. She said she enjoys her work as a part of the Cupertino community.

“It feels like an honor to work for the students,” Mandel said.

Prabha Sriram’s radiant smile reflects off students’ faces every morning as she guides them safely across the busy intersections between South Tantau Avenue and Barnhart Avenue.

“The main goal of this job is to keep the pedestrians safe as they go to school,” Sriram said. “It takes a community to work together in order to achieve this goal”

lifestyles editor
FEATURES | 15
RIYA MALIK | BENJAMIN LIU writers
SCAN FOR MORE COVERAGE

As late January approached, and the moon completed its final lunar cycle, the last finishing touches were placed in anticipation of the Lunar New Year. Preparing to leave the Year of the Tiger, families hang paper lanterns from doorways, carefully choose Hanboks and decorate houses with peach trees and yellow blossoms.

Lunar New Year is a holiday celebrated by many cultures. People bid goodbye to the lunar year and welcome a new one. The lunar calendar follows the phase cycle of the moon, causing Lunar New Year to be celebrated on a different day each year between late January to mid-February. In 2022, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill allowing California to recognize Lunar New Year as a state holiday. Immigrants across

LUNAR NEW YEAR

Looking at the different traditions and

the state can properly celebrate traditions passed down from generation to generation. Various cultures celebrate Lunar New Year in different ways. For Koreans, Lunar New Year, or Seollal (설날), is a family-based holiday. Koreans perform ancestral rites and bow to their elders to wish them a prosperous new year.

In Korea, each new lunar year adds a year to one’s age, and rice cake soup, tteokguk, is eaten to symbolize becoming a year older. Unlike other cultures, Koreans consider the color red to be unlucky. Dressing in hanbok, traditional Korean clothing, is a custom much more common compared to Chinese or Vietnamese traditions. Families play traditional games and exchange white envelopes

filled with money.

Like many Chinese holidays, traditions regarding Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival (春 節/春节), are based on famous myths. Red firecrackers line the streets and are prepared to set off throughout the 15-day celebration. People buy new clothes–typically in red. These customs are based on the myth of Nian

LIFESTYLES 16 l DESIGNED BY PRITHIKA SUNDAR
IMMIGRANTS
” “
ACROSS THE STATE CAN PROPERLY CELEBRATE TRADITIONS PASSED DOWN FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION

YEAR TRADITIONS

practices celebrated during Lunar New Year

(年), a man-eating monster, who is said to fear loud sounds and the color red. During the new year, dragon dances parade the streets to bring the community good luck by warding off evil spirits. Families host large dinners consisting of dishes such as rice cakes, dumplings and fish on Lunar New Year’s Eve. Adults hand out red envelopes filled with money after the dinner, typically to children and the elderly.

Taiwanese households follow similar traditions where wearing red, celebrating with family and watching parades are common activities.

However, a few different traditions are followed. Many wait at various temples hoping to be first to honor the gods with incense and to pray for a successful year. Some honor their ancestors with various offerings to wish them a happy new year.

Vietnamese Lunar New Year, or Tết, customs also differ compared to those in East Asia. In 2023, the Year of the Cat was celebrated instead of the Year of the Rabbit. In 2021, Vietnamese households welcomed the Year of the Buffalo instead of the Year of the Ox. These changes were made due to the positive association buffalos have with luck and fortune and also the Vietnamese interpretation of the word cat. Vietnamese households hang red enve-

lopes from peach trees with yellow blossoms and exchange blessings for a good new year. Typically, families gather for a large celebration and everyone contributes to the dinner by bringing a Vietnamese dish. On the first day of Lunar New Year, many visit various neighbors, friends and family to celebrate and wish them a happy new year.

In Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines, the holiday is celebrated mostly by Chinese immigrants residing in these countries. This celebration is similar to those in various East Asian communities.

For centuries, Lunar New Year has been celebrated by cultures all throughout Asia. It is considered one of the most important holidays in several countries. Millions of people gather with families to properly celebrate. And finally, Lunar New Year traditions will now be honored in California as well.

Immigrants across the state can properly celebrate traditions passed down from generation to generation

LIFESTYLES l 17

THE WAY OF THE WATER

Interpreting and examining the parallels in the new Avatar film

18 l THE PROSPECTOR

From flying on banshees in the forests to swimming in the oceans alongside tulkuns of the habitable exomoon Pandora, Jake Sully and his Na’vi family returned to the screen in “Avatar: The Way of Water” after 13 years.

“Avatar: The Way of Water,” written and directed by James Cameron, is a science fiction film portraying the struggles of Jake Sully and his new family. Along the way, Jake reunited with Neytiri, whom he fell in love with in the previous movie, “Avatar.” Neytiri is Na’vi, referring to those native to the planet Pandora.

The family had been protecting their people and home from the Sky People trying to colonize the moon and from Colonel Quaritch, the military leader of the mission, who wants a chance at revenge on Jake. When the Sullys discovered that the Na’vi were targeting them, they had to move away from their forest home and join a new oceanic clan in hopes of staying safe.

The first film generated $2 billion in box office sales and became one of the top 10 highest-grossing films of all time.

With such immense popularity, viewers cannot help but notice the creative writing and methods of incorporating culture into this world created by Cameron, the creator of the “Avatar” franchise, depicting parallels to our world.

Sky people, or the humans, are the antagonists of the plot. Humans arrived in Pandora more than a decade ago to ob-

tain a rare mineral. Still, the humans returned in the sequel to inhabit all of Pandora and wipe out the Na’vi once Earth was uninhabitable. They burned down the forests where the Na’vi live and hunted precious ocean species for money.

The Sky people’s actions show a parallel between Pandora and Earth, just like the humans in the movie, real-world humans constantly harm nature as humanity becomes more demanding for resources. People continue burning down forests, destroying animal habitats and killing animals for profit. The film serves as a cautionary tale for what society is doing to the envi-

Americans.

Despite the film’s praise and acclaim, it has faced accusations of cultural appropriation by depicting the Na’vi through Native American stereotypes. The Na’vi had visually similar features to Native Americans, with their long, black, braided hair, handmade jewelry and bare feet.

In this sequel, Tonowari, the water tribe’s chief, had tattoos similar to those of the Māori people. Some critics have said filmmakers inaccurately portray characters and project naive ideas of indigenous people. Additionally, accusations arose that Cameron’s film exhibits a white savior complex, showing the story of colonization through a white person’s lens.

ronment in real life. If the lesson is ignored, the fictional Earth in “Avatar” — where resources are exhausted — could become reality.

Not only did Cameron depict issues similar to those we are facing in real life, but he also highlights Indigenous voices. According to Cameron, the indigenous tribes inspired the Na’vi. Throughout the film, the Na’vi resist human colonization.

Jake Sully and his tribe fight the Sky people, who continuously attempt to eradicate Sully and his people. This parallels American colonization of North America and the genocide of Native

“Avatar: The Way of Water” displayed both heartwarming moments between the Sully family and heartbreaking scenes as they navigate new habitats. As a whole, Cameron successfully expresses his vivid imagination. Whether his portrayals are accurate and appropriate is something each viewer will have to decide

“ A CAUTIONARY TALE FOR WHAT SOCIETY IS DOING TO THEIR ENVIRONMENT
LIFESTYLES l 19

CUPERTINO HIGH’S ACADEMIC RESOURCES

INVESTIGATIONS

terra nova

Tino’s program helping students reach their academic goals

In Cupertino High School’s rigorous academic environment, administrative intervention through programs such as Terra Nova provide a safe haven for students to grow socially, emotionally and academically. With counseling support from student advocate Denise Salin, smaller classes and familial bonds with their peers, the Terra Nova Program empowers students to reach their high academic potential.

“Terra Nova creates a cohort of about 20 to 25 students from 10th grade and 11th grade, and those students have classes together. They have teachers that have been specifically chosen to support with the Terra Nova program,” Sean Coleman, Terra Nova World History teacher, said. “Because of those smaller classes, we’re able to work with students more often, get closer to students and be able to understand their academic needs a little better than we’d like for a typical class.”

Students begin the Terra Nova program upon entering 10th grade. Terra Nova students take three classes with other students in the program: World Literature (WL), World History (WH) and Terra Nova Life Skills. Similarly, all sophomores at Tino take the WL and WH courses, and the Terra Nova classes do the same work.

“The difference is just the timing of assignments, the pacing that we instruct with,” Coleman

said. “We can change things to allow for a little bit more one-onone teacher-student interaction. So there are opportunities for us to analyze work more closely to give more specific help to students rather than helping the class as a whole, which can be really beneficial for some students.”

In their junior year, students take two Terra Nova classes: Terra Nova American Literature and 11th Grade Terra Nova Life Skills.

The Terra Nova Life Skills elective course provides dedicated time built into students’ schedules to develop strong study skills and homework habits. The program offers organizational, social and emotional support for students. The Life Skills course also provides help from tutors on homework and

“[Mr. Coleman] is always welcoming no matter what. It feels like he treats us like actual people, which is probably the most beneficial part of Terra Nova as a whole,” said Terra Nova student Mason Brown. “He treats us less like students and more as people, and I feel like that really helps us develop mostly as people.”

Terra Nova instructors hope that students who take advantage of the various program offerings during their sophomore and junior years will exit the program with confidence going into their senior year.

planning for college.

“[Terra Nova] is a nice time to be able to work with friends and other classmates on schoolwork and it really helps with stress levels when it comes to having a lot of schoolwork,” Jesse Williams, a Terra Nova student, said.

Throughout a student’s time in the program, the teachers work together with students to gain a better understanding of their needs and what they are looking to accomplish going forward.

“I’ve just seen students grow and take harder classes than they might have before that year because I was able to closely sit down with them and help with their writing,” Coleman said. “I help them to understand the skills that they need to be successful going forward. So that allowed them to push themselves, and that’s really satisfying to see”

” “ DESIGNED BY TARUNA ANIL | 21
[MR. COLEMAN] IS ALWAYS WELCOMING NO MATTER WHAT. IT FEELS LIKE HE TREATS US LIKE ACTUAL PEOPLE, WHICH IS PROBABLY THE MOST BENEFICIAL PART OF TERRA NOVA AS A WHOLE MASON BROWN

learning through ELD

How students with language barriers receive academic support

The English Language Development program helps students unfamiliar with English learn the language and helps recent immigrants adjust to life in a new country. The ELD program has modified school curriculum to hasten language learning and trained staff to support the needs of recent immigrants.

There are multiple levels of ELD at Cupertino High School: level two and level three. Each level corresponds to the degree of proficiency in reading, speaking, listening and writing English based on a diagnostic test administered at the beginning of the year.

ELD students enroll in two English classes. An ELD 2 student will take ELD 2 and Global Literature and Writing, and an ELD 3 student will take World Lit/Writ.

Sean Bui, the ELD coordinator, is responsible for helping the teachers adjust their class curriculums and run diagnostic language tests for students. He is also in charge of organizing the CHS division of a district-wide speech competition. Periodically, Bui and other ELD teachers hold meetings to identify struggling students and discuss ways to support them.

The ELD curriculum is developed by experienced teachers who teach the specific English concepts they want their students to learn. Teachers design speech

assessments for the students if they wish to advance the class’ speaking skills. As an ELD teacher, Lynn Chen shared her view on teaching ELD students.

“I love being what I like to call the ELD mom,” Chen said. “It’s like I’m part of a welcoming community, because of a lot of recent immigrants, it’s scary and hard adjusting to a new environment.”

She explained that the majority of her students are recent immigrants, although some have been in the United States for more than five years.

Chen had wanted to teach ELD even before the start of her career. Said Chen, “I focus a lot on thinking abstractly about how language

Similarly to Chen, she explained that she sees herself as a mom for her students, and that her Asian heritage made her particularly susceptible to signs of students’ struggles, such as ragged clothing, posture and tiredness.

“I also don’t speak English very well, and I have a heavy accent, so the students view me as more of a ‘hey, she’s just like us!’ person, whereas they see the English teachers as more foreign, since the teachers’ English are very good,” Chien said. [Translated from Mandarin Chinese to English]

is learned scientifically!”

Additionally, she uses her own experience learning Mandarin Chinese as a framework when creating assignments for her class. She knows from experience how difficult it can be to learn a new language and said she designs her lessons based on what she found helpful.

“It was fun for me to reverse-engineer that,” she said.

Tung Ching Chien, a trained ELD assistant teacher, provides help for students in seven courses, five days a week.

Chien provided in-depth information about numerous types of students, and how their backgrounds play into their language fluency and effort. For example, she helps students coming from China adjust to culture shock. Since the education system in China is much more tightly controlled, some Chinese students find it difficult to balance the leisure and studies upon arrival.

Bui advises CHS students to try and make everyone feel welcome in school. A friendly, welcoming environment, Bui said, can help ease the fear and stress of all new students – especially those with language barriers

22 | THE PROSPECTOR
TUNG CHING CHIEN ”
I ALSO DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH VERY WELL, AND I HAVE A HEAVY ACCENT, SO THE STUDENTS VIEW ME AS MORE OF A ‘HEY, SHE’S JUST LIKE US!’ PERSON [...]
ALEXANDER LIU writer

student tutoring services

Examining the impacts of Writing Lab and the Student Center for Success

difficulties, which is why tutors are mostly juniors and seniors.

Cupertino High School’s efforts to uphold high academic performance are visible in the tutoring services available to support students. As the second semester’s workload sets in, students may feel discouraged at their academic progress and turn to these resources.

The most prominent resource is the Student Center for Success, held in the library, with a team of student tutors volunteering to assist those who need academic help.

The applicant’s academic proficiency and confidence in certain subjects determine if they are eligible to become a tutor. Available hours are weekdays before school from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and after school until 5 p.m.

“We can see when kids come repeatedly,” CHS Interventions Specialist Nancy Boyle said. “We have some kids that come and meet the same tutor over and over again, because they get along and it’s a good match, and that’s a good indication that it’s working.”

The program intends to aid students strug- gling in classes of all

According to the Prospector’s social media poll of 129 students, 62 percent of students polled are aware of the SCS. However, the program has more tutors than attendees.

Attendee Angelina Sattar mentioned her positive experience with the program but noted certain

ing Lab teachers at the beginning of the school year to ensure their efficiency when providing feedback. English teachers Jenna Ray and Kelleen Loo are in charge of the service for the 2022-2023 school year.

Teachers may request Writing Labs right before a major assignment to allow their students another opportunity for assistance. Ray and others in the department create further incentives through extra credit or submission extensions for attending the program.

areas where it could improve. Said Sattar, “I would advise [tutors] to probably get to know the students first, how they learn, their strategies and try to teach them according to these [factors].”

Additionally, CHS offers Writing Lab, a student tutor program specifically for English assignments. English teachers select candidates they believe have strong writing skills, and tutors from sophomore to senior year sign up for certain shifts during tutorials or after school. Tutors generally spend five to 10 minutes proofreading specific parts of a student’s writing.

These tutors attend mandatory training sessions hosted by Writ-

“With going to Writing Lab, you can really get a lot of insightful feedback from the tutors, and most of them have taken those higher classes like [American] Lit Honors,” said Writing Lab tutor Chloe Chung. “In my opinion, going to Writing Lab, if you’re working on those higher assignments, really can benefit you.”

CHS teachers can also refer their students to other programs if they need additional help.

“There [are] a couple kids that I have worked with outside of class [who have] asked me for some help in whatever class, and I tell them to come up here so I can give them more help,” CHS Special Education Paraeducator Peter Ciotta said. “I usually point them in the direction of one of those tutors that is more knowledgeable because they’re taking it now. If students would come up instead of hesitate, there are a lot of people up here that are wanting to help”

INVESTIGATIONS | 23
NANCY BOYLE
” “
WE HAVE SOME KIDS THAT COME AND MEET THE SAME TUTOR OVER AND OVER AGAIN, BECAUSE THEY GET ALONG AND IT’S A GOOD MATCH, AND THAT’S A GOOD INDICATION THAT IT’S WORKING
ANOUSHKA GOKHALE writer

FOOTBALL SAFETY CUPERTINO

Damar Hamlin’s recent football accident has led to concerns about the injury prevention and recovery protocols at Cupertino High School’s sports programs.

Hamlin, Buffalo Bills’ safety, suffered a cardiac arrest on Jan. 2, 2023, after tackling Cincinnati Bengals’ wide receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin collapsed from cardiac arrest, reportedly from commotio cordis — cardiac arrest due to a severe blow to the chest.

CHS head football coach, Chris Oswald, has ensured that the team’s health and safety are a priority during training.

“When I got here 13 years ago, we got this athletic weight training class going and said, ‘let’s make them the strongest we can make them,’” Oswald said. “Our fundraising efforts

Coaches at CHS are certified in coaching safer tackling techniques that reduce helmet-to-helmet contact by teaching players to lead with their shoulders, as is common in Rugby.

The Prospector spoke with Dr. Andy Ashbaugh, a sports medicine physician at Valley Medical Center, on the possible repercussions

few years, it appears that the number of concussions reported from sports has risen, there is no exact reason for this. Ashbaugh said it’s not the number of concussions occurring that has increased, but rather a more comprehensive education towards the signs of concussions that has created more coach awareness. Growing numbers of concussions can also be due to being much more precautions when someone gets hit in the head.

Even though proper training and equipment are important when it comes to preventing concussions, what is most important is adequate recovery.

of concussions, a common sports injury. He emphasized conditions for those with and especially multiple concussions, ranging from an increased risk of depression to cognitive impairments. Impairments range in severity, sometimes leading to chronic traumatic encephalopathy — a degenerative brain condition caused by severe head

Although in the last

“You’re trying not to stress out the brain or [put] yourself in any position to get a repeat concussion,” Ashbaugh said. Post-concussion, athletes are required to complete 72 hours of rest and cardio exercises which hastens the recovery process by increasing blood flow to the brain. The CHS sports teams follow these strict protocols, pass proper symptom tests and check in with a doctor.

The threat of injuries in football may frighten some. Still, athletes are safer than ever due to a combination of new safety protocols, smarter tackling techniques, better equipment and coaches trained to prevent and recognize head injuries.

“Sometimes it’s an assumed risk,” Oswald said. You’re putting on an eight-pound helmet and running into people at full speed. [So] we continue to educate ourselves”

SPORTS
Exploring the safety precautions in place for the Pioneers
24 |DESIGNED BY
PHOTO CONTRIBUTIONS TO EDWARD LANDPHERE AND PROSPECTOR STAFF
ANGIE LI writer
LISA ZIVANIC
“ YOU’RE TRYING NOT TO STRESS OUT THE BRAIN OR [PUT] YOURSELF IN ANY POSITION TO GET A REPEAT CONCUSSION
DR. ANDY ASHBAUGH

COACH LISA’S FIRST COMPETITION SEASON

Cupertino High School’s competitive cheerleaders rediscovered their love for the sport under their new head coach, Lisa Vinciale.

Vinciale has coached and performed for cheer teams for 25 years. She cheered competitively from the age of three until the age of 20 before instructing at Eaton Elementary School’s child development center.

Kami Tomberlain, CHS’ principal, offered Vinciale the head coaching position for the cheer program in 2011. Vinciale had declined the opportunity.

“I couldn’t be fully committed. I didn’t want to take [the cheer team] if I couldn’t be there for them all the time,” Vinciale said.

When Tomberlain offered the job to Vinciale in 2022, she accepted the position. “With COVID happening, I didn’t end up going back to teaching,” Vinciale said, “So I decided to come on in.”

The previous cheer coach enforced rules during practice that negatively affected many cheerleaders’ morale.

“[The cheerleaders] are scared to express themselves to me because they weren’t allowed to before.

I’m very big on like, ‘talk to me, tell me what’s going on,’” Vinciale said. “That [caused] setbacks in routines because they didn’t believe in themselves, or they didn’t feel like they could make a mistake.”

Vinciale eased herself into the program, slowly modifying the cheer

line and then, all of a sudden, I had to split my focus and time to make room for the competition team. Once I was able to figure out scheduling and stuff like that, it’s [been] a breeze,” Vinciale said.

The competitive cheer team attended several meets this season and obtained mixed results. Their highest placement was second place at the USA Spirit virtual regional competition on Dec. 17, and their lowest was eighth place at the Central Coast Section Championship hosted by Independence High School on Jan. 14.

team’s practices and adapting to their preferred training methods.

“I didn’t want to just come in and not give them a say. This should be fun for them. It shouldn’t be where they just come here and don’t get to express how they feel,” Vinciale said. “I didn’t want to change too much.”

Initially, Vinciale only led practices for the sideline cheer team. When the winter athletic season began, she also began coaching the competitive team.

“I was giving everything to side-

“I’m glad we’re not a team that’s coming in as just good, good and good. I’m also glad we’re not a team coming in and always taking a loss,” Vinciale said. “I think that we’re at a good spot where we’re in the middle right now. There’s a lot of room to grow.”

Despite the team’s share of defeats and victories, competitive cheer experienced the most successful season of CHS’ winter athletic teams this year. Competitive cheer will attend the USA Spirit Nationals in Anaheim, CA, in late February 2023. Vinciale has begun leading practices for the competition and is excited to continue guiding the cheerleaders

PHOTO BY SHAONA DAS
SHAONA DAS writer
“ I DIDN’T WANT TO JUST COME IN AND NOT GIVE THEM A SAY. THIS SHOULD BE FUN FOR THEM
LISA VINCIALE

RECENT ATHLETIC COMMITS

Reflecting on CHS athletes’ road to recruitment

KENDRA CHANG — STANFORD

Junior Kendra Chang began artistic gymnastics when she was 6, but saw her goal of being a college gymnast in middle school. She officially began communicating with coaches at the end of her sophomore year. During her junior year, it was a very stressful and important time for her, both athletically and academically. “It took a lot of effort, a lot of work. There were a lot of sacrifices that lot of people don’t see,” Chang said. In the end, Chang feels her hard work paid off, but she believes that she still has a lot of work to do, and she is excited to pursue her dreams at Stanford University.

OLIVIA DUAN — PRINCETON

Junior Olivia Duan started her golf recruitment process the summer after her sophomore year, visiting colleges that she was interested in and talking with their coaches. “I feel like when you talk to coaches you get a sense of who wants you and who doesn’t, and there are no big surprises or anything,” Duan said. Throughout her years of playing golf, Duan formed invaluable connections with her coaches and fellow golfers, eventually committing to Princeton because she could see herself working well with the coach there. Said Duan, “Everyone in the golfing community wishes each other to be better, and we just create really good relationships that we always support each other throughout.”

BRAD PAN — USC

Senior Brad Pan began his athletic career playing club volleyball in eighth grade, and in the summer before his senior year, he had no idea that he would soon commit to a D1 college. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the recruitment process began later for him than other athletes. He was unsure whether he would be recruited or not, but with support from his coach and his mother, he was determined to reach his goal. “[My mom is] kind of like my backbone — she makes sure I don’t fall apart,” Pan said. As a committed athlete, he feels more pressure now than before. “What it’s like being committed, it’s very surreal. [...] I’m just praying that I won’t mess things up,” he said.

JON RINGER — NORWICH

Senior Jon Ringer knew that he wanted to pursue baseball when he began the recruitment process. During the process, Ringer had abundant support from his parents.

“They believed in me a lot, told me I could do it,” Ringer said. After emailing around eight different schools, he decided on Norwich University, a military college in Vermont. To other athletes, Ringer advises discipline and ambition to achieve their goals.

“Always try to get better. Don’t skip a workout even if you’re not feeling it. Nobody cares how you feel about it, just do it, get it done because you’ll regret it if you don’t,” he said.

CREDIT TO ALL RIGHTFUL PHOTOGRAPHERS FOR EACH PHOTO

GAYATHRI KRISHNAN — COLUMBIA

Senior Gayathri Krishnan found her love for tennis at the age of five after watching the sport on television with her parents. From her experience, she felt that the beginning and the end of the recruitment process was the most difficult. “I think the first impression is so important to many colleges the first time they watch you play or the first time you’re on the phone with them, it’s really important that you do well so that they can think highly of you from the start,” Krishnan said. Choosing from offers was also challenging, but Krishnan decided on Colombia University because the coaches seemed to care more about helping her improve rather than her stats.

ANGELA KEOMAHAVONG — WILSON

Senior Angela Keomahavong played field hockey for the first time in eighth grade but fell in love with the sport in her freshman year. As an athlete and a working student, she struggled to find time to balance her other priorities during the recruitment process. Keomahavong received 12 offers, many of which were D1. Ultimately, she committed to Wilson College because of their team’s winning streak in field hockey tournaments and conference games, as well as the long-term financial benefits. “I was shy to come out that I did commit and I didn’t want to brag, but I was also proud of myself that I made a big jump into the future,” Keomahavong said.

FAREED AHMED — UC RIVERSIDE

Senior Fareed Ahmed’s passion for baseball emerged in the first grade after trying out a variety of other sports. To him, recruiting seemed like the next natural step as an athlete. Throughout the recruiting process from his freshman to sophomore year, Ahmed developed a work ethic and strategy that led him to become a UC Riverside Signee. “When it comes to athletes who are trying to play in college, you have to look at it like a business. You have to have something that you need to sell to a college coach because a college coach, his job is to win games, and if you can’t help them win games, you won’t be valuable,” Ahmed said.

CLAUDIA ADAM — DREXEL

Senior Claudia Adam tried out many different sports as an 8-year-old until she found squash. Her coach was her biggest supporter during the recruitment process because he connected her with other coaches and gave her helpful advice. However, Adam did not always plan on playing college squash. It was only when she found a group of players that she liked that made her want to continue playing, and Drexel University had a team environment that appealed to her. Said Adam, “If you’re doing a college sport, do it because you want to, not because you feel like it’s the next step and you have to take it.”

TOMMY KIM — NAVY

Senior Tommy Kim began playing tennis when he was eight years old. He practiced and improved the most during the COVID-19 pandemic, even temporarily moving to Texas to play on the courts. The summer before his junior year, Kim played in two major tournaments in front of the recruiting coach of the United States Naval Academy — his target school. Kim knew that he wanted to attend a military school from the beginning. “I wanted to be in a community where the main goal is service. You’re trying to serve others, and you’re trying to serve your country. I think the Naval Academy [...] is different, where everyone is acting as a group, acting together instead of trying to further their own self-interests,” Kim said.

SPORTS | 27 LIST INCLUDES ALL RECRUITED STUDENTS THAT THE ASB ATHLETICS COMMISION AND THE PROSPECTOR ARE CURRENTLY AWARE OF
ABOVE IMAGE PICTURES CLAUDIA ADAM (LEFT), WITH HER SQUASH COACH (RIGHT)

Damar Hamlin and Football Injuries

What is Up With Football Injuries? Playing Now CHATGPT X PROSPECTOR

We asked ChatGPT to share their responses to our articles. You’ll find the question/article followed by ChatGPT’s response

Damar Hamlin, a standout defensive back for the University of Pittsburgh Panthers, has had his fair share of injuries during his football career. The senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has had to deal with several injuries throughout his time on the field, including a knee injury that forced him to miss the entirety of the 2016 season.

What is Tino Crossing Guards?

As students and staff enter and exit Main Street each day, they are greeted by a dedicated group of crossing guards who ensure their safety while crossing the busy streets around the area. These unsung heroes are often the first and last faces that students see each day, and their work is vital to the safety of the community.

What are Academic Resources?

As the education system continues to evolve, it’s important to examine the resources and support available to students who are struggling academically. Many students report feeling overwhelmed and unsupported, with limited access to tutoring and extra help. Teachers also express frustration with a lack of resources, such as updated textbooks and technology, to effectively support struggling students.

What is Minimum Wage Increase?

ChatGPT what is the controversy with Avatar: The Way of Water?

One of the main controversies surrounding Avatar: The Way of Water is the portrayal of indigenous people and their culture. Some critics argue that the film is exploitative

and perpetuates harmful stereotypes of indigenous people. They also have raised concerns about the use of “whitewashing” in the casting of the native characters and their portrayal in the movie.

In January 2023, minimum wage is set to increase across the Bay Area, affecting workers and businesses in cities such as San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland. This change is part of a larger effort to provide a boost to low-income workers and address the high cost of living in the region.

28 | DESIGNED BY EVAN LU POSTSCRIPT
ChatGPT Responding To Prospector ALISHA SANKHE writer

DATE TIME MADLIB

A Valentine’s Day Themed Madlib

On a sunny day in ________, the chime of your doorbell interrupts your ________ fantasy, but (year) (noun) you find yourself opening the door to see _____________ with a box of chocolates. (celebrity)

Despite your initial shock, you head out the door hand in hand. You see a limousine parked outside, with a ___________________ decal across the body. You sit beside ______________ (cartoon character) (celebrity) with their arm reaching across your shoulder to buckle in your seat belt.

Before stepping into _______, you trip over a(n) __________ and nearly faceplant. Luckily, (cafe) (animal)

_______________ catches your arm, and you faceplant together. Not to worry, no one has seen (celebrity)

you both fall. You quickly recover and step into the cafe together. Lucky for you, the cafe is running a __________________________ _________discount, and your date handles ordering [verb (present participle)] (noun) while you take a seat at the table. The conversation starts with the ethics of _________________ (Prospector Article) but quickly shifts toward the fun that awaits as you get to pick the APs of the year and acquire a serenade for __________. Before you know it, you are back in the car, playing (athlete)

____________________ to build the atmosphere. As you make it to your front porch, __________ (Justin Bieber song) (celebrity) runs up to you with a bouquet of ___________ peonies and asks you out to prom. (color)

It really was the ___________________________ day of your life. adjective (superlative)

POSTSCRIPT | 29
Date Time Madlib

A column exploring the impacts of a competitive environment on struggling students

LISA ZIVANIC copy and sports editor
30 | DESIGNED
BY JOLIE HAN

Ugh, I got an A-,” said my classmate.

“You think that’s bad? I got a B+,” said another.

As I sat in my fifth-grade classroom staring at the C on my math test, I could not help but feel academically inferior. If As and Bs were deemed unsatisfactory, what about my grade?

Through countless comparisons with my classmates, I realized that students and parents perceived grades as life and death. Grades determined one’s selfworth and, for some, their parents’ approval and affection.

Contrary to the Bay Area’s cutthroat, competitive, straight-A academic blueprint, I was never considered gifted. I was average and sometimes below it.

Growing up, I never spent my afternoons at Kumon classes. Frankly, I found tutoring tedious and socially depriving. Since their parents forced them to attend, my friends were shocked by my choice not to participate in such after-school classes.

My peers judged my parents’ laid-back approach to monitoring my grades since they were not the typical ‘tiger parents.’ Some students even came to the erroneous conclusion that my parents did not care for my future.

Looking back, it was a blessing. My peers’ shocked reactions to learning that my parents entrusted me to manage schoolwork caused me to wonder — momentarily — whether they were correct.

I attended school to the best of my ability but still struggled through my primary and secondary school years. Sometimes I found the tests

my friends deemed “super easy” relatively difficult. I was often puzzled by novels and would reread pages hoping I would understand the content.

No matter how hard I tried, I continually felt my friends were years ahead of me in terms of education. My efforts were no match against those who spent their spare time polishing their skills at the Russian School of Mathematics. I was running a race where everyone crossed the finish line while I was tying my shoelaces. Eventually, I became unmotivated to attend school, do my homework or obtain a tutor because I did not want to compromise my social well-being for assignments.

While continuing as a partially truant and nearly failing student — yes, near failing, not a B — the pandemic hit. While my academically-obsessed peers’ GPAs dropped, mine surprisingly increased.

With the first lockdown came social isolation, unless you loved texting, which I did not. “What did you do today?” with the response “I binge-watched Netflix” became exhaustingly repetitive conversations. Since I had hours of free time and could not meet other people, I had nothing else to do but schoolwork.

Under distance learning, I felt no academic pressure. The openbook exams and lengthy assignment deadlines created my ideal learning environment. My peers could not judge me through the

screen, and my family was content with my grades, given that I put in the effort. I worked to become an above-average student, receiving a 4.0 GPA in ninth grade.

Although my grades eventually improved, I understood that was not the case for everyone. Given my experience with the temporary lack of academic judgment, I realized the implications of peer-inflicted standards.

There were frequent discussions on social media and with my classmates about ‘gifted kid burnout.’ Many expressed that being overworked at school had caused an academic decline in once-gifted students. Because of the emphasis on previously having good grades, society sympathized more towards burnout-induced academic struggles. Yet, academically average students did not experience the same courtesy from others.

Bay Area students’ attitudes do not grant struggling students understanding while doing so for the previously gifted — often leaving those in-between behind.

The inconsistent and ignorant standard that we all must strive for straight-As created a harsh divide between my peers and I. While burnout exists for the academically gifted, some students have never been gifted in the first place. Some of us are simply average, and that is okay

“ GRADES DETERMINED ONE’S SELFWORTH AND, FOR SOME, THEIR PARENTS’ APPROVAL AND AFFECTION ” “
POSTSCRIPT | 31
I WAS RUNNING A RACE WHERE EVERYONE CROSSED THE FINISH LINE WHILE I WAS TYING MY SHOELACES

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