December 2022

Page 4

OUT OF MAVERICK POETS How two wordsmiths reflect the world around them THEATER GAFFES What happens off-stage when things go wrong on-stage SJSREVIEW.COM HOUSTON, TX 77019 MAVS 5 CULTURE 7 SPORTS 15 2401 CLAREMONT LANE VOLUME 74, ISSUE 2 ST. JOHN’S SCHOOL THE REVIEW DECEMBER 9, 2022 How we are thrifting, designing and stitching together a future beyond fast fashion FIELD HOCKEY How three games versus Kinkaid made all the difference STYLE PAGES 9-12 STORIES BY Mia Hong Serina Yan, Eshna Das & Aila Jiang Lucy Walker Annie Jones & Jennifer Liu ILLUSTRATION | Diane Guo & Alice Xu

Landslide wins send Fletcher, Hunt to Capitol Hill representing opposite sides of campus

For D’Hania Hunt, election night was not just about tracking who would represent her in Congress. As votes rolled in, the watch party she attended quickly became a victory party. By the end of the night, she had become the proud sister of Congressman-elect Wesley Hunt (‘00).

The celebration was especially sweet because Hunt was defeated in 2020 by fellow St. John’s alum Lizzie Fletcher (‘93).

When Hunt's 2022 race was o cially called, a live band played the “Top Gun” anthem, which honored his eight years as an Army aviation branch o cer and helicopter pilot, as well as his political success.

“The rst time around it wasn't his time, but he grew a lot as an individual,” Director of Community Engagement D’Hania Hunt said. “A lot of people have been supporting Wesley for the last three years, so it was a very joyous occasion.”

Due to redistricting in fall 2021, Fletcher and Hunt

avoided a rematch: Fletcher remained in TX-07, and Hunt ran in TX-38, one of two new congressional districts granted to Texas. The redistricting was a major point of dispute during the election cycle. Both districts include small, densely populated swatches on land inside the Loop o set by large plots of land in the suburbs. Senior Luke Romere saw redistricting as a positive.

“It works to the bene t of the majority of people in those districts,” he said. “Most of them are going to be represented by a candidate that they feel actually represents their values.”

Although redistricting bene ted both Hunt and Fletcher, it remains a point of contention. History teacher Eleanor Cannon sees gerrymandering as a bipartisan issue that rewards the political fringe.

“When parties are controlled by the extreme elements, it's not healthy for the parties,” Cannon said. “If the district is contested, you have to moderate your views to win over moderate people.”

Fletcher’s opponent, Johnny Teague, ran as a “pro-Second Amendment, Pro-Life, small-government candidate.” He also gained national attention for self-publishing a book, “The Lost Diary of Anne Frank," in which he imagined her irtations with Christianity while in a concentration camp.

Hunt’s opponent, Duncan Klussmann, a long-time Spring Branch ISD superintendent, ran on a platform based on education, mental health services and voting access.

Both Fletcher and Hunt won handily, by 29 and 28 points, respectively.

calling voters.

“The e ective conversations really make the time worth it,” Mostyn said. “Just reaching out from a candidate's team can make them feel special.”

History teacher Amy Malin works as a Volunteer Deputy Voter Registrar. Every two years, she attends a certi cation training session to register voters and also coordinates a voter registration table at Club Fair.

Ru Natarajan, precinct chair and great aunt of junior Shaheen Merchant, just completed a stint as Community Outreach Liaison on the Hidalgo campaign. She focused on getting more Democrats elected to local positions, working not only for Hidalgo but supporting candidates across Harris County.

“Elections are important everywhere,” Natarajan said. “But it's the local elected o cials that make the decisions in your neighborhood.”

Now that all Senate and House races have been decided, Republicans picked up eight seats in the House, a far cry from the “red wave" that many predicted. The Democrats have extended their Senate majority to 51-49 after John Fetterman’s victory in Pennsylvania and incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock’s runo win in Georgia.

In Texas, very little changed. The races for state leadership all went to incumbent Republicans. In Harris County, Hidalgo narrowly won a second term despite a massive ad campaign supported by Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale and an endorsement from the Houston Chronicle of her opponent, Alexandra del Moral Mealer.

Hunt and Fletcher represent opposing ideologies and, quite literally, the geographic division of St. John’s — The Upper School Campus is located in Hunt's district, while the Lower and Middle schools reside in Fletcher's domain.

Romere says the civil manner of both representatives re ects the political diversity at St. John’s. Even though he has di erent opinions with some of his closest friends, it has not impacted his friendships.

Romere has volunteered on both Hunt campaigns. After the disappointment in 2020, he started working toward the next election by phone-banking and block-walking.

Although most high school students cannot yet vote, there was no shortage of political involvement. Junior Ava Mostyn and senior Lia Symer recruited students to phone-bank for County Judge Lina Hidalgo through the school’s Young Liberals Organization, which also organized letter-writing events to support local Democrats and gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke.

Mostyn strived to have meaningful discussions while

After most races were called, YLO encouraged their members to stay informed with the election results. A week before the runo election in Georgia, they organized an event to write postcards and show students easy ways to get politically involved.

Mostyn observes a “vibrant political community” at St. John’s with “lots of di erent ideas and lots of active people.” She points to the Student Political Education Club, which teaches students how to have “civilized political discussions,” as well as YLO and the Young Conservatives Club, which allow students to “be around like-minded people” and support their party.

Mostyn also lauded the e orts to extend courtesy to people with di erent beliefs, speci cally by the rst two alumni representatives.

She noted that while Fletcher and Hunt aren’t always aligned, “they are able to communicate when needed,” which could be partially due to their St. John’s education.

“We’re taught to have powerful political conversations,” Mostyn said, “even with people that you don't agree with.”

Elections are important everywhere, but it's the local elected officials that make the decisions in your neighborhood.
GRAPHIC | Lily Feather
On the right, Lizzie Fletcher ('93) smiles for a photo with her campaign staff during her election watch party at the Armadillo Palace. PHOTO | Andrea Peterson Senior Luke Romere and his sister Shelby join Wesley Hunt ('00) at the Post Oak hotel to celebrate his victory in the new 38th district. PHOTO | Elizabeth Romere
We’re taught to have powerful political conversations, even with people you don't agree with.

SJS falls from top spot on Niche school ranking

For the last two years, St. John’s ranked as the best Houston-area private high school according to Niche. But when the rankings came out in September, the School dropped to 7th.

Awty International School jumped to rst, while SJS fell seven spots — behind John Cooper (2nd), The Village School (3rd), Kinkaid (4th), Strake Jesuit (5th) and St. Agnes (6th).

Niche is a ranking site that annually publishes lists of the best schools, from kindergarten to graduate school, attracting interest from prospective students and parents — and confusion from those who feel their school has been snubbed.

Niche rankings take into account student, teacher and parent reviews, along with data and other user-generated input to make their rankings and “report cards,” which distill various aspects of campus life into a letter grade. Niche compares the average standardized scores and generates their grades based on standard deviation.

On the Niche report card, St. John’s dropped in only two of the 12 categories: Teachers and Clubs & Activities, going from an A+ to an A, even though there is no quanti able di erence on campus. Assistant Dean of Students Lori Fryman tracks the number of clubs and their leaders, but she does not track student participation, and is "not sure how they quantify student participation in clubs."

“All I can think of is that they check the student life section of the website to see how many options are o ered,” Fryman said.

When asked to clarify how they arrive at their rankings, Niche’s Senior Public Relations Specialist Natalie Tsay said the company “considers data points such as expenses per student or student-teacher ratio alongside parent/student surveys” to determine the Clubs & Activities grade.

Regardless of Niche's ranking, we continue to attract far more applicants than we have spots.

Courtney Burger, SJS Director of Admissions, said that her team does not put stock in school ranking websites because of a “lack of transparency in how those rankings are established.”

“Keep in mind, one revenue stream for Niche is to charge a fee to the schools in return for promotional placement,” Burger said. “For many schools, Niche is an important marketing tool to increase the

number of applicants.”

Burger said that St. John’s uses its budget to support its students and teachers rather than to inate its ranking.

Niche partners with schools “to help them achieve their enrollment goals” because it acts as a bridge between schools and students and, according to Tsay, “a school being a partner has no e ect whatsoever on that school’s grades or rankings. We remain committed to evaluating all schools consistently.”

St. John’s has fewer user reviews than many similar area private schools, so any unfavorable review has a larger impact on its ranking. SJS had 106 user reviews compared to Awty (172) and St. Agnes (313). Additionally, many reviews are outdated. One negative review from 2015 blamed the school for their son’s substance abuse problem and eventual decision to drop out of college.

Reviews are, according to Niche, “in some cases, a small part” of their methodology, but they rely mostly on data points, Tsay said, citing their primary source as the U.S. Department of Education.

“Because user reviews have always been an integral part of our platform, we stand by our decision to factor those voices into our rankings,” Tsay wrote in an email with the Review. “It's the main di erence that sets Niche rankings apart.”

Niche stands alone as the only one of the major ranking sites, which includes the Houston Chronicle and Houstonia magazine, that does not place St. John’s at the top of the private schools in the Houston area.

Niche allows anonymous reviews so users feel comfortable speaking truthfully about their experiences, and it claims to moderate reviews to ensure accuracy.

“Quality control is a constantly evolving process at Niche,” Tsay said. “We employ a number of quality control measures when incorporating self-reported user data and user reviews, including automated scripts that account for anomalies and suspicious activity,” she said.

Although the drop in Niche ranking sparked some student discussion, the number of ninth-grade applicants increased over the last ve years.

“Regardless of Niche’s ranking,” Burger said, “We continue to attract far more ap-

plicants than we have spots.”

While local K-12 rankings are rather niche, college rankings are Big Business. Since 1984, US News and World Report has made a name for itself with their annual Best Colleges list. Its methodology factors not just data but also prestige, creating potentially awed — and controversial — rankings.

On Nov. 17, both Yale and Harvard law schools withdrew from US News and World Report rankings. The next day, they were joined by Stanford, Georgetown, Columbia and UC Berkeley law schools, which all cited questionable ethics and methodology.

According to The Washington Post, rankings favor schools with money and notable reputations — a full 20% of a school’s ranking is determined by its reputation among college presidents.

The rankings create a vicious cycle in which employers hire graduates from top schools, increasing the school’s reputation and ranking. It also tacitly rewards schools that in ate their data.

In March, Columbia University was caught falsifying data submitted to USN&WR. Many critics saw this as proof that the rankings system was broken.

“Most colleges do actually report truthful-

October issue wins NSPA Best of Show

From Oct. 10–13, members of The Review attended the National Scholastic Press Association’s Fall Convention, held this year in St. Louis. Fourteen Review editors and Drew Adams, a Quadrangle editor-in-chief, promenaded through the city, ate copious amounts of Thai food and took top prize for one of the most prestigious awards at the culminating awards ceremony.

The October issue of The Review won rst place Best of Show, marking the third straight year and fourth time ever The Review has won. The golden Best of Show trophy (for schools with less than 1,800 students) is awarded to the best publications entered at the convention.

“We were at this terribly long awards ceremony with these amazing schools,” sub-editor Lily Feather said. As each of the Top 10 publications were listed on the big screen, editors were relieved that they did not place low — but they also knew that their chance of victory diminished with each school announced.

When “First place: The Review” graced the wall-sized screen at the front of the hall, Feather wasn’t even watching, “but all of a sudden everyone was jumping up and down and screaming like crazy.”

The Review Online followed with a Top 10 nish in the Best of Show small-school website category, an increas-

ingly impressive feat as more high school publications expand their online presence.

Online section editor Serina Yan won rst place for Editorial Cartoon of the Year for an illustration that featured a Supreme Court justice with a Texas-shaped face declaring, “Your body, my choice." The cartoon was published in the rst semester of her freshman year.

Multimedia Editor James Li earned three awards: Broadcast Journalist of the Year (honorable mention), broadcast feature with Annie Villa (5th place) and broadcast feature with Section Editor Richard Liang, Photo Editor Lexi Guo and Drew Adams (honorable mention).

Print editor-in-chief Wilson Bailey and former executive editor Ella Chen won a 3rd place Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award for their article on Hurricane Ida.

Print editor-in-chief Diane Guo won an honorable mention for Designer of the Year, and Online Section Editor Lucy Walker, who has drawn, designed, written and photographed for The Review, received an honorable mention for Multimedia Journalist of the Year.

The rst piece that copy editor Lauren Baker ever wrote, “Help a cancer patient: Get vaccinated,” won an honorable mention for Opinion of the Year.

ly, to help with the rankings,” said Shawn Miller, an SJS college counselor. “The issue is the rankings are generated and created through di erent means. Niche is a great example: there is a lot of user interaction that can generate ratings that might not be totally truthful.”

A disproportionately high ranking could scare a potential applicant away from a college that would best t them, but a ranking that is too low could ward o prestige-conscious students.

When students generate a potential list of colleges where they might apply, they often begin with Top 10 rankings, forgetting to take into account whether they would actually be happy there.

Niche and other ranking sites can be useful tools for families to make informed decisions, but Miller said that students should not use them to curate nal application lists or become obsessed with name-brand colleges.

“Rankings are usually generated in ways that aren't positive for building a college list,” Miller said. “It can cause more harm than good.”

GRAPHIC | Willow Zerr Review editors and advisers visit alumni at Washington University in St. Louis while attending the NSPA Fall Convention. PHOTO | Ryan Chang
Review takes home award for third straight year

Anna Fisher did not wait to start a family until after her space career.

She joined NASA in 1978, had her rst daughter, Kristin ('01), in 1983, and ew on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1984, becoming the rst mother in space.

When Fisher was 12, the rst manned space ight was set to launch on May 5, 1961. She and her classmates gathered around a small radio as Alan Shepard spoke to Mission Control in Houston. Listening to the broadcast in the school gym, “a seed was planted,” and no matter how unrealistic it was for a woman at that time, Fisher was determined to become an astronaut.

“My whole story was centered around serendipitous events,” Fisher said.

She started a career in emergency medicine in the mid1970s. One day, Fisher had lunch with a colleague and found out by chance that NASA was looking for astronauts. After her application, a series of interviews and physical tness tests, she became one of the rst six women selected for the U.S. space program.

Fisher compared her NASA experience to a surfer catching a wave at just the right moment “when societal norms were starting to change.”

In the '70s, NASA nally committed to diversifying their Astronaut Corps, and its women gained more visibility.

“It was hard because you wanted to make sure you did a good job for the sake of the women that came after you,” Fisher said.

“Because things don’t always go as smoothly as you would like them to,” Fisher advises young people to “believe in themselves.”

These days, Fisher speaks at Space Center Houston and the Kennedy Space Center several times a year. She encourages travelers to explore the world like the godmother of the Viking ocean ship, Orion. The State Department also invites her to inspire young women around the world to pursue STEM careers.

Fisher’s groundbreaking work in space travel paved the way for future female astronauts.

“Being the rst mom to go to space, there were so many people who thought it was wrong for me to go on this risky journey,” she said. “For women, you can have a demanding career and you can have a family — you shouldn’t have to choose.”

When twin sophomores Henry and Caroline Chiao were still in strollers, their parents rolled them up to NASA Mission Control Center in Clear Lake, where they met many of their father’s astronaut friends and colleagues.

At 8 years old, Henry and Caroline were introduced to their father’s friend Alexei Leonov at a Rice University function. The late Leonov was the rst to conduct a spacewalk.

A former NASA astronaut and International Space Station Commander, Leroy Chiao traveled into space four times over the course of his 15-year career, logging 229 days in space. When his twins were ve, the family traveled to Florida to see one of the last space shuttle launches before the program was retired in 2011.


Fisher served as a ight engineer and robotics arm operator during her rst mission on the Space Shuttle Discovery. As a mission specialist, Fisher also assisted in the deployment of two communication satellites and the retrieval of two other multi-million dollar satellites that had fallen into the wrong orbit, rendering them useless. According to Fisher, “No one had ever done anything like that before.”

Six weeks before her second scheduled space ight, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after lifto on Jan. 28, 1986. Knowing it would be years before Fisher could return to space, she took a leave of absence that lasted until 1996.

During her time away from NASA, she had a second daughter, Kara ('07), in 1989.

Fisher got involved with St. John’s by chaperoning her daughters’ eld trips, attending football games, participating in Senior Tea and speaking to students about space.

“It felt like such a family environment,” she said.

After returning to NASA, she assumed command of the Space Station branch. By then, international relations between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union had improved, leading to the Shuttle-Mir Program, a collaboration between the two countries. Fisher volunteered to stay on the job so that she could build relationships with the Russian team before making her second space ight.

“I wasn’t in the space program just for myself and going into space,” Fisher said. “I believe strongly in space travel, and I was happy to be able to make a contribution.”

After working to help establish the International Space Station, which became fully operational in 2009, Fisher was eager to visit. But when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003, her return to space was delayed yet again.

In 1969, Chiao was 8 years old, and Apollo 11 became the rst manned space ight to land on the moon. “That’s when the dream started for me,” he said. “It was always in the back of my mind — I was going to at least try to become an astronaut.”

From ying T-38 jets to learning vehicle operation in simulators and attending classes, astronauts are always training. Chiao’s NASA career started in 1990, with his rst space ight in 1994. He began with a research mission in which he spent two weeks in a laboratory module. While he was expected to keep t, his preparation also included emergency procedures and mission-speci c training, such as robotic arm operations, spacewalks and experiments.

Chiao brought several NASA-approved items with him on his space expeditions, including a wristwatch, mechanical pencil and family photos — mementos he still keeps today.

He performed two spacewalks on his second mission in 1996, which tested and evaluated tools and construction techniques. The ndings were later used to install two major pieces of the ISS on his third mission in 2000.

On his fourth and nal mission in 2005, Chiao copiloted the Russian spacecraft Soyuz TMA-5 to the ISS. He served as Space Station commander for over six months, conducting research and overseeing maintenance.

Having trained with cosmonauts, Chiao performed two Russian spacewalks in Russian-made spacesuits, and when the mission was completed, he landed in Kazakhstan.

Chiao says that “being up there and looking at the Earth” is a surreal experience.

As one might expect, not everything goes exactly to plan on a space mission. On his nal voyage, the spacecraft was approaching the ISS when alarms began blaring because the autopilot had failed. After almost losing sight of the station, the astronauts brought the spacecraft to a stop just 50 meters from the ISS and docked their craft manually.

“We were well trained for that kind of an emergency,” Chiao said. “Training prepares you to deal, as best as possible, with anything that can go wrong.”

After his last mission, Chiao spoke in 2005 at a school assembly about his experiences in space.

Today he serves as co-founder and CEO of OneOrbit, a company that promotes corporate leadership and sponsors student events.

Last November, he spoke with the Space Technology, Economics and Policy club. “Everyone was really eager to hear about his life," STEP Club leader Sebastian Vlahos said. “His stories were so interesting."

Chiao made the decision to leave NASA at the end of 2005: “I had done everything I could do in a ying career,” he said. “It was a natural time to leave NASA — leaving on a high note.

As she awaited her next mission, Fisher helped improve the display panels for the Orion Space Shuttle.

Fisher retired from NASA in 2017; she never returned to space.

Not only was Fisher the rst mother in space, her then-husband Bill went into space a year later, becoming one of a handful of married couples to do so.

Columbia Orion earned

After graduating from St. John’s, Kristin worked as a White House correspondent for Fox News and currently works as a senior space and defense correspondent for CNN. Her sister Kara earned an MBA at Southern Methodist University and works in the private nancial sector.

While in the space program, Fisher faced scrutiny from the press. At the start of her journey, Fisher said that she had “zero con dence.”

Anna Fisher, the first mother in space, took her NASA photo with her daughter Kristin ('01).
ST. JOHN’S Before they were SJS parents, they launched careers at NASA By Lily Feather & Aila Jiang COURTESY PHOTO | Leroy Chiao For women, you can have a demanding career and you can have a family — you shouldn't have to choose.

Vázquez expresses 'very big feelings' in debut poetry collection

Irene Vázquez has weathered storms her entire life. Growing up in New Orleans, she was used to “ ood days” cancelling school and fallen oak trees littering streets.

But Hurricane Katrina changed everything.

When the Category 5 storm hurtled toward Louisiana in 2005, her family followed the usual plan of attack: riding it out with her grandmother in Alabama.

This time they didn’t return back home, relocating to Houston months later.

Vázquez, now 24, still feels a strong connection to New Orleans.

Senior named Houston Youth Poet Laureate

After Ariana Lee's recitation of “Falling," one of the audience members was brought to tears.

The poem was inspired by the 442nd Infantry Regiment, a U.S. Military unit consisting of Japanese American soldiers during World War II. The audience member was the descendant of a soldier in the 442nd.

“I read that they were the most decorated military unit of all U.S. history,” Lee said. “So how come we never learn about them?”

Lee was inspired by a time when the regiment climbed a cli to launch an attack on German forces, and many of the soldiers fell o the edge. As they plummeted to their deaths, the soldiers remained silent because they did not want to give away their position. Lee thought this act was so powerful that she used the falling as inspiration for the choreography in her performance.

On Nov. 3, Lee was named the seventh Houston Youth Poet Laureate at a ceremony held in her honor. After the 2022 laureate, Avalon Hogans, passed down the prestigious golden pen and journal, Lee gave her acceptance speech and performed ve poems.

Lee hopes to one day become United States Poet Laureate.

Through her poetry, Lee explores what it means to be Asian American and the child of immigrants. Many of Lee’s poems focus on uplifting stories that are often overlooked.

Slam poetry originated in Chicago in the ’80s when poet Marc Kelly Smith, who believed that poetry had become “too structured and stu y," hosted his rst competition. Today, spoken-word poetry is de ned by its emotional delivery and powerful writing.

Paraphrasing one of her favorite poets, Sarah Kay, Lee explained that spoken word “is best described as poetry that can’t stay on the page. Something about it demands to be spoken aloud.”

Lee is a member of Meta-Four Houston, a youth poetry slam team coached by renowned performer Blacqwild owr and Outspoken Bean, the current City of Houston Poet Laureate. Over the summer, the team won the Skylawn slam at POST Houston.

“Katrina is just a very large part of who I am, and how I make sense of the world,” she said. “It is something that I’m always coming back to, whether I know it consciously or not.”

These days, Vázquez (’17) lives with another St. John’s alum and a tortoiseshell cat named Gemini in New Jersey. She works as a publicist and assistant editor for Levine Querido, an independent publisher. She also freelances as a journalist and poet. Her articles have appeared in the Texas Observer, Houston Chronicle and Pulitzer Center, and her poetry has been featured in Brooklyn Poets, Muzzle Magazine and the Hennepin Review.

She returns to her experience during Katrina in her debut poetry chapbook, “Take Me to the Water,” published in October by Bloof Books. Since then, she has been “hodgepodging together a tour” across America.

“A common narrative that happens after hurricanes — especially destructive ones like Katrina and Harvey — is, why should we rebuild these places? What’s worth going back to?” Vázquez said. “I write to answer that question and show how much beauty and life is there.”

Vázquez, a Johnnycake alumna, is a performer at heart, so spoken word was “this perfect medium, where I could marry this beautiful writing and performance,” she said.

In the Upper School and at open mics across the city, Vázquez shared her spoken-word poetry. During her time at Yale, she was accepted into the selective WORD poetry group.

English Department Chair Rachel Weissenstein, who taught Vázquez sophomore English and Creative Writing, remembers her spoken-word performances during class.

“When she performed original spoken word poems, it was apparent that this is what she was meant to do,” Weissenstein said. “She seemed to feel that, and the people who saw her perform felt that as well.”

Even as a teen, Vázquez had a lot to say. She saw herself as a hurricane, a force of nature, “large and monstrous and destructive” because of all the feelings churning within her. Through poetry and journalism, she found a way to channel them.

Vázquez joined The Review as a freshman and became editor-in-chief her senior year. Review adviser David Nathan dubbed her “the editorial voice of the paper” for her ery opinion pieces, including “An open letter to Donald Trump” and “How can meager millennials manage?”

“She was about getting heard — love me or hate me, but do not ignore me,” Nathan said. “And you couldn’t ignore her. It was impossible to ignore Irene.”

I feel the best in my body when I’m dancing, and spoken word gives me that same feeling. I feel the best when I’m creating.

Since she began publicly reciting her work a year ago, she has performed original pieces in city-wide grand slams and symposia.

“I started writing poetry because it touched me,” Lee said. “And now I can touch others, too.”

A few months into quarantine, Lee came across a slam poetry video by the Los Angeles Youth Slam Poetry Team. Without even realizing, she spent hours bingewatching the content, becoming more inspired to explore her identity through spoken-word poetry.

Lee is no stranger to the stage. She began dancing at four and performed with the Houston Ballet for ten years in front of hundreds of people.

“I feel the best in my body when I’m dancing, and spoken word gives me that same feeling,” Lee said. “I feel the best when I’m creating.”

Lee uses her experience in dance to choreograph some of her poetry performances herself.

Only two years after discovering slam poetry on YouTube, Lee now runs her own channel, where she posted her Independent Study Project, a dance lm of “My Boy” by Billie Eillish. She performed, directed, choreographed and edited the lm. Lee also uses Instagram (@ari. purplecrayon) to update her followers about public appearances. The account includes a link to her performance of “Through the Eye,” a poem written about Lee’s experience during Hurricane Harvey, which caught the eye of One Breath Partnership, an environmental non-pro t organization.

“Something that I learned from the slam community is that you speak from your lived experiences,” Lee said. “I've learned a lot about myself and other people through just getting involved in this community, so I hope people can use others' experiences to re ect on their own.”

Lee’s goals for her career include becoming the rst Asian American National Poet Laureate, as well as bringing poetry into the mainstream.

“I want people to know that spoken word is super, super diverse,” Lee said. “It's a very vibrant community, and it's not the rigid, structured, traditional poetry that is often taught in school."

Vázquez, who is Black Mexican American, features Black, Latino and Indigenous perspectives in her poetry. She says the poem that best sums up the terrain traversed in the book is “The Black Shoals,” a narrative piece about colonialism and natural disasters. It was the rst poem Vázquez wrote for the collection.

Writing “Take Me to the Water” was a yearslong endeavor: she began composing the poems as a student at Yale. Her writing process involved months of editing, countless workshops and a Spotify playlist curated for inspiration. Vázquez usually began writing before dawn, fueled by French press co ee and buoyed by pictures taped to the wall above her desk.

“I got to really appreciate writing in the morning because very few of my friends were awake. There's no distractions. There’s nobody else’s thoughts in your head,” she said. “I feel like the world can be very loud sometimes.”

Because of her day job, Vázquez was able to plan the chapbook’s launch herself. The book cover was printed and its pages handbound by Bloof Books, which has already started a second printing.

Vázquez has quickly gained prominence among young poets and won a plethora of awards, including Brooklyn Poets Fellow, Best of Net nomination and, just last week, a second nomination for the Pushcart Prize. She received her rst nomination in high school.

Vázquez began writing poetry in seventh grade at St. John’s. Her self-proclaimed “emo” phase coincided with her time as an editor for the Middle School literary magazine, The Diamond Window. Poetry soon became a way to express all of her “very big feelings.”

During her freshman year, a classmate introduced her to spoken-word poetry.

Vázquez said her current journalistic work explores Black and Indigenous experiences of colonization and environmental racism. One of her pieces, which she wrote with support from the Pulitzer Center, sent her back to Louisiana to report on the Sacred Waters Pilgrimage, a journey along the Mississippi River designed to heal Black and Indigenous participants’ “relationship with water.”

“She’s perceptive and hilarious, but she’s not frivolous. She’s trying to change the world,” Nathan said. “She’s trying to get people to notice what’s wrong in the world, and she does it in a way that makes you want to listen.”

Senior Ariana Lee performs spoken-word poetry at the Climate Justice Museum & Cultural Center.
PHOTO Irene Vázquez

Brickmasters construct complex creations, building community one Lego at a time

Brick by brick, senior George Donnelly’s replica of the Daily Bugle began to take shape. Measuring almost three feet tall, the 3,772-piece skyscraper took more than eight hours to complete.

The Daily Bugle — the ctional workplace of photographer Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man — was a surprise birthday gift from his aunt and is now one of many builds displayed in Donnelly’s personal Lego Hall of Fame: the shelves in his bedroom.

As co-founder of the Lego Club, Donnelly has also built the McCallister house from “Home Alone,” multiple Star Wars sets and various structures of his own design.

“With Legos, there are no limits, no rules to what you can do,” Donnelly said. “You can just bring in all types of stu and really do whatever you want.”

Although following a step-by-step guide results in easier, more straightforward building, Donnelly prefers to create his own unique designs, changing his vision to accommodate the constraints of having a limited array of pieces.

“Usually it comes out looking pretty ugly,” Donnelly said. “So I have to change it a couple of times and evolve the idea.”

Danish carpenter and Lego founder Ole Kirk Kristiansen started making wooden blocks and toys for children in 1932. Four years later, he o cially started the company, deriving its name from the Danish words “leg godt,” meaning “play well,” which is synonymous with both its name and mission. Ninety years later, that goal still holds true.

Upper School Neuroscience and Anatomy teacher Paula Angus is the faculty sponsor of the Lego Club. Even as an adult, Legos still have an important place in her life. A longtime tradition in her family involves building sets with her daughters during Christmastime.

“Legos do a good job of bridging the gap between adults and kids,” Angus said. “It gives adults a chance to be kids again.”

As people grow older, those who stick with Legos sometimes move away from free-building, which is a process of assembling, dissembling and rebuilding creations over and over. Eventually, prefabricated sets hold more appeal — the fun is still there, just with a little more structure.

“It's the building process that di erentiates Legos from other types of toys or model-making,” Donnelly said. “Even if you don't take something apart and rebuild it, just slowly assembling it and seeing the di erent techniques to build something is where the value comes from.”

Free-building takes signi cantly longer than building from a pre-made set; Donnelly has spent less time creating Lego structures since entering high school — a sentiment common among other Upper School students who played with Legos as kids.

been playing with Legos since she was ve. In just a few years, she was building sets meant for ages 14 and up.

“People would assume that I wouldn't be able to do something so complicated because I was so little,” Walker said. “And then I would whip out this awesome spaceship and be like, joke’s on you.”

Walker has been underestimated not only for her age, but also her gender. Lego is the rare activity that is perceived as gender-neutral and inclusive. But with the advent of ridiculously easy, obviously female-oriented sets such as Lego Friends, it’s hard not to see a gender divide taking shape.

“Why are you going to assume that I want something that's branded to be feminine?” Walker asked.

Walker recounts a Toys “R" Us trip where she gravitated towards a Lego Chima set, complete with zombie ravens and ice hunters, yet her mom suggested a Lego Friends set with a baby seal.

“My mom was like, but look, it's so cute,” Walker said. “And I was like, but zombie ravens, that's so awesome!”

Junior Ajay Clark-Desai is currently working with his younger sister on a 2,316-piece Lego model of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Clark-Desai said that piecing together the famous painting helped him understand Van Gogh’s process: “I’m starting to realize exactly how the pieces coincide with the art itself.”

Playing with Legos has also inspired Clark-Desai to pursue other interests. In particular, Lego Mindstorms, a line of robots that can be programmed to dance and play sports, kickstarted his interest in coding.

“Not to make a pun or anything, but my love for Legos just kept building upon itself,” Clark-Desai said.

Clark-Desai continued experimenting with Legos via building techniques like sliding doors and revolving cannons. His interest in Lego Robotics eventually turned into a love for engineering, robotics, and STEM courses, and while they were originally meant as a children’s toy, they have also created a lot of interest and opportunities.

You would be hard-pressed to nd anyone at St. John’s who has ever had an interest in engineering or STEM who didn't play with Legos as a kid.

For Lucy Walker, an online editor, Lego Technic was a way to bond with those who loved to make things.

“I could call my friend and tell them to hand me a 12-stud beam and two 6-stud axels, and they knew right away what I needed,” Walker said.

“It was a couple of mad scientists working on this project they were just super psyched about.”

Walker had

As popular as Lego is today, it’s easy to forget that the company almost went bankrupt in the early 2000s. A decision to shift more towards digital entertainment instead of their trademark colorful blocks led to disappointing sales. Thankfully, fan devotion towards the iconic toy company kept them from going under. Legos have remained an enduring staple of American childhood ever since.

“There's just something about Lego that has cemented it in the childhood memories of several generations,” Walker said. “They’re instantly recognizable and really satisfying to snap together.”

After all, what other childhood toy could have people outside their stores lined up for blocks?

Not to make a pun or anything, but my love for Legos just kept building upon itself.
George Donnelly's replica of the Daily Bugle. Piece count: 3,772 PHOTO | Alexander Donnelly At his regular Lego Club meetings, senior George Donnelly designs custom Lego builds. PHOTO | Isabella Diaz-Mira Lucy Walker spent 15 hours building a model of Hogwarts Castle Piece count: 6,020 PHOTO | Lucy Walker

When things go o -script, Johnnycake handles mishaps

Technical Theater, Behind the Scenes

harness for the climax of Act I.

Gray portrayed Mr. Hart, a sexist boss kidnapped and held hostage in his own garage by three of his female employees. The scene was supposed to end with the automatic garage door opening and lifting Watson above the stage.

One night it didn’t go as planned.

“During the transition,” Tanner said, “we couldn’t get the harness on in time.” Mild panic ensued.

boss desperately

Behind the scenes, the cast and crew desperately tried to communicate that they could not do the stunt because it was not safe, even though it meant that a significant plot point was omitted. Fortunately, they called off the lift before some greater calamity could befall the production.

Backstage mistakes can cause panic, while others deflate the morale of cast and crew.

For Thomas Murphy, technical theater combines feats of engineering with art and drama. He teaches young thespians how to operate saws, screw guns, soundboards and spotlights, among the many other gadgets that help create a show.

Murphy, Johnnycake’s Technical Director, hosts Saturday crew in the Lowe Theater every week, in which students build the sets for every Middle and Upper School production. Junior Maggie Whelan, Johnnycake Vice President, loves crew because it makes her feel accomplished and involved with the production.


s soon as the cast of “Clue” took their final bows, the actors skittered off the stage in all directions. Ava Steely, who played Miss Scarlet, slammed a door shut behind her — and the wall came crashing down.

“I stood there like a deer in the headlights,” Steely said, “completely shocked.”

“Clue” was one of the most logistically difficult shows the theater department has attempted recently, with nine backstage crew members managing five moving platforms and sliding walls. The technical aspect was nearly as chaotic as the frantic action on stage.

Shaan Patel, a senior backstage technician, considered this production the most complicated and challenging he’s ever done.

“Pretty much the entire set was moving,” Patel said, “Things had to fly on stage, roll off — it was just a lot.”

Before the curtain call calamity, there were more minor technical difficulties. Unbeknownst to the audience, the set was damaged little by little during transitions. Armed with a hammer and nails, Patel strategically repaired the set without the audience knowing.

“I waited for bits of laughter, or loud dialogue, or lots of screaming — wherever I could to mask the hammering,” Patel said.

A troublesome sliding wall was yet another headache for the backstage crew.

“I tried to close it,” Steely said, “and that was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

A Chronology of Calamity

In the Oscar-winning film “Shakespeare in Love,” producer Philip Henslowe remarks on the state of the theater: “The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster,” he says. “Strangely enough, it all turns out well.”

The mishaps of “Clue” are but the latest addition to a long and comical history of Johnnycake productions. Although Steely said she felt terrible about literally bringing down the house, “it was better than the Zipline Incident.”

In the 2019 production of “The Three Musketeers,” the hero D'Artagnan, played by Tanner Watson (’22), was supposed to swing over the stage from one VST balcony to another via zipline, strapped into a harness.

On the final night, D’Artagnan was prepared to swoop in and save the day, but just as he reached the balcony, Watson’s foot slipped, causing him to slowly roll backwards until he was stuck high above the audience, unable to move.

“I hung there like a ragdoll," said Watson, a former Johnnycake President.

Without stopping the show, his fellow castmates rescued him and pulled him to the other side with a rope until Watson reached the balcony, and the dramatic fight scene resumed.

Some people in the audience tried to comfort Watson by telling him the incident appeared purposeful, but Watson says it was very obviously a mistake.

Today, Johnnycake refers to the Incident as simply “Zipline.”

In the spring musical production of “9 to 5,” Tanner worked backstage crew and was tasked with helping his older brother Gray Watson (‘19) into a

“Oh God, it's morbid,” Tanner said. “When you make a mistake, it’s dead silent because nobody knows what to say. Should I say sorry? Should I console you?”

Performing in front of a live audience limits communication backstage. Patel says that because the stage is so large and dark, messages often get confused, likening it to a game of telephone.

Regardless of mistakes on stage, audiences tend to be sympathetic.

“It’s live theater; there’s always a chance of people making mistakes or something being off,” Steely said, “It’s part of the experience and part of the risk you take with theater, and that’s what makes it so exciting. The audience is part of the experience, so when they come, they understand that aspect of it.”

deflate the morale of cast and crew. Tanner limits often whatever

In “Clue,” the directors complimented the crew’s ability to stay calm and deal with whatever issues arose.

“Puffs” was especially challenging since it was the first live performance during the pandemic. The 2021 production relocated from the Black Box to an outdoor stage before ultimately being performed in the Lowe Theater for a low-capacity audience.

To further complicate matters, there was no backstage crew due to Covid safety measures. All the actors were responsible for their own props and made costume changes without any assistance.

“That show was a madhouse,” Steely said, “People could tell that it was difficult. But there was no way they could have known the absolute chaos that was going on backstage.”

Nearly every actor portrayed multiple roles and had several costume changes. At one point, Owen Paschke (‘22), who played both Cederic Diggory and Lord Voldemort, also served as a temporary backstage tech to operate the fly rail, which raises and lowers objects on stage.

Curtain Calls and Chaos

While a smooth performance would make life much easier for everyone, Steely embraces the impact that chaos has on Johnnycake.

“Something going wrong really can bring you closer together,” Steely said. “It's a funny thing to bond over.”

Those bonds keep casts connected long after the final curtain call. The Zipline Incident is as much a part of Watson’s theatrical legacy as are his leading roles and tenure as Johnnycake president.

“I get to tell that story for the rest of my life,” Watson

St. John’s thespians find that mistakes and occasionally going off-script are part of the appeal of live productions. With so many potential variations happening every night, each performance is truly a unique audience experience.

“I’m a believer that sometimes a script is a suggestion,” Watson said, “Part of theater is that things go off-script — it’s live, and things can go wrong. That’s

beautiful in its own right.”

Whelan started as an Assistant Stage Manager on “Into the Woods” as a freshman. Covid restrictions limited the number of people who could tech the show, so Whelan also worked as a lighting tech. Behind every shine of a spotlight is a tangle of cues, commands and nods.

“They just threw me on lights, lamb to slaughter,” Whelan said. “For the final scene, there was a sequence of six light cues that had to be on certain lines, and I had to get the rhythm down. You just learn as you go.”

For Willy Wonka Jr., the Middle School musical, sophomore Ally Rodriguez worked as a stage manager. Rodriguez said she had an “intimidating” amount of responsibility — she spent weeks coordinating between tweenagers, Upper School crew members and directors, overseeing every aspect of the production.

“It’s easy to get the idea that you have to shoulder everything on your own, but if that’s never the case,” she said. “Johnnycake is a place to be yourself while you're still working as a part of a team. You have this sense of community — we’re all in it together.”

Techs of this year’s fall play, Clue, managed rooms on wheels, a falling chandelier and very finicky microphones. A floor-ridden Mr. Green found himself face-to-face with the chandelier as fly rail tech Katherine Pearson lowered it to the ground. The klutzy FBI operative, played by senior Jack Aitkens, rolled out of the way just in time.

“We rehearsed that one a bunch of times,” said Theater Manager and Technical Director Thomas Murphy. “There were specific cues in the lines for Katherine to know when to speed up and slow down. She knew, even if she couldn't see the actor, that he was out of the way.”

But techs have more minutiae to worry about beyond the massive moving parts. Mics alone offer a world of complications: the battery pack has to be strapped onto the actor under their clothes, which proved difficult for Ava Steely, who wore a fitted dress. Techs strapped the mic pack to her thigh and ran the wire connecting to her microphone up her back.

Freshman Raka Agrawal was a backstage tech on Willy Wonka Jr. who coordinated actors, set pieces and machines behind the curtain.

“You are making sure everything works smoothly,” Agrawal said. “What goes on behind the scenes is a lot of setting up and organizing.”

In the week before opening night, tech week, the cast and crew stay after school every day to rehearse, troubleshoot and fix. It’s “frantic,” Agrawal said, but the late nights and chaos bring the crew closer together.

“Everyone is so tired and kind of unhinged in a great way, so it's a very fun community to come into. You are all a team,” she said. “Every person counts.”

DESIGN | Diane Guo Jack Aitken narrowly dodges death by chandelier. The cast of "Clue" uses one of many delicate doors in a Scooby-Doo-style comedy sequence. PHOTOS| Charles Tsang

Fairies, frivolity and fantasy: students embark on Renaissance adventures

Sophomore Vivian Kwoh has been attending Renfest since she was a tiny 3-year-old in a fairy costume. She advised rst-time attendees to “watch the budget.”

To prepare for this year’s outing, Kwoh spent hours working on a detailed estimate, complete with a slideshow, for her four friends and her parents. She tried to break down the cost of every activity, but became frustrated with the Renfest website, which did not list the exact price of activities — a tactic Kwoh says will make guests believe they are inexpensive.

“I gave the barest of bones estimation,” Kwoh said, “and we spent double that.”

The group budgeted almost $400 on activities with an additional $60 for food. Their favorite activity — throwing tomatoes at a man who stands onstage and insults festival-goers — costed $40. The budget did not account for anything sold in stores.

This year, Kwoh decided to allocate a sizable chunk of her own money on a professional photo of herself and her friends in costume. She keeps a small copy of the picture in her wallet: “They’re worth it because you get to preserve the memories.”

According to Wan, Renfest’s main demographics are D&D players, nerdy teenagers and middle-aged dads. She says that with the in ux of younger attendees, Renfest “will have to cater to a new audience.”

Still, Wan considers Renfest a “cult classic” that is here to stay, thanks in part to a growing interest in fantasy, including in “LARPing” or Live-Action Role Playing.

Wan plans to keep attending Renfest. She says the festival is “a novelty” because it gives Texans a limited window to attend.

“It ful lls a niche I’m interested in that I don’t get to engage with a lot,” Wan said.

hen over a dozen D&D Club members descended on the Texas Renaissance Festival

last fall, the outing quickly became a corset-buying quest. Fueled by oversized turkey legs, they wandered about the tiny town of Todd Mission, admiring centuries-old fashion.

After one adventurer bought a black, embellished, faux-leather number, the rest followed suit, making their ye-olde purchases in a fantasy shopping spree.

The festival-goers returned this year on Nov. 26, renewing their annual quest to throw knives, buy cloaks and hunt for iced co ee.

The Dungeons and Dragons Club members are among fans who consider any Renfest outing incomplete without costumes, both homespun and store-bought.

D&D club member Thomas Center, who has attended almost every year since middle school, makes costumes by hand whenever possible. This year, Center’s pirate out t included a corset, a tricorn hat and a belt that held two knives, a telescope and an empty potion bottle.

Last year, Center sported an elven look, complete with wood-patterned fabric and a leaf cloak that they glued together themself.

Center completed the look with a two-foot steel sword and scabbard, secured with a leather cord — in compliance with Renfest’s safety rules.

“There’s not really much of a point going to Renfest if you’re not going to do something fancy,” Center said.

This year, senior Adele Wan’s plague doctor costume came together at the last minute. It was complete with a birdlike mask and steampunk-inspired goggles. Last year, Wan hand-sewed her costume: an all-black leather-and-lace oor-length dress with sheer pu y sleeves and metal embellishments.

“It’s mostly an excuse to dress up,” said

Wan, who also makes her own Halloween costumes. “I’m always going to use this as an excuse to create.”

Out ts factor into festival-goer expenses, along with merchandise, food and tickets ($15 for kids 12 and under, $30 for adults). Depending on one’s frugality, or lack thereof, a trip to Renfest could cost thousands.

The D&D Club realized that going as a group earned them a slight discount — a windfall that lessened concerns about cost.

“I don’t want to be spending quite as much as I am,” Center said. “But if I’m going to, at least I’m spending it somewhere that I care about and giving money to very talented individuals, not just a random corporation.”

The Texas Renaissance Festival began in 1974 on an old strip-mining site 50 miles northwest of Houston. It now claims to be the nation’s largest Renaissance theme park. Its founder, George Coulam, bought the land and formed Todd Mission, his own municipality (population 123, according to the 2020 census).

Over half a million people regularly attend Renfest during its nine weekends. Each week has its own theme, such as All Hallows’ Eve and Pirate Adventure. Attractions include a jousting performance in a Colosseum-style arena, high tea and four escape rooms.

Part of the appeal is its support for small businesses and handcrafted items.

“People get the cheap baubles from wherever in our globalized network of cheap things that you can get from any supplier," said history teacher Joe Wallace, “but then there are people that make things, and they’ve done so generation after generation.” Wallace attended the festival in 2021 with his family.

Wan expressed trepidation about the future of small businesses at Renfest. When she returned to the festival post-pandemic, she noticed that some businesses were reselling fast fashion pieces, only slightly nicer than the quality found at large costume stores like Party City.

For Wan, Renfest is now an expensive endeavor that hawks overpriced items. Some

D&D club members spent upwards of $100 each on corsets alone.

“I don’t want to break the bubble, but all of those corsets could have been found on Amazon,” said Wan, who actually found hers on Amazon for a much lower price.

Wan would prefer the festival follow the Nutcracker Market model by hosting unique vendors from the Houston area.

“There are a lot of small businesses that could assuredly bene t from the publicity that Renfest has,” she said.

Renfest boasts 400 on-site shops in its many districts, yet Wan noticed a sameness to those shops across the districts.

“I de nitely see that there’s a need to ll space,” she said. “Each of the districts is very much the same thing, but with vaguely di erent cultural aspects pushed into it.”

Center also anticipates Renfest’s growth. “As things like D&D become more mainstream, it’s going to draw more people into engaging with fantasy,” they said.

For Center, the event embodies fantasy worlds they have always dreamed of.

“I was very much one of those kids that thought I would get an acceptance letter to Hogwarts,” Center said. “So getting to have a space where all these fantasy things come to life is really great.”

Center’s favorite part of Renfest is the look of wonder on friends’ faces when they arrive in Todd Mission for the rst time and see adults as well as small children running around with swords.

“There’s so much freedom to be who you want to be without worrying how you’re going to be perceived.”

Additional reporting by Lydia Gafford
ILLUSTRATION | Georgia Andrews
Dungeons & Dragons Club members Hanan Wishah and Thomas Center flaunt their medieval flair at the annual Texas Renaissance Festival in Todd Mission. PHOTO | Lily Feather

'Destroying our environment and looking bad doing it':

Unpacking the troubling trends in fast fashion

When sophomore Talulah Monthy founded the Fashion Club this year, she had one goal: to create a space where anyone could explore their love of fashion. But the desire to remain ahead of the curve clashes with the increased awareness about the wastefulness of the fast fashion industry.

“All the customers want is something they can wear a couple of times while it’s trendy and then throw away,” Monthy said.

Shein, a major online fast-fashion retailer, boasts over 43 million active shoppers and claims in its mission statement to be environmentally friendly. But to accommodate its rapidly growing customer base, the company adds around 2,000 styles daily to its catalog — a pace that is much too fast to remain environmentally sustainable.

The fast fashion industry began in earnest in the 1990s and has fueled rampant modern consumerism. But avoiding inexpensive, mass-produced clothing in favor of styles that are manufactured ethically and sustainably is an expensive proposition.

Sophomore Aspen Toussaint says companies that prioritize fair labor practices and sustainability are signi cantly more expensive than fast fashion outlets like Old Navy and Target.

“For a lot of people, buying that $10 t-shirt that's trendy right now seems like a great option,” Toussaint said. “The problem is that it's cheap because it's bad quality.”

In a world where two-day shipping is the norm and microtrends pop up weekly, companies have begun competing to locate ever-cheaper sources of fabric and labor. According to the International Labour Organization, such companies tend to employ young children from countries with well-established textile and garment industries. In these regions, child laborers frequently slip under the legal radar.

In 2020, there were approximately 160 million child laborers, with nearly half of them performing work that endangered their health and safety. Up until 2016, the annual rate of child labor had decreased by an average of 1.6%, but progress stagnated from 2016 to 2020 for the rst time in decades. Child labor is especially prevelant in Sub-Saharan Africa, where one out of every four children are exploited

for work.

Because she was born in Cameroon, Edna Ngu, mother of three St. John’s students and one graduate, has always been aware of these practices in her home region, though the child labor there typically relates to agriculture and mining as opposed to the fashion industry.

In 2018, Ngu found an opportunity to take action while volunteering to work at the School’s used uniform sale. Although the majority of the uniforms donated are resold at discounted prices, damaged or outdated uniforms are, for the most part, given to local charities like Goodwill. Uniforms with the school logo are not allowed to be redistributed beyond the school community, so they went in the trash instead.

“I just hated the idea of those uniforms going to waste,” Ngu said. “They were deemed unsellable, but most had tiny rips and

tears or a couple of buttons missing.”

So Ngu converted her garage into a temporary shop and began taking uniforms home to x them up and send them to orphanages in West Africa.

“Being able to support children from the region where I was born is so meaningful to me,” Ngu said. “We have so much, and these kids have so little. It was just natural for us to help in whatever way we could.”

Ngu’s project ful lls her desire to give back to the community while shedding light on the issue of conservation.

“Clothing sustainability is such an important topic,” Ngu said. “Its absence a ects not only those who buy fast fashion, but our entire planet.”

Sophomore Maxwell Gross tries to shop from sustainable brands. To combat the high cost, he buys only a few pieces at a time and wears them over and over.

But that does not mean Gross is unaware of current trends. As an avid fan of high-end couture, he watches fashion show livestreams and particularly enjoys Nadeem Khan and Alfredo Martinez.

In short, he loves fashion — but he “abhors" fast fashion.

“It represents everything I’m against in the fashion industry,” Gross said. “It is hurtful to the environment and perpetuates a short-term vision of fashion, and therefore forces companies to produce cheap and poorly-made clothing.”

Social media ensures that fashion trends are more mercurial than ever, pressuring many aspiring fashionistas to frequently refresh their closets — so they ock to fast fashion.

“As a country, our way of dress and the way that we view clothing has changed so dramatically,” Gross said. “I know people that buy new wardrobes every season, and then they throw away perfectly good clothing.”

Toussaint found a way to stay sustainably fashionable

was by making her own clothing. Sewing gives her the oppurtunity to “have expensive types of clothes for cheap” while combating the deleterious e ects of the fast fashion industry. She also has the freedom to design clothes according to her taste, rather than the trends of the season. While companies like Shein may currently dominate, switching to sustainability is gaining traction. A swath of brands from Gap to Gucci have begun o ering sustainable lines and collections in response to rising demand.

Aspen Toussaint found a way to stay sustainably fashionable by making her own clothing.

“I alone am not going to have a great impact,” Toussaint said. “But if a lot of people have that attitude, it does.”

Senior Ethan Tantuco said that, while most people are familiar with the practices of popular online retailers like Shein and AliExpress, they still regularly shop at brick-andmortar stores like Zara, Uniqlo and H&M that use the same inexpensive methods to produce their clothing. Tantuco noted that fast fashion is so cheap and easy that most people overlook its downsides in the name of a good deal.

“There are a lot of everyday stores that people don't realize are fast fashion,” they said. “They think that, just because the clothes are priced a little higher or because they’re not from some no-name brand on the internet, that it's okay. But it’s not. It’s not okay at all.”

Gross did not mince words when asked about the wider impact of fast fashion: “We’re destroying our environment and looking bad doing it.”

ILLUSTRATION | Georgia Andrews

Student seamsters strive for creativity, sustainability and


Talulah Monthy often spends long nights working. Keeping her motivated — and occasionally exasperated — is her friend, Bertha, with whom she has a “rocky relationship.”

“We clash a lot,” Monthy said.

Bertha is a sewing machine.

Monthy, a sophomore co-founder of SJS Fashion Club, has been designing clothes since she could draw. She received Bertha from her grandmother when she was nine and has used her to make everything from dresses to quick thrift ips.

While producing intricate pieces in late-night sewing fervor, Monthy’s whirlwind approach can make her patterns hard to understand.

“They make sense in my mind,” she said. “But if anyone else [saw] them, they would be like, what is this?”

Monthy employs two blue mannequins named Violet and Indigo (she claims they are distant cousins with “unspoken beef”) as well as a fussy serger, an automatic hemming machine that she considered naming Sergio but decided that it was “too cool” for such an antagonistic device.

Building on her experience making ball gowns according to an established pattern, Monthy plans to create her own ensemble from scratch for Cotillion in January. She is also coordinating exactly what her date will wear. She refused to divulge much about her plans for her dress, but she did dispense one clue: mesh.

Monthy is one of a handful of student seamsters who create their own clothes — at times out of necessity — to challenge their creative limits and express their personal style.

At Johnnycake’s Saturday morning crews, senior Adele Wan usually wears her black “crew pants,” peppered with sheer panels and paint. Wan’s all-black-all-the-time wardrobe embraces the monochromatic style of theater techs outside the VST. As a veteran tech, Wan prizes utility and regularly adds compartments to her clothes for carrying tools. She laments the small size — or

complete lack — of pockets in women’s clothing. Even if she turns to the men’s section, the cut is “large and oversized in an un attering way,” she said. “Apparently, men don’t have hips.”

To achieve her “very speci c aesthetic,” Wan designs and constructs her own clothes, drawing from years of experience altering Halloween costumes. She also tailors and modi es costumes for friends. When she began sewing during the pandemic, she bought most of her materials online. She didn’t mind


Beyond achieving her desired look, Wan sews in order to replace clothing that inevitably goes missing, like a few pairs of cargo pants that vanished in a recent wash cycle.

“They have mysteriously disappeared,” Wan said. “So strange. I was really a fan of those.”

Making a good pair of pants, she said, will take a few hours.

Senior Kacey Chapman has been crocheting since she was young. Much of the allure of crocheting, Chapman said, lies in being able to wear and use something she made herself. Turning a ball of yarn into a fashionable item is both rewarding and sustainable, and she enjoys displaying her pieces and sharing her talents with others.

“I’ve always wanted to do something bigger, something that I could show o ,” Chapman said.

Chapman’s current pride and joy is a huge ower sweater made up of 50 individual “granny squares” crocheted from the inside out in a traditional pattern. Instead of sticking to the classic form, she made each individual square look like a ower. The project took her the better part of last school year.

“It’s very therapeutic, you know? I was pushing a lot during junior year,” Chapman said. “It is just a nice time that I set aside to go and relax and do something creative.”

the occasionally subpar fabrics because they were suitable for a beginner like herself. She now does most of her shopping in person but bemoans the surprising lack of inventory inside the Loop. Michael’s, for instance, has absolutely no fabric selection, and the Joanne’s that used to be across the street is closed.

Wan said there is one decent fabric store, Stitches ‘n Such in Rice Village, “but it opens at 12 and closes at four on weekdays.”

Monthly loves the exibility of crocheting: “If you hate something that you made or something that you bought that happens to be crocheted, you can just take it apart. Then you don’t have to buy new yarn.”

For those who might be inspired to add some air to their closet and begin making their own clothes, Monthy has one crucial piece of advice: Never go on a hemming spree. One of her projects ended in disaster when she had to salvage a botched argyle sweater vest by turning it into a scrunchie, which led strangers to comment, “I didn’t know you could tie your hair up with a sock!”

Violet of —
young. school pushing loves the you making
I’ve always wanted to do something bigger, something that I could show off.
Talulah Monthy
PHOTOS | Isabella Diaz-Mira
Kacey Chapman

Even when he only had $20 in his pocket, musical artist Macklemore could famously a ord a velour jumpsuit, gator shoes, leopard mink and zebra-patterned jammies — as long as he bought them at thrift stores.

Back in 2012, Macklemore was on the cusp of a trend that environmentally and socially conscious millennials and Gen-Zers have embraced as an alternative to the fast fashion industry. Thrift stores have minimal environmental impact and do not manufacture new products or outsource labor to developing nations with lax child labor laws.

Thrifting attracts people who want to buy cheap, buy vintage, buy green and buy en masse.

Second-hand clothing stores have existed as early as the 1890s, with thrift stores and charity shops run by organizations like the Salvation Army becoming a mainstay in American culture by the 1920s. But thrift stores have long carried the stigma of poverty and uncleanliness. In recent years, increasing scrutiny of fashion companies has turned thrifting into a near-ubiquitous trend.

Social media platforms are some of the biggest in uences when it comes to fashion — TikTok and Instagram sway people to conform to styles that do not re ect their individuality.

“If people see a person who has 2 million followers thrifting, then they want to do that too,” sophomore Justin Wright said.

While some people have capitalized on the popularity of vintage clothing and thrifting by reselling their old clothing, others exclusively buy from thrift stores to resell online through trendy sites like Depop and Poshmark at marked-up prices.

Adding to the thrifting craze are videos highlighting thrift hauls and ip tips from in uencers and everyday people who show o their skills at sourcing items from the local Goodwill or Family Thrift.

Ethan Tantuco recently found a signed orange University of Texas Earl Campbell jersey at the Goodwill bins on Long Point. At checkout, the cashier asked if they were a reseller because “she recognized the item and its value.”

Last summer, TikTok led Tantuco into a “phase of self-exploration” to discover their own style. With little money to spend, they began thrifting.

“I picked up a bunch of items for cheap, saw what I liked, and my style just evolved from there,” they said.

For thrifters, wallet-friendly, sustainable and ethical second-hand stores or even yard sales are ideal places to buy clothes.

Tantuco said, “Thrifting is a step in the right direction because it is one of those avenues that is nancially accessible for everyone.”

Thrifting also allowed senior Aspen Collins to forge her own style, freeing her from the trends set by retailers like Forever 21. When buying clothes, she asks herself if she is attracted to a particular item because it aligns with her eclectic style, which is “kind of hard to explain,” or because it is trendy.

Sophomore Ryan Paschke began thrifting after her parents told her she would have to spend

“You don’t know what you’re going to get,” Paschke said, “and that’s what’s appealing.”

Despite thrifting’s many bene ts, its rising popularity has led to a spike in prices for what used to be a ordable clothing. This in ation has led some to request that consumers who can a ord pricier yet sustainable and ethical brands like Everlane and Reformation shop at those outlets while leaving the charity shops for those who depend on

“If you’re wealthy enough, I think it’s de nitely a good choice,” sophomore Julia Mickiewicz said. “Usually those people have money owing — why not use it well?”

In big cities like Houston with so many thrift stores and an over-abundance of clothing, people from every socioeconomic level can shop at the same place without concerns about scarcity.

“In the long run, there is so much product that I don’t think getting a haul of clothes that costs

you $50 instead of upwards of $600 at the mall is making as much of a di erence as people think,” Paschke said.

When someone donates an old garment to Goodwill, the store only keeps it on their shelves for three weeks. If it does not sell, it is moved to a Goodwill outlet, also known as the Goodwill bins, where clothing sells by the pound.

So-called boutique thrift stores like Crossroads in Rice Village and Pavement in Montrose have cropped up to cash in on the thrifting craze, drawing a line between those who thrift out of necessity and those who thrift to stay trendy.

While thrifting is increasing in popularity, the fast fashion industry is also booming, capitalizing on the short trend cycles and seasons driven by social media. As a result, clothing from fast fashion brands lled up the racks in resale shops. Because these pieces are, as Mickiewicz said, “made to decay,” their presence in thrift stores further drives the overconsumption of clothing.

In July, the New York Times declared, “the golden age of thrifting is over.” Poorly made clothes mindlessly donated to thrift stores, they claimed, will quickly be tossed in landlls, mitigating any alleged environmental bene ts.

The question now becomes: do the bene ts of thrifting outweigh the costs? For thrifty students, they do.

“I’m glad I found thrifting because it allowed me to nd clothes that t my style at a good value,” Paschke said. “Without thrifting, I probably would have turned to fast fashion.”

WHITE DRESS Est.retailprice:$25 From Blu Reed Thriftedprice:$3.50 FromSalvationArmy Saving money and the environment: How thrifters stay trendy for less Ryan Paschke COURTESY PHOTOS | Ryan Paschke & Ethan Tantuco PHOTO ILLUSTRATIONS | Georgia Andrews DESIGN | Georgia Andrews & Amanda Brantley BEIGE LINEN PANTS Est. retail price: $135 From Hidden Forest Market Thrifted price: $20 From Buffalo Exchange WHITE LINEN SHIRT Est. retail price: $65 From Clubroom Thrifted price: $7 From Goodwill cash those
Additional reporting by Johnathon Li
Thrifting is a step in the right direction because it is one of those avenues that is financially accessible for everyone. her own money on clothes. Eventually, she became enamored with the unpredictability of thrifting. them. You don’t know what you’re going to get, and that’s what’s appealing. RYAN PASCHKE
Ethan Tantuco

Oh, Mai!

How an emerging young designer turned to

Texas roots to inspire his second collection

Bach Mai’s career as a fashion designer began at St. John’s when he started sewing his friends’ formal dresses. Back in 2017, while he was working for couture house Maison Margiela in Paris, The Review reported on his growing fame — just four years later, he was featured in Vogue after the launch of his own fashion label.

Fresh o the release of his second line, Mai (’07) centers his work around a Texan interpretation of luxury. His father, a Vietnamese immigrant and engineer at an oil renery and chemical plant, is the chief inspiration for Mai’s latest collection. He combined glitzy stilettos and iridescent organza with baggy orange trousers and structured tweed skirts to evoke his father’s humble origins.

“We live, eat and breathe glamour down here,” Mai said at an exclusive reception in Neiman Marcus’ Galleria location to celebrate his nomination as the CFDA Emerging Designer of the Year. “It's not just a fantasy: we have an understanding of glamour that’s innate. It’s an irreverent approach to glamour.”

His father’s blue denim coveralls inspired the color palette of the collection — and the matching hair color Mai sported at the premiere. After he was interviewed by Vogue, Mai predicted that the rst line of the article would mention his turquoise blue hair. It did.

“Manic Panic, if you haven’t tried it,” he said. “Great color.” Mai has always known he wanted to be a designer. His passion for evening wear stretches back to high school when, beyond sewing dresses, he explored the closets of his friends’ moms. Real Texas women were his earliest inspiration, which he said makes his couture more appealing and familiar.

“These women understand where I'm coming from,” Mai said, “because where I'm coming from is inspired by them.”

As a sophomore at St. John’s, Mai created his rst collection as an Independent Study Project with faculty advisor and former history teacher Bela Thacker. Famed couturier Paul Poriet was the main inspiration of the ISP, but he called John Galliano’s Dior Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2004 collection “the beginning of my love for couture.” Thacker kept the rst item from his collection, which Mai called “a terrible little skirt” and Thacker called

“One of my friends stole it from me,” said Thacker, who also mysteriously lost a bag that Mai had designed especially for her. “He was in so much demand.”

Even as a high school student, he was “very entrepreneurial,” Thacker said. She most admired Mai’s con dence that he would achieve his ambitions.

“It’s always nice to see students grow and become successful,” she said, “but with Bach, it’s a little extra special.”

Mai earned his bachelor’s in fashion at Parsons School of Design in New York City, which is among the best fashion schools in the country. In college, Mai said he slept only six nights a week, every week. He has worked with some of the most prestigious fashion houses in the world. After graduating, the budding couturier moved to Paris to assist in the fur studio at Oscar de la Renta and earned his master’s in fashion design from Institut Français de la Mode. After graduating, he worked for Prabal Gurung, and then under the tutelage of his longtime idol, John Galliano, at Maison Margiela.

In October 2021, Mai held the showroom presentation of his rst collection in his friend’s living room. Vogue called the collection, which featured custom lurex jacquard fabric and velvet made from metallic threads, an embrace of “unabashed femininity.”

When his publicist sent out invitations for the event, they initially received no replies from Vogue. That is, until the global director of

Vogue runway, Nicole Phelps, emailed back to reserve the next available appointment slot.

“My rst ever presentation appointment was with a director at Vogue.”

Five days later, his name was splashed across Vogue’s homepage for six days.

“My life has been insanity ever since then,” Mai said. “I haven’t stopped running.”

Since then, a slew of Hollywood A-listers have donned his dresses for star-studded events. Only a few weeks later, Venus Williams wore a silver dress from Mai’s inaugural collection at the closing night premiere of “King Richard” at the American Film Institute Festival in Los Angeles.

Most recently, Heidi Klum wore a blush silk-and-organza suit from the same collection on an episode of “Making the Cut,” a fashion competition TV series produced by Amazon Studios, while Lupita Nyong’o wore a blue moiré pantsuit and tweed bralette from Mai’s latest collection to kick o the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” press tour.

It's one thing to talk about it, to hear about it. But to actually feel the power of Vogue behind you is a totally different level of craziness.

“It’s one thing to talk about it, to hear about it,” Mai said, “but to actually feel the power of Vogue behind you is a totally di erent level of craziness.”

Mai’s soaring success allowed him to recruit a creative team in May. He said that building his own brand is one of the hardest things he has ever done, especially since he has to spend less time designing and more time leading.

“I've spent my whole life making clothes, not learning how to run a company,” he said. “Even though I have more people, it seems like there's more to do than ever.”

The video on Mai’s website showcasing Collection 2 takes place in a sparsely decorated room divided by clear plastic tarps. Many models have blue or white lipstick smeared across their mouths; one has branch-like twine glued around her eyes, and all move in slow motion to ethereal lo- music. Exposed pipes decorate the ceiling, illuminated by white neon poles.

The clean-but-industrial backdrop calls to mind his roots as a child of immigrants. He partners with Paris textile supplier Hurel to source fabrics reminiscent, in his words, of steel and oil spills, and prioritizes inclusive and diverse representation in his promotional material.

“My version of glamour is for everyone,” Mai told Vogue in September. His father’s work in the oil re nery, after all, made Mai’s career possible.

Mai’s family are his rst and truest supporters. His father used to drive him to Houston fabric stores on weekends, and his aunts helped him sew dresses. His cousin, Christina Mai (’08), has always been his biggest fan and was his rst muse when he began designing.

Mai has been working for decades to build, from the ground-up, an American couture house on par with the houses of Paris. Ever since she saw his ISP fashion show, Bela Thacker has known he would achieve his goals.

“His future was in fashion,” she said. “There was no doubt about it.”

At a recent Neiman Marcus reception honoring Bach Mai ('07), center, the designer is flanked by host Duyen Huynh Nguyen, her husband Marc and four models, all wearing his designs.
DESIGN | Georgia Andrews
PHOTO | Lexi Guo
“fabulous.” la Mode. for at
Bach Mai's latest styles utilize bold colors, flowy florals and strong shadows. PHOTOS | Isabella Diaz-Mira

Destined for DI: The ins and outs of athletic recruiting

Surrounded by family, purple balloons and University of Washington-branded paraphernalia, senior Margot Manning signed her National Letter of Intent to play volleyball for the Huskies of the Pac-12 Conference, in front of dozens of classmates on Nov. 9.

From the sidelines, athletic recruitment looks like Instagram posts of student athletes posing in college t-shirts, their comment sections filled with support from friends congratulating them for their verbal commitments. While the recruiting process differs among applicants, most athletes agree that it is not as simple as a phone call from a head coach and a formal signing ceremony.

Manning has long heard the comments that she had it easy.

“I’m so glad I am committed to play, and I wouldn’t change that,” Manning said, “but it was definitely not an easy process.”

Manning received her first email from a scout when she was in seventh grade, but an NCAA rule change in 2019 halted contact with colleges for the next few years.

According to the updated rules, Division I and II coaches, depending on their sport, are required to wait until either June 15 or Sept. 1 of an athlete’s junior year before reaching out.

I'm so glad I am committed to play, and I wouldn't change that. But it was definitely not an easy process.

When the June date came, Manning immediately received over 30 calls from D1 coaches. She spent the remainder of the summer traveling to her preferred colleges and “embracing the craziness” of the recruiting process.

“The top thing on my list when I was visiting schools was whether they had a family atmosphere,” Manning said. “I wanted to go somewhere where I would be more than just a volleyball player and more than just an athlete to my coaches.”

Along with fitting her criteria, UW was Manning’s top choice because it would give her the opportunity to play for Keegan Cook, who, according to Manning, is one of the best coaches for setters in the nation.

Dartmouth field hockey goalie Hatley Post (‘19) began sending emails to college coaches during her freshman year after being told by her club coaches that “it’s a lot easier to start the recruiting process and decide you don't want to do it than to decide too late that you want to be recruited.”

Although her friends were mostly unconcerned about college admissions as underclassmen, Post was in the thick of the process.

“Recruiting was very time intensive because I was spending a lot of time traveling to tournaments, sending out emails, working on communications with coaches and going to practice,” Post said.

Post first visited Dartmouth during a field hockey camp the summer before her sophomore year. She returned that fall for a clinic and again in the spring when the head coach made her an offer.

Ivy League schools are technically DI, but they do not award athletic scholarships and, therefore, do not supply NLIs. Similarly, while DIII schools, like Washington & Lee, the University of Chicago and MIT, are popular among St. John’s student-athletes because they offer strong academics and athletics, they do not provide athletic scholarships.

Many SJS grads also attend schools that are affiliated with the New England Small College Conference, a group of rigorous DIII liberal arts colleges, known for their farmy campuses and committment to athletics.

Unlike future NBA player Justise Winslow (‘14), who won back-to-back Gatorade Player of the Year awards and was visited by some of the most notable college coaches in the country, the majority of Mavericks who want to get noticed must travel to the coaches.

Camps, clinics and tournaments are ways athletes can showcase their skill set to college coaches. While some of these camps are invite-only, most are open to the public.

Virtual forms of communication with coaches occur through emails, phone calls, questionnaires, recruiting videos and more.

Jack Goldstein (‘21) played shortstop for the Mavs before committing to the University of Chicago the summer before his senior year. Despite only seeing clips of the school through YouTube tours, UChicago was the only school he seriously considered.

Goldstein credits his family for being the biggest help during his recruitment. His father took videos of him playing baseball, and his sister compiled them into recruiting videos for coaches.

recruiting but to Jiminez an

“I was hesitant to reach out to coaches for a while, but my advice to anyone who wants to compete in college is to be proactive with communication,” Goldstein said. “Just send the emails because who knows what could become an opportunity.”

Duke wrestler Sebastian Jiminez (‘21) considered sports as a “tool” to get an academically rigorous school.

Although the academic standards for athletes are typically lower than for non-athletes, most schools have a baseline standardized test score that every athlete must

reach, no matter their skill level.

Jiminez planned on taking the SAT in March of his junior year, the day after Covid shut down testing centers. He had to wait until the fall to take the exam, which significantly delayed his recruiting process. After receiving his score, Jiminez was offered a spot at Duke, his top choice.

“Academics was the biggest drawing point for colleges,” Jiminez said. “Balancing school and wrestling made it hard to be as competitive with the rest of the St. John's kids, but I knew that sports were pretty much the only way to guarantee admission. Otherwise, even if you're the best applicant, it's still a role of the dice.”

University of Southern California swimmer Ella Flowers (‘22) filled out questionnaires for the schools she was interested in six months prior to June 15. She spent months calling coaches, a process she described as “nerve-wracking,” before narrowing her list of schools down to five.

In a typical year, Flowers would have gone on official school visits, paid for by the colleges. The NCAA permits recruits to take up to five official visits to DI schools. Students who wish to visit DIII schools must do so on their own dime.

I wanted to go somewhere where I would be more than just a volleyball player and more than just an athlete to my coaches.

During her junior year, Flowers could only take unofficial trips due to Covid restrictions. She was looking for a school that met her top two criteria.

“I really wanted to go somewhere that I could be academically challenged,” Flowers said, “but I also wanted to choose a school where I would be more in the middle of the pack for swimming, so I could really be challenged to be better.”

In December of her junior year, she verbally committed to USC.

After athletes commit to a college, they still remain students, first and foremost.

Flowers, with three semesters left of high school after verbally committing, was frequently asked why she still cared about academics — the assumption for most nonathletes is that athletes stop trying after committing.

“I confused a lot of people,” Flowers said. “I wanted to do well in school just to see my potential in each class.”

Like Flowers, Post felt a responsibility to herself and her future college to maintain her academic success for the rest of high school.

“Once you've made that verbal commitment, the coaches expect you to uphold the standard, if not improve upon the standard, of academic excellence that you've already shown,” Post said.

In the spring, the school holds an additional ceremony for athletes who will play at any college, regardless of division.

Last year, 26 seniors committed to play at the collegiate level.

“I love being able to call myself a college athlete,” Goldstein said. “Being able to compete against people who have had the same goals as me for my entire life, just being able to play at that level, is a blessing.”

With her sister Nova ('21), father and mother by her side, senior Margot Manning signs her National Letter of Intent to play volleyball for the University of Washington. COURTESY PHOTO | Margot Manning

SPC showcases athletic excellence

FOOTBALL: Offensive firepower cements another solid season

After their signature win of the season, a 35-21 victory over the Episcopal School of Dallas, the Mavs were piling onto the bus to return home when they noticed a loose chunk of concrete curb next to Jones Stadium. On the bus, the seniors signed “The Curb,” which they brought back to Houston and placed in the locker room next to the speaker, a memento of their upset win that cemented their legacy.

The Mavericks nished third in the SPC 4A Division with a 7-3 record. In the season nale, they faced o against Kinkaid, hoping to end a decade-long drought to their cross-town rival. Even with many notable players sidelined, including leading o ensive weapon Cole Allen, the team hoped to neutralize the Falcons' reliance on star running back Micah Bell.

The Mavs found themselves trailing by two scores after an early turnover and a special teams miscue.

Ultimately, a valiant comeback e ort came up short against the eventual SPC champions, 38–28.

Despite the loss, captain Robert Riser saw reasons for optimism: “The captains really ramped up the culture, the team bond improved and everyone bought in.”

Next year, the Mavs will have another season with the All-SPC duo of junior quarterback Stephen Gill and sophomore receiver Cole Allen, who combined for 29 touchdowns and sparked coach Kevin Veltri’s high-powered o ense that accumulated over 2,000 passing yards and 1,600 rushing yards.


Both cross-country teams claimed second place on a crisp November morning at Spring Creek Park in Tomball.

The girls ran rst, and captain Alexa Christensen paced their front ve with a personal best (19:18) to nish fourth. Close behind her was junior Cora West (12th place), captain Natalie Boquist (16th) and freshman Mimi Villa (18th), each earning all-SPC honors.

The Mavs held o Hockaday by 4 points to place second overall behind defending champion Episcopal.

“I think we did amazing,” captain Katie Karlson said. “Our top girls pushed themselves to personal records, and everyone else behind them worked to catch up.”

The team attributes their success to the training regimen implemented by the coaching sta , led by head coach Rachel Fabre.

“It would not be the same without them,” Karlson said. “They know what each of us needs, and they push us to be the best we can.”

In the boys’ race, the Mavs were neck and neck with St. Andrew’s and Episcopal. The di erence between rst and third place was a scant 5 points.

Leading the way for the Mavs was captain Wilson Bailey (16:31), who nished third, along with All-SPC honorees: captain William Thames (8th), freshman Andrew Wasserman (15th), captain Konnor Allen (16th) and sophomore Jay Woodhouse (19th).

The nal tally read: St. Andrew's in rst, followed by St.

“We were right there at the top,” head coach Richie Mercado said.

According to Mercado, despite many injuries and illnesses throughout the season, the team managed to persevere.

Mercado remains con dent that the team will be solid next year with the further development of the returning runners and an infusion of young talent.


Girls net thirdplace finish

After an 0-3 start to the season, the girls’ team regrouped to win their next seven matches, all without giving up a single set. The Mavs carried this momentum to a third-place nish at SPC, falling to Hockaday (3-1) in the semi nals.

In the third-place match, the Mavs defeated Greenhill, 3-1, to nish with a 31-8 record.

“We were able to come together and just perform really well throughout the season,” captain Margot Manning said.

Players credit much of the team’s success to coaches Shelbi Irvin and Nicholas Hake.

“Coach Shelbi is one of the most creative coaches I’ve ever played for,” Manning said. “She always knows how to pull a team together.”

Manning attributes the strong season to individual determination and willingness to put in extra e ort: “Everyone showed up to practice and put in the work that they knew they had to.”

Boys’ volleyball nished second in the South Zone, securing the position with wins over Kinkaid, Awty and St. Andrew’s.

On Friday, Nov. 4, the Mavs were scheduled for a rstround matchup against Trinity Valley. A noon start time would usually guarantee a sparse crowd, but thanks to teachers bringing their classes over to Liu Court, the atmosphere was uncharacteristically raucous, with senior fans performing celebratory skits on the sidelines after the Mavs won a point. Despite the injection of enthusiasm, the Mavs fell in three close sets and nished seventh overall in the tournament.

John’s and Episcopal. The girls XC team celebrates their SPC runner-up finish. PHOTO | William West Jackson Byers sets up a teammate. PHOTO | Ethan Tantuco

How three key matchups against Kinkaid decided the SPC Championship

With two minutes left in the SPC Field Hockey Championship Game against cross-town rival Kinkaid, the Mavericks held a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead. Excitement in the parent section swelled with each slightly o -target Falcon pass, and a short fence was all that kept dozens of rowdy Maverick students from spilling out onto the turf eld to celebrate. And then a whistle blew.

The Falcons were awarded a penalty stroke, akin to a penalty kick in soccer. Falcons captain Hope Haynes, a University of North Carolina commit, lined up and promptly ri ed the ball by star goalie Juliana Boon to put the lead in jeopardy. An audible groan rose from the student section, conjuring ashbacks to previous disappointments.


In 2021, the Falcons shut out the Mavericks in the SPC title game, 3-0. After a “week of mourning,” the team repeatedly watched game lm of the defeat together.

“It added fuel to our re,” senior captain Anna Kate Black said.

During the summer, Falcons and Mavs play side by side as a part of Pride Field Hockey, but once the fall season starts, they shed their navy Pride jerseys for red and purple.

The Mavs began the 2022 campaign with 16 returning varsity players. They added 10 new faces to assemble the largest roster in program history.

To help bring freshmen into the fold, captains organized initiation events during the rst few weeks of school.

One day, freshman Gracey Crawford wore her shin guards to all her classes. “I would take them o in between classes and make sure nobody was looking,” she said. “It was really embarrassing, but it made me feel like I was immediately a part of the team.”

GAME 1: Sept. 29, The Field at Kinkaid

The Mavs dominated their early competition, outscoring opponents 67-2 in their rst 11 contests. Heading into their rst non-SPC, ‘friendly’ game against Kinkaid, the Falcons were ranked fth in the nation by MaxPreps. The Mavs were underdogs, ranked No. 5 in the Midwest.

Before the match, the Falcons’ eld hockey Instagram account posted a photo to encourage their fans to attend. While the post received 232 likes, the Mavericks’ eld hockey account replied simply, “ratio,” which received almost 100 more likes.

The Falcons chirped back, “You’ve lost seven games in a row to Kinkaid. But please, try to keep it within 10.”

Still, the Mavs were con dent.

Despite dominating in time of possession, earning more corners and outshooting their opponents 14-4, it was the Falcons who capitalized on their limited opportunities in a 2-0 shutout.

After the game, the Mavs felt good about their rst encounter with their rivals.

“The loss was the turning point in the season,” Black said. “We gave them a run for their money.”

Both the Mavs and the Falcons stormed through the remainder of their conference counter matches. The regular season nale on Caven Field would determine who would be top seed and have the momentum entering the SPC Tournament.

GAME 2: Oct. 26, Caven Field

The Mavs jumped out to an early lead on a rst-quarter goal from the top of the circle by junior Kristina Johnson. Late in the second half, sophomore Eliza Perrin redirected a shot from captain Maddie Kim into the back of the net. Kinkaid got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter when Mia Abello, a member of the US National Team answered, on a corner, but it was too little, too late for the Falcons as the Mavs defeated their rivals for the rst time in three years.

Anna Kate Black cried with joy, even with a minute still remaining on the clock. “No one can understand how much that meant to us.”

Black was not the only one moved by the victory. Todd Blue, father of senior mid elder Bella Blue, teared up when the nal buzzer sounded - and his daughter did not even play.

Almost immediately after the game, Kinkaid players decried the results, claiming that a nasty case of the u had decimated their team and that the game should have been rescheduled.

To their credit, not all Falcons made excuses.

“A few hours after the game,” Black said, “one of their captains called me, to not only congratulate me on the win, but also say that she did not even remember she was recovering from sickness because of the adrenaline of the game.”

At Pride Field Hockey the next day, the team was noticeably segregated, with the Mavericks on one side, Falcons on the other.

“You could cut the tension with a knife,” Black said.

GAME 3: Nov. 5, Caven Field

When the Falcons arrived for the SPC Championship, they were bombarded by karaoke versions of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and Nicki Minaj’s “Starships.” Black and fellow captain Frances Moriniere were DJing on two trash cans while the rest of the team huddled around their unofcial mascot, a rhinestone-studded speaker named Vicky.

While the Falcon players came in silent and tense, the Mavericks were loud and loose. “We wanted to assert the fact that we were just having fun,” Black said.

The game would not only crown the SPC champion, but also establish the best team in the Midwest region. According to MaxPreps, the Mavs entered the nal game of the season ranked

No. 5 nationally, while Kinkaid was No. 6. Black, who was celebrating her 18th birthday, made her way onto the eld when she saw one of her best friends and Pride teammates on the Kinkaid sideline.

“I didn’t know if I should say ‘hi,’” Black said. “They all knew it was my birthday, and I knew they couldn’t say anything.”

Before the match, mind games were afoot. During warmups, the Mavs placed a small wooden falcon on their goal as a target. Falcon managers took it.

Along their side of the eld, Kinkaid parents hung up banners that read, “One Dream, One Team, One Legacy.”

“It was a little much to do that on our eld,” junior Kaitlyn Chang said.

In the pregame huddle, the usually serene Black was so tense that she cursed without realizing it.

“It’s the most important game of my life,” Black said. “It was just grind and focus mode.”

The Mavs struck rst, just eight minutes in, when Black found the back of the net o a corner assist from the team’s leading scorer, Kristina Johnson.

Black was so focused that she had to watch the game tape afterward because she could not remember the goal.

“You can see on lm the moment I realized I had it,” Black said. “I sighed and relaxed my shoulders, and then my practice instincts took over.”

On the sideline, crazed Maverick fans roared and banged pots, chanting “Whoa-oh-oh-oh-ooooooh-oh” from the sports anthem “Seven Nation Army.”

The Mavs remained alert, knowing that whenever the Falcons concede a goal, they tend to bounce back immediately.

“I started yelling ‘next two minutes, next two minutes!’” Black said. “The next two minutes would determine who wanted it more.”

And as those next two minutes expired, the Mavs struck again when Moriniere slid a shot past the Kinkaid keeper o an assist from Kim.

“It’s such an intense, close game I thought surely it was going to be level at halftime,” Black said. Yet less than ten minutes in, the Mavs were up, 2-0.

The Mavs’ momentum slowed when junior defender Hailey King went down after an errant ball struck her in the face. With sophomore Chloe West already missing the game due to an ankle injury, the Mavs found themselves without the heart of their defense.

“Coach Elliott told us to keep our composure and keep pushing the ball up the eld,” Black said.

With juniors Alexandra Madrid and Chang moving back to the defense to be more conservative, the next fteen minutes of play saw the teams ping-ponging up and down the eld, making no close attempts at goal. The Mavs were holding rank until Hope Haynes sliced through the Maverick defense and was chopped down by Chang inside the circle.

“It was de nitely a foul,” Chang said. “But everyone I talked to agreed that a stroke was extreme.”

After Haynes’ goal, the team kept possession, trying to kill time. When the game clock hit 20 seconds, a chorus of fans began to count down.

When the nal buzzer sounded, the Mavs held on for a 2-1 victory to capture their rst SPC title since 2019 — only Kim was on that previous championship squad.

After a celebration that included many sel es with both the SPC trophy and Vicky the Speaker, the Mavs showed up to Pride practice the next day with their Falcon teammates. They watched the game footage, but said nothing about who won and lost — only what players could do to improve.

Head Coach Becky Elliott celebrates with the field hockey team after defeating the rival Falcons 2-1, capturing their first SPC title since 2019.
PHOTO | Ethan Tantuco PHOTO | Isabella Diaz-Mira By Wilson Bailey & Richard Liang

Sophomore sailor shares seafaring skills with students

Five miles off the coast of Lake Ontario, chunks of ice began showering down on William Baker’s single-passenger boat. With dense fog obscuring his vision and 40-mile-perhour winds pounding against the hull of his sailboat, Baker was all alone. The possibility of capsizing was real, but he was not afraid.

“It was never a concern that occupied my mind,” Baker said.

Brutal weather conditions are nothing new for the sophomore sailor, who was first introduced to competitive sailing by his uncle, a sailboat maker, when he was about 9 years old.

Sailing came naturally to Baker. In his second time ever manning a boat, he blew by his competition and won a practice race. He decided to join the Gulf Coast Sailing Association shortly thereafter, which gave him the opportunity to practice alongside the country’s top junior talent and participate in international tournaments.

Nautical novices might consider sailing to be a sport based more on chance than skill, but Baker said that those who win races do so by hard work on and off the water.

“The best sailors always win no matter what,” Baker said, “even if there is some luck involved.”

Every weekend, Baker and his father load his sailboat on top of their Ford Expedition before dawn and drive to Galveston Bay. After rigging the mast, Baker spends the day at sea honing his craft. While sacrificing his valuable weekend recovery sleep is taxing, his dedication has impressed his fellow sailors.

“William always knows exactly what is

going on,” said sophomore Kit Haggard, copresident of SJS Sailing Club. “He doesn’t even need to think about a decision or movement for a second — he just does it.”

Victory at sea often comes down to which sailor can catch the most clean air for the longest period of time. Clean air is a term mariners use to describe wind that has not come in contact with another boat’s sail. Before a race, competitors pick their starting position, trying to find a spot that is farthest upwind, known as the favored end, which gives them a seamless start that is pivotal for a successful regatta.

Unlike a straight 100-meter sprint, sailors follow a zigzag trajectory that takes wind direction into consideration. Before each race, Baker identifies whether the windshift pattern is oscillating back and forth or steadily moving in one direction in order to calculate the average interval for each wind movement. Baker’s assessment of the wind allows him to recognize when to reorient the bow of his sailboat, realigning the sail with the upwind.

“If the wind has shifted, and I am closer to the wind, I can get ahead of other sailors,” Baker said.

Other variables such as water temperature, wavelength and currents can have a significant impact. Because these atmospheric conditions vary by location, Baker studies them before every meet.

“In Singapore, the wind is light and there's a lot of current, but in Florida everything is big — the waves and the wind,” Baker said. “Houston is kind of in the middle of everything.”

Baker has traveled all over the U.S. and abroad, including Argentina, England and

Canada, but to reach this year’s Youth International Laser Class Association World Championship, all he had to do was drive 40 minutes to Shoreacres. The event was the largest he had ever entered, and although he finished in the middle of the fleet, the experience was invaluable.

After competing in Nationals and meeting sailors from Turkey, Italy and Israel, Baker realized just how bad Americans are at sailing right now.

This year, Baker, Haggard and sophomore Maureen Ebaugh revived the Sailing Club to introduce more students to sailing. The trio has educated club members about

nautical signs and terminology, with Baker adding some of his sailing wisdom to the conversation.

“He is absolutely the most knowledgeable sailor I know,” Haggard said.

For someone that has spent so much of his life at sea, Baker’s fondest memory from sailing is not one of his numerous tournament wins or surviving a hailstorm at sea. Rather, it stems from a typical weekend practice session.

“I saw a pack of dolphins in Galveston,” Baker said. “Even though the water was brown and filled with sewage, they were there.”

William Baker spends his weekends honing his skills on Galveston Bay. Sailing has taken him to competitions in Argentina, England and Canada. COURTESY PHOTO | William Baker

Teachers get a kick out of camaraderie and competition

Working on the same oor of the Quad, only six doors down from one another, teachers Eleanor Cannon, Leticia Reza and Kem Kemp were colleagues for many years, but after a punishing loss in a game of kickball, they became friends.

“We lost royally in our rst game, but afterwards everybody started high- ving,” Kemp said. “We got out there, and maybe we didn't practice, but we did it, and that was what mattered.”

Tendai Mufuka, a second-year photography and history teacher, assembled the co-ed squad, dubbed the Slim Kickins. The team plays in a league managed by SportsKind, which organizes adult intramural kickball, cornhole and other recreational sports.

It’s the perfect sport for a group of teachers. With teachers of all ages, you want to be safe — smart to stay ground-bound.

The team began by word-of-mouth but eventually grew to a full roster of dedicated players. Mufuka and art teacher Scott Johnson are the main pitchers and “scrappy” former collegiate swimmer and current chemistry teacher Audrey Ettinger plays

third base.

Mufuka enlisted teachers from every department, division, age and athletic ability. Kemp, who used to play in adult softball and basketball leagues, has always loved team sports (she played basketball from high school into her fties), which she said helped her learn how to play kickball.

Although the team spans generational divides, Kemp plays with the Slim Kickins because it allows her to t in with her younger colleagues. On their team, the important thing is not age or skill, but dedication.

History teacher Eleanor Cannon, who played eld hockey at Duke University, is one of the most athletically experienced players. After Cannon’s children went o to college, she had more time to play sports herself. The occasional practices, intense games and constant planning ll some of her free time.

Despite joining for di erent reasons, 19 SJS teachers meet up at Settegast Park near downtown ready to play.

Most of the Slim Kickins had never played kickball before, or had been on sabbatical since elementary school. “It gave me a sense of being a kid again,” math teacher Letty Reza said.

“It’s the perfect sport for a group of teachers,” said math teacher James King, who plays center eld. “With teachers of all ages, you want to be safe — smart to stay ground-bound.”

Given the busy lives of faculty members, the team could not practice as frequently as they would have liked during each eightweek season, although they did practice sporadically.

The Slim Kickins nished the regular season with a dramatic victory that left shortstop David Castillo in an ankle boot for ve weeks. Sprinting to home plate — or “home strip” as it’s called — slid and twisted his ankle. The science teacher’s e orts did not go unmatched: his teammates rallied to win, sending the Slim Kickins to the playo s.

Castillo recounted that, instead of having di erent numbers for each player, this team was decked out in jerseys that all had the number one, indicating their kickball prowess to any and all.

In the rst round of the playo s, they were losing 6-0 before breaking up the shutout with two runs in the last inning. Even though they had lost, the other team was upset about not pitching a shutout, while the Kickins were happy just to be there.

“We were there for the right reasons,” Castillo said.

Castillo is looking forward to playing with the team again, but he “might steer clear of sliding.”

King expects an even stronger roster next year, as news of the team's exploits spread through the faculty workroom.

“After that rst game, everybody was smiling and the lights were shining on us on the eld,” Kemp said. “You would have thought that we were the champions.”

Math teacher is an Ultimate competitor

In the classroom, math teacher Elliot Sakach is a master of the unit circle, but on the eld, he is a high- ying Ultimate Frisbee player.

He currently plays defensive cutter for the Houston Clutch, a competitive frisbee team that travels to double-elimination tournaments around the nation on weekends. They are ranked No. 41 in the USA Men’s Club Ultimate Frisbee division.

Despite not having a coach, Sakach practices with his teammates every week to work on their skills, attend competitions and strategize.

The Houston Clutch competed in Austin at the South Central Club Men’s Regional Championship last year, where according to Sakach, the team underperformed. Going into the event as the third seed, Houston Clutch nished seventh out of 16 teams.

The Texas Men’s Club Sectional Championship, which took place last November in Austin, was more successful for the team; they placed second out of 17 teams.

Sakach felt that he and his team performed their best at sectionals, which has cemented itself as his favorite experience of his entire frisbee career.

For Sakach, the most enjoyable part of the experience is the team bonding that happens before the tournament.

Sakach’s passion for frisbee began when he started casually throwing with his friends in high school.

“We didn't know what we were doing, and we had no idea what the rules really were,” he said.

At a youth summer camp, he learned the rules of ultimate frisbee, and two years later at Oberlin College, he joined the ultimate frisbee club team.

Sakach becomes notably enthusiastic when he talks about frisbee.

“I love hopping in the car with a group of

friends and making our way to the airport or the hotel,” Sakach said. “It becomes a fun road trip.”

The sport requires teamwork in a way that other sports don't necessarily require — that’s why I continue playing.

While teaching, Sakach enjoys having a supportive environment and seeing his students work together when doing classwork.

“I like the classroom feeling like a team, which probably comes from my experience playing on a lot of teams,” Sakach said.

Sakach shares his love for ultimate frisbee with the St. John’s community by sponsoring the ultimate frisbee club and competing in the faculty vs. student ultimate frisbee matches. Last summer, he also led a youth summer camp, open to students in the third through 12th grade.

“There's never been a youth summer camp for ultimate frisbee in Houston, which is pretty wild considering the size of the city,” Sakach said. “I was hoping to get more people involved in something that has made my life a lot better.”

Sakach attributes the fast-growing nature of ultimate frisbee to the sel essness needed to play the sport.


“It's fun to share it with other people,” Sakach said. “On a college campus, if a team is starting up, there's probably only a couple people who have played before, but once there is enough people to play, before

you know it, there is a very big team.”

Due to the growing popularity of the sport, the American Ultimate Disc League announced Houston’s addition of a professional ultimate frisbee team in 2023.

“I've always said that if Houston had a professional team, I'd play for it," Sakach said. "Now, we'll see if that becomes a

Sakach will be trying out for the team in January and nd out if he makes the roster in April, just before the start of the 2023

Disc ultimate had reality.” he frisbee season. a

“I have the same joy for the sport that I did when I rst started competing on a team in college because it’s very communal,” Sakach said. “The sport requires teamwork in a way that other sports don't necessarily require — that’s why I continue playing.”

JAMES KING The faculty kickball team, Slim Kickins, included teachers of every age, and both former collegiate athletes and complete novices.
COURTESY PHOTO | Letty Reza Sakach plays a game of catch with a student on the Great Lawn. PHOTO | Katie Czelusta Additional reporting by Annie Jones

Young Adult ction

is having an identity crisis.

The genre has long provided teenagers entertaining social commentary à la Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games” or S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders.” But after the dizzying success of the Twilight quadrilogy, YA authors learned that, in order to go mainstream, they need not speak to the tumultuousness of adolescence — they just need to hit the right tropes: enemy-to-lover cliches, fake dating plots and relationships in which partners are centuries apart in age.

Cramming “The Book Thief” onto the same shelf as “Ugly Love” makes the genre nearly unde nable. The simplest description makes the most sense: Young Adult works aim to represent teenagers and our experiences.

The early 21st century popularity of “The Maze Runner” and “Divergent” inspired a new obsession with YA, convincing publishers that they could pro t on anything employing teen angst and normalizing sadly under-developed writing. Bestsellers like Tehereh Ma ’s “Shatter Me” (2011) seem to have received little to no editing. Who can forget such gems as “Raindrops are my only reminder that clouds have a heartbeat” and “His lips his lips his lips his lips his lips."

At their best, YA novels are inspirational, with characters that represent the complexities of teenage life.

Books like Angie Thomas’s “The Hate U Give,” and even pre-teen ction like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, introduced millions of kids to heavy-hitting topics like disability, racism and homophobia. Who can forget the scene in “The House of Hades” in which an important queer character is outed by Cupid himself? Before reading

it, we did not know that kids our age could even be queer, and this spark, this connection, was shared by thousands around the world.

Wanting to see yourself on the page, represented in some positive way, is universal. Teenagers may love the F. Scott Fitzgeralds and Mary Shelleys of the world, and we can engage with their literature as meaningfully as adults can, but those authors do not represent us. If we criticize YA, that’s because it is so important to us, and we want it to re ect teenage experiences. YA does not have to be trashy and half-baked — despite what publishers may think.

Adults struggle to understand what teenagers truly care about, so authors and YA critics double down by discussing tired, albeit pro table, tropes.

As a result of years of neglect, much of the most popular YA is completely soulless, and nowhere is this clearer than in dystopian novels. “Divergent” and “Shatter Me” have underdeveloped themes about the environment and independent thought, coming across as simplistic slogans: Climate Change Bad or Freedom Good. Every single one of the more than 80 “Warriors” books (a series of books about wild cats) — and their respective manga spino s — have more substance than Roth or Ma could dream of.

Readers can sense when an author is passionate about their story; it shines through on the page. Apparently, publishers don’t think teenagers can tell the di erence.

Only when authors and publishers truly understand the importance of YA can they see its next renaissance of Nico DiAngelos and Starr Carters. For now, publishing houses will continue to promote mostly uninspired novels that assume their audience cannot handle real-world issues, and the next generation of pre-teens will not have those life-changing revelations from books written just for them. They deserve better.

Parents of teens in 2008 didn’t know how good they had it.

Fourteen years ago, teenagers would curl up on their couch and watch the latest episode of “Gossip Girl,” an envelope-pushing series on the newly formed CW Network. Set in the world of elite Manhattanites, the show drew the ire of parents who decried it as mind-blowingly inappropriate.

As the show is described at the beginning of every episode, the “scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite” pale in comparison to the goings-on in current shows marketed to teens, like HBO’s latest culture shock series “Euphoria.”

The series centers on Rue Bennett, played by Zendaya, a recovering teenage drug addict who surrounds herself with other delinquents.

In just the rst episode of “Euphoria,” teenagers shoot up heroin and a graphic scene depicts a transgender student sexually assaulted by her classmate’s father. As the show continues to bombard the audience with explicit content, it becomes apparent that “Euphoria” seeks to incite a

reaction rather than convey a deeper message.

In fact, when we look at what aspects of “Euphoria” have been incorporated into pop culture, it is the fantastical cinematography and whimsical makeup that have gained the most traction. We gravitate toward elements that place our TV counterparts in a dreamlike world that we would like to inhabit.

The relevant messages in “Euphoria” about friendship, recovery and not letting failures de ne us are lost in the troubling and salacious content.

For decades, parents have feared that their children will emulate whatever they see on screen. But today’s teenagers enjoy “Euphoria” in spite of its graphic content — not because of it.

While shows like “Gossip Girl” may have been considered scandalous a decade ago, they now o er the contemporary teen a dreamy escape. Even though the characters face problems in the original “Gossip Girl," they confront those problems at lavish penthouses, Parisian ateliers and afterschool trips to Bergdorf’s department store.

Teens can unwind with shows like “Gossip Girl” by engaging in the cartoonishly unrealistic plots of families who hire actors to steal trust funds or the time an anonymous donor dropped o $30,000 worth of champagne at the Constance Billard St. Jude's School. Although “Euphoria” is no more realistic than “Gossip Girl,” the con icts it presents hit too close to home for many high school students. Our generation is constantly reminded that we live in an imperfect world with seemingly unresolvable issues we are all too aware of. It can be exhausting when real-life demons haunt your entertainment, too. And with the multitude of media outlets available, teen-oriented television shows bear less responsibility to comment on societal issues.

In another 14 years, we might look back on shows like “Euphoria" and wonder what all the fuss was about. For now, teenage entertainment should hold on to the dreamy escapism that de ned it in 2008, rather than lose its identity to vapid shock tactics and empty commentary.

Overdosing on graphic content: How television for teenagers pushes the envelope too far
At their best, Young Adult novels are inspirational, with characters that represent the complexities of teenage life, which begs the question: Why are so many YA books today so cliche?
we the Fitzgeralds
The Hunger Games by
Collins Keeper of the Lost Cities by
Messenger  The Heroes of Olympus Series by Rick Riordan  Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger  Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia The Hate U Give by Angie Carter  Scythe by Neal Shusterman Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon YA Recs from The Review Staff
Leigh Bardugo

So a Aboul-Enein, Ellison Albright, Elise Anderson, Emma Arnold, Natalie Boquist, Finn Brewer, Kenzie Chu, Virginia Carolyn Crawford, Katie Czelusta, Eshna Das, Kaviya Dhir, Landon Doughty, Pierce Downey, Aien Du, Turner Edwards, Maddie Garrou, Nick Hensel, Aila Jiang, Kate Johnson, Julian Juang, Josie Kelly, Shayan Khan, Nathan Kim, Kenna Lee, Johnathon Li, Jennifer Lin, Jennifer Liu, Abby Manuel, Wade McGee, Lee Monistere, Parker Moore, Isabella Munoz, Ethan Nguyen, Riya Nimmagadda, Marin Pollock, Gabriel Pope, Dalia Sandberg, Jackie Thomas, Mark Vann, Justin Wright, Katharine Yao and Willow Zerr


In a crowded sporting landscape, World Cup stands alone. Here's why.

There is perhaps nothing every St. John’s student can agree on, much less the whole world — except that the World Cup is awesome.

We’re constantly nitpicking but we all seem perfectly happy huddling around the screen in Flores, eyes glued to a 90-minute scoreless draw between two countries we share minimal connection with because we see the joy in every perfect touch, every clever pass and, yes, every dramatic op.

We understand why soccer is called “the beautiful game” when watching Gavi, a Spanish mid elder just a few months older than most seniors, dribble the ball like it’s an extension of his own feet.

The Cup feels distinct from any other sporting event. Sure, there are high-stakes football and basketball games every year that feature rim-rattling dunks, highlight-reel catches and bench-clearing brawls. While those moments may go viral, they lack the historical weight and cultural meaning that the World Cup revives every four years.

Who needs James Harden’s latest sports drink commercial when there’s a matchup between England and France tomorrow? These frenemies were the principal combatants in the Hundred Years’ War but later teamed up to defeat the Third Reich in World War II and build the Chunnel.

We don’t care who wins the Super Bowl because neither Tom Brady’s team nor the team that gets to play Tom Brady are tethered to this joyous, infectious brand of tribalism. Lionel Messi becomes even more captivating when playing for Las Albicelestes because he is supported by 47 million Argentines and a roster that does not measure up to his oil-backed super club. But that’s the beauty of the Cup: it’s a healthy celebration of nationalism, not an all-star game. Playing for your ag trumps any individual accomplishments. Just ask Cristiano Ronaldo about getting benched.

The World Cup buoys those striving to excel for their nations and love of the game — not for adulation and pro t. And in this issue, we report on community members similarly passionate about ex-

celling at their craft for the sake of those around them.

Consider former Review editor-in-chief Irene Vázquez (‘17). Her innate love of words has led her to a career in poetry and publishing (Page 5). Or Bach Mai (‘07), who was en vogue altering dresses for the sophomore cotillion and is now in Vogue showcasing his own clothing line (Page 12).

Other Mavs found their path after graduation. Our alumni Congress members, Representative Lizzie Fletcher and Representative-Elect Wesley Hunt worked as a lawyer and a soldier, respectively, until they answered the call of public service (Page 2).

Our current student body boasts college-bound athletes, fashion-forward seamsters and the City of Houston's newly-minted Youth Poet Laureate. (Pages 13 and 5).

As we trudge through the semester's nal days until our long-awaited holiday break, we remain excited to see what stories the new year holds. We resolve to report on them with Luka Modric’s through-ball precision and Kylian Mbappé’s post-goal exuberance.

Mission Statement

The Review strives to report on issues with integrity, recognize the assiduous e orts of all and serve as an engine of discourse within the St. John's community.

Publication Info

We mail each issue of The Review, free of charge, to every Upper School household, with an additional 1,000 copies distributed on campus to our 697 students and 98 faculty.


The Review provides a forum for student writing and opinion. The opinions and sta editorials contained herein do not necessarily re ect the opinions of the Head of School or the Board of Trustees of St. John's School. Sta editorials represent the opinion of the entire Editorial Board unless otherwise noted. Writers and photographers are credited with a byline. Corrections, when necessary, can be found on the editorial pages. Running an advertisement does not imply endorsement by the school.

Submission Guidelines

Letters to the editor and guest columns are encouraged but are subject to editing for clarity, space, accuracy and taste. On occasion, we publish letters anonymously. We reserve the right not to print letters. Letters and guest columns can be emailed to

Houston, TX 77019 Facebook SJS Review Twitter
St. John's School 2401 Claremont Lane
@sjsreview Member National Scholastic Press Assn. Pacemaker 2015, 2018
Finalist 2019–2021
Fall 2022, Spring 2021, Fall 2021
Gold Crown
Silver Crown
Writing Excellence 2022 First Place Editorial Leadership (PSJA) 2022 SNO Distinguished Site 2018–2022 Print Editors-in-Chief Wilson Bailey, Cameron Ederle, Diane Guo, Annie Jones, Alice Xu Online Editors-in-Chief Ella Piper Cla y and Dawson Chang Section Editors Abigail Hindman & Lillian Poag (News), Mia Hong (Mavericks), Lydia Ga ord (Culture), Richard Liang (Sports) Sub Editors Lily Feather and Serina Yan Copy Editor Lauren Baker Design Editors Georgia Andrews and Amanda Brantley Photography and Multimedia Editors Lexi Guo & Isabella Diaz-Mira and James Li
Member Columbia Scholastic Press Assn.
2015, 2020–2022
2014, 2016–2019
Online Section Editors Emma Chang, Aleena Gilani, Elizabeth Hu, Lucy Walker Online Site Manager Arjun Maitra Production Manager Sophia Jazaeri Sta
Advisers David Nathan, Shelley Stein ('88), Sam Abramson
Happy Holidays, Wilson Bailey Cameron Ederle Diane Guo Annie Jones Alice Xu PHOTO |Lexi Guo
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.