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VOL. 71. ISSUE 1 OCTOBER 4, 2019

Here We Go Again Imelda wreaks havoc two years after Harvey photo by grace randall



OCTOBER 4, 2019

Jan Plan to allow for in-depth study of topics By Max Beard


or the first three weeks of January 2021, campus could become a hub for welders, marine biologists, data analysts and biblical scholars. They won't be outside experts, but rather students and teachers participating in comprehensive, non-traditional classes between first and second semester. Such is the idea behind the recently unveiled Jan Plan, an annual course in which all Upper School students will participate. Students will take one class from a mix of traditional and non-traditional, interdisciplinary subjects. According to Head of Upper School Hollis Amley, Jan Plan will give students a low-risk opportunity to explore an in-depth curriculum. Students will have the chance to discover something new or delve into something they already love. English teacher Kimberley Roquemore is proposing a course on the historical aspect of the Bible, a personal interest of hers, and she hopes to have her students study related historical sites in Greece and Rome. "The idea is definitely not to spend eight hours a day in one classroom at St. John's," Roquemore said. "Any class will probably take you outside these walls." For students trying to distinguish themselves, Jan Plan will provide a chance for them to do so. The Jan Plan is an opportunity "to create a unique or individual narrative," Amley said. "There will be many different offerings, so there will be many options to write your story." One of the goals of the Jan Plan is to provide an interdisciplinary experience. Teachers have been encouraged to partner with colleagues in different fields and departments. One teacher had been thinking about the math behind the card game bridge and wanted to partner with Community Service to learn math and also play bridge with senior citizens. "Great schools don't just create great conditions for the students, but for the faculty as well," Amley said. "It's as if teachers are in a sandbox playing with ideas. It's an

exciting time for them as they think about potential connections with colleagues or think about ideas they don't get to talk about in their classes or wish they could delve deeper into." Roquemore is glad to have the freedom to teach a class in which every student gets the opportunity to choose what they want to explore. "I want to immerse myself in something that I love with students who are passionate," she said. The idea of creating an interim course has been in the planning stages for about five years. With the adoption of the new schedule in 2017 and with some classes beginning to shift away from midterm exams to projects, the possibility of the Jan Plan became more feasible. Sarah Jane Keegan was hired this year as the "point person" for the Jan Plan. Keegan, who also teaches English and serves as an advisor for the Quadrangle, will oversee the logistics such as coordinating off-campus activities and transportation, along with Director of Experiential Education Marty Thompson, as well as managing class enrollment. In order to learn more about creating an interim session, administrators have visited The Westminster Schools in Atlanta. With the Jan Plan scheduled to take up the first three weeks of the spring semester, teachers will need to adjust their curricula. According to Roquemore, English teachers may have to remove one text per grade level. Jan Plan courses will also take away three weeks for students to learn and study for AP exams. Senior Lawrence Appel recalled finishing the AP World History curriculum just as the year ended. He said that taking away multiple weeks could result in an even more accelerated pace. Now a senior, he worries that future students will not receive enough instruction. "Certain classes need those three weeks to prepare, like AP Chemistry, and losing them will hurt on the exam," Appel said. "With the new schedule, science has already

lost a lot of time." Administrators emphasize that the Jan Plan is still in the early planning stages. Years from now, the Jan Plan might include internships or extensive travel opportunities. Until then, sophomore Bobby Hlavinka is excited about the prospects for Jan Plan. "It allows students to focus their perspective on some topic that interests them," he said. "I hope to dive deep into some new topic that I'm curious about."

Newest affinity groups provide safe space, create greater representation By Noura Jabir


year after the Statement on Community and Inclusion was unveiled, two new affinity groups strive to realize its mission. Gabriela Long ('19) launched the Women of Color Affinity Group late last year, leaving little time to organize events before graduation. This year, junior Rachel Kim and senior Caitlin Guidry serve as co-presidents. The pair began planning meetings in May to ensure that the club remained active into the new school year. WOC leadership is currently focused on planning the group's Nov. 20 assembly, which will serve as its introduction to Upper School students. "We want a woman of color to come in and speak to students about her experiences in the professional realm, because at this point it's really about education," Kim said. Women Helpling Empower Each Other has covered

some topics that WOC hopes to address, yet Kim observes that "women of color have an entirely different set of issues and experiences." Latin teacher Kim Dickson and college counselor Nicole Chulick serve as faculty sponsors for WOC. Dickson began working in independent schools 13 years ago when she could not have imagined that a group like WOC would ever exist. "In the beginning, I was always a minority, but no one spoke about it," Dickson said. "It's amazing that there’s this space now for all these different groups to come together." Ultimately, WOC leaders aim to foster an inclusive environment for women of color in which they will feel encouraged to discuss issues of importance. "We want to create a safe space, a place to celebrate and discuss our differences, while also educating the larger student body about our experiences," Guidry said.


MENA affinity group leader Alec Jazaeri recruits new members at Club Fair. The club became an affinity group this year.

The Middle Eastern and North African Affinity Group, or MENA, began last year as a club under the leadership of Lilah Gaber and Leanna Shebib (both '19). "Last year, there were maybe four of us that would meet regularly, so the group couldn’t become anything," co-president Soraya Stude said. When club leaders initially requested affinity group status, they were advised to remain a club for one more year. This year, Stude and fellow senior Mia Fares spearheaded efforts to legitimize the club's status as an affinity group by working with both Dean of Students Bailey Duncan and Director of Community and Inclusion Gene Batiste. Because there are fewer than 20 students of Middle Eastern origin in the Upper School, the MENA meetings

Photo by Mia Fares will likely be open to students of all races and ethnicities who would like to learn more about Middle Eastern and North African culture. "We want to focus on raising awareness of our presence and destigmatizing the issues that affect us," Stude said. "We'll try to have open, inclusive meetings and just see who joins us." For Stude, the club serves as a space to explore her Middle Eastern identity amongst the few people on campus who can relate to her experiences. "Middle Easterners are put under the category of White, but it’s completely different," Stude said. "I hope that by creating an affinity group, we can help each other become more comfortable with our identities."

OCTOBER 4, 2019



Flooding wreaks havoc on greater Houston (again) By Noura Jabir


eptember 19 began like any other day for junior Khari Evans. He woke up at 6, left the house at 6:15, and stopped by Chick-fil-A to pick up his usual — two chicken minis and two hash browns. Waiting in the drive-thru line, he noticed dark clouds overhead. "I didn't think much of it," Evans said. "I needed to get to school for my basketball workout, so I just got my food and drove off." As Evans enjoyed his breakfast, school administrators were vigilantly monitoring the weather forecast, projected to be thunderstorms and scattered rain, neither of which warranted closing campus. Still, with Tropical Storm Imelda raging just east of Houston, Associate Headmaster Chris Curran knew the school had to take precautions. "With something as unpredictable as weather, you have to be nimble," Curran said. "There's no playbook that says, if this happens, do this." According to Curran, the administrative team remained in communication throughout the morning, paying close attention to weather updates. By 11, the rain had not stopped as predicted. In fact, it intensified, dumping between 25 and 28 inches of rain on the greater Houston area by the end of the day. When the Great Lawn started to resemble a marsh, students began to worry. "I was in Spanish class when I looked outside and saw how dark the sky was," junior Ethan Saadia said. "When I went to lunch and saw the Great Lawn under water, I knew that it was actually a serious flooding event." When photos of a flooded black Mustang on Claremont Lane began circulating via Snapchat, some students became concerned about the safety of their cars. "I park in the garage, usually on the first floor," Evans said. "So I was stressed that the garage might flood and my car would get messed up." According to Curran, security team members were monitoring Taub lot and the St. Luke's Garage to ensure that there was no adverse impact on vehicles. Students would have been notified if the structure began collecting water. As the storm continued into the afternoon, anxious students called their parents, asking them to come pick them up or give them permission to sign out and leave early. Around 1:30, Upper School administrators prohibited students from signing out and driving themselves home. "It's human instinct to want to hop in the car and go, or [for parents] to want to come pick up their children," Curran said. "But we know that it's often better to wait until the water recedes." Seniors Taliha De Ochoa and Athena Adrogué were chatting in Senior Country when they received an email from administrators stating that campus would close at 4:30. De Ochoa, whose home flooded during Harvey, began to worry about how she would get home. Adrogué, who lives near campus, offered to host her friend until she could be picked up. "When it was just me and [Adrogué's] family, they treated me like their own," De Ochoa said. "They made me feel comfortable and took my mind off my house." Students without a car that day, like Saadia, waited until floodwaters receded before their parents could pick them up. "The water was gone by the time my dad and I were driving home," Saadia

said. "There were cars stranded in the road, on the medians, everywhere." Once students got home, they faced a dilemma: whether or not to complete their assignments for Friday. "We thought we would have school, so we began to study for our biology test," Adrogué said. "We thought that the worst was already over." Later that night, the Houston Independent School District announced that all schools would be closed on Friday, leading students to speculate that private schools, including St. John's, would follow suit. Administrators decided to close campus after carefully monitoring the weather Thursday evening and considering the difficulties that would arise in staffing the school. "Many of our faculty members have school-aged children whose schools or daycares were closed due to flooding," Curran said. "We can't operate with 30 to 40 faculty members unable to come in and teach." Safety concerns about hazardous road conditions ultimately led administrators to cancel school. "We have students and staff that live all over the city," Curran said. "People forget that while the sun may be shining within a two-mile radius of 2401 Claremont, there might be other issues across town." At 10:35 that night, the email students had been hoping for all afternoon finally arrived. Head of Upper School Hollis Amley confirmed the School's closure, reminding students to be mindful of schedule adjustments in their courses. Adrogué and De Ochoa, like many students that evening, were thrilled to have the next day off. "It was such a relief," Adrogué said. "We celebrated because we had a three-day weekend." When the decision to cancel school was finally made, headmaster Mark Desjardins was stuck on a plane to Boston with his son and four other St. John's families, all anxiously waiting to depart. "It was very stressful because we had no idea if our flight was even going to make it out," senior Lucas Desjardins said. "I don't think it was too hard of a call because the other schools had cancelled. My dad was confident that everything would be alright." Because Dr. Desjardins sat stranded on the runway when HISD announced its cancellation, the decision to make the call for SJS fell to Curran, who said that having the authority to open or close campus is not a decision that she took lightly. "As a school administrator, you feel a tremendous amount of responsibility in these situations," Curran said. "Everyone on the admin team felt the toll of the adrenaline." Many students expressed disappointment that the School chose to hold class on Thursday. "I wish admin would have taken precautionary measures and cancelled school because the weather and the traffic caused a lot of stress and anxiety," Adrogué said. "When school was over, everything felt like chaos." Despite the frenzy, Curran remains confident in the administrative team's ability to make the best decisions to ensure student and faculty safety. "We have a really great team working 24/7 in these types of situations," Curran said. "People lean in, step up and get the job done."

Imelda swamps campus

Additional reporting by SJ Lasley and Sinclair Mott

Photos by Grace Randall



OCTOBER 4, 2019

Revamped Freshman Retreat promotes inclusivity Freshmen in Taub House displayed their team spirit in the relay race, one of many events at the annual Freshman Retreat. The retreat took place over three days at Camp Lonehollow before school began.

Photo by Richie Mercado ('79)

By Wenqing He


efore the school year had even started, freshmen filed onto buses to depart for Camp Lonehollow in the scenic Texas Hill Country. In recent years, Freshman Retreat has taken place right after Class 9 campus orientation. New Upper School students are accompanied by teachers and senior retreat leaders for three days of bonding. Freshman Retreat is a time for students to "share an experience that is different from their normal school experience, aiming to bring the class together as they share these experiences," science teacher Graham Hegeman said. The retreat used to take place over two weekdays and one night at Camp Allen in September but is now a threenight event at Camp Lonehollow in late August. Because of the change of venues, activities have transitioned from outdoor-oriented camp activities like kayaking and archery to events that focus more on advisory and the house system, including games, discussions about diversity, community and inclusion, and "Words of Wisdom" from the retreat leaders. Some seniors were pleasantly surprised to see the adjustments that had been made to the retreat since their freshman year. Subi Farayibi preferred this year's retreat, specifically the house relay race and the community and inclusion lectures, which allowed freshmen and seniors to bond. Farayibi did miss some of the former activities.

"We did not get to do the [advisory] skits," Farayibi said. "They garnered great laughs and gave me a stronger connection to my advisory." According to Amy Malin, ninth grade Class Chair, advisories either ate or participated in activities together in order to strengthen the connection between advisees. The advisory-oriented arrangements provided an opportunity for students to interact with those outside their friend group. "At first, our advisory did not talk much, and it was mostly quiet," freshman Dalia Khera said. "It was a little uncomfortable to start with, but because we spent so much time together, we seemed to be getting much closer." A relatively new aspect of the retreat, implemented two years ago, is the Community and Inclusion workshop. Presented by Hollis Amley, Head of Upper School, and Gene Batiste, Director of Community and Inclusion, and Community and Inclusion Associates, Kim Dickson and Russell Hardin, the activities help students anticipate Upper School community norms and define specific terms regarding diversity. "There isn't a lot of space in the curriculum to explain [community and inclusion] to students," Hegeman said. "Having an intentional, early meeting with freshmen says, 'hey, this is something we value.'" Farayibi noticed the emphasis on inclusion, which she considers an important subject to discuss before joining



the Upper School. "Taking the time to think introspectively about how we can better empathize with others really made the trip more focused and purposeful than just a three-day 'fun' trip," Farayibi said. For some freshmen, these sensitive topics were difficult to discuss with students they did not know well. "I had to step out of my comfort zone," Khera said. "Everyone had to participate, and not everyone was comfortable with each other yet." Teachers and retreat leaders recognized the difficulty of discussing sensitive topics, particularly when the information is lecture-focused rather than rooted in discussion. Retreat organizers are working to increase student involvement in future years. "It could still be more interactive, since most students don't like spending a lot of time sitting down and listening," Hegeman said. "If we can get to the point where we can have high engagement, that would be preferable." Despite the changes, the retreat still aims to bring the freshmen class closer together. "The purpose has always been the same and will always be the same," Malin said. "What we are doing each year is tweaking it so that we get the most out of the experience."

OCTOBER 4, 2019


Sheba the Security Dog protects, charms community


GEMS seeks to educate, empower Middle School girls By Fareen Dhuka


Sheba, a six-month-old German Shepherd, plays with Director of Security and Facilities Richard Still on Caven Field in between training sessions.

Photo by Grace Randall

By Ella West


oming to a new school is tough, especially when you are the youngest and bark at the color red. Sheba, a six-month-old female German Shepherd, joined the Upper School this year as a new member of the security team. Sheba roams the campus with owner and Director of Security and Facilities Richard Still. After three months of professional dog training, Sheba was ready to meet students. Her first day was going well until she saw a number of students wearing red, which resulted in lots of barking. To help Sheba transition, Still and Upper School Administrative Assistant Becky Leakey put red skirts and shirts on one of the couches in Still's office so she would be more comfortable around the color. Sheba no longer takes an offense to red. Training during the school day, Sheba works on verbal commands and sensory skills on campus. During lunch, she plays fetch on Caven Field. Having plenty of play time and exercise is beneficial to her health, but like so many young dogs, Sheba can tire easily if overworked. As a puppy, Sheba was initially overwhelmed by the sheer number of students approaching her. "She is still a little bit skittish around the Lower Schoolers because they will swarm her," Still said. "But with Upper and Middle schoolers, she does much better." Last year during a discussion on security, Headmaster Mark Desjardins inquired about getting a campus safety dog. Still discovered that some school districts have dogs on campus. "There is no doubt that it is a huge factor in safety," Still said. "One German Shepherd trait is that they are very, very loyal. If there is someone on campus who is here to do harm, she will protect us." Sheba and Still are inseparable; the only time he is not with her is when a potentially negative experience could take place, like at the vet. Since Still adopted her, Sheba has trained to do much of what a police dog would do. "All of the training involves me," Still said. "But every trainer that's had anything to do with her

remarks on how exceptionally smart she is. Right now, she knows her left from her right — I can tell her those commands. If I tell her 'the office,' she can lead me back. She can sit, stay, heel. When people approach, I say 'friend,' and that's how she knows that those people are not harmful." Sheba's most important asset is her nose, with its 280 million sensory nerves. Sheba can already identify if someone has been using any nicotine products. A police dog normally works around 40 minutes a day and stays in a kennel the rest of the time, but Sheba's home life is quite different. For her, maintaining a work-home balance is key. "She is allowed to be a normal dog at home," Still said. Sheba plays with a terrier mutt friend named Sunny that Still calls Wilbur because he looks like a pig. "She's more tolerant of big dogs. She hates little dogs," he said. "In her mind, little dogs are rodents." While students are happy that Sheba can keep them safe, they are also excited to have a furry friend on campus. "Sheba is very, very adorable and very, very sweet, and she makes me happy," sophomore Eve Kroenecke said. "She puts a smile on my face when I am having a bad day." Still cautions people not to walk up to Sheba and stick their hand in front of her face or offer her food because, while some people train with treats, Still prefers to "train with praise." In the case of a potential threat, Sheba will react like any dog protecting her territory. "The fear factor in the canine being on property is just as effective as having security guards," Still said, "probably almost as effective as having armed security guards."

Additional reporting by Bailey Maierson

ccording to the World Health Organization, girls and women are increasingly experiencing depression and anxiety and are more prone to suicidal ideation and eating disorders than boys and men. To address these issues, junior Carolyn DePinho and senior Alexa Addison have created a mentorship program that reaches out to both Middle and Upper School girls: Girls Empowering Minds, also known as GEMS. "I have always wanted to be an advocate for mental health education and empower women, especially women of color," DePinho said. The mission of GEMS is to strengthen bonds between Middle and Upper School girls and to foster a healthy community by lessening the stigma surrounding mental health while debunking myths about high school. "The lack of conversation about mental health, friendships, identity and substance abuse only fosters misconceptions and makes them seem scarier than they are," Addison said. "Talking about these things is the only way to make them more manageable." GEMS will meet once a month after school, led by students who will focus on a specific topic of discussion. The first meeting is planned for Oct. 8 and will emphasize the importance of friendship. Middle School Counselor Cynthia Powell and Upper School Counselor Ashley Le Grange will be present at meetings in order to help guide conversations on sensitive topics such as drug and alcohol addiction and self-harm. According to Le Grange, GEMS allows Middle School students to establish connections with the older girls, who in turn are held accountable for their actions because the younger students look up to them. "It's really powerful," Le Grange said. Powell said that open discussions and positive role models are beneficial for childhood and adolescent development, and she envisions GEMS helping bridge the gap between grade levels and resolving any misconceptions girls may have about relationships as they transition into high school. "I want there to be normalization," Powell said. "Girls sometimes feel they're the only ones who think a certain way or are struggling with something, so to hear from others that it's a common experience at that age is by far the greatest benefit that we're going to have." The November meeting will concentrate on identity and inclusion with a panel discussion featuring leaders of Upper School affinity groups. According to DePinho, involving affinity group leaders is one of the best ways to reach all Middle School girls. "I'm a firm believer that you learn better from people who look like you," DePinho said. "If you put people in a space where they can find out more about one another, you create a stronger community of people who are more willing to help each other and themselves." At a Middle School presentation on Sept. 11, Addison and DePinho introduced GEMS to female students and faculty. "I have been totally amazed at the willingness and passion of the Upper School girls to create something like this," Powell said. "[It will] make such a difference in the lives of our Middle School girls."


OCTOBER 4, 2019

Widespread gun violence sparks fear, anxiety

Illustration by Celine Huang

By Ella West


ith armed police officers, gunshot detectors and a German Shepherd on campus, St. John's School has never been safer. But at a time when mass shootings have become increasingly common, students say there's a growing sense of unrest about their personal safety beyond the Storied Cloisters. Charlotte Curtin is a case in point. Late last summer, Curtin drove herself to Flower Child, a popular health food restaurant in Uptown Village, to meet three of her classmates. The friends discussed summer break and their upcoming junior year before the conversation turned to the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. Suddenly, six men ran inside the restaurant, frantically looking over their shoulders.

Source: Hamilton College

Instinctively, everyone dropped to the floor and hid under tables thinking there was a shooter outside. Panic ensued when some customers tried unlocking the kitchen door that led to the outside while others began taking off their belts in order to secure the back door. "We knew we needed an escape route because it felt like we were just waiting for slaughter." Curtin said that bolting the back entrance "was an awful idea," but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Some diners contacted loved ones. Others called 911. Curtin texted her parents and her family group chat: "I don't know what's going on," she said. "We don't know a lot, but we are okay right now." After about five agonizing minutes, a man came into the restaurant and claimed that it was all clear to go outside, but no one left the restaurant until a police officer came in and confirmed the man's story. The officer explained that there had indeed been a shooting, but it occurred on the Loop 610 feeder road, across the street from Flower Child. 'THE WORLD WE LIVE IN TODAY'

It does not take a close call like Curtin's to trigger anxiety.

"When I am in public spaces, I get very paranoid that some person could just pull out a gun and shoot," sophomore Kate Willey said. "I am aware of my surroundings, which is good, but I feel like I shouldn't have to worry about getting shot in public."

Source: Gun Violence Archive

The mere mention of gun violence can make sophomore Eve Kroencke overly concerned about where she goes for several days. "When I was at the movies with my family, I saw someone that was staring at everyone and wearing a heavy overcoat," she said. "This person could have just been normal or having a bad day, but I immediately thought about guns. It could happen. That's the world we live in today." Richard Still, Head of Security, says that one of the best ways to stay safe off-campus is to pay attention to your surroundings. "As we get more and more attuned to phones, we walk around with earphones on, so we stop paying attention to what is happening around us," Still said. "That can lead to dangerous situations." According to Brady United, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control, 21 children and teens are shot every day in the United States. This year, mass shootings have taken place at beaches, movie theaters, grocery stores, schools and synagogues.

Source: Brady United

According to CBS News, as of September 1, there had been more mass shootings in the United States than there had been days in the year—the first time since 2016 to average more than one mass shooting a day. Middle School students are equally concerned.

"Hearing stories about how kids are impacted by gun violence makes me scared," seventh grade student Katherine Haggard said. "This happens to people just like me. Victims of gun violence are just like me." 'NORMALIZED SCHOOL SHOOTINGS'

Some students are talking about a public service announcement released by the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, a non-profit led by the families of victims of the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The video depicts scenes of children using their backto-school supplies to survive an active school shooting. In footage reminiscent of a department store commercial, smiling children display their new backpacks, folders and art supplies. Gradually, the students demonstrate how their new sneakers help them run from a shooter or how a skateboard can break open a window to escape. One girl waits by a classroom door with shiny new scissors, ready to pounce. The video ends with a girl alone in a dark restroom stall,

Source: Everytown

texting "I love you mom" on her brand-new smartphone as menacing footsteps get closer. The PSA ends with the message: "It's back-to-school time. You know what that means." Senior Travis Bouchard first saw the PSA while scrolling through Instagram. "I was stunned by how real the video seemed," Bouchard said. "It was so powerful because it showed how normalized school shootings are today." School shootings have become so commonplace that some students are unnerved by monthly fire drills. "My first thought is: Oh, there's a fire," Curtin said. "But do I trust it? Or is this just a method to get everyone out in one place, like in Parkland?" When Curtin finally made the drive home after the Flower Child incident, her mother was waiting outside. They hugged in the driveway for several minutes. "I could tell she had been crying," Curtain said, "and finally the reality of what happened hit me."

Design by Leila Pulaski

OCTOBER 4, 2019



House games promote fun, friendly rivalries Revamped scoring system aims to boost legitimacy

Members of Chidsey House, Anika Ayub, prefect Ryan Doughty and house captain Sydney Buchman, make beaded bracelets to promote house spirit.

Photo by Lizzie Mickiewicz

By Julia Smith


assionate shouts fill the Great Lawn, reverberating off the walls of Mewborne and Flores Hall. Crowds begin forming around three tables, each adorned with six watermelons cut into six slices — one for each member of the relay. Despite the threat of rain, students are rowdy and animated, and it is nearly impossible to differentiate who is participating from who is there to support them. One of the prefects, Ryan Doughty, yells Go, and participants begin tearing into the slices with their bare hands just as the drizzle turns into a downpour, their soaked house companions displaying unadulterated glee. Welcome to the house competition 2019. Designed by prefects in 2011, the house system was intended as a way to foster a greater sense of community between grades and divisions of school. Some students were initially disdainful of the house system, claiming it was too reminiscent of Harry Potter. In recent years, SAC has embraced the house system, Harry Potter similarities and all, transforming a once lackluster concept into a series of events that promotes excitement and friendly rivalry. This year’s prefects brainstormed all summer to develop a wide variety of games. From art contests to paper airplane tournaments, the events have occurred more frequently, allowing for sustained engagement. Freshman Claire Schwanauer recently attended the dance-off, which was held for the first time on the Great Lawn. Students were eager to earn points for their house while displaying their terpsichorean skills. "We started line dancing, and then everyone started joining in, even if they didn’t know it," Schwanauer said. "People are excited to be in their houses." This year, the primary goal for five-sixths of the student body is to end the two-year reign of Chidsey House. As of Sept. 30, Chidsey was back in first place, a mere 10 points ahead of Claremont. The top five houses were separated by just 27 points, so if Chidsey hopes to three-peat, it won’t be easy. Only Hoodwink seems to

have given up already, sitting in last place, 113 points behind fifth-place Winston House. Mulligan house captain Eliza Holt, who has been to numerous trivia games and other contests, has noticed that Chidsey has not won as many of the events this year. "Chidsey’s on the way out," Holt said. Revamping the scoring system has been a top priority for Head Prefect Mark Trautner and prefect Ryan Doughty. The prefects determine in advance the number of points for each game in order to eliminate the possibility of prefects changing the points afterwards to favor a particular house. Some games award points based on participation, while others are based on skill. In those skill-based games, including trivia and kickball, points are awarded for the top five finishers: 20-15-10-5-5. The prefects use spreadsheets to keep track of points and share the document with all house captains and prefects, creating more transparency. After Chidsey won the House Cup for the second year in a row, there was much grumbling from the other houses, envious of Chidsey's winning streak. "A lot of Chidsey's success has come from more of an organization standpoint," Doughty said. "[They were] just active in having more people at every event. And realistically, if you have more people at every event, you’ll probably win." Trautner and Doughty hope that better organization will put an end to the suspicion that SAC interferes in the house games. The spreadsheet has increased trust between house captains and SAC since the points are accessible to all parties.

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SAC wants underclassmen to be excited about the games. On the freshman retreat, senior leaders and teachers emphasized the importance of the house system, eliciting participation from all members of the class, whether in small games or a camp-wide relay race. "I got Cheetos thrown at me [in the relay race]," Schwanauer said. "The baton was a plantain, and [I] had to eat it at the end. That was a terrifying experience." The senior leaders and freshmen alike were full of house spirit throughout the retreat, cheering, encouraging and fiercely competing with one another. "The last day was solely about the houses," freshman retreat leader McKenna Grabowski said. "That [gave] people a sense of pride, not just for St. John’s, but more for themselves." Many students cite the games as not only a source of fun, but as a way to connect with others, build community and experience a sense of importance. "Everybody belongs to something," Chidsey House captain Sydney Buchman said. "Everyone’s in a place where they feel welcome and where they can contribute to [their] house."

Race for the House Cup




64 Point totals as of September 30

Design by Leila Pulaski



OCTOBER 4, 2019

MS math teacher doubles as country artist L By Abigail Poag

ast year, before she joined the Middle School math department, Brittney Flinn took to the stage every Thursday night at Goodnight Charlie's, a contemporary Montrose-area honky tonk. Sporting acid-wash jeans, a colorful vintage top and cowboy boots, she sang with Neon Rainbow, performing covers of 1990s country classics in the style of Shania Twain and Trisha Yearwood. Flinn's now-husband Max, a country music artist and songwriter, encouraged her to start performing after the pair started dating. The couple now performs weekends together, and on Aug 4, they released the single, "Worlds Apart," which they wrote and recorded together for their wedding in July. The couple met by chance at a downtown venue. She was there to see friends; he was there to perform. "He thought I was a fan, so he came over trying to be all charming with his guitar," Flinn said. "He thought I was there to listen to him, but I was not." After they had been dating awhile, Flinn began harmonizing with Max on a whim while he was playing guitar. He recognized her talent, and she has been joining him for performances ever since. "It just adds so much more to have the duets and the harmony," Flinn said. "He is always trying to get me to perform with him." In preparation for their wedding, the videographer asked them what kind of music they wanted. Max suggested that they compose their own. The result was "Worlds Apart," a song that tells the story of two people with vastly different personalities and upbringings: Flinn is from small-town Minnesota, while Max was born and raised in Houston.

"At first, we were trying to do something upbeat and not so sappy and emotional," Flinn said, "and then I realized I kind of wanted that." One of her eighth grade students, Annika Hensel, was surprised to learn her algebra teacher was so talented. "I didn't know she had such a beautiful voice," Hensel said. "Since she's a teacher, we could imagine her voice singing, but it was nothing like we expected." Growing up in Nashwauk, Minnesota (pop. 900), Flinn took voice lessons in high school but never settled on a style, trying everything from classical to country to jazz. It was not until she began singing with Max that she committed to country. "The country twang sound fits my voice really well because I'm more sassy when I sing." At the University of Minnesota, Duluth, Flinn studied engineering, but she switched to teaching after working with a math education major. When she completed all her math credits, she realized just how much she missed taking math classes. After Flinn graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Math, she taught in Ireland for three months before moving to Houston, where she taught in Aldine and later at Lanier Middle School. Flinn said she and Max complement each other well in their performances. While she considers herself a bit of an introvert, Flinn describes her husband as "very charming and authentic." "We have that chemistry, not only with how our harmonies sound together, but with our banter back and forth," Flinn said. "It's not just two random people on stage."

Brittney and Max Flinn wrote and recorded the single "Worlds Apart" for their wedding in July.

Photo courtesy of Brittney Flinn Flinn said that Max encourages her to take creative risks and make mistakes. "I can be kind of a perfectionist — maybe that's just the mathematician in me to [think] there's just one right way to do things," Flinn said. "He's much more in touch with his emotions, which is usually stereotyped as a feminine quality. Our roles are reversed in that way." The schedules of a teacher and singer don't always match, but they have agreed to get to bed by 10:30 every night in order to somehow keep their schedules in sync. "We don't have kids, but it's like he's a stay-at-home dad because he's doing the

grocery shopping and the laundry and the cleaning," Flinn said. The Flinns want to record an album like Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner that adapts an old-fashioned Western style for a contemporary audience. Flinn's favorite performances are those in which she connects with the audience and shares something relatable. "When you're in front of a crowd that actually wants to listen, and they're engaged, and you can hear them laughing or making comments, it's so much more fun."

OCTOBER 4, 2019



SYA offers students opportunity to embrace new cultures, languages Maddie Overstreet, right, immerses herself in Spanish cultural festivities.

Photo courtesy of Maddie Overstreet

Abigail Price visits the Great Wall of China during her year abroad in Beijing.

Photo courtesy of Abigail Price

By Izzy Andrews


By Ella Chen


ust months ago and an ocean away, way, senior Maddie Overstreet treet was swimming and laughing ughing with her friends in the Bay off Biscay as a last hurrah after spending a year studying abroad in Spain. Now she's back, buried in books and college applications. "It's been a weird jump because I'm behind," Overstreet said. "I have to take a lot of junior classes, and everything’s just been hectic with colleges." As a lifer, Overstreet, decided that she needed a change after her sophomore year. Her bilingual sister and father encouraged her to learn another language, so she chose to study abroad in Spain. "I love St. John's — it's amazing — but I've spent more than a decade in one place, and it gets boring to see the same things and faces every day," she said. "I wanted to change things up." Although she was first greeted with turmoil and frenzy by a host family in the midst of a divorce, Overstreet found herself feeling right at home with her second family: a single mother with a daughter around her age. "The daughter would talk to me all the time, and we'd all go traveling almost every other weekend," Overstreet said. "It was just the best family in the world." Overstreet attended a multilingual program in which almost all classes are taught in Spanish. While she had completed Spanish classes through level 3, she still faced language difficulties and was concerned that she would not learn anything. "I thought I knew Spanish, but I didn't," Overstreet said. "I would get migraines because the language was so hard." Despite her initial struggle, Overstreet soon became accustomed to the language

Design by Mia Fares

and culture, until one day every-

thing clicked. "I was sitting in class, and I paused and realized that all my notes were in Spanish — I was thinking in Spanish, and I could understand Spanish like it was English," Overstreet said. "It was such a great moment for me because I was like, 'Oh, this is why I came here. It's working.'" Outside of class, Overstreet found a new sense of freedom from traveling around Spain and experiencing its culture firsthand rather than through pictures in a textbook. Every other weekend she would travel with friends. "I went from hiking the Pyrenees with my host family one weekend to lying on a beach of Donostia-San Sebastián." Back in Houston, Overstreet's first few weeks of school proved both exciting and challenging as she dove straight into the chaos of college application season. "I miss my friends a lot, and my host family too," Overstreet said. "It's been a hard adjustment to senior year. It's a totally different dynamic, but it's good to see everyone again, and everything right now is college, college, college!"

bigail Price was sitting on a boat, having a picnic and enjoying the perfect October weather. The food, however, wasn't something she'd usually choose: cold, spicy chicken feet, with the skin still on. Price has just returned to Houston after spending her junior year in Beijing, China, as part of School Year Abroad, a program that gives students the possibility of total immersion in China, France, Italy or Spain. The picnic lunch was one of many meals spent with her Chinese host family, trying new, unknown foods and learning about Chinese culture. Price, a senior who has been a French student since Middle School, did not meet the language requirement to study in Spain, and she wasn't particularly interested in living in Italy. Although she was already proficient in French, Price chose to learn Mandarin in China. "I wanted to go somewhere super out of my comfort zone, someplace unlike anywhere I'd ever been before," she said. Price intends to pursue a career in diplomacy, so she plans to learn as many languages as possible. Only knowing French would not suffice. "Mandarin is a great language to know in today's world," she said. "[I wanted the] added benefits of learning through immersion." To prepare for her year abroad, Price took Mandarin lessons from a Chinese friend. She learned basic pronunciation and some essential nouns, such as "water" and the months of the year. She also learned how to read pinyin, which is the official romanization system for Mandarin in China. Price said that while she wasn't nervous about leaving home for such an extended period of time, she was concerned about meeting new people. "I’m a lifer, so I've never had to make friends outside of St. John's in that same way," she said. "I've never been without that group I can fall back on. It was a little nerve-wracking, but there ended up being no problem at all." Price lived with a host couple and their

two young daughters near the center of Beijing. She took all her classes on one floor designated for American students located within a prestigious Chinese high school. In addition to required AP classes, she also took modern China, which was taught in Chinese half the time, as well as Chinese history and intensive Chinese language classes. For Price, the biggest adjustment after moving to Beijing was simply linguistic: she had to get used to reading signs and communicating in Chinese. She also cites the food, including chicken feet, as a significant change. Price's time in Beijing coincided with the beginning of the Chinese-American trade war, but she says the tensions did not impact her experience. "There wasn't really any issue there," she said. "Just a conversation point, if anything." Price said that her return to the U.S. was a "huge" adjustment. Since she only took the subway and bus while in China, she had to relearn how to drive a car. In China, Price appreciated the ability to say things in English without having people understand what she was saying. After landing back in the U.S., she made the mistake of loudly proclaiming her hatred for Dunkin' Donuts. "When you're with your American friends and no one else can understand you, you'll tend to talk loudly about stupid things," she said. "I just wasn't used to people being able to understand me." For Price, the decision to study abroad was the best she's ever made. "It was the best time of my life so far. I wish I could go back."



Bracing for impact

As possible recession looms, School is prepared for economic downturn Article by Sara Doyle and Sophia Lima / Photo by Leila Pulaski / Design by Mia Fares and Leila Pulaski



or the past decade, the United States has been enjoying the longest period of economic growth in its history, yet worrisome indicators and trade tensions with China hint that a global economic decline may be on the horizon. On July 31, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the first time since the 2008 housing bubble collapse, which increased talk of a recession. Other signals such as slow gross domestic product growth and an inverted yield curve (when interest rates on short-term bonds are higher than the interest rates on long-term bonds) also point toward a possible recession. Greg Swan, St. John’s Chief Financial Officer, said that despite all the noise, consumer confidence seems steady, which is holding the economy together. Unemployment also remains historically low and quit rates are high — both signs that the economy is stable. Swan said that if the economy were to break, it probably would have done so already. “My gut feeling is that if there is a recession, it will be short and shallow.” According to Swan, who also teaches economics, people need to understand that recessions are a normal part of the economic cycle and there is nothing inherently bad about them. “We are long overdue for an adjustment.”


Beginning in 2007, the collapse of the U.S. real estate market drove the country into a 19-month economic downturn, known as the Great Recession. Houston began to feel the impact in 2009, and before long, St. John’s saw a spike in families seeking financial aid. Families who had never sought help before suddenly found themselves needing it, including parents with steady, well-paying jobs, such as attorneys who were used to being paid on retainer. “It was a big shock to some of the professionals in our community,” Swan said. Some economically impacted families needed financial aid for the remainder of the time they had students at St. John’s. It took about two years for the Houston area to recover. St. John’s history teacher Jack Soliman had been teach-

ing at SJS for two years when the financial crisis impacted his take-home pay. In 2010, the typical faculty pay raise fell to 1.5%. With a daughter in Lower School, Soliman had to pay a higher tuition with a lower pay raise than expected. In December 2010, Soliman recalls parents raising funds as a one-time thank-you for teachers. “It was definitely a nice gesture given the economic climate,” Soliman said. By the 2011-2012 school year, pay raises returned to their usual rate of about 3 percent.

cession. In the event of a truly catastrophic and lengthy economic downturn, Swan said that the School may have to draw the line for financial aid. “We sat down and transparently said ‘maybe we can’t do everything for everyone.’” If school finances become tight, Swan said that SJS


The threat of a recession has prompted conversations in the Economics classroom. Swan’s class focuses on micro economics first half of the semester and macro economics in the second half. Students have discussed the current economic situation: “I like to spend the first few minutes of class talking about what’s going on in the world,” Swan said. Swan focuses more on studying the economy as a whole, but he realizes that the recession is relevant and students are interested in how it affects the economy. “When we are talking about supply-and-demand scenarios, every single one is changing with the recession,” senior Pranav Konduri said. “People want to know how the recession impacts the economy and how it impacts the decision-making calculus of the producers and consumers.” As the class moves into macroeconomics, Swan anticipates the perspective a recession would bring. “This is an economics teacher’s dream,” Swan said. “All this stuff is real as opposed to theoretical.” Swan’s goal is not to diminish the impact of a potential recession or frighten his students, but dealing with real issues makes classroom discussions and reading more relevant. “When the federal reserve is actually cutting interest rates, you don’t have to talk about theoretical monetary policy, that is monetary policy,” Swan said. “When the Trump administration is cutting tax rates, it is real fiscal policy.” Swan appreciates the ability of current events to serve as learning tools, as opposed to looking into history and examining the Obama administration’s initiatives in 2009. Swan’s goal for his students is to help them understand what it means to think economically. “My hope is that the students walk out of here with some tools to understand what is important to them,” Swan said. “I don’t want to teach anyone in any direction, but just to think, take a breath and understand that it’s complex.”


St. John’s adjusted its finances in 2009 to compensate for the increase in financial aid requests, but it wasn’t easy. “We are in a much better position now than we were ten years ago,” Swan said. In preparation for a prolonged economic downturn, St. John’s created a reserve fund. Each year, any surplus money is placed into a “rainy day” fund, a contingency plan that the School did not have before the Great Re-

would prioritize current families over future students to ensure that those who are already here can continue to attend. The School remains confident that teacher salaries will remain competitive if a downturn happens. A recession could result in inflation, but faculty and staff salaries will be adjusted accordingly. Soliman feels prepared for a potential recession. Soliman and his wife have a conservative spending philosophy having lived in the same house since 1998 and driving the same Honda Accord ten years after graduating from college. “Our goal has always been not to overextend our capability,” Soliman said. “We weren’t going to put ourselves in a situation where, if something were to happen at work, we would be devastated.” Some students remain optimistic that, if a recession occurs, St. John’s and the economy will recover quickly. “We will bounce back from it, and I don’t think that it will have super long-term implications because it won’t be the first time we’ve seen a massive recession in the modern era,” Konduri said. “We saw one 10 years ago, so we know how to deal with it, whereas, in 2008, it was more unprecedented.” Soliman is more concerned about the alumni who are about to enter the job market. If things were to take a turn for the worse, securing a stable job would be more difficult. Soliman hopes that Generation Z will learn to save money and spend within their means. “If kids coming out of college have a good job and are making money, it’s really easy to spend,” Soliman said. “They want a fancy house or a nice new car because they have a new freedom they’re not always equipped to handle.” Mary Ann Enerson (‘17), who hopes to work in finance, is not worried about the job search after college because there will be plenty of jobs for analysts, even in a recession. According to Enerson, a recession would mostly influence the type of work she will do. “A recession will not alter my job search, but I could see it altering the job itself.”


OCTOBER 4, 2019

with iMav Radio Celia Adams and Ana Maria Rodriguez interview faculty and students around school for their new radio show, "The People of SJS." Photo by Grace Randall

By Laney Chang


hile vacationing in Colorado, sophomore Lily Pesikoff was reading through a fine arts department email that mentioned the launch of a school radio station. Months later, she found herself surrounded by sound equipment, recording a show about new music with junior Maxx Shearod. “When you close your eyes, the station really feels professional, with headphones on and mics you have to speak into sideways,” Pesikoff said. “I was so impressed.” Last year, Headmaster Mark Desjardins proposed creating a radio station for the school community. According to Anthony Leakey, Assistant Director of Fine Arts, the vision for iMav Radio was to “do it right and be the best at it.” Leakey took charge of the project because he had studied FM radio, television and film production as an undergraduate. He quickly realized that an FM station, one that broadcasts an electrical signal at a specific frequency, would be far too expensive and impractical. “A lot of schools with FM stations are now selling them for several hundred thousand dollars, and then [they] make an internet station,” Leakey said. “How many students carry a radio in their backpack?” The iMav station streams shows as well as audio over the internet, which allows students to access it with any electronic device connected to the internet. According to Leakey, setting up the equipment was relatively easy. The radio station occupies two rooms in the Campus Center that were vacated after Breakthrough Houston moved. “We even put in soundproof windows so that people could see the radio in action," Leakey said. "The legal logistics were what slowed the process down.” Leakey had to apply for radio licenses: one through the Library of Congress to transmit radio programs, and another through SoundExchange to obtain music rights. He also started surveying students about what type of music they should play. The majority voted for “oldies.” “In my mind, oldies were from the '50s or '60s, so I told the students I was surprised they even knew that music,” Leakey said. “Their response was, ‘Oh yeah, the '80s were the best time ever.’” The license guarantees iMav Radio rights to play a variety of songs ranging from the 1980s through the 2000s. Songs from other eras may also air during certain shows. “There’s something for everyone,” senior Celia Adams said. “If you’re not necessarily into one kind of mu-

sic, we’ll have a show with a different kind of music.” Shearod and Pesikoff host “This Week in Music,” which covers top new hits. The station also features talk shows hosted by faculty members and students. Adams and senior Ana Maria Rodriguez host “People of SJS," which spotlights SJS students. Adams and Rodruiguez participate with iMav Radio as an extracurricular activity, but students in the DigiApps class will also record and produce a show while working on the broadcast news program MavTV as part of the course. Junior Aiden Manji, who took DigiApps last year, joined the station to help produce informative news programs. “It’s cool because the radio gets out to the parents and alums, not just St. John’s students,” Manji said. Although the station can broadcast live shows, most will be pre-recorded so students can produce shows in their own free time. “I can’t do a daily ‘Aiden K. Manji show’ at 7:30 a.m. Eastern time — that’s just not going to work,” Manji said. “We also need to pre-record so we can edit the shows while people are first learning.” The station can pre-record shows with guests calling in from across the country using an app that records the guest’s voice through their cell phone and uploads the audio to the station’s server. “The microphones on a cell phone are pretty good,” Leakey said. “The problem is the compression that happens over the cell signal to get it to you, which is why we hear that really tinny sound.” Because the entire School’s audio system is connected through a system called Dante, the radio station can broadcast events happening all over campus. “I could set up two mics in the VST during a concert or on the football field during a game that will feed the audio back to the station, and we can broadcast it,” Leakey said. Leakey hopes to attract more students through the iMav Radio website and app. “I’ve been amazed at the amount of interest,” Leakey said. “In the first week, I was flooded with emails from people who wanted to work on the station.” Leakey wants iMav Radio to connect the St. John’s community. “We want to bridge the gap between students, alumni and parents a little more.”

Today's iMav Radio Schedule This Week in Music Heart Health

The Weekly

Lily Pesikoff and Maxx Shearod (7:15 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 8 p.m.) This week's newest songs and the information surrounding them. Louisa Sarofim and Fleming Kelliher (9 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m.) Interview with American Heart Association's Kristen Luby.

Owen Butler and Elijah Dahunsi (6:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 9:30 p.m.) Discussing this week's world news.

People of SJS

Celia Adams and Ana Maria Rodriguez (8 a.m., 12 p.m., 7 p.m.) Spotlight interviews with faculty and students around school.


Stobie Whitmore and Anthony Leakey (8:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 9 p.m.) Reminiscing with SJS graduates.

Design by Mira Thakur

OCTOBER 4, 2019


Female swashbucklers take center stage in 'Musketeers'


Early auditions provide extra rehearsal time By Gabrielle Solymosy


Meridian Monthy threatens Natalie Brown with a prop knife while rehearsing a fight scene for "The Three Musketeers." The play runs Oct. 4 and 5. Photo by Maxx Shearod

By Rahul Rupani


acha Waters spends countless hours rehearsing her fencing moves. Costume designer Teresa Fogler crafts traditional 17th-century French garb. French teachers Elizabeth Hythecker and Shelley Stein ('88) give a crash course to the cast in proper Parisian pronounciation. But don't be fooled — this isn't your traditional interpretation of Alexandre Dumas' "The Three Musketeers." The updated production puts female characters in significant roles. For Waters, who plays a character called Sabine, the adaptation provides an opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream. "Sabine has this real desire for adventure, and I really identify with that," Waters said. "When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be the male heroes that I saw on television and movies — the ones that fought with swords — and that's exactly what Sabine is like." In the original Dumas story, the main character is the swashbuckling D'Artagnan. In this version, adapted by playwright Ken Ludwig, Sabine accompanies her brother D'Artagnan on his adventures. "She gets to actually have feelings and be a real person, which is really great," technical director Thomas Murphy said. The plot modifications are significant for junior Meridian Monthy, who plays one of the antagonists, Milady. In past productions, Monthy has played more comedic roles, including Pumbaa in "The Lion King" and Roz in "9 to 5." Playing Milady allows her to connect with the serious side of her personality. "Milady is this really awesome icon that I strive to be in real life. I'm really privileged to play her," Monthy said. "I want to take her air of certainty and overall strength and bring it to my life." After hours of research and exploration, Murphy and production director Jamie Stires Hardin designed a set reminiscent of Enlightenment France. With their guidance, the cast and crew have gone to great lengths to ensure that every detail is accurate. "A lot of shows that we have done have been fantasy-based, but this one is very in tune with the time peri-

od and takes a modern spin on it," Monthy said. The faculty working on the play researched French locations and analyzed images of Parisian architecture, which helped create a modern industrial set that includes elaborate scaffolding. Fogler blended Rococo and industrial styles in her costumes to match the set. The stage fighting in the traditional "Three Musketeers" remains a strong component of the modern version. "While there is a lot of stage combat, it is a classic story told on stage," Hardin said. "It is a story of honor." Choreographing the stage combat, including sword fighting and climbing on rafters, is one of the most time-consuming aspects of rehearsal. The fight scenes were first choreographed by Hardin and later changed to fit the set. Before each performance, the cast rehearses action scenes repeatedly so they feel safe when they go on stage. The elements of stage fighting can be stressful for the cast members. Waters relies on muscle memory. "If you think about it too much, if you make a wrong move, you could get injured or something bad could happen," Waters said. The cast, crew and directors said they are ready for opening night. "The costumes, the story and everything else is really full of life and fun," Hardin said. "It keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time." Other featured cast members include Drew Adams, Alexander Adrogue, Lauren Aguilar, Jack Aitken, Noelle Alexander, Travis Bouchard, Natalie Brown, Pierce Glanville, Jonah Goodwine, George Hagle, Sophia Jazaeri, Jay Love, Henry Miller, Ava Steely, Tanner Watson and Ella West. Stage managers include Alex Flores, Catherine Huang and Thalie Waters. "The Three Musketeers" runs Oct. 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Lowe Theater. General admission tickets are $13 and can be purchased on the school website or at the theater box office.

Additional reporting by Sophia Jazaeri and Ella West

hile other students were still on vacation, sophomore Tanner Watson spent the last moments of his summer in the VST auditioning for "The Three Musketeers." Director of Fine Arts Bill McDonald and theater directors Kat Cordes and Jamie Stires Hardin decided to change the audition and rehearsal schedule for Upper and Middle School productions. Auditions are now held earlier, with the rehearsal process following immediately afterward. Auditions for the Upper School fall play, "The Three Musketeers," were held a mere week before school started. The remaining auditions for the one-acts, winter play and spring musical all took place within the first two weeks of school. According to Cordes, the primary reason for this shift is that rehearsal space is limited. Sharing the VST led to conflicts over which production could use it. In order to minimize this tension, the directors agreed to start auditions earlier to spread out rehearsals. "It felt different because I didn't have school before," Watson said. "I went into the audition with more energy and feeling more prepared." Not all students benefited from the change. Junior Jack Link auditioned for the winter play, "The Cripple of Inishmaan," the first week of school. According to Link, there appeared to be a smaller turnout for auditions. Link also said that the earlier audition times made it difficult to figure out if his schedule could accommodate theater productions. "I would have liked to audition for the fall play, but the auditions were scheduled so early that I was still on vacation," Link said. The performance dates for the Upper School fall play and Middle School musical were swapped. The fall play is typically staged the week after Kinkaid Week in November and conflicts with Fall SPC. The Middle School musical will be held then instead to allow more Upper School students a chance to participate in the fall play, which runs October 4 and 5. "We have to start a change at some point," Cordes said. "Next year, when we do the same thing, people should remember that auditions will be before school."


OCTOBER 4, 2019

Girls excel at sports despite double standards By SJ Lasley


ield hockey goalie Amelia Williams defines success as "the ability to keep working and improving, despite any obstacles that arise." She considers herself an athlete, with no gender-specific adjective modifying the term. "I wish people understood that women in sport aren't female athletes," Williams said. "They're just athletes." Since the 2010-2011 school year, St. John's has won 42 SPC championships. Of those, the girls' sports teams claimed 26 titles. Last year, girls' teams tallied five additional SPC titles: Field hockey earned a repeat win, volleyball won after beating Episcopal for the first time in six years, swimming and diving bagged back-to-back titles — as did the golf team — and the soccer team came home with its first-ever SPC trophy. Graduates from 2019 included ten female

athletes who committed to playing at the collegiate level. "We have been very fortunate to have had so many terrific athletes," Head of Athletics Vince Arduini said. "Winning breeds winning. For the girls, because of the success that they have enjoyed, they know that special feeling of winning. They continue to be motivated to maintain their edge, and that motivation carries down to the younger athletes." Williams said that her coaches throughout the athletics program have been key factors in the sustained success of girls' sports at St. John's. Among others, volleyball

Athletes (from left): Maggie Foshee (Field Hockey) Christine Wang (Golf) Erin Oldham (Soccer) Emily Biskamp (Volleyball)

coach Shelbi Irvin played collegiately at Texas State, as did field hockey coaches Paige Albert (Davidson) and Eleanor Cannon (Duke). "Their selfless support and enthusiasm is the heart of the program," Williams said of her coaches. "There is a bond between all the women in the athletic department; as a female athlete, you know that someone always has your back." Despite all the praise and accomplishments, volleyball captain Celia Adams said she still has difficulty earning respect as an athelete. "It's no secret that I tend to be very animated during games," Adams said. "There have been plenty of times when people come up to me after games and tell me that I need to calm down. When I yell out of passion, I am 'erratic,' but when a football player butts heads with an opponent, they are passionate and standing their ground. Both are part of the game and should therefore be treated the same." Williams also said that girls are often judged for their physical appearance rather than their athleticism. Williams has frequently been called "manly, bulky and too big" because she's more muscular "than a girl is supposed to be." "One of the most important things that female athletes can do is be their own advocate," Williams said. "If you want to go to the weight room, but you're too intimidated, ask a female friend to come with you, or ask Coach Campbell for help picking up the basics. It's your space too—you just have to claim it."

Finding inspiration in the Women's National Team In July, soccer fans followed intently as the U.S. Women's National Team went undefeated during the FIFA Women's World Cup tournament. Like the SJS field hockey, golf and swim teams, the USWNT victory marked their second consecutive championship. In the month before their historic achievement, the USWNT spurred conversation about gender equality and women's rights, shedding light on the gender pay gap in professional sports. USWNT captain Megan Rapinoe gained international attention as she tirelessly advocated for pay equality. "I think that the women's game has proved time and time again, World Cup after World Cup, year after year that we're worthy of the investment," Rapinoe said at a press conference about the wage disparity on the eve of the World Cup final. "I don't think that we feel the same level of respect, certainly that FIFA has for the men, and just in general." While the USWNT is the gold-standard of play, they reportedly are paid 38 percent less than members of the US men's team, which has never played in a World Cup final. In fact, the closest the men's team has ever come to winning the championship was in 1930, when it placed third. The best the men have done since then was a quarterfinal appearance in 2002. Members of the USWNT earned a bonus of $75,000 for their World Cup win. Had the men won, players would have raked in $390,625 each. Players and supporters of the women's team have called for action, asking the public and FIFA-affiliated organizations to recognize them as equals. "The women's soccer team really inspires me to push for equal opportunity and recognition," two-sport athlete Amelia Williams said. "Young women should aim to emulate their courage and grit; the team has tremendous heart and integrity."

First-year Mavs in the NCAA 2019-2020 Clara Brotzen-Smith Fencing Wellesley

Mycah Clay

Track and Field Wash. U in St. Louis

Shelby Desroches Soccer Rice

Frederique Fyhr Field Hockey Columbia

Andie Kapiloff Lacrosse Swarthmore

Jaya Krishnan Field Hockey UPenn

Amélie Perrier Field Hockey Dartmouth

Hatley Post Field Hockey Dartmouth

Natalie Stone Field Hockey Cornell

Amy Worscheh Field Hockey Davidson

Photos by Lizzie Mickiewicz (Volleyball) Grace Randall (Field Hockey) Claire Seinsheimer (Soccer, Trophy) Joseph Soliman (Golf) Design by Matthew Hensel

OCTOBER 4, 2019



Winslow opens up about mental health journey

NBA star Justise Winslow ('14) spoke to the Upper School on Sept. 11 about the importance of mental health and living a life of significance. Photos by Thomas Chang

By Megan Chang


ith only seconds left in the 2011 SPC basketball championship against Episcopal, the score is tied. Freshman Justise Winslow dribbles towards the basket, but instead of forcing up a shot, he passes to his brother Josh, a senior, who lays it for the winning shot as the buzzer sounds. Over the next four years, Winslow would go on to win two more SPC championships (2012 and 2014) and an NCAA Championship at Duke in 2015. After one season at Duke, the Miami Heat selected him as the No. 10 overall pick in the NBA Draft. On Wednesday, Sept. 11, Winslow returned to campus to speak at an Upper School assembly. Despite feeling nervous, Winslow allowed himself to be vulnerable and presented his life story with three takeaways: be your best friend, best critic and best motivator; make a stranger laugh or smile at least once; and live a life of significance. "Talking instead of being in the seats felt a little weird, but I feel like it's my purpose to share my story and my life lessons to try to help others," Winslow told The Review. "Life moves fast — one second I was looking for inspiration, and I guess now I am the inspiration." As a Middle School student at St. John's, Winslow was surrounded by predominantly white classmates and predominantly black friends at basketball practice, which led to an identity struggle. Despite being a star basketball player, he felt isolated at times. Winslow said that the way one deals with struggles can either make or break them, so he learned how to find a balance. "The big thing for me was feeling comfortable in my own skin as well as being self-aware — understanding who I am, my morals, my values and my standards," Winslow said. "St. John's has made me okay with being me. Ultimately, that has brought me a lot of happiness and peace." Head basketball coach Harold Baber's first impression of Winslow was how selfless he was on the court. Many of Baber's fondest memories are of Winslow sharing the

ball with his teammates rather than forcing up a shot, even though he knew he could make it. Baber calls Winslow a born leader. During halftime of that 2011 SPC Championship, the Mavericks were losing. Baber remembers how Winslow, a freshman, told his teammates, "This is about heart, about us playing together and willing our way to a win." "I just hope people understand what kind of a person he is — an unselfish player, with an unbelievable work ethic, and a kind heart who gives back as much as he can," Baber said. "A lot of people see him on TV, and they don't know his story, where he came from or the hurdles he had to overcome. When you see a kid that goes through all of that and whose ultimate goal from a long time ago was to make it to the NBA — to see him living the dream he wanted to have, I think that's something really special." Although Winslow's transition from St. John's to Duke felt seamless due to the similar cultural, social and academic environments, his transition from Duke to the NBA was dramatically different. Winslow said that the majority of the NBA game is mental. Everyone has the physical ability to dunk, shoot, dribble and play defense, so mental stability is the most important factor in success. After a rookie season in which he appeared in 78 of 82 regular season games, a shoulder injury during his second year limited him to just 18 games. He began to feel doubt and self-pity. Because basketball dominated all aspects of his life, he felt as if everything had been taken from him. Winslow said that for a long time, he let negative feelings consume him. To regain his confidence and overcome his mental obstacles, he began finding pleasure in the simplest of actions, like waking up early to watch the sunrise or taking time to reflect. Traveling home to Houston for the summer after his third year in the NBA allowed him to reconnect with his family, friends and, ultimately, himself.

"I attribute a lot of my success to my family and friends and those who have been with me through the good and the bad," Winslow said. After proving he was fully recovered from his injury in his third season, Winslow signed a three-year, $39 million extension with the Heat. According to Winslow, playing in the NBA can be isolating. Athletes are perceived as being different from the rest of society. "We're often given these stereotypes or put on a platform or not seen as human," Winslow said. "Really we're pretty similar — we have the same emotional stuff that we go through." Winslow views his fame as an opportunity to motivate and inspire others. He said he believes that people need to talk more about mental health issues. By sharing his own mental health journey, Winslow hopes to use his story to help others. "I try to use the platform to inspire people more than the idea of being famous or bigger than life," Winslow said. "I try to be relatable and make genuine friendships and relationships. I feel like it makes me more approachable than people think an NBA player would be." Winslow observed that many people are too obsessed with trying to stay fit, being the best at their job or getting the best grades in school. They often forget about the importance of mental health, happiness and peace of mind. "My journey has been my journey," Winslow said. "I own it. I own my mistakes and my failures, but I also own my success. I know that there will be good days and bad days, but I know that I am going to make it through at the end."


Players feed off student section spirit By Ashley Yen


n the past few years, the number of students playing football at St. John's has dropped sharply. The sport's decline, due to injury concerns and the risk of longterm brain damage, reflects a growing national trend. Head Coach Kevin Veltri and his players aim to turn things around by establishing a new football culture. "We want to change the trajectory of the football program and how it is viewed here," senior captain Peter Cannon said. "We want to make people to see how much fun we're having as a team and feel like they're missing out on something." The team also hopes to spark more excitement and energy from the student section at games. According to senior captain Stuart Wallace, the energy from students helps motivate the team, especially on defense. "When you get out on the field and hear over a hundred kids screaming, you get a rush of energy," Wallace said. "Everyone was way more pumped up during the game." This year, the team has focused on establishing a strong

bond with each other through "family meetings" with speakers and pool parties. "Previously, everything was super dull, but now everyone's more hyped up," Wallace said. "Practice is more intense. People are getting better everyday." In addition to improving communication between coaches and players, Veltri also introduced a new offensive and defensive structure with an updated system of receiving calls. "We've had to learn a new offense and defense, but all the coaches helped a lot," senior captain Miller Humphreys said. The captains hope to leave a long-lasting impact on the school's football program while establishing relationships with the sport for the rest of their lives. "We want to transform the football program here," Humphreys said, "and when the season is over, we want to have no regrets."

Captain Will Leger has helped lead the resurgent Mavs to a 3-1 record heading into the Oct. 4 game against Episcopal. Photo by Caroline Pressler



OCTOBER 4, 2019

OCTOBER 4, 2019


St. John's School 2401 Claremont Lane Houston, TX 77019 SNO Distinguished Site 2018-2019 Facebook SJS Review Twitter @SJS_Review Instagram @sjsreview

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Blue and Gold Award 2019 Editors-in-Chief Izzy Andrews (Content), Mia Fares (Administrative) Sophia Lima (Managing), Leila Pulaski (Design) Online Editors-in-Chief SJ Lasley, Sinclair Mott

'Euphoria' portrays distorted high school experience By Indrani Maitra


dolescence is a tricky experience to capture on screen. The teenage years are insanely complex. From an adult's perspective, we are mysterious, nebulous creatures filled with wayward hormones and repressed souls. No one understands us! It's no wonder that so many adults try to portray us on TV, and so many fail miserably. The latest attempt at depicting the struggles of 21st century adolescence is "Euphoria" on HBO. Showrunner Sam Levinson takes pride in exposing the stark reality of being a contemporary teenager. Dark, grim and ferociously disturbing, "Euphoria" is as popular as it is controversial. Adults everywhere are scandalized by its graphic content. Whenever baby boomers get apoplectic and clutch their pearls while fruitlessly condemning whatever Gen Z loves, I usually sit back with my popcorn, watching with unbridled delight. But with "Euphoria," I see their point. "Euphoria" concerns a group of very rebellious and confused high-school-aged teens. It also stars basically every cool person in Hollywood under 25. Zendaya plays Rue, a lost soul addicted to opioids. This role is in stark contrast to her run as Rocky Blue on Disney Channel's "Shake it Up," playing a quirky, booksmart dancer and the paragon of dorky preteen girls everywhere. As children, we knew and loved these actors. The strategic casting deliberatly markets "Euphoria" to teens. Perhaps the most blatant pandering is the incessant promotion of "Euphoria" as unfiltered, courageous and, most importantly, an authentic portrayal of our lives in this turbulent, challenging time.

Finally! A show that understands how hard it is to be us! But "Euphoria" is not much different from so many shows that are unrealistic, unrelatable and overly extreme versions of the adolescent experiences. Adhering to a disappointing tendency in teen dramas, "Euphoria" bites off far, far more than it can chew. The eight-episode story arc somehow manages to encompass a laundry list of teen issues including, but definitely not limited to, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, sexual identity crises, childhood trauma, peer pressure, hookup culture, abusive relationships and underage drinking. Relevant and serious topics should be addressed, but when these horrifying storylines happen at once, the effect is so exhausting that it's almost impossible to absorb it all. It exploits legitimately pressing issues to create artsy, edgy entertainment. By trying so hard to be harrowing and controversial, "Euphoria" fails to tell one genuinely compelling story. The "Euphoria" teens are wild. Almost every party is inundated by alcohol — lots of it. Seventeen-year-olds nonchalantly use hard drugs. All this behavior is normalized. There is also an unfathomable amount of sex — consensual, nonconsensual and everywhere in between. So many scenes are gruesome, shocking and nearly impossible to view (so many shots of genitalia — consider yourself warned). According to Zendaya, that's the point: "It's supposed to be hard to watch," she wrote on Instagram the day of the show's release. The unrestrained portrayal of explicit material is intended to stimulate equally unrestrained discourse about highly stigmatized topics. But at what cost?

These graphic depictions of sex come off as voyeuristic and bizarre. Why on earth is the 34-year-old Levinson so bizarrely fixated with teens having sex? I don't hate "Euphoria." I found it cinematically gorgeous; the acting was seriously phenomenal, and it has an adequately diverse cast. Inexplicably, reviewers are lauding "Euphoria"'s portrayal of teens as "authentic" when it is actually warped, extreme and misconceived. According to "Euphoria," all Gen-Z teens are obsessed with sex, yet a 2018 survey conducted by the CDC regarding the behavior of young adults reported that nearly 70% of high school juniors (the supposed age of the characters in "Euphoria") are virgins. Teenagers today actually drink less than our parents did. We smoke less, and we use fewer hard drugs. We get in fewer car accidents and fights. We are less likely to drop out of high school, less likely to have sex and less likely to become pregnant. We commit fewer crimes. We don't engage in the conventionally dangerous behavior that adults seem to think define our generation. But you'd never suspect this based on what happens in "Euphoria." Shows about teenagers don't understand that rampant drug use, risky sex and criminal behavior are relevant, but they aren't the main problems affecting youth culture. Rates of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses are skyrocketing. If "Euphoria" wanted to get it right about being a teen in 2019, that would have been a good place to start.

Assistant Online Editors-in-Chief Laney Chang, Fareen Dhuka Assignment Editors Noura Jabir, Abigail Poag Online Section Editors Megan Chang, Ashley Yen Video Editor Ryan Doughty Design Editor Taylor Britton Photography Editor Claire Seinsheimer Visuals Editor Celine Huang Business Manager Mehak Batra Copy Editors Sara Doyle, Indrani Maitra, Ella West Staff

Maira Ansari, Aatiqah Aziz, Mia Baumann, Max Beard, Harrison Blanton, Ella Chen, Lucy Haire, Wenqing He, Matthew Hensel, Sophia Jazaeri, Ethan Kinsella, Nat Larsen, Russell Li, Bailey Maierson, Afraaz Malick, Sadie McCabe, Lily McCullough, Hamzah Mir, Ellie Monday, Caroline Pressler, Davis Rae, Rahul Rupani, Matthew Samson-Williams, Maxx Shearod, Gabrielle Solymosy, Eric Strawn, Mira Thakur, Nina Varma

Advisers David Nathan, Shelley Stein ('88), Chuy Benitez Mission Statement The Review strives to report on issues with integrity, to recognize the assiduous efforts of all and to serve as an engine of discourse within the St. John's community. Publication Info The Review is published five times during the school year. We mail each issue — free of charge — to every Upper School household with an additional 1,000 copies distributed on campus to our 694 students and 98 faculty. Policies The Review provides a forum for student writing and opinion. The opinions and staff editorials contained herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Headmaster or the Board of Trustees of St. John's School. Staff 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 reasons of clarity, space, accuracy and taste. On occasion, we will publish letters anonymously. The Review reserves the right not to print letters received. Letters and guest columns can be emailed to or hand-delivered to the Review room (Q210).




OCTOBER 4, 2019

Back in the day: Review editors as freshmen in 2016

Welcome to the big leagues, freshmen


ear Class of 2023,

You've finally made it to the land of AP exams and tiny lockers, varsity sports and weekly pep rallies, the Homecoming dance and the Heart Hop. You've (mostly) passed through the awkward middle school stage. You're grown up, mature and in the Upper School. Change can be stressful. Your class size is larger, your courses more difficult. There is added responsibility and increased pressure. The biggest change, however, is being back at the bottom of the social hierarchy. We know it's a challenge, so we've compiled these helpful tips:

1. Be open to meeting everyone. You never know someone's story until you talk to them. Don't think of a course roster as "bad" just because there aren't many of your friends in the class. You never know which friendships will benefit you in the future, so try not to get caught up in being friends only with people in your current group. 2. Do not feel the need to have a perfect GPA. Focus on working as hard as you can and taking things day by day. Challenge yourself and develop your skills; the grades will take care of themselves. 3. Understand that every person is different. Your values, the way you operate and the aspects of high school you choose to focus on will differ, whether it's fine arts, sports or academics. Be respectful and understand that every person is on their own path.

4. All your emotions are valid. Do not let your classmates, parents or teachers tell you how you should feel. Allow yourself to be proud, stressed, excited or frustrated, even if it's not what the people around you are feeling. 5. Enjoy the social moments. Make sure to carve out some time to hang out with friends, whether it be grabbing some bubble tea after school, going to the movies on the weekend or simply taking a FaceTime study break.


Izzy Andrews

6. Stressing out about college can wait. Enjoy Upper School as much as you can while it lasts. Thoughts about college will have their time during junior and senior year. 7. Appreciate and get to know your teachers. They put immeasurable time and effort into each lesson, activity and assignment. They care deeply about each student and want to build connections, so build relationships with them and be grateful for everything they do. 8. Don't compare yourself to your classmates. Competition and comparisons only bring negative energy and unnecessary stress. Focus on yourself and celebrate the victories of those around you. 9. Participate in whatever excites you. High school is the time to find out what you're passionate about, both inside and outside the classroom. Do what you love, whether it be advanced classes, sports teams, clubs or, for us, The Review.

Mia Fares

Sophia Lima

Leila Pulaski



e've all heard it before. In the halls: "I have so much homework; I literally want to die!" Over text message: "We have a math test tomorrow, kill myself." When a test is returned: "I actually failed, shoot me now." Constantly confronted by work overload, we throw these phrases around as a way to commiserate with our classmates. But for some, flippant expressions about selfharm do not sit well. Casual remarks extolling death can seriously trigger negative thoughts and upset those who have experienced the loss of a loved one or those struggling with suicidal thoughts. In 2017, roughly 17% of American high school students reported that they had seriously considered suicide. The

academic and social stressors of high school, particularly at high-pressure institutions, combined with hormonal teenage years can all too easily push kids over the edge. Hearing discussions about suicide and death may not harm everyone, but they can seriously affect those who are already on the brink — or even those who once were. Humor can function as a coping mechanism, and it can sometimes diffuse a negative situation. Laughter allows people to feel relief and even get through tough times. But the difference between a good joke and a bad joke often depends on context — and who is listening. When we say "kms" (slang for "kill myself") walking down the hall after a stressful class or post it on social media, we don't always know who is listening. Since we are never fully aware of our audience and what they may be struggling with, it is best to avoid these harmful expressions altogether.

Not only does "kms" hurt those who may find themselves in moments of despair, but it also desensitizes others to the gravity of suicidal ideation. Celebrities including Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain and Robin Williams, who lived seemingly successful lives, reached rock bottom. With their fame and fortune, celebrities often appear to have it all, but the reality can be different. Misconceptions and false realities, which are widespread across social media, induce comparison and negative self-thought, which professionals link to the increase in mental health issues among teens. September was National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, and we must all do what we can to support those around us. We have removed insensitive phrases like "that's so gay" and "that's retarded" from the common vernacular. Next, we should retire "kill myself."

OCTOBER 4, 2019


60 seconds with star seniors

CONNOR HRACHOVY Nickname Hrac Dream job Late night talk show host Weird hobby Cracking other people's backs Quirk Can see in infrared Theme song "Like a G6" by Far East Movement Love to hate The Avengers movies Hate to love TikTok Relationship status Love triangle Red carpet date Margot Robbie Phobia Long second toes Doppleganger Ryan Gosling Known for Only playing when we're up by 3 touchdowns Book Harold and the Purple Crayon Slogan That's hype Allergies Fire ants Follow me? @connorhrachovy


Portraits by Claire Seinsheimer Want to be featured in the next edition of 60 Seconds? Visit for more details.

Nickname I love it when you call me "seĂąorita" Dream job Search and rescue Weird hobby Hanging out with critters Quirk I don't care about mismatched socks Theme song "Oui" by Jeremih Love to hate Ear wax? IDK Hate to love Plants Relationship status Don't ask me that question Red carpet date You! ;) Phobia Opposum tails Doppleganger Stuart Known for Being a bookworm Book Goodnight Moon Slogan Just do it Allergies Mean ppl Follow me? Ok




OCTOBER 4, 2019



Security dog keeps campus safe, happy Check out the video featuring an interview with Director of Security and Facilities Richard Still and his dog Sheba. Produced by Ryan Doughty and edited by Davis Rae. Story by Ella West


Backpacks stolen during field hockey practice on Caven Field For the second time this year, a sports team had their belongings taken, but this time it happened on campus. Story by Megan Chang


Review named finalist for Pacemaker award For the third time since 2015 and the second year in a row, the National Scholastic Press Association named the Review as one of 49 finalists for the Pacemaker award. Story by Laney Chang and Fareen Dhuka

Under Review: Taylor Swift's "Lover" Longtime fan Mac Bechtol shares her thoughts on Taylor Swift's new studio album, which features some of the most personal lyrics she's ever written.


Why you shouldn't buy into the junior year hysteria Online Editor-in-Chief SJ Lasley shares her thoughts on why the rumors surrounding junior year being the worst year ever are not always true.

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