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VOL. 53, NO. 9


2017-18: Year in Review

June 8, 2018

School Improvements By Ian Hsu, Karen Li, Shreya Sridhar & Evie Sun Staff Writers

Throughout the entire school year, MSJ experienced significant improvements and participated in a variety of events ranging from competitions to fundraisers. With summer approaching, the Smoke Signal highlights some of the most impactful events of the 2017-18 school year.

The career center, along with the library and 15 other classrooms, received new flooring over the summer in 2017.


Mental Health

Hosted by MSJ Agents of Change, Mental Health Summit took place on September 24 at Santa Clara University. Guest speakers discussed the stigma around mental health and encouraged stronger student-teacher bonds. After attending a meeting with gender inclusivity group Gender Spectrum in the summer of 2017, MSJ staff installed a gender-neutral student bathroom in the C-Wing. Faculty also received gender inclusivity training that gave teachers resources for helping students. On March 6, MSJ invited six alumni, including a barista, a US Special Forces lieutenant, a store manager, and a current MSJ teacher, to C-120 to share their unique career paths with the audience. The speeches emphasized prioritizing balance in school life and choosing a career path that students are individually genuinely interested in pursuing.

Junior Thomas Chen was recognized as a regional finalist and Junior Ian Hsu and Senior Richard Liu were recognized as regional semifinalists in the 2017 Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology, widely regarded as one of the most prestigious annual high school math and science competitions in the world. MSJ held its second annual Innovation Minds Makeathon on February 3, during which students were able to experience new technology (such as 3D Printing and virtual reality) and work in groups to create and present ideas to event sponsors. At the Technology Student Association CA State Conference from March 24 to 25, students won 12 top-three awards, finishing first place in Biotechnology Design, Coding, and Music Production.

The Mental Health Summit took place on September 24 and featured guest speakers who discussed the stigma around mental health.


VAMS member Freshman Bernice Yin paints a traffic control box as part of a project to beautify Fremont.

Senior Devesh Kodnani rallies the crowd at the March 14 walkout to protest gun violence.



MSJ hosts its annual Wrestling Invitational Tournament, with 523 wrestlers competing in a variety of events.


Boys’ Tennis went undefeated in league matches this season and reached the NCS quarterfinals. Go online to find the story of this unprecedented team!

Students brainstorm ideas for their projects at the Makeathon in February.

Student Activism

MSJ Speech and Debate competed in the 31st Annual Stanford Invitational from February 10 to 12 where 14 students advanced to the elimination round. They also attended the 45th Cal Invitational at UC Berkeley on February 17 to 19, where MSJ was ranked 8th statewide. Over winter break, MSJ students from the Visual Arts and Music Society (VAMS) painted Fremont traffic control boxes to beautify the city. They painted a box with a mansion from the Ardenwood Historic Farm in remembrance of childhood field trips. MSJ Key Club held its 11th and final Charity Badminton Tournament on March 3 to 4 at the Bay Badminton Center in Milpitas, CA. The $6,500 that was raised will be donated to the Eliminate Project, an organization hoping to end maternal and neonatal tetanus.

From February 2 to 4, MSJ hosted its 43rd annual Wrestling Invitational Tournament. Organized by Wrestling Head Coach Tom Thomsen, the tournament showcased matches between approximately 500 wrestlers from 67 different high schools. The MSJ sports teams achieved a number of successes throughout the year, with 13 teams qualifying for NCS. FUSD Board signed a three-year, approximately $600,000 contract with Washington Hospital Healthcare System in June to provide every Fremont high school with a part-time or full-time athletic trainer; MSJ’s athletic trainer is Darby Broeker.

Over the summer, Rotan Builders installed new wireless access points in every classroom and building at MSJ. The school also upgraded ethernet cabling across campus. The library, career center, and 15 classrooms received new floor tiles over the summer. On December 13, FUSD approved altered plans for the MSJ pool. Hopkins parents, MSJ parents, MSJ students, and MSJ alum gathered at the December Board Meeting to voice their support for the construction of the new pool. The project costs $8.1 million and will be funded by the Sale of Site Fund with construction slated for completion in November 2018.

After the shooting in Parkland, Florida, MSJ students marched out of their morning classes on March 14 for 17 minutes in a national protest against gun violence. Speakers Freshman Meera Sehgal and Senior Devesh Kodnani both delivered passionate messages to the audience, encouraging unity. In late March, the FUSD Board of Education proposed a new sex education curriculum, and students actively presented their opinion through online media and at FUSD Board meetings. In the next couple months, MSJ alumni also helped post petitions and supportive flyers to increase student representation at the district level. In addition, Relay for Life is a popular 24hour fundraiser event that took place this year from April 21 to 22. A total of 70 teams, consisting of 546 students, raised over $100,000 in total and successfully increased awareness about cancer treatment and American Cancer Society services.

Music, Art, Humanities In January, Art 3 students Sophomore Shreya Chidambaram and Senior Hannah Scherer designed two new murals for C-120. The murals focus on the diverse aspects of MSJ, including the visual and performing arts, sports, and academic departments at MSJ. On February 10, MSJ hosted its first Northern CA Winter Review; it was also the first review to be held in Fremont. MSJ Winter Percussion performed a piece called “CPU,” which they had been practicing since December. Winter Guard performed a routine titled “Perfect Love” to Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect.” Juniors Nathan Zheng and Eddie Chang won first and fourth place respectively in the Solo Drum Major competitions.


On May 24, students, staff, and parents came to MSJ for the Spring Expo. The Smoke Signal went into the crowd to gather the voices of attendees. Check out our Facebook page for more!




2 News


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Friday, June 8, 2018

Performing Arts Department hosts 24th annual Gala Performing Arts students hold performances to raise money for department By Lucia Li & Ashni Mathuria Staff Writers The Performing Arts Department hosted the 24th annual Performing Arts Gala on May 18 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel NewarkFremont. The event featured performances from MSJ’s band, orchestra, jazz band, and choir, a catered dinner, and a variety of auction and raffle items. This year’s Gala theme, “Round Midnight,” was centered around a 1950s diner aesthetic. The venue was meticulously decorated with creative decorations such as a jukebox, a handpainted ice cream counter, fake diner foods, and table pieces of vintage glass soda bottles with flowers. Participants eagerly enjoyed the per-

formances and put tickets into the raffle and auction items. This year, the Gala was also held in commemoration of the late Joan Fong, a parent volunteer for MSJ Parents of Universal Performers who had been extremely supportive of and active in contributing to the Performing Arts Department at MSJ. Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, and Orchestra kicked off the event, playing pieces that reflected the 1950s theme. Orchestra played a medley from the iconic movie musical Grease. After guests enjoyed a three-course meal, Jazz Band took the stage. Their first three songs featured MSJ’s choir, directed by Choir Teacher Jason Aucoin. Later, MSJ alumna Dana Wilhite who was part of

MSJ’s first Performing Arts Gala, joined jazz band to perform a passionate rendition of the song “Rocks in My Bed” by Ella Fitzgerald. Between Jazz Band’s songs, Regional Outreach Leader Senior Alex Spencer drew raffle tickets, announced auction winners, and performed live auctions on items such as signed photographs and themed baskets filled with items donated by members of the Performing Arts Department. At the end of the event, members of the audience took to the dance floor alongside upbeat music such as Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” to cap off the night. Gala Coordinator and former MSJ Drama teacher Anne Riley was pleased with the outcome of the event, despite challenges such as having to work under a tight schedule and logistical booking issues. She said, “the music tonight was amazing, as usual. It was a great theme; our deco heads, [Junior] Jessica [Chung] and [Junior] Kris [Yuan], came up with a wonderful theme.” The Gala is the primary fundraiser for the Performing Arts Department, supplementing the funds provided by the district and other programs such as Mission Boosters. The funds raised by the Gala enable the Performing Arts Department to provide scholarships for international trips, repair and replace old instruments, and fund other aspects of the Performing Arts Department. “I think it reaches out to the community in a different way,” said Band Director

As part of the gala, attendees could participate in raffles for gift baskets. Pictured is “Breakfast in Bed,” which has coffee beans, oats, and a waffle iron.

Monica Kraft. “It gets the businesses involved and donating to the arts, and reminds everyone that arts are important for young people to be working and participating in.” In the future, the Gala committee hopes to further grow and improve the Gala and to involve more parent and student participation. As Chief of Operations Senior Elvin Huang said, his hope for the gala’s future is that “the gala keeps growing into a bigger and bigger program ... where students in the Performing Arts Department all come out to volunteer, and their parents all attend to watch them perform.” ▪

Choir performs with Jazz Band as Band Director Monica Kraft conducts at the music stand.


Speech ends year with a successful showcase Speech features notable season renditions during annual showcase

MSJ Speech’s annual showcase on May 20 featured competitors with particularly noteworthy seasons, such as those who had qualified to state championships and multiple national championships. This year, MSJ Speech had one of its highest achieving seasons ever, sending six competitors to the state championship, eight competitors to the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions, and four competitors to the National Speech and Debate Tournament. The showcase featured Freshman Tavish Mohanti, Sophomores Ayush Agarwal, Krish Kothari, Swetha Naidu, Rohini Singh, and Kriti Vajjhula, Team Captain

Junior Samir Banerjee, Juniors Rahul Iyer and Aparajita Pathak, and President Senior Rohan Srinivasan. Covering serious topics through humorous and dramatic interpretation, the showcase shed light onto issues ranging from bullying in school to human trafficking to Islamophobia. Mohanti’s ten minute Humorous Interpretation of Mean Girls grabbed the crowd’s attention. Performing right before the spoken word poetry “To This Day” by Singh and the Dramatic Interpretation of An American Family by Iyer, Mohanti caused the audience to roar in laughter as he transformed into a great multitude of characters from the movie. By using specific excerpts of the script, he was able to convey the movie’s central message.

Another notable performance was Naidu and Pathak’s Duo Interpretation of Water by Barsi Sidhi, which follows two young women as they navigate colonial India’s child prostitution and human trafficking rings. Naidu and Pathak captured a wide spectrum of emotions in just ten minutes, demonstrating immense skill. Pathak played a young girl while Naidu performed the role of an older girl in the brothel who Pathak’s character grew close to. The climax of the performance, when Pathak’s character learns that her boarding school is a brothel, left the audience breathless and in awe. The duo placed fifth at National Individual Events Tournament of Champions this year. Naidu said, “We wanted to spread the knowledge about human trafficking in India because it’s not something that most people talk about.” The showcase exhibited the way in which MSJ Speech had grown throughout the years, as they sent more students than ever to championships and grew closer as a team. With more members qualifying in state and national competitions, Banerjee said, “This team has come so far since 2015, and we’re seeing exponential growth right now.” Next year, MSJ Speech plans to continue growing their team. They hope to groom

Junior Samir Banerjee’s character gets on the ground to narrowly escape gunfire from angry mobsters.



for the MAY 4, 2018 issue


Weinstein indicted on rape and sexual harassment charges following the #MeToo movement.


Two bills passed to decrease state water consumption In preparation for the next drought, Governor Jerry Brown has approved a series of restrictions regarding water usage. On May 31, Brown signed Assembly Bill 1668 and Senate Bill 606 to set limits on both indoor and outdoor water consumption. The main goal of the two bills are to become more energy-efficient and cost-effective as a state. Brown hopes to limit the daily consumption of indoor water to 55 gallons per person by 2022 and 50 gallons per person per day by 2030.



Lake Casitas in Ventura County has seen historically low water levels in the recent years.


News Pg. 2: Sanskriti Bebortha is misspelled. News Pg. 2: Photo courtesy for Science Olympiad image is Ranjan Wadhwa. Opinion Pg. 3: Riya Chopra, Tylor Wu, Jennifer Xiang, and Maggie Zhao are writers. Feature Pg. 7: MSJ’s K-pop Club should be Mission Korean Music. Photo Pg. 17: Allen Mao should be recognized for STEM. Photo Pg. 17: Mich Song’s advice is “Don’t let advantages go just because you don’t think that you need them.” A&E Pg. 21: Utopia Theatre Project is misspelled. Special Pg. 26: Graphics for college logos are from and

Harvey Weinstein indicted on sexual harassment charges On May 30, a New York grand jury indicted movie producer Harvey Weinstein on first and third degree rape and sexual act charges. The jury’s decision is a significant first step to legally addressing sexual harassment allegations, strengthening the recent #MeToo movement. In October 2017, more than 13 women spoke out against Weinstein, hoping that the public and media would hold Weinstein accountable for his crimes. The case is still ongoing, and the next court appearance for Weinstein is June 16.

Junior Aparajita Pathak and Sophomore Swetha Naidu perform a duo interpretation. Their characters pinky promise to stay friends forever.

more of their members to compete in state and national competitions while also focusing on impacting others through their speeches. Srinivasan said, “This team is going to go so far in the next year. This showcase was a testament to the fact that our team can do anything.” ▪ PHOTOS BY STAFF WRITER KATHERINE GUO

Compiled by Toshali Goel, Karen Li & Shreya Sridhar Staff Writers


By Katherine Guo & Anisa Kundu Staff Writers


People celebrate the result of Ireland’s abortion referendum in Dublin on May 26, 2018.

Ireland votes to legalize abortion The Republic of Ireland voted to repeal the ban on abortion in a historic referendum on May 25. Abortion had been illegal under the Irish constitution’s eighth amendment since 1983, even in cases of rape or incest. Although the 1967 Abortion Act legalized abortion across the United Kingdom, Northen Ireland has followed the Republic of Ireland’s anti-abortion laws. Thus, the victory for abortion legislation in the Republic of Ireland has given hope to those supporting abortion in Northern Ireland.

Friday, June 8, 2018

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Opinion 3








The fine line between appreciation and appropriation By Christine Dong & Shreya Srinivasan Staff Writers

Recently, Caucasian high school student Keziah Daum of Woods Cross, Utah, sparked controversy when she posted pictures of herself in her prom dress, a traditional Chinese qipao, on Twitter. Her pictures caused a massive outcry on the social media site as people flocked to accuse her of cultural appropriation or rise to her defense.

The qipao was worn in an inappropriate context with no ties to Chinese culture; it instead became an exotic fashion statement. Cultural appropriation has no set definition as it is often a case-by-case judgement. It differs from cultural exchange in that there is a disparity in power between the culture appropriated and the culture that takes. Those who rose to Daum’s defense saw her actions as an appreciation of Chinese culture, not a trivialization, regardless of her race. To others, Daum’s actions were inexcusable, as she wore a Chinese dress, taking from Chinese people, a marginalized ethnic minority in America. Her reasoning behind wearing the qipao was simply that she found it “beautiful,” and she later tweeted that it was “just a dress.” However, her attitude reduces the dress to just an aesthetically pleasing garment, isolating it from its meaning and history. Daum may not have been aware of the racist connotations of her actions, but this does not excuse her ignorance. She ignored the criticism she received and failed to apologize for offending Chinese-Americans who saw her dress as disrespectful, claiming that she meant no harm instead of addressing why people found it to be harmful. Intentionally racist or not, Daum is still responsible for affronting Chinese-Americans by first wearing a qipao and then again by dismissing their con-

cerns, which disregards and minimizes the racism Chinese-Americans face. The qipao was traditional daily attire for Chinese women in the 17th century and originally covered the majority of the female body. However, today’s mainstream pop culture has sexualized the dress, with stars like Katy Perry wearing qipao-like dresses featuring exaggerated necklines and random cutouts to awards shows and parties. In both Daum’s and Perry’s situations, the qipao was worn in an inappropriate context with no ties to Chinese culture; it instead became an exotic fashion statement. They wore the qipao just because they thought it was pretty. It is understandably uncomfortable for some to see a culturally-significant dress accessorized, especially since Chinese-Americans have been mocked for their cultural attire and appearance in the past. Chinese-American outrage stems from Daum’s continued disregard for the accusations, whether her actions were intentional or not. Should she apologize for her misunderstanding, we would all be able to move on, as progression and understanding should be encouraged, not discouraged. But she hasn’t. During the incident, many people jumped to Daum’s defense. Editorials from CNN and the New York Times used the approval of native Chinese people to excuse the cultural appropriation. This completely disre-

ity. There is recognizable frustration in seeing someone who is white be applauded for wearing a dress that would be seen as out of place or strange on a Chinese-American going to a cultural occasion. This type of double stan-

ditions before choosing to incorporate them into our lives. It’s important to understand a culture’s reservation to allow open sharing of their traditions because the cumulative weight of racism and othering that people of color have experienced has culminated in valid reActing defensive and preaching luctance and mistrust. Acting defensive and about good intentions does not preaching about good intentions does not

lessen the negative impact nor the discomfort of the situation; it only To avoid both intentional and uninworsens it. tentional cultural appropriation, we can educate ourselves on the backdard mainly affects Chinese people in Amer- ground of cultural objects, fashion, ica, therefore the approval of native Chinese or traditions before choosing to inpeople doesn’t have the necessary experience corporate them into our lives. to defend Daum’s actions. Of course, there are no hard rules to what is and is not cultural appropriation, as the situation and context must be taken into consideration every time. However, to avoid both intentional and unintentional cultural appropriation, we can educate ourselves on the background of cultural objects, fashion, or tra-

lessen the negative impact nor the discomfort of the situation; it only worsens it. Respecting and acknowledging the boundaries between appreciation and appropriation is essential to avoid and reduce the exploitation of racial and ethnic minorities today and in the future. ▪

There are no hard rules to what is and is not cultural appropriation, as the situation and context must be taken into consideration every time. gards the differences in experiences between American-born Chinese, many of whom were infuriated by Daum’s actions, and native Chinese people. Asian-Americans are raised in the US, a fairly white-centric country and face discrimination as an ethnic minorSTAFF WRITER LUCIA LI

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The Smoke Signal Mission San Jose High School Est. 1964 Vol. 53, No. 9 | June 8, 2018


amy's approach


Foster the ties that bind

Give yourself a break

By Amy Chen Opinion Editor

41717 Palm Ave. Fremont, CA 94539 510-657-3600, ext. 37088 MISSION STATEMENT The Smoke Signal’s mission is to represent the voices of the MSJ community and serve the public by providing accurate, meaningful, and engaging information presented through print and digital mediums.

SCHOOL POPULATION 2020 students EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Carolyn Ge, Mallika Gupta NEWS Gloria Chang, Andrew Kan OPINION Amy Chen, Vicki Xu FEATURE Heather Gan, Helen Wang CENTERSPREAD Zen Thumparkkul, Richard Chenyu Zhou A&E Stephanie Dutra, Hana Sheikh SPORTS Hannah Chou, Cindy Yuan GRAPHICS Evangeline Chang, Victor Zhou WEB Ishika Chawla, Jonathan Ko TECH Julia Park, Michael Ren BUSINESS Ian Hsu CIRCULATION Anagha Mandayam ADVERTISING Shivani Avasarala, Katherine Guo EVENTS Evie Sun, Maggie Zhao SPECIAL PROJECTS Joelle Chuang WRITERS & PHOTOGRAPHERS Shiantel Chiang, Rishi Chillara, Riya Chopra, Christine Dong, Arpita Gaggar, Toshali Goel, Kikue Higuchi, Samir Jain, Anisa Kundu, Karen Li, Lucia Li, Ashni Mathuria, Praveen Nair, Sahana Sridhar, Shreya Sridhar, Shreya Srinivasan, Shray Vaidya, Tylor Wu, Jennifer Xiang, Kelly Yang ADVISER Sandra Cohen Send letters to the editor to opinion@ Letters under 300 words may be considered for publication and must include a full name and school affiliation. The Smoke Signal reserves the right to edit for clarity and length. To advertise in the Smoke Signal, email ads@ Advertising that is included on the pages of, or carried within, the Smoke Signal, is paid advertising, and as such is independent of the news and feature content. The Smoke Signal’s right to freedom of speech and press is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. All policies on distribution, corrections, and bylines can be found at

“I was this close to getting an A, and I’ve been working so hard all semester. What did I possibly do wrong?” We’ve all heard something along these lines. Many of us have probably thought them. In MSJ’s high pressure environment, it’s almost instinctual to blame ourselves for not doing as well as we wanted. If we had studied one more night, watched one more Crash Course video, or given up one night out with friends, we might have done better. However, this isn’t always true. External factors that are impossible for us to control in the grading system and in our lives will always play a role in our successes and failures. Hypothetically, grades measure how much we’ve learned in a class. Since most of our grades take into account tests, homework, and participation, getting good grades ideally correlates with strong understanding of classroom material and consistent, well produced work. But realistically, this isn’t always the case. Grades are skewed by memorization ability, test taking skill, varying performance under stress, grading methods, and numerous other factors. Even hard work does not guarantee us any particular grade, because hard work is only one of many factors that determine our performance in a course. Similarly, someone adept at test taking and memorizing material could easily ace a course without understanding a vast majority of the material. Past a certain point, our grades are up to fate. We’ve been taught that hard work leads to future success, but the relationship between the two is not that simple. The reality is that we can try our best and

"Soft skills" are life skills When we focus too much on academic achievement, we often neglect lear ning practical skills. Soft skills, as some call them, such as empathy and the ability to lear n from criticism, may not be tested in classrooms but nonetheless are instr umental for a happy and successful life. Collaborating and building connections with peers are impor tant life skills, but it is difficult for us to develop them when we focus all our time and energ y on completing assignments and memorizing jarg on. For most classes, tests and quizzes decide most of a student’s g rade, and projects are wor th comparatively little. There is g ood reasoning for this; students do not treat project-based cur riculums as seriously as test-based courses. Students should value g roup projects as a means to develop both academic and soft skills and allow collaborative effor ts to take precedence over individual work. Although we may feel like excelling individually means ever ything right now, the real world is different. In Google’s Project Oxygen, a research initiative to deter mine the eight most impor tant qualities of its best employees, researchers analyzed the company’s hiring, firing, and promotion data. The top seven qualities were all practical skills, such as communication, empathy, and problem-solving, while STEM exper tise came in eighth place. Evidently, knowledge is impor tant, but skills that cannot be taught by studying a book are just as critical. Whether it be by joining a spor ts team, volunteering with peers, or con-

By Vicki Xu Opinion Editor

still not succeed. So instead of blaming ourselves for not getting that perfect grade, we should just continue doing our best and learn to forgive ourselves when our best doesn’t give us the result we want. This idea goes beyond our high school gradebooks. Throughout our lives, we will inevitably fail, and we must keep in mind that like with our grades, it isn’t always on account of our effort. Not getting into a college might say less about your personal competence and more about the limited housing on campus or need for campus diversity. Not getting a job could just as easily be the result of a bad day for your interviewer as it could your lack of qualifications for the position. We can blame ourselves for any number of reasons, but there will always be external factors we must account for. Doing otherwise only serves to add unnecessary stress and negativity to our lives. Of course, external factors also affect our successes. Privilege and legacy play an important role in our accomplishments. We might be chosen over someone else for a job or for college because of family history or luck. Losing sight of these advantages can prevent us from seeing the bigger picture in judging ourselves and others. This isn’t to say that we ought to relinquish all responsibility for our failures and successes. We definitely can influence our successes through thought and effort. But blaming ourselves when we know we’ve done all we can is unnecessarily stressful. So recognize when life isn’t being fair and just give yourself a break. ▪

The Opinion of the Smoke Signal Editorial Board

necting with unfamiliar classmates and teachers, students can take initiative to expand their circles with meaningful relationships. High school is a smaller, more forgiving community than the adult world; if approached with the right mindset, it can be perfect g round for experimentation and exposure to skills needed in the real world. With the school year drawing to a close, students have the oppor tunity to spend their summers g aining new experiences. Inter nships, jobs, and personal projects are decent oppor tunities for students to lear n soft skills while also exploring their interests and for ming new friendships. For example, working in the ser vice industr y, while not academic, also helps students develop interpersonal skills such as patience, resilience, and conversational etiquette. Throughout life, we will come to find that soft skills are just as valuable in the workforce as they are in working and personal relationships. While teachers can make an effor t to increase or continue collaboration-based critical thinking in classrooms, students should take all the oppor tunities they have to nur ture themselves, be it within the school environment or through their extracur riculars. ▪

Opinion 5

One Christmas, my neighbor, a sweet old lady, came to deliver extra cookies she made for the holiday. She lamented the neighborhood’s gradual loss of cohesion in a chat with my parents. “People just aren’t as friendly as they were when I was a little girl,” she said. “You used to know every family around you like they were your own. Now nobody calls each other anymore.” At the time, I didn’t think much of this incident. However, as I wrap up my junior year, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the characteristics of the MSJ area. The lack of tight-knit neighborhood communities does stand out in particular: each house is a separate little nucleus, only tenuously connected to those around it. Gone are the neighborhood barbecues and celebrations so memorialized in pop culture. Even the number of trick-or-treaters seems to shrink every year. I think a great part of the reason for this is that while many families move into the area, they only stay until their kids finish school then promptly move away. When my eighth-grade history teacher asked how many students’ parents planned to leave the area after their kids finish school, almost every hand went up. After all, many places are far more affordable, diverse, and interesting. Clearly, schools are the main attraction for many MSJ residents; there seems to be little else anchoring us here. The high turnover rate makes it

harder for tight-knit neighborhood communities to form, especially when families are so inwardly focused. Our goal-driven culture leaves little room for building close relationships with nearby families. After all, the big raise and good grades typically don’t come from frequent neighborhood parties. Yet communities — not just schoolor work-based — are necessary for our happiness, which we’re definitely neglecting while we pursue prestige. As UC Los Angeles Psychologist Naomi Eisenberger notes in a 2014 review, social rejection stimulates the same brain region that distress from physical pain does. Communities and inclusion are necessary for us to avoid such pain, but our fading neighborliness indicates that we don’t always recognize that need. As a result, we’re far less happy and far lonelier than is healthy. Of course, this effect is exacerbated in but not limited to the MSJ area. San Diego State University Psychology Professor Jean Marie Twenge finds that between 2010 and 2015, the number of US teens feeling “useless and joyless” — two telltale signs of depression — increased by 33 percent. Sadness seems to be the new, improved, bleak American way. In situations like these, the least we can do is to reach out to other people. So, knowing this, let’s not continue the trend of separation. Ask your neighbors once in a while how they’re doing. Join local hobby associations. Forge a better community, as fleeting as it may be, so each of our struggles becomes a little more bearable. ▪

The need for affirmative action By Tylor Wu Staff Writer Year after year, college admission rates hit a new low. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, acceptance rates for all UC schools have dropped at least 10 percent from 1997 to 2017, with the largest decreases being over 30 percent. The stress associated with decreased acceptance rates has increased tension around discussion of affir mative action. Affir mative action has come under fire for denying spots to more traditionally “qualified” applicants in favor of racial and socioeconomic diversity; in a Har vard Crimson column, it was likened to “helping the visually impaired become pilots.” The implementation of affir mative action can take many for ms and is often used to help students from less affluent backgrounds. Further more, affir mative action on the basis of race remains cr ucial in promoting equality, and thus takes center stage in any debate.

Affirmative action offers a necessary solution to the problem by enabling minority students to attend better-funded schools and receive better academic opportunities. At top universities, African-American and Hispanic students are consistently underrepresented. A Georgetown University study found that black students were more likely to attend open-enrollment colleges, which have fewer resources available to provide education and facilitate social mobility. The lower spending per student led to lower graduation rates, and was described by for mer Senior Associate

Editor at the Atlantic Jordan Weissman, as a scenario where “white students are funneling into colleges where they're most likely to succeed while blacks and Hispanics are funneling into colleges where they're most likely to fail.” Affir mative action offers a necessary solution to the problem by enabling minority students to attend better-funded schools and receive better academic opportunities. Despite the benefits, Asian-Americans are often against affir mative action, believing that it reduces their chances of attending prestigious universities. Citing a 2009 Princeton University study, opponents of affir mative action argue that Asian-Americans have to, on average, score 140 points higher than white students on the SAT. However, that number has little to do with affir mative action. A study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that the elimination of African and Latino applicants from the admissions pool would increase admission chances for Asian-Americans by only one percent. The spots vacated by those students would be taken by often more affluent white students. To address the issue of underrepresentation as well as the greater issue of social mobility, race-based affir mative action will have to continue to be a part of college admissions. It is the only way to create a world where colleges are unified and equal rather than separate and unequal ▪

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Alumni Spotlight: Mihir Bhagat

Feature 7

Class of 2011 Alumni Mihir Bhagat and Pulak Goyal recently donated $10,000 to MSJ to fund th ehiring of a mental health counselor for all students and Arduino Uno R3 by Officer Kelly Robinson Ultimate Starter Kits for the AP Computer Science class.

By Ian Hsu & Kelly Yang Staff Writers

Bhagat studied broadcast journalism at University of Missouri and now works at the major sports TV channel ESPN. Bhagat, who dreamed about working at a news organization throughout high school, applied to the Smoke Signal but was denied twice. However, he never let failure get to his heart. “I struggled in high school,” he said. “But I quickly realized that setbacks are a part of life and there’s always a way to overcome it.” To Bhagat, the process of trying and failing is much more valuable than what he believes typical MSJ culture emphasizes: the fear of failure. Although he struggled in high school, Bhagat still appreciates his time at MSJ. “The thing I will remember and cherish the most [from high school] are the relationships I developed,” he said. During college, Bhagat kept in touch with many of his friends and peers that he met in high school, despite the different life paths they have taken. After graduating from high school, Bhagat found that the hard-working atmosphere of MSJ helped him thrive in college. He said, “While students may complain about the stressful environment at MSJ, I also think this culture creates a strong work ethic … I was used to putting in the extra time to achieve the results I wanted.” Bhagat’s dream of becoming a news reporter was finally realized in college. Despite denial by dozens of internships and jobs, he continued working toward his ultimate goal and found a place for himself at a local National Broadcasting Company (NBC) TV Station. Throughout his years in college, Bhagat traveled across the US covering various sporting events. “I never imagined I would go to places like Alabama, Mississippi, or Tennessee,” he said. Traveling the country has given

him opportunities to better understand his life and himself. Not only did he have the chance to meet with successful journalists from different states, but he also had the chance to experience life outside his comfort zone. “It … gave me an appreciation and helped me understand life outside the bubble I grew up in,” Bhagat said. Now a Production Assistant at ESPN, Bhagat still treasures the experiences he had at MSJ. He said, “Fremont and MSJ helped build my foundation of success, and I’ve always felt it’s important to pay it forward.” Inspired by his time at MSJ, Bhagat feels that maintaining both the physical and mental health of the student body is of the utmost importance. After a discussion with Principal Zack Larsen and other faculty members, Bhagat and Goyal decided that funding a professional mental health counselor for a year at MSJ would greatly benefit the school. With the remainder of their donation, Bhagat and Goyal chose to finance 50 Arduino Uno R3 Ultimate Starter Kits, electronic open-source computer platforms, for the AP Computer Science class. Bhagat said, “As technology becomes a more important part of society, especially in Silicon Valley, it’s important that MSJ has the tools to teach these skills so we can stay ahead.” Bhagat encourages students to use their time in high school to develop their intellectual curiosity and learn to not fear failure. He said, “Being curious about the world and developing new interests will help get rid of this culture where everyone is bored … Exposure to what’s new and different helps you understand who you are and what you like.” ▪


PULAk Goyal

Goyal graduated from MSJ in 2011 to attend Harvard University as a computer science major, where he received a diverse cultural education. Currently, Goyal works as a software development engineer on the research and development team for virtual reality and augmented reality at Microsoft. Goyal says that Harvard prepared him to move into a wide variety of fields by giving him a solid foundation in mathematics, statistics, and computer science. He attributes his passion for working at the intersection of computer science and physical sciences to the physics and chemistry classes at Harvard, and the solid STEM foundation allowed him to jump into fields which he had no prior experience in such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and machine learning. At Harvard, Goyal also gained experience in areas outside of STEM. Goyal worked as the Advertising Manager of the Harvard Crimson, the student-run newspaper of Harvard University, where he learned the ins and outs of the news industry. Goyal also gained experience traveling around the world, spending three months in the Fijian islands working at a micro-finance bank and spending several weeks in China teaching students. Goyal’s experience allowed him to make friends from locations all over the world, ranging from Thailand to Ethiopia to Alaska, and also allowed him to interact with a diverse group of people. Goyal also volunteers as a teacher at Entiat Junior Senior High School in Entiat, WA through the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools program, which helps schools build computer science pro-

grams through partnerships between volunteers from the tech industry and teachers at the school. Goyal has always been passionate about education, and he currently teaches the Introduction to Computer Science course to a class of 16 high school students every morning. Goyal attributes his passion for math and science to the time he spent at MSJ. “I was fortunate to have teachers such as Mr. Karmali who pushed me to challenge myself in math and science,” he said. Goyal enjoys being in environments such as MSJ where many of his peers also push themselves academically. He finds his current job at Microsoft engaging and challenging and enjoys being part of a team that pushes the boundaries of math and science. Goyal’s recent donation led him to think critically about giving back to the community. He thinks of it as an investment into the next generation and hopes to achieve a greater impact on the world than he would have by spending the money on himself. Looking back at his experience at MSJ, Goyal encourages students to strive for intellectual diversity within their groups of friends. The majority of Goyal’s friends from MSJ were student-athletes, and he regrets not having spent more time understanding artists, writers, debaters, and science enthusiasts. “Too often, we tend to gravitate toward people that think like us,” he said. “In order to really learn and grow, it’s important to engage with people that think differently.” ▪

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8 10Feature Feature


Words of Wisdom By Lucia Li & Anagha Mandayam Staff Writers

As the 2017-18 school year draws to a close, underclassmen and incoming freshmen delve deeper into high school while seniors try to forge new paths in life. This transition can be difficult, and each new wave of students faces similar struggles every year. The Smoke Signal compiled words of wisdom from Class of 2018 seniors through an anonymous Google form posted in the MSJ Class of 2018 Facebook group to help guide underclassmen in their high school journeys.

The Smoke Signal The Smoke Signal

What was the greatest challenge you overcame in your high school career? How did you overcome it? “The greatest challenge I've overcome is comin g to terms with my menta l health . I had pushed away those thoughts for a long time and finally had the courage to face them at the end of freshman year. It took a lot of alone time for me to unfold the whole situation to myself, but once I figured it all out, I began to take baby steps to build up my missing pieces. Unlike before, I started to reach out to others instead of waiting for others to approach me, and I ended up connecting with some amazing communities which have all filled those lost parts of me.”

ce to your any piece of advi If you could give t would it be? ow what your freshman self, wha “You may not kn of the negative “Try to get rid ur life. If someinfluences in yo ly undermines one constant you consistent you or leaves re fo be se than ly feeling wor em, stop being th to ed you talk em. Surround friends with th ople who make yourself with pe you happy.”

at least try to passion is, but r it. Don't just actively look fo n't know what say that you do for the future. you want to do t cently tried, bu Say what you re e th in g in lf do can't see yourse effort before e m so t Pu . future yet." ow saying ‘I don't kn

What is something you wish you had done done more of at MSJ?

“I wish I had socialized more and hung out with friends more. I feel like I only started doing that this year, but now I realize how essential it is to be relaxed and do well in school. I’m hanging out with my friends a lot more and I am more relaxed and actually doing better in school with a relaxed mindset, and I think that’s som ething people need to realize.”

Friday, 8, 2018 Friday, June May 4,

“The biggest challenge I overcame was getting myself into shape. In my freshmen year, I was anything but fit. Mile runs were extremely tough for me in general, but sophomore year is what turned this around. My friends convinced me to join cross country that year, and while the training process was possibly the most difficult challenge I faced, the comradery and the motivational aspect to the sport made me stay. Getting fit changed my overall perspective on life, as I tend to look at the bright side of things now.”

What was one of the biggest mistak es you made in hi school? How wou gh ld you have gone about avoiding it? “I’ve definitely made many mis takes during m so it's hard to pi y high school ca npoint it down reer, to one mistake. mistake was taki My biggest acad ng too many ha em ic rd cl asses. Every year including my cu rrent senior year of high school, , I took all the ho AP courses I coul nors courses an d possibly take. d I was fine freshm omore year hit an year, but soph me hard. Yet, I re fused to believe CP class, so I re that I would take gistered for 5 w a eighted courses rent enrollment + 1 college conc class. Because of urmy pride, I was nior year and th stressed all of ju e combination of my sophomore was terrible. Th an d junior year GPA is could have be en so my sophomore much easier if I year mistakes. Be learned from honest with your self. .”

school? rable experience in high mo me st mo ur yo s wa t Wha l? experience in high schoo What was your favorite perimost memorable ex

“I wish I participated more in Homecoming! It's one of the few events which genuinely highlights our school spirit!”

better “Prom! There's no your th wi e rat way to celeb all on ck ba k loo d friends an atcre the memories you've .” em th th ed wi

“My tire senior ence has been my en t so many me e I’v e year! I feel lik ed so much new people and learn ar, and I am about myself this ye and living generally so relaxed my best life.” GRAPHICS BY PNGTREE.COM

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The Smoke Signal





By Cindy Yuan, Kikue Higuchi, Sahana Sridhar & Tylor Wu Sports Editor and Staff Writers

Tasty recipes are known far and wide across the Internet for their simplicity, presentation, and, most importantly, their tastiness. The Diehard Tryhards decided to put Tasty recipes to the test and see if they’re really as easy and as delicious as they look in the videos.



I boast a seasoned cooking resume — my experiences include sustaining minor injuries from a no-bake, no-knifework recipe and haphazardly throwing together 2 a.m. study-session omelettes. Okay, maybe I’m not much of a chef. As this is my last Diehard Tryhards challenge ever, I’m determined to rice to the occasion (and redeem my cooking reputation along the way). I strategically picked out two recipes that are composed of simple ingredients yet boast unique presentations and a-peeling flavor combinations. Can my headstrong will to win overcome my lack of legitimate skill? It all boils down to these recipes.

Although I’m no Gordon Ramsay, my cooking skills are definitely up to par with those of my opponents. My love for pasta, whether ravioli or linguini, knows no limits. I chose my recipes based on what I feel will best showcase my skills while tasting and looking good. I’m confident that I will do well in this competition. But regardless, my experience, starting way back in the EasyBake Oven days of elementary years to years perfecting lasagna recipes from Food Network, have prepared me for this. Whether my drive is out of pure enthusiasm, competitive spirit, or both, I don’t know.

Despite choosing simple ingredients, I definitely overestimated my ability to execute the difficult presentations of the Potato Bacon Roses and Mango Sticky Rice Balls. I struggled to thinly slice my potatoes, ending up with inconsistent “petals” that were difficult to roll. While making dessert, I somehow burn my coconut cream sauce. In an attempt to replicate the video’s tower of rice balls, my soggy sticky rice collapsed and I ended up with tragic lumps of rice and mango. Throughout the cooking process, I was in a state of constant panic as everything fell apart, desperately attempting to keep my creations — and my sanity — intact.

I was dreading the cinnamon rolls from the beginning, but to my surprise, they came out okay, while the pasta ring failed to live up to my expectations. Although it looked appetizing, the pasta started to get cold a mere ten minutes after I took it out of the oven. Considering it was supposed to be served hot, the odds were definitely not in my favor. As I realized my inevitable downfall, all thanks to my pasta’s undercooked state, dread began to set in. I had realized my hopes of placing high were no longer realistic. However, thanks to my cinnamon rolls, all hope was not lost, or at least so I thought.

Making the Strawberry French Toast Cake Roll was the most stressful part of the entire process. It was overcooked, fell apart as I transferred it to a plate, and was just plain ugly. The work I put into that cake roll was equivalent to all the work I’ve put into high school so far. It truly was the child of my blood, sweat, and tears, yet it still felt subpar. The Chicken Katsu was much easier. While preparing the chicken, I kept repeating “flour, eggs, panko” in my head. That mantra really kept me sane during the mad scramble to create two dishes that were, by the loosest of definitions, edible.

In the end, I ate my words as my dishes came out painfully inferior. Although the Potato Bacon Roses came out looking and tasting pretty good, I was no match for my competitors’ delicious entrées. The Mango Sticky Rice Balls were simply sad across the board: sticky blobs that tasted mostly like rice. My approach to this challenge was clearly a miss. My unwieldy kitchen skills were too much to handle, and in hindsight I should have chosen recipes that were simpler in execution rather than going for novelty creations. Hopefully I’ll be able to competently follow recipes someday, but as of now, it’s back to the cutting board for me.

I have to say I’m far from satisfied with my result. In my defense, my cooking endeavors usually end up on the extremes; the outcome is either MasterChef level good or “fourth grade experiment gone wrong” disappointing. Clearly, this time, it was the latter. However, I am glad for the critique and loss, as growth comes from disappointment...right? One day I’ll bounce back with perfectly stuffed pasta and even better cinnamon rolls, and I’ll be able to credit my eventual success to this Diehard Tryhard.

Somehow, I managed to pull off a win against my competitors, despite my complete lack of confidence in myself and my dishes. The Chicken Katsu was just good enough to earn me first place, and I can guarantee that the victory was all in my secret sauce. Although the cake roll was ugly and completely disintegrated when touched, its succulent taste made it a first-place dessert. Never judge a book by its cover. This whole experience taught me that I do have a shot at becoming the next Iron Chef and to never doubt myself, because I really am The BestTM.


Feature 9

I love food, and I’m always hungry. I am one of the fastest eaters I know (I’ve finished a cheeseburger in under a minute), and I spend most of my free time snacking. I may be a world-class consumer, but cooking is a completely different ballgame. I have exactly two signature dishes that I can make flawlessly: Kraft Mac & Cheese and Top Ramen. I used to think cooking with a recipe wouldn’t be too hard, but after looking at a few Tasty recipes, I’m beginning to seriously doubt my abilities. I can only hope my chicken comes out fully cooked and no one dies from food poisoning.

My history with cooking is largely composed of a series of experiments with friends ending with mixed results. My recipes have the chance to impress with a perfectly medium-rare salmon but also to flop with a soupy crème brûlée. I don’t have great expectations for myself, but at least with foods that are easier to overcook than undercook, I won’t be giving anyone food poisoning. Even without extensive experience or a high level of skill, I think that during a Diehard Tryhard challenge you should always go big or go home.






I had to rush through the custard for the crème brûlée as quickly as possible in order to maximize the time it had to solidify in the fridge. After removing it from the oven, it was a hot soupy mess, definitely chilling my expectations for my dessert. The topping sauce for the salmon unfortunately toppled over and landed on the floor, along with my hopes for pulling off a win in the competition. A lack of a spiralizer also turned my vegetable noodles into vegetable matchsticks. However, the sear on the salmon turned out perfect, and the dish, cobbled together with a last-minute salsa, didn’t look half bad. The plating and presentation of my salmon was a definite crowd-pleaser and secured a first place finish for my entrée. The hour and a half the crème brûlée had to sit definitely was not sufficient, though. As soon as the sugar glaze was broken, my dessert more closely resembled a milkshake than a crème brûlée. Before the competition I said to “go big or go home,” so I’m glad I ended up being closer to the former than the latter.



10 Centerspread


Preface class of 2018 The Smoke Signal asked the senior officers for a letter as a farewell message to the entire Class of 2018, as well as the faculty for any words of wisdom and well wishes they would like to offer the senior class. This coverage includes a letter addressed to the seniors by their class officers, commemorating their years together, as well as faculty advice they have for navigating adulthood.

The Smoke Signal

Friday, June 8, 2018

senior officers farewell

Dear Class of 2018,

If we had to describe the past four years in one word, it would be: rollercoaster. As a class, we ve hit some incredible highs through our high school careers. We quickly became consistently excellent contenders for Homecoming and became the first class to implement serious transparency and democracy. Senior Ball was an absolute blast, with more than 80 percent of the class there to enjoy it. Thanks to incredible Senior Ball sales, we re finishing off financially strong as well. However, we ve had some ridiculous lows, too. It felt like with every fundraiser or apparel run we conducted, issues arose ̶ our sophomore windbreaker vendor s factory caught on fire (delaying our delivery by months), many junior Spring Apparel T-shirts were never paid for or picked up, and technical glitches with senior lanyards caused months of delays through the ordering process. Furthermore, we ve faced challenges that past classes never had to, from a combined prom to expensive apparel and prom tickets, to four years in a row of second place in Homecoming. Somehow, throughout all of this, we ve emerged as the strongest class in MSJ s recent history. In the face of headaches, complications, and taunting from other classes, we maintained a unified, positive front. It s a unique trait that we ve often seen other classes have difficulty with. As your officers, these qualities make serving our class an incredibly rewarding job ̶ our hard work is always met with love and support, even if things sometimes don t go according to plan. And that s something we ll always be thankful for.

MSJ has a unique and high-achieving student body, where students who would be considered exceptional in most other environments appear only average among their MSJ peers. It s easy to lose sight of your abilities and forget that you are truly exceptional. No matter who you are, keep up the drive that has pushed you through the past four years in this challenging high school realm, and apply it to your passions. There s no stopping where you can go or what you can achieve. While they can be scary, rollercoasters end with exhilaration and memories of great times. Sure, they come with ups, downs, and unexpected twists that may be difficult in the moment, but ultimately leave one looking back with a sense of satisfaction. Unfortunately, one rollercoaster must always come to an end before you can ride another. Mission was only the first of many rollercoasters life will throw at us. There were certainly times where we really wished there was an escape. However, looking back, we re thankful for this period of our life. We met some of our closest friends, had amazing times, and had the honor of serving the most amazing 500 students in the world. These four years haven t been easy, but they were worth it. And there s nowhere and nobody else with whom we d rather have spent them. Thank you, Class of 2018.


Your Class Officers Angela Lu, Abhinav Gopal, Jasmine Syu, and Sanil Chawla

staff farewells Don t do drugs, always signal before you make a left or right turn, and don t be a jerk. ̶ English Teacher Elizabeth Waller

"Don't be in a hurry to grow-up, take advantage of your youth! Enjoy your time in college. Take classes that interest you, join clubs, attend sporting events, study abroad." ̶ Math Teacher Kim Mathis

Your parents, grandparents, guardians actually do have a lot of good advice. You may find out that they agree with you on many things that you didn't think they might. Or at least they will be understanding and glad you're willing to have a conversation about it. Don't be afraid to talk to them about important issues that come up in your journey to adulthood. It may seem strange now but one of the best experiences in life as you mature might be when your parents actually become a friend in addition to being your parent. ̶ Social Studies Teacher Toby Remmers "Be innovative, be creative, be compassionate and always do the best you can. Be the best you can be. Life is full of unexpected challenges. You have learned resilience and excellence. Go out to the world and shine! Grades don t define you." ̶ Honors Chemistry Teacher Katy Ling-Ru Kuei

Don't take 8 a.m. classes, you will show up the first week and then never again! ̶ Assistant Principal Jeff Evans

"Don t slack and start to work right away when you get to college. Enjoy life and freedom but don t abuse it. Be ready for the big change because you won t have your parents to do your laundry anymore. Stay in touch with your family and friends and take subjects that fascinate you. I knew I wanted to go into the humanities because that s what I loved to study. Don t be afraid to take risks! ̶ French Teacher Herveline Sartori "Believe in yourself enough to know that it is okay to ask for help. Most people want to see you succeed, but they may not know how to help unless you speak up. ̶ Anatomy Teacher Lauren Ware-Hartbeck

If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. Choose to go down a path that suits you, regardless of what other people think or say. Good luck, come back and visit anytime!" ̶ Social Studies Teacher Spenser Peterson PHOTOS BY STAFF WRITERS SHIANTEL CHIANG, SAMIR JAIN, KAREN LI, MICHAEL REN & KELLY YANG, COURTESY COSTANOAN YEARBOOK

12 Centerspread


The Smoke Signal

D i s t r i b u t i o n a c r o s s s tat e s >50%

5 -6.5 % 3 .5 - 5 % 2 - 3 .5%


Friday, June 8, 2018

Friday, June 8, 2018

Brian Liao

California Institute of Technology Yvette Lin

California Institute of the Arts Alisha Liu

California Northstate University Anthony Li

California polytechnic state university, Pomona Hannah Chan

California polytechnic state university, San Luis Obispo Shannon Chau Jessica Eng

Claremont McKenna College Raj Bhutoria

CSU East Bay

Sriram Acharya Sami Malik

Csu fullerton Jill Mukai

CSU Long Beach Sydney Kao

CSU Northridge Maya Bernstein

De Anza College Jessica Chang Ryan Chiu

Dominican University of California Tulsi Patel

Humboldt state university Aidan Berlin

Loyola Marymount University Andrew Du

Ohlone College

Raghav Choudhary Neha Kumar Jonathan Marsh Megan Nguyen Hannah Scherer

Otis College of Art and Design Keqiang Zhang

Saint Mary's College of California Jared Pingue

Centerspread 13

c l a s s o f 2 0 1 8 Post-Graduation Plans As the Class of 2018 prepares to leave MSJ, their diverse interests, personalities, and goals influence their individual journeys. Some choose to attend college or take a gap year, while others want to immediately engage themselves in the workforce. To celebrate the Class of 2018 s post-graduation plans, the Smoke Signal went to every American Government and Economics class and compiled a voluntary list of graduating seniors future plans.

in-state ArtCenter College of Design


The Smoke Signal

out-of -state

Note: This spread is a representation of students who willingly submitted their forms by May 15, 2018.

San Diego state university

Alexandra Spencer Sonia Tasser

Victor He Colby Huang Nihal Jagatap Kayam Karnawat Prerana Kiran Nisha Sen Ted Shao-Xue Parth Trivedi Ravi Trivedi Jonathan Wang Mark Winters Derek Xia Ruining Zhou

San Francisco state university Ryan Halim Hafssa Hassani Jessica Kim

San Jose state university

Yeung Tak Chan Kevyn Ding Nikhijasree Doddapaneni Seana Ebenezer Alan Hsing Michelle Le Justin Leung Shrutika Mishra Nihar Moramganti Sweta Pabbisetty Hana Rahman Ishan Sastry Nika Sison Akhila Vemuri Tiffany Vo UC Davis Isaac Wang Mihir Baya Vivian Zhao Allison Chan Emily Chang Santa Clara Alison Chen University Kevin Cheng Yash Doshi Abhinav Gopal Melody Lin Vanshika Goyal Yiqiao He Stanford University Elvin Huang Julia Park Donna Li Ankush Swarnakar Jonathan Li Raymond Yin Winona Lo Aditi Nukala UC Berkeley Seona Patel Adam Chang Gautham Sivakumar Eric Cheng Albert Stanley Ishika Chawla Nithya Tippireddy Wenhan Fang Jacob Wang Tiffany Feng Shirley Wong Sindhu Goli Eric Han UC Irvine Oscar Hu Anjali Bhagat Sylvia Jin Ryan Hahn Zarine Kakalia Varun Jadcherla Wallace Lim Joshua Liu Michelle Lin Victor Meng Robert Lin Upasana Mustafi Alan Liu Vinayak Nadig Richard Liu Divya Rangavajjhala Emily Lu Anne Wang Ruchika Mahapatra Joshua Wang Anna Pi Clark Wey Ashish Ramesh Tiffany Wong Hana Sheikh Jessica Yeung Jasmine Syu Christian Young Emily Teng Zen Thumparkkul UC Los Angeles Shrey Vasavada Sohum Desai Michael Vien David Hou Helen Wang Andrew Kan Willis Wang Roma Modi Kevin Wu Alan Wang Allison Xu Alyssa Yu Eric Zhu Victor Zhou Alyssa Zhu

Kanika Rao Avantika Rastogi Alison Tso Sahith Tummala Hayes Yang

Joseph Lee Preethi Merugumala Andy Ho Astin Lee Huy Nguyen Avantika Sharma Ridwan Syed Colin Trang Jeffrey Wong Kendrick Wong

UC San Diego

Ethan Chen Arthur Kwong Carleen Li Minnie Luu Praveen Nair

UC Santa Barbara Aarushi Agrawal Emma Chang Sumeet Chaudhari Darren Hsu Sophie Huang Savina Johal Lauren Leung Albert Li Shaurye Mahajan Weiqi Mei Surya Pugal Derek Wu

UC Santa Cruz

Kartikeya Agrawal Negeen Amerian James Dang Rohan Dayal Sean Li Harshitha Murugan Waylon Peng

Aman Prasad Maha Sridhar Rashid Syed Renee Tsang

University of San Francisco Brandon Do Teg Ludher Jonathan Nguyen Renmei Xu Lucia Zhang

University of Southern California Anisha Anisetti Shivani Avasarala Sanil Chawla Tara Conti Shania Jain Andrew Kinoshita Jason Lau Andrew Leung Eric Li Rahul Maurya Riya Modi Andrew Nguyen Rohan Srinivasan Vivian Su

University of the Pacific Muneeb Afnani Suchul Ahn Serena Young Bernice Yu

Case Western Reserve University Aritra Chakraborty

Amherst College Janet Han

Arizona State University Viplav Dodeja Christina Qian Rhea Ram

Austin College

Valery Piachonkina

Baylor University

Samhita Banerjee Rithvik Baratam Anupama Kannan

Carnegie Mellon University

Annie Chen Gabriel Chuang Grace Cui Katrina Hu Michelle Ng Aarthi Ramsundar Jeremy Wang Annie Wang Brent Xiao Angela Yi Agnes Zhou Richard Zhou

Columbia University Sabrina Shih

Rice University

University of Pennsylvania

St. Johns University

Ackley Wang

Syracuse University

University of South Florida

Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University

University of Texas at Austin

Shvethaa Jayakumar Alex Yem

Abhinav Gunda

Johns Hopkins University Michelle Zhang

Northeastern University

Culinary Institute of America

Lewis and Clark College

Northwestern University

Dartmouth College

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Drexel University Michelle Zhao

Alan Wang

Claire Yung

Mich Song Crystal Su

New Jersey Institute of Technology

Duke University Jaclyn Xiao

Baladithya Balamurugan Swata Gade Anna Wadhwa

Emory University

New York University

Arpita Gaggar

Georgia Institute of Technology Alexander Wing

Harvard University Carolyn Ge Lavanya Singh

Grace Jiang Niranjan Ramamurthy

Indiana University, Bloomington

Kylie Walrod

Lehigh University

Joanna Liu Cindy Yuan

Claudia Chinn William Geschke

Rutgers University–New Brunswick

Annie Chiang Rahul Toppur

Jessica Wang

Jin-Su Lee

Hofstra University

Angela Lu Felisha Li

Cornell University

University of New Mexico University of Oregon

Robert Chen

UC Riverside

Jonathan Wang

Rhode Island School of Design Xinyi Yu

UC Merced

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Erica Hwang Cherin Koh Athena Lim Atharva Patil Muhammad Saeed Ryan Tseng Rosabel Wu Joshua Zeng Gary Zhang

Daren Wang

University of Pittsburgh

Akhil Reddy

Samanvi Kanugula Anita Kuo

Tufts University

Moksh Chitkara Gaurisha Dewan Jessica Lee Sahith Vaddi

Ohio State University

Tulane University

University of Washington

Pennsylvania State University

University of Iowa

Jared Yee

Shyam Ramachandran Jessica Yuan

Princeton University Austin Chang

Purdue University

Akshay Aravindan Eliana Arroyo-Fang Krishnateja Avvari Aman Chopra Haoyi Ding Bharat Iyer Alita Mary Devanshi Pratiher

Stavan Singh Aditya Trivedi Aneri Parikh

Avery Smith Nihaal Gill

University of Arizona Minh Thai

University of Chicago Devesh Kodnani

University of Colorado Boulder Brandon Armstrong

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Meraal Choudhry Salaj Ganesh

Aman Agarwal Chandan Hegde Savvy Gupta Joyce Li Abhishek Shah Ansh Vidyarthi Drishti Vidyarthi Howard Xiao

Vanderbilt University Jerry Qin

Washington University in St. Louis

Sonia Sakleshpur Lahari Vuppaladhadiam

Wellesley College Audrey Lin

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Smoke Signal


Arts & Entertainment 15

By the NumBers: studeNt ListeNiNg PrefereNces By Shiantel Chiang, Samir Jain, Shray Vaidya & Jennifer Xiang Staff Writers

With the rapidly expanding music industry today, there are countless genres to choose from and numerous ways for students to listen to music. Each individual contributes to the multitude of unique listening habits and music preferences. To analyze the similarities and differences of various MSJ studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; music tastes, the Smoke Signal collected 275 responses from all grade levels via an anonymous Facebook survey that was open from May 11 to 18.

In general, for all genders and grade levels, pop and hip-hop had the highest percentage for favorite genres of music.

On average, how many hours do you listen to music every day? < 1 hour


1-2 hours



The largest discrepancy between genders was for respondents who chose K-pop as one of their favorite genres:

43% 43% 15%

3-4 hours

Of the respondents, 171 were female, 101 were male, and 2 were non-binary. Additionally. 69 were freshmen, 79 were sophomores, 60 were juniors, and 67 were seniors.

29.8% > 4 hours

were female were male

What genres of music do you like to listen to? * By grade level









Percentage (%)

Percentage (%)

By gender (non-binary data was inconclusive)

40 30 20

30 20 10

10 0


0 Rock





Classical Country


EDM Alternative K-Pop

What times do you usually listen to music? *


8 a.m. to 3 p.m.








Which of these activites do you like to do while listening to music?*

6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

3 p.m. to 6 p.m.


after 9 p.m.

Doing Homework 84.4%


How do you mainly listen to music?*

93.5% Streaming

4.7% CD/Vinyl/ Physical

The most preferred

Exercising 58.9%

Napping 19.6%

Eating 30.9%

Studying 71.3%





before 8 a.m.







No surveyed male students reported using streaming platform Pandora, but of females did.


For preferred listening platforms, seniors reported a significantly greater usage of physical media like CDs and downloads/ MP3s.

If you stream, what platform do you use to listen to music?*

characteristic of a song was a good






beat and rhythm, with


25.5% Radio

Apple Music

of all students






choosing it over other character-

36.7% Downloads/ MP3

istics like catchy

I prefer to listen to music with

How do you normally find new music?*

15.3% 53.1%

19.6% 12%

Earphones Headphones


tunes and lyrics.

No extra outlets/mediums Speakers









Movies/TV Shows/ Videos




There were no significant differences by gender or grade level in questions regarding activities done while listening, listening hours and times, and listening method preference.

* Students were asked to choose all that apply


16 Arts & Entertainment


The Smoke Signal


By Toshali Goel & Julia Park Staff Writers A movie is a great way to relax and spend the summer’s abundant free time. But with so many great movies slated for release this year’s summer, it can be hard to choose what to watch. The

Smoke Signal compiled a list of great new movies to watch out for, as well as a selection of classics that everyone should revisit over the break.

Crazy Rich Asians Based on Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel of the same name, Crazy Rich Asians follows the story of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), an American-born Chinese economics professor. Rachel travels to Singapore with her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding), only to realize that his family is incredibly wealthy. As one of the most eligible bachelors in Asia, Nick is surrounded by women who are jealous of Rachel and will stop at nothing to take her down. Rachel must also tackle a host of Nick’s disapproving relatives in this fresh take on the classic romantic-comedy. Crazy Rich Asians premiers in theaters on August 15.

Summer Classics

Friday, June 8, 2018

Upcoming releases

The Parent Trap

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

Annie James and Hallie Parker (Lindsay Lohan) are two identical twins separated at birth by their divorced parents; they don’t even know their sister exists! But in this romantic comedy-drama, they are coincidentally sent to the same summer camp, where they hatch a plan to swap identities, go home with their other parent, and reunite the family.

The highly anticipated sixth installment in the tremendously successful Mission: Impossible film series will be released on July 27, 2018. This film continues to follow the tumultuous life of Impossible Missions Force (IMF) Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). When an IMF mission goes wrong, Hunt must find a way to save the mission while being tracked by the CIA in this action-packed race against time. This film features several beloved actors from previous Mission: Impossible movies, as well as new additions to the cast such as Henry Cavill and Angela Bassett.

Incredibles 2 Nearly 15 years after the release of the widely beloved Incredibles film, Pixar is finally releasing its sequel, Incredibles 2, on June 14, 2018. In the film, a movement to bring back supers recruits Elastigirl, and with the immense financial support of the campaign, she fights to save the world from the latest villain. Meanwhile, Dash and Violet are anxious to use their powers to fight crime themselves, while Mr. Incredible struggles to keep Jack-Jack and his newly discovered powers under control.

Lilo and Stitch In this Disney film, the orphaned Hawaiian girl Lilo lives with her older sister Nani, who decides to get lonely Lilo a dog. Instead, they accidentally adopt an unwanted, misbehaving alien refugee named Stitch. Together, Lilo, Nani, and Stitch learn what “ohana,” or family, truly means.

Jaws This classic American thriller is directed by Steven Spielberg. In the film, a police chief, a marine scientist, and a ship captain form an unlikely team and work to capture the great man-eating shark that terrorizes beach-goers at a resort.


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Friday, June 8, 2018

The Smoke Signal


Arts & Entertainment 17

C R I T I C S’ C O R N E R MusiC: yaeji, rae sremmurd | Film: deadpool 2, life of the party

Under the radar Deadpool 2 is still an unfiltered thrill ride Music review rae sremmurd

yaeji By Shivani Avasarala Staff Writer Based in Brooklyn, New York, Yaeji is breaking boundaries as a Korean-American electronic music and visual artist, creating pieces that cleverly shed light on introspective topics such as unnatural beauty standards of the modern era and embracing individual identity. Yaeji received most of her education in South Korea, before returning to pursue a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, conceptual art, and East Asian studies at Carnegie Mellon University. There, she also joined the college radio station Radio Carnegie Tech (WRCT 88.3 FM) and discovered a passion for producing music. Her unique style of house music blends words in Korean and English, allowing her to explore qualities such as phonetics and sound texture in her lyrics. In her most widely known single, “Drink I’m Sippin On,” Yaeji introduces a stark contrast between her own whispery vocals and the robotic, authentic house track. Her background as a visual artist also shines through in her music videos, sprinkled with subtle hints at the overarching meanings she attempts to convey. In the music video for the single “raingurl,” Yaeji casually enters a dimly lit club in white clothing; as the song enters the climax, the house beat drops and the club fills with similarly dressed youth jumping and dancing to the hypnotic, mellow music. In an interview with Pitchfork, she described the song personally as “the definition of introspection at the club.” In the future, Yaeji aspires to continue exploring her passions in visual and musical art, aiming not to dominate charts, but rather to connect eye-to-eye with her audience. Through hosting events such as “Curry In No Hurry,” she brings fellow Brooklyn musicians and music lovers together in friendly communion. ▪


By Praveen Nair Staff Writer The first Deadpool film, starring Ryan Reynolds as the titular antihero, broke every convention that Hollywood had regarding superhero films. Chief among those conventions was the belief that a raunchy, profanity-laden smorgasbord of violence couldn’t sell tickets with an R rating. But in 2016, audiences showed more than 783 million reasons why that wasn’t true. Deadpool 2, for which Reynolds received his first screenwriting credit, expands on the franchise with the same elements that moviegoers loved in the original. The film’s plot revolves around Russell Collins (Julian Dennison), a 14-year-old mutant who calls himself “Firefist,” who Deadpool shares a cell with in prison. Meanwhile, Cable (Josh Brolin), a soldier from the future, has traveled back in time to assassinate Russell. To help him, Deadpool enlists a team of heroes that he calls the X-Force, designed to be, as he says, “tough, morally flexible, and able to carry their own franchise for 10-12 years.” Like many superhero sequels, Deadpool 2’s plot suffers from some degree of writing fatigue — so much of what seemed to hit in the first movie fails to wow in the second.

Many of the jokes start to seem repetitive and drawn out, while plot elements fall into tired superhero tropes. However, the addition of the X-Force helps: Deadpool is joined by Domino (Zazie Beetz), Weasel (T.J. Miller), and Dopinder (Karan Soni), a tenuously stereotypical Indian taxi driver who wishes to join Deadpool’s squad. Deadpool 2 is more of The Avengers than, say, The Dark Knight, featuring a team as opposed to one hero, which helps to refresh the plot. It takes a while to get up to speed, and its attempt at thematic depth seems out of this movie’s element. Of course, the most celebrated aspect of Deadpool is his humor, which often breaks the fourth wall, addressing the viewer and making pop culture references nearly every minute. It’s hard to describe how quick and how clever the humor in Deadpool 2 is; without a doubt, it’s an experience that one couldn’t get from nearly any other major movie, let alone past superhero films. For example, at one point, Deadpool calls Cable ‘Thanos,” a nod to the supervillain in The Avengers: Infinity War also played by Brolin. But, perhaps because the shiny novelty of the character has worn off, one finds the jokes to be repetitive, and the acknowledgement that Deadpool is talking to the audience through the screen is not nearly

as entertaining or unexpected now as it was the first time. At its heart, however, Deadpool 2 is an action movie. The addition of new characters allows the fight scenes to take on a new flair for each character. Domino’s superpower (of sorts) is having extraordinary luck, so she often dives headfirst into sticky situations and is saved by a convenient event. Deadpool is invulnerable and recovers almost instantly from injuries, so he will take several bullets, get impaled, or get hit by traffic to defeat an enemy. A word of caution, however: Deadpool 2 features blood, gore, and violence that would normally be implied offscreen in other films, but part of the fun is how uncompromising Deadpool 2 can be with its R rating. On that note, Deadpool 2 features more profanity and innuendo than any other superhero movie; although this might appeal to some, nobody should go into the theater expecting to see an everyday superhero movie. Although anyone expecting the same quality as the first movie might be disappointed, Deadpool 2 holds its own, both as a comedy and as an action film. While deep storytelling or nuanced characterization might be too much to ask, it’s hard to hate a film that’s so much fun to watch. ▪ Rating: B

life of the party is nothing to celebrate

B AY A R E A EVENTS By Arpita Gaggar Staff Writer June 16: South Bay VegFair Hosted at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, the South Bay VegFair is an annual festival where attendees learn, connect, dine, and experience tales from around the globe. The fair will feature vegan food vendors, workshops, cooking demonstrations, yoga, dog adoptions, and live music. Tickets cost approximately $12. July 14: SF Anime Festival & Cosplay Enjoy anime or cosplaying? Be sure to visit the East and West Japan Center Malls in SF’s Japantown to see the SF Anime Festival and Cosplay. Get your wigs and costumes on, or go just to explore the festive shops and restaurants. Admission for this event is free. July 27-29: NorCal Night Market The NorCal Night Market epitomizes the feeling of a summer fair. With its wide array of games, art, dancing, and craft and food vendors, this event is well worth experiencing. The market will be located at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton with an admission fee of only $5. July 3, 10, 17, 24, 31: Santana Row Summer Music Series Bring your blankets and lawn chairs and enjoy free live music at Park Valencia in Santana Row. On July 31, a Rúckatan Latin Tribe will be playing Latin, Reggae, and Rock music. The other Tuesdays will feature different bands playing unique music styles, including pop, soul, jazz, and more.


By Maggie Zhao Staff Writer In Ben Falcone’s Life of the Party, Deanna Miles (Melissa McCarthy) goes on a whirlwind comedic adventure after finding out that her husband is involved with another woman. Deanna decides to pursue her dream of completing her college education and enrolls in Decatur University with her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon), a senior at Decatur. After initially struggling to fit in, Maddie helps her mother Deanna reinvent herself with a makeover, a new name, “Dee Rock,” and newfound confidence. Maddie and her friends, Helen (Gillian Jacobs), Amanda (Adria Arjona), and Debbie (Jessie Ennis), adopt Deanna into their friend group. They help Deanna through the trials and tribulations of the classic college experience, including parties, hooking up with frat guys, and encounters with a catty popular girl named Jennifer (Debby Ryan). However, as Deanna gets caught up in the excitement of college life, she begins to lose sight of her real self. One of Life of the Party’s most notable assets is its star-studded cast. Renowned actress Melissa McCarthy takes center

stage, but the film also features former Disney Channel star Debby Ryan, Emmy nominated Matt Walsh and Julie Bowen, and even a short cameo from Christina Aguilera. Across the board, the execution of the acting in this movie is the main reason for the few genuine laughs in the film. However, the film’s fatal flaw lies in its lackluster script. Despite being marketed as a comedy, the film often falls flat with its humor, as it relies on cheesy and over-the-top jokes, aiming to generate laughs with slapstick comedy. Unfortunately, many of the humorous moments cross the line between funny and cringeworthy, leaving the audience with unfulfilled expectations. While the premise of the plot is original, the plot is too one-dimensional. Deanna’s college experience is a combination of nearly every classic college trope, leading to overly cliché scenes and dialogue. Additionally, the film introduces various side stories that never pan out. For example, Deanna’s feud with mean girl Jennifer seems to dissipate into thin air, with no explanation for the change of heart. Overall, the audience is left confused with the many loose ends in the plot.

The character development in the script is similarly focused around Deanna, who is the only character who grows throughout the course of the film. Even Deanna’s daughter Maddie, whose character is central to the story, is mostly reduced to fulfilling the role of the compassionate and supportive daughter. As Life of the Party opened on Mother’s Day Weekend and was marketed as a Mother’s Day movie, the lack of an interesting or nuanced mother-daughter relationship was a critical blow to the film. Side characters like Maddie’s friends are flattened into shallow caricatures, who only have a few defining personality traits that are rehashed again and again. Instead of an array of dynamic characters, Life of the Party instead features one central character, Deanna, and a variety of cardboard-cut-out side characters. While the film is at times humorous, thanks to the its notable acting, the larger flaws of the script, including its humor, plot line, and character development, tank this film’s rating. ▪

By Lucia Li Staff Writer Brother rap duo Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi under the group name Rae Sremmurd burst onto the scene in 2015 with the release of their debut single, “No Flex Zone.” Since then, the two have catapulted themselves to the top of the charts. Rae Sremmurd advance their musical talents in SremmLife 3 (stylized as SR3MM), a triple disc album that incorporates the brothers’ collaborative music, individual projects, and features from other guest artists such as the Weeknd, Juicy J, and Young Thug. As an album featuring hip-hop, rap, R&B, and trap beats, the music reflects a full embrace of stardom and success in the face of childhood struggle. The album is split into three discs, titled SR3MM, Swaecation, and Jxmtro, written by Rae Sremmurd, Swae Lee, and Slim Jxmmi, respectively. The album boasts an impressive 27 songs, with nine grouped onto each disc. Each track, while following similar themes, manages to set itself apart from the others. SR3MM starts out with a steady snare beat behind a marimba-like discordance, setting a mood of strobelike dissonance and warping the sound of typical rap music. “Powerglide” ft. Juicy J instantly ramps up into a more melodious track and features rapid-fire raps accompanied by string instrumentals and synths to complement the vocals. Over the next few tracks, the chords settle and songs begin to feature more instrumentals and melodies in the background. Swae Lee’s airy but clear vocals complement Slim Jxmmi’s quick, snappy raps. As the album progresses to Swaecation, the instrumentals transition from warped synths to almost ballad-like melodies of Swae Lee’s creation. In “Guatemala,” featuring Slim Jxmmi, Swae Lee’s melodic R&B vocals paint a breezy image of a tropical, sultry dance backed by a steady beat, evoking feelings of nostalgia and heartache. Soon however, the style shifts in to Jxmtro, transitioning into a collection of rapid raps over bare chords and beats that allow Slim Jxmmi to be unapologetically himself in his ideas and views. While some rap and trap music can sound repetitive, SR3MM manages to evolve its sound throughout the three discs. Each song maintains a consistent theme, while simultaneously adding more elements of auditory interest. Separating the album into three separate discs allowed the brothers to demonstrate their potential as solo artists while still showcasing their collaboration. However, considering the sheer volume of music in this album, there are inevitably moments that feel tedious. The tracks are pleasing to the ear, but with so many to listen to, some begin to drop from mind. If Rae Sremmurd had selected a few of the best tracks and condensed those into a smaller album, it would have had a much stronger impact. In the end, SR3MM showcases Rae Sremmurd’s growth over their past three albums. While the sheer amount of music can be daunting, the evolution of their sound over the course of the album is most certainly worth a listen. ▪ Rating: B





The Smoke Signal

S E T E L H T A E COLLEG Senior Ethan Chen initially played many different sports, but dropped all his other sports once he realized his talent for golf. He has now been playing golf for 11 years. Chen faced many challenges as a student athlete. He said, “At MSJ, the academics are really tough and it’s definitely harder to be an athlete because you always have to be practicing and stuff. It was really hard to balance and manage my time wisely.” Despite this, Chen persevered in hopes of following many of his former teammates onto the collegiate courses. Chen is excited to play golf on UC San Diego’s Division II team. He hopes to improve his play and time management, as he will soon have to balance even more advanced academics along with Division II athletics.

ethan chen

Friday, June 8, 2018

By Joelle Chuang, Kikue Higuchi, & Michael Ren Staff Writers

With the high school sports season coming to an end, some of MSJ’s senior athletes have plans to continue playing in college. A form was released on May 10 to May 16 through Facebook for senior athletes to voluntarily submit their information. In the following article, the Smoke Signal featured the six senior athletes who responded and will go on to compete at the collegiate level.

Senior Agnes Zhou started playing sports at age 5; after playing recreationally in a wide array of sports, including swimming, tennis, soccer, gymnastics, and basketball, she finally settled into baseball and softball in sixth grade. Since then, she has been a member of the Girls’ Softball team at MSJ as well as her club travel ball team, the NorCal Strike Zone, which qualifies for national level competition almost every year. At Carnegie Mellon University next year, Zhou will be part of the Division III team, which will be the first softball team that the university has ever had. She is especially looking forward to the competitiveness of the collegiate team, “It’s definitely going to be new trying to fit into a whole new team and find that whole team dynamic again.”

agnes zhou Ever since he fell in love with baseball at age 5, it has been the center of Senior Christopher Casipit’s life. As the pitcher on the Boys’ Baseball team, he has learned valuable time management skills and forged lifelong bonds with his teammates. Boys’ Baseball Coach Brian Soria and club coaches played vital roles in his athletic experience. Casipit said, “They really pushed me in the right direction ... They believed in me and knew that I could make it to the next level.” Some of his best memories include a complete game shutout against American High School during last year’s senior night game and also against Kennedy High School on May 16 of this year. Casipit received an academic scholarship to the University of San Francisco, where he will be pitching for the Division I baseball team this fall. He hopes to challenge and improve his pitching skills, get used to the new and more fast-paced atmosphere, and meet new people.

For Senior Daman Heer, what started as a simple interest in fencing because of its similarity to Star Wars’ lightsaber battles has since developed into a real passion for the sport. After starting the sport at age 11, Heer joined the Silicon Valley Fencing Center club team, where he continues to compete to this day. After contacting UC San Diego’s fencing coaches last summer, Heer has secured his spot on the roster and is extremely excited to participate. As a fencer, Heer feels that his dedication to the sport has impacted every part of his life, as he has learned how to work hard and manage his time effectively in order to succeed both in competition and in academics. In college, Heer hopes to further hone these skills as a part of the Division I fencing team.

christopher casipit daman heer After moving from Cupertino to Fremont in her freshman year, Senior Valery Piachonkina initially joined water polo to make new friends. Since then, she has fallen in love with the sport and played for both the MSJ team and a year-round club team, Southern Alameda County Water Polo Club (SoAC Water Polo), competing twice at USA Water Polo’s annual Junior Olympics. Piachonkina’s experience with her club team motivated her to continue playing in college. Piachonkina said, “Through playing club year-round and being surrounded by girls who were incredibly dedicated to polo, I knew I wanted to have that in college.” Her future Division III team at Austin College will be the first collegiate water polo team in the state of Texas, and the coach, Mark Lawrence, is also a MSJ alumnus. Piachonkina hopes that she will find lifelong friends in her future teammates and that her time spent out of state will give her a fresh perspective on life and water polo.

valery pianchonkina

Senior Audrey Lin first started golf when she joined the golf team at Hopkins Junior High School. When she realized her affinity for the sport, she decided to go all out and began training daily and competing in tournaments. As an underclassman, Lin looked up to many seniors on the Girls’ Golf team, who guided and in turn inspired her to lead the team. Often missing school to compete, Lin’s toughest challenge was maintaining a balance between school life and golf. One of her proudest moments was during the 2016 MVAL tournament, where she achieved a personal record. Lin is excited to meet and bond with her new teammates on Wellesley College’s Division III golf team this fall, while hoping to gain a better appreciation of golf as well. She said, “With all of the competition in high school, it was really hard to enjoy what I was doing, because there was so much pressure behind everything. So I hope that when I play in college I hope to find that [appreciation] again.”

audrey lin


Friday, June 8, 2018

The Smoke Signal


Spring Sports Recap Boys’ Volleyball Boys’ Volleyball played extremely well this season, in part due to its young, cohesive team. The highlight of the season was their victory during the Wilcox tournament, played at Wilcox High School against other Bay Area schools such as Gunn, Leigh and Aragon High Schools, where MSJ placed second. Although players faced injuries and played inconsistently at times, the team was able to make it to the first round of NCS this year. Co-Captain Junior Austin Yu said “We showed a lot of adaptability on the court. Overall, our team was very united, and the new players helped contribute to this environment.”

Austin Yu, 11

By Rishi Chillara, Ian Hsu, Anagha Mandayam, & Shreya Srinivasan Staff Writers

In this spring sports season, six of the eight MSJ teams advanced to the NCS. The Smoke Signal interviewed each of the eight teams to get stories behind their success.


Swimming faced a rough start this season with a young team and entirely new coaches. Pool construction made practices difficult, forcing swimmers to work on a different schedule. Girls’ Swimming was unable to uphold their long-standing undefeated regular season streak and placed second to Washington High School at MVAL finals, while Boys’ Swimming finished undefeated. Both teams advanced to NCS once more. Senior Victor He said, “Our team is still very young, but many of our underclassmen were able to make final races at MVAL and NCS, so we are confident that our swim team will still be as dominant as ever.”

Girls’ Softball

Aimee Kinner, 11

Boys’ Baseball

Despite entering the season with several new players, Softball was able to come out of the season with better results than anticipated. The new players fit well into team chemistry, and the team was able to win five games this season — more than any other season in recent MSJ history. Although they struggled with managing the pressure associated with batting accuracy, Co-Captain Senior Agnes Zhou says that the team overcame this through intense batting practice and new strategies. Zhou expects the team to continue doing well next year, as there are only two graduating seniors.

Agnes Zhou, 12

Boys’ Tennis


Sports 19

Boys’ Tennis had a performed extremely well this season, going undefeated and winning first place in the league. The team matched their post-season performance from last year with a quarterfinals qualification at NCS to before losing to Dougherty Valley High School. This season also saw a win against their rival Logan High School. Co-Captain Senior Jerry Qin credits the team’s sucPeng, 10 cess to increased focus on gameplay during training and experimenting with different lineups to make the strongest possible overall team. The future of the team is bright, with many young players ready to step up to lead the team next year.

Rishi Viswanathan, 10

Badminton For the fifteenth year in a row, Badminton remained undefeated in MVAL meets and at NCS. Problems such as Senior Ball conflicting with the Northern California Championships forced the team to adjust its lineup for MVAL finals, as the lineups are required to be the same through NCS and the Northern California Championships. With rigorous training exercises and team building, the captains were able to accustom an influx of club players to high school play. Despite the high number of graduating seniors, Co-Captain Senior Cindy Yuan is confident that the team will continue to dominate as talented underclassmen pick up from where the team left off.

Carleen Li, 12

Track and Field

Boys’ Golf

Despite starting off with a rough season, Boys’ Golf slowly improved as the season went on. Following the loss of several strong players from last year, the new players had some trouble adapting. However, as the new players gained more experience, the team improved, and they successfully qualified for NCS with one individual, Co-Captain Senior Ethan Chen, qualifying for states. Chen says that helping the underclassmen more allowed them to play more as a team and eventually do better. “Although the team will likely be weaker next year due to the loss of three seniors, we still expect to do well,” said Co-Captain Junior Aaron Chen.

Baseball improved significantly from their last season despite facing complications. Many key players missed games due to injuries, but the team won more games than they had in previous seasons, ending with a 6-18 record. They did not qualify for NCS and also expect future changes due to the departure of their head coach. Captain Senior Clark Wey said, “While Coach Soria will be stepping down as head coach, the program will hopefully pull together as a team and make improvements for the next season.”

Aaron Chen, 11

Dev Thakar,

Thanks to off-season endurance training and more personalized fitness training, Track and Field had a stellar season, with several athletes qualifying for NCS. One of the main focuses of the captains was to increase outreach to younger athletes to make sure they were able to keep up and to decrease injury by promoting proper stretching techniques and preventing overtraining. The increased camaraderie with the formation of training groups helped the team bond with one another and created stronger con9 nections with Coach Jahdai Bolds, who joined the team last year as a new coach.


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The Smoke Signal

Friday, June 8, 2018


Friday, June 8, 2018

The Smoke Signal


Straight Years Undefeated

: BADMINTON By Riya Chopra, Praveen Nair, & Shreya Sridhar Staff Writers


“pleWhen you work as a team and do it the right way by treating peowith respect it creates a snowball effect of something very spe-

cial. These kids understand how to push each other to be better on and off the court. Really the coaches job is to sit back and watch the leaders of the team develop the future generations. hhh — Former Head Coach Ambrish Batheja

Badminton has been one of MSJ’s most prominent sports teams for decades, consistently ranking impressively at North Coast Section Tournament (NCS) and other annual competitions, whether as a team or through individual medallists spanning Boys’ Singles, Boys’ Doubles, Girls’ Singles, Girls’ Doubles, and Mixed Doubles events. Dating back to 1997, they have consistently placed either first or second as a team at NCS, and have won the last 15 consecutive first place titles. Captains Seniors Carleen Li, Danice Long, Howard Tay and Juniors Kenneth Ji and Vicky Lin believe that their success is attributed to a mixture of motivated players, high standards, unparalleled determination, and an excellent coaching staff. As the 2018 season marks their 15th consecutive season of winning NCS, the Smoke Signal took a look at the inner workings of MSJ’s current top varsity team.

50% of all individual titles have gone to MSJ in the past 14 years


“Having a strong, dedicated leader that enables his team to

develop and grow to be able to achieve what they themselves desire is the reason why we are so successful. [Former Coach] Ambrish dedicated his life to these kids and for that, he’s earned credit for our team being as successful as we have been. — Former Head Coach Andrew Ting

Since 920 2005 18

Sports 21

titles for girls’ doubles total top three finishes for girls’ doubles

Badminton trains rigorously throughout the year to prepare for competitions. Throughout the season, they practice for more than 12 hours per week and compete in strenous, all-day invitationals on the weekends. Most players participate in all three of the main events: MVAL finals, NCS, and the CIF Northern California Regional Championships. Coaches create personalized training routines based on the skill level of the players and the improvements they want to see. The team places emphasis on team bonding and mentorship: captains and top players routinely assist coaches in developing training programs and carrying out drills in order to ensure improvement for players of all levels. “We’ve won NCS for the last 15 years and no one wants to be the team that breaks this streak,” said Long. “Therefore our players are always motivated to work hard to keep our legacy alive and not disappoint our predecessors.”

total top three finishes for girls’ doubles

“The experience at a competition is draining ... physically, we

play badminton for up to 15 hours in one tournament. Halfway through tournaments, it is not uncommon for people to feel sick or cramp. Mentally, it is very difficult to go through the entire day without giving up because we want to go home early or go eat dinner. Not to mention how we have to stay strong on the court despite all the other schools cheering against us. — Co-Captain Senior Danice Long

12 top three finishes at the Northern

California Regional Championships ” since its commencement in 2016.

Head coaches over the years Coach Andrew Ting played for the MSJ Badminton team for all four years of high school and began coaching the year after he graduated in 2002. Ting’s choice to coach came from his genuine interest in the team and his desire to continue contributing to the team’s success. His most memorable moment as a player was when he played for MSJ Badminton from 1998 to 2002. The team had an ongoing rivalry with Newark Memorial High School (NMHS); in 2004, MSJ defeated NMHS for the first time in a league match. When coaching, Ting believes in creating a common goal for the players as motivation to work hard. “We ask and teach the kids to go out there and do the best they can, and there’s no shame in losing if they leave their hearts out on the court,” said Ting.

Andrew Ting ‘02 Head Coach from 2003-2005

Ambrish Batheja ‘97

Head Coach from 1998-2002, 2006-2016 Coach Ambrish Batheja has been coaching with MSJ Badminton since 1998, and has coached most of MSJ’s other head and assistant coaches. Batheja had been interested in coaching since his sophomore year: “Badminton was my passion and wanted to build a system that built around teaching kids skills that would carry with them for a lifetime.” He also developed the training ideology of “CANI” — constant and never-ending improvement — that is still in use at MSJ Badminton today; to Batheja, it “really means get better every single day and do not be satisfied .” As to the keys to his coaching, Batheja said, “Integrity — most important. Also teamwork, hard working, dedication, consistency, and working on getting better at your craft every day … I learned from the kids more than I brought to them.”

Unlike most badminton coaches that have coached for MSJ, Class of 2004 Alumnus Jason Han did not make the varsity team or regularly play competitively. But he says that coaching MSJ Badminton allowed him to give back to the community. Han said, “I’ve always wanted to make a difference or an impact on other people’s lives. It was by chance that I was able to become a part of the coaching team.” Han’s coaching style emphasizes that despite the team’s success, they cannot become complacent. His coaching methods are centered around the acronym “CANI” — constant and never-ending improvement, which was developed by Coach Batheja. “[We] hold everyone to the highest standard regardless if they are national champions or not. Everyone is to be mentally focused and disciplined,” said Han.

Jason Han ‘04

Head Coach from 2017-Present



22 Special


The Smoke Signal

For the third installment of the special coverage on academic dishonesty, the Smoke Signal discussed the causes of cheating and sent out an anonymous Google form to MSJ alumni from various classes. The survey included questions about their experiences with cheating during their time at MSJ and in college or at their job, as well as the consequences. Only graduation years are listed for anonymity.



Pressure doesn't justify cheating By Toshali Goel & Katherine Guo Staff Writers

Academic dishonesty is not new — it has been prevalent in schools for centuries. However, while students often blame teachers for not doing their job well enough, they also often do not put in the necessary amount of effort to succeed in the course, both as a product of an entitled attitude towards performing well and as influenced by a culture that is growingly tolerant towards dishonesty. For example, students will often half-heartedly complete notes and maximize efficiency rather than understanding the information. Additionally, a sense of pride and the fear of appearing incompetent in front of teachers and peers keeps them from admitting they need help. Material, especially in advanced classes, is often convoluted and difficult to comprehend, and overloading on weighted classes makes it even harder for students to grasp core concepts of subject material. Even then, the blame cannot be wholly placed on students, as community and cultural values play a large part. Some students can also be unwilling to work outside of school. Many teachers provide students with extra resources and reference materials in lieu of personally catered assistance, especially as class sizes increase. However, too few students take advantage of these extra resources due to a lack of motivation to dedicate time and effort outside of their seven hours on campus. While there are several students who may have difficulty with particular subjects in spite of great effort, many more students simply do not dedicate time in proportion to the grade they expect. An anonymous student voice said, “If I know that I can just find a test bank or answer key for an assignment, I just spend my time on other things.” Because AP courses in particular are considered to have the difficulty and course guidelines of introductory college courses, students need to take initiative to supplement their knowledge with outside resources such as prep books and online lectures, just as college students would. Many factors that can lead to cheating are not under student or teacher control — they are results of a lifestyle and culture that society has cultivated over the years. University of Florida Former Associate Dean of Student Affairs Chris Loschiavo attributes large-scale cheating in students to “the path to success that they see around them — people cheating without incurring any real consequences. From politicians cheating to corporate scandals, our students are surrounded by examples of dishonest acts. [sic]” Cheating began with the culture that formed around dishonesty in our society: culprits of such crimes are generally unpunished or let

off the hook easily. Actor Mark Wahlberg, for example, was charged with assault and attempted murder at age 16 and was sentenced to two years in jail — but only served 45 days. While murder and assault are not comparable to academic dishonesty, the mindset runs parallel. This culture that allows the guilty to escape punishment encourages students to think about the possible rewards if they are not caught rather than the grave repercussions if they are. Additionally, the severity of crimes reported in the news and seen worldwide can lessen student perception of the comparative gravity of their own indiscretions. Furthermore, private college advisors and counselors often encourage cultivating a “challenging” profile for the sake of college applications. When students are told both to demonstrate excellence by taking challenging courses and to focus on the courses they themselves enjoy, there’s a tradeoff, and that tradeoff often results in cheating. This emphasis on success on paper drives students to cheat, so long as that cheating does not end up on a transcript. Students will often argue that pressure from teachers, parents, and peers to succeed drives them to cheat. While student stress and a highpressure environment contribute to an academically dishonest environment, they do not justify cheating. These justifications which are flawed to begin with, lose relevance as students continue cheating in the presence of honest, feasible options that could earn them the same grade with little to no extra effort. Cheating stops being a one-time lapse in judgement and evolves into habit. Despite the fact that students may have reason to exercise academic dishonesty, owing to environmental pressures or a globally developing fraudulent culture, they must take responsibility for their own success in high school. Particularly in Honors or AP classes, they should use external resources and prep materials to enhance their learning experience and supplement course learning, and ask their teachers for help with concepts they have difficulty understanding. They must also be careful not to underestimate the time and commitment a course requires prior to signing up for it to avoid having an unbalanced workload. Students need to know their own capabilities and understand the implications that come with overloading on courses. Most importantly, students need to take responsibility for their own education. They aren’t entitled to an ‘A,’ especially if they aren’t putting in the effort. ▪

Friday, June 8, 2018

ALUMNI VOICES Compiled by Christine Dong, Shray Vaidya & Kelly Yang Staff Writers

How does the frequency/severity of academic dishonesty in MSJ (when you were here) compare with cheating in college? “It was much worse at MSJ. I don't really know of any instances of people cheating on tests at my college, whereas it was pretty commonplace at MSJ. At the same time, the definition of cheating is different at my school. Since the culture is a lot more collaborative, we're encouraged to work together on homework assignments and it's not considered academic dishonesty, as long as we do our own work.” — Class of 2015 Alum How does the magnitude/severity of punishment for academic dishonesty compare? “Since academic dishonesty is more common in college, it's no surprise that the punishment is much more severe. Depending on the magnitude of the violation, the student can be subject to anything from a verbal reprimand to automatic failure of the course. However, in my experience, professors usually opt to automatically fail students who are caught cheating or plagiarizing, upon which those students may be required to attend a hearing for their offense.” — Class of 2015 Alum How do you think cheating can be prevented? “[Cheating can be prevented] by maintaining manageable workloads for students, giving less monotonous homework, or working to create a culture of honesty early on in students' academic careers.” — Class of 2012 Alum Are there any differences in attitude towards cheating in college compared to MSJ? “It's less prevalent and less socially acceptable in college. However, there is a distinction between 'cheating off of someone' and 'working together with someone;' the latter is usually both acceptable and more common, depending on the work being done.” — Class of 2012 Alum “At MSJ, the adage my closest friends and I abused was 'if you aren’t cheating you aren’t trying.' The general public tends to look down on that, but I firmly believe that there’s a very hazy line between pushing the limits [versus] hustling and cheating. It isn’t black or white. Do what you need to do to get ahead.” — Class of 2005 Alum

Voices were chosen that represent a diversity of thought.


Volume LIII, No. 9  
Volume LIII, No. 9