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VOL. 54 NO. 9


2018 -19: Year in Review

As the 2018-19 school year draws to a close, the Smoke Signal recognizes the events, changes, and milestones that defined another momentous year.

By Riya Chopra, Mingjia Wang, Jessica Xu & Selina Yang Staff Writers

MENTAL HEALTH The Mental Health Committee organized a Mental Health Panel on November 5. A panel of current students, alumni, and industry professionals provided insight into their experiences with mental health and shared advice for students undergoing mental struggles of their own. To finish off the first semester, Leadership 2 organized a Mental Health Week to relieve stress and remind students of the importance of caring for one’s mental health. The week-long event consisted of posters spreading positive messages, stress-relieving activities at lunch, a social media campaign promoting self-love, and a petting zoo with alpacas, bunnies, and goats. From April 1 to May 24, Peer Resource ran a campus-wide campaign that encouraged students to remain positive and work to find their own strengths.

June 7, 2019

ARTS/MUSIC At the Tournament of Bands in Cupertino on October 13 Marching Band and Color Guard placed first in their respective divisions, following their success at the Newark Days parade. They also won three Grand Champion titles at the annual Northern California Band Association Winter Championships on March 30. Schools all over Northern California and even Nevada competed. After months of planning and rehearsing, Universal Performers held a night of laughter at their performance of The Comedy of Errors on May 24.

STEM Science Bowl A Team had its highest placing in six years, finishing second out of 22 teams in the Sandia National Laboratories Regional High School Science Bowl. Senior Jonathan Ko placed in the top 300 in the annual Regeneron Science Talent Search, winning $2,000 for MSJ. Outside of competitions, students also had a significant presence in STEM outreach to junior high and elementary school students. Computer Science Club and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Club collaborated to host an introductory AI workshop for junior high and high school students. 3D Printing Club President Senior Neharika Makam led a workshop at a motherdaughter STEM Discovery Day at Hopkins Junior High School, which allowed the fifth and sixth graders to explore STEM fields.

ACTIVISM/SERVICE In November, L2 raised $2,603 total for the victims of the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in CA history. On March 28, MSJ Gay-Straight Alliance collaborated with the MSJ Mental Health Committee to host a LGBTQ+ awareness workshop. They invited mental health professionals, including psychotherapist Suzanne Vargas and discussed the unique challenges of coming out in conservative households. StudentsRise, a group of students who worked closely with the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association (FUDTA), helped organize the district-wide walk-in to fight for fairer contracts in March. Throughout the year, Harvest Helpers, a charity organization trying to reduce food waste and prevent hunger, has been encouraging students to register residential trees and volunteer at their monthly fruit harvests. They have donated more than 2,200 pounds of fruit to local food banks.



Throughout the year, Speech and Debate had a series of wins at tournaments including the Stanford National Invitational, Jon Schamber Invitational, and the Dempsey Cronin Invitational. Two of their most successful tournaments were the Cal Invitational, where they placed ninth out of 200 schools, and the Tournament of Champions TOC, where Speech received three finalist awards for the first time in history. In December, 15 members of Model United Nations (MUN) attended the East Bay MUN conference at California High School and won 13 speaker and research awards total. 145 members of DECA attended the State Career Development Conference and 37 of them qualified to the International Career Development Conference (ICDC) in Orlando, FL. Six teams received top-10 wins at ICDC, and one team received a top-three win.

MSJ’s $8 million pool was completed in February after about a year of construction. It has been used for PE classes, swim team practices, and meets. Later in the month, MSJ was recognized as a Distinguished School and FUSD as an Exemplary District by the CA Department of Education. MSJ also introduced the Flex Time advisory app, accessible through School Loop, which allows students to sign up for advisory classrooms ahead of time. FUDTA salary negotiations continued from the 2017-18 school year, and work to rule began on January 7. On April 4, FUDTA and FUSD reached a tentative agreement for the 2018-19 through 2020-21 school years, ending work to rule. Principal Zack Larsen also announced his departure from MSJ after more than 12 years of serving in the position. He will serve as the FUSD Director of Secondary Education.


EVENTS MSJ hosted its third-ever Homecoming Extravaganza on October 19, which featured a DJ, airband performances, and games. On February 15, former One Direction member Liam Payne performed a free concert which students had won through Chegg’s Music 101 contest. He delivered an energetic performance that included throwback songs and recent hits. L2 held its annual Charity Fashion Show on April 5. This year’s theme was “Lost in Japan,” and all proceeds went to a charity hoping to eradicate female genital mutilation. The Rajasthan Association of North America (RANA) hosted more than 3,000 attendees at the RANA Holi Hungama event on March 30, one of the largest Holi events in the Bay Area.

The JV Girls Basketball team participated in the Hardwood Classic, an annual tournament of JV teams all across the bay area, winning third place. The Varsity team earned similar acclaim by placing first at Wine Valley Tournament. Seniors Nikita Dhaliwal and Elias Khamisy from the Wrestling team qualified for state-level California Interscholastic Federation championships, having to first place within the top ranks at respective NCS championships in order to be eligible for state. Dhaliwal plans to continue wrestling in college, having been accepted into Menlo College’s nationally ranked wrestling program. The turnout at MSJ’s 44th Annual Wrestling Invitational Tournament was lower than usual, with 374 wrestlers versus 2017’s 400, because it was scheduled between finals and other large tournaments. PHOTOS BY THE SMOKE SIGNAL ARCHIVES, COURTESY NIKITA DHALIWAL


The annual Performing Arts Gala, “Around the World in 25 Years,” featured entertaining musical performances and stunning decorations. Read the Smoke Signal’s online coverage of the gala.


Two seniors from the Speech team won three finalist awards at Tournament of Champions, the first three in the history of MSJ Speech. Find out more about the rest of the teams’ performance online.



2 News

The Smoke Signal

Friday, June 7, 2019

Kids Against Hunger gives back to help the community Local volunteers pack more than 14,000 meals to feed the hungry By Anisa Kundu & Sabrina Wu Staff Writers More than 150 volunteers arrived at Bridges Community Church on the rainy morning of Sunday, May 19 to help pack meals for the less fortunate. The event was a joint effort between the Kids Against Hunger (KAH) Fremont chapter, MSJ KAH, and the Bridges Community Church’s Impact Day team that served to impassion the community to combat hunger. With a line of attendees winding around the church, KAH Fremont and MSJ KAH had more than enough help to pack a total of 14,000 meals. Donning hairnets and equipped with hand sanitizer, volunteers organized themselves into seven assembly-lines inside the church’s gym. One of

the tasks was to portion nutrient-rich dehydrated food into plastic meal bags to ensure its freshness and longevity. Other volunteers weighed meals and assembled packing boxes to prepare a portion of the meals to be delivered to Mexican orphanages. Staying true to KAH’s mission to serve its immediate community, the remaining food packages were distributed to local food banks. This packing event marks KAH Fremont’s second event since its founding in February of this year. According to MSJ KAH Founder and President Sophomore Ashley Wong, the event’s success was a product of two months of planning and coordination with the Bridges Community Church’s Impact Day team. These Impact Days provide a platform for local charities like the Tri-City Food Bank to plan community events

Volunteers form an assembly line to package rice, vegetables, and vitamin powder into plastic bags.

MSJ KAH officers and members welcome volunteers to the packing event.

that give back to Fremont’s homeless and needy population. KAH Fremont Founder Alice Wong echoed this sentiment, sharing her chapter’s mission to feed starving children by educating local students on world hunger, encouraging involvement in meal-packing events, and partnering with humanitarian organizations worldwide. While the MSJ branch of KAH is not yet an official club on campus, Wong is working with her officer team to legitimize their organization by recruiting MSJ students to attend their events. She was inspired to start the MSJ branch after attending a KAH Bay Area packing event in Pleasanton with her family. Wong said, “I saw how many lives were changing for the better and how many kids we were feeding, so I thought, ‘Why not start one here so we can impact tens of thousands more lives per event?’” The MSJ KAH officer team is currently working to plan future events and to

expand their organization’s presence on campus. Many attendees, including a number of MSJ students, expressed their continued interest in KAH and its positive impact. Freshman Ethan Yuan said, “We’re all doing one thing together, working towards one goal, and I think that brings us a lot closer together.” As of now, MSJ KAH is looking forward to the five upcoming packing and fundraising events in local elementary schools that they have planned. Wong hopes to continue to “plant the seed in every student’s heart to reaffirm the importance of looking beyond themselves,” and to help event attendees understand the impact they have made on the homeless population in Fremont. Public Relations Officer Aria Prahlad said, “It’s just really cool to see that so many people are interested and dedicated to helping other people.” ▪


Speech stirs audience’s emotions at annual showcase Showcase featured performances ranging across a variety of subjects, from immigration to gun control By Sabrina Cai & Gokul Ramapriyan Staff Writers After a year of competitions, practices, and late nights, the Speech team gathered at their ninth annual showcase for a final performance. The showcase, which took place on May 19, included performances from Captain Senior Samir Banerjee, Seniors Rahul Iyer and Aparajita Pathak, Juniors Ayush Agarwal, Aalaya Wudaru, Kriti Vajjhula, Rohini Singh, Krish Kothari, and Swetha Naidu, and Sophomore Tavish Mohanti. Act I of the two-part showcase featured Vajjhula and Agarwal, who performed a Duo Interpretation, a performance where partners are not allowed to touch or make eye contact. “The Big Sick” discussed the pressures faced by Kumail, the son of Pakistani immigrants, in regards to arranged marriages. Next was “A Tale of Two Americas,” an Original Interpretation by Wudaru, which illustrated the racism that South Asian immigrants faced after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A Dramatic Interpretation by Iyer, “The Drone Eats With Me” by Atef Abu Saif, revolved around the brutality that civilians had to endure during Gaza drone attacks. His performance displayed the lost of trust in humanity by a war victim and left the

audience in tears. An Original Prose and Poetry performance by Mohanti, titled “Harvard Bound,” addressed the stigmas and pressure put on students to get into prestigious colleges. His comedic performance left the audience in hysterics. To wrap up Act I, Pathak and Naidu’s Duo Interpretation portrayed the heartwrenching struggle of two sisters attempting to find closure while their abusive father was in a coma. Act II opened with a Duo Interpretation by Iyer and Banerjee called “The Music Never Stopped” on how a father used music to reconnect with his son after an accident impaired his memory. Agarwal’s Program Oral Interpretation, a performance that includes both drama and poetry, satirized the idea of arming teachers in order to prevent school gun violence. The light-hearted jokes juxtaposed against the heavy topic made his speech meaningful. Singh then performed Rupi Kaur’s spoken word titled, “I’m Taking My Body Back,” which described her recovery process after an instance of rape and how it changed her definition of “home.” Following Singh’s performance, Kothari was given two minutes to prepare a five minute Impromptu speech on the Environmental Protection Agency. He spoke with eloquence

Performers dedicate flowers to the people that most impacted their speech experiences.

and poise that was well-received by the audience. To conclude the showcase, Banerjee returned to perform a Humorous Interpretation regarding differing political views on gay marriage. The constant innuendos and impressive sound effects left the audience in tears of laughter. To cap off the night, each performer lined up on stage and dedicated a flower to the person that had most impacted their speech journey. Banerjee said, “It’s really cool to see that the students are no longer living up to the


‘Mission expectation’ of doing things for trophies ... but developing the intrinsic value of communication and education, and that’s why I joined Speech.” The entire team then dedicated a flower to their coach, Brandon Stewart, who won “Coach of the Year” in their competitive league. Stewart said, “Of the four years I have been coaching [here], this is the best we’ve ever done ... we [won] sweepstakes at the Tournament of Champions, and that’s a testament to hundreds of hours the team has put in.” ▪


for the April 18, 2019 issue News Page 2: Rally was called Youth Voices are the Future. News Page 2: Nicolás Maduro is misspelled. Centerspread Page 10: Laura Savio’s plant should be sunflower. Centerspread Page 10: Coraline is misspelled. Centerspread Page 10: Forrest Gump is misspelled. Centerspread Page 11: Chick-fil-A is misspelled. Centerspread Page 11: Descendants of the Sun is misspelled. Centerspread Page 12: University of Oregon is misspelled. Sports Page 14: Sportsbytes compiled by Staff Writers Thomas Chen & Anika Arora. Sports Page 14: Vinit Majmudar is misspelled. Special Page 17: 43.0% of 10th graders reported having consumed alcohol in their lifetime. Graphics Page 20: Jun-Ho Lee is misspelled.



Compiled by Aria Lakhmani, Sabrina Wu & Jessica Xu Staff Writers The city will fund a Tree Advisory Committee to promote the planned urban forest.

Fremont Receives Forestry Programs

Grant Hundreds of demonstrators marched to the Alabama Capitol to protest the state’s newly approved abortion ban.

for Alabama Passes Strictest Abortion Bill in the Country The City of Fremont announced Alabama passed the country’s most on May 11 that it had received a restrictive abortion law, which criminalcombined $1.2 million from Urban izes the procedure, on May 15. Accord& Community Forestry Proposition ing to the new law, any woman who 68 grants and donations. The city obtains an abortion in Alabama or travplans to use the money to plant 250 els to another state with the intent of trees in the next two years and cre- getting an abortion will face 99 years in ate an “urban forest” by 2060. It will prison, and any doctor in Alabama who also start educational programs to performs the procedure will also face property owners and tree contrac- 99 years in prison. Other states have tors how to better maintain trees. In also passed the Heartbeat Bill, which total, the city will catalog more than deems abortions illegal as soon as the 70,000 trees in Fremont. fetus’ heartbeat can be detected. Same-sex marriage supporters shout during a parliament vote, outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

Taiwan Passes Bill Decriminalizing Same-Sex Marriage On May 17, Taiwan approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. The decision comes a week off of a two-year deadline set in 2017 that pushed the Taiwanese parliament to revise a law that defined marriage as exclusive to man and woman. Director of Amnesty International Taiwan Annie Huang said, “This is a moment to cherish and celebrate, but it has been a long and arduous campaign for Taiwan to become the first in Asia to legalize samesex marriage.”


Friday, June 7, 2019

The Smoke Signal


Opinion 3




Every year, the Smoke Signal invites the student body to express their views through guest graphic opinions. Below is a selection of the submissions we received.



are tech giants really helping innovation and entrepreneurship? By Josephine Chew & Shreya Srinivasan Staff Writers

Google 's History of Monopolization How the search engine took over the Internet and why you should care

Originally, Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google as a computing software that would organize search results. According to NetMarketShare in the past year, Google now vastly outcompetes other search engines and encompasses 75.49% of the market share while its counterparts like Yahoo! and Bing occupy 3.33% and 8.24% respectively. Since its conception, Google has expanded past solely search engine capabilities to encompass productivity (Google Drive), entertainment (YouTube), communication (Gmail), and much more. Their mobile operating system, Android, now tops the smartphone market due to its affordable pricing, favored even over Apple. While Google is known to sponsor innovation challenges and projects like Google Fiber and Waymo, its market monopoly is still dangerous for both entrepreneurs and consumers alike. As stated by The Guardian, startups have a hard time receiving funding and support since investors assume large companies like Google will displace them regardless. All this information has given Google a vast amount of control. Consumers are prey to targeted ads selected by Google’s amalgamate data of users’ recent searches and access to their locations. With so much information at its fingertips, Google has the ability to expand at a near unstoppable rate and stamp out competitors before their ideas even gain traction. In the future, it would do users good to be aware of what kind of information they’re handing out and limit it for their own safety and privacy.

Founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, Amazon started out as an online bookstore and snowballed into the colossal marketplace it is today. According to an Adeptmind survey, nearly half of US Internet users started product searches on Amazon in 2018, bypassing traditional search engines like Google. However, while it may be convenient for shoppers to buy all their goods from one site, this kind of streamlined spending leaves thousands of smaller corporations struggling to stay afloat. Many respond by paying to join Amazon Marketplace, a platform for third party sellers, but even then, Amazon tends to favor its own products with higher search result placement — even when cheaper options are available. The giant also has a history of slashing prices to undercut competitors. In 2009, the growing company Quidsi, which ran, turned down Amazon’s offer to buy the firm. Amazon retaliated by dropping its own diaper prices to the point where it was losing money and by honing in on baby supplies with a new platform, Amazon Mom. Amazon’s strategy, in fact, has always been to sacrifice short-term profit in favor of enhanced customer experience and inflated market shares. Because of its vast wealth, Amazon could afford to temporarily distort prices and squeeze Quidsi into submission — in 2010, the company sold out to Amazon. In essence, Amazon’s expansion and predatory pricing raise questions about the tech industry’s ability to facilitate a market in which smaller sellers can survive and compete.

Since its humble beginnings in a Harvard University

. dorm room 15 years ago, Facebook has burgeoned

into the world’s most popular social network, with more than two billion monthly active users. Along the way, the company aggressively acquired firms like WhatsApp and Instagram while continually expanding the main site’s features to include everything from Stories and News Feed to Fundraisers and Marketplace. Facebook began as a small startup, like any other company, and it radically transformed how we interact with each other. Ironically, now that it’s grown so big, it squashes out startups before they even have a chance to take root — top investors interviewed by The Washington Post affirmed that they often turn down pitches from entrepreneurs over concern that Facebook will simply copy their designs. With its massive user base, Facebook gains greater inertia as it appropriates ideas, which may leave little incentive for startups to build innovative products and even less incentive for vital investors to endorse them. For example, Facebook used its subsidiary Onavo to track consumers’ app usage until just a few months ago. Once Facebook determined what was popular, it could quickly designate a team of engineers to construct a similar service for its own app — or, in the case of WhatsApp, to purchase and eliminate the competitor. Healthy competition enforces accountability, as companies strive to build the best products, and consumers choose among various services. By aggregating power and obstructing opponents, Facebook sidesteps this accountability.

graphics by,, beverly center, search engine roundtable, & wikimedia commons

4 Opinion

The Smoke Signal

Friday, June 7, 2019

Behind the Oscars

Should traditional films and streaming originals be treated equally in the awards season?

After the Netflix original Roma took home three of the company’s four Oscars this year, director Steven Spielberg set out to bar all streaming services from winning Academy Awards. In an attempt to block services like Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu from receiving awards, Spielberg is petitioning to extend the theater window for all award-eligible movies from one to four weeks, making it harder for streaming services to qualify. Though the movies aren’t distributed conventionally, making them ineligible for awards diminishes their artistic value and the significance of streaming services in modern day media.

The accessibility of streaming services gives people the opportunity to enjoy new releases at the same time, provides access to movies for people who cannot afford going to the theaters or don’t live near one. Spielberg considers movies from streaming services to be “TV movies,” ones that should only be eligible for Emmys and not Academy Awards. Supposedly, these films don’t deserve consideration since they are primarily watched at home and shouldn’t be able to compete with theater-released films. For instance, Netflix screened Roma for a week in a handful of indie theaters in order to meet the award requirements, while other films nominated at the Academy Awards ran for four or more weeks in theaters. Spielberg said, “I don’t believe that films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.” Similarly, director Christopher Nolan described Netflix’s strategy of having films simulta-

By Anika Arora & Aria Lakhmani Staff Writers neously streamed and released “mindless” original movie Bird Box reached 80 million and an “untenable model.” Even though member households within the first four they are not screened in theaters, most of weeks of its release. With so many people these movies often display exemplary cin- watching original content from streaming ematography and adhere to a wide variety services, it is only fair that filmmakers are of technical skill levels that Oscar nominees recognized for their talents through award require. nominations. Streaming services provide an accessible Streaming services are also relevant in way to watch movies without going to a our community. Many students are unable theater, which is what people sign up for in to fit the movie-going experience into their the first place. Movies are movies, and the busy schedule, and streaming services proplatform that they are released on should vide a way for them to still enjoy films. Adplay no factor in whether they are consid- ditionally, according to 24/7 Wall St., the ered suitable for an Academy Award. Spiel- price of movie tickets has risen steadily over berg’s opposition also stems from the fear the past decade. Seeing multiple films each that the at-home viewing experience will month can be quite costly, making streambecome the norm over theatrical showings. ing platforms more convenient anyway. For However, movie attendance has been stable people who aren’t able to afford tickets over the years, and according to ComScore, but still enjoy watching films, a Netflix or 2018 was the highest domestic box office Hulu subscription is a cheaper alternative. A year on record. While streaming services are single movie ticket costs around eight dolmeant to be more convenient than going to lars, while a basic subscription on Netflix the theaters, there will always be people who is around nine dollars a month. These benenjoy the traditional movie-going experience. A movie shouldn’t have to be screened in theaters to be recognized for its artistic elements. Streaming services have a large significance in modern media distribution. The accessibility of streaming services gives people the opportunity to enjoy new releases at the same time, provides access to movies for people who cannot afford going to the theaters or don’t live near one, and offers a platform for smaller directors that other big studios wouldn’t offer. In addition, according to CBNC, Netflix “serves about 100 million hours of video per day, earning an estimated 10 percent of all time spent in front of the TV in the US,” and the Netflix

efits allow the media to touch many more people than if it were exclusively shown in theaters, and the filmmakers deserve to be recognized for their talents through being nominated for awards. If filmmakers aren’t rewarded for their artistic talent, they may stop working with streaming services, leading to less production of smaller films that deserve to be spotlighted. Movies created by streaming services do shift away from the normal movie experience, but the massive reach of streaming services, the support of smaller and more diverse films, and the excellent quality of the films justifies the recognition streaming services get through awards. Though Spielberg may want the movie-going experience to remain the norm, the goal of creating media should be to touch the widest possible audience, and streaming services are facilitating that through the accessibility they provide, which should be applauded rather than condemned. ▪

graphics editor lucia li

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Smoke Signal

The Smoke Signal Mission San Jose High School Est. 1964 Vol. 54, No. 9 | June 7, 2019

toshali's take

vic ki’s voice

Self-fulfilling prophecies

Confidence is not arrogance By Toshali Goel 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 2043 students EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Amy Chen, Jonathan Ko NEWS Gloria Chang, Joelle Chuang OPINION Toshali Goel, Vicki Xu FEATURE Kikue Higuchi, Maggie Zhao CENTERSPREAD Karen Li, Kelly Yang A&E Stephanie Dutra, Shray Vaidya SPORTS Hannah Chou, Michael Ren GRAPHICS Evangeline Chang, Lucia Li WEB Rishi Chillara, Shiantel Chiang TECH Tylor Wu, Jennifer Xiang BUSINESS Ian Hsu CIRCULATION Jonathan Liu ADVERTISING Katherine Guo, Shreya Sridhar EVENTS Anisa Kundu, Sahana Sridhar SPECIAL PROJECTS Riya Chopra WRITERS & PHOTOGRAPHERS Anika Arora, Sabrina Cai, Thomas Chen, Josephine Chew, Alisha Chhangani, Sreetama Chowdhury, Christine Dong, Kimberly Huang, Samir Jain, Aria Lakhmani, Seong Jin (Ian) Park, Carolyn Qian, Gokul Ramapriyan, Yusuf Rasheed, Monisha Saxena, Meera Sehgal, Shreya Srinivasan, Mingjia Wang, Gregory Wu, Sabrina Wu, Jessica Xu, Selina 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

It’s a familiar scene — tests are being handed back, and a cacophony of disheartened groans and relieved sighs fills the room. “How’d you do?” I hear someone ask my neighbor. “Not too bad, actually!” she replies. The shift is immediate — rolling eyes and muttered breaths meet her response. How dare she not at least claim to have failed like we all do? I’m equally guilty of this, of wondering why people felt the need to “flaunt” their smarts to the rest of the class. Why couldn’t they keep it to themselves, and only join in on the conversation when they had something negative to say about themselves? It’s as that phrase goes. If you have something nice to say, don’t. We have a strange aversion to being nice to ourselves. This mentality is born out of our inability to distinguish confidence and pride in accomplishments from arrogance. Even taking a compliment well instead of shying away or retaliating with “No, you!” can feel rude and self-absorbed. But confidence fundamentally differs from arrogance in that it implies a certain degree of humility, an acknowledgement that the success we have reached is not the culmination of solely our own efforts. Confidence does not overemphasize our own importance in reaching those heights as overconfidence does. Having a justified, level-headed idea of our own worth is not a sign of conceit, but rather one of confidence and maturity. Furthermore, this fixation on self-

Opinion 5

By Vicki Xu Opinion Editor deprecation and excessive humility creates a negative outlook on selfconfidence. It breeds a culture in which people feel obliged to be overly negative and insecure in their own worth, regardless of how they actually feel. Afraid of sounding cocky, students downplay their achievements and often shy away from acknowledging them. At the very least, this mindset subscribes to a culture founded on dishonesty and apprehension, driving people to act as though they are indifferent or even ashamed of their successes. People become afraid to be proud of themselves, fearful of projecting egotistical behavior. And at its worst, this mentality heightens self-doubt, convincing individuals that their accomplishments are unworthy of mention. Feeling compelled to undersell ourselves, we can often internalize the rhetoric we parrot to others. We in turn convince ourselves that our confidence is overreaching, that we must have done poorly. The unhealthy stigma born out of equating confidence with arrogance only harms people in the long run by either building self-doubt and unnecessary timidity or forcing accomplished individuals to hide behind a façade of forced fragility. We need to work towards becoming a community that celebrates with people at their triumphs, not one that encourages people to hide them behind a falsified wall of shame. ▪

When I made my college list almost a year ago, school community and culture was high on my set of priorities. After a couple of emotionally tumultuous teenage years, I wanted my college experience and communities to nurture my mental health and personal growth, not throw the two off a cliff. I especially wanted an environment low on competitiveness and backstabbing — a nonsnakey environment. The topic cropped up again as I was trying to choose between colleges to go to. “Don’t go to School X,” people told me, “it has snakey people.” “Don’t go to School Y, everyone’s concerned about studying their lives away.” “Don’t go to School Z, it’s Mission 2.0.” Just to make sure, I spoke to the students at each school. I mostly expected stereotype confirmation. Instead, I generally got the same answer: yes, suchand-such culture exists, but ultimately whether or not to take part is up to me. Many people at any given institution fit neatly into the institution’s stereotypes, but many others didn’t, and I could pretty much find my niche anywhere, provided I was willing to look. Any institution, from schools to programs to workplaces, is a distinct cross-section of the human population. That is to say, people are happy, sad, wholesome, or two-faced anywhere. Institutions develop reputations based on their makeup, but much of this is also hearsay that grows and grows by itself. I say this because “I’m gearing up for [insert stereotype]” is such a common refrain among MSJ kids as they willingly

step into their programs, colleges, whatever. Sure, your experience will be like that if you seek out similar people in college to the ones you were friends with in high school. If you go in consciously picking out the similarities between MSJ and the institution you’re attending, of course that comparison sticks in your mind (see: selffulfilling prophecy). But what I learned from talking to alumni, most of whom have branched beyond the narrow MSJstudent conception, is that you’ll only find that environment if you search for it and if you don’t, it’s very easy to avoid. And just because this is my last Smoke Signal column ever, I just wanted to add: MSJ has a reputation for being hard, heavily academic, and a little bit snakey. Not false. The level of obsessing over grades and other quantitative aspects of life was decidedly awful. However, while there are definitely snakes, I’ve also forged some of my greatest friendships with the loveliest students in this school. Communities with people I valued, respected, and loved were great support systems when times got rough, and being around them gave me incredible memories (shoutout to the Smoke Signal!). I overlooked the importance of having a social life in my quality of life during my first two years here, but paying more attention to communities and friendships in junior and senior year made my experiences immeasurably better than they would’ve been. So choose your people. You do have control over your high school/ college experience (and all your experiences thereafter) — focus on what matters. ▪

The Opinion of the Smoke Signal Editorial Board

Your failure is not your future



e Te

, 10

Ali ci

keeps us from going to College and becoming Happy. The central issue with this mindset is that it is far too dependent on external events. It is, for better or for worse, an accepted fact that when a student doesn’t do well on a test, they will be Sad, and when they get into College, they will be Happy. However, the idea that happiness or sadness is a function of certain events happening to an individual, has been disproved over and over. Numerous studies have failed to show any effect of money, social status, and other external factors on happiness. At the end of the day, no matter what happens to you, no matter what you win or lose, you still have to come back to yourself. There are many paths to happiness, but one thing is certain: it will not come from temporary external conditions. So the next time you go through a particularly awful exam, a rejection from a summer program, or a bad day, remember: you will be okay. Failure is not the requiem for your future and certainly not your happiness. No matter what happens around you or to you, you will remain the same person; and if at the end of the day, you can be happy with what remains, then you will be okay. And if there’s one thing the Editorial Board has learned in our years of learning and growing in our little suburban bubble, it’s this: MSJ students are resilient. We have absolute faith that no matter what you face, you will stand tall and weather the storm, one day emerging to find your own version of true happiness. ▪

“Although both systems have their benefits and drawbacks, I think the junior high system is more effective. Not only does this system allow students to choose their own classes, it introduces them to the block schedule or period scheduling for high school that middle school does not. Furthermore, junior high schools typically combine students from a variety of elementary schools which creates a new environment for students to interact socially. Students have the opportunity to interact with students whom they have not grown up with.”

“I think that a junior high school is much more effective than middle school. You are influenced greatly and everything changes when you transition from elementary school. A sixth grader isn’t ready for that. Middle school and junior high school is usually when the behavior problems act up and kids are influenced by others to skip school, not do homework, etc.”

Wa lt e

Tearful faces. Grieving families. Wails of despair. An outsider would be forgiven for assuming they were looking at the aftermath of some natural disaster. But to us MSJ students, it’s just another Tuesday, with yet another class left reeling after some naturally disastrous math test. A well-known symptom of MSJ’s disillusionment surrounding academics and extracurriculars is the sense that every failure is a catastrophic one: every misbubbled answer, forgotten homework assignment, or failed quiz is a death sentence for our futures. The roots of this behavior include a vast array of cultural problems, from generational gaps between parents and children, to grade-based measures of self-worth, to overall poor mental health. But look beneath the surface and you will find a single common thread: our community thinks high school is far more important than it actually is. The logic touted by parents and students alike goes something like this: a student’s performance in high school determines which college they go to, which determines their career path, which determines how successful they will be in life, which ultimately determines how Happy they will be. And so, we get freshmen who think getting a B in Honors Biology is the end of the world, and juniors who think getting a 3 on an AP test means that their career is doomed. Everything we put ourselves through — the unreasonable goals and life-consuming challenges — is supposedly justified by College. Because when we get into College, we will finally be Happy, and all of our suffering will have been worth it. In fact, not only should we push ourselves to our limits, we should continue to overextend ourselves when we fail. We respond to failure by staying up later, denying ourselves of social lives, and sacrificing our health, because each misstep

Middle School Conversion


ng, 11 Wo

acie Li, 9 Gr

“I believe that the middle school system is more effective. In the last few years, Mission has been implementing accelerated programs and changing whole curriculums for the science classes. The main goal is just to bring Mission area students up to par with those of other areas in terms of “academic knowledge”. In reality, the problem stems from the late start Mission students receive. We essentially waste sixth grade because we spend it in elementary school, a place lacking the proper resources and teachers to teach the curriculum that continues through to high school. Implementing the middle school system gives our students an extra year of structured learning, allowing them more options in terms of the classes they want to take and the pace they want it at.” photos by staff writers ian park & gregory wu

f=arewell arewell to mr larsen

6 Feature

The Smoke Signal

Friday, June 7, 2019

By Shiantel Chiang Web Editor

photo by graphics editor evangeline chang

Principal Zack Larsen arrived at MSJ in 2007 and has served as the principal since 2013. He was the assistant principal in his first year, the vice principal for five years, and finally, the principal for the last six years. On July 1, 2019, Larsen will be leaving to serve as the FUSD Director of Secondary Education, in which he will oversee all the secondary schools in the district. According to Larsen, in the 2006-07 school year, there were over fifty 5150’s, or cases of temporary psychiatric commitment of individuals who present a danger of harming themselves. When he arrived the next year, he helped work with Stanford’s Challenge Success, surveying MSJ students in an effort to improve students’ mental health. Science Teacher Sai Kumar said, “His positive and open-minded approach towards all students is very inspiring. On several occasions, I have seen him rise to

the occasion and treat all requests from colleagues or students with sincerity.” In addition to student wellness, Larsen is proud of the new courses that have since been added during his time here, such as Women’s Studies, AP World History, and AP Environmental Science. He is also proud of the landscaping improvements on campus. He said, “When I started here, there were wide patches of dirt and weeds. The corner of Mission and Palm looked like it was abandoned, and we’ve done all of that [landscaping] work with donated money — it didn’t touch funds that would’ve otherwise gone to student needs.” Throughout his twelve years of working here, Larsen is consistently impressed with the students every year, whether it was the various musical performances, the diversity of clubs on campus, or even weekend events such as Prom.

Working with the Principal’s Advisory Committee and talking to students in his office about their experiences helps him constantly keep in touch with students’ opinions and interests. Sophomore Mahek Bhora said, “Being a part of the Principal's Advisory Committee was a really valuable way Mr. Larsen allowed us as students to have a greater impact on the school. I'm thankful he was kind and always willing to lend us an ear if we ever had anything to say, whether it be big or small.” In making decisions with the staff, Larsen prioritizes what is data-proven to be beneficial to students. He said, “Always seek the opinion of the students with everything you do. You may have to make a decision that’s not popular with the students, but ... kids are smart and they can understand why a decision is made if they’re part of it.” Moving forward, as FUSD Director of Secondary Education, Larsen will be involved in the Middle School Conversions

Project, which will convert the five junior high schools, which are currently 7th to 8th grade, into middle schools that will be 6th to 8th grade. He will also work with the FUSD Instructional Services Division to evaluate what different school sites need for student support, such as supporting foster youth and English-Language Learners. Just as he has advocated improving mental health at MSJ, he will continue upholding student wellness for all the FUSD schools. Larsen said, “It’s very bittersweet, and I struggled with the decision to apply for the new job a lot ... I don’t look back with any regret for having made the decision, but I know that when I look back at all the different jobs I’ve had, this one will be the most fulfilling. ▪

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Friday, June 7, 2019

The Smoke Signal

Feature 7


PAU L TA G LIA N ET T I By Alisha Chhangani, Sahana Sridhar & Gregory Wu Staff Writers


Pursuing a career in the film industry as a visual effects producer and coordinator, Digital Photography Teacher Paul Taglianetti has worked on several notable feature films, including The Matrix, Demolition Man, Failure to Launch, and Zookeeper. In all of these roles, Taglianetti coordinated the work of the digital and visual effects teams to sculpt the film’s visual effects.


Taglianetti began his career after attending film school at Emerson College. He said, “I’ve always known that [filmmaking] was what I wanted to do, ever since I was a kid. I watched a lot of movies growing up, so I had an interest at an early age,” regarding his passion for the film industry. Taglianetti noted that while others had dreams of pursuing other careers, he was always heavily invested in film. After working in Boston for a few years, he moved to Los Angeles in 1991 to work in the Hollywood film industry.


With The Matrix, a film known for its groundbreaking effects, Taglianetti produced a camera rig for the bullet time effect and worked with the studios to oversee all visual effects and post-production. He also was in charge of transporting the crew and camera equipment to Australia, where The Matrix was shot. In total, he spent around 14 months on the project, creating about 600 visual effects. One of the most notable scenes, the “bullet dodge scene,” where a character bends over backwards to avoid multiple bullets on a rooftop, took just over one year to complete.

Taglianetti (right) on set for Clear and Present Danger with actor Harrison Ford (left) and VFX Supervisor Robert Grasmere (center)


While working on set, Taglianetti had the opportunity to meet multiple influential people, including Debra Hill, a famous producer and screenwriter who is credited for working on over 32 films and shows including World Trade Center and CableAce nominee TV series Rebel Highway. Taglianetti saw her as his mentor as he said, “Watching her work was so inspiring because she taught me that if you work hard and don’t take no for an answer, you can make it in the industry.” Taglianetti also remembers meeting Harrison Ford, most known for playing Han Solo on the Star Wars series, and John Carpenter who directed the original Halloween.


Taglianetti decided to pursue teaching while attending graduate school and taught a college-level class at Idyllwild Arts Academy. He said, “I taught a class on visual effects and decided I liked it. It’s very different from film, for one the hours were less long and it gave you the opportunity to pass on what you’ve learned from your experiences.” He then decided that the film industry was not for him anymore and pursued the field of education instead. At MSJ, Taglianetti has been teaching Digital Photography and Digital Imaging for two years.

Taglianetti and actor Casper Van Dien


He advises any students interested in pursuing a career in the film industry to be sure they are passionate enough to fully commit to it. Taglianetti said, “It can be a brutal industry and demands a lot of you. When I was on Zookeeper, I had worked anywhere from 16 to 17 hours a day." He also mentioned that in order for students to be successful in the field, they need to keep their composure, and said, “Try to be thorough and compassionate and humane, and keep your dignity.” If there was one thing he could tell his high school self, Taglianetti would urge himself to focus solely on one discipline and develop it.

Blowing up a miniature helicopter for Charlie Wilson's War on a sound stage

photos courtesy paul taglianetti, graphic courtesy

senior wills

8 Feature

The Smoke Signal

Friday, June 7, 2019

By Katherine Guo, Jonathan Liu & Tylor Wu Staff Writers

As the school year draws to a close, seniors will be moving on to the next chapter of their lives. Having gained much wisdom from experiences unique to both themselves and MSJ, they have left their legacies in a collection of senior wills, some of their final thoughts about and dedications to the MSJ community.

I, Emeline Tu, bequeath. . . the legacy of the MSJ Band low brass section to Pramodya and Lucia. I have the utmost faith that they will lead the section to victory next season, and contribute to the success of the band as a whole. In order to fully receive this honor, MSJ Band must place at the 2019 Santa Cruz Band Review. If the conditions are not met, this will is void.

I, kimberly chen, bequeath. . . to all those who remain at MSJ after me the liberty and right to choose for themselves their own paths in life. Contrary to Asian beliefs, you don’t always HAVE to listen to your parents. Sometimes, you know what’s better for yourself. To Samantha Teng, be a good kid. Work hard, and don’t play too hard! Your big sister loves you or whatever. You’ve been good to me.

I, jeffrey fang, bequeath. . .

the Kung Fu airband to Daniella. In addition I would like to bestow my killer dance moves and the legacy of the Campus Committee to Lucas Chang.

I, Shayan Panjwani, bequeath. . .

my meager estate to the future generations of Mission: First, I give you all my 4 years of homecoming experience. It’s my hope that you build on this experience, and make something that you’re proud to call your own, as I am with 2019. Finally, to you all, I give my best coping mechanism, the one word that will assist you more than anything else: “MATTERS”. Because only once you realize the context in which your actions truly matter (or don’t matter), then you can ease the burden on yourself. Best of luck.

I, amy chen, bequeath. . .

the uncomfortable plastic backroom chair and my renowned chair stealing abilities to Shray Vaidya, weekly Saturday night rehearsals and shenanigans to Anita Sun, my last minute studying abilities to Carina Yuen, my love of white sneakers to Shawn Gao, and my eternal quest to form a winning Mock Trial team to Riya Chopra.

I, Pearl feng, bequeath. . .

all my swimsuits, caps, and goggles to the girls swim team so that they go to practice more often. The Jolyns will be for those who have stomachs as white as the moon, and the one-pieces for those who want the worst tans possible.

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Friday, June 7, 2019

The Smoke Signal

Arts & Entertainment 9

C R I T I C S’ C O R N E R MusiC: broncho, tyler, the creator | Film: pokemon detective pikachu, the sun is also a star

Under the radar

Music review

Detective Pikachu Was Made for the Fans


tyler, the creator

By Shreya Sridhar Staff Writer Hailing from Norman, OK, small-town indie rock band BRONCHO is anything but average. Formed in 2010, members Ryan Lindsey, Nathan Price, Ben King, and Penny Pitchlynn quickly put out their debut album Can’t Get Past the Lips, which NPR ranked on its best albums list in 2011. Deriving inspiration from the Ramones, BRONCHO’s songs are reminiscent of 1980s punk rock. Over nine years, the band has evolved, with each of its four albums more mainstream than the next. Whether it’s the upbeat Can’t Get Past the Lips or the more seductive Bad Behavior, each album holds uniquely memorable songs. Many TV shows, movies, and commercials have employed BRONCHO’s songs in their soundtracks. A Fabletics commercial, an episode from the Santa Clarita Diet, and the movie Vacation incorporated “Class Historian” from the 2014 album Just Enough Hip to Be Woman into their soundtrack while HBO used “It’s On” in its commercials multiple times. With more than 30 songs under their belt, BRONCHO shows no signs of slowing down. Each song’s uniquely catchy beat and eccentric lyrics offer 70s-and-80s-like music infused with current pop elements. Bringing band geeks and pop fans together, BRONCHO is continually expanding its fanbase. The band aims to create an auditory art piece with each album by infusing elements from different genres of music. ▪

By Gregory Wu Staff Writer An hour before Tyler, The Creator’s sixth studio album, IGOR, released, he posted a note to fans on his Twitter account: “DONT GO INTO THIS EXPECTING A RAP ALBUM. DONT GO INTO THIS EXPECTING ANY ALBUM. JUST GO, JUMP INTO IT.” For an album shrouded in mystery, with small snippets released over a period of two weeks prior, the note served as a warning to fans looking to compare it to the apper’s previous work. True to his word, IGOR is strikingly unique, blurring the lines between R&B, rap, and soul — a breakthrough in the evolution of his own vocals. Although it borrows elements from Flower Boy and Cherry Bomb, both previous albums, Tyler manages to create a whole different sound — one filled with loud, obnoxious distortion and soothing piano chords all at once. Leading up to IGOR’s release, multiple minute-long snippets began to pop up on the rapper’s social media accounts. They offered short insights into Tyler’s new aesthetic for the album, featuring blonde wigs and bright clothing. This weirdness carries over into the structure of each song, where it’s difficult to tell when one song ends and the next begins. The result is an album that feels and acts like a cohesive unit, with Tyler’s voice as an impressive centerpiece. His singing voice, often autotuned and pitched upwards to generate hauntingly beautiful hooks and bridges, takes playtime away from Tyler’s signature rapping, a big adjustment for the renowned wordsmith. Backing up Tyler’s vocals are his self-produced instrumentals, blending together delicate synths and drum samples. Although the drums are outfitted with heavy distortion and static, they end up benefiting the overall sound. Despite the blaring 808s and aggressive rapping on “WHAT’S GOOD,” the atmosphere is never too chaotic. Halfway through the song, the tone switches with a soft set of piano chords, then delves back into hard-hitting bass and drum layers. Multiple other tracks feature this morphing song structure, alternating between gentle and aggressive melodies to keep listeners on their toes. The most surprising difference IGOR brings to the table is the content of its lyrics. In a distinctive shift from Tyler’s past themes of loneliness and aggression, the album focuses on a single overaching theme: the experience of being in love. The album traces the experience of falling in love, questioning the relationship, and finally coming to terms with a breakup. Although the love story is far from unique, Tyler does a solid job converting it into lyrics, with the exception of a few verses using very basic imagery and wordplay. This simple language is the result of a more experimental sound, and with far less rapping, Tyler has opted to evolve musically. Overall, IGOR is a step in the right direction for Tyler, The Creator, a rapper who started his career on chaotic beats and shocking lyrical content. Like Tyler said in his note, the album is impossible to classify under any genre, and for the time being, is an innovative project that just might be his best piece of work yet. ▪

G a m e By t e s astrologaster By Monisha Saxena Staff Writer overall:3.5/5

Astrologaster is a story-driven comedy game from the developer Nyamyam. Set in the Elizabethan era, it follows Simon Foreman, a doctor who uses star signs and potions rather than modern medicine. to treat patients Although the concept is unique and well-executed, the actual gameplay is limited. The game is available on iOS and Steam for $4.99 and $9.99 respectively.

By Kimberly Huang Staff Writer Pokémon Detective Pikachu, Pokémon’s newest live-action entry directed by Rob Letterman, hit theaters on May 10 with sky-high expectations. Loosely based on a Nintendo game of the same name, the movie follows Tim (Justice Smith), a young insurance salesman who has lost his childhood dream of becoming a Pokémon Trainer, as he is pulled into the mystery of his father’s disappearance alongside a Pikachu only he can understand. Detective Pikachu is a movie clearly meant to appeal to the generations of people who spent their childhoods with the Pokémon franchise — and, as it turns out, it pulls it off. The merits of Detective Pikachu were obvious the minute the movie was announced. Besides the Pokémon, the movie’s greatest selling point is Pikachu’s voice actor Ryan Reynolds, who takes on the role with his unique comedic flair. Reynolds’ comic relief combined with his genuine, heartwarming performance truly makes his character come to life as Tim’s partner Pokémon. In addition, Smith makes up for his decidedly lackluster performance in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom with several heartrendingly emotional scenes as Tim in Detective

Pikachu. The movie’s humor, doled out in spades by Reynolds with his slightly inappropriate but self-aware style, occasionally falls flat but draws chuckles from the audience most of the time. Unfortunately, the hard work of the film’s two lead actors and humor are brutally weighed down by the movie’s worst attribute: a painfully predictable, linear storyline. The story jumps from objective to objective as though Detective Pikachu never made the full crossover from game to movie, and twists can be predicted from miles away. Some scenes in the movie overuse CGI and do little to progress the story, taking up valuable time that could have been better used. Detective Pikachu is also subject to sudden tonal shifts from emotion to action and back again, which proves disorienting and adds to the rushed feeling of the movie. Furthermore, the movie starts to flag on its premise starting in the second half. It succeeds in creating the atmosphere of a noir mystery in the shadowy urban setting of Ryme City, but loses that same charm in the action-filled second half. Furthermore, Pokémon fans might find one complaint: while somewhat understandable due to the laws of Ryme City, the movie has few of the showy Pokémon battles that charac-

terize the Pokémon franchise. Overall, as a standalone movie, Detective Pikachu is at best average. However, despite a slew of issues, Detective Pikachu gets the most important part right. What makes a Pokémon movie is the Pokémon, and Ryme City, built with painstaking attention to detail, brilliantly capitalizes on people’s childhood fantasies. The CGI critters — which are themselves beautifully rendered — are seamlessly incorporated into every part of the movie, from Growlithe walking alongside policemen to Pidgeotto soaring over the streets. Character cameos and musical motifs from the games only add to the sense of nostalgia and wonder that Detective Pikachu invokes in longtime fans with its worldbuilding. To be clear, Pokémon Detective Pikachu has a lot of issues, but problems aside, it does what it set out to do. Detective Pikachu doesn’t even need an engaging plot — all it needed to do was bring to life the world of Pokémon and humans living side by side. The imagination of the viewers, who spent their childhoods on a Nintendo DS in the back of cars or under covers, can do the rest. ▪ Rating: B

The Sun Is Also a Star: Substance Under Cheesy Romance

storyline: 5/5

Set in 16th century London, the story follows a doctor who uses astrological star signs to help his patients with medical and personal problems. Each of the patients has a unique story; and the testimonies of different characters intertwine and form complex narratives The attention to detail in the creation of the story leads to a novel-like feel, as players literally flip pages to progress through the scenes. gameplay: 2/5

The only semblance of interactivity in the game is choosing which star-sign best matches the patient’s symptoms or personal disputes. Although the star-signs themselves are an interesting read, the constant dialogue and limited true gameplay reduce Astrologaster to a glorified visual novel. MUSIC: 5/5

The soundtrack consists of short, poem-like songs that precede each character’s introduction and describe their woes. Artfully crafted lyrics and a talented choir combine to create songs that thoroughly encapture the Renaissance-era mood of 1500s London. Subtle auditory cues such as a medieval lute riff follow the gameplay and add to the authenticity. ambience:3.5/5

The characters and backgrounds appear to be made out of paper to visually show the pages of a book coming to life. The outfits have meticulous detailing, such as hand-drawn designs on dresses distinct to each character. However, the backgrounds cycle between just three backdrops, all with muted colors, which makes the game feel repetitive. ▪

By Sabrina Cai Staff Writer The Sun Is Also a Star, directed by Ry Russo-Young, fulfills every hopeless romantic’s daydreams on what love truly is. The movie follows the typical cliche love-at-first-sight and meant-to-be romance story. However, despite this adolescent plotline, the movie touches on important issues such as cultural identity and parent-child relationship strains that all Gen-Z(ers) struggle with. Based on the 2016 young adult novel of the same name by Nicola Yoon, the movie follows Jamaican-born Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi) and Korean-American Daniel Bae (Charles Melton) and their “destined” love story. In the wake of Kingsley’s deportation back to Jamaica after an ICE raid, Bae has 24 hours to get Kingsley to fall in love with him and prove to her that fate does exist. Despite the unimpressive romance, the movie excels in its social commentary of our current political climate. Though lacking political terms, Kingsley’s deportation effec-

tively portrays real sense of threat. Despite efforts by multiple lawyers and government officials, gaining traction for a stay of removal, a temporary delay in a person’s deportation, is nearly impossible. This delivers the message that American immigration policy has long sacrificed its empathy for strict, inhumane regulation. In this case, the movie shies away from typical romantic comedies, showing that love may not be enough to save the day. This urgency adds a level of depth to the story that could otherwise not be achieved, making it all the more interesting to watch. Although the Trump administration is not named, its presence is ever-looming in the movie, shadowing Kingsley and Bae’s otherwise bright romance. Because the movie focuses on Kingsley’s plotline, Bae’s story is severely undercovered. In similar fashion to most model minority households, Bae bears the brunt of his immigrant parents’ dreams. His entire life he has disregarded his dream to be a poet, instead working to go to Dartmouth College to be a doctor. Bae’s struggle with his cultural iden-

tity has a lot of potential to explore the nuances and balance between living in two different cultures. Instead, the film merely acts as if Bae has a random awakening and uses this as a supplement to Kingsley’s plotline. The movie is ultimately carried by the chemistry between Shahidi and Melton. Despite their contrasting characters, their witty banter and humorous arguments only add to the film. Shahidi does an especially wonderful job of showing the tragedy and heartbreak of being taken away from your home. Although this movie does not transcend the romantic comedy genre, its acting certainly does. Due to the restrictions of film, the movie is unable to cover issues as deeply as the book. As a result, this movie is more suitable for those new to the story rather than avid fans of the book. Nonetheless, with a combination of cheesy romantic lines and relevant social commentary, The Sun Is Also a Star is a movie well-worth a watch. ▪

Rating: A

Rating: B+

10 Arts & Entertainment

The Smoke Signal

bear bitez


By Shreya Srinivasan & Jennifer Xiang Staff Writers

Bear Bitez, located at 5486 Central Ave., Newark, CA 94560, is a recently opened hamburger restaurant that serves, in its own words, “burgers, reimagined.” Their beef, chicken, or veggie burgers all incorporate a baked bun that completely surrounds the patty and toppings.

TASTE 4.5/5 Bear Bitez’s creative approach at burgers resembles a culinary fusion that is largely reminiscent of Middle Eastern food with an American twist. Though there aren’t very many new flavors to try, the execution is well-thought out and highly appetizing. The chips, in particular, stand out as unique, sharp bursts of flavor that incorporate unique spices like thyme. To say the ingredients are handmade and fresh is no exaggeration. Additionally, the food mercifully lacks the characteristic greasiness of other fast-food style restaurants.

Friday, June 7, 2019

VALUE 4/5 Each burger, regardless of type, is $8.99, which is reasonable at its size and number of toppings. However, it is a bit small for a meal and most people will probably not feel satisfied. A combo order of burger, chips, and drink comes out to $12.99, a bit pricey for lunch. Though both the burger and chips are made in-house, the additional costs of chips alone, at $2.99, and cookies, at $1.75, can add up over the order. As a spot to grab a quick lunch, the value is relatively reasonable — just don’t expect to feel especially full.

The restaurant is more suited for fast-food takeout than a sit-down meal, as is expected for a burger joint. The space is sparse, with only a few wall decals and brightly colored paint as decor. Food is brought out on metal plates and classic red-andwhite checkered liner paper. Moreover, there are only three tables, each with picnic-style benches and able to sit four to six people, and the order counter’s position leaves little space for customers to enjoy their meals. However, the fast food atmosphere works well with Bear Bitez’s theme of burgers reinvented.

SERVICE 5/5 The servers are friendly and accommodating, checking in frequently to make the experience as low maintenance as possible. They explained the process behind the food, which they work hard to make fresh every morning. There is no especially long wait time, and even in the case that one order takes longer than another, customers are warned beforehand and the orders are timed so plates are never empty. Overall, their involvement and care heightens the experience for customers and encourages familiarity. photos by staff writers shreya srinivasan & jennifer xiang, graphics by

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Smoke Signal

Centerspread 11

The Smoke Signal asked the senior officers for a letter as a farewell message to the entire Class of 2019, as well as the faculty for any words of wisdom and well wishes they would like to offer the senior class.


class of 2019

senior farewell letter Dear Class of 2019,

From the moment we stepped into William Hopkins Junior High School in seventh grade and met the people we were going to spend our next six years with, we all followed our passions to create a diverse class with multitudinous talents. We’ve gone far as a class, making unforgettable memories along the way. In the future, all of you should stay true to yourselves and continue doing what you love in college and beyond. There will be many upcoming hardships and obstacles, but every one of you has the unwavering support of the Class of 2019. Some highlights of our time together include Junior Prom and Hurricane Harbor, as well as Senior Sunrise, where everyone united at Old Mission Park and then went off to have a hearty breakfast before our last first day of high school. Finally, we had our unforgettable Homecoming wins, when everyone celebrated our hard work and enthusiasm, patting each other on the back and embracing the accomplishments we’ve made, together. Our class should be most proud of our unity and specifically, how all of us treat each other. The familial and encouraging vibes within our class allow us to have amazing conversations and relationships. Notably, everyone treats each other with kindness and respect. We, the senior officers, will forever cherish this united attitude.

The Class of 2019's future is more than bright; it is shimmering with the prospect of success. The strong work ethic we have gained through our time at MSJ will undoubtedly carry us into becoming revolutionary leaders. Utilizing the strong arsenal of strengths we have developed over the years will certainly help as we tackle the world’s problems with innovative solutions. Our class started off as eager freshmen, excited to become involved in our community with a fresh start. We each forged our own paths through the immense forest of high school. We took on challenges, worked through hardships, and savored the glory of a job well done. At unexpected times, our paths may have strayed apart or crossed over, but the breaking and rebuilding of relationships was a necessary part of the journey. We leave high school as stronger individuals, once again eager to take on the world.

Over our four years here at MSJ, we crafted a unique legacy, one that reflects the passion and dedication of our class, influencing the MSJ community. Learning from graduating classes before us allowed us to improve the experience for our class through exciting bonding and school events. In addition, combined with the immense teamwork between class members, we created a sense of unity and integration across all grades. We are extremely humbled and honored to have served as your 2018-19 senior class officers, and we can’t wait to see what everyone will accomplish in the future.

The reason that I’ve been doing this for 27 years is because of the interactions with the students. They’ve been really fun and interesting. Everyone has a story.

— Math Teacher Jan Frydendahl

"[Students] give me countless of hours of jokes and entertaining stories for my adult friends … Just being around young people makes me not only feel young, but also makes me very hopeful for what our future's going to be like."

— english teacher Elizabeth waller I want you to remember that ‘the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.’ As you move through life you will make plans, change plans, have plans fail, and have plans succeed. Through all of it, know that you will be okay … Welcome changes as opportunities to grow, to try something new, and then become a better version of yourself.

— English Teacher Tiffany Stelle My biggest piece of advice would be keeping an open mind about your future … You might have an idea; as long as it seems like a good and safe one, I think you should pursue it. And then also be willing to change your mind if you decide you don’t like it. So keep an open mind and start out with something that sounds interesting and exciting, for now.

— History Teacher Toby Remmers

Find balance and find something you really enjoy and follow that … sometimes the things you see as failures actually end up being very successful in your life. They help you grow, and you revisit them later and you find that you learned from that experience and you feel better about it … no matter what you do, college or just taking a break or some kind of career-oriented job, it has to be something you want to do, something you feel you will find some kind of satisfaction in.

— Art Teacher Edie Christensen

Senior Class Officers Tarun Devesetti, Jessica Wang, Anuja Konda, and Ishil Puri

Always keep a sense of curiosity. If you are open to learning, you can always continue to grow. Travel and explore the world. There is a lot to see and experience. Be kind to yourself and others; life is not always easy. Know that some of the toughest battles you will have to fight will be within yourself. But, you can win. When facing your fears, take a deep breath and take the first step. The rest will come easier. Laugh as much as you can - especially at yourself.

— Math Teacher Martin Kobylecky

photos by staff writers sreetama chowdhury, christine dong, kimberly huang, jessica xu & jennifer xiang

12 Centerspread

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in state


Vincent Pham Navdeep Sandhu Jacob Thuruthiyil Brian Yu

Friday, June 7, 2019

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Smoke Signal

Centerspread 13

CLASS OF 2019 Post-Graduation Plans out of state Compiled by Anika Arora, Sreetama Chowdhury, Christine Dong, Kimberly Huang, Jennifer Xiang & Jessica Xu Staff Writers

As the Class of 2019 prepares to leave MSJ, their diverse interests, personalities, and goals will influence their individual journeys. Some will go on to attend college or take a gap year, while others will immediately enter the workforce. To celebrate the Class of 2019’s post-graduation plans, the Smoke Signal visited every American Government and Economics class and compiled a voluntary list of graduating seniors’ future prospects. Note: This spread represents students who voluntarily submitted their forms by May 15, 2019.

UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN Sahil Gupta Manav Bhatia Tiffany Tan








SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY Britney Hu Kristen Loy CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF THE Julie Tran ARTS SAN FRANCISCO STATE Evangeline Chang UNIVERSITY Alexander Chen CALIFORNIA POLYTECHNIC Harris Habib STATE UNIVERSITY, SAN LUIS Madeline Ko Rachel Lin OBISPO O'Cyrus Taplin Gurshaan Lobana Alison Chan Advait Marathe Sneha Lakshminarayanan SAN JOSE STATE UNIVERSITY Jenny Miao Natalie Leung Ephreen Ahmed Christopher Pan Katherine Pan Jillian Barrameda Aadhithya Pillai Sonya Verma Arnav Bhattacharjee Ishil Puri Karina Wu Olivia Chakraborty Michael Ren Shannon Chen Amit Sant CHABOT COLLEGE Sunny Chen Aditya Singh Mona Lisa Lam Amit Chigurupati Larry Shi Sameer Hakim Brendan Shih CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY Jessica Hong Abhi Upadhyay Catherine Nguyen Isha Kalra Anay Wadhera Manveen Kaur-Anand Andrew H. Wang CSU CHICO Sharanya Kumar Cindy Wang Salymata Boury Samar Mohamed Jessica Wang Sagar Patil Enya Xing CSU FULLERTON Sachi Tolani Gloria Yang Soumya Bandreddi Anthony Zhou Matthew Cho SANTA CLARA UNIVERSITY Neha Annamalai UC DAVIS CSU LONG BEACH Kyle Leon Austin Chen Aaron Mendoza Annie Meng Michelle Huang Julia Lee Jonathan Stock Shaheen Khatua Cathy Yin Cindy Liu CSU MONTEREY BAY Joyce Lu Twamasi Ghosh SIERRA COLLEGE Zubayr Mohammad Donna Moon HUMBOLDT STATE UNIVERSITY Kaelan Macauley Ishani Pandya Evan Berlin STANFORD UNIVERSITY Nikki Sisodia Jonathan Ko Priya Talreja LOYOLA MARYMOUNT UNIVERSIAlan Wen TY UC BERKELEY Sanchi Kumar Aishwarya Bhutkar Amy Chen Annika Chen Kimberly Chen UC IRVINE Hannah Chou MENLO COLLEGE Edward Chang Joelle Chuang Nikita Dhaliwal Alvin Chen Anjan Das Anushka Cherian Alice Jessica Drozd OHLONE COLLEGE Shaun Chiang Karina Gadkari Nathaniel Cheng Richard Chong Aiza Gill Vinay Dharasker Jessica Chung Suprav Goswami Ishanjit Singh Gondara Rohit Ganti Yash Gupta Vaidehi Gupta Evangeline Gao Joy Halvorsen Alan Hwang Jonathan Khano Rahul Iyer Puja Kulkarni Kelvin Lam Aditya Krishnan Caitlin Lee Nitanya Manjunath Nathan Lai Emily Lee Timothy Mar Andrew Lam Matt Li Timothy Ng Drake Lin Esha Nair Justin Nguyen


Rithvik Ravikumar Amy Ren Laura Savio Mingjia Wang Ethan Wong Jessie Yang David Zhu Donghyun Koo UC MERCED Benjamin Chen Neharika Makam Supratik Nandi Thea Sarino Priya Vyas UC RIVERSIDE Diya Anand Michael Bettencourt Katricia Dakin Dhruvi Faria Alisa Gadkari Anthony Gao Salman Hakim Ankita Hooda Kaitlin Hsu Jack Huang Winnie Huang Rahul Katwala Trini Leung Sarah Mughal Rayyaan Mustafa Kevin Nguyen Meghna Okhade Girija Prabhu Timothy San Prickett Diane Shan Aneesh Sharma Lucas Shaw Jonathan Shih Shivali Soin Dylan Tonthat Dylan Tran Ananya Verma

Kyano Voong Roy Wu Jason Yang UC SAN DIEGO Shiantel Chiang Arunav Gupta Siddharth Nag Apurv Prabhakar Anika Sharma Thiviya Sri Indran UC SANTA BARBARA Pranav Acharya Flora Chang Abhiram Devata Jianing Fan Delvin Huang Juana Li Saurabh Narain Nicholas Ong Navdeep Sandhu Shibu Shelat Emeline Tu Arjun Vinod UC SANTA CRUZ Pamela Casipe Karan Kumar Khushi Shah Annie Zhang UCLA Adelpha Chan Meichen Chen Harrison Chou Ashley Fang Benjamin Feng Aarushi Gupta Samir Jain Brittany Tran

Bethany Woo Anna Wu Michelle Xie Robert Yang Austin Yu UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO Sophie Lee UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO Raphael Pallikunnath

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA Gloria Chang Lucas Min Huang Evonne Lin Anshuman Patnaik Amanda Zhang Maggie Zhao UNIVERSITY OF THE PACIFIC Ben Lee Gabrielle Nguyen

ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY Nataraj Datta Ted Hu Ryan H. Lee Patrick Lu Dipti Mahamuni Shriya Rana Anthony Ray BAYLOR UNIVERSITY Anisha Acharya BOSTON UNIVERSITY Kasi Ganesh Sarah Liao Pooja Shah BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY Sarah Hu BROWN UNIVERSITY Sidarth Raman CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY Clarissa Liang Shayan Panjwani Kriya Ramkumar Ronuk Ray

Ronuk Ray Selena Sui Sunny Sun Ashley Wang Emily Zhang Erin Zhu CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY Muthuraman Nallappan Anoushka Paranjape Shreya Ramani Ana Ren COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY Thomas Chen Kanav Kalucha Nidhi Kanchumarthi CORNELL UNIVERSITY Jessica Feng Alisa Luu Rahul Rangarajan Nathan Zheng EASTMAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC Jonas Koh DARTMOUTH COLLEGE Ian Hsu EMERSON COLLEGE Aayush Bajpai GONZAGA UNIVERSITY Taylor Cooper





TUFTS UNIVERSITY Thalia Lightstone




UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO Ishan Maunder Katherine Miao


UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN Shreya Kumar Eswar Sivakumar Yucong Yang


WELLESLEY COLLEGE Toshali Goel Katherine Guo Shreya Kochar


UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN Amogh Alayasomayajula Pranshu Chaturvedi OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY Ziyu Cui Michael Chang Swapnil Dhar Neeti Dhomse PARSONS SCHOOL OF DESIGN Stephanie Dutra Simon Zhang Tiffany Ho Jason Kita PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVER- Benjamin Lam SITY Jeffrey Lin Elias Khamisy Jessie Peng Aryan Raut Henrik Tseng Andy Wang PRINCETON UNIVERSITY Samantha Wang Andrew R. Chen Daniel Wu Claire Zhang PURDUE UNIVERSITY Rishi Chillara UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, Jeffrey Fang COLLEGE PARK Pearl Feng Madhumita Kumar Daniel Nguyen Anirudh Rao UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUNatasha Rao SETTS IN AMHERST Satabdiya Roy Mathew Han Anirudh Seela Shruti Janardhanan Hardhi Shringeri Sapna Parihar Raunak Srivastava Sashank Rao Alan Zeng Navya Ravavarapu

gap year Taylor Kennedy Karthik Tangirala

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class of 2019

photos courtesy the smoke signal archives

Friday, June 7, 2019

Friday, June 7, 2019 The Smoke Signal

college artists By Josephine Chew, Katherine Guo, Jonathan Liu & Mingjia Wang Staff Writers

MSJ is home to countless artists, musicians, designers, and more — going forward, many of them will be building careers in areas they are intensely passionate about. We’ve interviewed six dedicated seniors pursuing the arts and featured them below, providing a reflection on their creative experiences and what they have planned for the future.

With 11 years of violin experience and a longtime love for playing in orchestra, Jade Zhang will pursue a dual degree in Physics and Violin Performance at Northwestern University. Looking back on her musical path, she cites her junior high orchestra conductor, Gregory Conway, as one of her first inspirations — since then, she’s been interested in becoming a conductor and influencing more kids like herself. She also looks up to her Golden State Youth Orchestra conductor, Dr. Jindong Cai, and Band Director Monica Kraft. Over the years, Zhang’s violin-playing evolved from a hobby into a passion that touches all areas of her life. Whether she’s dancing or doing math, she’s been able to apply the same principles she uses with her violin: identifying obstacles, pinpointing ways to improve, and implementing those changes. To those considering careers in the arts, she said, “If you really like it, then just keep doing it — go further and see if this is something you really want to pursue a career in.”

jessica hsu

evonne lin

For Quinlan Barrie; music has always been a large part of his life; he has played percussion since fourth grade. As Barrie prepares to study music composition at Ithaca College this fall, he reminisces about his long and rewarding musical journey. He said, “I started composing when I was about 14, 15, and I wasn’t very good.”. Although he was uncertain at first, his growing passion steered him in the direction of a musical career. Barrie said, “I learned more about composition, I have some family friends who are composers, and I also took AP Music Theory here, and that’s really been confirming my desire to be a composer.” In the future, Barrie hopes to compose music for all sorts of ensembles or work as a college professor, spreading the joy of music. “Music just makes you feel certain things about the world. It’s made me more open-minded, and more interested in enjoying life and enjoying new things,” Barrie said.

Despite playing percussion for nine years, Jonas Koh wasn’t sure he would pursue a career in music until last year. While he initially picked up percussion due to its intuitive nature, the road since hasn’t always been easy. Koh said, “If I were to say, maybe five years ago, that I wanted to pursue music as a career, [my parents] would’ve laughed at me because I wasn’t good enough to become a musician.” But years of practice helped him sharpen his craft. This fall, Koh plans to attend the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, one of the top music institutions in the world. After college, Koh hopes to perform with a professional orchestra. He said, “The San Francisco Symphony is probably one of my top goals,” but he remains flexible and is eager to see where his musical path takes him in college and beyond.

evangeline chang

jade zhang

Jessica Hsu has been drawing since she was a little kid, but she only started to seriously pursue an art career at the end of sophomore year. Since then, she’s taken AP Studio Art, devoted dozens of hours to drawing in her free time, and taken art classes outside of school to cultivate her skills. Along the way, the open and accepting attitude of her circle of art friends also helped her blossom into a more creative, outspoken, and confident person. Even though she might not always feel like she’s improving as an artist, she said, “You’re always going to be growing ... You’re not going to notice it, but don’t compare yourself with others, or else you’ll slow down.” Besides her teachers and close art friends, Hsu finds much of her inspiration online, in the work of animators, directors, and other artists. She will study illustration at the ArtCenter College of Design and looks forward to working in the entertainment and design industries.

Having started her piano studies at the age of five, music has been a large factor in Evonne Lin’s life. She cites her older sister, who is also a music major, as one of her main inspirations. Since then, she has demonstrated her love and talent for music not only through numerous competition accolades and prestigious masterclass invitations, but also through her dedication to the community. As President of MSJ Impromptu and Co-President of the Music Teachers Association of California Southern Alameda County Branch Music Students’ Service League, Lin has organized and participated in many benefit concerts for local organizations and retirement homes. She said “one of the most rewarding things about music is that, at the end of the concerts, they [senior citizens] tell you how much they enjoyed your playing and that they hope you come back.” Lin will be majoring in Piano Performance at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music and is considering a minor in occupational sciences, where she hopes to use music to aid in occupational therapy.

quinlan barrie

Arts & Entertainment 15

jonas koh

For Evangeline Chang, art is a passion that knows no bounds. Between managing her art account on Instagram and serving as the Smoke Signal’s graphics editor for two years, Chang is constantly cultivating her artistic skills, experimenting with new techniques and interacting with active members of the art community. After exploring different art genres throughout high school, Chang became fascinated with character animation from the works of animators like Pendleton Ward, Rebecca Sugar, and Natasha Allegri. Through these artists, she found her passion for storytelling through art. Next year, Chang will be studying character animation at the California Institute of the Arts, where she will be able to participate in a variety of interactive film projects among a supportive community of aspiring artists like herself.

photos by josephine chew & jonathan liu, graphics by,,,,,

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TEACHER PLAYLISTS By Yusuf Rasheed & Meera Sehgal Staff Writers

Arts & Entertainment and Sports 17

Have you ever wondered what song your physics teacher was humming during your final? Luckily for you, the Smoke Signal released a Google Form asking MSJ teachers to pick songs and albums that fit the categories of “Guilty Pleasures,” “Lazy Afternoon,” “Throwback Classics,” “Confidence Boost,” and “5 Albums on a Deserted Island.” Of the 13 teachers who responded, four were chosen to be interviewed in-depth about why they chose each of the songs and albums. Read below to get an inside scoop on what type of music your favorite teachers listen to.



“As far as Nas goes, I’ve always really been into East Coast hip-hop. And it started my freshman year at Mission actually. One of my really good friends, John, he was a huge Nas fan, so he kinda introduced me to Nas, and Illmatic is one of the best hip-hop albums of all time. It really got me into hiphop, so that was kinda like my favorite song off the album.” — Social Science Teacher Spenser Peterson Special Education Teacher Tai Chung: “It’s Gonna Be Me” by *NSYNC Math and Computer Science Teacher Michael Jan: “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys

“‘The Grudge’ from Tool is an extremely loud heavy metal song with a 27-second long scream in it, supposedly the guy got it from stubbing his toe and recorded it and put it in the song. I don’t know, that could all be myth, because the guy is super weird. It’s a song that comes into my head when I’m out rock climbing and it kind of keeps me focused, energizes me, and builds self confidence in a scary situation.” — English and Social Science Teacher Jess McCauley English Teacher Christy Lee: “Show Stopper” by Danity Kane English Teacher John Boegman: “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson



“With the James Blunt songs I selected, I’ve seen him in concert four times, I’ve actually met him, and my friends and I are sort of in one of his videos ... I can’t remember which song it is, but it’s from 2008 and he was doing the video for that song — when he does his concerts he takes pictures of the audience the whole time and so he did a compilation of his audiences in that video and half of me and my friends are in the video like three times, it’s kind of cool to watch the video and say ‘Here we are!’.” — Math and Social Science Teacher Kim Mathis


Spanish Teacher Sra. Evans: “Hotel California” by Eagles English Teacher Sandra Cohen: “Feels So Good” by Chuck Mangione Social Science Teacher Nancy Benton: “Always On Time” by Ja Rule ft. Ashanti

“[U2]’s my favorite band, and I don’t know if [“With Or Without You”] is my favorite song, but it’s a really good ballad.” — Science Teacher Peter Geschke Science Teacher Lisa Ishimine: “Line Of Sight” by ODESZA, WYNNE, Mansionair Math Teacher Freddy Saldaña: “Easy” by Commodores

Check out playlists of every teacher’s submissions here: photos by staff writers yusuf rasheed & meera sehgal

Badminton places 2nd but loses first place streak By Thomas Chen Staff Writer season. However, Badminton Coach Andrew Ting does not believe that this is a sign of decline. He said, “We are [still] a dominant force even though we dropped a few games. As far as NCS goes we had nothing to prove. Our only focus was to come out and do our best.”

“We are [still] a dominant force even though we dropped a few games. As far as NCS goes we had nothing to prove. Our only focus was to come out and do our best.” — badminton coach andrew ting

Junior Eric Duong lunges for a net drop in nail-biting first game.

MSJ Badminton placed second at the Badminton NCS tournament on May 11, placing first in the Boys Singles and Girls Doubles events and second in the Boys Doubles and Girls Singles events. The result marks an end to a 15 year first-place-streak that MSJ has maintained each year at NCS. Captain Junior Alexander Zheng, ranked 7th nationally in Under 19 Boys, Freshman Emily Han, ranked 8th nationally in Under 15 Girls, Junior Eric Duong, ranked 20th nationally in Under 17 Boys, and Junior Jacqueline Zhang, ranked 15th nationally in Under 17 Girls, were among those who played for MSJ. MSJ fought hard for each point, reacting in

a split second to rush to the incoming shuttle and hit it back. When the opportunity presented itself, they leaped up and smashed the shuttle downwards over the net towards the opponent’s side of the court. A fraction of a second later, the shuttle would hit the ground, earning MSJ players the point. Zheng and Senior David Zhu, who played Boys Doubles together, earned many points in this manner, earning their reputation as one of the most formidable pairs at the tournament. Duong, who played Boys Singles, had many trickshots in store for his opponent, using fast wrist movements to cross the shuttle when it looked like he would hit a straight shot or hitting

the shuttle under his legs to close out his first game.

“As we continue to get new players, it’s hard for us to pass down that family environment we used to have and that contributes to a different kind of atmosphere for the team as a whole. [The team should feel as] a unit instead of a bunch of players going to the same school” — badminton coach andrew ting

This year was also the first time in 15 years MSJ lost a game in MVAL during the regular

The fact that MSJ didn’t place 1st in NCS doesn’t bother Ting. He said, “I believe that we won so much in the past that we lost the desire to continue to try and improve ourselves... Hopefully this lit a fire under everyone to keep going, and to a degree it has ... overall I think it was an important lesson for us as a team.” Despite trying their best, Badminton Coach Jason Han noted a few weaknesses the team had that cost them during the tournament and during the MVAL games, like poor serves and playing habits. The coaches hope to improve the commitment of players in coming years. Ting said, “As we continue to get new players, it’s hard for us to pass down that family environment we used to have and that contributes to a different kind of atmosphere for the team as a whole. [The team should feel as] a unit instead of a bunch of players going to the same school.” As for this season, Ting was satisfied with the players’ performance and effort. Ting said, “Even though [our run] came to an end this year [and] we had a few bumps along the way, with what they were able to do, we did just as well as we could have.” MSJ Badminton performed well at CIF, with Duong placing first in Boys Singles, Han placing first in Girls Singles, Junior Karina Chan and Freshman Andrew Liang placing second in Mixed Doubles, and Junior Cindy Zhang and Jacqueline Zhang placing fourth in Girls Doubles. ▪ photo by staff writer thomas chen

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Swimming faced some logistical hurdles early on. Because construction of the

pool was not completely finished until a few weeks into the season, the team had to resort to conducting dryland practices and commuting to different schools for practices and meets. Although the team lost many experienced swimmers, it was able to improve over the course of the season and finished off strong, with first-place swimmers in 39 out of 44 events at MVAL Championships. Looking forward, Swimming hopes to improve on dives and relay transitions. Notably, the team has grown closer, with swimmers of all levels and genders participating in team bonding events. Girls Captain Senior Pearl Feng said, “Because everyone tried to really come together, it made the season much more enjoyable.”

Sports 19

Baseball faced much adversity over the course of the season, with various injuries and personnel issues hindering their competitive success. Nonetheless, they grew as a team and ended the season with an overall record of 4-20. Captain Senior Apurv Prabhakar said, “I think the most notable thing is that our culture is changing. With our new coach and all the new talent we have, it’s becoming a better team and a much more fun program.” A disproportionate number of players suffered injuries this year, forcing the team to adapt to new roles in stressful situations. Prabhakar said, “We really had to rely on our depth. People stepped up to play positions they’d never played before, and we got through. I expect really great things out of this program in the future.”

Matthew Okino, 10 Katrina Trammel, 12 Softball had a rough season, experienc-

Spring Sports Recap

ing some tense defeats, but they continued to persevere and work hard, ending the season with Dylan Feng, 11 a record of 1-19. Members strove to improve both their individual skill sets and their team chemistry, and hours of practice culminated in an impressive victory against Irvington High School. Captain Senior Jenna Iwamiya said, “The team came together as a unit to beat Irvington. The plays were unforgettable.” Softball has also worked to strengthen the relationship between the upperclassmen and underclassmen on the team, with various seniors stepping up and exhibiting excellent leadership. Considering the future, Iwamiya said, “The team next year is going to be rough, but I believe that with enough practice they’ll be okay.”

Boys Golf initially had trouble communicating and organizing practices due to a new coaching staff and an influx of younger players, according to Captain Senior Alan Chen. Although their performance was not as strong as it had been in previous years, the team was able to move past these issues and take first place in MVAL, with Chen and Sophomore Ashwath Ekambaram taking first and second place in their individuals events respectively. In keeping with the tradition of the past few years, they ended their dual meets with a 3-1 record and had a strong showing at NCS, finishing tenth overall. While Chen was satisfied with Boys Golf’s overall performance, he hopes that the team will improve in the future.

Ashwath Ekambaram, 10

By Sreetama Chowdhury, Samir Jain & Jessica Xu Staff Writers

MSJ’s eight spring sports teams had an exciting season, with many teams winning MVAL championships or qualifying for NCS; the most successful even advanced to states. The Smoke Signal interviewed the captains of these teams about their overall experience as well as what they hope to accomplish for future seasons. Marianne Chuang, 9

Daniel Nguyen, 12 Track and Field won every league meet Boys Volleyball quickly learned how to work

together as a team despite having a lack of chemistry and motivation in the beginning of the season, according to Co-Caption Senior Austin Yu. The team had a similarly high performance as previous years, placing 3rd at both of their tournaments in the past season and qualifying for NCS. One of the most memorable moments for the team was defeating Moreau Catholic High School, who they lost to in their first meeting of the season. For future years, Yu said, “I hope we continue to be very strong in our focus on the fundamentals and get what we know to be perfect so we can try new and quicker plays.”

except one, matching their highly reputed performance from previous years. Despite experiencing greater difficulties in their postseason meets, the team overall had significantly more athletes join the team than last year. One of the challenges the team faced was a recent spate of shin and leg injuries. Captain Junior Jason Yun said, “We overcame this through more sufficient days of resting and rehabilitation and just learning to fight through the small pain to become a better athlete.” The team also improved both their strength and stamina for sprints and their attitude toward the rigor of the sport, increasing their commitment to offseason practices. Track and Field hopes to preserve the team’s legacy for future years and send even more than the eight individuals this year to the NCS Meet of Champions.

Boys Tennis quickly learned to work around the bad weather that impended their practices and went undefeated

this season. The team fortunately had a fair amount of veteran players who were able to help the team focus and practice harder when they could. The players also relied on each other’s energy and motivation to procure every win as a team and never questioned each other’s talents. The team reached quarterfinals of NCS, matching their high performance from previous seasons. Co-Captain Junior Ethan Suleman said, “I’m most proud of the fact that we were able to win MVAL even through some rough patches, and put out our best effort every day during the season.” Looking forward, the team hopes to secure an NCS championship and improve on their decision making to supplement their outstanding coach and talBadminton broke ent. their undefeated streak this

Caroline Tian, 12

Kishan Gande, 11

year, losing their first game in over a decade. Captain Junior Karina Chan said, “It was unfortunate, but it was really eye-opening for us and it motivated us to look at the bigger picture and see where we really stand.” Because of the addition of many new players this year, the team held many extra practices to map out the new athletes’ strengths and weaknesses. By the end of the season, Badminton came together as a cohesive unit, using their defeat against Irvington as fuel to propel them through the rest of their games. Chan said, “Bouncing back, we swept the next few tournaments, and we’re proud of the passion and motivation we got out of it.” photos courtesy,, news editor joelle chuang, the smoke signal archives & coastanoan yearbook

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Class of 2019

College Athletes By Ian Hsu, Ian Park & Yusuf Rasheed Staff Writers

Winnie Xu

Pomona College Senior Winnie Xu isn’t the orthodox athlete. Because MSJ does not offer diving and pole vaulting programs, Xu had to reach out to coaches from different schools to hone her skills, commuting to schools such as Stanford University to practice diving and Moreau Catholic High School for pole vaulting. She said, “I’m most proud of consistently making NCS every year for both diving and pole vault and consistently working hard even though it wasn’t easy, especially for me.” At Pomona College, Xu hopes to learn new diving techniques as well as improve her personal record in the pole vault by more than a foot.

Sidarth Raman Brown University

Since freshman year, Senior Sidarth Raman has been competing in the long jump, triple jump, and high jump events for the MSJ Track and Field team. Qualifying to the Arcadia and Stanford Invitationals and winning the triple jump and high jump at NCS Bayshore this year has made Raman excited to continue track and field at Brown University. He said, “I want to have fun and be part of a team in college. One goal I have in mind is to hit seven feet for the high jump.” In college, Raman hopes to maintain his balanced lifestyle by incorporating track into his everyday life.

Nidhi Kanchumarthi Columbia University

Senior Nidhi Kanchumarthi started archery lessons in eighth grade at a local archery range through Groupon. Her casual interest has now developed into one of her biggest passions. As a sophomore, she was selected to be part of the USA Archery Junior Dream Team, which comprises of 24 of the nation’s most promising young archers. At Columbia University, Kanchumarthi hopes to make the Collegiate Academic All-American Team, a group of ten outstanding archers who also display academic excellence. She said, “[Making the All-American Team] is definitely a goal for me. Columbia has a really strong archery program, and I know that Columbia will be able to take me there.”

Sports 21

Each year, the Smoke Signal interviews graduating MSJ seniors who will be playing collegiate sports. A Google Form was released to the senior class asking if there were any senior athletes who would like to be interviewed by the Smoke Signal. The story below features the six athletes who responded with their plans for college.

Shreya Ramani

Case Western Reserve University After beginning tennis when she was 10 years old, Shreya Ramani’s tennis skills have now allowed her to compete in national tournaments. Ramani credits her success with tennis to both constant training and conditioning, as she worked with an athletic trainer to improve her agility. Next fall, Ramani will play tennis at Case Western University, which has consistently ranked top 20 in national college tennis rankings. Ramani says that she plans to remain active throughout college by following a rigorous practice and fitness schedule. Following graduation, Ramani hopes to either pursue a graduate degree in biomedical engineering or to attend medical school.

Aaron Chen UC Berkeley

Aaron Chen first began playing golf at the age of eight, and since then he’s made his way up the leaderboards to become ranked as one of the top 9 golfers in the nation. After fielding athletic recruit offers from several different universities, Chen eventually decided to accept UC Berkeley’s offer of admission. Chen said, “I thought it provided a good balance in academics and athletics ... Also, the coaches were very personable and open to letting players participate in the major of their choice.” UC Berkeley’s golf program fluctuates among the top 10, and its players consistently advance to NCAA regionals every year. Following graduation from college, Chen is unsure about his plans but is considering playing professionally on the Professional Golfers’ Association of America.

Thao Luong Knox College

Thao Luong’s first year on the Varsity Girls Volleyball team as a sophomore motivated her to pursue playing volleyball at the collegiate level. With this goal in mind, Luong posted many videos of her performances on college recruitment websites and was contacted by multiple coaches. Luong had originally played basketball as her main sport for six years before her sophomore year, when she made the transition to volleyball. Luong is looking forward to the summer, where she will begin lifting and practicing with the Knox College team in preparation for the season which begins on August 30. After her undergraduate studies, Luong hopes to take up coaching volleyball at club and high school levels.

photos by staff writers ian hsu, ian park & yusuf rasheed graphics by,,,, &

22 Special

By Ian Park & Gregory Wu Staff Writers

The Smoke Signal

Friday, June 7, 2019

The third installment of the Smoke Signal’ s special coverage on substance abuse highlights various educational, counseling, and treatment services around the local community that help guide both MSJ students and their peers towards recovery. The MSJ administration works with Dr. Sonia F. Khan, M.D., a Fremont-based pediatrician, to provide students with educational presentations about the dangers of vaping. In addition to Khan’s services, the administration directs students to resources outside of school, such as the Tri-City Health Center and the City of Fremont Youth and Family Services, in the event that a student is struggling with substance abuse.

Moving Forward: COMMUNITY RESOURCES Tri-City health center The Tri-City Health Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center for students looking to recover from substance abuse. The center offers treatment to people regardless of whether they have health insurance or not. According to their website,, Tri-City Health provides an abundance of medical services, one of which includes substance use disorder treatment. In particular, the Teen Clinic provides treatment to patients ranging from 12 to 24 years old and keeps each session confidential from both the patient’s parents and the public. Similar to Fremont Youth and Family Services, students may be referred to Tri-City Health Center by their school counselor, or they can visit the Teen Clinic location at 1999 Mowry Ave. Suite N. Students can also reach them by calling 510770-8040.

Fremont Youth and Family Services

Fremont Youth and Family Services, a division of the Human Services Department of the City of Fremont, has been offering counseling services to children, youths, and their families for more than 30 years, providing emotional support and teaching practical skills to improve students’ academic, behavioral and social functioning. Youth and Family Services’ counselors conduct a comprehensive assessment of many different aspects of a student’s life before proceeding with interventions such as individual, family, and group counseling. Substance Use Disorder counselor Amie Sousa said, “Substance use treatment programs are really trying to provide psychoeducation and also intervention services for children and youth who have been identified … using substances.” Students or parents can reach out to Fremont Youth and Family Services or be connected through a school counselor or administrator, by calling 510-574-2100, or by visiting their office at 39155 Liberty St. Suite E500.

Dr. Sonia Khan Dr. Sonia F. Khan, M.D., is a pediatrician and the Vice-Chairman of the City of Fremont Human-Relations Commission and Medical Director of the Fremont Youth and Family Services. Khan has worked with the MSJ administration to provide educational presentations on the harms of vaping for a year. Khan has presented on substance use to all first-semester freshman health classes. In addition, she presents a monthly “VAPEChat” during advisory on every fourth Thursday of the month in B31 to give MSJ students up-to-date knowledge about the health effects of vaping. Khan’s presentations are available to all students, regardless of whether they are recovering from substance use or looking to learn more about vaping.

graphics by centerspread editor kelly yang

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Smoke Signal

Special 23

Rehabilitation starts with us By Aria Lakhmani & Jonathan Liu Staff Writers “Come on, try it. You won’t really get addicted. I’m fine, aren’t I? Besides, you’ll never really know how good it feels unless you try it once.” Fast-forward a few days, a few weeks, or a few months: it was meant to be a one-time thing, but now, it’s always on our mind. At this point, it’s just another stress relieving activity, like jogging or listening to music. We’ve normalized substance abuse as a coping mechanism to face the intense pressure of our community — but at what cost? When it comes to substance abuse, the promise of “feeling good” is extremely tempting, especially since many of us struggle with stress that comes from academic, intrapersonal, and interpersonal issues in our lives. It just takes one pill, one shot, or one puff to escape from these problems — or at least temporarily desensitize ourselves from them. Besides, how can drugs be that bad? It seems like everyone is exaggerating the consequences. These thoughts ease the concerns we developed from “Say No to Drugs” lectures like those in freshman-year Health class. Assurances like “you won’t really get addicted” initiate the cycle of substance abuse that ultimately leads to addiction. The surge of dopamine caused by drugs, e-cigarettes, and alcohol creates an artificial state of happiness and dulls our awareness to problems plaguing our lives. However appealing that may seem, repeated use begins to make our brain and body crave the drug to function properly. As a result, the onset and perpetuation of addiction may affect our relationship with friends and family, and the growing distance can feed right back into a vicious cycle which we use to forget the pains of social, familial, and academic problems. Addiction is also emotionally, physically, and financially draining, and although users may not feel or recognize that pressure yet, the consequences are inevitable. Our normalization of substance abuse and belief that “it’s not a big deal” leads to failure in recognizing these consequences.

Every time we hear our peers express their positive experiences with drugs, e-cigarettes, or alcohol, the promise of “feeling good” blindsides us from the inevitable detriment to our health. Following this trend of normalization is a stigma around rehabilitation — the negative connotation of the word prevents substance users from receiving effective assistance even if they are able to recognize the adverse effects of substance abuse. An anonymous student wrote in the Smoke Signal’s MSJ Substance Use Survey, “People cannot talk to teachers/anyone about this problem without fear of getting caught and having severe disciplinary consequences, not to mention the social consequences as they will be labeled as ‘the kid who had drug problems.” Associating outreach with retribution leaves us in a limbo: many would prefer dealing with occasional headaches, nausea, and other side effects of drugs than face suspension or expulsion.

According to the results of the Smoke Signal’s MSJ Substance Abuse Policies and Services Survey, 61% of the 41 respondents are aware of the substance abuse policies, citing consequences such as suspension, but 100% of these respondents were not aware of any substance abuse counseling or rehabilitation services offered to the MSJ community. Our low receptiveness to and lack of awareness about local rehabilitation and counseling services make the short-term consequences seem more bearable than going through the trouble to get help. However, what we often forget is that addiction is an issue that youth and adults struggle with alike, and although personally acknowledging addiction is a significant step in the path toward rehabilitation, outside assistance is often crucial to help overcome

the substantial number of challenges that lie ahead. There are a number of rehabilitative resources available to students at MSJ and in Fremont to combat addiction. MSJ has been working with Dr. Sonia F. Khan, M.D., a Fremont-based pediatric physician, to provide open educational presentations to students about the dangers of vaping every advisory. Attending these presentations can be helpful in recognizing substance abuse symptoms and making an informed decision when presented with drugs. Outside of MSJ, Fremont Youth and Family Services, a branch of The City of Fremont Human Services Department, specifically focuses on aiding adolescents with issues like substance abuse and mental health disorders. The Tri-City Health Center’s Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program is another resource available to people overcoming addiction. MAT is accessible to people without insurance, and the program offers services such as addiction screening, diagnosis, and treatment to overcome substance abuse. By being aware of these rehabilitation services available to us, we can recognize symptoms of addiction and help ourselves and our peers get help when needed. Substance abuse is a deeply entrenched issue that isn’t solvable overnight, but by helping ourselves and our peers, we can take steps toward combating it. We can start tackling the root cause of substance abuse in our community. By shifting our conversations away from detailing positive experiences with drugs and towards discussions about the various rehabilitation services our community provides, we can work towards encouraging students to reach out for help regarding substance abuse. ▪

Graphic Opinons By Carolyn Qian & Sabrina Wu Staff Writers

layout & coverage led by a&e editors stephanie dutra & shray vaidya & sports editors hannah chou & michael ren & web editors shiantel chiang & rishi chillara. graphics by staff writers carolyn qian & sabrina wu,

24 Photo

The Smoke Signal

Friday, June 7, 2019

by Lucia Li & Gokul Ramapriyan Graphics Editor & Staff Writer

MSJ’s “City of Lights” combined Junior and Senior Prom was held from 7 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 18 at the San Francisco City Hall. Attendees enjoyed a beverage stand, catered dinner, and a chocolate fountain while roaming City Hall’s grand premises. Music thundered from the speakers in the Rotunda, and attendees danced and moshed at the base of the ornate Grand Staircase. One of the dining halls featured karaoke where friends sang together. To take a break from the entertainment, students went to the second floor to appreciate the detailed architecture or marvel at the view of the ballroom from above. The sumptuous venue coupled with the convivial atmosphere to create a night full of joyous memories.

photos by graphics editor lucia li & staff writer gokul ramapriyan, photo courtesy, graphics by

Profile for The Smoke Signal

Volume LIV, No. 9  

Volume LIV, No. 9  


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