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Volume 64 • Issue 2 • November 2019 • McLean High School • thehighlandernews.com • @MHSHighlander


Check out the highlander Website for more news! Marine Bio club makes waves Michelle Cheng Students take part in spreading awareness and activism for the protection of marine life and ecosystems. Using posters and social media, they’re working to inform students of the environmental danger.

McLean varsity football team shut out on Senior Night Kaan Kocabal & Paarth Soni The McLean football team lost 42-0 to WashingtonLiberty on Nov. 1. They are hoping to make a comeback in their last game of the season against Langley.

Abby Criswell speaks at Best Buddies Friendship Walk Aleena Gul Junior Abby Criswell delivered the opening speech at the Best Buddies Friendship Walk in D.C. on Oct. 19. Her speech reflected the positive feelings she gets from being in Best Buddies.

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Letter from the editors

Dear McLean, It is undeniable that our classrooms look different this year because of the FCPSOn program. Each student now has access to a personal laptop, and it’s changing the face of education in Fairfax County. While the $50 fee has annoyed some students who do not need the county laptops, technology is now more accessible to everyone in the classroom. The full range of impacts of this cutting edge program are yet to be seen, but teaching and learning are already being transformed. Paper and pencil note taking has largely vanished and been replaced by online activities. Whether or not the new technology-based learning method is effective is up for debate as students and teachers adjust to the influx of technology. This issue of The Highlander investigates the effects of the FCPSOn program we’ve seen so far and explores what the future of education at McLean will look like. Enjoy! Yours truly, Nicholas Lohman, Ava Rotondo & Dasha Makarishcheva

Editorial policy:

The Highlander is a designated public forum in which students can express themselves, discuss issues and exchange ideas. School officials do not exercise prior review on this publication or its online counterpart, and student editors are in charge of all final content decisions.

Advertising policy: The Highlander sells ad space on each page of the magazine except on the front cover, opinions section and in-depth article. The staff reserves the right to reject any ads it deems libelous, obscene, disruptive or otherwise inappropriate.

contents 28-29

4-5 7 8-9 10

Combating Intolerance fights stereotypes

11 12 13 14 15 17

Students give back at Share of McLean


FCPS removes straws Election update: Democratic candidates The impeachment process explained

McLean’s thankful staff The Highlander’s job interview tips Ways to be eco-friendly Johana Mejia adapts to McLean 10 Qs w/ Lawrence Letkiewicz Highlanders of the Issue: Volunteer firefighters JJ Rieger & Max Wohlschegel


Puppy pals visit McLean


McLean students answer silly controversial questions

To submit a letter to the editors:

Please email it to thehighlanderstaff@gmail.com or bring it to room R133. The staff reserves the right to edit letters for grammar and clarity, and all letters are subject to laws concerning obscenity, libel, privacy and disruption of the school process. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


on the cover


A DIGITAL ERA: A look into the FCPSOn initiative

Cover illustration by Dasha Makarishcheva

The Highlander newsmagazine Volume 64 | Issue 2 NOVEMber 2019


McLean High School 1633 Davidson Road McLean, Virginia 22101 thehighlandernews.com | @MHSHighlander

Editors-in-Chief: Nicholas Lohman & Ava Rotondo Design/Website Editor-in-Chief: Dasha Makarishcheva Managing Editors: Ben Brooks, Dana Edson, Sebastian Jimenez, Jessica Opsahl-Ong, Rebeka Rafi & Jack Shields Copy Editors:

28-29 30 31 32-33 34 35 36-37 38

You Can’t Take It With You preview Artist Spotlight: Ivy Sun iPhone 11 review Food Fight: Açaí bowls

Editorial: More tolerance for religious holidays Dangers of the College Board Cancel culture should be cancelled College athletes deserve pay

News Editors:

Zach Anderson Addie Brown Emily Jackson

Addie Brown Cordelia Lawton Marina Qu


Features Editors:

Skye Sunderhauf


Maya Amman Emily Jackson Dua Mobin Katie Romhilt

Digital Media Editors:

Michelle Cheng Elizabeth Humphreys Isaac Lamoreaux

Jackson Clayton Arin Kang Dasha Makarishcheva Jayne Ogilvie-Russell Zach Anderson Erica Bass

Opinions Editors: Erica Bass Heran Essayas Kyle Hawley


Andy Chung Kaan Kocabal Taylor Olson Marina Qu

Sports Editors:

Advertising/Circulation Manager: Rebeka Rafi

39 41 42 43 44

Field hockey sister duo Girls wrestling breaks stereotypes Seniors swim to success Athlete of the Issue: Nicole Mallus Finish Line: fall & winter athletes

‘17 Pacemaker Winner; ‘14, ‘16, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19 ‘15, ‘19 Pacemaker Finalist; George H. Gallup Award; ‘15, ‘17, ‘18 All-American; ‘15 International ‘12, ‘13, ‘14, ‘16 First Class; First Place Hall of Fame

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‘00, ‘18, ‘19 First Amendment Press Freedom Award

‘19 Crown Finalist; ‘14, ‘15, ‘16, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19 ‘17, ‘18 Silver Crown VHSL Trophy Class; Winner; ‘11, ‘12 First Place Winner; VHSL Savedge Award ‘15, ‘16 Gold Crown Winner ‘05, ‘07, ‘12, ‘13, ‘14, ‘15, ‘16, ‘17, ‘18 CSPA Gold Medalist

Social Media Managers: Erica Bass Sydney Langston Assistant

Noah Barnes Saisha Dani Ariana Elahi Emily Friedman Arnav Gupta Ana Paula Ibarraran Maddie Kocher Athena Le Ally Liu Thomas Lohman Emily Mance Shruthi Manimaran Swetha Manimaran

A&E Editors:


Josh Bass Rohan Mani Nicky Varela

Fact Checkers: Grace Gould Aleena Gul Mae Monaghan

Victoria Mollmann Mae Monaghan Kara Murri Sam Naemi Taylor Olson Cc Palumbo Benjamin Pham Laine Phillips Paarth Soni Skye Sunderhauf Lauren Thompson Lia Vincenzo Matthew Zarkani

Adviser: Lindsay B. Benedict

TAKING ACTION — Combating Intolerance students Rachel Kulp, Bela Bhatnagar, George Bridges, Easton Freeman, Lauren Thompson, Lindsea Strelser, Saya Khandhar and Easton McCollough respond to questions after presenting about various stereotypes in the lecture hall on Oct. 24.


Combating Intolerance students host event to expose untrue stereotypes HERAN ESSAYAS OPINIONS EDITOR | JACK SHIELDS MANAGING EDITOR


ossy females. Toxic masculinity. Racist Republicans. Stereotypes like these fill the halls of McLean on a daily basis. Predetermined beliefs cause unjustified biases, hindering the success of students. In hopes of dispelling these stereotypes, the Combating Intolerance class held Fight the Stereotype Night to raise awareness about these issues. On Oct. 24, 11 McLean students presented various stereotypes they have faced throughout their lives or that they found interesting. Several students explained issues that directly affected them regarding their race, image or orientation. Students’ presentations aimed to identify common, misinformed stereotypes by explaining their origins and decoding them to expose their inaccuracy. They also featured videos that displayed the reality of the stereotypes. Senior Saya Khandhar presented about the idea that Asians are the “Model Minority.” She explained how stereotyping Asian Americans as exceptionally smart can actually be harmful by placing unrealistic expectations on young students. “When I thought about privilege, all I thought about was how privileged I am and 4 | NEWS | NOVEMBER

how lucky I am to live in the society that I live in,” Khandhar said. “So when I thought about stereotypes that affected me in my life, it really came down to this one. I realized it’s not only because it affects me, but it’s one that I hold as well.”

IT REALLY CAME DOWN TO THE [MODEL MINORITY STEREOTYPE]. I REALIZED IT’S NOT ONLY BECAUSE IT AFFECTS ME, BUT IT’S ONE THAT I HOLD AS WELL.” - SAYA KHANDHAR SENIOR Senior Lindsea Strelser explained why the assumption that all Republicans are racist is not true. Instead of attempting to disprove accusations of racist actions by Republicans, Strelser explained that political ideologies do not correlate to racism.

“I learned that in the 90s and the early 2000s, crime bills that hugely disenfranchised black communities were supported widely by both parties,” Strelser said. “[Before], between Trump’s behavior and historical precedence, I thought it was only right to label the GOP as the racist party. Of course, I found out that the issue is much more nuanced than I thought.” Combating Intolerance is a project-based class that is largely driven by the students. Though the format of the stereotype project was similar to presentations students do in other classes, Combating Intolerance teacher Julia Braxton explained there is no typical format to the class. “It really just depends,” Braxton said. “Right now we’re in a genocide unit and we are doing a podcast project, so it really just depends what unit we’re in and where the class takes us.” At first, the students’ presentations were intended for their class only, but they later had the idea to present their findings in a community event at McLean. By opening up these presentations to the public, the Combating Intolerance students hoped to spread their message to all. “It was the class’s choice [to create this event]. I think it was actually a student who first came up with the idea and we all got Photos & page design by Heran Essayas

on board really quickly,” Khandhar said. “We thought it was important information that needed to be shared.” Students recognized how easy it is to jump to conclusions and considered that challenge while creating their presentations. These stereotypes do not only apply to McLean, but also follow students everywhere they go. During their talks, the presenters shared personal stories to show the effects these stereotypes have on their lives. “I think the most important thing is just really being aware. And understanding that when you look at a person, you make an assumption about them based on something that you can’t possibly know,” Khandhar said. “You just really have to take a step back and kind of evaluate.” Stereotypes such as the “Model Minority,” may affect students in their schoolwork or in their relationships with the faculty. Biases aren’t a common topic of conversation among high schoolers or their families. Combating Intolerance students hope to spark conversations to resolve these issues. “Not only do I think the other speakers did a wonderful job of dissecting their stereotype, but [this night also] showed the audience that today’s youth are socially and politically engaged,” Strelser said. Members of the audience were able to gain a better understanding of the reality behind these stereotypes and were exposed to the hidden biases that exist in society. “I learned that there were a lot more stereotypes than I necessarily thought about,

and even ones that I thought had more of a positive connotation actually hurt the people involved,” said senior Lindsey Syndor, a student who attended the event. Planning Fight the Stereotype Night required a lot of time and effort. Combating Intolerance students worked hard to make it perfect.

[THIS NIGHT] SHOWED THE AUDIENCE THAT TODAY’S YOUTH ARE SOCIALLY AND POLITICALLY ENGAGED.” - LINDSEA STRELSER SENIOR “For those of us presenting, we ran our project in front of the class for feedback and criticisms so that, as speakers, we could be as concise and informed as possible,” Strelser said. Posters advertising the night filled the school in the weeks leading up to the event. “We have been working on this in class for the past month,” Khandhar said. “We’ve been printing posters, tweeting, reaching out to as many people as we could.” Presenters wanted their projects to encourage McLean students and parents to rethink their shallow perceptions of others.

“The whole goal of this night was really just to spark the hard conversations that most people aren’t willing to have,” Khandhar said. By spreading awareness and information about misinformed stereotypes, Combating Intolerance students hope others will refrain from judging themselves and their peers with harmful bias. “It’s sort of inherent within us to make these assumptions,” Khandhar said. “Just being more aware of how it can be harmful to certain groups of people [can help] better combat the intolerance.” The night was well received by McLean students, who were able to see their peers stand up for themselves and the community. “It felt awesome to know that we had a positive impact on those that attended,” Strelser said. “The support that this event received also solidified the importance of this class to me.” The night’s success is already starting to show at McLean, as students have been encouraged to reflect on their own unconscious biases. “[I’ve] definitely seen a change in the presenters in just the way that they work together and communicate,” Braxton said. The messages of Fight the Stereotype Night have even become a topic of conversation among teachers. “I noticed a lot of teachers were talking about it the next day, and saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t really agree with this point,’” Braxton said. “People don’t have to agree, but at least we’re raising awareness, which was the whole point of it.”

LIKE A BOSS — Rachel Kulp speaks in front of the audience about the stereotype of bossy women. In her presentation, she explained the hypocrisy that women who are bossy are condemned, while men who do the same are praised for being assertive. NOVEMBER | NEWS | 5

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SIPPING ON SOMETHING NEW FCPS takes initiative by removing plastic straws from lunch lines HERAN ESSAYAS OPINIONS EDITOR


nnual summer beach trips will soon be forgotten as plastic fills the oceans. Every year, plastic waste continues to crowd oceans with no sign of stopping. To combat this growing issue, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has removed plastic straws from lunch lines in middle and high schools. The use of plastic straws has recently become a popular issue in the news. Increased concern about saving the oceans has served as a catalyst to minimize the amount of plastic produced, specifically straws. With more awareness about the detrimental impact plastic has on the world, FCPS students followed this recent movement and proposed the removal of plastic straws from schools. This proposal is effective this year and will greatly decrease the amount of straws used across the county. Since it is not a complete ban, straws are still available upon request and are offered at elementary schools, but students are encouraged to only use them if necessary. “I think the main thing that this movement does is create awareness about other plastic things. That’s how a lot of people I know have begun to reduce their plastic use,” junior Amy Verderame said. FCPS officials are currently trying to find a cost-efficient solution to completely eliminate plastic straws. Since biodegradable straws are too expensive to mass-produce, FCPS is attempting to produce alternatives that are both cheap and environmentally friendly. FCPS Food and Nutrition Services is looking to find straw manufacturers that can produce inexpensive paper straws.

While plastic straws do not make up a large fraction of the plastic in oceans, they are easy to eliminate from daily life, so many people have taken the initiative to stop using them in hopes of spreading this influence elsewhere. With eight million metric tons of plastic being added to the ocean each year, according to the Ocean Conservancy, it is necessary to fix this issue before it is too late. The mass amount of plastic is creating an increase in marine deaths.

ANY SMALL CHANGE, LIKE USING METAL UTENSILS, CAN CONTRIBUTE TO MAKING A BETTER PLANET.” - KHUSHBOO MANN SENIOR “The plastic debris is either entangled or mistaken for food by many types of animals. I was a sea turtle biologist in Florida for 15 years, and every dead sea turtle we found had lots of plastic in their stomachs and their intestines,” Oceanography teacher Andrew Diller said. Not only does plastic buildup harm the habitats of marine animals, but it also poses harmful effects on the environment. Approximately 150 million metric tons of plastic currently lies in the ocean, creating unknown impacts. “What we know is that even the bigger pieces of plastic are breaking down into smaller pieces that we call microplastics.

Page design by Heran Essayas | Illustration by Dasha Makarishcheva

The microplastics are still out there and that seems to be collecting in tissues of fish and even now into humans,” Diller said. “We’re not even sure what that’s going to do, because plastics can also absorb other kinds of chemicals into them.” Though this ban is not a drastic step, the removal of plastic straws by FCPS shows progress in being more environmentally conscious as a county. As awareness about the negative ramifications of plastic usage has spread, direct action has been taken to reduce its long-term impacts. “This change will help the environment because it will show the population at McLean that if they don’t need to use a straw at school, then they don’t need to use them at other places,” said senior Khushboo Mann, head of recruitment for the Eco Action club. McLean students have been working to make students mindful of their plastic consumption. This year, the Eco Action club aims to show students that their minor actions can make a difference in the environment. “[The Eco Action club] raises awareness for the environment and the climate by getting a small community of people to make a change,” Mann said. “We’re going to hang posters around the school that will show single-use plastic that people typically use, so when people see [the posters], they will think to not use them.” No progress in reducing plastic consumption can be made until individuals realize the significant role they can play. “People underestimate the amount of plastic that they use in their daily life,” Mann said. “Any small change, like using metal utensils, can contribute to making a better planet.”





Former Vice President

U.S. Senator for Massachusetts

Mayor of South Bend, Indiana

Economy: Double capital gains tax rate for people making over $1 million; raise corporate taxes to 28%; don’t use tariffs to threaten countries Education: Make the first two years of college free; expand or fix existing debt-relief programs Environment: Support developing nuclear energy technologies; tax carbon emissions, end new oil and gas leases on federal land; pay farmers for climate-friendly practices Healthcare: Improve Affordable Care Act and offer everyone a public option; expand healthcare coverage but against Medicare for All; approve some limits on lateterm abortions Immigration: Support universal healthcare for undocumented immigrants; grant citizenship to DACA recipients

National Polling*:


McLean Polling**:


Economy: Break up big tech companies; tax extremely rich people’s assets; change the new NAFTA agreement; prevent banks from doing both retail and investment banking Education: Free college; forgive student loan debt for lower and middle class borrowers Environment: Ban oil fracking everywhere; government regulations on carbon emissions; pay farmers for environmentally friendly practices Healthcare: Implement Medicare for All; create government-run drug manufacturer to produce generic drugs; support few limits on abortion Immigration: Decriminalize crossing the border; support universal healthcare for undocumented immigrants; grant citizenship to DACA recipients

Economy: Tax extremely rich people’s assets; change the new NAFTA agreement Education: Cover college costs enough so that no student has to take on debt; provide debt relief in exchange for national service Environment: Support nuclear power; tax carbon emissions; end new oil and gas leases on federal land; pay farmers for climatefriendly practices Healthcare: Maintain private sector but expand governmentrun programs; allow people to choose to be covered by the Affordable Care Act; end Medicare work requirement; support few to no limits on abortion Immigration: Decriminalize crossing the border; support healthcare for undocumented immigrants; grant citizenship to DACA recipients





*According to a Washington Post – ABC News poll conducted on Nov. 2 **From a poll of 202 students conducted from Oct. 21-30


Photos obtained via Creative Commons | Photo illustrations by Taylor Olson




U.S. Senator for Vermont

U.S. Senator for California

Founder of Venture for America

Economy: Expand tax benefits for middle and lower class; tax credit for renters who spend over 30% of income on rent

Economy: Pay every citizen a universal basic income of $1000 a month; leave minimum wage to the states

Education: Cover college costs enough so that no student has to take on debt; reduce student debt for public service workers

Education: Regulate tuition prices more by threatening taxexempt status and monitoring how much public schools can raise their prices; expand student debt-relief programs

Economy: Create new estate taxes on inheritances; get rid of the new NAFTA agreement; prevent banks from doing both retail and investment banking Education: Free college; cancel all student debt Environment: Close down nuclear power reactors; impose government regulations on carbon emissions; ban oil fracking everywhere; pay farmers for climate-friendly practices Healthcare: Implement Medicare for All; use international references for drug pricing; allow companies to create generic drugs; support few to no limits on abortions

Environment: Develop new nuclear power technology; tax carbon emissions; ban fracking everywhere Healthcare: Expand Medicare coverage but not Medicare for All; use international references for drug pricing; allow companies to create generic drugs; support few to no limits on abortion

Environment: Support nuclear power; tax carbon emissions; end new oil and gas leases on federal land Healthcare: Implement Medicare for All; support few to no limits on abortion

Immigration: Decriminalize crossing the border; support universal healthcare for undocumented immigrants; grant citizenship to DACA recipients

Immigration: Decriminalize crossing the border; consider funding for a border wall if experts recommend it; support universal healthcare for undocumented immigrants; grant citizenship to DACA recipients







Immigration: Decriminalize crossing the border; support universal healthcare for undocumented immigrants; grant citizenship to DACA recipients

Reporting & page design by Erica Bass, Kyle Hawley & Jessica Opsahl-Ong




ndrew Johnson. Richard Nixon. Bill Clinton. Donald Trump. These four men have been the only presidents to have faced a serious impeachment threat in the nation’s history. From violation of the Reconstruction Act to the Watergate scandal, Congress has taken their Constitutional duties seriously by keeping the past and current administrations in check. While these four men have been impeached, none have been forcibly removed. President Nixon resigned to avoid prosecution. Johnson and Clinton were both acquitted by the U.S. Senate. As for President Trump, he is undergoing an impeachment inquiry for attempting a quid pro quo (someone providing another person with something in exchange for a favor) with the Ukrainian government to investigate 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden and his son’s business dealings.

“President Trump conditioned foreign aid to an ally, Ukraine, on its willingness to do political favors which would help him personally,” Representative Don Beyer said in an interview with The Highlander.

I WILL EVALUATE THE EVIDENCE FAIRLY AND OBJECTIVELY TO PRESERVE OUR NATION’S DEMOCRACY” - TIM KAINE SENATOR Currently, six House committees are investigating the case for impeachment. The evidence and charges will be compiled into a document called the Articles of Impeachment, which will be sent to the House of Representatives for review.

“The House of Representatives is carefully working to find out what happened with Ukraine, a process which will soon be complemented with public hearings to show the American people exactly what President Trump did,” Beyer said. Should the House complete a two-thirds majority vote in favor of impeachment, the process would then move to the Senate. At this point, the president would be legally considered impeached, but not prosecuted. Members of the House Judiciary Committee typically argue for the removal of the president, while the commander-in-chief provides his own lawyers in his defense. The trials are overseen by the chief Supreme Court justice instead of the vice president to avoid conflict of interest. While the members of the upper chamber are awaiting Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s vote in the House, they are preparing for the trial. In a written statement provided to The Highlander, Senator Tim Kaine said, “I will evaluate the evidence fairly and objectivity to preserve our nation’s democracy.”



Impeachment process The president does not leave the White House and remains as commander until voted out or term ends. 10 | NEWS | NOVEMBER

President leaves office and is officially removed from all duties. Now, he may be tried as an ordinary person in the courts and by a grand jury. Page design by Marina Qu


McLean students can give back to the community at Share of McLean REACHING TO GIVE — Junior Caroline Lucia grabs food for a client at the food pantry. Lucia volunteers at Share of McLean almost every other weekend. (Photo by Addie Brown)



ocated right in the heart of McLean at the McLean Baptist Church, Share of McLean has been operating its community service organization since 1969. The organization began when McLean Baptist Church parishioner and teacher Irene Jones noticed that a family only had one pair of shoes, which only allowed for one child to attend school at a time. Realizing the needs of some community members, Jones and other church members founded Share of McLean. Over the course of 50 years, the program has brought aid to families in need around the Northern Virginia area through its numerous initiatives. “We are not affiliated with the church, but they’ve always given us the space and support to run the food pantry, clothing and linen, furniture, laptops and family assistance,” cochair and board member of Share of McLean Nicki Watts said. With its plentiful volunteer opportunities, teens can decide how they want to give back to the community. “I help people that have come to get food,” junior Caroline Lucia said. “I call them from the waiting area and help them select the right amount based on their family size and needs. At the end, I clean up by wiping down tables, carts and vacuuming. I have also done food drives, fundraisers, restocking and organized donations.” Photo & page design by Addie Brown

Besides the food pantry, teens can help out at the clothing shop or host drives at school or local community centers to collect clothing. They can also volunteer at the all student-run Share Technology Program, which requires an interview. “We clean all of the laptops, register them and ID them within our system, and then put Windows 10 and Microsoft Office on them,” said senior Joshua Lentz, director of the Share Technology Program. “My volunteer experience, overall, has been a very fun and rewarding experience for me, and I look forward to finishing off my time in the program well.” Teens can sign up to volunteer at Share of McLean straight from its website. “I first heard about it through my youth group, but then when I wanted to volunteer by myself, I did research online to find out who to email and how to sign up,” Lucia said. With all the options for students to volunteer at Share of McLean, it is simple to choose when one would like to volunteer, and the organization has a flexible schedule suited to a student’s typical busy life. The most popular service teens participate in are the food pantry drives, which occur almost every Wednesday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. “You can really tailor it to your needs,” Watts said. “We use SignUpGenius, and you just fill in wherever you want after you get on the email list.”

Teens typically enjoy their time at Share of McLean. “We find that teens have a good time here because we try to be very courteous to our clients, and they’re, in return, very courteous to us,” Watts said. “I haven’t run into any teens who didn’t like their experience here.” Volunteering benefits teens in many ways. It allows them to learn to communicate and work with others in new ways not found inside a classroom. It gives them experience that will help them to succeed later in the professional world. In addition to the learning aspect of service, students gain the internal benefits of giving back to the community. “I have learned how to make friends in unexpected places, even through language barriers,” Lucia said. “I have also been able to—at least for a couple hours on a Saturday—stop worrying about my own problems and devote my time and efforts to others. I have learned to develop a love for service, which I think will serve me throughout my life.”

Volunteer at Share of McLean here




“I’m thankful for my students, because I have a job that allows me to have a lot of fun every day, but also because my students teach me a lot every day, and so I get different things from different people all the time.”


“I’m thankful for both students here at McLean and my LaCroix. They both give me a new and refreshing outlook on life.”


“I’m thankful for the personable students here at McLean, because I love forming relationships with my students. It’s really nice to have kids come by and just talk about things that happened over the weekend and current events.”


“I’m thankful for my mother because [she] raised me all by herself and she had a tough job. She was a pretty strong woman.”



Page design by Taylor Olson & Ana Paula Ibarraran | Photos & graphics by Taylor Olson


Top tips for acing a job interview



unior Sangeda Hossain stands nervously outside Panera Bread. In a few minutes, she will go inside to be interviewed for a position as a cook. It is her first job, and she has no idea what to expect. She isn't alone. Many students find job interviews to be a daunting experience. Luckily, the skills for confidently mastering an interview don't need to come from trial and error. Sharing common mistakes, questions and tips can help others prepare for their future interviews. The interview is the setting where an employer tries to find out as much as they can about their potential employees, so it is important to make a good impression. This begins with appearance. “Casual [clothing] is good—nothing ripped and nothing tight,” said Annie Chi, the hiring manager at Pokéworks in Tysons Corner Mall. “I don’t expect them to show up in a suit and tie or blazer because it is a retail job, and it is the food service industry. But don’t show up in leggings or see-through clothing,” When going in for an interview at a clothing store, be sure to wear their brand. “Preferably dress in [our] clothing so that we know that you shop here and that you at least know the brand. That way you can give somebody your own opinion on the clothes,” said Jaleasa Jenkins, a selling manager at American Eagle. Try to arrive a few minutes before the interview begins. This shows potential employers that candidates care about other people's time. “I am really big about punctuality and attendance. I’m all about coming in really Page design by Lia Vincenzo

LAND OF JOBS — Shoppers walk past stores in Tysons Corner Mall. Many of these stores hire students. (Photo by Lia Vincenzo)

early, [and] just making sure you are ready for work,” Jenkins said. The questions employers ask in an interview often help give them an idea of a potential employee's character. “Usually, I ask them what they are studying, what they are looking to study, when they graduate [and] if they have any college plans. I also ask them if [they] have any after school activities because these show me [their] personalities,” Chi said. Instead of work experience, most employers who hire teens require some form of ID and a letter of recommendation from a school counselor or person of authority. They are looking for a dependable employee, and their requirements will reflect that. “I know most of the students don’t have experience, so what I do look for is that [they] maintain a good GPA because it shows me that [they] are a responsible person,” Chi said. “It shows that they know how to prioritize.” Getting a job prepares students for the real world in more ways than one. It helps them improve their interviewing skills and gain experience before they join the workforce. A job is especially helpful when it comes to learning to deal with different types of people. Students learn patience and the skills needed to communicate well with others. “There’s some nice [customers], and there’s some rude ones, but in the real world when you are starting your career, you will encounter those kinds of people,” Chi said. Jobs can also teach students to manage their time more effectively. “It's helped me because it made me quick and more efficient,” Hossain said.

During peak times, the hustle and bustle of work can be stressful. “There are lots of people that come in during the day and it’s sometimes overwhelming,” Hossain said. Working is not all stress, though. It is a chance to meet new people. “The best part [about my job] is my coworkers—they’re mostly my age so we are all friends,” Hossain said. Working is a rewarding experience, and these insider tips will win over any potential employer. “Just try your best and be honest,” Hossain said.

Top Tips: Ask in store for applications Dress in business casual Bring two forms of ID Get a letter of recommendation from a counselor Be respectful Be early Be yourself! NOVEMBER | FEATURES | 13

THERE’S NO PLANET B Here are some eco-friendly tips to conserve our Earth

“I try to walk more to save harmful carbon emissions, and if I need to use a car, I try to get a ride from a friend,” sophomore Nathan Nguyen said.

Hydro Flask

“Planting trees and other plants is a great way to help the environment and get exercise,” junior APES student Amanda Pardo said.

“Using reusable water bottles or cups instead of plastic can go a long way,” said senior Hayden Birchfield, who is an active environmentalist.

“Reuse plastic bags—wash them out and use them again,” Biology I teacher John Walters said.

“Compost to reduce the amount of trash you have and to reuse materials instead of wasting them,” AP Environmetal Science (APES) teacher Kate Hoefer said.

“Bringing a reusable spoon or fork in your backpack makes a difference of pounds of plastic entering our oceans per year,” said senior Rebecca LeBlanc, the president of the Marine Bio Club.

“Thrifting is the way to go because instead of adding to consumerism, you are buying affordable clothes that are already made,” said junior Melat Asmerom, a member of the Marine Bio club.

“Be conscious of all your actions by recycling everything that can be recycled,” said senior Reyna Hershberg, head of the Eco Action club. “Give back to your community through community service.” 14 | FEATURES | NOVEMBER

design by Rebeka Rafi Reporting & page design by SkyePage Sunderhauf & Andy Chung


Transfer student Johana Mejia adjusts to life in the U.S. ELIZABETH HUMPHREYS A&E EDITOR


eat rises in the air of Usulutan, El Salvador, as Johana Mejia steps aboard her flight to the U.S. El Salvador lies 3,256 miles away from Washington D.C. and is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. A stressful transition for anyone, coming to McLean after growing up in El Salvador was a huge culture shock for Mejia. “We came to America for a better future, because it is a country of opportunities. Everything was different,” Mejia said.* “When I arrived in the United States, it was a very good experience I had never lived before. But, leaving those I love most was very hard. My worst fear is losing my family. What I love most is living with other people and having many friends.” Not knowing much English, Mejia began her first day at McLean as a freshman in April of last year, though she is 16 years old. “Most of my classes at McLean are in English. I feel that they are very difficult,” Mejia said. “In my country, they only speak Spanish and the classes are very easy.” Having grown up speaking Spanish, it is tricky for Mejia to master English, a language of many illogical pronunciations and confusing spellings. With these challenges added to the competitive environment of McLean, school was overwhelming for her at first. However, Mejia has learned to practice overcoming such challenges, showing just how brave she is. Page design by Elizabeth Humphreys

“I try hard to learn English because I want to have many friends at school, work and in the future,” Mejia said. In order to obtain all the correct credits, Mejia takes classes such as Government for those who are not fluent in English. Anthony Puzan, who teaches her class, notes how much the students have been improving, despite the difficulties they face.

WE CAME TO AMERICA FOR A BETTER FUTURE, BECAUSE IT IS A COUNTRY OF OPPORTUNITIES.” - JOHANA MEJIA FRESHMAN “I really do enjoy this class. I’m sure the students came in afraid to learn and be here,” Puzan said. “They are a fun group of kids. They are willing to learn. Sometimes there’s struggles and we’re both getting through them together. I think what’s been nice is to have students like Johana who are able to communicate.” Through patience and hard work, Puzan and his students have already made great progress since the school year began. “From day one to today in October, I know that my students are building a strong vocabulary,” Puzan said. “The very first day, some of my students had very little, if any, of

¡ADIOS, AMIGOS! — Johana Mejia and her classmates in El Salvador take one last photo before school ends for the summer. She is pictured at the bottom right making a peace sign. (Photo courtesy of Johana Mejia) the English language. Now I can tell you without a doubt that those same students are picking up words.” Eighteen-year-old junior Yovad Martinez, who attends classes with Mejia, faced similar obstacles when coming from Guatemala. “Entering the airport, the first thing the officers asked me was, ‘If you are a resident of the United States, why do you not speak English?’ I only said, ‘I am learning.’ Until today I know that God has helped me,” Martinez said. After living in the U.S. for a year and a half, Martinez has been finding his place within the busy halls of McLean, working alongside Mejia. “I did not know how my life would be here,” Martinez said. “It was much more difficult when [people] spoke to me in English and I didn’t understand what they were saying. But, little by little, I met more people. A couple of months after arriving here, I already had some friends who helped me in what I needed. It was not so difficult to fit in.” Like Martinez, Mejia has high hopes for the future as she learns to balance missing her old country and embracing her new one. “I miss my grandmother, my friends, my father, my family, my school, my dances,” Mejia said. “But I love America.”

*Interview translated from Spanish by Elizabeth Humphreys


10 Qs with

Lawrence Letkiewicz (English Teacher)

1 2

Reporting by Emily Jackson Photos courtesy of Lawrence Letkiewicz Page design by Highlander staff

What would you do if you were not a teacher? If I weren’t a teacher, I’d probably be doing cartoon voiceover work. As a kid, I thought everybody could do it… I would watch a cartoon and be able to mimic all the voices, so I can do probably 30 or 40 voices. If you could visit one place where would you go? London. I love London. Eventually, when I retire and my wife gets her job internationally like she wants to do, we’d love to be in London. I’d like to be the old guy feeding birds in the park... That’s my ultimate goal when I get old enough.


4 5 6 7

What is your favorite spirit day? My favorite spirit day is Friday [of homecoming week] because I get to wear my kilt... I’ve always wanted to own a kilt, so I went out and purchased it, and every year I’m gonna add little bits and pieces to it. What is your favorite clothing item? My tie tacks, because to me that’s the extra piece that some people forget about, and I like to have that little bit of extra. What is your favorite part about running a classroom cafe? My favorite part about running a cafe is seeing everybody get excited when the candy gets filled or when the hot cocoa get filled. What is the funniest thing you have overheard a student say? Hey, did you hear that Norway’s navy started putting barcodes on the side of it, so at night when they bring them in, they can Scandinavian. What is your favorite dad joke? I can’t say the one that I want, [but] one is, “My chinchilla bit his leg off.”

8 9

What is your most essential appliance? My most essential appliance is a coffee maker or a tea kettle. What is the worst movie you have seen? The worst movie I’ve ever seen is Napoleon Dynamite. I watched it, and afterwards I turned it off and thought, “I’ll never get that hour and a half back”...but then a year or so after, it got a bit more endearing.


Would you rather go back in time or forward? I would rather go back in time because then I’ll know who will win the World Series and which companies to invest in, and then I could have a really nice life. I like to dress nicely so I could imagine going back to the Victorian era and really dressing up. NOVEMBER | FEATURES | 17

THE SQUAD — Junior JJ Rieger and other first responders stand in front of a house they used to practice putting out fires. Live fire trainings like this allow first responders to get hands-on experience without risking the lives of others. (Photo courtesy of JJ Rieger)



McLean students get involved in maintaining the public safety of NOVA JOSH BASS SPORTS EDITOR KATIE ROMHILT FEATURES EDITOR


irens blaring, smoke rises in a huge cloud and within minutes, the first responders arrive to fight the danger and control the scene. The McLean Volunteer Fire Department attracts young men and women from all over Northern Virginia who are looking for thrilling careers that allow them to give back to their community. The idea of being able to maintain public safety has attracted two McLean students, junior JJ Rieger and senior Max Wohlschegel. In 2017, the National Fire Protection Association estimated that there were over a million firefighters in the U.S. Of those firefighters, around 65% were volunteer or part-time firefighters. Almost daily, firefighters put themselves through extreme hardships, even sacrificing their lives in order to save others. Rieger and Wohlschegel were both drawn to this lifestyle. Rieger’s interest in the profession stemmed from him wanting to experience the challenges of being a first responder. He dreams of 18 | FEATURES | NOVEMBER

becoming an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) first responder and using his experience to open doors for a medical career in the future. “It gives me an understanding of how they work, how the hospital and health care system work together as one,” Rieger said. To become an EMT, Rieger went through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program in order to obtain a license. Today, he is able to do both volunteer “ride-along” shifts and paid shifts, helping him to build connections with professional first responders. “After being assigned stations to work at different shifts, you get to know the firefighters and first responders,” Rieger said. “You become like a family and take care of each other.” Serving as a first responder is a huge time commitment, but Rieger believes it is worth the dedication. “As a student, you work around four to six hours, but if you are a natural first responder, it’s usually nine hours,” Rieger said. “You just get to know a lot of people, you get to work. It’s a lot of fun. You work Page design by Dasha Makarishcheva

on the ambulance and the fire truck, you get calls from dispatch—it’s good stuff.” Rieger strongly recommends the job as a learning experience for those interested in medical fields. “If you want to become a first responder or something in the medical field, do it,” Rieger said. “It’s a job where you want to do it or you don’t. It’s not really an ‘if.’ If you like it, go for it. You get experience and meet a lot of new people. Even if you don’t become a first responder or somebody in the medical field, at least you will learn the knowledge and discover that there is something out there for you.” Wohlschlegel is also a volunteer EMT. Wohlschlegel and Rieger share a common interest in medicine. However, unlike Rieger, Wohlschlegel didn’t always know he wanted to be a first responder. “What inspired me was getting to give back to my community,” Wohlschlegel said. “Since I’m not able to join the military, as a result of my Type 1 Diabetes, I was like, ok, what’s my next best option? And so I decided that firefighting was my calling. Yes, I was interested in it, but it also served as a secondary way to give back to my community.” Wohlschlegel’s first experience in the field was hectic and eventful—nothing short of what he expected.


402 FIGHTER — Senior Max Wohlschlegel stands in front of a fire truck belonging to station 402. He loves his job because he can give back to his community. (Photo courtesy of Max Wohlschlegel)


“To be honest, it was crazy,” Wohlschlegel said. “I knew what to expect because I grew up in that scene, but I didn’t realize how much adrenaline and intensity goes on at a scene. The first scene wasn’t much—it was just a medical call—but still there was a lot going on. I remember I was asked to grab tubing out of a bag and I was like, ‘Oh crap, where is it?’ I was fumbling around and taking forever, but after your first call, you go through it and your nerves calm down and you can do your task.” Going through these kinds of stressful situations together helps bring the firefighting community together. The closeness of the group is what makes the firefighters and first responders willing and able to efficiently do their jobs and maintain the safety of the public. “They want to find out whether you are a good person/candidate, Wohlschlegel said. “Volunteer firefighting is a family. When you are being interviewed, if you don’t fit into that family, they’re not going to select you. So you’re going to have to be a nice person, be genuine and treat everybody with respect.”

RESPONDER RIEGER — Junior JJ Rieger is a part of the 401 squad. He hopes to become an EMT first responder and become a doctor in the future. (Photo courtesy of JJ Rieger)


PUPPY PALS REDUCE STRESS Get to know the therapy dogs that visit on Wednesdays LAINE PHILLIPS & EMILY FRIEDMAN REPORTERS


Owner: Kim Prestige Breed: Yellow Labrador Favorite snack: Hamburgers Favorite activity: Hiking and visiting McLean Favorite toy: Soccer ball Other interests: Wrestling with her sister, Bailey, and spending time in the yard


Owner: Bridget Collins Breed: Bernese Mountain Dog Favorite snack: Cheese and peanut butter Favorite activity: Hiking in the woods Favorite toy: Stuffed warthog, but he always destroys his toys Other interests: Loves to wrestle, be chased, play with his best friend, Laslo, and root for the Nationals 20 | FEATURES | NOVEMBER


Owner: Kim Prestige Breed: Labrador mix Favorite snack: Anything she can steal Favorite activity: Swimming in the Potomac and hiking at Turkey Run Park Favorite toy: Tennis ball Other interests: Enjoys visiting elementary schoolers at the bus stop and spending time with friends and family, especially her sister, Daisy


Owner: Megan Willems Breed: Mini Australian Labradoodle Favorite snack: Bacon Favorite activity: Playing catch, hiking and running in creeks Favorite toy: Stuffed hippo Other interests: Hanging her head out the car window and being social with other dogs Photos by Emily Friedman & Laine Phillips | Page design by Taylor Olson

CONTROVERSY CORNER McLean students answer ridiculous questions


Which came first: the chicken or the egg?

52% 48%

Is water wet? 46% no

c h ic ke n

real a soup e c ? Is

85% no

15% yes

yes 54% Is a hot dog a sandwich? 37% yes How many holes does a straw have?

63% no

40% two

Infographics by Isaac Lamoreaux, Dasha Makarishcheva & Jessica Opsahl-Ong Reporting by Isaac Lamoreaux & Jessica Opsahl-Ong | Page design by Dasha Makarishcheva

Based on a poll of 228 McLean students

60% one NOVEMBER | FEATURES | 21









he blue light of a screen illuminating a student’s face. Rows of laptops dotting the classroom’s desks. The sounds of “click” and “tap” as students work on their hyperdoc, website or presentation. This is the future of education. To meet the growing need for students to have access to technology in the classroom, FCPS launched the FCPSOn program, a 1:1 initiative that issued a laptop to every high school student in the county. The program, which had been in planning and pilot stages for several years prior to the 2019-20 school year, seeks to give all students a uniform platform for learning and eliminate the digital divide in FCPS. “You get to the point where the curriculum and

that we had the money and support and all the rest of it,” Strauss said. However, with the variety of devices available, BYOD didn’t work as effectively as it needed to. Teachers were faced with numerous challenges, such as students bringing devices that could not access school databases or function in the same ways. FCPSOn provides a uniform platform for all students, allowing teachers to create lesson plans using resources that all of their students can access. “The upsides are that everybody has the same device. When they come into the classroom, everybody can get onto a computer and you don’t have, ‘Oh, I need this, I need this.’ It’s right there at your fingertips,” Principal Ellen Reilly said.

WE HAVE A LOT OF STUDENTS AND FAMILIES THAT DON’T HAVE THOSE KIND OF RESOURCES, AND IT’S TO THE POINT WHERE IN ORDER FOR US TO DELIVER THE CURRICULUM AND FOR THE TEACHERS TO DO THE JOB THAT THEY WANT TO DO, EVERYBODY HAD TO HAVE A DEVICE.” - JANE STRAUSS DRANESVILLE DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE the resources, the information that you need, it’s all on the internet. We have struggled with what we call the digital divide, where kids and families who have enough money to be able to purchase devices and have robust internet at home and all the rest of that, that’s great,” Dranesville District Representative Jane Strauss said. “But we have a lot of students and families that don’t have those kind of resources, and it’s to the point where in order for us to deliver the curriculum and for the teachers to do the job that they want to do, everybody had to have a device.” Previously, FCPS incorporated tech into the classroom using the Bring Your Own Device policy (BYOD). This allowed for students to use whatever device they owned, whether it be a phone, tablet or laptop. “We’ve allowed [BYOD] for a number of years, partly because we were uncomfortable putting the money into buying the devices until we were sure

DEBUGGING THE PROGRAM In order to successfully implement FCPSOn, school board members watched as other school divisions enacted similar 1:1 initiatives, though many were unsuccessful. One of the counties they looked at is the largest in the U.S.: L.A. County. According to The Los Angeles Times, in 2013, L.A. County sank more than a billion dollars into providing iPads for every student. This did not go as expected. “They didn’t really know what they were going to do with [the iPads]. They also didn’t have a plan for professional development around them. It was a huge fail,” McLean’s School-Based Technology Specialist (SBTS) Nishi Langhorne said. After learning from L.A.’s mistakes, Fairfax County was ready to start testing the FCPSOn Initiative in 2016 in the Chantilly pyramid. Photo illustration by Dasha Makarishcheva | Page design by Dana Edson




BRIDGET DONOGHUE, ENGLISH TEACHER What activities have you been able to do this year with the laptops? “We did this character case study, and so they had links to all of these articles on what makes a sociopath and had to look at a character in a Poe story and decide if they were a sociopath and build a case based on that. And then they did a Flipgrid video on their laptops on whether or not their character could be considered a sociopath. So that was a fun, interactive thing to do rather than a worksheet.”

How does everybody having their own laptop help your lesson plans? “It makes it a lot easier. Last year, we had to reserve laptops and a lot of times they weren’t available. It makes it a lot easier to plan instructional things because we know that they’ll have [laptops] available to them.” FILM FANATICS — Juniors Carolyn Gardner, Carter Duncan and Adianna Lockwood-Shabat watch short horror films in Bridget Donoghue’s AP Lang class. The assignment is to analyze choices the directors made to evoke a certain feeling. (Photo by Addie Brown)

Unlike L.A. County, FCPS hired SBTSs who could train teachers and help smooth the transition. “To lessen the fear...we asked teachers to make one meaningful change in their instruction for students. And in some cases, that meant rearranging the room to provide more opportunities for students to talk. In other cases, that meant trying a new kind of lesson,” said Margaret Sisler, the educational specialist who works on instructional technology integration for FCPS and a former SBTS at Chantilly High School. This testing period was evaluated by educational researchers from Johns Hopkins University, who had previously overseen a similar initiative in Baltimore County. They took feedback from students, teachers and administrators and in turn gave advice to FCPS on how to adjust the program. “I think one major benefit this past year was the district really took the feedback from teachers and adapted their professional development,” said Jennifer Morrison, an assistant research professor at Johns Hopkins University and principal investigator in FCPSOn evaluation. “So teachers are getting more professional development specifically on what they thought they needed.” With all of this feedback, FCPS felt ready to roll out FCPSOn to all high schools. Now, the process seen in the Chantilly pyramid is playing out in every high school in the county.

“I work with the SBTSs, and I coach them on how to do this job at a bigger scale now,” Sisler said. “Because you may have had—I don’t know—20, 25 teachers that really wanted to work with you before. Now everyone has this new opportunity and there’s a lot of thinking through, ‘How do I work with more teachers but still do it well?’” Educators still have questions as the first year of the rollout continues, but after three years of testing and many more of preparation, Sisler feels confident that these questions will be addressed. “We often take feedback—that’s how we know to get better. And I think that’s a key component of this, that we aren’t changing because we’re doing something wrong, we’re changing because we have the opportunity to be better,” Sisler said. Now the years of planning and preparation have been put in effect with the 1:1 initiative reaching every high school in FCPS, causing an immediate impact at McLean along with the rest of the county. REBOOTING MCLEAN The 1:1 initiative has resulted in changes in classrooms and curriculum throughout McLean. Teachers have had to adapt


lesson plans and alter teaching styles in response to the newly available technology. As McLean’s SBTS, Langhorne is responsible for teachers’ transition to technology-enhanced classrooms. Due to her previous tenure at Rocky Run Middle School, a 1:1 pilot school, Langhorne was brought on to the McLean staff to build enthusiasm for the program. Her experience has helped teachers improve their curriculum to incorporate the new technology. “So far this year, I have noticed a huge change in how I’m able to plan activities with my students, because I know that they have their laptops, and so every single day, that’s an option for me,” social studies teacher Rachel Baxter said. “And that doesn’t mean that my classroom looks like students sitting working on computers, ignoring each other the whole class. But every day, we have the option to enhance a lesson with digital technology.” The program provides opportunities to find new, creative ways to construct lesson plans and provide more interactive learning experiences. “[FCPSOn] allows teachers to really be creative with giving students different pathways to learning and allowing students to tailor their own learning experience towards what they need instead of a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all education experience,” Baxter said Students have mostly positive opinions about the 1:1 program. Freshmen are especially receptive to the new laptops. In a poll of 201 McLean students, 85% of freshmen said they like the FCPSOn initiative, compared to 48% of seniors. “I really like using [the laptops]. They help a lot with getting homework done and being productive,” freshman Layal Bizri said. “Having all my work saved on my computer when I got home made doing homework so much easier.” Other students appreciate how the laptops contribute to their learning experience. “I think it’s good to provide students who need a laptop because I think technology and online learning is really good and helpful,” junior Kyra Bolden said. Classes have almost become reliant on students having their own laptops everyday, as curriculums have adjusted to incorporate more online learning. “Almost every day we have an assignment in Google Classroom where we use the computers to do research, organize our work and easily turn it in to our teacher without wasting paper,” Bolden said. Another aspect of the laptop program involves the universal support system that provides affordable repairs if laptops are damaged. Students are susceptible to breaking their laptops, so the annual fee of $50 covers any repairs that are needed. “What that does is that that pays for any repairs or


Choose Your Own Learning Adventure McLeaderboard


Rachel Baxter (700)


Jenn Choumil (435)


Julia Braxton (355)


Lizzie McManus (195)


Jen Singh (180)


Libby Settlemeyer (150)


Linda Gore (90)


Celina Morgan (75)


Emily Jaffa (50)


Corinne Mazzotta (45) McLean teachers are encouraged to incorporate digital learning into their classes through the “Choose Your Own Learning Adventure” leaderboard, started by SBTS Nishi Langhorne. Teachers earn points and badges for using various digital learning activities in their lesson plans and writing reflections on their experiences. By earning points, they can receive prizes such as gift cards and professional development points to be recertified as teachers.


From a poll of 201 students... Do you like the new laptop program at McLean?

38.7% no 61.3% yes

Do you use your school-issued laptop at home?

51.3% Yes 48.7% No In how many classes do you use your school laptop?

replacement as long as kids are not really abusing them,” Strauss said. “We have to make sure the people who are providing laptops provide sturdy enough ones, so that if they’re dropped or banged they stay intact.” Despite the predicted durability of the laptops, some students have already put the county’s liability to the test. “I’m not sure how I broke it. I just woke up one morning and the screen was shattered,” sophomore Brennen Sumida said. “The service when I broke my laptop was really good. [Technology Specialist Brian Stagliano] returned the laptop in 48 hours and got it fixed quickly.” Another benefit of the laptops is that they will be used for the SOLs. Instead of setting up laptops in various rooms around the school, this year every student who got a school-issued laptop will take their SOLs on their 1:1 laptop. “If you already have everything right here, we’re still going to need labs for high-level stuff like publishing and fancy-nancy stuff, but we don’t need to have computer labs robust enough for all 1900 kids to take a SOL,” Strauss said. This, in turn, allows the county to save money and allocate more of its budget to the 1:1 program. “We’re kind of freezing out the quintessential computer lab, and that’s also where we can shift money around,” Strauss said. Even with these benefits, some students feel that the laptops are less crucial for McLean students. “I think the program is great for people with a lower income and who cannot afford a personal computer,” junior Jack Lannin said. “For McLean, it is unnecessary because the area is wealthy; however, county-wide it could be very useful.” The average income of a household in Fairfax County is $118,279. Though this is almost double the average income of the country, it is only two-thirds of the average income of a McLean household: $193,426. At McLean, 150 students out of the 201 polled already have their own personal laptops, most of which are higher quality than the school-issued ones. “I don’t use the student laptops because they’re really heavy and take up a lot of space,” senior Maya Pandey said. “I’m really used to working on my own tablet because it’s light, easy to transport and has all my saved files.” DECODING THE DATA



55.5% All Half Less than half

FCPS spent $4.3 million on the FCPSOn program for the 2019-20 school year. Though the price tag seems hefty, it was actually a small reallotment of money from other technology charges out of a total county budget of $3 billion. McLean has spent $60,000 on implementing the FCPSOn program in each of the last two years and will likely spend an equal amount every school year. Still, the costs of other in-class materials such as textbooks and English novels have been cut down significantly. “Instead of the school paying for all of those books to come in, it is now all right there at your fingertips. So there are positives,”

Infographic by Addie Brown & Jessica Opsahl-Ong


Reilly said. “Yeah, $60,000 sounds like a lot, but you look at how much you spend and how much books cost, it’s astronomical, so it kind of weighs itself out I think.” Despite the varied opinions about the 1:1 initiative, the massive impact the laptops have had on learning is evident across the school. “I will tell you that this year...we have had more teachers using [the laptops and] asking for more software or technology than we’ve ever used before,” Reilly said. Most students also find laptops to be a great addition to their learning experiences. “The laptops are especially helpful for larger scale work that handheld technology such as a phone may not be practical for, such as essays or digital projects,” Lannin said. But the impact of FCPSOn stretches far beyond McLean’s boundaries. FCPSOn gives less economically privileged students and communities within FCPS

an equal opportunity to utilize digital platforms for learning. In schools across the county, students suffer from a severe socioeconomic divide. About 28% of FCPS students receive free or reduced lunches, and Title I schools (schools that provide students with extra instructional support beyond the normal classroom) have a 45% poverty rate. So while McLean may be increasing the presence of technology in the classroom, other FCPS schools are just now receiving personal devices inside and outside the classroom. “We did see, when we did the pilot, it put good technology in the hands of everybody,” Strauss said. “It’s not necessarily looking for that standardized test score as that endpoint effect, but I think it’s just a reality of how we communicate, how we write, how we get information, and it’s just a great tool. You can’t carry on in the world without your laptop anymore. It’s your desk.”


RACHEL BAXTER, SOCIAL STUDIES What sort of projects are you doing this year with the computers? “In U.S. History, we started the year by having students research what topic they believed is most worth learning about in colonial America. So they looked into untold stories for history and things that are not as often covered by textbooks or by standards. A lot of students did presentations on various indigenous tribes, women, lives of enslaved Americans. So all of that was made possible through the computers.”

How are the laptops better than the previous system? “I think the problem was that if one teacher wanted to do project-based learning or wanted to do a unit that was a project, then really all of the AP Gov teachers couldn’t do a project at the same time... So it’s made planning things for the students a lot better, but it’s also just made it easier for us to collaborate with each other.”

EDUCATIONAL ESCAPE — Seniors Cameron Thierer, Tiara Allard and Megan Kassem play a digital escape room on the Constitution in Rachel Baxter’s AP Government class. They had to complete different challenges to finish the assignment. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Baxter)




TheatreMcLean prepares for Y



xpect yelling. Expect chaos. Expect laughter. Expect tears. Expect the humorous fall play to relieve some holiday stress. Showing in the auditorium from Nov. 2024, TheatreMcLean’s You Can’t Take It With You is a 1930s Broadway romantic comedy. Alice Sycamore, the main character, who is played by senior Rebecca Blacksten and junior Avery Versaw, shows the importance of family support and staying true to oneself. Blacksten, an aspiring actress, has only missed one school production in her time here, but this is her first time in a lead role. “When I opened up the cast list and saw that I was the lead actor I literally started sobbing,” Blacksten said. “This is my favorite play ever. So when I heard we were doing it, I thought, maybe I could be Alice, and then I got it, and I was just so excited.” In the play, Alice is raised by goofy parents who sit back and enjoy what the world has to offer. They approach life with a “do whatever makes you happy” attitude and choose to love things they are terrible at, like ballet and playwriting. When she falls in love with Tony, who is


from a stern Wall Street family, she is scared Tony and his family will judge her parents. Tony, though, is inspired by her carefree family. “It’s such a beautiful piece about family and love in its purest form,” Blacksten said. “The show really encapsulates what it means to be a loving, caring family. It really speaks to how amazing the world is.” Auditions were held in early September. The cast and crew started preparing for the play that month and spent about two months working on the production four to five times per week, staying as late as 10 at night. “It’s really long and crazy. I would imagine I’m here working on the show for close to 100 hours. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint but I’m here a lot,” TheatreMcLean director Phillip Reid said. The unusually high number of lines in the production has posed some difficulties. “It’s very rare to see me at home when I don’t have my lines in my hands and am flipping through my script,” Blacksten said. As one of the most challenging aspects of acting, shifting between moods throughout the play can be particularly hard.

“I have scene partners who have a bunch of emotions too,” Blacksten said. “We’re just clashing against each other trying to figure out what would work with each other.” TheatreMcLean uses double casting, which means that two actors perform the same character on different nights. While this makes communicating a bit challenging, it makes the show unique.

IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL PIECE ABOUT FAMILY AND LOVE IN ITS PUREST FORM.” - REBECCA BLACKSTEN SENIOR “If you go on different nights, you will see different choices actors [make],” said junior Benjamin Cudmore, the lead actor for Tony Kirby. “One of the girls in my cast’s show jumps onto me, but the other cast does something completely different.”

Page design by Marina Qu


r You Can’t Take It With You Blacksten’s favorite scene happens when Tony is planning to propose, but Alice is afraid of exposing her unusual family. It is a great insight into their complicated but passionate relationship. “In this scene, I get to work with the cast members I’ve known for years but never gotten to do scenes with,” Blacksten said. “I suddenly get to do really wonderful emotional scenes with people I’m really good friends with, and it’s just so exciting.” The play reaches its climax when Tony brings his stern parents to visit the odd Sycamore family before Alice has time to hide their quirkiness. “I just love seeing the reactions on everyone’s faces and the tension in the room. There’s a lot of comedic bits in this scene that I think are the best because it is where all the action happens,” Cudmore said. “Mr. Kirby gets body slammed. Craziness is happening.” Upon seeing the name of the play, students may wonder, “What can you not take with you?” “When you pass away, you can’t take all that material goods and money with you,” Reid said. “So why not live your life to the

fullest and do all the things you want to do?” Even though the play is more than 80 years old, the values still apply to students and parents today. “[At] the high school level [when] we’re so stressed about tests and grades and trying to get into the best colleges, we need to take a moment and step back and [ask], ‘Is it all worth it?’” Reid said. Students can buy tickets for the production online or at the door for a newly discounted price of $8. This year, TheatreMcLean is also accepting payment via credit cards. The doors open at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 20-23. There will be a 2 p.m. matinée on Saturday and Sunday. “It’s just a fun show that everybody can find some part in whether it’s humor or the drama of it, or just the fact that there’s fireworks and a lot of terrible ballet dancing,” Blacksten said. “Where else can you go see that?”

Showing from Nov. 20-24 Online ticketing Students: $8 Adults: $12

At the door:


NOSTALGIC STYLE — Cast members Amanda Mullet, John Godwin, Michael Aten, Graham Cole, Benjamin Cudmore, Avery Versaw, Sophie Camus and Nathan Fimbres pose for press photos. TheatreMcLean’s fall production of You Can’t Take It With You will show in the McLean auditorium Nov. 20-24. (Photos by Izabela Firlej)



ANYTHING BUT SKETCHY Ivy Sun develops her own art style



n enthusiastic art student sketches, each stroke of her mechanical pencil striking the page. Her faithful eraser, blunt on one end and square-edged on the other, is poised to needle the lines of an emerging character into shape. The artist is a senior in AP Studio Art. Her name is Ivy Sun. Sun started drawing in middle school when she struggled with finding an extracurricular. The summer before her senior year, Sun went through some personal challenges, leading to a change in her approach to artwork. “I think before that she mostly drew as a hobby. She [used to] copy from other animations,” said Emi Sun, Ivy Sun’s sister. “But after that [summer], she started to really discover her personality and tried to show that in different character designs.” Besides drawing, Sun enjoys collaging. “Whenever I want to be realistic I use a collage,” Sun said. “A collage can give you multiple layers, and it gives you a mixture of fantasy and reality.” To make sure her collages convey her thoughts properly, Sun does a lot of planning. “A lot of her collage has content, and she likes to think before she really starts making art. And she always wants to clarify what she wants to deliver to people,” Emi Sun said. In art class, Sun figured out how to convey concepts through her own style. “She always incorporates other mediums into her work and is always thinking about how the materials she’s using contribute to what the meaning of the work is,” art teacher Swapna Elias said. Sun explored several of her ideas through sustained investigation, a project that encourages art students to find their own theme and pursue it through multiple pieces. “What she’s interested in exploring has a lot to do with questions about norms that we place in society, like how we judge art, and who gets to judge it—like philosophical questions about art itself,” Elias said. Sun discovered an interest in juxtaposing beauty and ugliness, which later evolved to challenging religion in society. “I personally don’t like religion because religion is like if I do all these things, the Bible [gives] me an answer. I don’t find my own answer. So the answer we find by our own thinking process and the answer the Bible gives us—I want to contrast those two,” Sun said. Sun hopes people can understand the flexibility and scope of art class. “Art class—it’s not just ‘give you this figure, you draw it,’” Sun said. “It’s more creative than that. It’s not even just drawing—it can be anything you want. I just want to show that idea.” 30 | A&E | NOVEMBER

“METAMORPHOSIS” — Ivy Sun’s sustained investigation from Art 3 contrasts pasted flowers with fine pen lines. Her collages represent her perception of the world. (Image courtesy of Ivy Sun) DRAWING AWAY — Ivy Sun sketches a character in an art classroom. (Photo by Ally Liu)

Page design by Dasha Makarishcheva


Apple’s newest devices turn modest upgrades into must-haves ARNAV GUPTA REPORTER


t doesn’t matter what’s on the outside—it’s the inside that counts. Apple released its newest phones to the world a month ago, and though they don’t look much different, they are still impressive devices. The iPhone 11 and 11 Pro possess a faster A13 Bionic processor than their predecessors and a new double- or triple-camera system. They also have increased water resistance, longer battery life and stronger glass construction. The new features no doubt make the phones very powerful and easy to use, but students transitioning from newer iPhones do not see much of a difference. “I like the new iPhone, but compared to my XR, I don’t think it was worth it because it’s not really that different from my old phone,” sophomore Tommy Lam said. His concerns are valid. Compared to the XR, the only differences are the camera and bigger battery. Additionally, the iPhone 11 Pro starts at $999, while the XR now starts at $599. Going to the iPhone 11 from the iPhone SE, a model launched in 2016, I noticed a significant difference in the user experience and the software implementation. The 11’s dual cameras take clearer shots, and photo and video quality is much better.

Face ID, the advanced facial recognition system, is snappy when unlocking the phone and works well with iOS 13. The larger display is colorful and delivers a good quality image from scrolling through Instagram to watching Netflix. The faster A13 chip is a nice upgrade, loading everything much faster. With that comes exceptional battery life.

I REALLY LIKE IT—IT’S FASTER THAN MY OLD PHONE, THE CAMERA IS A LOT BETTER, AND OVERALL IT WORKS.” - CORINNE MAZZOTTA AP WORLD TEACHER I had to charge the SE multiple times a day. Now, with an average usage of six hours, I am ending the day with almost 30%. However, there are some drawbacks.The glass construction enables wireless charging, but it’s slow compared to competitors. The big “notch” at the top of the display has not updated for the third year in a row. It is easy to ignore, but competitors like the Samsung Galaxy S10 have displays all the way to the

3 cameras

edges with minimal cut-outs. The main drawback is that, besides the cameras, the design has not changed. Competitors like Samsung have been changing their designs annually, while Apple has stuck to the same design for the last few years. Apple may not have changed the design, but iOS 13, Apple’s latest operating system, has been getting positive user feedback. “I really like the iPhone 11; it works very well,” sophomore Melanie Lindsey said. Lindsey upgraded from an iPhone 8, and she says the 11 was worth the price. Other users reported similar experiences when switching from older iPhones. “I really like it—it’s faster than my old [iPhone 7],” AP World teacher Corinne Mazzotta said. “The camera is a lot better and overall it works.” For iPhone users with older models, the 11s are a good upgrade. For more recent iPhone users, it would be a better idea to wait until Apple’s next great innovation.

Final Review: 4/5 Only worth upgrading from an older phone.

2 cameras

(ultrawide, wide & telephoto lenses)

(ultrawide & wide lenses)

All glass construction

11 Pro/Max $999/$1,099

Photos & page design by Arnav Gupta


High resolution OLED display (5.8”/6.5”)

Slightly lower resolution LCD display (6.1”)






espite the fall temperatures outside, the care-free warmth of the beachy decorations and tropical music make Playa Bowls feel like summer again. Located in the Mosaic district, it is the perfect place for a healthy yet super sweet snack. With its variety of bowl options, Playa Bowls will always have the right choice for any customer. The interior of Playa Bowls is the epitome of a beachside snack bar. The bright blue wave murals, surfboard tables and wooden floorboards transported me back to the boardwalk. Unlike South Block, Playa Bowls distinctly embodies the tropical aesthetic and endless summers. While South Block mainly offers bowls purely made of just açaí, Playa Bowls offers many bases, such as pitaya, banana, green, chia and coconut. Each of these options entails an exciting variation of ingredients that is certain to surprise customers. Playa Bowls’ Pura Vida bowl is the most similar to the Warrior bowl from South Block, but with a more distinct taste of honey. The increased sweetness adds to the already flavorful bowl topped with strawberries, blueberries and granola. On the other hand, the Power bowl, which is comparable to South Block’s PBJ (peanut butter and jelly) bowl, provides a mixture of flavors that balance out the sweetness of the original açaí bowl. The salty peanut butter calms down the intense honey perfectly, making it the best bowl I tried, by far. Playa Bowls is definitely the top choice for açaí bowls. Their tropical decorations are unmatched, and they offer a much larger, sweeter selection of smoothie bowls.

Playa Bowls’ super sweet açaí bowls will take your taste buds to the beach.


Page design by Maya Amman & Dasha Makarishcheva



hen I opened the door to this juicery located on Westmoreland Street, I was greeted with smiling staff and a trendy, clean environment. Most well known for their photo-worthy and aesthetically pleasing açaí bowls, South Block is just as good as it looks. Their açaí bases have a thick smoothie consistency and come in vibrant shades of pink and purple. The strawberry and blueberry toppings were arranged in a perfect array that seemed to highlight the fresh taste of the açaí. The homemade granola added a crunchy texture that created a tasty contrast to the smooth, refreshing blend underneath. Their most popular menu items are the Warrior bowl and the PBJ bowl. The PBJ bowl embodied the fruity and nutty taste of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with the ideal ratio of peanut butter to açaí. The Warrior bowl pleasantly surprised me with large, juicy blueberries on top, proving that South Block takes care with their toppings. I was especially impressed with the exotic fruits and superfoods that South Block offers in their menu items, such as pitaya, spirulina and bee pollen. I was pleased to learn that the satisfyingly sweet bowls have no added sugars or artificial ingredients that other smoothie chain competitors often include. A bonus of South Block is their dedication to minimizing their environmental impact. My açaí bowl was served in a recyclable plastic bowl with a 100% compostable spoon. Compared to Playa Bowls, South Block is the obvious winner. While both juiceries sell açaí bowls for $9-12, South Block offers a larger bowl size for the same price, in addition to free stickers, free Wi-Fi and free chia seed toppings.

South Block serves quality açaí while also being environmentally friendly.



Teachers should be more lenient during all religious holidays The staff editorial represents the opinion of the majority of The Highlander editorial board


brightly lit room is filled with adults laughing and chattering away. Kids are running around the room playing a game of tag while family members are gathered on the couch. This is what a typical religious holiday should look like. Instead, what many McLean students find themselves doing on their holy day is homework, studying and stressing— practically everything except actually celebrating. Students should not have to prioritize school over observing their religious holidays. Fairfax County is home to a diverse body of students who observe a variety of religions. Obviously, it is not feasible to cancel school for every holiday in every faith, but more awareness from staff should be expected and enforced. Currently, McLean teachers are not allowed to assign homework or assessments on many minority holidays. The school must give anyone that takes the day off to celebrate their faith an excused absence. “If someone is going to celebrate Eid or Ramadan, we’re told and make concessions for that person,” World Religions teacher Ian Howell said. “So if someone is going to be tired because they are not eating all day, then they inform us, and we try to adjust things according to their needs.” But teachers do not always follow this rule. “Most of our students are still having to choose between coming to school to take an exam, or going to their faith institution to worship,” said Meryl Paskow, the volunteer leader for VOICE, an interfaith group located in Virginia. Some students feel like McLean restricts their ability to fully celebrate their holiday. “People at McLean, teachers and students alike, overlook my religious holidays constantly,” junior Tess Mellinger said. “I get assignments and tests on my holiday. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, lasts two days, and I cannot miss that much school, so I’m not able to observe on those days.” Students also have to deal with a general 34 | OPINIONS | NOVEMBER

lack of understanding and tolerance from others at the school. “Anti-semitic jokes are made all the time, ranging from Holocaust jokes to people throwing pennies at my feet. I was in class the other day, and my teacher was complaining about how annoying it is that we can’t schedule a test because it’s someone’s religious holiday,” Mellinger said. “To brush off [one’s] religion and call it a burden is inexcusable and should not be happening at McLean.”

TO BRUSH OFF [ONE’S] RELIGION IS INEXCUSABLE AND SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING AT MCLEAN.” - TESS MELLINGER JUNIOR Ramadan, one of the biggest holidays in the Muslim faith, lasts for 30 days. Many students at McLean celebrate it and abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Last year, Ramadan took place around late spring. Students had to do activities such as walk around the track in incredibly hot weather conditions.

“I just wish [my teacher would’ve] let me stay inside during the hot days and just not go outside at all,” junior Marya Ansari said. “That’d be a more [comfortable] situation.” Teachers should not just do the bare minimum but should be more accommodating toward students regarding classwork and activities, even if it is more time-consuming. “If that means [teachers] have to make three or four different versions of a test to account for [excused absences], that’s what you do. Is it a hassle? Yeah. But that’s the joy of diversity,” Howell said. “You can choose to adapt and be tolerant or you can get out.” To get a better sense of how missing important religious holidays affects students, empathy is necessary. “How would it feel if you were at home celebrating Christmas and your class was having a test? When you put it in that perspective, then people become more understanding...[about how] students [of minority faiths] feel stressed to be at school [during their observances],” Principal Ellen Reilly said. Even though some staff members take students’ religious holidays into consideration, it is not enough. McLean teachers should create an environment where students can freely celebrate their holidays and feel comfortable expressing their concerns about religious intolerance.

Reporting & page design by Shruthi Manimaran & Saisha Dani | Cartoon by Jayne Ogilvie-Russell

WELCOME TO THE CIRCUS Standardized testing and AP classes perpetuate stressful environment AVA ROTONDO EDITOR-IN-CHIEF


he College Board faces the wrath of high school students nationwide—and rightfully so. As the organization in charge of AP classes and a multitude of standardized tests, it deserves the blame for the piles of homework and stress high schoolers face. The SAT is the most widely known and taken standardized test the College Board administers. Some feel the test is incapable of demonstrating true abilities, despite its use as an indicator of “college readiness.” Seniors in the midst of submitting their scores to colleges are frustrated with the apparent ambiguity of the scores they received. “When I was first starting to take the SAT, I was getting scores that did not match my work ethic or my academic success,” senior McMatics president Katherine Walker said. “If you don’t get a score that reflects your academic performance in high school, it’s just so heartbreaking.” Students are pressured to prove themselves on one three-hour test. They hire tutors, attend prep classes and take practice tests for months—or even years. “Students with resources for costly test prep and repeat testing will statistically achieve higher on the SAT,” College and Career Specialist Laura Venos said. “Because all high schools are different, the idea of having a test that can level the playing field makes a lot of sense in terms of college admissions.” While it may be true that the test can

provide a more level playing field, the inequity in terms of preparation cancels out this benefit. Colleges also look into students’ course history—what classes they have taken, how much they have challenged themselves and how their schedules measure up to their classmates’. The College Board offers AP courses for those who wish to take more difficult classes.

STUDENTS FEEL PRESSURE TO TAKE MORE APS, EVEN WHEN WE’RE TELLING THEM NOT TO.” - KEN KRANER AP LITERATURE TEACHER “Colleges want to see students challenge themselves here at McLean,” Venos said. “Taking advanced courses, whether they’re APs, dual enrollment or honors, helps show colleges that you are ‘college-ready’ academically.” This allows high schoolers freedom to study subjects they want to pursue in a more in-depth and advanced environment. That’s great, right? Well, no. The fatal flaw is that students who wish to distinguish themselves for college admissions load up on these rigorous classes, creating a massive competition and

defeating their intended purpose, which is to provide more choice in high school education. “It’s just simple. In order to be competitive with the people at McLean, you really do have to load up on APs,” Walker said. “If you want to continue to pursue those interests at top universities, you have to be a competitive applicant, and you have to take APs to do that.” It is truly a vicious cycle, and the teachers of these courses notice it. “I blame schools for offering too many AP classes, and I blame colleges that say, ‘Did you take the most difficult curriculum offered at your school?’” AP Literature teacher Ken Kraner said. “Students feel pressure to take more APs, even when we’re telling them not to take too many.” Walker and Kraner agree that a solution to this competition is to put a cap on the number of AP classes students can take over the course of high school. “I think three or four [per year] would be completely sufficient, because it reduces the competitive environment,” Walker said. “If everybody has a max number they can take, then all the overachievers will be satisfied.” The College Board is unintentionally harming the nation’s education system, creating a frantic, competition-based academic culture. Schools need to put measures in place to save their students from this debilitating climate of stress, starting with taking a hard look at what the College Board is doing to us.

McLean’s 2018 AP Enrollment by percentage of students school-wide

by number of students per grade

by number of courses per student


0 AP courses

7% Students not enrolled in an AP

1 AP course





Students enrolled in one or more AP



Infographic & page design by Ava Rotondo




3 AP courses 4 AP courses



2 AP courses

5+ AP courses





ames Charles? Cancelled. Dave Chappelle? Cancelled. Kathy Griffin? Cancelled. Not everyone may recognize the Gen-Z term “cancel culture,” but most know how it operates. Cancel culture, a term coined by Lisa Nakamura, is a form of cultural boycott that operates on a mob mentality basis. It is a way to expose wrongdoing and fulfill social justice by depriving “exposed” people of views, likes and success. This increasingly prevalent culture— found on social media, in politics and in comedy—has created a toxic environment online, overturning its initial function, which was to promote awareness. One person’s accusatory tweet or “spilling the tea” video incites digital boycotts by masses who have never met the accuser nor the accused. Now, the general public hides behind the phrase “you’re cancelled” to fulfill their personal vendetta against a public figure. 36 | OPINIONS | NOVEMBER

“Even when someone is getting [called out], a lot of times political rivals will blow it up in order to use [it] as a tool to advance their own interests,” junior Caroline Lucia said. “People rarely genuinely feel demeaned, and I think it’s used more as a tool to push down others.” Boycott culture is an excuse to tarnish people’s reputations for pure entertainment, which is why YouTuber James Charles was put under a magnifying glass earlier this year. This young beauty guru faced a scandal involving his close friend Tati Westbrook after promoting an opposing brand. Westbrook fired back with a 43-minute video titled “BYE SISTER”—a play on one of Charles’ catchphrases. As a result, he lost more than 3.8 million subscribers. With over 45 million views, Westbrook’s video was noticed by the public, to say the least. This is where the ideology of cancel culture took a turn for the worse. People all over the internet took to social media to voice their opinions, but everyone’s sounded the same: “James Charles is cancelled.”

Charles’ scandal was blown out of proportion, because he was the focus of so much attention. “Cancellers assume a sort of cultural cultural righteousness. They are championing the criteria for what qualifies [to be cancelled], and it’s highly dependent on the mood of the month,” social studies teacher Dylan Wedan said. By shutting someone down and isolating them from the general public, the accusers are discouraging open discussion and respectful behavior. This connects to another popular term that has been thrown around in cancel culture: political correctness. Being politically correct is using language that is sensitive to the political climate. It is not an excuse to exile or supress individuals who exercise their First Amendment rights. The problem with this arises not when people feel that they must use terms that make everyone comfortable, but rather it occurs when someone feels forced to sacrifice their judgment or speech to conform with this cultural pressure of always being politically correct.

Photo illustrations by Skye Sunderhauf | Page design by Swetha Manimaran & Kara Murri

This more vicious form of political correctness creates chasms between political parties, dividing our country almost irreversibly. At the same time, these “outsiders” should not turn their backs to the majority’s criticism. A prime example of this behavior comes from comedians, who sometimes use political incorrectness to fuel their punchline. “I think that comedians, like anybody else, should seek to be kind, to do good and to be humble,” Wedan said. “However, the nature of their role in society is to probe areas that are uncomfortable.”

[PEOPLE] ARE CHAMPIONING THE CRITERIA FOR WHAT QUALIFIES [TO BE CANCELLED], AND IT’S HIGHLY DEPENDENT ON THE MOOD OF THE MONTH.”A - DYLAN WEDAN SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER But which topics go under the category “uncomfortable” and which go under “insensitive”? This gray area will never become black and white. The controversial comedian Dave Chappelle has been criticized for being insensitive to important and serious issues. His jokes about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide made the public question once again if there’s a universal line when it comes to comedy. “There is a gray area on who has gone too far or crossed the line,” Lucia said. “Obviously across different sets of morals and cultures, it’s different for everybody, the line you can’t cross. I think in today’s society most people know, like, don’t be racist, don’t be sexist, don’t be prejudiced.” Instead of people merely voicing their opinions about what they think is insensitive, they inflate the issue, only helping advance the offender’s career. For a movement rooted in refusing to support intolerance through “unfollowing” and “unsubscribing,” cancel culture gives more attention to those who have committed crimes than they deserve.

The purpose of cancel culture has morphed from promoting social awareness into over-scrutinizing others’ mistakes. It is important to remember that everyone makes mistakes, including comedians like Kathy Griffin. In May 2017, Griffin was blacklisted after she posed with a prop of a severed head that resembled President Trump. Although this lack of foresight may have been a lapse of judgment, her critics were justified in expressing dislike. However, the public escalated the issue to the point that she was no longer seen as a human but a sadistic antagonist. Tweets included “Terrible terrible woman,” “Lock her up” and “She is Sick! A disgrace to the human race!” Dehumanization and an attitude against forgiveness are two of the most dangerous side effects of cancel culture. Both create a sort of “he said, she said” game in which faces behind screens endure real life consequences of actions. This Gen Z culture promotes the idea that some people are inherently immoral and can never change, even years after the incident. There is no single ethical line that, once crossed, one can never be forgiven. And our generation shouldn’t set one because there is a better, more productive way to approach politics and to expose wrongdoing. “I think a very important word is

‘appropriate,’ because there’s an appropriate time to voice your opinion and there’s an appropriate time not to voice your opinion. Being professional about that is extremely important in our society today,” AP Psychology teacher Riley Larkin said. The ideals of cancel culture are produced in a vacuum-sealed utopian world, in which every person within the mass possesses a perfect moral compass and there is a line between the good and the bad. Instead, these elements—a desire for social justice, a strong sense of integrity, further awareness—should be combined with professionalism and politeness. This could create a more constructive atmosphere on social media and in politics. “I really think the only solution is humility; if you have a certain degree of humility, then you’re able to ascribe dignity to somebody,” Wedan said. “Humility acknowledges the mere fact that my convictions are evolving and changing, and this should suggest that I should have mercy and show mercy towards people who have different convictions.” FACES BEHIND THE SCREEN — Social media is the driving force of cancel culture. It is hard to remember that behind every tweet, every post, every video is a human with feelings too.


IT’S FACTS: THEY DESERVE STACKS Movement to pay college athletes is long overdue JACK SHIELDS MANAGING EDITOR


or years, college athletes battled the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) over their rights to profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL). The NCAA opposed paying their athletes on the grounds that it would make them more like paid professionals than students. They feared that allowing athletes to make money would hurt the recruiting environment and damage fair and balanced competition. The organization also suggested that scholarships are an adequate form of compensation for college athletes. “Giving someone a scholarship is amazing. But there are some cases in which I feel this isn’t enough,” said Joey Sullivan, a former McLean student who plays baseball at Virginia Tech. It’s true. College is expensive, and earning a four-year bachelor’s degree can cost over $200,000. But top athletes, like University of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and former Duke basketball star Zion Williamson, generated millions of dollars in revenue and publicity for their schools. They deserve a share of these profits. “In any other walk of life, if someone was making millions of dollars off of your name, you would want a little bit of dough in your pocket,” said Director of Student Activities Greg Miller, a former James Madison University (JMU) baseball player. “In college sports, you don’t.” Strict NCAA regulations regarding pay impact athletes’ daily lives. “I remember that when I was in college, we couldn’t have jobs as athletes,” Miller said. “The NCAA was worried that JMU would say ‘we’re going to give you a 50% scholarship, but we’re also going to give you this job at the mall that pays $50 an hour as part of a recruiting pitch.” Despite these criticisms, the NCAA maintained their stance for years. It came as a complete shock when they announced on Oct. 27 that they would allow college athletes to be payed. The abrupt end to the association’s 38 | OPINIONS | NOVEMBER

stubbornness came in light of a national movement to pay college athletes, which started when California enacted the Fair Pay to Play Act in late September. The act allowed compensation for the commercial use of athletes’ NIL. Ohio congressman and former college football player Anthony Gonzales introduced a similar bill that would carry the principles of the Fair Pay to Play Act to all colleges across the country.


Anticipating the inevitable conclusion that athletes nationwide would obtain the right to profit, the NCAA changed its

viewpoint and created rules that supported the new movement. “It’s been such a controversy for so long. Something was going to have to happen,” Sullivan said. “I think the NCAA had its hands tied. They were catching a lot of heat.” The NCAA’s compromise is the best-case scenario for college athletes, who will be able to make money from NIL far earlier than anticipated. While college athletes across the country will certainly be in support of the NCAA’s mission, it is crucial for the board to follow through on its plan and help in the creation of new rules regarding college athletes’ financial affairs. “I don’t feel like I know enough yet to really say how much of an impact it will make, but it will certainly change a lot,” Sullivan said. Modernizing college sports by allowing profit from NIL may save college sports altogether by providing more incentives for talented athletes to play and stopping corruption involving schools paying recruits. Fans are also attracted to the entertainment opportunities that the new rules open up. “I am excited about college athletes finally getting paid,” junior Srinjoy Dey said, “because now they might have more motivation to perform for their teams, resulting in better games.”

Page design by Jack Shields | Cartoon by Dasha Makarishcheva

TENNANT SISTERS TAKE FOCKEY BY STORM Skylar and Olivia form dynamic duo on varsity field hockey team



t’s 7:30 in the evening, and the varsity field hockey team is ready for the opening whistle. Numbers 10 and 20 line up on the right side of the field. The Tennant sisters are ready to change the game. “I remember the first time I ever played, coach subbed me in, and it felt really cool. I thought to myself, ‘I’m really sharing the field with my sister,’” freshman Olivia Tennant said. Her sister, Skylar Tennant, is a junior on the varsity field hockey team. She plays right midfield and wears number 20. Olivia plays right wing and wears jersey number 10. She was the only freshman on the team this year and only recently found her passion for field hockey. “I never thought I’d play, but when the season came along, and people kept talking about it, I wanted to pursue it,” Olivia said. Skylar has had more experience playing field hockey than her sister, but she picked up the sport around the same time in her life.

“I never played field hockey until my freshman year, but I have been playing ever since,” Skylar said. The two kept their relationship strong on the field, as they always support each other.



“Being on the same team as my sister was nice. She got on me sometimes and served as a great mentor, but we have fun at the end of the day,” Olivia said. Although Olivia was the only freshman, she fit in perfectly.

TOUGH ON THE TURF — Skylar Tennant studies the field in the varsity game against Washington-Liberty on Sept. 24. Skylar paved the way for her sister Olivia to join the team. Page design by Matthew Zarkani | Photos courtesy of Kent Arnold

“The upperclassmen were super welcoming, and it was never a problem fitting in,” Olivia said. In terms of learning the game itself, Olivia was able to adjust quickly. “I never really took field hockey seriously. I always played for fun, and it turned out that I had some skill,” Olivia said. Not only does their sisterhood benefit them on the field, but it has off the field as well. “The first time I witnessed my sister score it was great. I was jumping with joy, and what made it even more memorable was that my own sister scored,” Olivia said. “Sharing that moment with her and the rest of the team felt amazing.” Skylar enjoys the sport, but she has no intentions of playing in college. “I’m just here to have fun,” Skylar said. Even though the team ended with a record of 3-13-1, the Tennants still look forward to the future of playing together. “I can’t wait for another great season with my sister next year,” Olivia said.

PUTTING THE TEN IN TENNANT — Olivia Tennant takes on Washington-Liberty on Sept. 24. She is the only freshman on the team and has a lot of potential in the upcoming years. NOVEMBER | SPORTS | 39


Official girls wrestling team proposed at McLean ARIANA ELAHI REPORTER ALEENA GUL ONLINE NEWS EDITOR


cLean is considering adding a separate girls wrestling team to their repertoire of after school sports. Historically, wrestling has been a predominantly male sport, but now, more and more high school girls are picking it up. “I’m excited that there’s more interest in it now and that a lot of girls want to wrestle,” Director of Student Activities Greg Miller said. “In general, I want as many of our kids—boys or girls—to participate in sports and be more interested in them. I think that’s a good thing.” Girls have always been allowed to participate in wrestling at McLean, but they would do so on the boys team. Co-ed wrestling requires a great amount of courage to rebel against societal norms. “Creating an all-girls team is a step towards equality for girls and boys,” wrestling coach Kenneth Jackson said. “Technically,

wrestling is a co-ed sport, [which deters girls from joining the team]. This is a big push to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to have all-girls events so that they feel comfortable wrestling.’” Because the all-girls wrestling team is a new proposal, support for it is limited. Eight girls showed up to the interest meeting last month. According to Jackson, McLean will not participate in any all-girls wrestling tournaments if at least six wrestlers do not attend. “I think that the new team will allow for an opportunity for girls to get involved with more sports that they previously weren’t,” said junior Camille Airington, who is interested in joining the girls wrestling team. “But the girls are the ones who have to take this step and actually join and get out of their comfort zone.” Jackson said that if girls are interested, they should try it out. Meetings and practices start Nov. 11 in the gym. “I would definitely like to go to some of the preseason practices just to see how I

like them because I’ve never done wrestling before,” Airington said. “I feel like it’s always something that I’ve wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to do physical contact sports but never really had the chance.” Wrestling has a lot of benefits that can help people grow physically and mentally. It teaches life skills about winning, losing and self-discipline. “It can help anyone. Wrestling gives you self-confidence. You experience adversity and face defeat, which really helps you out not just in high school but later on in life,” Jackson said. “You can’t blame anybody for losing. It’s all on you. I think that’s a great life skill.” While the future of girls wrestling remains unclear, proposing the new team is a step in the right direction. “Keep it growing. I obviously love wrestling,” Jackson said. “And one of my biggest goals as a coach is to get students and athletes to love the sport just as much as I do.”

RISING UP — McLean alumna Peggy Zeng wins fourth place at an all-girls wrestling competition in 2017. She was one of a few girls on the boys wrestling team. (Photo courtesy of Kenneth Jackson) Page design by Ariana Elahi & Aleena Gul


SWIMMING TO SUCCESS Seniors get recruited by their dream schools

DOLPHIN DORA — Dora Wu fends off the competition, opening up a two-body length lead, at 2019 district championships


Steve Han gets offers from top colleges


he rush of the water hits his goggles as he finishes the 100-yard breaststroke, winning fourth place at the state championships. Senior Steve Han, a college swimming recruit, has received offers from many colleges, including the Naval Academy, University of Chicago, Tufts, New York University and Georgia Tech. (Photo courtesy of Han emphasizes that enjoyment is the key to his success. Dora Wu) “Twenty kids from Nation’s Capital Swim Team [Han’s former swim team] quit because they didn’t like it,” Han said. “If you don’t like it, you won’t want to pursue it in college.” Proper support and enjoyment of the sport helped Han push Dora Wu commits to UPenn through rigorous daily or twice daily practices. “You definitely have to make a lot of sacrifices as far as social events,” hants ring in 7-year-old Dora Wu’s ears: “Marlins! Marlins! Han said. “But, [my coaches] are really supportive, not just with swim Marlins!” She lines up behind her lane and prepares for the but with academics as well.” 25-meter breaststroke, hoping to win and bring joy to her summer Han’s high school coach, Anthony Puzan, believes that this academic swim team. Wu was a swimming phenom from a young age, but support is a very important component in the college recruitment finding proper support was difficult at times. process. “I had this period of time when I just “Every college wants someone who will hated swimming, and I did not like going be successful in their pool and improve their to practice or meets,” Wu said. “I was just BOTH STEVE AND programs, but also be good in the classroom,” really upset with myself.” Puzan said. It wasn’t until she found coach Ray DORA ARE GREAT Han’s sacrifices have paid off. He was Benecki of the Fish Aquatics Club that she LEADERS ON THE recently awarded the USA Swimming rediscovered her passion for the sport and TEAM. THEY LEAD Scholastic All-American Award. began to climb the national rankings. THROUGH EXAMPLE.” “I’ve seen Steve grow as an athlete and a “Last year, my 100-yard breaststroke time student,” Puzan said. was in the top 100 in the nation,” Wu said. - ANTHONY PUZAN For many swimmers at McLean, the high “Coach Ray helps me get through practice MCLEAN SWIM COACH school team offers a unique element to the and has helped me with my times.” sport. When Wu needs a break from the 6,000“My freshman year on the McLean swim team was really fun, to 7,000-yard practices with her year-round team, Fish, the McLean because it was a really different experience than club swimming,” Han High School swim team offers a nice change of pace. said. “It was a new environment where I made friends easily.” “High school is really fun, and the team helps motivate In college, Han looks forward to this team environment and hopes swimmers,” Wu said. it will enable him to achieve his personal goals. Wu has also been successful individually. She is the McLean “I want to be on a team where everyone is supportive and High School record holder in the 100-yard individual breaststroke, committed,” Han said, “and where I can reach the NCAAs.” breaking the old record by nearly one second. Puzan gives Wu full credit for her success. “Dora is very easy to work with. She has been open to positive FISH IN THE and negative feedback, which as a coach makes my job really easy,” WATER — Steve Puzan said. Han swims to Over the summer, Wu was recruited by the University of first place in his Pennsylvania swim team, the realization of her long-term goal. premiere event, “I have always wanted to go to a prestigious college,” Wu said. the 100-yard “My brother goes to a prestigious school, and I want to follow in breaststroke his footsteps.” at 2019 district Wu is unsure but optimistic about her future on UPenn’s team. championships. “I don’t really have any specific goals,” Wu said. “I just want to (Photo courtesy of enjoy myself and contribute to the team.” Steve Han)


Page design by Ava Rotondo & Thomas Lohman



WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY FROM VOLLEYBALL? I would say senior night when we played W-L [Washington-Liberty]. We didn’t win, but everything before [the game] when all the seniors read their bios was so cute. Since you’re with these people every day for three months, you know them so well. It was sad, but bittersweet.

WHAT WAS ONE OF YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENTS IN VOLLEYBALL? I was going back to serve and doing my little routine, and [the ball] bounced off my foot and rolled away. I had to go get it and it was just not good. It was also the one game where we had a student section.

DO YOU WANT TO PURSUE VOLLEYBALL PROFESSIONALLY OR IN COLLEGE? I think in college if I had the opportunity I would. But professionally, it’s extra hard since so many people play volleyball. It’s also not like the NFL or the NBA: it’s smaller. And the only way I could do it would be overseas, which I don’t know if I would want to do.

WHY DID YOU START PLAYING VOLLEYBALL? I started playing because as a kid I was really athletic, and I did whatever [sports] I could. I played softball a lot, and I did dance, but once I started playing volleyball, it stuck with me. I could tell that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

WHO IS YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATION? All of my team. It helps me a lot to be around people that I enjoy because it gives me a reason to want to go to practice and want to be at a game. My setter, Ella Park, is such a good friend of mine, and it helps to go to practice and see her there.



Reporting by Noah Barnes | Page design by Marina Qu | Photo by Skye Sunderhauf

I’ve learned a lot about mental toughness because volleyball is a game of strategy and how you can come back from something. If you are able to persevere through hardship then you can win, but if you just get stuck, you can’t.
































Photos & reporting by Taylor Olson Page design by Anya Chen, Maren Kranking, Dasha Makarishcheva & Taylor Olson

McLEAN HOCKEY salutes our seniors VARSITY SCHEDULE 2019-20


Game 1 - Friday, Nov. 8 vs. Riverside 9:10 p.m. @ Ashburn/East rink

Game 2 - Friday, Nov. 15 vs. South Lakes 7:55 p.m. @ Skatequest/Olympic rink

Game 3 - Friday, Nov. 22 vs. Dominion/Potomac Falls 9:20 p.m. @ Ashburn/West rink


Game 4 - Friday, Dec. 6 vs. Rock Ridge/Independence 9:40 p.m. @ Skatequest/Olympic rink Game 5 - Friday, Dec. 20 vs. Broad Run 9:40 p.m. @ Skatequest/NHL rink

Game 6 - Friday, Jan. 10 vs. Oakton 6:10 p.m. @ Skatequest/Olympic rink Game 7 - Friday, Jan. 17 vs. Madison 7:55pm @ Skatequest/Olympic rink Game 8 - Friday, Jan. 24 vs. Stone Bridge 10:40 p.m. @ Ashburn/East rink


Game 9 - Friday, Jan. 31 vs. Briar Woods 7:55 p.m. @ Skatequest rink in Reston Game 10 - Friday, Feb. 7 vs. Langley 7:55pm @ Skatequest rink in Reston





Profile for The Highlander

The Highlander - Issue 2 - November 2019  

The Highlander - Issue 2 - November 2019