The Highlander - Issue 3 - February 2022

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Issue 3 february 2022 Volume 66 McLean High school THEHIGHLANDERNEWS.COM @MHSHIGHLANDER


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Letter from the editors Dear McLean, After half a year back in the building, many students and staff members are struggling with balancing life and work. This issue’s in-depth investigates people facing burnout and how they have handled surmounting struggles in an exceptionally demanding year. Masks have become a politically charged issue over the course of the past year as conservatives and liberals take opposing stances on mandates and personal choice. Our Feb. issue explores the battle against Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order granting parents the choice to have their children wear masks, overriding district mandates. We encourage you to explore our more lighthearted pieces, too, like those about English teacher Elise Emmons’ cookie business, students’ jobs, senior hockey player Jack Deutsch and the student behind McLean’s mascot, Angus. This issue features a wide variety of work, and we hope you will find something to connect to. Yours Truly, Taylor Olson, Aleena Gul, Josh Bass, Maya Amman, Ariana Elahi & Akash Balenalli|@MHSHighlander Editors-in-Chief: Maya Amman Josh Bass Aleena Gul Design Editors-in-Chief: Ariana Elahi Taylor Olson Managing Editors: Hanna Boughanem Ana Paula Ibarraran Laine Phillips Polina Zubarev Website Editor-in-Chief: Akash Balenalli Website Managing Editor: Mackenzie Chen Chief Marketing Manager: Saehee Perez Head Cartoonist: Jayne Ogilvie-Russell Cartoonist: Liz Nedelescu Photographers: Sandra Cheng Morgan Muntean Fact Checkers: Belén Ballard Saehee Perez

Designers: Akash Balenalli Makda Bekele Dania Reza Vanessa Popescu Natalie Vu News Editors: Arnav Gupta Nyla Marcott Philip Rotondo Features Editors: Belén Ballard Ivy Olson Madeleine Stigall

McLean High School 1633 Davidson Road McLean, Virginia 22101 Digital Media Producers: Layla Zaidi Polina Zubarev

Social Media Managers: Akash Balenalli Isabella DiPatri

Reporters: Melissa Allegretti Zachary Ammar Sandra Cheng Andy Chung Graham Courey Farah Eljazzar Madelyn Frederick Sydney Gleason Conaire Horgan Max Irish Omar Kayali

Christiana Ketema Kaan Kocabal Ghada Moussa Valerie Paredes Tara Pandey Josephine Phillips Ritika Rohatgi Paarth Soni Peter Shumway Dario Sutera Madie Turley

A&E Editors: Noah Barnes Khushi Rana Grace Gould

Adviser: Lindsay B. Benedict

Opinions Editors: Emily Friedman Cc Palumbo

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.

Sports Editors: Andrew Christofferson Tanner Coerr Scott Shields Copy Editors: Tanner Coerr Arnav Gupta Philip Rotondo Madeleine Stigall

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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.

To submit a letter to the editors: Please email letters to the editors to or bring them 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.


The Highlander newsmagazine Volume 66 | Issue 3 FEBRUARY 2022

NEWS 4-5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Fairfax HS incident sparks protests Governor removes school mask mandates


Black Student Union forms Contact tracing updates Vaping and drug use at McLean Fairfax County rising crime rates Teacher salary freeze continues

FEATURES 12-13 14 15 16 17 18-19

Highlander of the Issue: Zora Rodgers


New electives hit McLean 10 Questions with Austin Blackford Will Mahoney’s farm Highlander student jobs English teacher’s cookie business

A&E s 20-21 28 29 30-31 32

36 Combating fast fashion Lonely Valentine’s Day songs Classroom murals Food Fight: Korean BBQ Breaking beauty standards

IN-DEPTH on the cover burning out



Students and teachers experience the effects of burnout Cover by Collin Coerr, Tanner Coerr & Taylor Olson

‘17, ‘20 Pacemaker Winner; ‘15, ‘19, ‘21 Pacemaker Finalist; ‘15, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19 All-American; ‘12, ‘13, ‘14, ‘16 First Class; Hall of Fame

‘14, ‘16, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19, ‘20 George H. Gallup Award; ‘15 International First Place

‘22 Crown Finalist ‘00, ‘18, ‘19, ‘20, ‘21 ‘14, ‘15, ‘16, ‘17, ‘18, ‘18, ‘19, ‘21 Silver ‘19, ‘21 First Amendment Crown Winner; Press Freedom Award VHSL Trophy Class; ‘16, ‘17, ‘20 Gold ‘11, ‘12 First Place Crown Winner Winner; VHSL Savedge Award ‘05, ‘07, ‘12, ‘13, ‘14, ‘15, ‘16, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19, ‘20 CSPA Gold

opinions 33 34 35 36


Editorial: Masks should be required Fine arts courses deserve honors boosts Non-traditional classes are more effective Colleges should stay test-optional

sports 37 38-39 41 43 44

Esports comes to McLean Boys and girls basketball season wrap-up Siblings succeed in sports Athlete of the Issue: Jack Deutsch Finish Line: Valentine’s Day


Incident at Fairfax High School sparks county-wide protests ALEENA GUL & JOSH BASS EDITORS-IN-CHIEF


rowds of students gathered in protest in front of seven FCPS high schools the morning of Dec. 17 in response to an alleged hate crime incident at Fairfax High School, where Muslim student Ekran Mohamed said she had her hijab forcibly removed by a classmate. Chanting “hands off her hijab” and pressing for “justice now,” students across the county stood with sophomore Mohamed. The alleged assault occurred during Mohamed’s Fashion Marketing class, where she said the situation began when she was targeted by two of her classmates. “[It started when one of the students involved] drew an Islamic symbol (the star and crescent) and crossed it out with a red marker, proceeding to look at me and my Muslim friends,” Mohamed said. According to Mohamed, after confronting the two students and ultimately deciding to ignore their behavior, they continued to provoke her and her friends. After a series of heated exchanges, Mohamed decided to leave the classroom, only to be struck from behind. “I was walking towards the door when he

4 | NEWS | FEBRUARY 2022

grabbed my hijab,” Mohamed said. “Out of self defense, I punched him in the stomach, causing him to let go of my hijab as he grabbed me. After that, I fell and hit the side of my body on a desk and my chest hit a chair. [As my teacher escorted me out of the room,] I had a hard time breathing, then I collapsed on the floor and the school called the ambulance.”

I WAS UPSET AND ANGRY THAT THIS COULD HAPPEN IN A PLACE WHERE I WAS SUPPOSED TO FEEL SAFE.” - EKRAN MOHAMED FAIRFAX HIGH SCHOOL SOPHOMORE Fairfax High School responded to the situation by placing Mohamed and her alleged attacker under in-school suspension, where they were held in the same room. The suspension will appear on Mohamed’s

permanent school record. “I was upset and angry that this could happen in a place where I was supposed to feel safe,” Mohamed said. “[Being in the same room] only made me feel more unsafe and uncomfortable.” The Fairfax City Police Department became involved in the case, launching an investigation after hearing about the incident via social media. In a press release from Chief of Police Colonel Erin Schaible, the police determined that “the physical altercation between [the] two Fairfax High School students was not a hate crime” and that “the investigation revealed there were no racial comments made by either student.” Although police deemed there is insufficient evidence to indicate a hate crime occurred, Mohamed and witnesses say otherwise. In response to the lack of police action and school accountability, Muslim Student Associations (MSA) across Fairfax County decided to take the issue into their own hands, hosting school walkouts and releasing statements regarding the incident. “The police have handled this case absolutely terribly. We know several witnesses, many of [whom] were not even consulted. [Of those that were], the police

Page design by Taylor Olson & Aleena Gul | Photos courtesy of Zakareya Hamed

SPEAKING OUT — Hundreds of students protest at George C. Marshall High School on Dec. 17 in response to an alleged incident in which a student’s hijab was forcibly removed by another student at Fairfax High School. Muslim Student Associations across FCPS organized school walkouts in order to raise awareness on countywide Islamophobia. quite literally put words into their mouths,” said freshman Zakareya Hamed, President of the McLean MSA. “As a result, 21 MSAs across FCPS released a joint statement on Dec. 19 [and had] seven schools do walkouts, with collectively around 5,000 students involved.” In addition, Mohamed’s classmates created a petition pressing Fairfax High School to take accountability. As of early February, it has amassed over 35,000 signatures. “What happened with the student protests is historic,” said Abrar Omeish, the first and only Muslim FCPS School Board Memberat-Large. “This has never happened in the history of Fairfax County Public Schools. Having [thousands of] students—most of them not Muslim—protesting and speaking in support of their Muslim classmates and

changes must be made to combat the ongoing issue. “Punishing one student does not fix a systemic problem—a systemic problem with Islamophobia embedded in the curriculum and within the students,” Hamed said. “We need to be able to say that teachers need mandatory training on Islamophobia and that the curriculum needs to be redesigned.” Despite support from across the county to amend curriculum and raise awareness on Islamophobia, progress has been slow. “The average American knows very little about Muslims and has a negative view,” Omeish said. “There needs to be a lot more done. The same harmful curriculum that I learned in school is being taught, and students want to see it removed.”

PUNISHING ONE STUDENT DOES NOT FIX A SYSTEMIC PROBLEM—A SYSTEMIC PROBLEM WITH ISLAMOPHOBIA EMBEDDED IN THE CURRICULUM AND WITHIN THE STUDENTS.” - ZAKAREYA HAMED FRESHMAN, PRESIDENT OF MCLEAN HIGH SCHOOL MUSLIM STUDENT ASSOCIATION against Islamophobia [is unheard of].” Virginia House of Delegates member Ibraheem Samirah also spoke out about the incident. In a letter addressed to FCPS on Jan. 10, Samirah advocated for changes in curriculum and effective policies for combating Islamophobic behavior in schools. “This horrific event, taking place in one of the most diverse school districts in the country, demonstrates that we need to take immediate action to prevent anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamophobia in our school system,” Samirah said in his letter. Hamed and other concerned students throughout the county insist that long-term

While the incident at Fairfax High School wasn’t the first of its kind, the Muslim community hopes that it will be the last. “This is a wake-up call,” Omeish said. “Let us speak so that FCPS never forgets until we get the solutions that we’re looking for, and let’s work together to build a school system that is better for Muslim students and for all students.”

HANDS OFF MY HIJAB — A Hayfield Secondary School

student holds a sign depicting the words repeated by thousands of FCPS students at protests throughout the county on Dec. 17. Hayfield was one of seven schools where students walked out in protest.

FEBRUARY 2022 | NEWS | 5


FCPS sues Gov. Youngkin to keep mask mandate Highlanders’ Mask Opinions* Do you believe masks should be mandatory for students and staff in FCPS schools?





if the mask mandate were to be overturned, would you choose to continue to wear a mask at school?





Do you believe a failure to comply with a mandatory mask policy should be punishable by school officials?





*From a poll of 207 mclean students

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irginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin wasted no time on his campaign promises to reform education. Among the most controversial of his actions in office is an executive order making masks optional in schools, which he signed on his first day in office. In response to the order, FCPS and six other school districts brought a joint lawsuit against Youngkin on Jan. 24, challenging the constitutionality of the order. The Arlington Circuit Court granted an injunction on Feb. 4, giving school districts the option to keep masks mandatory until a permanent ruling. Despite the court’s ruling, on Feb. 10 FCPS announced a “roll back” strategy which would make masks optional when the county is no longer experiencing high or substantial transmission rates. “FCPS will implement our roll back strategy when the Fairfax County community reaches moderate transmission and remains there for seven consecutive days,” an FCPS statement said. Staff and students have expressed strong opinions on the governor’s order and its potential repercussions. “I think it is a bad idea with even worse timing,” Geosystems teacher Dylan Persinger said. “This order comes at a time when COVID rates are soaring throughout the Commonwealth. This essentially [weakens] one of the only protections helping to keep schools open.” While the order would give parents more control over their children’s experiences in school, an issue Youngkin highlighted during his campaign, it could also leave students and staff exposed to COVID-19 and make way for a potential shutdown. “With masks, we are protected if one person ends up having COVID,” Persinger said. “If masks were not enforced, a student would put everyone in the class at risk of catching it.” In a poll of 207 McLean students, 72% said they believe masks should be mandatory in FCPS schools and 76% said they would continue to wear masks regardless of Youngkin’s order. “If the mask order is repealed, I will still

wear a mask to school,” senior Anjali Kesari said. “I have already gotten COVID once, and I don’t want more people at our school to have a similar experience as me.” On Jan. 24, FCPS held a virtual town hall with Superintendent Scott Brabrand, Interim Assistant Superintendent Sean McDonald and Assistant Superintendent Michelle Boyd to discuss mask policies and keeping the school district safe. Participants asked about masking and the county’s plan moving forward.

I THINK THIS IS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT CONTINUES TO STIR THE COMMUNITY HERE AND ACROSS OUR COUNTRY.” - SCOTT BRABRAND FCPS SUPERINTENDENT “People are citing different studies suggesting different conclusions to masking,” Brabrand said during the town hall. “I think this is one of the things that continues to stir the community here and across our country.” At the FCPS School Board meeting on Jan. 27, community members expressed support for and dissent against requiring masks in schools. “Stop the woke agenda of peversion and tyranny. Better yet, stop calling it woke. Call 24% it what it is—communism,” parent Stacy Langton said. “We want your communist NO off theYESnecks of our children.” boots As FCPS’s litigation and Youngkin’s executive order play out in the courts, the school district continues to point to health science indicating that masks are a safe and effective way to decrease community transmission. “We are doing the right thing so we can continue our primary mission as a school district, which is to provide in-person instruction for students,” Brabrand said. “And we want to continue to do that.”


Infographics & page design by Ariana Elahi

BLACK STUDENT UNION BORN AT MCLEAN New club promotes Black History Month



embers of McLean’s new Black Student Union (BSU) kicked off Black History Month by painting the rock black and covering it with phrases like “BLM” and “Say it loud, I’m black and proud.” “Painting the rock meant a lot to me because we were able to spread awareness,” junior Zachary Mitchell said. Juniors Jasmine Andresol and Sevyn Walton took on the task of creating McLean’s first BSU, and it has already sprung into action. “I dreamt of creating a Black Student Union for a while, simply because I wanted to be a part of one,” Andresol said. “Being a Black student at McLean can be isolating, as our experiences aren’t shared by 97% of the student body. By having a BSU, a safe space is provided for us to truly express ourselves and feel empowered.” As a new teacher this year, English teacher Ajane Santora-Fyne said she felt honored to sponsor the BSU. “As one of very few Black females in the building, when asked to sponsor the BSU, I felt as though it was the perfect opportunity for Black students at McLean to be able to create a community for themselves,” Santora-Fyne said. The organization will provide members with support and guidance. “There’s always a lingering question in my mind: why not sooner? A BSU club in 2012 could have been there for students grappling with the death of Trayvon Martin. In 2013, they could have been there when Eric Garner was choked to death,” Andresol said. “I’m optimistic that this club is here to stay for a while and we can guide students through any difficult time period of further racial violence in America.” The BSU has about 30 members, who describe it as an empowering organization that has made them feel more accepted. “I decided to join the BSU because I wanted to connect with the other Black students,” junior Adona Amanuel said. “I wanted to be in a space where everybody else looked like me without having to worry about feeling like I was different from everybody else.” Photo & page design by Belén Ballard

The BSU allows Black students to come together and be open to discuss things that relate to their experiences. Their goal is to foster a place of belonging and community at McLean, and they usually meet every other week. Throughout February, the club has been meeting every week.

THERE’S ALWAYS A LINGERING QUESTION IN MY MIND: WHY NOT SOONER?” - JASMINE ANDRESOL JUNIOR “In terms of discussion topics, we discuss HBCUs, Black hair care, Kwanzaa, important Black historical figures and recent incidents of racial violence,” Andresol said. The club aims to inform the entire student body about the importance of Black History Month.

“Black history outside of a few key figures isn’t taught in school,” Amanuel said. “It’s important to highlight this month because we must pay tribute to and remember the people that came before us that made history and paved the way for us to do the same.” Some of the events the BSU has planned include holding an informative meeting for Black History Month on Feb. 16 and having a Black Out Spirit Day on Feb. 18. “Students at McLean should take the time to explore the history of Black people during this month and in the future,” Amanuel said. “Social media will bring light to many aspects of Black history they have probably never heard about.” When February comes to an end, Andresol said they hope McLean students will remain focused on Black culture and history. “Black history is not just confined to a month our history happens every day,” Andresol said. “Whether we’re in April, August or November, we still matter, and any day is a perfect day to remember and commemorate Black culture.”

Rocking the black — Sophomores Kaiya Williams, Jaren Tennort and Marius

Tennort paint the rock on Feb. 2 to commemorate the beginning of Black History Month. The new organization has several other activities planned throughout February.

FEBRUARY 2022 | NEWS | 7


New procedures aim to streamline process KHUSHI RANA A&E EDITOR


n administrator walks into the room, carrying the dreaded piece of paper. The entire class knows what the slip means, and everyone is hoping they will not be the one to receive the notice indicating they were near someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The contact tracing process aims to make sure that students and staff who have been exposed to COVID-19 are sent home to contain the spread of the coronavirus. According to Assistant Principal Emily Geary, who has been in charge of contact tracing at McLean since October, a close contact is defined as someone who has been within three feet of a COVID-positive classmate for a period of 15 minutes or longer. “We notify students as quickly as we can once we have received information about a positive case,” Geary said. “Sometimes that comes in the morning, sometimes the afternoon and sometimes after school. As soon as we find out, we notify the close contact and their parents.” The notification process is always the same. It involves a student being called down to the main office and receiving a pause letter. “If it’s during the school day, we’ll notify the student. We’ll bring them down to the office, we’ll speak to them and their parents, and then we’ll follow up with an email to their parents with their pause letter,” Geary said. “The student and their parents should follow the information in the pause letter.” The school has a set of guidelines that determine how a student’s possible exposure to COVID-19 should be addressed. They take numerous factors into consideration, such as vaccination status and how families isolate themselves. “I was put in the assistant principal’s office where they called my parents to pick me up and gave me two at-home tests,” junior Taylor Staats said. “I also had to fill out a form on whether or not I was vaccinated.” The school does not provide COVID-19 tests for all students who are contact traced. When at-home tests are available, they are typically only given to those who meet certain criteria. “It’s not a requirement to get tested,” Geary said. “[Receiving the at-home tests] is more for unvaccinated people or someone who lives with someone compromised and has been in really close contact.” The health department was previously in charge of clearing all exposed students to return to school, but it caused unusually long wait times. As of Feb. 7, the process was shortened significantly as cases are now reviewed by FCPS directly. “It’s pretty much the same [process] as the health department with the [vaccination disclosure] form and everything, but now getting cleared to go back to class is a lot faster, which was the goal,” Geary said. When quarantining, unvaccinated students are subject to more stringent requirements than those who are vaccinated.

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“[Vaccinated students have] the same five-day quarantine, with wearing your mask after those five days, having a negative COVID test or a doctor saying that [the person] has something else that isn’t COVID,” Geary said. “[Unvaccinated students] stay out for the full 10 days.” Freshman Olivia Phillips, who was contact traced before the new guidelines were put in place, observed the problems with the system firsthand. “I think contact tracing is a very good idea, but they did say the person [I was traced from] who had COVID had been out for a full week before I was traced, so maybe they [should have] told me a bit sooner,” Phillips said. As COVID-19 metrics change, Geary is optimistic that the updated procedures will change how students view the contact tracing process. “The number of COVID-19 cases has gone way down [compared to before winter break],” Geary said, “so [the new guidelines] make it faster for asymptomatic students and, hopefully, make it better.”

Behind the scenes of contact tracing Who do you sit with?

STEP 1: When someone tests positive for COVID-19, an administrator interviews them to determine their close contacts.

STEP 2: notify the close contacts of their exposure to COVID-19 within 24 hours. Close contact is someone who was less than 6 feet away from an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

Covid-19 Vaccine Card Dose 1: Pfizer


Dose 2: Pfizer


Administered by Inova

STEP 3: Find out whether or not the close

contact is vaccinated by checking their vaccination card.

STEP 4: Get COVID-19 tested if necessary. people who need to get tested are those with symptoms and those who are unvaccinated.

STEP 5: If the COVID-19 test comes back positive, the student attends school virtually while quarantining.

Page design by Khushi Rana & Taylor Olson | Graphic by Ariana Elahi |Additional reporting by Ivy Olson



McLean faces vastly underreported vaping use NYLA MARCOTT NEWS EDITOR Vaping use on school property*

tudents who walk into the school’s bathrooms can almost expect to see vaping. Despite efforts to prevent the use of prohibited substances, McLean is confronting rising cases of vaping and the use of other drugs in vaping pens at school. In response to incidents involving the use of prohibited substances, Principal Ellen Reilly’s Dec. 3 email to parents assured them that bathrooms would be monitored to prevent future occurrences. Students have observed, however, that limited bathroom monitoring has not prevented their classmates from continuing to vape and use drugs while on school property. “It is really annoying to walk in on social vaping circles, [where students are using] a shared vape in the middle of a pandemic on the bathroom floor at 8:05 in the morning,” an anonymous poll respondent said. In a survey of 200 McLean students, 81% said they had witnessed vaping or using other prohibited substances at school, with 46% reporting they see it often. The numbers the school reported tell a different story. “Since the beginning of the school year, we have had 25 total cases of students in possession of vapes. In addition, seven more students were caught using a vape on school grounds,” the Dec. 3 email said. Although the administration said they had increased bathroom monitoring, groups of students continue to gather in the bathrooms to use prohibited substances, and 63% of the students surveyed indicated they have never witnessed staff checking bathrooms for vaping or drug use. “We check bathrooms, and we have security checking bathrooms,” Assistant Principal Jeffrey Barham said. “We just make sure that we’re around and have a presence so that people see us.” FCPS officials note prohibited substance use is a problem that is not limited to school. “The adolescent years are a time of experimenting; experimenting with drugs is 365 days a year and not just in the high school bathrooms,” FCPS Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Kelly Rankin said. “For 18 months or so, students were not Infographic & page design by Ariana Elahi





Is the administration doing enough to ensure prohibited substances are not used at school?







How frequently have you witnessed students vaping or using other prohibited substances on school property?





27% 10%

Have you seen the security team check bathrooms to ensure that students are not vaping or using drugs? *from A poll of 200 Mclean Students [physically] in school, and experimenting with drugs and alcohol still happened. McLean High School does a great job of monitoring the bathrooms.” Rankin has observed that the biggest change in drug use over the years is vaping. “Students are starting it younger without the knowledge of addiction,” Rankin said. “The pods have so much more nicotine than traditional cigarettes, resulting in quicker nicotine addiction.” Students who begin using drugs are often unaware of the potential for addiction. “The drug dealers are out to make money—they don’t care who they hurt along the way,” Rankin said. “Each person with an addiction diagnosis started with that first puff, drink, etc. At some point they thought, ‘It won’t happen to me.’” Substance-use cases are reviewed at the school level. Following these incidents, students were previously required to attend a drug prevention seminar. Recently, however, the requirement has been relaxed.

“[With] COVID-19, it’s no longer mandatory,” school social worker Marly Jerome-Featherson said. “Kids can say if they don’t want to go to it. Quite often, people who are using substances are in denial about the severity of their problems.” Once students comply with disciplinary actions, school counselors and social workers observe their grades and attendance. “After the incident, we want to keep an eye on students,” Jerome-Featherson said. “We want to continue to monitor the students’ progress, and we want to make sure that they’re able to focus in class and that their grades are improving.” Teachers and staff stress that they are available to help students and to work with them after incidents of vaping or drug use. “There are certain things that shouldn’t be in school that we have to address and give consequences for,” Barham said. “We always care about kids at the end of the day, and we’ll help kids even if they do something they shouldn’t do in school.”

February 2022 | NEWS | 9


Despite concerns, police department says residents should not worry AKASH BALENALLI WEBSITE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF | SAEHEE PEREZ MARKETING MANAGER


rends over the past year suggest a grim outlook for Fairfax County residents: homicide rates are up, as are stolen vehicle incidents, overdoses and mental health issues. For students, news of the serial “Shopping Cart Killer” and other notable crimes has been a familiar sight for months. “There’s always that little part of me that occasionally remembers everything that’s happening, and how something bad could also happen to me,” senior Yanni Aknine said. Carolyn Beyer, Crime Prevention Officer for the McLean district of the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) station, says there is more to the story than meets the eye. In an interview with The Highlander, Beyer shared some potential reasons for rising crime rates. “Stolen vehicles were on the rise,” Beyer said. “[This] was because people were leaving their keys in the car, and there would be groups [from] outside of Fairfax County [who] would go into neighborhoods flipping door handles to see what cars were unlocked.” Beyer said the homicide rate should not be particularly concerning to residents fearing random attacks. “[In] a lot of [homicides]...the person who committed [the homicide] was known to the family or [victim] in some form or fashion,” she said. Despite rising rates, the actual number of

homicides indicates that Fairfax County is largely a safe jurisdiction. In 2021, there were 226 homicides in Washington D.C., a city with just under 700,000 residents, and only 21 in Fairfax County, which has a population of over one million people.

STOLEN VEHICLES WERE ON THE RISE... BECAUSE PEOPLE WERE LEAVING THEIR KEYS IN THE CAR.” - CAROLYN BEYER FCPD CRIME PREVENTION OFFICER The police department has identified the causes for these crimes, so the challenge in homicide prevention now depends on bringing resources to potential assailants. “The issue is mental health and domesticrelated [disputes],” FCPD Crime Analyst Patrick Lucas said. “The county has a lot of resources for folks in these situations— it’s just, ‘How can we better [bring these resources] to our community?’” When crimes are suspected to have occurred, rumors of incidents spread through word of mouth, a problem the FCPD has been trying to combat.

Percent change in crimes from 2020 to 2021 in FCPD McLean District 50% 40%

Drug/narcotic offenses


Forcible sex offenses

20% 10% 0% -10% -20% -30% -40%

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Robbery Motor vehicle theft Fraud offenses Counterfeiting/forgery Burglary/Breaking & Entering

“We do our best to … fight against the ‘telephone game,’” Beyer said. “Nextdoor is a great tool because it gets information out there quick...however, a lot of times people will then take that [limited information] and run with it.” She noted residents assume that the police department has the administrative privilege to monitor interactions on Nextdoor, but the platform only allows the FCPD to post information to the community. “Neighbors start talking to one another and forget to call the police—that’s happened numerous times,” Beyer said. “Or they think that because somebody posted it, all of a sudden the police are aware and we monitor [all potential crimes mentioned online].” The FCPD posts information about local crime on Facebook and Nextdoor, but students believe that the department should expand to platforms popular among younger demographics. “A lot of what I’m learning about the crime through my own personal research,” Aknine said. “I feel like if the police department was a lot more forthcoming with that [information]...that would give some peace of mind.” Additionally, staffing shortages at stations have affected operations, and the McLean district was forced to transfer officers from speciality units to patrol. The move allowed the police department to continue responding to emergencies in a timely manner. “In order to meet the patrol numbers, they had to eliminate...our bike team, neighborhood patrol unit and selective enforcement team, which does traffic enforcement,” Beyer said. The FCPD has tried to inform the community about crime statistics and prevention to help residents better understand the various issues affecting safety in the McLean police district. According to Beyer, many crimes could be prevented in 2022 with more cautious residential behavior. “Right before you go to bed, make sure everything is locked,” Beyer said. “Your door is locked, your car is locked, the garage door is down, all your valuables are taken in.” Infographic & page design by Akash Balenalli


FCPS teacher pay to remain frozen for the 2022-23 school year Isabella DiPatri SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER


eachers are the backbone of the education system in Fairfax County, spending countless hours and great effort in developing students. However, as of this year, FCPS teachers will remain on the same pay step that was enacted in the 2020-21 school year, despite most employees gaining one to two years of extra experience since then. Many teachers believe that FCPS’s 2022-23 budget does not reflect how hard they work and are advocating for increased compensation. “This has been the hardest year by far, even more so than the 2020-2021 school year,” English teacher Michael Enos said. “I do love teaching, but there have been times where I’ve [wondered] if I can still cut it, and if I can still teach on that same level that I want to and feel good about it. The step system operates on the principle that those with more experience are deserving of more pay. New teachers begin at step one and move up based on the number of years they’ve spent teaching with the county. Although teachers are presented with this scale when they are hired, these step increases are not guaranteed and are regularly reduced or eliminated from the annual FCPS budget. “Teachers come into a school on a certain level, so depending on your years of experience and degree, you get paid based on the level you are at,” Principal Ellen Reilly said. “However, there’s been many years that our salaries have been frozen five years or more.” In addition to remaining on the same step for the 2022-23 school year, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will only offer teachers a 2% raise, despite FCPS’s request for a 3% raise. “Nobody was very pleased because the cost of living has gone up so high,” Reilly said. The effects of salary freezing have significantly impacted the lives of FCPS employees and have worsened with the ongoing pandemic. Teachers argue that the 2% raise is not

sufficient enough to offset the escalating cost of living, which has increased by nearly 6% in the past year.

I DO LOVE TEACHING, BUT THERE HAVE BEEN TIMES WHERE I’VE [WONDERED] IF I CAN STILL CUT IT, AND IF I CAN STILL TEACH ON THAT SAME LEVEL THAT I WANT TO AND FEEL GOOD ABOUT IT.” - MICHAEL ENOS ENGLISH TEACHER “My mom is a French teacher at Longfellow Middle School, and my sister teaches sixth grade at Cameron Elementary School,” junior Etienne Brownlow said. “Given that difference, we’re losing money because of the raise being that much less.”

According to The Washington Post, wage growth is at its highest level in decades, but inflation due to labor shortages and government stimulus has affected pay increases for all Americans. “I think FCPS had a difficult decision to make, especially since some teachers are married to people who might have lost their jobs [during the pandemic],” social studies teacher Emer Johnson said. “It was unfortunate that the county chose to [keep us on the same pay scale and only offer us a 2% raise].” For the 2023-24 school year, the school board has proposed a budget that will potentially unfreeze the pay scale. “Teachers [are expected to] receive a 4% raise and a step [on the salary scale],” Reilly said. Still, the final budget has yet to be approved, leaving many teachers fearful that FCPS will continue to freeze salaries. “I do appreciate all the benefits that come with teaching, like health, dental and vision insurance,” Enos said, “but for the amount of effort and responsibility, teachers should be paid more.”

Teacher Salary IncreaseS School Year

Step Increase


2019-20 2020-21 2021 -22 2022-23 2023-24*

2.52% 2.89% none none 2.68%

none 1% none 2% 4%


frozen facts — Since the 2019-2020 school year, teachers have received little to no raises in terms of step increases and market scale adjustments (MSA). The MSA is meant to reflect the higher cost of living, but the cost of living has increased by 6% in the past year. (Information obtained from FCPS School Board FY22 budget meeting)

Graphics by Taylor Olson| Page design by Isabella DiPatri

FEBRUARY 2022 | NEWS | 11

highlander of the issue



The face behind the mask of McLean’s beloved mascot


alexa sribar & Liyat amman REPORTERS

urrying across the track at McLean High School, Angus, the school mascot, is doing his best to get the sea of students on the bleachers excited. As he runs by, the varsity cheer team leads the fans in spirited chants, and the hype in the student section rises.

I WANT TO MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH AND STRENGTHEN THE SENSE OF COMMUNITY THAT PEOPLE HAVE WHEN IT COMES TO SPORTS.” - ZORA RODGERS SENIOR Angus stops near a section of bleachers and starts to dance energetically, stirring up a lively clamor from the crowd. As they cheer, what most of the fans don’t realize is that behind Angus’s intimidating grin and thick beard is the face of senior Zora Rodgers. “[My performances] are all improvised,” Rodgers said. “I don’t plan any of the things I do.”

12 | february 2022 | FEATURES

As the mascot for McLean High School, the routine of dancing and running in a costume while hundreds of students watch is nothing new to Rodgers. It’s her job to get students involved and excited for McLean sports games at pep rallies. “I want to increase the spirit,” Rodgers said. “I want to make people laugh and strengthen the sense of community that people have when it comes to sports.” Rodgers has an animated personality and is a character in her own right. Her close friends describe her as a perfect fit for Angus. “Zora is always cracking jokes and making people smile,” senior Emma Radcliffe said. “Her commanding presence makes her a natural born leader and someone that people look up to.” Becoming the mascot wasn’t as clear of a process as Rodgers anticipated. She didn’t become Angus until the beginning of her senior year in 2021. Page design by Taylor Olson

FLEX FOR THE CAMERA — Zora Rodgers poses next to a group of McLean football players in

September. They filmed the FOX 5 special earlier that day. (Photo courtesy of Monette Dawson) “I first decided I wanted to be mascot over the summer, but my friends and I had no idea how to apply, so it kind of dissipated,” Rodgers said. “Then during the school year, someone from McLeadership came up to me and said I’d make a good mascot, so I said I was interested, and the rest is history.” Rodgers made her first appearance as Angus when local news station FOX 5 did a special on the McLean football team in September. “They interviewed the football team, and I was the mascot for that to represent the school.” Rodgers said. Now, Rodgers makes most of her appearances at McLean pep rallies. She works closely with the varsity cheer team, since they both aim to increase student involvement and enthusiasm at events. “I enjoy working with Zora because she’s very energetic,” freshman varsity cheerleader Lauren Abba said. “She is really good at engaging the crowd.” Stepping up to the role of Angus isn’t a difficult task for Rodgers. She approaches it with a simple and positive mindset, instead of feeling self-conscious

animated angus — Senior Zora Rodgers poses as herself and Angus. In her junior year, Rodgers considered becoming the school mascot and was offered the position this school year. (Photos courtesy of Zora Rodgers)

or concerned about her performance in front of the school. “I feel like the whole secret is to be yourself. The whole point [of being the mascot] is to have fun,” she said. “No one is going to judge you, so just leave it all out there.” Being the school mascot is one of Rodger’s favorite hobbies. Yet in spite of how much she enjoys playing Angus, she doesn’t think she’ll pursue being a mascot in the future.

THE WHOLE POINT [OF BEING THE MASCOT] IS TO HAVE FUN. NO ONE IS GOING TO JUDGE YOU, SO JUST LEAVE IT ALL OUT THERE.” - ZORA RODGERS SENIOR “Being a mascot is much more competitive at the collegiate level,” Rodgers said. “[Being Angus] is just something that I thought would be fun to do.” Because Rodgers is graduating in June, a new student will have to fill her shoes next school year. “If you’re thinking of being Angus, you should just do it. It is very nerve-wracking, but it’s also really, really, really fun,” Rodgers said. “I feel that it says a lot about a person for them to be able to do silly things in front of an entire school. If that’s your personality, then you should go for it.”

february 2022 | FEATURES | 13


McLean offers seven new elective courses for coming year MADELYN FREDERICK REPORTER | NYLA MARCOTT NEWS EDITOR



Data Structures and Algorithms

Film Studies “We’re going to be covering a lot of historical cinema. I think it’s important to see the roots of how we got to where we are,” social studies teacher Lindsay Boerger said. “We will also be looking at the rise of new Western movies, the different Marvel genres and the rise of CGI.”

“We are the first school in Fairfax County to offer dual enrollment computer science,” computer science teacher Lesley Frew said. “[By taking Data Structures and Algorithms,] students can receive two additional semesters of college credit beyond AP Computer Science A.”

LGBTQ Perspectives in Literature

Computer Science Programming

“I have had so many students over the years ask me for more LGBTQ+ literature in class, and students in GSA ask for just more diverse content in classes overall,” English teacher and McLean Gender and Sexuality Alliance sponsor Seth LeBlanc said. “A teacher at Fairfax High School proposed the course, and myself and some other teachers helped to write the curriculum for the class.”


“Almost every school in Fairfax County has an option for a psychology class that is less demanding than AP Psychology but offers similar material,” social studies teacher Katie Van Nuys said. “I pushed for this course to be made available to students again because so many had expressed an interest in learning about psychology but didn’t feel as though they could handle another AP class.”


“It’s a fun, hands-on class where we’re going to look at Java and Python. It’s good for people that like to solve problems and be creative,” Cybersecurity Fundamentals and Programming teacher Karyn Kolly said. “Everybody should take some computer science. It teaches you how to problem solve and collaborate with other’s a different way to think and it’s good for everybody to learn.”


“Students have the opportunity to indulge

their unique interests in the content of Latin literature while also improving their skills in grammar and translation,” Latin teacher Cameron Keuning said. “Students will really come away from Latin V surprised by the unique and exciting perspectives that Latin authors bring to the table. There is such diversity among different writers and time periods that really illustrate how deeply complex Roman culture and high society was and how truly dynamic it was over time.”

SCIENCE The Nature of Science “The class has been propelled forward by the idea that scientific concepts can be better understood if you are aware of the circumstances in which the science was created,” physics teacher Billy Thomas said. “If you understand the social hierarchy in 16th century Italy, you would understand why Galileo would name his astronomical discoveries after clergymen to earn favor.”

Graphics by Vanessa Popescu | Page design by Nyla Marcott

10 Q s with austin blackford Science teacher

Reporting by Grace Gould & Hanna Boughanem

1 2 3

Why did you decide to start teaching? My wife brought it up, but I had never thought of it throughout my entire life, and I thought that it sounded like so much fun. You get 150 students each year who all have their own individual stories, and you get to form relationships with them.

What is your most prized possession? My wedding ring.

You’re known as the teacher who asks a “question of the day.” Where do you find the ideas for your signs? Some of them I just thought of. For most of them I Googled ‘stupid questions,’ and sometimes students will submit the questions on the warm-up.

4 5

What came first: the chicken or the egg? I’m too chicken to answer that.

What’s your favorite daily question from this year? What’s the opposite of a table? It’s silly and there’s not a correct answer.


What actor would play you in a movie about your life? It’s kind of a controversial figure, but I’ve had multiple students this year who told me I look like Ben Shapiro.


Who has been your biggest inspiration? My high school’s track and cross country coach. He was one of the first teachers I had that was very relatable and made school fun to go to.

8 9 10

If you could dye your hair any color, what would you choose? Frosted tips.

What is your favorite kind of food? I really like tacos. I’m originally from Texas, so I’m used to good Mexican or Tex-Mex food. The disappointing thing about living up here is that you don’t get quite as many of those types of places, especially breakfast tacos.

If you could do anything without consequences, what would you do? I think it would be interesting to take off and run or swim just to see how far I can go. It’s like a video game.


OlD Mahoney has a Farm A look into a senior’s life outside the city MAYA AMMAN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF


aking up at the crack of dawn, driving almost two hours, simply to be met with the smell of manure. This is a weekly occurrence for senior Will Mahoney. Longmeadow Farm is a cattle farm outside of Winchester, Virginia, owned by his family. “Longmeadow is different from a dairy farm because we do not milk our cows,” Will said. “We raise the cows and [eventually have to] send them to the slaughterhouse.” Nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the farm includes over 100 acres of open pasture and 75 acres of forested woodland. Will and his family have been the proud owners of the farm for over 200 years. “During the Confederacy, Southerners turned their money into Confederate money,” Will said. “My family didn’t invest in it, so they had real money by the end of the war. When everyone else was dirt broke, my family had money to spend, so they were able to buy the farm.” Four years ago, Will’s family had to take on more responsibility at the farm. “We started working at the farm more frequently after my dad passed away, and my mom was not capable of staying there alone,” Will’s mom, Anne Mahoney, said. Will spends as many weekends as he can at the farm helping his family. “I do whatever needs to be done, whether that’s repairing the barn or the fences, moving fences to set the cows in a different field or running the cows to the chute to give them medicine,” Will said. While Will’s increased responsibility at the farm has been challenging, he has found ways to fulfill his family’s needs while having fun, often inviting his friends along for the ride. Visiting the Mahoney farm is not


exactly a peaceful getaway for Will’s friends, though—all hands must be on deck. “Two of my friends, Nathaniel Hughes and Sam Snyder, have been a huge help, especially over COVID,” Will said. “They don’t get paid. I hope they have a good time, but my dad definitely puts them to work.”

and on his farm there were some cows —

Pumpkin, the Mahoney family’s favorite cow, grazes among the other Black Angus cows in the pasture at their farm in Winchester, Virginia. The farm has been passed down through several generations. Despite the work they have to put in, Will’s friends keep returning to the farm. “I actually find the farm very relaxing and fun. There’s so much more to do out there than we can usually do [in McLean],” Snyder said. When the time for work is over, Mahoney and his friends don’t have a problem finding

something fun to do at the farm. “The North Fork of the Shenandoah River runs near the farm, so you can go fishing, swimming and kayaking,” Will said. As the farm has been passed down through generations, every member of the family has made their own unique contributions. “I’m building a log cabin by hand,” said Will’s brother, sophomore Nathan Mahoney. “I’m just about finished with the foundation, then it’s time to get the logs. Hopefully it’ll be done sometime this year.” Although life on the farm can consist of a lot of grueling work, it also has many rewarding moments. “Every cow has its own personality,” Will said. “That’s the best part of working with the cows. Sometimes it’s more actionpacked, sometimes it’s a little dangerous.” One member of the herd manages to grab a bit more attention than the others. “Our cows are Black Angus, so they’re all black,” Will said. “One year, though, we had a bull that had some kind of recessive gene in it, so we got an orange cow. My mom named it Pumpkin and she’s become the family pet.” The farm is a meaningful aspect of the Mahoneys’ lives where they have spent a lot of time working together as a family. Everything that happens at Longmeadow has been passed down through the family for generations, making it all the more memorable. “Longmeadow is so important to me because I know that my family’s been there for so long,” Anne said. “[The fact] that my parents did the same work on the same ground, along with my grandparents and great-grandparents, is what makes it special.”

Photos by Maya Amman | Page design by Taylor Olson


Students work part-time around the community Max Irish & Madie Turley REPORTERS

max gold, Ultrazone laser tag game Master


hen senior Max Gold decided he wanted to get a part-time job, he took on the duty of becoming a game master at Ultrazone Laser Tag. More commonly known as the pinnacle of elementary school birthday celebrations, Gold’s job can range from pizza parties to babysitting. “It’s a fun job, you just have to yell at people sometimes,” Gold said. “If you stay late, you get to play games with the regulars.” The occasional mopping duty is worth the perks of the job. “There are no custodians, so a lot of the cleaning falls on us after closing,” Gold said. “However, I do get free laser tag.” As a laser tag game master, Gold enjoys his job since he is able to have fun and make good money, including tips, and eat free pizza and cake.

libby salopek, Sweet Bites Employee


ooking into the downtown McLean area, junior Libby Salopek set her sights on getting a job at local cafe Sweet Bites. As someone who loves to make sweet treats and drinks, Salopek chose the perfect job. “I work on Thursdays and Fridays, each three hours a day,” Salopek said. “It’s not too difficult and I get up to $25 a day in tips.” Salopek runs the cash register, sets up baked goods and washes dishes. Despite certain difficulties, such as dealing with the occasional unpleasant customer, there are many benefits Salopek enjoys. “The majority of people are kind and it makes my job more enjoyable,” Salopek said. “I also get to take home free treats every day.”

alex jolly, Power Washing Business


enior Alex Jolly went with a more entrepreneurial approach, starting his own pressure washing business at the beginning of the pandemic. “I love being in control of my hours. I get to set my own standards,” Jolly said. “Most of the time it’s just me working, but if it’s a large job I’ll bring a friend along to help.” Without a set schedule, Jolly’s jobs and wages vary, with some paying more than others. His work often ranges between two- and four-hour jobs. “The pay is good but you also have to be liable for certain things,” Jolly said. His pressure washing business is relatively new, but it is already thriving. “Although it is a lot of physical labor, I recommend this job to other high schoolers who have a good work ethic,” Jolly said. “The beginning is always the hardest, but anyone can do it if they really want to.”

Photos courtesy of sources | Page design by Vanessa Popescu


COOKIE CONFECTIONS AND ENGLISH CORRECTIONS English teacher Elise Emmons runs cookie business



lour on her apron, mixing bowls in the sink, cookie cutters on the counter. Switching out Shakespeare for a cookbook, Elise Emmons enters the comfort of her kitchen after a long day of teaching. The scent of vanilla drifts through the air and warmth pours from the oven. Emmons works delicately, piping bag in hand, to stay inside the lines as she adds the finishing touches to her final order. Emmons has been balancing her teaching and her baking gig ever since she started her online business, Scribe Cookies, a little over a year ago. “It was one of those COVID things where we were all at home anyway, and I got a KitchenAid mixer because it was on sale,” Emmons said. “Whatever was on the back of a cake box was what I would follow, so [baking sugar cookies] was definitely a first.” Emmons quickly transformed from cake box to cookie boss when she taught herself to make sugar cookies by watching YouTube videos. “When I started experimenting with baking, I YouTube-searched sugar cookie recipes,” Emmons said. “I stumbled upon a lady in Utah who has this recipe that she’s been using for years, and I’ve used it ever since.” Emmons quickly found that she had a knack for baking and decorating sugar cookies, so much so that she began bringing them to events for her friends. Guests fell in love with her cookie creations the second they saw her intricate designs.


“I’ve had some completely random messages from people that live near me,” Emmons said. “I’m doing a ton for friends, family and people I knew from college, too.” Through her dedicated Instagram account, @ScribeCookies, and word of mouth, she is able to sustain a steady stream of orders.

Making Magic — Elise Emmons decorated unicorn and mermaid-themed cookies for librarian Morgan Popma’s daughter’s fourth birthday. “They were amazing, [Emmons has] wild talent,” Popma said.

Photos courtesy of Elise Emmons | Graphic by Jayne Ogilvie-Russell | Page design by Sarah Soltani

“I haven’t had to advertise much to get orders—they just come to me,” Emmons said. Head librarian Joan McCarthy has ordered from Emmons three times. Her most recent order was for snow-themed cookies as a gift to her neighbors for shoveling her driveway. “To me, it’s worth it because it brings a smile to everyone’s faces when they open the boxes,” McCarthy said. Like many of her other customers, McCarthy believes Emmons’ homemade cookies are unlike any found in a bakery. “The designs are great, but what’s more important for the longevity is the taste, and they’re delicious cookies,” McCarthy said. “Her business can be as large as she wants it to be.”



SWEET STEP-BY-STEPS Step 1: gather ingredients

Step 2: mix ingredients

- ELISE EMMONS ENGLISH TEACHER But for Emmons, baking has become more than just an opportunity for business. It has allowed her to tap into her creative side in a way she never thought possible. By experimenting with unique flavor combinations and innovative designs, Emmons has been able to challenge herself, both in and out of the kitchen. “Trying new things and seeing how I’ve evolved has been really fun,” she said. A perfectionist, Emmons spends countless hours on each order, hoping to deliver only the best to her customers. Over the past year, she has learned to assign proper value to her time and effort. “I started out really low-balling [the price] because I wasn’t sure if anybody was going to want [to pay for my cookies],” Emmons said. “I’m still working it out, but the biggest thing is to respect your time and how much it’s worth.” Given her recent success, she has found it difficult to balance both baking and teaching. “Is the money good? Absolutely. Is the time difficult? Absolutely, too, because I don’t want to take away from my primary job,” Emmons said. In spite of these logistical challenges, Emmons continues to pursue her passion and serves as a reminder to her students that they can do the same. “I find [her business] really inspiring, especially since she can carry out her passion alongside her work,” sophomore Amelia Egan said. “It motivates me to meet my goals in school while focusing on my other hobbies, like cooking.” As for now, Emmons is happy with how far Scribe Cookies has come since its inception. “It would be so cool if I could actually make this a business and have a space that I can go to work, but right now, I’m very comfortable where I am and with the amount of orders I have,” Emmons said. No matter what the future holds for Scribe Cookies, Emmons encourages others wanting to start a business to take the leap. “Just go for it. Everyone’s been so supportive, and I’ve been really surprised with how [my business] has turned out,” Emmons said. “Just do it, and don’t worry about failing.”

Step 3: roll out dough

Step 4: cut dough

Step 5: bake cookies

Step 6: ice cookies

Step 7: package order FEBRUARY 2022 | FEATURES | 19

FAILED BY FAST F A S H I N Students turn to sustainable fashion choices MAKDA BEKELE DESIGN EDITOR | TARA PANDEY REPORTER


s fashion trends come and go, the amount of clothes people dispose of is rarely given a second thought. Fast fashion brands like H&M, Uniqlo and Zara attract customers through their affordability, marketing and accessibility.



While they are convenient, many of these overproduced clothes end up in landfills, making the process of producing clothes incredibly damaging to the environment—fast fashion companies are known to use polyester, a synthetic fabric that is actually a form of plastic, and is not easily decomposable. But to go sustainable, there are a lot of factors to consider. “I think it’s hard to find a student at McLean who hasn’t bought something from a fast fashion store,” junior Elizabeth Nourse said. “Under a high schooler’s budget, fast fashion is probably the most accessible option for most students.” Teenagers are targeted as consumers via social media. Advertisements for notorious fast fashion brands such as Romwe and Shein are virtually inescapable. They often partner with social media influencers and low-level celebrities in order to market their brand to a large audience.

20 | A&E | FEBRUARY 2022

“Occasionally I do buy into fast fashion just because I have to pay for my own clothes. Especially when I’m looking for something specific, fast fashion is right there at my fingertips for only like two or three dollars,” junior Lily Martin said. “It’s easy to not think about the implications of fast fashion when you’re buying something.” To combat the alluringly cheap clothes provided by the fast fashion industry, sustainable brands aim to promote slow fashion, using ethical, eco-friendly means to produce their clothing. However, one issue with such brands is that they are expensive in comparison to fast fashion brands. “Not everybody has the opportunity to seek out sustainable clothing,” junior Arielle Else said. “It

can be difficult because if you look up sustainable brands, for example House of Sunny, a sweater can cost $100.” Nonetheless, there is a cheaper option. Shopping sustainably does not only include slow fashion shops but also secondhand shopping. As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This is characteristic of many secondhand shops such as thrift stores, flea markets and even online shops, which are an easy way to shop more conscientiously. “A few months ago, I hit a 50% mark in my closet, meaning half of my clothes are secondhand,” Nourse said. “This has been a massive goal for me, and I want to reach 75% next.” Martin tries to be mindful about where she buys clothes while cycling out items she no longer wears.

Cartoon by Liz Nedelescu

“I go to a lot of places that mass-sell clothes that people donate,” Martin said. “It’s convenient because I’ll get clothes from there as well when I donate.” Online consignment stores, such as ThredUp and The RealReal, are also great sources for sustainable fashion because they accept items for consignment, resell items at a marked-up price and then pay the original seller a percentage of sales. They compete with fast fashion stores like Romwe and Shein which are exclusively online rather than having physical locations. “It can take a while to look and find a piece you like, compared to places like Shein who have basically everything,” junior Chewey Zhang said. “It’s so worth it though when you find that one unique item.” Apart from online consignment, reselling apps that prioritize individual sellers, like Depop, Mercari and Poshmark are a good way to have a healthy balance of sustainability. “Depop and Poshmark have been so helpful to me if I want to shop secondhand but don’t have the time to go to a thrift store,” Nourse said. These apps are easy-to-use platforms that operate like small businesses. Comparable to websites such as Etsy, eBay and Facebook Marketplace, they rely on their community of sellers rather than a third-party platform. The only difference is their exclusive focus on clothes. Depop seems to be the favorite among McLean students.

“I prefer Depop to other apps because I think a lot of people are on there,” Martin said. “You have more accessibility and variety, and it’s just easier to use.”

THE CONSUMER CAN ALWAYS BE PROACTIVE IN FINDING WAYS TO SHOP SUSTAINABLY.” - CHEWEY ZHANG JUNIOR Along with buying secondhand, some students have been contributing personally to combat fast fashion issues by starting businesses of their own on these apps. “I have sold many clothes that I don’t wear and have wanted to get rid of for years,” Nourse said. “Selling on Depop allows the clothes to find a new home.” Nourse is not only a consumer of secondhand clothing through these apps but is also a seller herself. She explained that reselling clothing is a win-win situation— in addition to earning some money from her sales, she knows the clothes she does not wear anymore aren’t going straight to landfills.

Zhang has her own Depop page as well, but she creates her own products for it. “I used to resell clothes that I had no need for anymore through the app, but now I sell things I crochet, like hats, gloves and leg warmers,” Zhang said. “The consumer can always be proactive in finding ways to shop sustainably.” Although she sees the value in shopping sustainably, Nourse warns that extreme sustainability consumption can be just as damaging as fast fashion. The problem stems from overconsumption: overpurchasing to keep up with trends as opposed to finding staple wardrobe items. “No one should vow not to repeat an outfit because that will never be sustainable. It limits clothes to a one-use item when they will last for hundreds of years after they are discarded,” Nourse said. “People who spend $500 at places like Shein every week and have the money to shop sustainability but choose not to are part of the problem. It’s the people who have lots of money and overconsume that need to reevaluate their choices.” Although shopping sustainably can seem overwhelming, students can begin to incorporate ethical purchasing into their regular mindset. “The only way to shop entirely sustainably is to be naked and not own any clothes at all,” Nourse said. “But the simplest way is not to buy as many clothes. Balance is most important.”


students contribute to the online marketplace by selling secondhand clothes and handmade items on apps like Depop. Sellers can adjust prices, upload pictures of their products, add descriptions and essentially design their own online store. (Photos courtesy of Charlotte Carson, Elizabeth Nourse & Chewey Zhang)

Page design by Makda Bekele

FEBRUARY 2022 | A&E | 21

22 | IN-DEPTH | FEBrUARY 2022

Students and teachers experience the effects of burnout NATALIE VU ONLINE NEWS EDITOR




s the ease of the first semester wears off, the intense stress of work, assignments and tests has begun to dominate the lives of McLean students and staff. Students find themselves under immense pressure to achieve as much as possible academically, athletically and socially. Teachers work tirelessly to keep up with the demands of their professional lives. The result is countless members of the McLean community reaching a state of burnout, leaving them exhausted and unmotivated. Going into this year, these feelings have reached an all-time high. “It’s been tough to keep up with the workload,” junior Etienne Brownlow said. “My work ethic changed with the transition from online to in-person.” Burnout acts as a perfect storm of stress, disappointment and exhaustion that can be extremely damaging for mental health.

“Burnout feels like both not wanting to do work, but also this plague in your mind saying you need to do it,” sophomore Ella Newton said. “But when you try, you can’t process your thoughts correctly because [you’re] not in the right headspace.”


Page design by Taylor Olson & Ariana Elahi


Did your grades decrease the beginning of the school

64.4% %

The Spark Somewhat

During the 2020-2021 school year, 27.2%students grew accustomed to more relaxed academic standards. no They attended school in a completely new format, 8.3% and the school district offered students more academic leeway to help them grow comfortable with online learning. The transition back into full-time in-person learning has been Did you experience burnout a challenge.

after the first semester?


Yes (46.7%) Somewhat (30.6%) No (22.8%)

“I always felt a lot more in control during online school—there was a lot more forgiveness and [teachers] were understanding,” junior Max Reisman said. “Now, there’s a lot more stress and expectations to do well since we’re back in person.” Last year, FCPS changed its grading policy to make the lowest grade a student can receive a 50 percent. The policy remained in place for the 2021-2022 school year to help with the transition back to full in-person learning, which made students think that the workload at McLean is a lot less intense than it actually is in a non-pandemic year.

In the heat of the moment This school year, a considerable number of students have taken on more than they can handle because they were used to the ease of the courses they took virtually. Even in a normal year, advanced academics can wreak havoc on students’ mental health. Diving headfirst into an undiluted year of schoolwork following an effective year off is a recipe for emotional disaster. “This year I’m starting to get very overworked,”


64.4% %

freshman Callie Kimmett said. “I’m not finishing assignments on time and also my work ethic isn’t good.” School-related stress acts as a constantly present source of anxiety, cutting into students’ personal time. “Schoolwork hurts my ability to relax because even if I do spend time with people, I still have assignments I need to get done,” Newton said. “The assignments are at the back of my mind, even when I’m having fun.” While many stressors are new, homework has always put intense pressure on students. FCPS has instituted policies designed to reduce homework-induced stress, such as a 30-minute per night limit on how much homework students should have in any given class. These guidelines have ultimately not been very helpful to students, who still report feeling stressed and spending hours on homework.






Did you experience burnout after the first semester? All statistics obtained from a poll of 180 McLean students 24 | IN-DEPTH | FEBrUARY 2022

(30.6%) “Teachers have all theirSomewhat tests and assignments really close to each other and honestly, I don’t want to do all that work in a short amountNoof(22.8%) time,” Newton said. “But the more I put off the work, the more it gets to me, and it becomes so stressful.” Student stress fluctuates but generally peaks around the end of grading periods. Many feel that they can never escape from school-related stress. “I could definitely feel my burnouts starting to occur during the last fews weeks before the quarter ends,” Newton said. “There’s a wave of tests that starts hitting you and it makes you realize that you have to do this until June.” McLean’s academic standards are high compared to most schools in the country, and, as a result, students try to take on more advanced classes than their counselors recommend.

Infographics by Taylor Olson & Jayne Ogilvie-Russell

Did s ove the be


of students believe that school puts too much pressure on them

Did your grades decrease after the beginning of the school year?

Did schoolwork become overwhelming after the beginning of the year?

deserved, which can be quite frustrating,” junior Miranda Leong said. “Along with college [applications], you want to do everything you can to impress people.”

Spreading like Wildfire Yes (46.7%) Somewhat (30.6%)


No (22.8%)


rnout ster?

“There’s definitely a lot of competition,” Reisman said. “Everyone at McLean is incredibly good at a lot of things, and there’s a lot of pressure because you feel like you also have to be doing all these really complicated things too.” The pressure to enroll in a large number of AP classes and perform well in them has driven students to overwork themselves. When they score poorly, the school’s competitive environment can set them up for disappointment. “I feel like I do well on my assignments, but then [sometimes] I get a worse grade than I thought I

Burnout is not solely a student experience—teachers and staff members experience the same symptoms that students do. The return to school has put an immense amount of stress on teachers, who were forced nearly YES (82.86%) overnight to transition from hybrid or online learning to fully in-person school. No (17.2%) “It’s a really demanding job and there are times where I feel like crawling out of the building,” English teacher Anna Caponetti said. “I feel so depleted and overstretched at the end of the day.” With most of the school district’s solutions for burnout focused on students’ experiences, teachers often feel overlooked and underappreciated. “The workload is immense for teachers. There’s grading and so much more that teachers do beyond the school day,” school counselor Brook Dalrymple said. “Every teacher is taking work home and spending hours on it, and there’s not a lot of time for breaks... I think that sometimes the work environment isn’t the best.” Virginia Beach City Public Schools and Suffolk Public Schools implemented plans to dismiss classes early on select Wednesdays, which allows teachers to prepare lessons without any distractions. While other Virginia school districts have acknowledged the stressors impacting the teaching environment, FCPS has not followed suit with similar programs.


Did you experience burnout after the first semester? Did your grades decrease after the beginning of the school year?



Did schoolwork become overwhelming after the beginning of the year?

Yes (46.7%)

of students felt increased depression (30.6%) about school after the first semester (22.8%) no Somewhat No


“We’re really low down at the bottom of [the county’s] priorities list,” Caponetti said. [Their efforts to support staff mental health] come off as, ‘We’re going to make you take training on mindset, mindfulness and self-care, but we’re also going to give you all these new things that make your job way harder.” Teachers often make sacrifices in their own lives to improve their students’ learning experiences. They end up having to monitor students’ well-being in addition to managing the stresses of their own personal lives. “[Teaching] can put you in the position to become a martyr because the response in your own head, as well as what you’re hearing from parents, administrators and students, is that it’s all about the kids,” Caponetti said. “We are like Swiss Army knives in our students’ lives. We’re expected to recognize abuse, to be able to use the defibrillator, administer EpiPens... We’re expected to do so much and be so much.” The heavy workloads that come from grading piles of assignments, creating lesson plans and keeping students motivated cause teachers to strain themselves despite their own mental health and personal problems. “Most people think that teachers only do grading in their free period, but the most time-consuming part is when we continually have to create lessons,” social studies teacher Hilary Viets said. While some teachers have tests and essays to grade,

experience burnout he first semester?

nts felt increased depression hool after the first semester

26 | IN-DEPTH | FEBrUARY 2022

YES (82.86%) No (17.2%)

elective classes like orchestra face other challenges. Hosting multiple concerts throughout the year puts stress on orchestra director Starlet Smith. This year, she’s experienced an additional kind of burnout. “Usually I would hit burnout more towards March or April when we have the assessment concert and we go on a trip. It’s just tiring,” Smith said. “This time, I think it’s just readjusting back to normal life [that’s burning me out].” Smith’s workload can become overwhelming. Even after the school day ends, she still puts hours of work into her career. “There are some days that I’ll be here at 8 a.m. and won’t leave until 10 p.m. when the building - ANNA CAPONETTI closes,” Smith said. “Those nights are really long and can be ENGLISH TEACHER pretty tough. Once a week I’m probably here past 9:30 p.m. I’ll just eat and stay here, but people don’t know that and don’t see that because they don’t know all the extra things of students believe that school that happen.” putsoftoo much pressure on them Other school staff face pressure to work outside working hours, too, which eats into personal time and affects their work-life balance. “When I first became a counselor years ago, I never had email on my phone, and then what would end up inevitably happening was I would show up to work on a Monday morning and my inbox would be blowing up,” Olcott said. “So then I got email on my phone, but it makes it harder to step away from work. There’s hours





working in the building, usually from about 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but the total amount of hours working never stops.” Inadequate teacher pay has long been an issue in FCPS, and pay scale freezes amid inflation places additional financial stress on teachers. Many staff members feel the pay does not justify their extensive workloads and working hours. “This is a highly exploitative job,” Caponetti said. “No one goes into teaching for the money unless you’re changing your job or going into admin. If you want to be a career teacher, you’re always going to be teaching the same stuff in the same position. People go into education because they want to make a difference—[the reasons for teaching] are non-quantitative.” The stress of supporting students’ learning while simultaneously balancing their personal lives has driven many teachers around the country to find new jobs. “It’s come to a point where if it gets worse than this year, or if this goes on for many years, I don’t think it’s tenable for me to stay,” Caponetti said. “At the same time, I really can’t imagine doing anything else. I feel guilty because I don’t want all the best teachers that my children could have to leave because they know they could do better for themselves elsewhere.”

Putting out the flame Students find that reaching out to their counselor is beneficial to their mental health and for combating the problems they face in school and their personal lives. “Just having the counselors there as people you can talk to and who are willing to help you is beneficial for students,” sophomore Lee Davis said. Counselors strive to make strong connections with students to make them feel welcome in school. “Our goal is just making sure we have good relationships built with our students so they can feel

comfortable to seek help and process what they’re feeling,” Dalrymple said. Teachers also have strategies to handle their own mental health struggles. “I definitely do have methods [to cope with burnout],” Smith said. “I have some friends that I will confide in because they’re teachers too, and they understand and can relate.” When assignments start to pile up, students feel that they need more personal time in order to find balance in their lives. Teachers agree that taking breaks is beneficial for students, especially where expectations are high. “We need to normalize taking breaks or [asking for more time] when we need extensions on work,” Dalrymple said. Teachers suggest that students should plan their class schedules realistically according to their other commitments. “I try to manage my [students’] workloads, but I definitely suggest not taking too many APs,” Viets said. “Students should enjoy their high school experience now and focus on the things they enjoy, like playing sports and doing extracurriculars.” An overpacked schedule can lead to students struggling, but the school and FCPS offer multiple resources to help students overcome it. “I think a lot of times people get burned out because they’re doing it all, but you can always ask for help,” Smith said. Excessive stress and burnout is unlikely to be extinguished at McLean in the near future. But if students and staff reach out to available resources and new programs, it can be a less prominent problem in the school community. “If you’re affected by the issue, please come and talk to somebody,” Dalrymple said. “I think that’s the best place to start. Hopefully, we’re destigmatizing mental health, and students feel comfortable talking in a community of people they trust.”


LONELY THIS VALENTINE’S DAY? Eight songs to get you through the season PHILIP ROTONDO NEWS EDITOR

Student Picks: Lava/Republic Records

Columbia Records

Warner Music Group

Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella Records

“Writer in the Dark” Lorde

“It’s Time” LSD

“Only Time” Enya

“Heartless” Kanye West

“I’ve loved Lorde since hearing ‘Royals’ for the first time when I was little, and ‘Writer In The Dark’ is the perfect song for a writer who feels sad. It makes me feel pretentious and it’s a 10/10 cry song.” - sophomore Lauren Vandivier

“Essentially, the song is about letting go of a crumbling relationship when it’s time... It makes the argument that the longer you hold on, the worse it gets.” - junior Sarah Tran

“I like this song because it’s inordinately soothing, and when you’re feeling sad it’s like a warm and soft hug in music form. Enya’s music has this wonderful resonating quality, and this song is a perfect example.” - senior Thomas Shanks

“‘Heartless’ by Kanye West [is an ideal song for those feeling lonely] because it’s about heartbreak and being left alone.” - freshman Charles Seten

The Highlander’s Picks: Domino recording company

Loma vista recordings

Run for cover records

Polydor Records

“Sometimes” My Bloody Valentine

“Royal Screw Up” Soccer Mommy

“Wastrel” Narrow Head

“I Will Survive” Gloria Gaynor

Whisper-like vocals singing lyrics full of longing and desperation float over warm layers of guitar strumming to make for an essential loneliness anthem. No pun intended.

This song features a laidback indie rock instrumental that pairs brilliantly with introspective, angst-ridden lyrics and vocals telling a dreary story of disillusionment.

Self-deprecating lyrics, soft vocals and droning acoustic guitar flawlessly capture the feeling of isolation and make for a hauntingly beautiful track.

An undeniable classic, this song’s lush disco arrangement and powerful vocals and lyrics will provide the listener with much-needed empowerment this Valentine’s Day.

28 | A&E | February 2022

Page design by Philip Rotondo | Graphics by Ariana Elahi

written on the walls C


reativity is encouraged from all students at McLean High School, regardless of the classes they take. Teachers from all subjects push their students to learn in unique and colorful ways, perhaps most notably through the creation of educational masterpieces on their walls.

JULIA MURDOCK, science, Y223:

“[The Evolution Timeline] was an idea I had about six years ago. I was the coach of the Science Olympiad team back then and the students were excited about putting some interesting pictures on the wall. They came in with different pictures of pretty [aquatic organisms] and actually bought the paint on their own. They used my projector to project the images on the wall, and then they went and drew it up. It took about two years to get all of those images up there. [The drawing of Rosalind Franklin] actually had to be stopped because the pandemic hit, but I have more planned for [her].”

MICHAEL CLICK, french, G281 (Former room): “I taught a unit on

arts in AP [French]. There’s a [project] where students did research on an artist and created a PowerPoint based on them. I would be great if they painted on the wall as well. The last frame of their PowerPoint was the same picture that they had to represent on my wall. Each student got one square [to work with]. This went on for years.”

CHRISTINA HICKS, science, Y222: “[The murals on the walls] are supposed to be about chemistry, and

students created them. Sometimes they were done freehand, sometimes they were done with a projector and transcribed on the wall so that it could be [more] precise. About half of the murals were here when I got [this room], and I think they had been around for a while. I came to McLean in 2010, and half of them were here for 11 years. We put the rest on the wall at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.”

Page design by Ariana Elahi | Photos by Ghada Moussa & Ariana Elahi

FEBRUARY 2022 | A&E | 29


Korean BBQ 9292



Beef bulgogi with an omelette grill, cheese and mushrooms.

Spicy beef bulgogi, Best eaten with the house sesame sauce.

Cheapest All-you-can-eat option for $29.99

Cheapest All-you-can-eat option for $25.00


292 offers excellent food quality with a signature beef bulgogi that is drenched in a to-die-for marinade. The allyou-can-eat dining option comes with six different delicious meats: beef bulgogi, pork belly, bean paste pork belly, spicy pork belly, pork neck and seasoned pork short ribs. The bulgogi and pork belly were perfectly seasoned, both with an impeccable mix of garlic, miso and soy flavors. However, customers have to pay for each bowl of rice, which is typically included with the all-you-can-eat option. 9292’s banchan (side dishes) range from classics such as kimchi and house salad to some more unique options like roasted honey balsamic peanuts and pasta salad. With their wide range of banchan as well as the omelette station embedded in their grills, 9292 is definitely a unique choice.

30 | A&E | FEBRUARY 2022


ō offers a classic Korean barbecue aesthetic with a variety of seating arrangements to accommodate parties of any size. Another detail customers will notice is that all tables come equipped with silverware and utensils right under the table on both sides. They have a wide variety of decadent dipping sauces, offering a homemade spicy sauce that pairs very well with the chicken. Their triple layer pork belly was quite memorable—the extra thickness allows it to absorb more marinade and retain its juiciness. Sō’s meat seasonings are on point. The soy garlic bulgogi deserves special honors for having the ideal balance of flavors. Sō Korean BBQ provides an amazing overall dining experience; the attentive staff and quality food benefit the customer in every way. Photos & page design by Taylor Olson





Thick-cut beef brisket, delicious with sesame oil and salt sauce.

Garlic pork belly, PAIRS PERFECTLY with house hoisin sauce.

Cheapest All-you-can-eat option for $25.00

Cheapest All-you-can-eat option for $24.95




f you are planning to eat at Kogiya, be sure to make a reservation at least two days in advance. Kogiya’s interior design and vibes make you feel like you are really in the kitchen and are a part of the entire cooking process. The waitstaff is incredible and can teach you everything about the Korean barbecue experience. Their specialty dish, thick-cut brisket, is freshly cut and never frozen, unlike many other restaurants, giving the brisket a delicate, melt-in-your-mouth texture. While the brisket stole the show, their spicy chicken was nothing short of amazing, coming out perfectly cooked with an assortment of vegetables. Kogiya’s attention to detail with their cuisine as well as their excellent service make it well worth the wait. The food is superb and relatively affordable for Korean barbecue.



pon entering Breakers Korean BBQ, a soothing, dim blue light and welcoming waitstaff greets customers. Breakers is normally pretty busy, so a reservation is recommended. Breakers’ featured specialty is their thick-cut pork belly, which is basically a glorified and amazing version of bacon. Their pork belly is fresh and the flavor is where excellence and deliciousness meet. Their prime beef bulgogi has the perfect amount of fat so the cooked meat retains its flavor. The allyou-can-eat menus come with an excellent variety of classic banchan, and every meat melts in your mouth. Breakers Korean BBQ has a relaxing feel and can accommodate a party of any size. Breakers will make you never want to go to any other Korean barbecue purely due to the high quality of their food.

FEBRUARY 2022 | A&E | 31


Diversity and inclusion rises in the beauty industry SYDNEY GLEASON REPORTER | CHRISTIANA KETEMA REPORTER | BELÉN BALLARD FEATURES EDITOR Photos courtesy of Chloe Zhu| Page design by Ariana Elahi | Graphics by Liz Nedelescu


n recent years, inclusive beauty movements have redefined the standards for companies to include people of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders and ages. With the creation of campaigns that embrace differences and break stereotypes, cosmetic brands like Fenty, Morphe and Glossier have been praised for their wide range of products and diverse models who represent traditionally marginalized groups. Inclusitivity has steadily become one of the most important aspects of the industry. Makeup began as a medium to enhance appearances but has turned into something much greater: an outlet for users to express themselves through their creativity. “We are finally starting to see the mold of what beauty looks like transitioning,” senior Atticus Gore said. “All people, bodies and styles are beautiful in their own unique way, and our differences are finally being appreciated.”

PEOPLE NEED TO SEE THEMSELVES REPRESENTED AS THEY THINK OF CURRENT AND FUTURE POSSIBILITIES FOR THEIR CAREERS AND LIFESTYLE.” - DEBRA DOVE MARKETING TEACHER The industry, and especially the brands who have diversified their product lines in recent years, have seen an improvement in both sales and support. “[Diversity] is important in any industry,” marketing teacher Debra Dove said. “People need to see themselves represented as they think of current and future possibilities for their careers and lifestyle. It also spurs creativity and self-expression in different ways.” Makeup is meant to give people more confidence, but not everyone was able to benefit from it in the past. Whether it be limited shade ranges or models with unrelatable features, not all people who wanted to experiment with makeup felt they were given the chance. “There have definitely been times where I have felt a lack of representation,” senior Chloe Zhu said. “I remember when I was in middle school, all I saw were models with

matching makeup — Senior Chloe Zhu promotes her

makeup looks on her social media. “[I took these photos] because I realized that the Band-Aid matched my nails and I wanted it be a part of my makeup look,” Zhu said.

32 | A&E | FEBRUARY 2022

big, light-colored eyes, thin eyebrows and an eye shape that didn’t resemble mine, and it made it hard to learn how to do makeup.” Zhu found her passion for makeup when she started experimenting with it in sixth grade. “[I mostly] started doing makeup because I wanted to fit in,” Zhu said. “Before, it used to be that I didn’t want to go out without makeup because I felt more confident with it on. But now, I do it for fun. When I’m bored and have nothing to do, I think maybe I could do a fun makeup look.” Zhu, like many people, went through trial and error to figure out what worked for her and what she liked. What is unique about makeup is that each person can use it however they like. “A lot of my makeup accentuates my features instead of trying to enlarge my eyes or make my nose smaller,” Zhu said. “Makeup is just something fun to either pass time or act as a form of creative expression.” Similarly, Gore’s experience with makeup has changed over the past few years. A lot of this change came through experimentation and a change in their mindset. “I used to view makeup as something that I couldn’t do, and I avoided dabbling in wearing makeup because of fear of what others might think,” Gore said. “Changing my mentality about making myself comfortable as opposed to making those around me feel comfortable has proven to be a crucial change in my life.” Gore finally found their style and the type of makeup looks that make them feel most confident. “For me, wearing makeup doesn’t include a full face of makeup but is more targeted towards colorful eye makeup and light bronzer and highlights,” Gore said. “My desire to find what is meaningful to me was fueled by experimentation and seeing what made me feel best.” There is still a lot of work to be done within the beauty industry. However, many brands are heading in the right direction by celebrating differences and giving people the ability to express themselves. “I think makeup is just a freeing and unifying [experience] that a lot of people can bond over,” Zhu said. “People can finally choose what they like and what they don’t.”


Mask-optional policies need to wait The staff editorial represents the opinion of the majority of The Highlander editorial board


ov. Glenn Youngkin’s recent executive order makes masks in schools a family’s choice statewide. But overwhelming evidence and majority opinion at McLean High School mean masks should remain required—at least in FCPS. Official case counts and seemingly endless contact tracing have reminded us that COVID-19 spreads in schools. What isn’t entirely clear is how requiring masks is somehow detrimental to students, particularly those in overcrowded buildings like McLean. Masks prevent sick individuals from spreading disease vectors, and in countries like Japan and South Korea, it was customary to wear masks in public when feeling sick even before the pandemic. Wearing a mask in a building full of immunocompromised teachers and students, elderly employees and hourly, low-paid staff and substitutes who may have poor health insurance is simply the right thing to do.

Practically everyone at McLean has the physical capacity to wear a mask. It was never difficult: it’s a light, breathable cloth that covers the mouth and nose and fits snugly against the face. It’s not a dog muzzle, and it’s highly unlikely someone will asphyxiate with one on (hint: take the mask off momentarily if having difficulty breathing). So no, masks are not traumatic torture instruments scarring a generation of students, as some opponents might suggest. They’re a time-tested product that is intended to protect public health. Masks aren’t an infringement of personal liberty, an argument mask-optional supporters frequently make. If masks should become optional because they encroach on liberty, the federal income tax and state vehicle registration might as well be abolished too, since any small inconvenience for the collective good of society is now apparently an egregious violation of personal rights. In a poll of 207 McLean students, 72% said they felt masks should remain required in FCPS. If a majority of residents in other jurisdictions feel otherwise, their school districts should be free to make that decision themselves. Opinion on masks has become so attached to political identity that the executive office should not be

Reporting & page design by Akash Balenalli | Cartoon by Jayne Ogilvie-Russell

making overarching decisions for everyone. That’s especially true when the governor who signed the executive order sends his son to a private high school in Maryland. Politicians who make important decisions affecting students should at least have the ethical commitment to send their children to schools in the same state where they craft their policies. Many public spaces like coffee shops are mask-optional, but social distancing is possible to a resonable extent in these locations, and there is adequate air circulation to keep visitors safe. Neither are possible at overcrowded McLean. At a PTSA meeting in January, FCPS School Board Representative for the Dranesville District Elaine Tholen even admitted that a McLean family was the first to discover inadequate air circulation in many classrooms across the school. If masks are to become optional, FCPS and its high school administrations need to be more proactive and responsible in preventing the spread of COVID-19. That includes faster contact tracing, more transparency with families and robust infrastructure to ensure frequent air circulation and prevent crowding in hallways. We all want to get rid of masks soon. The time is coming, but for now, the social benefits of wearing a mask overwhelmingly outweigh the costs for most people in the school building. When it’s time to finally make masking a personal choice, individual districts should be deciding when it’s appropriate, not the state government.


CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE Fine arts classes are overdue for honors boosts


OMAR KAYALI online opinions editor

he life of a fine arts student isn’t an easy one. On top of the normal coursework and social acrobatics, they work ridiculously hard to create something for others to appreciate: art you can see, touch, hear, read and experience—unique crafts that take time and effort to perfect. However, fine arts are not afforded the same cushion of an honors boost that other electives like STEM and advanced language courses are given. Fine arts classes deserve honors designations to help ease some of the added stress on students. While at first glance classes like Photojournalism and Theater may not seem to have a curriculum fitting of an honors class, the coursework is more than rigorous enough to account for a boost. Earlier this school year, the county denied a request to give upper-level journalism courses an honors boost. “Requests for an honors designation are reviewed to determine if the course has a standard course offering pairing and/or includes evidence of rigor as the highest level in a specialized area of postsecondary study,” FCPS Director of Curriculum and Instruction Colleen Eddy said. “Courses which entail college-level coursework or career certification might also demonstrate the rigor associated with an honors designation.” Classes like Journalism, Photojournalism and Theater are more rigorous than most other classes—they quite literally have students running businesses, requiring long hours and specialized equipment and software to produce high-quality work at a professional level. “For a solid week and a half to two weeks, I am at school until 10 or 12 o’clock working on shows, leaving little time for school work,” said senior JT Fulkerson, the technical director of TheatreMcLean. “I spend more time in Theater than any one class.” These classes teach students valuable life skills that will help them later on, such as how to work with other people on


complex projects and how to take critiques and feedback positively. Students also gain experience working with high-level software and equipment, such as the Adobe Creative Cloud and theater tech.

I SPEND MORE TIME IN THEATER THAN ANY ONE CLASS.” - JT FULKERSON SENIOR “I’ve learned a lot of organizational skills and communication skills by dealing with a lot of people,” Fulkerson said. “I have learned how to operate both our sound and light boards, as well as a lot of other helpful skills, as we do a lot of tinkering.” For students who plan on pursuing a

career in the fine arts, these classes have even greater value. “If a student is applying to a college that values fine arts more than normal, such as an arts school or an arts major within a college, then [fine arts classes] become more important,” McLean’s College and Career Specialist Laura Venos said. Many students enroll in classes solely for the honors boost they provide, especially at McLean, due to the school’s incredibly competitive nature and high standards. In their quest for a transcript stacked with honors and AP classes, some students who are interested in the fine arts may not want to give one of these classes a try, and everyone loses in that scenario. As long as FCPS continues to ignore the rigor of fine arts courses, students who pursue their passions while developing reallife skills will continue to be at an unfair GPA disadvantage, while some students may never get to experience the joy of taking a fine arts class in the first place.

Cartoon by Liz Nedelescu | Page design by Omar Kayali

LETNon-traditional STUDENTSlearning TAKEmethods THE WHEEL foster success in the classroom



or many students, the school day is an indistinguishable blur of monotonous 90-minute lectures. Until last year, it seemed as though students would be doomed to endure four years’ worth of this learning style. The implementation of more innovative teaching methods presented new hope. Through a tumultuous year of virtual school, teachers were forced to adapt. Of the various methods they chose to incorporate, the “flipped classroom” approach proved to be one of the most popular. It allowed students to familiarize themselves with the material at home, freeing up class time for practice and questions. This year, self-paced learning, similar to flipped classrooms, has taken McLean by storm. Rather than attend whole-class lectures, students are granted the flexibility to learn each lesson and complete the corresponding activities on their own. “I like doing things on my own time,” senior Zaynab Rashid said. “We’ve been in school where everything is so regimented for so long, and I like taking [my learning] into my own hands.”

Both approaches allow students to take ownership of their learning. Perhaps more importantly, they are incredibly efficient. Rather than spending an unnecessary amount of time covering topics in class, these methods allow students to learn quickly and dedicate more time to applying their skills.

WITH SELF-PACED CLASSES, I NEVER FEEL LIKE I’M WASTING MY TIME.” - ZAYNAB RASHID SENIOR “With self-paced classes, I never feel like I’m wasting my time,” Rashid said. “Every single minute is something that I’m dedicating the time to put into, and so I never feel like I’m wasting time waiting on other people or the teacher.” These methods offer more than just efficiency. Lessons are always available through video, meaning students never have to fret about missing class, and the ability to

Page design by Hanna Boughanem | Cartoon & additional reporting by Liz Nedelescu

pause and rewind lessons is a saving grace. Class time is much better spent practicing problems, sharpening skills and actually applying what students have learned. Oftentimes, lessons that are drawn out to fill 90 minutes of class time can easily be taught in just 40. “For math especially, I got so accustomed to learning on my own through videos and doing homework problems [during class],” Rashid said. “This year during math, we’re back to traditional learning, and I find it hard to concentrate for the full block.” Teachers themselves see the value in more non-traditional methods—and for good reason. “I get to spend class time listening to the students, instead of them listening to me as I lecture,” physics teacher Erin Kreeger said. “They still get to hear me explain everything through the video lectures, [but they also] still get activities and problems to complement the lesson in the classroom.” The flipped model requires students to hold themselves accountable, both in and out of the classroom. Understandably, some may find it challenging to take the initiative to learn on their own. Still, this kind of learning fosters independence in young students, leaving them with the skills necessary to succeed in higher education. Outside of high school, students won’t get fill-in-the-blank note packets or long periods to learn one lesson. No one will be breathing down their necks, enforcing strict schedules and making sure they attend class. It is imperative that students practice taking accountability for their learning right now to prevent them from struggling later. Education isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. Some students may prefer nontraditional teaching methods, while others may not— just as some classes will work better flipped, while others operate best with a traditional learning environment. English discussions, for example, are exclusively well-suited to traditional learning. Alternatively, practice-based STEM classes work incredibly well when flipped. Just as students vary, so should the ways in which they learn. “Every student has different academic needs and capabilities and demands, and so everyone’s going to have a different learning style,” Rashid said. “We’ve just been so accustomed to the traditional, communal learning that I think [we forget] it’s a balancing act.”

february 2022 | OPINIONS | 35

COLLEGES SHOULD STAY TEST-OPTIONAL Applicants should not be required to submit standardized test scores


FARAH ELJAZZAR ONline Features editor

he COVID-19 pandemic has created setbacks in learning, scheduling and, for some, the college admissions process. Hundreds of testing centers for the SAT and ACT closed during the peak of the pandemic, preventing students from taking the tests. As a result, many colleges provided a “test-optional” choice, in which students did not have to submit their scores at all. Over a thousand colleges and universities will continue to provide this opportunity beyond the pandemic, raising questions about whether or not standardized tests are important at all. Eliminating the requirement for the submission of standardized tests allows students to focus on academic and extracurricular activities that match their career interests and provides a more equal opportunity for marginalized and under-


resourced students to compete for spots at competitive universities. Requiring standardized test score submissions may hold back students who have otherwise stellar grades and extracurriculars.

IF YOU KNOW HOW TO STUDY FOR THEM AND YOU KNOW ALL THE TRICKS TO TAKING THEM, THEN YOU WILL DO WELL.” - EINMON THA SENIOR “Test-optional has helped students who are not excited about their scores,” McLean’s College and Career Specialist Laura Venos

said. “It gives them more confidence to apply to colleges of interest without worrying about what happened during a few hours on a Saturday.” More importantly, the SAT and ACT only evaluate students’ test-taking skills rather than their intelligence. Those who invest in hours of tutoring and practice may be able to ace the tests which do not reflect their abilities as much as the other parts of their application. “The SAT and ACT are tests you can study for and specialize in,” said senior Einmon Tha, who was accepted to the University of Virginia test-optional. “If you know how to study for them and you know all the tricks to taking them, then you will do well.” These tests don’t measure most of what contenders for competitive colleges take in their classes—the SAT math section only tests up to Algebra 2, and the writing section tests on standard English conventions. For students who take classes up to AP Calculus and AP Literature, it is not fair that their college acceptance decisions be determined by a test that does not demonstrate the full extent of their knowledge. Furthermore, continuing the requirement for submitting standardized test scores negatively impacts under-resourced communities. Students who are provided with resources such as tutoring, classes and prep books are at a significant advantage compared to those that cannot afford such resources. “Students have a huge advantage at these tests if they have more money. It costs at least $55 just to take the SAT,” said senior Josie Conyers, who was accepted to Boston College test-optional. “On top of that, a lot of kids get these good scores because they have tutors costing $200-plus for an hour of tutoring.” By eliminating this arbitrary system of evaluation, the admissions process opens up for students to demonstrate other abilities that apply to real-world situations. “It doesn’t hurt to take the SAT/ACT,” Venos said. “But [colleges staying testoptional is] the best solution in terms of equity and lowering stress.”

Cartoon by Liz Nedelescu | Page design by Farah Eljazzar

THE FUTURE OF SPORTS McLean forms new esports team



he entire world is moving online, and sports are no exception. Esports, or competitive video games, is the newest trend among high school students. Focusing on bridging the gap between technology and physical activity, McLean is joining high schools across Virginia in forming their first esports teams. “I would like to help students that have never been on a team figure out what it’s like to be on a team,” McLean’s new esports coach Nicholas Tharp said. “[Students can do this by] cooperating with each other and being with a group of kids that just want to have fun and learn.” McLean is in the process of creating its own esports program and is offering interested applicants the opportunity to play for a specific team. “It will be open to any student who wants to try out,” Director of Student Activities Greg Miller said. “We are still waiting on some more directions from FCPS.”

McLean’s esports team will operate under the rules set by the Virginia High School League (VHSL) for high school sports and be funded by the activities department. Players will compete using the PlayVS platform. One of the most popular esports offered at schools is Rocket League, a game modeled after soccer, in which players drive vehicles and “kick” balls into goals. “Players compete against each other without having to be in the same location,” Miller said. “This gives our students the opportunity to do something they enjoy in a competitive atmosphere while representing the school.” Students interested in McLean’s esports program attended a meeting on Feb. 7 to learn more about the initiative. Some said they wanted to begin turning their hobbies into a competitive activity, while others had already participated in video game competitions outside of school. “I got interested in [esports] when I went to the [Rocket League Championship Series Season 4] in 2017,” junior Thomas

EXPLORING eSPORTS — Senior Steven Guo plays League of Legends with his friends to relax. Esports is a growing phenomenon, and McLean is working to provide its students the opportunity to join the trend. Photo courtesy of Steven Guo | Page design by Mackenzie Chen

Gillen said. “It’s really fun but also really challenging. It’d be really cool to have an esports team for high school.” Esports grew into a worldwide phenomenon as online infrastructure for multiplayer games improved. “Over the last decade, esports has started at the grassroots level and has been developing into the larger programs you see today,” VHSL Assistant Director for Activities Darrell Wilson said. “The [esports] game publishers are able to drive more interest in the games to have large events at places like the Staples Center in Los Angeles.” Esports programs in high schools have focused on games that can run on lower-end gaming equipment, reducing the financial barrier for schools concerned about cost. “When esports first started, it was very much PC-based...because we didn’t want technology to be a barrier for schools,” Wilson said. “So, a lot of schools were able to find that they could repurpose some PCs they had. [They also made] some minor upgrades to their PCs to get them to a point where the students would have a good experience playing League of Legends or Rocket League.” In addition to League of Legends and Rocket League, the VHSL website indicates it will offer competitions in Splatoon 2, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Madden, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Hearthstone. The regular season will run from Feb. 21 to April 15, with playoffs beginning April 18. Esports has revolutionized the connection between sports and gaming. Not only has it broadened opportunities for students to pursue their personal interests, it has also redefined how technology can be used to promote teamwork. “Students are going to play video games at McLean High School no matter what,” said senior Steven Guo, who plays League of Legends. “What better way to [develop] this passion...than to start playing esports in high school?”



Boys basketball improves after slow start to season SCOTT SHIELDS SPORTS EDITOR


uring the beginning of the boys varsity basketball season, more often than not, the varsity team found themselves staring down a deficit on the scoreboard. But after the team’s challenging start this year, they picked it up, sprouting wins that they hope will lead into a playoff run. After losing their first seven games of the season, the team found their stride, going .500 for the rest of the season to end with a final record of 7-14. “I think a combination of injuries and inexperience had to do with our slow start,” senior guard Zach Hasan said. After the injuries left the roster lacking depth, the team had to adapt. “We had to change schematically what we were doing mid-season. After a few games without our center we had to reassess,” head coach Michael O’Brien said. But with the return of senior Zach Reid, the team’s 6’8” center, and other players such as sophomore guard Jeremy Fuchs, the Highlanders turned the tide of their season. “I think our team is a lot more dynamic

Tough look — Isaac Bell takes a

contested shot over a Langley defender on Jan. 25. Bell is part of the young core of the Highlander squad.


To the rack — Jeremy Fuchs drives to the basket guarded by a Langley

defender on Jan. 25. Fuchs scored 13 points in the second matchup against the Saxons. offensively which will give us a huge boost in game,” Fuchs said. The team picked up their first win over Hylton High School on Dec. 27, and their next two victories came in back-to-back games against Chantilly and Lewis on Jan. 10 and 13. They secured another win on Jan. 18 in a 20-point blowout win over Herndon. More wins came as the season closed, including a senior night win over Yorktown and a win over Herndon in their final game of the regular season. “The keys to bouncing back this season have been working harder and pushing our teammates to work harder,” junior forward Jimmy Higgins said. “We also need to bring lots of energy to each game to match the atmosphere we would have with fans.” To add to their record, the Highlanders were able to split their series with the crosstown rival Langley Saxons, suffering a brutal 58-34 home loss before winter break but striking back with a 57-52 win on Saxon turf on Jan. 25. “Our best games have come from us getting the ball out in transition and scoring,” Hasan said.

Although the season started slowly, the team showed sparks and flashes of their potential. “The seniors have been great at trying to lead through the challenging times we have had early in the season to overcome adversity,” O’Brien said. Fortunately, the roster is young, with only four seniors leaving and nine sophomores and juniors ready to take another step in their high school careers. On top of that, many current freshman and JV players could make the jump to varsity next year. “The hope going forward is that the younger players will take the same responsibility of accepting and leading younger players to develop individually and as a team,” O’Brien said. The team will continue to develop with their young core, but for this season their focus remained on making a run and finishing strong, and with districts coming up, there was no better time to go on a winning streak. “With everyone healthy, the sky’s the limit. We’ve been playing close games with good teams,” Hasan said. “We can be very successful. We can win the district.”

Photos by Sydney Gleason | Page design by Scott Shields


Girls basketball grows as team, finishes14-8 BELÉN BALLARD FEATURES EDITOR | ANDY CHUNG REPORTER


he girls varsity basketball team started off the season with a 4744 loss to Westfield High School. Despite the rough start, the girls showed their persistence, recouping and winning the following four games and finishing the season with a record of 14-8. As the team continues on to districts, they are hopeful their strong season will lead them to an even better postseason. “The girls are working very hard and have been consistently improving throughout the season,” varsity coach Jen Sobota said. Although the season started with fewer restrictions, COVID-19 worsened and interfered with the season once again. “The hardest part of the season is adapting to COVID. We have had one teammate test positive and we had to play without her for the Langley game, which affects our gameplay dramatically,” senior Mia Fitzgerald said. “The crowd was limited for the game, which was upsetting.”


the players to work together and have fun at the same time. “The team dynamic is strong and everyone is friends,” Bremser said. “We all mesh well and are able to enjoy ourselves on and off the court.” Fitzgerald is the only senior on the team this year, but her goodbye will be a difficult one. “I will miss the friends that I have made throughout the seasons. I will obviously come back and visit, but it won’t be the same when I’m in college,” Fitzgerald said. “I will also miss my connection with the athletic staff and community at McLean. Talking to Officer Davis and other admin about my sports makes me feel comfortable at school.” Fitzgerald, a starter on varsity since her freshman year, has learned many life skills as part of the basketball team, and she always looks to pass it on to her younger teammates. “[Some advice] I would give to future girls that play basketball here would be to not be afraid to be a leader. Maintaining good communication and a positive attitude for the team is vital,” Fitzgerald said. “There are only a few people willing to take on that role, so take advantage of it.”

- MIA FITZGERALD SENIOR In addition to the COVID-19 surge before winter break, the snowstorm that canceled school for a week after the break disrupted the team’s momentum. “The schedule has changed a bit, and the girls have dealt with some adversity, but it amazes me how resilient they have been and how they just continue to push through,” Sobota said. Without a normal season the last two years, certain challenges have arisen for the team, but they have learned how to work together to overcome them. “There’s been some ups and downs, but overall we have been playing very well,” said junior Kara Bremser, who set the school record for the most 3-pointers in a season. “This has definitely been my best season at McLean so far, and compared to last year the team has improved.” While the physical aspect of the sport is crucial for success, a big part of succeeding on varsity is simply commitment. “Honestly, there is no easy part to any season. Teams always need to practice hard and put in the work to perform their best,” Fitzgerald said. “But, I would say showing up is the easiest part. Just bringing yourself to every practice is easy—it’s whether or not you put in your full effort which can be difficult.” The team has a close bond, and this connection makes it easier for Photos by Sydney Gleason | Page design by Belén Ballard

Dribbling DownHill — Shushan Krikorian takes a screen

on Langley guard Anya Rahman from forward Ava Stewart in the intense second half of a Jan. 25 bout against Langley. The game ended in a close 40-39 loss for McLean.


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IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY Jemison brothers push each other to succeed



enior Xavier Jemison and his brother, sophomore Jahi Jemison, were born to run. Their father, Kyle Jemison, was a cross country star, and they have been running competitively since they were very young. “I was really influenced by my family,” Jahi said. “My dad was a good runner and my brother is a good runner. I’m trying to be like them.” While Jahi gets inspiration from his family, Xavier’s motivation comes from within. “I push myself the most, I believe in myself the most and I influence myself the most,” Xavier said. This intrinsic motivation drives Xavier to be better, and his extreme determination rubs off on his teammates. “The only other influence [I have] is the idea of letting others down,” Xavier said. Xavier is a leader on the team, and sometimes he finds the time to help Jahi out. “As a captain and older brother, I’m

naturally inclined to give my brother a pep talk here and there,” Xavier said. The family has propelled each other to be better for a long time. “I was in the Junior Olympics, and I got third place,” Jahi said. “My dad almost went to the Olympics, and my brother is a state champion. I want to live up to them.” Xavier has experienced huge success as a member of the McLean track team, placing first in the state for the 800-meter and onemile races in his junior year. Jahi often feels like he should follow in the footsteps of his brother’s success. “There’s a lot of pressure, because I’m trying to be as good as [Xavier],” Jahi said. “I’m just trying to do my best.” For the brothers, their strong support system helped them get to where they are now and will continue to influence them in the future. “All of the other coaches helped me get there,” Xavier said, “as did the support of family, friends and the team. It’s all verbal and spiritual support.”

Sprinting siblings — Jahi Jemison (above) and Xavier Jemison (below) race in their events at Virginia Beach Sports Center.

HIGH DIVES AND HIGH SCHOOL All-State twins balance school and sports

S Twisting twins — Noah Wanzer

(above) competes and Nick Wanzer (below) practices a dive.


ophomore Noah Wanzer has been diving for as long as he can remember. He started as an 8-year-old, and his tremendous work ethic eventually led him to be ranked highly in the state and nation. It’s a nightmare for other divers when Noah is scheduled to dive in their meets. What could possibly be worse than going against one nationally ranked Wanzer? The answer: going against two nationally ranked Wanzers. Nick Wanzer, Noah’s identical twin, has been diving at a high level for years. He and his brother compete on the national level together. “Throughout last year, when we went to nationals, it was extremely nerve-wracking,” Noah said. “It all came down to this one [dive], but it was worth it, and we did pretty well. I’m looking forward to this year.” Both Noah and Nick placed top five

Images courtesy of Cochise Wanzer & Jahi Jemison | Page design by Taylor Olson

in the Liberty District Championship on Jan. 27, with Nick winning it all and Noah earning All-District honors. The brothers depended on their favorite dives to make it through the meet. “My favorite dive is a backwards two half,” Noah said. “It’s two backflips and a dive.” “I prefer a full out,” Nick said. “You do two half front flips and twist in the same dive.” Despite their talent, balancing school and sports can be tough on the Wanzers. “We both wake up at 6 in the morning. We leave school at 1:20 because of practice, and from 1:30 to 6 we’re working out,” Noah said. “After we get home, we do our homework and go to bed.” Even with all the stress, the twins love diving and plan to keep at it. “I really do just enjoy it,” Nick said. “I hope I get to keep diving and continue to improve.”


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Senior center

No other sport can replicate hockey’s pace, which motivates me to play competitively each day.”

HOW has playing hockey impacted you over the years? Hockey has affected me profoundly. It has introduced me to friends, taught me to work hard and exhibit sportsmanship and, maybe most importantly, connected me with my high school community. Whether competing in Friday games in front of fans, attending car wash fundraisers to raise money for my team or participating in any other related activities, McLean Hockey has helped me grow closer to this high school.

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO PLAY HOCKEY AT SUCH A HIGH LEVEL? I love the speed and intensity of a hockey game. No other sport can replicate hockey’s pace, which motivates me to play competitively each day. In addition, I’m drawn to hockey because of the challenges it presents. While playing, you have to maintain balance, keep possession of the puck, make quick decisions to avoid getting hit and do all these things while flying at high speeds across the ice. I’m driven to play at a high level to challenge myself to improve.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING HOCKEY? I’ve been playing hockey for 10 years now. My dad was a huge hockey fan growing up, and he passed that interest to me when I was little. I received my first pair of hockey skates on my seventh birthday, which sparked everything to come.

HOW DO you deal with criticism after losses? As a senior, there’s definitely an added urgency to win, not only because it’s your last year but because you’re a leader on the team. I don’t receive much external criticism after losses, but I often feel frustrated with myself for not doing more to help my team. On the bright side, the regular season is almost over and we’ve had a pretty successful year. We are on pace to finish second in our division and qualify for the playoffs, despite missing players because of COVID, traveling and injuries.

WHAT IS AN EMBARRASSING HOCKEY MOMENT? During one of my recent games, I didn’t screw the cap tightly enough on my water bottle after I filled it. When I tilted it back to drink after a long shift, all of the water came gushing out and drenched my jersey. I was completely soaked for the rest of the game.

do you have advice for other hockey players? My advice for other players is to move past their mistakes in a game. Hockey has so many possibilities— passing instead of shooting, skating to a different spot on the ice, et cetera, that you can drive yourself crazy thinking about what could’ve been done better. It’s important to overcome any prior concerns and always devote focus to your next play.

Reporting by Arnav Gupta | Photo courtesy of James Li | Page design by Ariana Elahi

February 2022 | SPORTS | 43



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44 | SPORTS | February 2022

Reporting & photos by Laine Phillips | Page design by Taylor Olson

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