The Highlander - Issue 4 - March 2022

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Volume 66 • Issue 4 • March 2022 McLean High School • @MHSHighlander

f o s n g i SSigns of cchhaannggee

Letter from the editors Dear Highlanders,

Happy National Women’s History Month! From an article in our features section highlighting female empowerment clubs at McLean to a glimpse into women’s weightlifting achievements in our sports section, The Highlander celebrates the accomplishments of girls at McLean. This issue’s in-depth focuses on activism in the McLean community, taking a deeper look into student advocacy clubs such as the Black Student Union and Muslim Student Association and exploring the ways students engage with the issues that matter to them in today’s world. For some more lighthearted reading, check out our chicken sandwich reviews and admire the fashion sense of Olivia Pamas, a model at McLean. Check out a new take on rejection at McLean and how it can in fact have a positive twist. Our editorial this issue discusses the dire need of a renovation here at McLean, and our crossfire gets into the pros and cons of lifting the school mask mandate in Virginia. Be sure to visit our website and follow @mhshighlander on Instagram for all the McLean news you need between issues. Thank you for reading! Yours Truly, Akash Balenalli, Maya Amman, Josh Bass, Aleena Gul, Ariana Elahi & Taylor Olson|@MHSHighlander Editors-in-Chief: Maya Amman Josh Bass Aleena Gul Design Editors-in-Chief: Ariana Elahi Taylor Olson Managing Editors: Akash Balenalli 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 Photographer: Sandra Cheng 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 Isabella DiPatri Ivy Olson Madeleine Stigall A&E Editors: Noah Barnes Khushi Rana Grace Gould

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 Madelyn Frederick Sydney Gleason Conaire Horgan Max Irish Christiana Ketema

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

Adviser: Lindsay B. Benedict

Opinions Editors: Farah Eljazzar Emily Friedman Omar Kayali Cc Palumbo

Editorial policy: The Highlander is a designated public forum in which

Sports Editors: Andrew Christofferson Tanner Coerr Scott Shields

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.

Copy Editors: Tanner Coerr Arnav Gupta Philip Rotondo Madeleine Stigall

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

Advertising policy: The Highlander sells ad space on each page of the

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 4 March 2022

NEWS 4-5 6 7 8-9 10

Improvement plan excludes McLean FCPS becomes mask-optional


International Night celebrates cultures TJ admissions changes stir controversy New Virginia bills passed

FEATURES 11 12-13 15

Teachers for Tomorrow preps educators Highlander of the Issue: Arman Nikmorad


10 Questions with Morgan Popma


Clubs empower girls


Seniors cope with college rejections

A&E s 20-21


Olivia Pamas models


Anime worth watching


Best chicken sandwiches in the area


McLean’s spring musical, Head Over Heels


Popular energy drink reviews


Throwback music: teacher edition


on the cover

22-27 Signs of change

McLean students advocate for racial justice Cover image by Makda Bekele & Taylor Olson

‘20, ‘17 Pacemaker Winner; ‘21, ‘19, ‘15 Pacemaker Finalist

‘20, ‘19, ‘18, ‘22, ‘21, ‘20, ‘17, ‘16, ‘14 ‘19, ‘18, ‘00 George H. Gallup First Amendment Award Press Freedom Award


‘22, ‘20, ‘17, ‘16 Gold ‘21, ‘19, ‘18, Crown Winner; ‘17, ‘16, ‘15, ‘14 ‘21, ‘19, ‘18 Silver VHSL Trophy Class; Crown Winner VHSL Savedge Award

opinions 34 35 36-37


Editorial: FCPS must renovate McLean McLean needs more language courses Crossfire: Was lifting the school mask mandate the right move?

sports 38 39 40 41 42 43 44

Improvements in boys and girls lacrosse Boys soccer team starts off strong Science teacher Andrew Diller curls Baseball team swings for success Women in weightlifting Athlete of the Issue: Ava Soong The Finish Line: spring edition


Improvement plan does not include support for McLean renovation



ools of water in the bathrooms, a roof leaking from multiple locations and an aging heating system are just a few indicators of an outdated building. The FCPS Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) allocates millions of dollars each year for construction and renovation of schools. For the 2023-27 school years, $180 million will be spent to improve schools across the county, but McLean High School is not included. Renovations are planned on a queue and McLean is not expected to receive funds to be fully renovated until 2050. McLean was constructed in 1955 and last renovated in 2005, creating concerns that there will be increasing structural and maintenance issues. “[The aging building] is a huge issue. I know that the students are concerned with the bathrooms, as we all are, because it is not pretty in there,” school finance technician Jennifer Hill said. “There is definitely work that should be done.” McLean was the last school in Fairfax County to be renovated using an outdated method, in which repairs for separate portions of the building were contracted out to different companies. The segmented process resulted in functional issues as the school aged. After McLean’s renovation, the process was improved to ensure that future schools were renovated more effectively. “They would take a part of the school and bid it out to a company...and then

Langley High School

4 | NEWS | March 2022

they would bid out the next section of the school,” Principal Ellen Reilly said. “That is probably why we have air conditioning and heating problems—there was a disconnect between the two companies.” McLean’s renovation was less thorough than other schools, yet placed the school at the end of the queue. FCPS is considering altering the allocation of renovations, but it is unclear whether this will impact McLean.

WE DEFINITELY NEED HELP IN THIS BUILDING. IT’S HARD ON THE CUSTODIANS AND FOR STUDENTS. WE JUST NEED UPDATES ALL AROUND.” - ELLEN REILLY PRINCIPAL “[FCPS] is getting ready to do a new renovation queue based on new criteria, one of which is overcapacity,” said Nora Molnar, a McLean parent representative advocating for building improvements. “I believe that under the new queue, because of the capacity problems, we’re going to be moved up higher in the next queue.” McLean finance technicians have a few options to fund small projects while awaiting a full renovation. The school can

submit a work order form when there are plumbing and structural problems or use money the school raises through community use. Community use funds are typically for small improvement projects, such as the installation of new blinds, that would not otherwise be paid for by the county. “Community use is the money that we make from hosting events for outside [groups] in our school,” Hill said. “We get to keep a certain amount of the proceeds, which is 15% but is changing to 25%.” FCPS has issued guidance regarding the number of students all school buildings should be able to accommodate. “The school system has what’s called an education specification (ed spec). The ed spec says the ideal capacity for every school in Fairfax County is 2,500 students. Our capacity without the mod was like 1,992 students; with the mod it’s still not 2,500 students,” Molnar said. “Being in the biggest growth area, we shouldn’t be treated like we’re a little school and then doing these piecemeal, expensive fixes.” The CIP released by FCPS states that with the modular building, McLean is currently at 107% of capacity and will decrease to 105% of capacity in the 2026-27 school year. “[FCPS] made a prediction that McLean is going to lose students...or be relatively flat,” Molnar said. “That prediction is contradicted by their own documents, which show hundreds, if not thousands, of students coming to this area.”

McLean High School Page design by Ariana Elahi | Photos by Nyla Marcott | Langley photo courtesy of Grace Chen

SHOWING ITS AGE — The aging school building requires frequent repairs, many of which are temporary fixes to deeper problems. McLean is currently undergoing a fouryear roof renovation process while awaiting funds for a full renovation, which may not come until 2050. An error in this prediction would be highly problematic because the school board relies heavily on the CIP projections when making decisions about the allocation of funds for renovations. “I’ve been working with the school board to [learn] why, on the one hand, documents show somewhere between 600 to 1,200 students coming to this area while the CIP shows a flat growth if not a loss,” Molnar said. “They haven’t been able to answer that.” Poor building conditions and overcrowding have been significant causes of concern for administrators and students. “Just look at our floors, those are an indication...the pipes are going, our heating and air conditioning issues are just constant, somebody’s always looking at it,” Reilly said. “We definitely need help in this building. It’s hard on the custodians and for students. We just need updates all around.” The @mclean.rot Instagram account was created by students to document areas of the school that are in need of renovation. “We need more classrooms that are well equipped within the building,” said the @mclean.rot account owner, who asked to remain anonymous because of post content. “It’s unacceptable that we’re having thousands of kids that are coming every day into a school that is not physically equipped [to accommodate them].” Recent problems that have been addressed include the aging roof and building capacity.

“They worked on the roof during [last] summer and they’re going to work on it this coming summer,” school finance technician Mary Bartenfeld said. “There are improvements being made, with the mods that are new, but none of that [was decided] at the school level.” McLean has received funds for the replacement of the roof over a four-year period. As McLean waits for the roof ’s completion, however, there are frequent issues that require immediate repairs. “At the blue hallway, there’s a huge roof leak. The custodians are cleaning that up a lot whenever there’s rain,” Reilly said. Urgent issues at the school are repaired, but the long-term cost and effort that is put into making frequent repairs may outweigh the resources that would be needed to renovate the school altogether. “Our roof is leaking all over the place,” Molnar said. “The amount of money it’s going to take to repair the roof or to replace the an absolute waste of money.” Efforts to enlarge or renovate the school building have been halted by issues within the school board. “The most frustrating part has been the politics on the school board; you have school board members who wield their power and serve their own interests. It’s political,” Molnar said. “That’s very frustrating because it shouldn’t be political. The ed spec is neutral—2,500 students per school.”

Students have expressed their concern with the lack of initiative to improve conditions at McLean. “If you don’t have to live with [poor school conditions], then you’re allowed to pretend it doesn’t exist,” the student behind @mclean.rot said. “We have to live with it and we don’t have the ability to pretend it doesn’t.” It appears FCPS has the funds to renovate McLean as a result of the proffer system, a process in which the county receives funds for each new student in areas that are being converted from commercial to residential. “The proffer is more than $12,000 per new student. I’ve done some FOIA requests, and they have millions of dollars in proffer money to spend for the capacity enhancement,” Molnar said. “We have the money, and we have the need; the modular and the boundary change did not solve the problem. We still have trailers, and we need a permanent brick and mortar addition.” As the county considers updating the order in which schools will be renovated, there is concern that McLean will again be passed over. “Every school probably thinks they need something new. I always worry that somebody’s going to push ahead because a parent group [elsewhere] is more loud,” Reilly said. “I worry about getting pushed aside because we don’t have the largest voice or the loudest voice.”

March 2022 | News | 5


Mask-optional policy offers choice to students and staff


arnav gupta NEWS EDITOR

t has been almost a month since FCPS implemented Virgina’s new mask-optional policy in accordance with CDC guidelines. The majority of students and staff have continued to wear masks since the policy changed on March 1, but some predict that more will opt out as time progresses. “There is a bit of understandable hesitancy regarding removing masks that I would expect to ease up as time goes by,” science teacher Jeff Brocketti said. “We’ve been wearing masks for so long that it feels strange not to be wearing one.” Students have varying opinions on masks, a choice which has been heavily politicized since the start of the pandemic. Some who removed their masks cite political views, while others refer to health guidelines. “I’ve decided to stop wearing a mask as I feel that it is no longer necessary for safety purposes,” senior Stefan Van Biljon said.

“With basically everyone being vaccinated and the CDC loosening its recommendations, I can’t see how [someone] would feel unsafe unless they had some sort of serious health problem.” Some McLean students are concerned about the recent changes and worry that the mask-optional policy was implemented too soon. “Masks are the smallest inconvenience but they have a major effect on not only reducing the spread of COVID-19, but any number of illnesses,” senior Leah Siegel said. A portion of students are in the middle, remaining neutral on the policy. “I really don’t mind wearing a mask, and it keeps people safe,” junior Callum PinkstonSayers said. “If everything goes well, and there is no rise in cases, I believe that this will definitely begin to shift things back to how they were before online school.” For some students who would prefer to stop wearing their masks, the fear of

judgment from classmates has been an inhibitor. “Overall, I’ve noticed that a lot more people would be willing to take off their masks if not for the uncertainty of social pressure and how some teachers may react,” Van Biljon said.

I have the data for the survey I did: 16 8th period classes, 427 students 79.6 % wearing masks, 20.4 % not wearing

How Many McLean Students Wear Masks?*



*427 students observed during 8th period classes on March 15

6 | NEWS | MARCH 2022

WE’VE BEEN WEARING MASKS FOR SO LONG THAT IT FEELS STRANGE TO NOT BE WEARING ONE.” - JEFF BROCKETTI SCIENCE TEACHER The administration is aware of this pressure and has encouraged tolerant behavior. Principal Ellen Reilly told staff to treat all students equally in a meeting prior to the mandate lift. “We all need to respect the decisions that others make,” school counselor Kathleen Otal said. “Everyone has their own personal response to this.” To ensure that all students feel comfortable in the new mask-optional environment, some teachers are taking steps to learn about students’ personal preferences about masks. “I posted a poll on Schoology to gauge comfort level regarding me going maskless,” Brocketti said. “I have tried to let students know that if they would like me to wear a mask, they can ask me, and they shouldn’t feel uncomfortable doing so.” Student Services and the school administration have been prepared for students’ mixed feeling about the policy. “I will continue to validate students’ feelings and concerns while encouraging them to respect the decisions of others,” Otal said. “At some point we will get back to a world where many people do not wear masks all day, and if that comes gradually, I think people will be more comfortable.” Infographic & page design by Ariana Elahi


Students join together to celebrate International Night madie turley reporter


he sound of K-Pop and Bollywood music filled the air, mixing with the scents of fried dumplings and Kisir. Whether visitors were there for the food or the fashion, McLean’s International Night offered something for everyone. On March 11, students, teachers and families packed into the courtyard and auditorium to celebrate the community’s diverse mosaic of cultures. Organized by McLean’s International Club, it aimed to share traditions and spread messages of inclusivity. “It’s important to celebrate our cultures to understand where we come from,” said sophomore Kate Hernandez, the International Club president. “In a sense, we show what makes us special.”

PEOPLE LIKE TO SEE THEMSELVES BEING REPRESENTED AND SEE THEMSELVES BEING PART OF A SPACE.” - EMER JOHNSON INTERNATIONAL CLUB SPONSOR To maximize attendence and participation, the club worked with other groups to put on the event. “International Club collaborates with numerous other clubs at the high school to help include as many cultures as possible,” International Club sponsor Emer Johnson said. Partnering clubs included the Turkish Student Alliance and Asian American Association, who committed to planning International Night from the beginning of the year. Executing such an elaborate event required lots of planning and fundraising.

“[In addition to funding International Night,] we’re also trying to save up to fund an international organization at the end of the year,” Hernandez said. To kick off the night, attendees made their way out to the courtyard where they were given the opportunity to taste foods from different areas of the world. “There was such a wide array of amazing cuisine. It was definitely a crowd-pleaser,” Hernandez said. “We had cuisine from countries such as Vietnam, Turkey, China, Japan and Ireland.” It was the ultimate taste test, as attendees devoured anything from East Asian éclairs to Irish soda bread. Afterwards, students presented music, writing and dancing from their countries. “I’ve been performing at International Night since middle school so it’s kind of been a tradition,” said junior Abby Chung, who performed with McXDance and as the lead singer of the band GNASH. “I am Korean American, so I wanted to do a mix of some Korean songs and American songs.” Other acts included a Nepali dance and a Pakistani poem reading. Many performances embraced global pop culture. “We danced to a mashup of some of the biggest K-Pop hits from this past year,” junior Phoebe Qian said. “We also featured a part of the Korean drama Squid Game that went viral this year.”

strike a pose — Kevin Lim sports

The show concluded with a grand finale by the band GNASH, fully equipped with two guitarists and a drummer in addition to Chung’s vocals. “This event in particular is something I look forward to every year. It’s always a good time,” Chung said. For the remainder of the year, McLean’s International Club will continue to create a welcoming environment within the school. “People like to see themselves being represented and see themselves being part of a space,” Johnson said. “It helps to make McLean a more inclusive place.”

grand finale — Abby Chung leads GNASH’s debut performance.

high fashion — Minahil Ishaq and Sarah Malik, who performed a song from Moana, show off their traditional outfits.

customary Korean clothing for the event.

Page design by Taylor Olson | Photos by Dania Reza & Meera Shah

MARCH 2022 | NEWS | 7

BATTLE OVER TJ ADMISSIONS CONTINUES Judge rules new process is racially discriminatory



crowd of parents, pointing and shouting “racist” at school board members at a meeting on March 10, have become the face of a nasty battle over equity-oriented admissions changes to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST). The parents were in support of a Feb. 25 federal district court decision by Judge Claude Hilton, who ruled that the policy discriminated against Asian Americans. “It is clear that Asian American students are disproportionately harmed by the Board’s decision to overhaul TJ admissions,” Hilton wrote in his opinion. “Currently and in the future, Asian American applicants are disproportionately deprived of a level playing field.” FCPS initially changed the process, which took effect for the first time last school year, to address low enrollment rates for Black and Hispanic students. Prior to the changes, students completed multiple rounds of standardized tests and met certain criteria like a minimum GPA. FCPS tweaked the criteria, generally making them more demanding, but removed the standardized tests and replaced them with a holistic process. “I think the standardized testing was kind

of important, and then they implemented the [minimum] GPA,” said Kathy, a TJHSST senior who asked to remain anonymous due to the politically charged environment. “I don’t think it’s that hard to get a high GPA in middle school, so I don’t think it’s a good indicator of whether you’re ready for TJ.”

ASIAN AMERICAN APPLICANTS ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY DEPRIVED OF A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD.” - CLAUDE HILTON U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE The factors used in the holistic process have been a source of contention since their implementation. They attempt to collect information about applicants that was not previously considered. “[The new process uses] a one-round holistic process that considers GPA, a Student Portrait Sheet, a Problem Solving

Essay and certain ‘Experience Factors,’” Hilton wrote. The “Experience Factors” take into account controversial indicators that a student is part of an underrepresented group. They include whether the student attends a middle school underrepresented at TJHSST, the student’s eligibility for free and reduced price meals, the student’s English fluency and their special education status. Opponents to the admissions changes say these factors make it more difficult for Asian Americans to be admitted into TJHSST. Another change included guaranteeing each middle school seats totaling 1.5% of their eighth grade class sizes. Once those have been filled, applicants compete for about 100 extra seats granted to each school. The judge argued that the policy would make admission harder for Asian American students in wellrepresented schools like Longfellow, where competition is intense. The conflict over admissions led to the proliferation of two opposing groups: the liberal-leaning TJ Alumni Action Group (TJAAG), which supports changes to the process, and the conservative-leaning Coalition for TJ, which opposes the changes and initiated the lawsuit. FCPS defended

scrutinizing the school board — Members of the Coalition for TJ shout “racist” at school board representatives

during a board meeting in Luther Jackson Middle School on March 10. Coalition co-founder Asra Nomani spoke at the podium in protest of equity-oriented admissions changes to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. (Photo obtained from FCPS School Board livestream)

8 | NEWS | MARCH 2022




18.34% 3.05% 1.77%




Hispanic or Latino






racial makeup of tjhsst (2020-2021 school year)

racial makeup of fcps (2020-2021 school year)

Source: Fairfax County Public Schools

against criticism of the admissions process in a press statement in June 2021, in line with the TJAAG’s claims that the Coalition for TJ and Judge Hilton have contextualized enrollment data incorrectly. “For the first time in at least 10 years, every FCPS middle school has students who were offered admission to TJHSST,” the FCPS statement said. “The average GPA for applicants (3.9074) is slightly higher this year than it has been in the past five years.” The TJAAG points to TJHSST’s stark underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic students. During the 2020-2021 school year, 71.97% of the student body was Asian American, while only 1.77% of students were Black and 3.05% were Hispanic or Latino. “There are 550 spots in TJ. Black students make up [around] 10% of the county,” said Jiunwei Chen, a TJAAG member and 1997 TJHSST graduate. “We’re just looking for 55 top Black students in their eighth grade class...that are well-prepared for TJ. I dispute the idea that...there are zero Hispanic and Black students that are capable at TJ.” Just 2.27% of TJHSST students received free or reduced-price lunches last school year. Proponents for the admissions changes have argued the previous standardized test process heavily favored those who could afford years of expensive test preparation. Many students prepared for the exams beforehand, some starting as early as elementary school. Members of the anti-change Coalition for TJ point to potential issues, including a degradation of education quality. As schools that have historically produced a smaller quantity of qualified TJ applicants receive a similar number of seats to those that usually produce larger numbers, they argue

TJHSST’s intellect will decrease over time. “It’s just so sad to me that they decided that this class is not racially diverse enough or not good enough,” said Asra Nomani, cofounder of the Coalition for TJ. “These are kids and they shouldn’t feel ashamed. They worked hard, they didn’t cheat, they took the test and got in.”

IT’S A REAL HASSLE TO JUST HAVE [THE CLASS OF] 2026...TAKE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FORMAT... I DON’T THINK THAT’S FAIR.” - ANONYMOUS TJHSST SENIOR Opponents of the changes say that admission updates cannot cover a lack of investment in underrepresented schools. TJAAG members agree, but they believe it cannot be the only focus. “I do think there is opportunity to change education all throughout, like the number of Black and Hispanic students that are in Geometry versus Algebra 2 is far less than some of their peers in other [racial] groups,” Chen said. “When we’re talking about TJ... we’re just talking about [making sure we admit] the top three to four percent of each racial demographic. They exist, [but] we just deny them access to the school.” FCPS requested a delay in the ruling, arguing that it was too late to administer standardized tests for applicants. Judge

Infographic by Akash Balenalli | Page design by Aleena Gul & Akash Balenalli

Hilton denied the request, saying FCPS should have prepared alternatives to the current process as the lawsuit had been ongoing for months. While the Coalition applauded the move and agreed with the judge’s justification, TJAAG and some current TJHSST students have expressed disapproval. Application components for next year have already been submitted and final admission decisions were set to be released in late April, just weeks from the court ruling. “It’s a real hassle to just have 2026...take a completely different format that they didn’t prepare for,” Kathy said. “I don’t think that’s fair to the Class of 2026. I think the judge should not have denied it.” Political activists involved in the admissions debate have woven it into existing political battles involving Critical Race Theory and LGBTQ+ book bans. Parents protesting at the board meeting on March 10 were part of the Coalition for TJ and quickly went viral in conservative circles, but TJHSST has seen similar incidents in its Parent Teacher Student Association and at previous public events. As FCPS appeals to the circuit court, where a decision could be unpredictable, parents, students and activists involved in the admissions change debate are hoping the end result works in their favor. “Asian American students are targeted by the Fairfax County Public Schools board, and we have to stand up,” Coalition for TJ member Norma Margulies said at a rally before the March 10 school board meeting. “We have to stand up and support their fight. We have a ruling with a judge who says, ‘Yes, indeed, the changes to the admissions process are racist.’”

MARCH 2022 | NEWS | 9


Notable bills passed during 2022 legislative session Saehee Perez chief marketing manager



House Bill 1188, introduced by Del. Glenn Davis

Senate Bill 739, introduced by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant

House Bill 1188 establishes a Student Advisory Board to provide student perspectives to the Virginia Board of Education. It will consist of eight members appointed by the governor, each of whom will serve a one-year term through their senior year of high school with no potential for reappointment. The bill does not establish how the governor appoints students to the board nor how much policymaking power they will hold. “I think having a Student Advisory Board is a really beneficial idea because students, especially the seniors who have stayed the longest, are able to voice issues faced in their four years of [high school],” freshman Emily Ma said. As of press time, the bill is awaiting the signatures of the presidents of the Virginia Senate and House before being sent to the governor.

Gov. Youngkin signed Senate Bill 739 into law on Feb. 16. The bill requires school boards to offer in-person instruction, except for 10 unscheduled remote learning days, and allows parents to choose whether or not their child will wear a mask at school. The bill was meant to take effect for the 2022-23 school year. Youngkin, however, proposed an emergency amendment requiring local school divisions to comply with the bill by March 1, 2022.

TESTING REQUIREMENTS MINIMIZED House Bill 585, introduced by Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg Middle and high school students will only need to take the minimum number of end-of-course exams needed to meet federal and graduation requirements, dependent on their school district. This includes SOLs for VA/U.S. History, Biology, Civics and Economics. It has the potential to change the way teachers instruct by slowing class paces and allowing for diversified instructional methods. “When you have something like an SOL at the end of every class, teachers begin to just teach to the test,” sophomore David Weinstein said. “I think with this change students will be able to [focus on] learning, not [doing] well on an exam.” Teachers are also hopeful to be able to teach without worrying about fitting in the year’s curriculum before standardized tests. “I would prefer to have the flexibility to teach things when I want to,” science teacher Laura Schultz said. “I trust Fairfax County teachers that [they’re] going to teach the curriculum if there isn’t a test at the end of the year.” The Department of Education is required to develop a plan for the implementation of such end-of-course exams no later than the beginning of the 2027-2028 school year. As of press time, the bill still needs to be signed by the presidents of the Virginia Senate and House before being sent to the governor.

INDIGENOUS CULTURAL INCLUSION ADVANCES House Bill 1022, introduced by Del. Elizabeth Guzman

One excused absence per school year will be given to any student who wishes to attend their tribal nation’s pow wow, cultural gatherings held by indigenous communities. The nation must be state or federally recognized and headquartered in Virginia, and parents must give advance notice of the absence in accordance with attendance regulations. The bill was passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate. “The passing of HB 1022 signifies a step towards supporting indigenous cultural inclusion,” Combating Intolerance teacher Michael Stone said. “As Indigenous Peoples were moved onto reservations…pow wows, although held in secrecy, helped tribes resist colonization, maintain some level of dignity and preserve connections to important traditions.” The bill was sent to the governor on March 11 to either be signed into law or vetoed—Gov. Youngkin has a month to respond.

10 | NEWS | MARCH 2022

Graphics by Vanessa Popescu | Page design by Saehee Perez & Vanessa Popescu


Elective course grows future educators


Liz nedelescu reporter

ot many courses at McLean offer the potential for guaranteed future employment, but one two-year elective is an exception. The Teachers for Tomorrow course, taught by Lawrence Letkiewicz, provides students with some of the most career-readying experiences of their lives, all packed into their junior and senior years.


learning is when you’re hands on, auditory is where a student is better at listening, visual is when a teacher will put up PowerPoints and so on,” junior Sofia Lopez said. After students feel confident in their foundational understanding of what it means to be a teacher, they do in-classroom observational studies. They spend three class periods in the fall and 20 class periods in the spring observing and taking note of the environment in different classrooms. “They carefully take into account how [teachers] design the classes, how they design the lessons, how they interact with the students and how the students respond,” Letkiewicz said. In addition to observing, Letkiewicz’s students plan and present real lessons to classes. While being in front of a class can be stressful,

In the first year of the program, students get to step into elementary, middle and even high school classrooms to observe and work with students. Considering the importance of this responsibility, Teachers for Tomorrow students have to have a decent understanding of how learning really works. The first few months of the course are spent learning the basics as students dive into the practical psychology of learning. “This course really gets you to think about how people develop, how people communicate and how we can communicate with other people,” Letkiewicz said. Letkiewicz emphasizes the importance of creating a classroom environment in which many approaches to learning are taken in order to suit the variety of students. “We learn about all the different types of teaching styles: kinesthetic, auditory, visual, reading and writing. Kinesthetic Photo courtesy of Ashley Cunningham | Page design by Ariana Elahi

the experience helps them grow as educators. “Teaching the actual lessons can be really nerve-wracking, but it prepares me for what I’m going to have to do in the future. While I was [teaching], I noticed that I was going really fast and that [the students] needed me to slow down,” Lopez said. Teachers for Tomorrow students find that the class has made them feel more confident in pursuing teaching. “It made me feel better about my future and that I was taking a step towards my career,” junior Jane Smith said. Second year Teachers for Tomorrow students can apply for a recruitment contract and complete an application and interview process. If they do well, they can be offered a guaranteed teaching position with FCPS following their completion of a four-year teaching program at an accredited university. “Being a senior in high school with a teaching position waiting for them when they graduate from college is a great thing,” Letkiewicz said. The demand for teachers is high right now, and the recently instituted Teachers for Tomorrow course has lots to offer, especially to students who are enthusiastic about taking the educator career path and want to explore the overwhelming rewards that come with the experience. “Realize that this is more than a job—it’s more of a calling,” Letkiewicz said. “If you feel that you can do this, then you need to give yourself an opportunity to find out if you can.”

Classroom in Action — Annika

Fuglie helps Mohammed, a student at Briarwood Elementary School, during her classroom observations on March 11. Students in Teachers for Tomorrow get real teaching experience.

MARCH 2022 | FEATURES | 11



McLean senior takes on multiple jobs across FCPS

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Page design by Taylor Olson



n any given day in McLean’s hallways, you are likely to hear the booming voice of senior Arman Nikmorad. No matter if you’re a student, teacher, administrator or substitute, you know who he is. With his FCPS uniform and badge on display, it’s hard not to wonder what exactly he does for the county. “I do studio support for the Department of IT (Information Technology) at FCPS, so basically I just go around to each school that has a news studio and fix their studio,” Nikmorad said. On top of this position, Nikmorad helps create posters for the county and serves as a student advocate to McLean’s principal, Ellen Reilly. “He says, ‘This is how kids are feeling right now. People are telling me this.’ I think that’s always helpful,” Reilly said. This position stemmed from Nikmorad’s dedication to improving McLean. “I value bringing the community together and making sure every student voice is heard,” Nikmorad said. His extensive resume began taking shape in his sophomore year while he was taking Broadcast Journalism 2, when he asked the technicians who came in to fix McLean’s studio if they were hiring. “I went in for an interview, and then they hired me in March of 2020. I got processed, got my ID and then COVID happened, so I was jobless for two years,” Nikmorad said. “Then, in July of 2021, I started working with the IT studio support people.” Nikmorad’s supervisor at the IT department is quick to praise his work. “He’s a bright kid and he knows his stuff,” FCPS digital operations technician Phil Cloutier said. “He gets what he wants out of people.” From there, Nikmorad began branching out to other departments within the county, gaining more recognition across the school and forming relationships with administrators. “He just comes down [to the front office] all the time and he stops you and talks to you,” Reilly said. Nikmorad’s connection with an administrator at Longfellow allowed him to begin working there. “[Another job I have] is that I am a Longfellow Middle School after school administrator where I assist their activities director, Mr. Barrows, in running the after school program,” Nikmorad said. Even with all these jobs, Nikmorad still has to complete his regular schoolwork, which can be a challenge. “I run three clubs and am the president of the Student Government Association (SGA). I’m also in multiple honors societies, so it gets difficult to balance my work with school,” Nikmorad said. His work allows him to form relationships with staff that many other students do not get the chance to have. However, it took a lot of time and effort for him to build these connections.

“Before, I used to just walk into [the administrators’] offices, but now, as a senior, I make appointments,” Nikmorad said. “I am a bit persistent at first to get things done, but then we find common ground and have friendlier relationships.” While his persistence was at the forefront in his earlier years at McLean, Nikmorad has grown plenty over the last four years. “I think that he’s matured a lot from where he was before,” Reilly said. “He really has an understanding of what he wants to do and how he wants to do it.” There are a few students who have seen this growth firsthand. Fellow senior J.T. Fulkerson, who has known Nikimorad since seventh grade, has been a reliable companion. “Arman is very good at getting things done,” Fulkerson said. “Sometimes it takes a while, but if he wants something done he makes it happen.” Although he has yet to decide where he will be attending college next fall, the adults he has worked with see his potential for success, especially given his versatility. “He’s still got the world ahead of him,” Cloutier said. “He hasn’t decided on what he wants to do yet, but I hope he still pursues something in broadcast journalism. He’s good at it and he gets results.” Nikmorad holds the position of head producer of the afternoon news show and has taken the class for four years now. “Being head producer is mostly like being a teacher’s assistant,” - ARMAN NIKMORAD Nikmorad said. “I make sure that kids are on task and they know SENIOR what they are doing.” Although his position as head producer differs from his county jobs, it follows the trend of Nikmorad being able to establish himself as a leader of whatever he participates in. “I like helping my classmates finish their videos and editing them,” Nikmorad said. “I enjoy the technical aspects such as going into the studio, repairing and replacing stuff.” Nikmorad manages to combine his work in the IT department and broadcast journalism. “When something breaks, I request an IT ticket for myself to come fix it,” Nikmorad said. As he does with everything he’s involved in, Nikmorad has managed to leave his mark on the broadcast journalism program. “I’ve changed a lot with how the program and how the show are run,” Nikmorad said. “I’ve also been at Longfellow trying to promote the program.” As he prepares to graduate in June, Nikmorad hopes to leave a positive legacy. “When I leave McLean, I want people to say, ‘Wow Arman really made an impact on my life,’” Nikmorad said. “That’s how I’ll feel like I have done a good job.”


OUR MAN, ARMAN — Arman Nikmorad is hard at work, collaborating with his supervisor Phil Cloutier. Nikmorad’s jobs range from doing IT work throughout FCPS to being the head producer of the broadcast journalism program at McLean High School. (Bottom right photo by Ana Paula Ibarraran | Other photos courtesy of Donnie Biggs/FCPS)

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Recruiting Legal and Regulatory Professionals for Alternative Asset Managers Worldwide

Kate Phillips

Pine View Partners (973) 635-5756


Reporting by Sydney Gleason Photos courtesy of Morgan Popma


How did you end up at McLean High School? I was looking for a school with a strong, research-based program, along with a robust and diverse book collection. It’s a complete bonus that I enjoy working with Mrs. McCarthy and Mrs. Kong.


If you could have one dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?


What do you like about being a librarian compared to teaching?

Crème brûlée.

I get to interact with a wide variety of students of differing ages and interests. I also get to meet more of my colleagues, and even teach in a variety of disciplines.

4 5 6 7

Dream vacation? Basically, a big ol’ world tour with no need to stress about the return date.

What is your favorite thing about spring? A lack of snow and the oncoming warmth, but it’s not too hot.

8 9

Best part of 2022 so far? I checked off another state on the list of states I’ve visited (actually visited, not just hung out in the airport). I popped over to West Virginia for a weekend.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Beginning and continuing to better my mental and physical health to be the best me, mom, educator and more that I can be.


Something you couldn’t live without? My mom will tell you that I am never without my phone, so apparently my millennial traits are strong.

What is one thing people don’t know about you? Most folks think I’m an extrovert. I’m 100 percent a gal who loves her alone time to recharge. I suppose the best definition, in this context, for me is ambivert. Still a surprise for most folks who know me!

If you could ask anybody in the world a question, who would it be? I suppose I’d want to talk to a widely published and respected author, see their path and maybe get some pointers.

march 2022 | FEATURES | 15

THEFUTURE FUTUREISISFEMALE FEMALE THE Celebrating influential female-oriented clubs at McLean in honor of Women’s History Month madelyn fredrick & sANDRA CHENG REPORTErs


ven in this day and age, women are subjected to comments dismissing their accomplishments or making them feel inferior to their male counterparts. From backhanded remarks like being told “women belong in the kitchen,” or that they need learn to “take a joke and stop being so sensitive,” the marginalization of women in school and in the workplace persists. March is National Women’s History Month, and McLean has multiple clubs whose contributions help create a more inclusive environment at McLean, where women take on leadership roles to create change.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS, AND HALF THE PLANET IS FEMALE.” KARENWOLPERT WOLPERT KAREN WOLPERT ---KAREN FEMINIST CLUB SPONSOR Unified girl empowerment clubs around the school such as the Girls Leadership Committee (GLC), Girls Who Code and the Feminist Club use this month to empower women while acting on issues that matter to them. “Women’s rights are human rights, and half of the planet is female. You can’t really celebrate humanity [when in] so many countries around the world, women are treated like second class citizens,” Feminist Club sponsor Karen Wolpert said. Taking a stand against the oppression women face in today’s society is a goal shared by the female-led organizations at McLean.

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GIRLSLEADERSHIP LEADERSHIPCOMMITTEE COMMITTEE GIRLS LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE GIRLS McLean’s GLC is a club focused on spreading awareness about the problems faced by girls in the community while providing a support system for them. “It’s really important to be able to highlight women’s accomplishments and consider their actions in the world and how we reflect upon them, just like we have months to highlight different types of minorities,” said junior Vidya Suri, the GLC co-president. “We need to improve our way of looking at the world, and through Women’s History Month we can expose some of these problems and look at them more.” The purpose of GLC is to encourage all generations of women to feel free to pursue any career path, even if they are maledominated. “There’s a huge stigma against women within science fields,” Suri said. “For example, when we get into high sciences and mathematics, you’re going to notice a huge drop in the number of women who are actually within these fields. Over time, we’ve kind of built up, as a society, a belief that women can’t do these jobs.”

Suri is dedicated to fostering an environment where female activism is pursued and women are recognized all the time, not just in the month of March. “I think that every month should be considered a women’s month, because we can’t just set aside a single month for women’s activism, or else nothing gets done,” Suri said. In honor of National Women’s History Month, the club is holding a menstrual product drive for local women’s shelters. Menstrual products are often overlooked as a luxury but they are just as necessary as any other hygiene products. Last year, the club collected over 64,000 menstr ual products.

“We were able to reach out to many women in our community in need,” Suri said. The publicity of the drive has led to an increase in interest in GLC. “I think a lot of the work we do has led to the club growing and expanding really significantly,” Suri said. Community members are able to donate menstrual products at any of the drop-off bins throughout McLean, including at the front of the school.


Members of Girls Who Code are given strong female role models and the ability to explore their interests in coding, while meeting others who share the same passion. In Girls Who Code, girls are taught how to program through Java and Python workshops in order to encourage them to venture into male-dominated fields. “There’s a deficit of women in the [science and technology] field,” Girls Who

Code sponsor Karyn Kolly said. “I think girls and women always have a creative side that they want to show, and what people don’t realize is that computer science has a lot to do with creativity.”

IT IS IMPORTANT FOR [YOUNG WOMEN] TO SEE THERE IS A PLACE FOR WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP ROLES.” --OLIVIA OLIVIAZHANG ZHANG CEO OF CANCER KIDS FIRST Girls Who Code empowers its members in a variety of ways. “The main purpose of Girls Who Code is

to build female leadership, because we offer multiple leadership positions, and then also to have girls be able to come together in a fun place to learn,” Kolly said. In addition to equipping girls with the skills necessary to pursue a wide range of career options, the club recognizes women who have excelled in the computer sciences. “It is important to focus more on women in the technology field, as they are still the minority,” Kolly said.

FEMALEEMPOWERMENT EMPOWERMENT&&&LEADERSHIP LEADERSHIP FEMALE EMPOWERMENT LEADERSHIP FEMALE During National Women’s History Month, women at McLean believe it is important focus on empowering future generations of females. “Female empowerment is super important, which is why a lot of our leadership team is primarily women,” said junior Olivia Zhang, president of the nonprofit organization Cancer Kids First. “I want to give other girls the chance to step up in a leadership role.” Zhang’s organization raises money for children with cancer, and her role in it has accumulated numerous awards for her such as the World’s Top Patient Leader award, given to her by WEGO Health. “Passionate young girls may want to start a non-profit, be part of one or just take on a leadership role in general,” Zhang said. “I hope that by seeing how most of our contributors are female, these girls will understand that a strong group of women, like us, is capable of creating change,” Zhang said. “It is important for them to see there is a place for women in leadership roles.” Page design by Taylor Olson Cartoon by Jayne Ogilvie-Russell


DATA FOR INFOGRAPHICS: Columbia University rejection rate: 93% Northeastern University rejection rate: 80% University of Chicago rejection rate: 93% Northwestern University rejection rate: 91% Carnegie Mellon University rejection rate: 83%


McLean seniors learn to embrace rejection from their dream schools HANNA BOUGHANEM MANAGING EDITOR | GRACE GOULD A&E EDITOR


he day had finally come for Mehr Kumar, the one she and seniors everywhere had nervously awaited for months: college decision day, when a select few bask in the glory of their acceptances, and countless more cope with the crushing disappointment of rejection. Four years of hard work and sacrifice had led up to this moment, but for Kumar, who had set her sights on Northwestern University, the weight of the day was even greater. “[As it got] closer to the decision day, I was starting to get kind of excited,” Kumar said. “I was looking into all their stats, and I was really giving myself more hope than I had when I first applied.” As she sat in her car and readied herself to open her admissions portal, Kumar couldn’t help but imagine herself a year into the future, decked out in Northwestern purple and battling the cold Illinois weather. Thank you for your interest in Northwestern University. After careful consideration, the Admissions Committee regrets to inform you that we are unable to offer you a place in the Class of 2026. This year’s applicant pool was incredibly competitive… It took several rereads for Kumar to finally process what had just happened. She was soon met with an overwhelming wave of disappointment. “When I opened that decision letter and saw that it was a rejection after building myself up, it did really hurt,” Kumar said. “I cried, obviously.” Kumar was not alone. At McLean, where the competition is fierce and the pressure is debilitating, students often feel obligated to set their sights on extremely selective schools.

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“Students tend to focus more on namebrand recognition than finding their best fit college where they will be truly happy,” College and Career Specialist Laura Venos said. “We are trying very hard to help shift the culture here through our programming and counseling.” In spite of these efforts, the culture at McLean has been slow to evolve. Dealing with rejection can be extremely difficult, especially when expectations are high and it feels as though everyone else is receiving good news from universities. “If you are applying to competitive colleges, you have to put your best application out there and then honestly just be okay with whatever happens,” Venos said. In an effort to turn the tide on rejections, two seniors created a new Instagram account, @mcleanrejections2022. It parodies the official @mcleancommitments2022 page, where seniors share the school they have decided to attend in the fall. “People often view rejection as a poor reflection of themselves,” said Zora Rodgers, one of the account’s founders. “But the account proves that rejection is perfectly normal, so there is no need to feel ashamed.” Featuring witty captions and photos of students in post-rejection shambles, the account has turned rejection into something to be laughed at and celebrated. “Congratulations Mehr Kaur [sic] on getting rejected from Northwestern! She planned on studying psychology, but judging by the picture she sent us, she doesn’t look strong enough to live 30 minutes away from the South Side of Chicago,” Rodgers wrote in the caption on Kumar’s rejection post. “Hopefully you will go somewhere with a lot of sun to get your serotonin levels up.”


Columbia University


Northeastern University


Northwestern University

83% Carnegie Mellon University


University of Chicago The account has quickly risen in popularity, inspiring seniors from Langley High School and other schools in the area to create their own versions.

Infographic by Ariana Elahi | Page design by Hanna Boughanem

“We started [McLean Rejections] as a lighthearted joke, but it turned into something a lot bigger,” Rodgers said. “The vast majority of people fully support it, and other schools have even started their own rejections accounts.” Kaitlyn Conly, one of the seniors featured on @mcleanrejections2022, was rejected from Columbia University. Initially devastated, Conly struggled to accept the circumstances. Not long after the news, however, she found out that she had been accepted to Northeastern University. “I wouldn’t have changed a thing about applying to Columbia. I’m so grateful that things turned out the way they did,” Conly said. “And even though the rejection wasn’t in my favor, nothing bad came out of it from my end, ultimately.” Through the Instagram account—and especially its comment section—students have found a way to bond over rejection and support one another through their setbacks.

MAKING IT PUBLIC GAVE ME A WAY TO [LET] EVERYONE KNOW THAT IT’S NOT A TOUCHY SUBJECT. IT DOESN’T HURT THAT BAD. IT’S OK.” - ERIN SHARPE SENIOR “Everyone knows it sucks to get rejected from your top choice, so generally people just want to make sure to lift each other up,” said senior Ryan Hooper, who submitted his rejection from Northeastern University to the Instagram. For some, the page offers a safe space to cope with the sting of rejection. Ironically enough, publicizing the pain seems to be an effective way to move on. “Posting [helped me] prove to myself that it didn’t hurt that much,” said senior Erin Sharpe, who was rejected from the University of Chicago. “Making it public gave me a way to let everyone know that it’s not a touchy subject. It doesn’t hurt that bad. It’s OK.” Photos courtesy of @mcleanrejections2022

With its generous following, the account has managed to cultivate a kindhearted community and unite students in their sadness. “I hope that [my post] helped other people move on,” Sharpe said. “I hope that it gave some healing to someone else who also got rejected.” In fact, it seems that most seniors end up right where they are supposed to be. Kumar saw a happy ending to her college admissions story after receiving an offer of admission from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “I love Michigan as a school and was really hoping to get in [because] my brother also goes there,” Kumar said. “Getting into [Michigan] felt really, really good. I felt like I could finally relax.” Looking back, Kumar is content with the way everything turned out. “After thinking about it a little more, as good of a school as Northwestern is, I know I’ll be happy wherever I go,” she said. While this way of thinking may be easier preached than practiced, it can help students deal with the unparalleled stress of the college admissions process. The McLean administration is taking steps to foster a culture that rejects elitism and prioritizes finding the right fit. “[I tell students to] reframe the experience. You have so much to look forward to in your life and that one college that didn’t accept you does not define you or your future,” Venos said. Venos encourages students to be more selective with the colleges they decide to apply to. Rather than focusing on acceptance rates and name-brand recognition, students should seek out the schools that are best for them. “I’ve become less focused on making sure I go to a ‘good’ school and more on making sure I go to the ‘right’ school,” Hooper said. “I want to [enjoy] college, and I think I’ll do better in another place now.” As college decisions continue to roll in, @mcleanrejections2022 will continue to remind students that “rejection is redirection,” as sometimes not getting what they want can lead to an even more favorable outcome in the long run. “Rejection is a part of life,” Venos said. “It happens. It makes you stronger, and getting through it will give you the skills you need to get through the next difficult situation.”






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Sophomore’s style conveys message of confidence

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Photos courtesy of Olivia Pamas | Page design by Dania Reza


or most students, a typical school day outfit consists of sweatpants and a hoodie. For sophomore Olivia Pamas, every day is a fashion show, whether she’s working the runway as a model or walking the McLean hallways in her unique outfits. Olivia has had a creative sense of fashion since she was a young girl. “My love for [fashion] started right from day one,” Olivia said. “My mom and grandma used to dress up super cute when I was growing up and I wanted to dress just like them.” Fashion runs in Olivia’s family, as her grandmother had a career in the world of fashion. “Olivia’s grandmother worked for Yves Saint Laurent and made hats for the British royal family,” Olivia’s mom Genny Pamas said. “Olivia wore handmade clothes with fabrics coming from Europe, and at a very young [age] she learned and acquired European elegance.” Olivia’s style inspiration from designers and celebrities played a major role in her clothing from the beginning. “I look up to Audrey Hepburn,” Olivia said. “Growing up, I was obsessed with Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I also love Coco Chanel and...[what] she has in her design.” Olivia has developed her own style over the years, and she comes to school every day with an exceptional outfit that she prepares the night before. “I like putting my outfits together the day before to see what works and what doesn’t. For me, [creating new looks is] a lot of fun,” Olivia said. Before wearing her distinct outfits to school, Olivia puts on a show at home for her two biggest supporters, her parents. “With Olivia, coming up with an outfit is a daily routine and we do this in the kitchen,” Genny said. “It is quite a ceremonial event, and my job is to give her my undivided attention [so I can] critique the outfit of her choice.” Olivia strives to mix up her outfits and change her style on a daily basis, even to the point of not wearing the same outfit more than once. “She can come up with anything and make it look good,” Genny said. “One day [she will] have a preppy style, then a classic one [the next]; there is no end to her creativity. Every day, Olivia is an entirely new person.”




Olivia’s classmates enjoy seeing her outfits at school as well. “I think Olivia’s outfits are very well thought out and executed, and her sense of style is impeccable,” sophomore Berra Kalci said. “The outfits she manages to pull together every single day are elegant yet fun.” Olivia’s passion for fashion made stepping into the modeling world an obvious choice. “I was really interested in all the outfits, makeup, hair, poses and the shoots, so I started modeling in fourth grade and have stuck with it since then,” Olivia said. Olivia started her modeling career by competing in major events to get her name into the industry.






the country, I have gotten a lot better with a ‘pick up and go’ lifestyle,” Olivia said. “It was stressful at times since I would have to go to another state as soon as the next day for fittings, but it became my life and purpose. I would never trade anything else for it.” Fashion and modeling is not just about the glamour to Olivia. She sees much more beyond the bright colors and exciting patterns. “I was bullied in elementary school because of my outfits,” Olivia said. “People would make fun of them or say something negative, and it made me upset since I cared so much. I slowly began to realize that there’s negative people everywhere, and I began to get comfortable in my clothing.” The negativity only made Olivia stronger and more confident in herself and her clothing choices. “Olivia has learned to stand up for herself and not allow others to dictate how she should dress or how she should be,” Genny said. “She has power and confidence and strongly believes that people can only hurt you if you allow them. She will never give them that satisfaction, as her outfits deliver a silent cue of strength and power.” Olivia’s confidence in her outfits has inspired her friends to feel more positive about themselves, while her sense of fashion helps them find their own style. “If my friends were scared to wear something, I would tell them to just wear it,” Olivia said. “What’s going to happen if you wear purple but you don’t usually wear purple? I’ve helped a lot of people raise their confidence and feel more comfortable in their bodies.” Olivia is already preparing to take a step forward in her life after high school. “Olivia, at the moment, has decided to graduate high school early next year to go to Europe,” Genny said. “She plans to study fashion in Paris or Milan and later on become a stylist or work for the House of Chanel. One thing for sure is that her future will be in the world of fashion.” As Olivia plans to fulfill her dream, she hopes to spread positivity and confidence through fashion. “I pick my outfits because they give me the confidence and freedom to express myself,” Olivia said. “Anything somebody wants to achieve takes confidence, and you have to feel comfortable in your own skin before moving on to the next chapter.”


“I began with an American Girl doll show and National American Miss (NAM). I placed [fourth] in the Top Model NAM competition in 2017, and that’s what helped me take off in modeling,” Olivia said. Before long, Olivia’s modeling career expanded to different runways and product shoots. “I currently do runway and commercial modeling. I’ve also modeled for hair products, makeup, bathing suits and clothing,” Olivia said. One of Olivia’s favorite fashion events that she models for takes place in Manhattan. Many of the runways held throughout the event are prestigious, highlighting impressive designers and collections. “I love modeling at New York Fashion Week and I go twice a year,” Olivia said. “It’s a really fun event and you meet all kinds of new people.” Modeling has impacted Olivia’s life significantly. In addition to New York City, she regularly travels to Miami and Los Angeles for modeling shoots. “From going to all these shoots all around


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Additional reporting by Madeleine Stigall

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f you swipe past this Snapchat story, you don’t support people of color. If you don’t sign this online petition, you’re perpetuating systemic racism. You must post this black square on your Instagram page to show that you’re a true ally. We can see who doesn’t, by the way. At McLean, a combination of growing social movements and the easy access to activism has led to an uptick in student advocacy on a local level. Whether it be through social media or real-world civic engagement such as protests or lobbying, McLean students have expressed a variety of responses to local social justice issues.



In 2020, the school board revised Regulation 2234 to give students in grades 7-12 one partial school day per year to participate in civic engagement activities. The policy ensured that students would not have to face consequences of an unexcused absence because they missed school for a civic engagement event. The following year, the Virginia legislature passed Senate Bill

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1439, expanding the FCPS policy statewide and making it a fullday excused absence. “Ever since the school board passed the ability for students to become active participants in their community, we’ve seen a spike in [student advocacy],” McLean Principal Ellen Reilly said. “[Student activism] really started in 2018 with [a walkout for] the [Parkland High School] shooting down in Florida… Now we have more clubs that are centered around students’ issues about race, religion and identity.” Organizations such as the Black Student Union (BSU), Students Advocating for Equality (SAFE) club and Muslim Student Association (MSA) are working to bring more attention to the issues minorities face. Despite the growing popularity of these clubs, challenges persist in the region. Obstacles include racism, performative activism with the influence of social media and the struggle to circumvent rules and regulations for in-school advocacy.

School Organizations

In June 2020, hundreds of McLean students, teachers and parents marched to protest the murder of George Floyd. The march was covered by local news and featured students who gave speeches about race at McLean. “I talked about my experiences with racism and being exposed to police brutality at a young age,” said senior Zora Rodgers, who spoke at the rally.


Soon after the march, Rodgers started the SAFE club to address racial issues within the community by hosting informational meetings and donation drives. “The club strives to educate the public about certain social justice issues, whether it’s racial justice or current events,” Rodgers said. “It’s [made to] dispel ignorance.” SAFE is not the only club to have had such an impact on the McLean community, as many similar organizations have been brought into the spotlight this year. In the fall of 2021, junior Jasmine Andresol formed the BSU to create a safe space for Black students and take action on issues involving racism at school. On Feb. 2, 2022, members of the club painted the rock in honor of Black History Month. It featured phrases such as “I’m Black and proud” and “BLM.” Around 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 8, vandals defaced the rock with “ALM,” meaning “All Showing solidarity — McLean Lives Matter,” a term coined to counter the BLM movement. graduate Hashem Alsaidi The Highlander posted an Instagram picture of the rock demonstrates support for the the night it was defaced, and it quickly garnered attention Black Lives Matter movement across the county, reaching over 9,300 different accounts. at the McLean march in 2020. The photo was shared over 1,500 times, with more than 250 (Photo courtesy of Emily Yoo) comments both in support and defense of the vandals. “I wish all the racists at McLean would keep their mouths shut, ears open and hands to themselves,” one comment said. “Not a single person wants to hear them or their bigotry.” Other students suggested that the All Lives Matter movement wasn’t necessarily racist and that the vandalism wasn’t an act of hate.

Page design by Makda Bekele

March 2022 | IN-DEPTH | 23

Demanding juStice — Students

at Centreville High School protest on Dec. 17, 2021, in support of a student whose hijab was allegedly removed by a classmate at Fairfax High School. It was one of eight protests at FCPS schools. (Photo courtesy of Zakareya Hamed)

A majority of these comments were deleted by the posters “We were able to organize quickly. It was a show of power themselves because of backlash. that everyone can stand united, not just Muslim students, against “I wasn’t surprised about the vandalism because I know the racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia,” said freshman Zakareya type of people that go to McLean,” said junior Adona Amanuel, Hamed, president of McLean’s MSA. “It was a really empowering an officer for the BSU. “I expected some form of retaliation to moment for all of us.” the rock, and it unfortunately happened quicker than I expected.” Later that week, a group of 21 MSAs across the county, For those who support Black Lives Matter, especially those including McLean’s, posted a joint statement on Fairfax High who painted the rock, it was an emotional experience. School’s MSA Instagram. The statement denounced the police’s “I was angry, and I was dissatisfied,” Andresol said. “I was investigation, which ruled that the incident was not a hate crime angry at the way that there could be one person out of all these because it reported no evidence of being motivated by race, 2,250 people in the school that doesn’t believe that Black lives religion or ethnicity. The MSAs’ joint statement argued that the matter.” walkouts were intended to spur more long-term change, not just While racially charged punish the offenders. Though not incidents in FCPS are rare, they as widely spread as the McLean have the power to spark largeMSA’s post, it still got over 1,500 IT WAS A SHOW OF POWER THAT scale movements. likes. On Dec. 14, 2021, Ekran Since the incident at Fairfax EVERYONE CAN STAND UNITED, NOT Mohamed, a Muslim sophomore High School, the McLean MSA JUST MUSLIM STUDENTS, AGAINST at Fairfax High School, was has worked to implement concrete allegedly called racial slurs, change, including collaborating RACISM, ISLAMOPHOBIA [AND] assaulted and had her hijab with the McLean administration to - ZAKAREYA HAMED XENOPHOBIA.” forcibly removed by a classmate. address how Muslims are depicted FRESHMAN Just days after the incident, in history lessons. schools across Fairfax County “We sent out [guidelines] to held walkouts in support of Mohamed. Though McLean did not the history department on how World History 1 should portray hold a walkout, some McLean students attended rallies at other Islam, because there are a lot of misconceptions that we were able schools. Later that day, McLean’s MSA released a statement on to bring to the teachers’ attention,” Hamed said. “We’re going to Instagram about Mohamed’s situation. The post quickly caught fight these biases to portray the truth.” people’s attention, gaining over 16,500 likes, 18,500 shares and The social studies department reviewed the guidelines and roughly 500 comments—many of which were deleted by the MSA agreed to alter the wording of certain lessons during the unit on because of hateful language. Islam.

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Additional reporting by Aleena Gul & Josh Bass

Challenges To Progress MICROAGGRESSIONS — Although student-run organizations have made an impact on the local community, they still face resistance from peers, social media and the administration. The clubs are also tasked with addressing microaggressions— indirect, subtle or unintentional discrimination. “Students are always saying the N-word, associating themselves with people who have been outwardly racist or are racists themselves,” Amanuel said. “In general, McLean fosters a lot of racial hostility, whether it be colorism, the enforcement of negative stereotypes, saying slurs [or] making fun of Black people and their culture.” Jokes targeted against the cultural background of a person are may not be overtly discriminatory. Still, they reinforce racist stereotypes against minorities. “I think at this point, pretty much all Asians have experienced the classic small-eyes joke or your-food-smells-bad joke,” said senior Songhan Pang, the co-president of McLean’s Asian American Association. MEMBERSHIP — Clubs at McLean have faced challenges gaining members from diverse backgrounds. A common misconception is that cultural clubs only exist for those that identify with that culture. “These groups are meant to not only bring together that certain cultural community within the school, but raise awareness so that other people of different perspectives can get to understand them more,” Pang said. Club names sometimes suggest that only students of certain backgrounds should join. “It’s been a constant struggle of [gaining new members] to understand different perspectives,” Pang said.

RULES AND REGULATIONS — FCPS and state regulations prevent the McLean administration from being able to fully support student activists’ goals. “Sometimes I’ll get individuals that come in and say, ‘Hey, I [want to organize something for my club],’ but usually, you have to have support behind you because there’s so many guidelines,” Reilly said. “[For example,] Fairfax County doesn’t allow people to collect money for a group…because people were using kids to collect money and nobody knew where the money was going.” Students often feel frustrated with the administration’s lack of response to racial incidents, but strict regulations bar school officials from revealing actions they’ve taken to address these kinds of issues or extend support to those harmed. “I feel like sometimes I deflate because there’s so many rules involved, but we do have guidelines to protect students,” Reilly said. “On my part, I have to go and ask questions about the rules…then I can bring back everybody and say, ‘OK, here is where we can work within our parameters.’” Though the McLean administration has a limited arsenal to directly support students, Reilly has found ways to support groups indirectly. “Sometimes [I end up] connecting [students] to another group that could help get their idea done or with a person who will help share their ideas, like the PTSA,” Reilly said. Still, groups such as the McLean MSA have successfully worked with the administration to promote inclusivity. Recently, they collaborated to create space for Muslim students to pray every Friday. “[The administration] is why we have Friday prayers now,” Hamed said. “They gave us a room and mats, and those things are not easy to get.”

empty words — Instagram

is a hub for performative activism. Users post and comment to appear engaged instead of actually taking action.

Images obtained via Instagram (@blackouttuesdayy & @mhshighlander)

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PERFORMATIVE ACTIVISM — Social media usage among high schoolers has transformed true activism with intent for change into a series of trends, such as #BlackOutTuesday, which went viral in 2020. On June 2, millions of Instagram users posted a black screen on their accounts to stand in solidarity with Black users. Ultimately, the trend amounted to no change and actually hindered the flow of important information about nationwide protests. Although these posts may be detrimental, they are often the easiest, most accessible option for teenagers who want to make an impact on their community. When students are met with regulations and other challenges that make advocacy difficult to carry out, they often resort to social media as a quick, rule-free medium of activism. Some believe that social media activism isn’t necessarily dangerous when coupled with other behaviors.


“An Instagram post on your story doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person,” Rodgers said. “It’s about what you do after that, because social media is definitely how most of us become aware about different situations.”

IF THERE’S A CERTAIN ISSUE THAT AFFECTS PEOPLE YOU KNOW AND CARE ABOUT… THERE’S AN INCLINATION TO SPEAK OUT.” - ZORA RODGERS SENIOR Along with its accessibility, social media has created an overwhelming pressure on users that results in a fear that they will not be seen as an ally to progressive causes due to their silence on a topic. As a result, certain issues deteriorate into trends, with the genuine activism behind the causes being cast aside in favor of easily shareable posts. While those using social media to spread information are usually well-intentioned, social media tends to value aesthetics over content. For complex issues such as systemic racism, social

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media has led to visually pleasing infographics being shared more than posts that go into more depth about nuanced issues. In a high school environment, where the opinions of others— for better or for worse—often have a large effect on how people act, it is common that students feel the need to be constantly engaged in social awareness. “I think there’s a certain pressure to be someone who you’re not, especially in high school,” Rodgers said. “If there’s a certain issue that affects people you know and care about…there’s an inclination to speak out. With Black Lives Matter, there was a ‘silence is violence’ code that was going around, so people felt obligated to post about [BLM], even though they didn’t want to make [effective] changes.” Social media allows people to simply appear like advocates for justice through shallow online actions. Empty actions don’t go unnoticed, however, and they have become a a target of stringent criticism. “As marginalized communities, we see this often. Those who pretend to be allies. Those who pretend to want to change,” McLean counselor Amber Simpkins said. “These disingenuous actions actually hurt the movement more than anything else. True activism comes from the heart, and it is a desire to see true and lasting change. Performative activism is empty words and actions meant to only appease the oppressed.”


moving forward

Though McLean students and clubs are working to make an impact on the community, they still see room for progress. To them, change starts with creating opportunities to help people fight for progress and to amplify underrepresented voices that have been advocating for change. “It’s…a lot of sitting back and listening to those who are [marginalized] and doing what you can to rework unconscious biases you may have,” Amanuel said. “You have to take a step back and fill in when asked but always do your best to make sure that you as an individual are doing all you can to unlearn any forms of bias or prejudice you have.” Members of the McLean administration are aware of their role in contributing to student advocacy, and students are constantly becoming more aware of the impact their voices can have. “We need to support our students. We do that by making sure every student feels heard, seen and valued,” Simpkins said. “When acts of racism happen, it must be addressed openly and swiftly. It cannot be tolerated, and we need to provide the space for students affected by those racist acts to heal.”



Page design by Makda Bekele

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Top anime to watch this year Kaan Kocabal Reporter

Attack on Titan: 5/5

The hit show Attack on Titan is one of the most popular anime right now. It follows main character Eren Jaeger as he fights in a military regiment against supersized humanoids called “titans,” but the plot quickly evolves as the show progresses. It features impressive action and character development that hooks viewers in. Attack on Titan is a must-watch for beginners to the genre—it has the perfect blend of action and drama, taking viewers on a roller coaster of emotions. Images obtained via Kodansha

Demon Slayer: 4/5

Demon Slayer has a unique artistic style full of beautiful animations, vivid colors and epic fights between humans and demons. It centers around Tanjiro, whose family was killed by a demon, as he becomes a demon slayer. It also features his sister, Nezuko, who was turned into a demon in the demon’s attack. While the plot is entertaining, it is relatively simplistic and lacks the depth other shows offer. Aside from the more shallow plot, Demon Slayer is a fantastic anime that is worth watching.

Images obtained via Shueisha

One Piece: 4.5/5

Full of fun adventures and interesting scenarios, One Piece is a classic anime that has been on air since 1999. The show is set in a world of pirates and follows main character Luffy, who is trying to become king of the pirates and obtain a fabled hidden treasure known as the “one piece.” Because One Piece has over a thousand episodes, the pacing can sometimes be slow and cause the plot to drag on. Those moments are rare, however, and the riveting storylines make it an excellent show that is worth the time. Images obtained via Viz Media

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Page design by Makda Bekele

Sheriff Sherif





There ain’t enough room in this town for all these chicken sandwiches


oughly the size of a shoebox, Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken in Falls Church has branded themselves as a carry-out spot rather than a sit-down restaurant. Their most popular sandwich, the Asteroid, was $12, a pretty average price. However, due to their small portions and lackluster seasoning, Astro was not a great value. The chicken was crispy, but the sandwich tasted overwhelmingly of pepper and oddly similar to a salad. Though Astro offers better items, the Asteroid was not astronomical.


his D.C. eatery is in a class of its own, as Chef Elias Taddesse blends French and Ethiopian flavors into a classic American burger bar. We tried the Original Sandwich, which was one of the best we had. It consisted of both white and dark meat, which made for a more flavorful and juicy sandwich. Crisp pickles and a smoked mayo added a nice depth of flavor without distracting from the chicken. Despite basic fixings, the care and execution of this sandwich made for a pleasant eating experience.


ocated in Arlington, chef Rahman “Rock” Harper’s pop-up shop markets itself as a hidden gem for chicken connoisseurs. We tried their Queen Mother’s Classic. The golden brown brioche bun generously topped with crispy chicken, pickles and their house sauce left us eager to dig in, but the sandwich didn’t exactly live up to the hype. The sauce, while flavorful, overshadowed the chicken. The sandwich was decent, but for $13, you could get a better bang for your buck elsewhere.


Photos by Peter Shumway & Josh Bass | Page design by Taylor Olson


ooboi Hot Chicken in Herndon offers only one chicken sandwich, the Sando, which we ordered at level 2/5 heat. We were surprised with the jalapeño seasoning, which had a curry flavor, but it was a welcome twist. It was topped with a refreshing slaw, crisp pickles and their signature sauce, all of which balanced the sandwich. The chicken was great, and the generously sized fillets were super juicy and crispy. However, the unorthodox taste of the excessive seasoning knocked the ranking down.


lthough their food was great, it’s hard to recommend Max’s Hot Chicken because of its location. We ordered online, drove into Northeast D.C. and knocked on a nondescript door down a sketchy dead-end street. After 25 minutes, they finally brought out the meal, which included fries and a free Mexican Coke. At $14, this was the best value meal. The sandwich was great, bringing the heat with its Nashville Hot style. It was completed with a vinegar slaw and their signature Comeback Sauce. Despite the location looking like a front, Max’s offers killer food for a good price.

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TheatreMcLean integrates LGBTQ+ themes into every aspect of spring musical Isabella DiPatri Features Editor | Josephine Phillips Reporter


heatreMcLean has begun promoting its upcoming musical, Head Over Heels, with the Instagram hashtags #mcleangotthebeat and #highlanderoverheels. The department’s annual spring musical will feature LGBTQ+ themes and a melange of classical and contemporary elements throughout the show, which will run from April 28 to May 1. “The story is based on Philip Sidney’s [The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia], which has to do with mistaken identities and prophecy,” TheatreMcLean director Phillip Reid said. “It’s super fun—it’s an old school story mixed with contemporary music.” Although it is set in a historical time period, the show will have modern twists. “We want it bright, big and large, while keeping it minimalistic because it’s a musical,” Reid said. Head Over Heels was a groundbreaking production when it appeared on Broadway in 2018, as it was the first show to debut with a transgender woman in a leading role. TheatreMcLean’s adaptation will also defy gender expectations. “With our ensemble roles, we are mixing up our classical gender outfits for people,” said senior Erin Sharpe, the assistant

director. “We’re going to be putting some men in skirts and women in pants.” The show ties LGBTQ+ themes into upbeat numbers—exclusively including music by the 1980s all-girl rock band The Go-Go’s—and modern main characters. The set itself will reflect the evolution of its characters.

PLAYBILL HEAD OVER HEELS Showing April 28 - May 1 Showing April 28 - May 1

slightly monochromatic,” Fulkerson said. “As the show progresses, the colors will slowly blend with the colors from the pride flag. This will be especially prominent [during the scene] on the island of Lesbos.” In addition to representing the LGBTQ+ community, the design will be heavily influenced by Enlightenment-era Europe. “[For the royal family,] we incorporate a lot of French aspects, including their huge - ERIN SHARPE gowns,” said junior Kyrsten Lewey, head ASSISTANT DIRECTOR costume designer. “There is a lot of Greek embroidery in the arm and color pieces.” “In the beginning, there will be old flags Aside from vibrant designs, the musical hung above the stage, and they’ll fall halfway will include costumes and makeup inspired through, replaced by new flags [to symbolize] by RuPaul’s Drag Race. the change in beliefs,” senior tech head J.T. “We have various colorful designs that are Fulkerson said. super over the top,” sophomore co-makeup In order to represent queer-positive head Valentina Sedan said. “[Tech crew] has elements, Fulkerson and his crew will use complete creative freedom over designs, and captivating sets and colorful lighting. [we collaborate] with the other crews so that “The lights will be bright and flashy but the style and color palette match.” For this musical, each of the characters has a distinct personality that will be reflected through their clothing, hair and makeup styles. “We want to show the breadth of diversity that is in this fictional kingdom,” Sharpe said. “We’re going to try to insert little bits and pieces of pride flags [within the design of the play].” The cheerful music of The Go-Go’s and the little details the crew incorporates throughout the production will help weave the characters and their changing mindsets together. “I love that we get to create looks that REACH TO THE RIGHT — The Head Over Heels ensemble stretches before represent different characters’ personalities,” rehearsing their “We Got the Beat!” routine. The LGBTQ-themed musical Sedan said. “It is a really fun process of featuring songs by The Go-Go’s will debut April 28. (Photo by Josephine Phillips) putting our creativity to work.”

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Graphic & page design by Ariana Elahi

Stefan’s Sculptures Stefan Van Biljon creates ceramic masterpieces


ELEGANT ELEPHANT — Stefan Van Biljon poses



ew people can learn how to turn clay into sculptures, win numerous prestigious competitions across the nation and create masterpieces at the same time, but senior Stefan Van Biljon has accomplished all this within the past three years. “Ninth grade is when I seriously started ceramics,” Van Biljon said. “First year, teachers ask you to make all types of pots, but as you progress you can begin to choose your own topics and create what you want.” Van Biljon credits his rapid success in ceramics to more than just practice. “As with most artists, I can draw pretty decently, but it’s not just practice—I have a natural talent for it as well,” Van Biljon said. “[My skills] got better and better [over time], but it’s lots of looking at pictures and getting a feel for it.” Van Biljon’s biggest advantage has been his patience. “He just had an innate skill on top of his [ability to be] patient,” AP Ceramics teacher Christina Carroll said. “He’s very thorough on learning his craft “MELANCHOLY”

next to his current sculpture project, which is his largest to date at two feet tall. His biggest challenge is the delicate nature of his pieces and ensuring his work doesn’t fall apart in the kiln. “HOLDER OF INSPIRATION”

before moving to more advanced pieces, but he is super independent, so [he’s] very easy to teach.” Van Biljon draws inspiration directly from the world around him and his love for nature and animals. “For a long time, I’ve been interested in the natural world for inspiration. Occasionally, I’ll do an abstract piece, but I really like to do realistic sculptures of animals in a natural setting,” Van Biljon said. As one of two AP Ceramics students at McLean this year, Van Biljon’s main focus for the class is building his portfolio. “This year, the theme for my AP portfolio is expressing the emotions of Homer’s Odyssey through the natural world,” Van Biljon said. “In essence, it means I make sculptures of animals in nature [while] expressing some sort of emotion.” Carroll has encouraged Van Biljon throughout his artistic process. “I’ll give suggestions, sometimes he takes them, but he just has a very clear viewpoint of what he wants to represent,” Carroll said. “He doesn’t really care what other people think, which is a great trait for an artist; he is true to himself, and I respect his opinions.” Trusting his instincts has gotten him far in competitions. Last year, his sculpture “Let the Earth Rise Up” earned the Shadow Award at the National K-12 Ceramic Exhibition for best representation of

an animal. In his two years of entering the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, he has won three Gold Keys, one Silver Key and four Honorable Mentions, earning him a spot in nationals for the second year in a row. “This year, I have one piece that has qualified for national judging, and hopefully I’ll get a good result,” Van Biljon said. Van Biljon does not “PRIDE & JOY” intend on pursuing art as a career, but he will continue to find opportunities for sculpting. “Even if I’m studying engineering next year, there are still going to be facilities [for sculpture making], so I will try to take advantage of that in the future,” Van Biljon said. Until then, he hopes to make the most of his remaining time at McLean. “I want to keep enjoying myself and making good ceramic pieces,” he said. “I want to enjoy making my nice collection and just do it for myself.”

Page design by Ariana Elahi Photos courtesy of Stefan Van Biljon

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Noah Barnes A&E Editor Kaan Kocabal Reporter

We were highly anticipating trying Prime, as it was recently launched by famous YouTubers Logan Paul and KSI. The drink was super sweet and packed a great tropical punch flavor. We were surprised by how sweet it tasted given that it only had two grams of sugar. Prime left us hydrated and refreshed after drinking, and we would definitely purchase it again.

Bang tasted like grape soda. The sickly sweet taste was easy to get tired of, and after a few sips, we did not feel the need to finish the can. The long ingredient list with many unfamiliar words was disconcerting. It gave us a boost of energy, but we felt jittery and weak rather than refreshed. The flavor was the strong point of this drink, but it was not worth the price. Soda would be a better alternative.

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Our first sips of Mtn. Dew Energy immediately overwhelmed us with strawberry flavor. However, the aftertaste was too fizzy, and the taste quickly died out. Drinking it made us both feel a little sick to our stomachs. While the drink gave us a small burst of energy, it was not worth it overall.

Looking at the can, Ani seems much healthier than its competitors, boasting real cane sugar and caffeine from green coffee beans. The first sip was a pleasant blast of fizzy black cherry. While the initial taste was great, an aftertaste resembling that of dental toothpaste ruined the drink for us, and we were not enthused to take a second sip. Although Ani was a disappointment, it at least had a good initial flavor.

Photos by Noah Barnes | Page design by Makda Bekele


A student rates teachers’ favorite songs from high school MADELEINE STIGALL FEATURES EDITOR


Why she liked it: My first job was in the kitchen at a

winery—I would often sing this song to myself while making spiced pecans and slicing breads and cheeses.

20 1 4




What I thought: “Home” by edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros


Why he liked it: Like any good emo kid, I saw myself


003 F2

and my girl problems in the highly specific, personal, first-person lyrics. I remember blasting it in the car with my buddy as we got off work and drove to an away football game, where I had plans to meet up with my crush.


What I thought:

This is a solid song, but the very specific lyrics make it hard for me to relate. I do not have girl problems.

Why he liked it: I

love music with energy and I was pretty emotional as a teenager. That song defines ‘punk energy’ and it suited me well. “Dancing With Myself” probably delivered me confidence or maybe it gave me some inner peace.

19 OF


“So Impossible” by Dashboard Confessional



This song has a good melody, but I have to take points off because the two lead singers are just too in love for my taste.

What I thought:


hillips, cl p r e a

Why he liked it: It was a fun song and it was easy to remember. The song came with a dance that was so stupid that you didn’t have to know how to dance to do it, and so everybody participated.

f 1 99 0 ss o


“dancing with myself” by Billy Idol

Billy Idol is always a great choice, and the lyrics hit deep. It is a great song for high school students, from 1990 to now.

What I thought: “The Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground

“The Humpty Dance” is a fun dance song, and it has a very catchy melody. I can definitely see why this was popular, since it is unique and entertaining.

Images obtained from sources| Page design by Madeleine Stigall & Taylor Olson

MARCH 2022 | A&E | 33

NOTHING CONCRETE McLean High School needs a renovation now The staff editorial represents the opinion of the majority of The Highlander editorial board


rom the leaking ceilings and broken air conditioning systems to the flooded bathrooms, McLean’s outdated building is on the verge of falling apart. It’s clear that McLean is in desperate need of a renovation. For years, the school has faced the same recurring problems throughout the building. However, because McLean received a renovation in the 2000s, it is not part of the 2023-2027 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which includes funding for renovation projects at three high schools. Major renovations must be voted on and implemented by the FCPS School Board. Even though McLean received a renovation back in the 2000s, it should not be at the bottom of FCPS priorities considering the school’s current need for one. One of the major problems in the building is the quality of the bathrooms, which are barely usable. Water fountains also rarely work properly, so while water is flooding in the bathrooms, it is hard to find any to drink. The air conditioning system is another gripe. It causes classroom temperatures to fluctuate from freezing cold to scorching hot, making focusing on learning a challenge. “Everything needs to be upgraded, especially our HVAC system,” Director of Student Activities Greg Miller said. “We joke that we often get all four seasons in one day when you’re in the building.” In short: the building is decomposing. Students and staff witness holes in the ceiling, missing tiles and cracks in the hallway every day. “One day the building seems fine, and another day something is broken down,” sophomore Caitlyn Lee said. “It’s hard to maintain a safe classroom environment with the school breaking down in most hallways.” Based on the existing renovations queue, McLean may need to wait years for a renovation, possibly until as late as 2050. Instead of following the queue, FCPS should take more consideration into the current

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status of school buildings. While neighboring schools like Langley High School have newly renovated premises, McLean students and staff are still forced to put up with the rundown building as a result of an arbitrary renovation time interval. “We were renovated in the early 2000s. At this point, from what we’ve heard, it’s that we kind of need to wait our turn,” Miller said.

I’VE BEEN FIGHTING FOR 10 YEARS AND NOTHING’S HAPPENED.” - ELLEN REILLY PRINCIPAL Thanks to urban development in Tysons Corner, the school population is exploding. Improving building infrastructure is the only realistic, long-term solution. Renovations funded by the CIP include those for Herndon, Falls Church and Oakton High Schools. Madison High School, which was renovated in the 2000s, will be receiving an additional construction project. The renovation planning process is infuriatingly bureaucratic and it usurps nearly all voice from schools. For something that impacts student and staff life on a daily basis, that’s not acceptable.

“We’re not going to get a renovation until the queue comes through,” Principal Ellen Reilly said. “While I fight to get things, it doesn’t matter. I’ve been fighting for 10 years and nothing’s happened.” Many schools in Fairfax County are demanding a renovation, not just McLean. Providing resources to schools based on their “turn” is not socially or economically efficient; if decaying buildings are not renovated first, their repair bills will continue to grow. The current process is a complete waste of taxpayer money. FCPS is aware of these issues, however, and says it is reconsidering how it decides what schools will be renovated. “We are in the process of establishing a new renovation queue,” FCPS Assistant Superintendent Jeff Platenberg said. “Many of our schools are in need of renovations and FCPS is working to improve the current renovation cycle.” While a renovation for McLean will take time, money and effort, the result will be worth it. But the failure to renovate a deteriorating building after years of requests is a sign that the entire renovation queue process is broken—not just the schools that need renovations. “As much as I want a renovation to happen, I know it will take a while,” Lee said. “It most likely won’t happen while I’m still in school, but I hope it happens for future students.”

Reporting & page design by Natalie Vu | Cartoon by Liz Nedelescu

TIME FOR CHANGE IN LANGUAGE COURSES McLean needs to expand its language offerings



hen it comes to language courses, McLean offers six to choose from: Spanish, French, Chinese, German, American Sign Language and Latin. This list offers Highlanders the chance to explore new cultures, but six options isn’t enough for a school that has a much higher diversity of cultures than other areas of Virginia. The World Languages Department must expand its course selection to further integrate the international community at McLean and give all students the opportunity to broaden their horizons. McLean’s language courses should offer a more accurate representation of students’ origins. Foreign students attending McLean want their culture recognized and shared to feel included at school. Yet, the few language options available show the school’s slow adaptation to a changing county demographic. Languages such as Italian, Russian and Portuguese are left out of the mix. Offering more language courses would help McLean embrace FCPS’s standards of inclusion for students. McLean’s current language courses deserve their place at the school, but the world’s reality contrasts with what McLean provides. For instance, Japanese, which has over 120 million speakers worldwide and is offered at several other high schools in Fairfax County, is not given any representation in McLean’s curriculum. Making relevant course additions would better expose Highlanders to other cultures. Academy courses are an option for students who aren’t satisfied with McLean’s language courses, but they impose stressful obstacles on students who decide to take them. The excessive travel time to and from a different school is just one of several

unnecessary burdens for students who simply want to learn to communicate in a different language.

I LEARN ITALIAN ON DUOLINGO...BUT IT’S NOT THE SAME AS BEING IN A CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT, LEARNING IT CONVERSATIONALLY.” - HALEY RIGGINS JUNIOR “I have had students who take Academy courses and are late for their next class, and it’s hard for them because they end up missing one-third of the curriculum,” German teacher Karen Wolpert said. Even Academy only offers three additional languages (Korean, Arabic and Vietnamese), which still may not fit a

Cartoon by Jayne Ogilvie-Russell | Page design by Melissa Allegretti

student’s preference. Instead of taking a language course at McLean that they’re not interested in, students resort to external resources, like Duolingo and Babbel, but they tend to be less effective due to the lack of verbal interaction. “I learn Italian on Duolingo, [which] teaches the basics, but it’s not the same as being in a classroom environment, learning it conversationally,” junior Haley Riggins said. “I can see it and write, but I can’t hear it, so it’s harder to train my ears.” While adding more language courses would require additional staffing, even one or two more options based on student interest would be beneficial. In an area that is home to countless international families, more options for languages would create an environment that celebrates the multicultural community. The lack of available courses prevents students from finding what they truly want to master and from learning about cultures which deviate from the standard curriculum. McLean is responsible for accommodating students and their cultures, and they must add more language courses to do so.

march 2022 | OPINIONS | 35

Lifting mandate carelessly enables virus spread


Khushi Rana A&E Editor

OVID-19 has remained a persistent threat for two years now, and nearly everyone has grown tired of its endless effects on society and everyday life. Many believe that the return to normalcy will be accelerated by ending mask requirements, but as easy as this back-to-reality conversion may seem, it is simply not the solution. Lifting the mask mandate sounded ideal, but it will be detrimental once cases rise again. COVID-19 infections have become predictable, spiking near holidays and plateauing after. We learned last year that regulation rollbacks only work for a short period of time; once the next wave starts, it’s as though we’re back where we started. An emerging variant known as BA.2 could threaten to derail pandemic progress yet again. Its transmissibility rate is reported to be higher than the original Omicron strain, BA.1. Masks helped McLean and other schools overcome the Omicron wave around winter break. If masking had been partial like it is now, cases would surely be higher, especially considering that air circulation in many rooms remained inadequate and social distancing was physically impossible. Those issues continue to be unaddressed. Even more concerning, McLean rolled back contact tracing when masks became optional. Students are not notified individually if they come in contact with an infected student, and isolation is optional. Seating charts were also phased out. With spring break on the horizon, cases will inevitably rise. The outlook is grim: without universal masking, proper air circulation, social distancing, contact tracing or seating charts, it’s unclear if we can even remain open once cases spike. There has been an increase in vaccination, but the rate among young people compared to the overall population remains low. According to the Virginia Department of

36 | OPINIONS | March 2022

Health, around 40% of the 5-17 age group in the state are unvaccinated as of March. At the end of the day, masks are truly the only defense students have against the virus. The CDC found that people wearing surgical masks are 66% less likely to test positive for the virus than maskless people, and there are practically no other mitigation strategies in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The mask-optional policy at McLean is simply not the same as one in a Starbucks or even an office building. Those establishments have a private incentive to maintain mitigation strategies like frequent cleaning, and people have the choice not to remain in their buildings for long. School is mandatory—students don’t have the choice to walk out if they feel unsafe in a classroom. “When the mask mandate was in place, it made me feel so much more safe than how I do now,” sophomore Ella Farivar said. “Now, I have to keep looking out for who is wearing their mask and who isn’t, which [distracts me from] my schoolwork.” There is widespread evidence that young people are hospitalized from COVID-19 infections at lower rates than other age groups. This virus is new, however, and it’s still unclear

what side effects it induces. Researchers and doctors are now acknowledging “long COVID,” which describes some infected individuals’ COVID-19 symptoms that persist well after recovery. Suggesting that students should stay in an unsafe building with relaxed health guidelines because they face fewer short-term risks fails to take into account the increasingly worrying evidence of long-term side effects. The most successful strategy to decrease the spread of COVID-19 is to wear masks. A new variant and case spike are on their way, evidence that the pandemic isn’t over yet. To help secure McLean from impending doom, we should at least utilize the most basic and straightforward precaution possible: mandating masks, at least until the end of the school year. At the end of the day, this mask mandate lift is not sustainable. It was made out of hasty political determination rather than acknowledgment of reality. “I just want to feel safe at school again,” Farivar said. “My friends and I think the only way this can happen is if everyone starts wearing their masks again, so we can have more [protection against] COVID-19.”

was lifting the school mask mandate the right move?

Mask-optional policy is a step in the right direction


philip rotondo news editor

hen people are young, change is normal. The world seems like a totally new place every two years anyway—why not throw a pandemic in the mix? Perhaps this is why high schoolers have taken so easily to wearing masks, and why now that they’re given the option to stop wearing masks, many elect to keep them on. Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s ban on mask mandates was obviously politically charged and garnered a fair bit of criticism. While it may not have been the most seamless way to go about rolling back COVID-19 precautions, optional masking is not unreasonable in any way. In fact, it’s an important step to take towards going back to “normal,” if such a thing exists at this point. It has been less than a month, but so far transmission rates in Fairfax County have not increased since FCPS made masking optional for students and staff on March 1. In fact, the circulation of the virus is nearly as low as it ever has been in the county and in the country: the seven-day average for new cases daily has been under 150 in Fairfax

County since late February and has been steadily decreasing throughout the nation, now totalling a seven-day new case average of less than 40,000. “Our transmission rate currently is low for community transmission in FCPS, and that also includes here at McLean,” Systems of Support Advisor Emily Geary said. “We have seen a significant decrease in cases and level of transmission from prior to December and January.” By March 14, only three states still have statewide mandates on wearing masks indoors. Between January and February, almost half of state mask mandates were lifted. In the same amount of time, nationwide cases have dropped significantly. As of March 10, Fairfax County is considered to have low community risk for COVID-19 by the CDC. Based on this assessment, the only preventative measures the CDC recommends people take are to stay updated on vaccines and to get tested when they experience symptoms of infection. According to the experts, the county is in a better position than it has been in a long time to start rolling back preventative measures against COVID-19.

“We have the CDC for this,” math teacher Natalia Gorine said. “The county follows the CDC recommendations, which makes sense to me, because if anyone knows anything about this disease, it’s probably the doctors. I think we should listen to them.” The country has entered a new stage of the pandemic, marked mainly by mass vaccination. According to the CDC, 65.3% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated and 44.3% has had a booster. While variants pose a challenge due to their resistance to vaccines, the medical community’s ability to produce boosters that target variants was proved in the quickly defeated Omicron outbreak in December and January. Vaccines entering the equation took the edge off of the pandemic. The first two shots were authorized back in May 2021, leading to a low in transmission in June. Variants to the original virus have appeared periodically, but thanks to growing vaccination rates, hospitalizations and deaths have remained relatively low considering how high transmission rates have become at times. As weird as it feels to say after two long years of loss and uncertainty, we have this under control. If the goal is to get back to pre-pandemic living, removing mask mandates is the best way to go. A lot of people are still wearing their masks. Just because masks are no longer required doesn’t mean that everyone should rip them off as soon as they get the chance. Wearing a mask can be a statement of your respect for your neighbors. They still work, and Youngkin’s outright ban on mandating them was quite rash and inconsiderate. If there’s one thing the past two years have shown, it’s that the world can change significantly in the space of a few days. Ultimately, a population that understands what is in its own best interests can make its own decisions. Some kids here at McLean have lost two years of their high school experience to COVID-19. It’s time to slowly and cautiously start moving on. Cartoons by Jayne Ogilvie-Russell

march 2022 | OPINIONS | 37

BOYS LACROSSE MAKING STRIDES Highlanders look forward to strong season


Graham courey & Zachary Ammar reporters

he spring sports season is finally underway, and boys varsity lacrosse is a team to look out for in the Liberty District this season. “We’re working hard to get better this pre-season, so we should have a successful season this year,’’ sophomore midfielder Isaac Bell said. The entire team is showing enthusiasm as they work towards their goal of making a strong playoff push at the end of the spring season. “This season we want to be the best possible team we can be, win as many games as possible and fight until the game is over

GIRLS LAX TAKES IT TO THE MAX Girls lacrosse prepares for fresh start this spring


Paarth Soni reporter

oing into the 2022 season with an 18-0 victory in their first scrimmage, varsity girls lacrosse has regained their confidence following last year’s rough season, which they finished with a 1-8 record. With a newfound focus, the team is prepared for the season ahead. “Our record last season truly did not reflect upon our skill level and efforts,” senior captain and defender Melanie Lindsey said. “Many games came very close, and we ultimately did not pull through.” The team has made some massive changes in hopes of achieving their goals for this season, including the addition of many underclassmen players. They have also added head coach Emily Geary and assistant coach Katie Delaney. “This is my first season at McLean, but we

38 | SPORTS | MARCH 2022

by working hard in practice and pushing each other,” junior defender Jacques Khoriaty said. To prepare for games, members of the team try their hardest to improve during practice. “Practices are about two hours long,” junior midfielder Tristan Jander said. “During this time we typically have positional drills like shooting and footwork before we come together and do full-contact offense versus defense scrimmages.” This year, the team has fewer players than usual, but the Highlanders are looking to fix their weaknesses to improve as a team. “Our team is not deep this year,” coach Brian Simmons said. “We are now working on not turning the ball over and being very proficient on offense.” Last year, the boys varsity lacrosse team was unable to beat Langley. This year’s players hope to win against their crosstown rivals. “Langley is a talented team,” Jander said. “Our biggest difficulty last year was managing their face-off man and being able to capitalize on turnovers.” have some new players on the team who are going to make a big impact on our success this season. We have lots of young talent, and I am excited for them to blend with and learn from our more veteran upperclassmen players,” Geary said. “[They] bring a dynamic set of skills that will elevate our team to a new level.” Despite their short time working with the team, the positive impact the new coaches have had on the girls is already evident. Geary and Delaney consistently emphasize the importance of bringing a positive mindset to practice and focusing on factors within their control. “One of Coach Geary’s mantras is that you can always control your attitude and your effort,” Lindsey said. “The positive attitudes and profound efforts being brought forth by the entire team so far have uplifted us and powered us through practices.” This support has boosted the girls’ confidence and helped them address some of the obstacles they have faced in the past. “The coaches have placed a new emphasis on the importance of physical and mental health,” junior defender Sabrina Berry said. “Burnout was a big factor in our performance last year, and the entire team

DANGEROUS DEFENSE — Midfielder Isaac Bell defends the Highlanders against Chantilly. McLean lost the away game 13-10. As the season begins, the Highlanders are aiming for a winning record. “I’m excited for the upcoming season,” Jander said. “I feel like we have a talented team and good chemistry that could allow us to make a respectable playoff run.” appreciates this new sense of positivity and support.” This new team is eager for redemption. “Our goals for the season are to win, of course, but also take care of ourselves and each other,” Lindsey said. “We will maintain our positive attitudes and strong efforts and continue to grow and build as a team each time we step on the field.”

ON THE ATTACK — Attacker Ella Tanner cradles her stick coming across midfield at a home scrimmage against TJ on March 3.

Images courtesy of Kent Arnold | Page design by Taylor Olson

SOCCER SLIDES INTO SEASON Boys soccer team gets ready for victory on the field

Heads in the game — Head coach William Gaitan discusses strategy with

the team during an injury timeout in a scrimmage against Fairfax High School on March 11. The team went on to win the game 3-2.



ach day, the 27 players that make up the boys varsity soccer team take the field after school and get to work. They train in various ways, running drills, scrimmaging and doing yoga twice a week, building skills and chemistry that they hope will amount to a successful season and a deep playoff run. Of those 27 players, most of them are seniors or juniors, with only four underclassmen. The crew is led by head coach William Gaitan. “We have a lot of attacking players, and I think that we really need to take advantage of that, so we should be seeing a lot of goals,” Gaitan said. “We have a lot of depth in our attacking formation and our players.” In Gaitan’s second year as head coach, the team looks to accomplish more than their regional semi-finals finish to the 2021 season. The players hope the new atmosphere combined with the familiar sense of Highlander spirit on the team will contribute to this goal. “Last year there were a lot of seniors on the team, so this year’s team will be a little bit more inexperienced than normal, but we should still have that same talent and passion that McLean soccer is accustomed to,” said

senior Will Mahoney, varsity center back and potential D1 commit. After an undefeated preseason, the fit of the squad’s skills and chemistry is promising. “It’s difficult to play high quality soccer with teammates that you don’t play with very often, so if we can mesh and begin to work well as a team we should be able to have a successful season,” Mahoney said. Developing their style on the field and refining it will also be a key factor in how far the team can go. “We need to improve our tactical awareness with one another. Obviously the season has just started and we are yet to play it out, but we need to establish a play style that works with everyone,” said junior Gage Lyons, varsity striker and 3-star recruit. Communication is one area the team is focused on improving.

“We will have to train very hard every practice and communicate our own needs on the field. Team chemistry is good off the field, but now we need to develop it on the field as well,” Lyons said. Once the team gets in the right mindset, the pieces will begin to fall into place, and fans will get a good idea of how the season will unravel. “The game plan is to score a lot of goals on offense,” Gaitan said. “Last year, we had a lot of numbers in attendance, and that was great, so we want to entertain people with our soccer.” Seeming to have no missing parts on paper, the team will be put to the test. The results they produce as they enter the regular season will be an indicator of what they could accomplish in 2022. “In high school everyone just wants to win, plain and simple, so we have to play for each other rather than ourselves,” Lyons said. Gaitan sees the importance of unity in helping the team reach their goals. “We want to make sure that all the boys on the roster have each other’s back in school, on the field and on the bench,” Gaitan said. With an undefeated preseason, including a 3-2 win over Fairfax on March 11, Gaitan thinks they will be able to make strides once the regular season begins. “This year we can win trophies and win regionals for sure,” Gaitan said. “With the squad we have now, we should be winning districts and winning regionals for sure.”

Sending it — Center back Jacob Miller

takes a free kick on the Highlander’s defensive side in the Fairfax scrimmage. The win capped off the team’s undefeated preseason. Photos & page design by Scott Shields

MARCH 2022 | SPORTS | 39

DILLER ON ICE Science teacher enjoys curling in his free time ANDY CHUNG reporter | KHUSHI RANA a&e editor

broomer has it — Andrew

Diller’s curling broom helps him guide stones into the target.

When did you begin curling and why did you start? [I started in] 2011. I grew up in Michigan, which is right next to Canada, and Canada has a lot of curling. I could pick up Canadian channels, and on Saturdays I watched the curling television show.

WHAT IS YOUR POSITION WHEN YOU PLAY? When you first start off, you’re always the first thrower since that’s the least important of the positions. After playing for a few years, I was able to move up to the second or third player, depending on what team I was on.

DO YOU CURL FOR FUN, COMPETITIVELY OR BOTH? I used to do it for both since there are fun leagues where you can still go to tournaments, but now I do it more for fun since I’m a little old for that at this point.

HOW HAS CURLING IMPACTED YOUR LIFE? Going to the [Salt Lake City and Vancouver] Olympics to watch curling with my wife has helped grow our love for the sport.

WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE WITH THE SPORT? People make curling look easy, but it actually is not. It is hard to learn how to throw [the stone], and trying it for the first time it is especially hard to not fall over because the ice is slippery. To fix this, we wear shoes called sliders to help with the push.

Any advice to give athletes who want to begin curling? I’d check out the Potomac Curling Club in Laurel, Maryland, since that’s the only club in our area.

40 | SPORTS | MARCH 2022

Photos courtesy of Andrew Diller| Page design by Taylor Olson

MTalented CBASEBALL SWINGS FOR SUCCESS team features multiple standout seniors MAX IRISH REPORTER


ed by seniors Griffin Stieg and Robbie Coates, the varsity baseball team hopes to rebound from a mediocre season in 2021. With a talented senior class, this year’s team is expected to be one of the best in recent memory. Varsity head coach John Dowling utilized a large turnout of over 60 players at tryouts to help structure the roster for this upcoming season. “We have had more kids try out every year that I’ve been at McLean, which has been nine years now,” Dowling said. Dowling has high hopes for the upcoming season, especially since this year’s team is stacked with talented players. “Our team has a lot of higher level talent, and this will be an asset for this season,” Dowling said. Since these star players have been at McLean, they have won all four games against rival Langley. As the season progresses, they look to make it a perfect six for six. “In my last year, I hope we can beat them both times so we can go out knowing we were the better team,” right fielder Coates said. Stieg, who plays outfield and pitcher, has been an integral part of the varsity team

Monster Mash — Griffin Stieg hits a

pitch while playing Lake Braddock last season. Stieg leads the team with his batting power.

since his freshman year. “I’m most excited for the team to be together and to be on the field every day playing baseball,” Stieg said. The baseball team practices together six days a week with games in between. Off-season practices offer the perfect opportunity to improve, especially for those players looking to put in extra work before the upcoming season. “In the off-season I’d go to my practice facility six times a week,” Stieg said.

MY GOAL FOR THE TEAM IS FOR US TO BEAT SOME GOOD TEAMS AND WIN A LOT OF PLAYOFF GAMES.” - GRIFFIN STIEG SENIOR PITCHER & OUTFIELDER Stieg has played in several showcases alongside some of the country’s best players. At these elite competitions, players have the opportunity to show off their talents in front of college and Major League Baseball scouts. “Showcases and high school baseball are very different,” Stieg said. “In showcases you usually play for yourself and try to get seen by college and pro scouts. In high school you play as a team to win games.” Stieg is no stranger to pressure. After being recruited for years and competing at the highest level, he has learned how to turn stress into a useful tool. “When pressure is on us, we just have to breathe and play the game hard, and good things will happen,” Stieg said. The recruitment process is different for all athletes. Stieg’s process began as a freshman, when he verbally committed to play at Virginia Tech. Coates decided to wait longer before making a commitment. “My recruiting process was very hectic. I spent hours sending over a thousand

Photos courtesy of Kent Arnold | Page design by Max Irish

Running Rampant — Robbie Coates

heads towards third base in a game against Lake Braddock last season. Coates smashed a triple for his second hit of the game. emails to coaches and schools I was interested in,” Coates said. “I made highlight videos for every season just to send out to coaches I was talking to, with the hopes that they liked what they saw and wanted to see me play.” Last summer, Coates finally got to play in a showcase in front of the coaches he had been talking to. “At this point, it was August going into my senior year and time was running out,” Coates said. “Luckily, I played very well and got all of my offers from that one showcase. I finally decided to commit to Kenyon College in October of my senior year.” Both Stieg and Coates have set goals for their final high school season. “Now that my recruiting process is over, I can fully focus on making positive contributions to help the team win and go as deep into the postseason as possible,” Coates said. Now the new faces of McBaseball, both players hope to see the team reach new heights. “My goal for the season is to be the best leader,” Stieg said. “My goal for the team is for us to beat some good teams and win a lot of playoff games.”

MARCH 2022 | SPORTS | 41

GIRLS GET GA NS New women’s record board sets the stage for women in weightlifting Maya amman EDITOR-IN-CHIEF


ersonal Fitness, a class that has long been offered at McLean, has beein gaining popularity among female students over the past few years. Senior Piper Tedrow has been taking Personal Fitness since her sophomore year. “My first year was the hardest because we had maybe six girls in the program,” Tedrow said. “And then our senior year we got a big sophomore presence and a lot more senior girls [decided] to take the class, so now there’s about 30 girls who come after school.” The weight room is open to anyone who wants to begin or continue their lifting journey. “I have mainly off-season athletes use the weight room a lot, especially because they don’t have the rigors of a practice schedule,” strength coach William West said. “Occasionally, there’ll be a few [inseason athletes] that I’ll allow to lift with us, but they’re on the same schedule as everyone else.” In the new year, more and more people have dedicated themselves to showing up after school for lifting sessions.

macey the machine — Senior Macey Johnson is currently tied for first place for the female bench club at 125 pounds. “I know if I properly warm up and give it another try I can definitely hit 130,” Johnson said.

42 | SPORTS | MARCH 2022

“There’s a lot of people that have really never lifted before and don’t have the experience doing all the lifts that we’re doing,” West said. “So when they’re a girl or guy playing soccer this year [for example], and they’ve never lifted, they’ll come for the after school lifts where we teach everything.” Some girls hit the weight room in order to stay in shape or set new fitness goals, but despite their dedication, they know they will never be on the record board with the male students in their class. In order to offer the girls an equal opportunity at healthy competition, West decided to purchase a brand new women’s record board. “It adds more motivation because girls used to just clap for the boys when they made it on the leaderboard, because we knew we’d most likely never be up there,” Tedrow said. “But now there’s a separate competition for us.” Going to the weight room can also help athletes improve in their respective sports. Some teams schedule joint weightlifting sessions with other sports to give their athletes more training. “I go to the weight room to get strong and also to do well in softball, and that’s where it hopefully translates the most,” senior Macey Johnson said.

girls used to just clap for the boys when they made it on the leaderboard, because we knew we’d most likely never be up there.”


Although more girls are beginning to take advantage of the weight room, there is still a drastic difference in the number of female and male participants. “The gap is slowly getting better,” West said. “Before COVID I only had two or three girls in personal fitness, and none of the girls sports teams really used the weight room, [except for] crew. Now we have our greatest numbers of females in Personal Fitness, which is still not equal to the guys, but a bigger number, and more girls [are] coming after school with softball or field hockey, lacrosse, soccer and all those teams.” West has found that scheduling a separate lifting time for women helps with turnout. “There is scheduled female lifting time after school three times a week,” Tedrow said. “That’s good, especially for younger girls who haven’t taken the class yet. But I think once you get into the Personal Fitness class, it’s a lot easier to just [lift] whenever because you’re more confident.” Still, co-ed settings can motivate students to improve. “I think it’s honestly fun [to lift with the boys],” Johnson said. “It makes me challenge myself a lot [since] I like to push myself.” In the past few years, the weight room has transformed into a space for students to practice healthy habits and exercise techniques. “I actually have proven to myself that I can do a lot more. It sounds kind of cliché, but I realized if I actually stick to a routine and continue to do what I’ve set out to do, I can accomplish those goals,” Johnson said. “Overall, my goal is just to be as healthy and happy as possible.” Photo by McKenna Nichols | Page design by Taylor Olson

ATHLETE OF THE ISSUE AVA SOONG Senior lacrosse Midfielder

“ How has lacrosse influenced you? Lacrosse has given me a sport I love and feel really passionate about playing. It’s allowed me to meet so many great teammates and coaches throughout the years, who have in turn helped me to grow my skills and confidence as an athlete.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT LACROSSE? Being part of a team. I love spending time with my teammates, and we all push each other during games and practices. We’re all close and support each other, which makes playing that much better.

HOW DID YOU FIND THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS? Definitely a little tough at first, especially due to COVID and an injury last season. I wasn’t able to play last year, but luckily I had some film from the previous summer I was able to use. Thankfully, my coaches were super supportive and I had great help throughout the whole process.

What is the hardest thing about lacrosse? Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. Whether that’s playing with your non-dominant hand or trying a new play, you have to trust yourself in order to grow more confident in your ability. Reporting & photo by Andrew Christofferson | Page design by Taylor Olson

deep down I know that I’ll be able to recover and bounce back, just as I have before.”

HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH YOUR INJURY, BOTH EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY? It’s been really tough so far. I got surgery on Feb. 22, and it’s definitely been a little rough since then. I’ve been looking forward to this season for the past two years, and it’s heartbreaking that I won’t be able to play. As challenging as it is though, deep down I know that I’ll be able to recover and bounce back, just as I have before. It’s just a little bump in the road—one that makes me even more determined to get back on the field.

What is your outlook on the lacrosse season right now? Although I won’t be playing, I’m so excited for the season. We have a really strong team this year, and I can’t wait to see them play. I’ll still be a part of the team and help in any way I can. I’ll be helping out on the field in no time.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LACROSSE MEMORY? The Fall Brawl tournament we played this November. It was a really fun tournament and our team played super well—we even made it to the championship game. It was one of the first tournaments I played in since coming back from an injury, and I’m so glad I was able to play with the team before this season.

MARCH 2022 | SPORTS | 43



tell us YOUR...

dream spring break vacation?

#1 Song right now?

Go-to takeout?

ideal spring day?


somewhere i can hit the beach and golf

“lost” by baby keem


cool 60° and sunny

catalonia or rowing camp

“e-pro” by beck

pasa thai

pouring rain

bora bora

“nangs” by tame impala


going on a hike with friends

bora bora

“come back to earth” by mac miller


hanging with friends

anywhere with a beach and golf

“don’t forget me” by THE red hot chili pepperS

los toltecos

golfing and enjoying the outdoors






44 | SPORTS | march 2022

Photos & reporting by Belén Ballard & Christiana Ketema | Page design by Taylor Olson

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