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Volume LXIII • Issue 5 • February 2019 • McLean High School • • @MHSHighlander








Highlander Internship Program changes


Seasonal art exhibits feature McLean talent


New elective classes for 2019-20 school year


Food fight: MOD Pizza vs. &Pizza


FCPS schedule changes & snow day savings


Tidying Up becomes a phenonemon


Bill introduced against Trump transgender military ban


International Night celebrates diversity




How to learn a langauge more efficently


Editorial: Student journalists’ rights must be protected


Beth Bruins: new testing center coordinator


Satire: Kids these days...

11 Heard in the halls

Should Gov. 36-37 Crossfire: Ralph Northam resign?


two years 38-39 Trump’s riddled with faults

Highlander of the Issue: Max Feinberg

15 TeenServ helps McLean students

16-17 19

Socioeconomic disparities within FCPS

10 Qs w/ Allison Merhaut


Andrew LaPointe pursues woodworking

IN-DEPTH ON THE COVER 22-27 CHEATING THE SYSTEM: Students under academic pressure turn to cheating Cover photo illustration by Jack Stenzel

3 12-13


Langley-McLean rivalry escalates


March Madness predictions


Athlete of the Issue: Gabby Williams


Finish Line: girls soccer

43 22-27

Letter from the Editors Dear McLean, Spring is approaching, and the latest issue of The Highlander is here to shine! In light of the recent AP AB Calculus cheating scandal, our In-Depth covers the culture of cheating at McLean. From the the high-stress environment, to the mass obsession over grades, to the immense social pressure to succeed, the “McLean mentality” encourages academic dishonesty. With more than 80 percent of McLean students admitting to cheating in their high school careers, this issue has proven to be prevalent in our community. While the In-Depth will provide context to this pressing problem, we hope that you look through our other sections as well. The entire staff has dedicated a lot of effort to this issue, and we cannot wait for you to read it! Make sure to follow @MHSHighlander on Twitter and check out for updates until our next issue. Come by room R133 or email us at with any questions, concerns or letters to the editors, which we will do our best to print. Yours truly, Maren Kranking, Maria McHugo & Jack Stenzel

Volume LXIII • Issue 5 • February 2019 • McLean High School • @MHSHighlander 1633 Davidson Road McLean, Virginia 22101 Editors-in-Chief

Maren Kranking, Maria McHugo & Jack Stenzel

Managing Editors

Alex Mandanas, Imani McCormick, & Jeremy Siegel

Photography Editors

Anna Brykczynski & Julia McElligott

Website Editor-in-Chief

Dasha Makarishcheva

Advertising Manager

Rebeka Rafi

Design Editors

Anya Chen & Dasha Makarishcheva

Copy Editors

Emily Jackson & Eric Mizusawa

News Editors

Dana Edson & Nicholas Lohman

Features Editors

Addie Brown, Rebeka Rafi & Sabrina Vazquez

A&E Editors

Carla Ballard & Anya Chen

Opinions Editors

Sebastian Jimenez & Jessica Opsahl-Ong

Sports Editors

Ben Brooks & Jack Shields Reporters

Matthew Abbott Zach Anderson Camille Blakemore Talia Blakemore Nick Boyer Michelle Cheng Jackson Clayton Nolan Fitzsimmons Kyle Hawley Anna Grace Hopkins Elizabeth Humphreys

Emma Johnson Haine Jung Waseema Khan Isaac Lamoreaux Cordelia Lawton Rohan Mani Dua Mobin Sam Naemi Brooke Newell Eren Parla Marina Qu


Katie Romhilt Charley Roth-Douquet Ava Rotondo Brandon Sauter Sarah Solis Tessa Stenzel Thara Tha Skye Sunderhauf Nicky Varela

Lindsay B. Benedict

Editorial Policy: The Highlander is a designated public forum in which students can express themselves, discuss issues and exchange ideas. School officials do not exercise prior review on this publication or its online counterpart, and student editors are in charge of all final content decisions. Advertising Policy: The Highlander sells ad space on each page of the paper except on the front cover, Opinions section and InDepth article. The staff reserves the right to reject any ads it deems libelous, obscene, disruptive or otherwise inappropriate. To Submit a Letter to the Editors: Please email it to or bring it to room R133. The staff reserves the right to edit letters for grammar and clarity, and all letters are subject to laws concerning obscenity, libel, privacy and disruption of the school process. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

‘17 Pacemaker Winner; ‘15 Pacemaker Finalist; ‘15, ‘17, ‘18 AllAmerican; ‘12, ‘13, ‘14, ‘16 First Class; Hall of Fame

‘14, ‘16, ‘17, ‘18 George H. Gallup Award; ‘15 International First Place ‘18 Crown Finalist ‘17 Silver Crown Winner ‘15, ‘16 Gold Crown Winner ‘05, ‘07, ‘12, ‘13, ‘14, ‘15, ‘16, ‘17, ‘18 CSPA Gold Medalist

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Be hip, do HIP


Highlander Internship Program offers career insights EMILY JACKSON COPY EDITOR SKYE SUNDERHAUF REPORTER


eading into the third quarter, seniors begin their last semester of high school and prepare for the Highlander Internship Program (HIP) in late May to early June. HIP was created in 2017 after it was requested by the previous class. Last year, it was an eight-day program with roughly 6070 hours spent interning. Those who qualify for HIP after the application process are exempt from final exams. This year, however, a number of changes have been made to the program—the biggest of which was having its length shortened down to five days totaling 40 hours of work experience. The administration was forced to make it shorter, as time will be limited due to this year’s earlier graduation date. “Personally, it’s been harder for me to find more involved internships when I would only be there for a week,” senior class president Tori Lam said. Although HIP won’t last as long, senior participants will still benefit from what the program offers. “You can get a good sense of something you like or don’t like through a five-day internship, so it’s better than not having it for sure,” career center specialist Laura Venos said. The program allows seniors to explore future career interests before they head to college. Students choose internships related to their interests to gain insight on their potential major or future career. “A lot of people do it to spend a week in a career area they may be interested in, so it’s a good first impression and there are a lot of success stories regarding the program,” Lam said. “The only downside is that the program is largely based off your own connections.” Seniors with a 3.0 cumulative GPA (or a C average) in all classes and no more than six absences during the second semester before HIP are eligible to participate in the program. Qualifying seniors also require a teacher’s signature to verify their responsibility and complete the official HIP application packet, which is due to the main office between March 27 and April 1. Page design by Skye Sunderhauf

FUN AT THE FAIR — Last year’s seniors present their internship displays in early June before graduation. This event allows students to learn about the internship programs they can participate in and what majors or careers they may be interested in pursuing in the future. (Photo courtesy of Laura Venos)

Students can select their preferred range of internship opportunities, although the organization they apply to must approve their request.


the program, nearly half of the graduating class. Venos believes the advantages of participating in the program at McLean are incomparable. “Most students at that point in the year would benefit from...going to an internship,” Venos said. “We want as many students as possible to take advantage of it.” CHECK OUT THE APPLICATION ON THE SENIOR WEBSITE TAB:

— LAURA VENOS CAREER CENTER SPECIALIST At the end of their internship, students are required to participate in a fair and showcase their experiences in HIP. Last year, around 200 seniors completed FEBRUARY | NEWS | 3

Electives arriving at McLean in 2019 New classes to take coming in this fall A Combating Intolerance

American Sign Language




Teach for Tomorrow

fter gaining popularity at the electives fair, the teachers behind Combating Intolerance are expecting at least 100 students to sign up. A history elective, Combating Intolerance deals with negative ideologies and current events by putting them into a more positive perspective with the intention of creating a better sense of tolerance towards them. “[This] is going to be a student-led course where students are going to be studying groups who have traditionally been disenfranchised and the issues they’ve faced today,” Combating Intolerance teacher Julia Braxton said. “We’re looking for [students] who have all different backgrounds, beliefs

and political ideologies—particularly students who are looking to be change-makers.” Braxton hopes to have students learn through activities like movies, field trips and service projects rather than textbooks and PowerPoints. The class is designed to be flexible around current events so teachers can pause a unit to focus on something happening in the news. Especially for those who don’t do well under pressure, it’s not a class where students will have to worry about being tested. “It’s supposed to be a class where kids can brain dump and it’s really meant to follow students’ interests,” Braxton said. “It’s definitely not a class where you’ll have to stay up until 3 a.m. [doing work].”


hile necessary for those who use hand signals to communicate, the American Sign Language (ASL) elective is being offered for anyone in the school who wants the learn its style out of pure interest. “People have wanted [the ASL elective] for many years, and the hardest part of adding [it] into a school [was] finding someone to teach it,” ASL teacher Heather Bovaird said. “Last summer, I got my interpreter’s certification, so now I’m qualified [by] the county to teach the class.” Teaching this class is something both Bovaird and Dr. Ellen Reilly, who was an ASL teacher and interpreter before she became a principal here, have wanted to be able to

do for years. Now all students, from rising freshmen to seniors, have the opportunity to learn this unique language. Similar to a world language, ASL teaches the basic vocabulary and grammar associated with hand communication. The class will also satisfy the language requirement for the advanced diploma once it hits three levels in the fall of 2021, and it already has the interest of around 40 students. “It’s really [no] different [from your typical language class]—you’re just using your hands instead of your words,” Bovaird said. “We’re also going to focus on things like deaf culture, discrimination against the population and various other things related to the language.”


with teachers accordingly at the elementary, middle or high school level. As such, the class acts as an internship where students will have an opportunity to work with kids. “Most students think teaching is easy because they’ve been in a classroom all their life,” DeRusso said. “This class really helps [them] decide whether or not they actually want to teach students as a career.” Not only does the class improve its students’ teaching skills, but it also ensures them a career in teaching at FCPS once they’re out of college. Despite only being offered to juniors and seniors who can drive, this class is worth considering for those with hopes of becoming a teacher in the future.

or those who plan to pursue a career in teaching, Teach for Tomorrow provides a hands-on learning experience where students learn to teach from teachers. “[Teach for Tomorrow] is a class that takes students who want to be teachers and gives them practice in the classroom,” Teach for Tomorrow teacher Meghan DeRusso said. “It became a class because Fairfax County foresees a shortage of teachers.” While the class was only offered in the Falls Church Academy, it is now available for those at McLean who want a try at the teaching experience. Depending on their interest, students will select from the age group they would like to teach and will then be connected

Reporting & page design by Eric Mizusawa | Graphics by Jackson Clayton


Early releases eliminated

2019-20 FCPS calendar gets rid of early releases ADDIE BROWN FEATURES EDITOR


tudents always look forward to early release days. Shortened classes, no third period and, best of all, getting to leave school at 11:55 a.m., three hours earlier than a regular school day. At a school board meeting in June 2018, the school board decided to remove early releases from the 2019-20 FCPS calendar. “Early releases were [initially] implemented to provide professional development time for teachers, who otherwise would only have time at the beginning and end of the year to have those opportunities,” school board member Ryan McElveen said. It had come to the board’s attention that early release days were causing problems for families with young children and not providing the desired outcomes for teachers. “Community members expressed logistical concerns about the early releases,

including daycare arrangements for younger students released early,” McElveen said. Last year, the board modified the 20182019 school calendar to include three-hour early releases, replacing the prior two-hour early releases. Even with the extra time allocated for teacher development, it still wasn’t enough time for teachers get adequate work done. “Teachers and administrators felt that it would be better to set aside entire days for professional development since so much time is lost in transition from a school day to the [personal development] opportunities on early release days,” McElveen said. Next school year, there will be 12 student holidays instead of 10 as well as 20 days built in to miss for snow days rather than 18. “It’s far better to do that, because the early release days, especially if you teach two classes on consecutive days, and one’s got an hour and a half class and the other has

an hour complicates things," social studies teacher Ian Howell said. Some students are agitated by this change in the calendar, as early release days have been a part of students' lives for so long. “As a student, I look forward to early releases because they give us an occasional break aside from student holidays and holiday breaks," sophomore Alexia Granados said. "It’s something that many of my friends and I look forward to and we love, especially since they’ve been in place since we started elementary school.” Though this is a large adjustment for some students, the school board believes this change will have positive effects on members of the Fairfax County community. “There will be minimal impact on teachers and students, but overall it will be more efficient for all parties, especially parents who will not have to scramble to deal with students coming home early,” McElveen said.

Snow days save county money Fairfax County saves hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on snow days BEN BROOKS SPORTS EDITOR


now days. Many adults consider them to be a necessary safety precaution. Many students consider them to be an opportunity for a day of fun and extra sleep. However, there are hidden benefits to snow days. “Bus fuel...typically costs us around $36,000 on an average day,” school board member Ryan McElveen said. This year alone, there have been multiple days where it seemed as though schools were going to close, but didn’t. Each time they didn’t close, $36,000 on bus fuel was used. On the three snow days 6 | NEWS | FEBRUARY

at the beginning of February, FCPS saved a total of $108,000 on bus fuel. Bus fuel is not the only cost associated with closing school—substitute teacher pay is also nonexistent during snow days. “Our daily average cost for long-term and short-term subs combined is about $90k,” McElveen said. “Those are funds that would not be paid if a snow day is called.” Through bus fuel and substitute teacher pay alone, FCPS saves $126,000 each snow day, totaling $378,000 so far in the 2018-19 school year. Snow days often seem like a waste of time and resources, but the savings are huge. FCPS

is a large county, so big savings such as these can go toward future improvements in the county. Every time school is on, regardless of a delay or not, FCPS has to spend well over $100,000 on subs and bus fuel. In the last few years, snow totals have been well below average, resulting in fewer snow days which meant less savings for the county. In Fairfax County, the first 18 snow days require no makeup. This allows FCPS to cancel school 18 times with no penalty. By doing so, FCPS could save up to $2.3 million each year just from cancelling school for snow. Infographic & page design by Anya Chen

Bill introduced against Trump trans ban Legislation passed in response to Supreme Court ruling CORDELIA LAWTON REPORTER JESSICA OPSAHL-ONG OPINIONS EDITOR


rump’s military ban, which limits how the transgender community can serve in the military, is meeting opposition from courts to communities. In response to the ban a bill was brought forward on Feb. 7 by Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand and two others would officially allow transgender people to serve. The bill “The heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have all testified to Congress that transgender service members are serving in our military without any problems,” Gillbrand said. “We should end this discriminatory ban for good and ensure our transgender service members can continue to do their jobs, serve with dignity and protect our country.” The bill was proposed in response to the Supreme Court ruling that lower federal courts could not contest Trump’s ban. Trump first mentioned the ban in a tweet on July 26, 2017. It would make transgender people serve as their biological sex and not cover the medical cost for transitioning. “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” Trump tweeted. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be

Feb. 28, 1994 “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” introduced by Clinton administration

burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgenders in the military would entail.” Trump’s budgetary concerns are echoed by some at McLean.



“I’ve got no problem with anyone serving for our country, but they need to be fit for the job and not cost the government money unnecessarily,” said junior Max Wohlschlegel, president of Turning Point USA, a conservative club at McLean. These concerns have been heavily debated. The medical cost for having transgender people in the military ranges from $2.4 to

June 6, 2018 Transgender people can officially openly serve in the military

Sept. 20, 2011 “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” officially repealed

8.4 million, according to a 2016 report by Rand Corporation. This is 0.04 to 0.13 percent of the military’s sizable budget. The controversy over Trump’s decision prompted many lower federal courts to challenge it. But the constitutionality of disputing national policies was challenged in the Supreme Court case on Jan. 22. The Supreme Court decision has mainly been seen as a blow to transgender individuals serving in the military. “I think these little things have such a huge impact, because in a way you were born into a world where things were changing so quickly [regarding acceptance],” English teacher and Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) sponsor Seth LeBlanc said. For this reason the decision has been contested by the LGBTQ+ community, including the GSA at McLean, which had a meeting on the subject on Feb. 7. “This shouldn’t really be an issue. If people want to serve in the military they should be allowed to no matter what,” an anonymous transgender student said. The controversy surrounding Trump’s ban led to the bill, which is now on the Senate floor. “I definitely see the new bill as a step in the right direction and it confirms the idea that you shouldn’t deny someone the right to do something purely on the basis of gender identity,” the anonymous student said.

Jan. 22, 2019 Supreme Court upholds transgender ban

July 26, 2017 Trump tweets that transgender people can no longer serve

Page design by Jessica Opsahl-Ong & Cordelia Lawton | Infographic by Dasha Makarishcheva

Feb. 7, 2019 Legislation introduced against transgender ban



THE KEY TO SUCCESS — Junior Alex Bahmanyar shows off the Duolingo app on his phone, which he uses to improve his French.

HOW TO LEARN A LANGUAGE MORE EFFICIENTLY VIRTUAL PROGRESSION — Sophomore Fiona Kilcoyne tracks her progress every week using the language apps on her phone.

THE GRIND NEVER STOPS — Junior Jake Mitchell tries to read a book in German, taking advantage of the many books available in various foreign languages in the library.




hinking in another language forces your mind to remember and solidify terms in your memory. Some students go the extra mile to ensure they fully engage themselves in a new language. “Every now and then I set my phone’s language settings as German,” junior Jake Mitchell said. “Whenever I didn’t know what a word meant, I had to translate it and remember it. My German has gotten significantly better ever since.” These tactics help students consistently use the language they are aiming to learn, which is crucial for developing those language skills. “In order to learn a language, you need to use it consistently,” sophomore Zeyad Khadih said. “It’s almost like a muscle—if you don’t use it enough it won’t get any better.”



etting organizational and studying goals is necessary for success, especially when improving language proficiency. “Every time I work on my Arabic skills, I have a goal in mind that I want to achieve,” sophomore Ahmed Yassir said. “There is a great feeling of satisfaction when I complete them.” Goals enforce self-progression, helping students learn new methods to focus on productivity. “Knowing my long- and short-term goals for learning Arabic creates a sense of responsibility,” Yassir said. “Rather than aimlessly staring at my homework, not knowing why I have to do it, I know exactly what I’m working towards when I study.”



lashcards serve a multi-purpose learning approach to learning vocabulary and other content. “To be able to learn a language well, you must take a varied approach to studying,” German teacher Karen Wolpert said. “Color coding flashcards helps with remembering whether a word is masculine or feminine. Even placing Post-Its with a word on a light switch works.” However, it does take some self-motivation in order to benefit from using flashcards. “The hardest part of learning a language is the discipline needed to practice with flashcards consistently,” Wolpert said.



pps like Duolingo and Busuu offer features that are not provided by traditional classroom settings, including picture-word association, faster feedback and advanced speakers who are ready to assist. Online resources are especially useful for students with busier schedules, as it’s up to them to decide when and where they want to practice. “Having an app on my phone to be able to work any time drastically improved my French,” junior Alex Bahmanyar said. Such apps also monitor progress while boosting their users’ levels of motivation. “With every lesson I complete, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come with my French,” Bahmanyar said.

A new coordinator takes on the task

Beth Bruins: the person behind the testing center SARAH SOLIS REPORTER


continuous line of students runs from the front of Beth Bruins’ desk to outside her classroom door. Between graphing calculators, formula sheets, the tap of a student’s foot on the floor, whispered words and faces contorted into concentration, the new testing center coordinator has a room that is always in a state of organized chaos. Beginning work in FCPS this year, Bruins has held several other jobs in the area, ranging from working at the CIA museum as the assistant curator to managing the social media for the Central Union Mission, a homeless shelter in D.C. “This is the first time I’ve worked at FCPS, but I’ve done administrative jobs at other places,” Bruins said. “I’ve been wanting to work at FCPS because I have three sons and two of them are still in school. I wanted to be on the same schedule as them.” Due to having to organize days of testing times and folders full of student tests, Bruins is constantly busy. “You have over a hundred teachers in this building that may be using the testing center, so being sure that you are keeping those tests organized, that they are going to the right

student and that they are being returned to the right folder is really important,” assistant principal Sean Rolon said. In the first quarter of this year there were 2,550 distinct entries in the testing center. With so many people rushing in and out of the center, Bruins has the tough job of making sure everyone gets their test done during their set amount of time.



“The hardest part of this job is when the testing center is fully booked and people are coming in to take their tests. I also got people coming in to make appointments and it’s just really hectic and chaotic,” Bruins said.

“Making sure everybody gets what they need when they need it and getting everyone to start on time has been the most challenging part.” Bruins’ job requires her to be an expert communicator. She has to be patient and flexible with others so she can execute her job proficiently. “You have to be able to communicate with students, you have to be able to communicate with teachers and sometimes you have to serve as that middle of the road to help organize their schedule,” Rolon said. Students say they appreciate Bruins as she makes the testing center a welcoming and comfortable environment. Her kindness and desire to help people make it easy to schedule appointments. “I really like her,” junior Kritika Panta said. “She’s super nice and warns you when your time is almost up while taking the test, which is really helpful. She’s really organized and easy to talk to.” Hitting the ground running, Bruins is hopeful about her future at McLean. “I’m really happy to be here and I’ve only been here for [such a short amount of time],” Bruins said. “I really love it here already. Everybody is just so welcoming and nice.”



PUT TO THE TEST — Students work silently during after school hours in the testing center. This is testing center coordinator Beth Bruins’ first year working in FCPS. (Photo by Sarah Solis) Page design by Sarah Solis















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DANA EDSON NEWS EDITOR MICHELLE CHENG REPORTER NICHOLAS LOHMAN NEWS EDITOR his is anyone’s game...good start for both...look at that precision, skipping ledges like it’s nothing...he is aMAXing...he’s not looking back...Max is almost home clean.” The crowd erupts. “He does it, Max Feinberg gets his second buzzer.” The announcers of the popular TV show American Ninja Warrior Junior stand in awe as the McLean freshman destroys his competitor. The salmon ladder and the warped wall are not the average obstacles a high schooler faces, but for Max, these physically demanding challenges are part of his daily routine. Max was initially drawn to the sport of Ninja after feeling excluded from traditional sports. “I got interested in American Ninja Warrior just from sucking at other sports,” Max said. “I wasn’t really fitting into the 12 | FEATURES | FEBRUARY

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team or competitive environment, so I just tried to look for something that was a little more open and inclusive.” Unlike other sports, success in parkour is based on individual goals.


“[In sports] like soccer and basketball, something is set for you to do, and people are expecting you to do the same thing over and over,” Max said. “But for parkour it’s all different and it changes every time.”

Max discovered the sport Ninja in third grade after a meet and greet with professional Ninjas at a local gym. He soon found that Ninja was the one sport that could accommodate his athletic talents. “I’ve seen these guys on TV. I look up to them. I admire them. I realized that a lot of stuff that got them into the sport was what got me into the sport,” Max said. “So I [was] like, ‘Okay, I want to end up like these guys. I’m going to do what they do.’” The elementary school jungle gym that Max credits as his inspiration began as a frustrating playground obstacle. He could not even swing on the swings. In later grades, he began mastering the tasks that playground equipment enabled and became obsessed with agility-based tasks. “In the fourth grade he started coming home with bloody palms,” Feinberg’s mom, Debbie Feinberg, said. “[I thought], ‘What are you doing, what’s going on?’... He was just on the monkey bars all the time.” Max began to follow his Ninja ambitions at age 9, but not many gyms had equipment

Page design by Dana Edson | Photo used with permission of NBC Universal Kids

for parkour training. As a result he entered the creative realm of the sport. “Me and my dad...remodeled the basement and [built] one set of monkey bars going down and a little rock wall.” As soon as the basement was complete and ready for training, Max immediately intensified his Ninja practice regimen. “It’s all Ninja, three hours a day, seven days a week,” Max said. Max’s parents became more involved in his progress as he decided to intensely focus on Ninja. “I like that he’s down there working out and building Ninja obstacles instead of sitting on the couch playing video games all day,” Debbie Feinberg said. “It’s really given him a community and an outlet to be athletic and to be creative.” The family endures an immense amount of travel because of the sport’s lack of prominence in Virginia. “[We’ve been to] New Jersey, North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and [recently] L.A. for filming for the TV show,” Debbie Feinberg said. “So, yeah, it’s a pretty big commitment, but Ninja competitions are really fun, so we’re happy to do it.” At age 14, Max’s love for Ninja led him to apply for NBC’s American Ninja Warrior Junior. Initially, Max had low expectations to be featured on the popular TV show. “So when I submitted [the application], I thought it would just be a ‘for fun’ thing,” Max said. “I did not think at all that I would get the call.” Because of the large number of applicants for the show, Max was shocked to receive a call back. “I knew over 10,000 kids applied, and they were only calling 64,” Max said. “I [was] like, ‘I’m a nobody in the sport right now. I highly doubt I’m getting the call.’ So when I did, I [was] like, ‘Oh my god, I gotta get prepared.’” A competition like American Ninja Warrior Junior is something Max had been training for his whole life. After watching the show for so long, Max felt ready to take on the course. “When I heard that someone leaked that it was a Ninja versus Ninja type course, all I trained was [my] speed leading up to it,” Max said. “[I kept thinking], ‘Go as fast as you can, be as efficient as you can get.’” After months of persistent training, Max’s

preparation helped him to calm his nerves in the spotlight. “I probably wasn’t as nervous as I should have been...when I was on that starting block. I was kind of scared leading up to it,” Max said. “I realized this is what I practice, what I’m good at. So I just shut the cameras and the crowd out and just focused on the course.” Max’s determination and focused state of mind led him to win the preliminary rounds and qualify for the semifinals, which will be aired on April 20. American Ninja Warrior Junior and the sport of Ninja has created numerous opportunities for Max in and out of the gym. Max has created lifelong friendships and introduced the sport of Ninja to his classmates as well. “About a year ago in eighth grade I [met Max] through band, and I didn’t know he did Ninja at the time,” Max’s friend Jake Barnard said. “When I started hanging out

with him he introduced me to [Ninja] and it was pretty fun, but it’s hard to get into it.” The world of Ninja is small in comparison to many other sports, and finding friends in the Ninja community is especially hard due to the limited amount of participants. However, American Ninja Warrior Junior introduced Max to a much larger Ninja community. “I [had] never met a whole crowd of people who were as interested in [Ninja] as I was. We’re kind of like the odd ones out, so it was cool to talk to them about their experiences and how they got into it,” Max said. “I [used to think] I [was] competing against them. Now I know I’m competing with them.” Max’s experience on the show has inspired him to continue to work harder. “You’re not going to win every time; you’re gonna have setbacks,” Max said. “You are going to have to keep moving forward.”

HANGING OUT — Max Feinberg trains hard at the gym, working on his strength for an upcoming competition. The rock wall is just one of the many obstacles Max uses to practice. (Photo courtesy of Debbie Feinberg)


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Entrepreneurs serve McLean students

TeenServ business makes impact on local community JACK SHIELDS SPORTS EDITOR


ounded a year ago by three McLean students, TeenServ is the new way for local teens to make easy money. The company is already gaining traction in the community among both students and adults, and its founders, sophomore Jack Lannin and juniors Ben Jeannot and Quin Frew, have visions of growth for the future. The three were looking for ways to make money last summer and found difficulty finding good paying work around neighborhoods. Their struggle inspired them to found TeenServ in the hopes of helping other teens avoid the common struggles of making money. The company operates mainly from its website, where adults in the McLean community can post work they want done on their lawn or driveway. Users post thorough descriptions of the desired work for each job, as well as what tools are required. Any student between the ages of 13 to 18 can sign up for the jobs posted, while TeenServ handles payment and any issues that arise. “Our idea was that kids could find outdoor jobs without going door-to-door, which intimidates some,” Lannin said. The trio have put in extensive work behind the scenes in order to make the site easier for local teens to use. “We spend hours working on the website, making it functional and going doorto-door ourselves to find customers,” Jeannot said.

The work put into building the business has paid off for students using the service. With over 70 McLean teens registered, they have made roughly $1,300 combined— just during the winter offseason. Working through TeenServ has proven to be a step up from standard jobs. “Getting other jobs is hard and expensive,” Jeannot said. “TeenServ is free to sign up for and use.” Aside from easing the difficulty of finding traditional retail jobs, TeenServ offers great flexibility and independence while still maintaining efficient work from teens. “You don’t have as much of a commitment like other jobs,” Jeannot said. “You get to work when you want and when you can.” There are a few guidelines set in place to ensure positive interactions between homeowners and workers. TeenServ mandates that teens should not be using their

Page design by Maren Kranking | Photo by Jack Shields

phones while on a job unless in case of emergency. As communications between homeowners and working teens are primarily handled through TeenServ, the site aims to provide a safe and risk-free way to work. “We manually scan every address to see if they are a registered sex offender, and if they are then they aren’t allowed to post work,” Lannin said. If workers ever feel unsafe while on the job, TeenServ will handle the issue. “We tell our teens that if they ever feel uncomfortable, [they should] leave and we’ll take care of the job,” Lannin said. The TeenServ founders are currently planning ways to expand their business. “We’re trying to make an app, kind of like Uber, to make the service more easily accessible,” Lannin said. “Someday we want to operate nationally.” TeenServ has already reached great success locally, and the three founders have overcome inexperience with technology to craft a thriving website. The 100 percent guarantee of well-done work makes TeenServ a great source for both adults and teens. The founders expect that a greater selection of jobs will be posted consistently in the spring and summer at the height of lawn mowing season. Students interested in making fast money can use to take the hassle out of finding jobs, all while helping the community.




ccording to the Fairfax County website, 29 percent of students within FCPS receive either free or reduced lunch. Within individual schools, this number can climb to staggering levels. Annandale High School, Falls Church High School and Justice High School, all schools in Region 2 with McLean, have economically disadvantaged populations of around 50 percent. McLean has one of only 9.6 percent, according to the Virginia Department of Education. The level of economic disparity that exists within FCPS is undeniable. One way FCPS is trying to help economically disadvantaged students is by trying to hire teachers who will better serve them. “The first thing is putting a highly qualified teacher in front of all those kids. Those kids need our best and brightest teachers,” FCPS Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand said. “We’re working in the budget to make our teacher scale market competitive at every step, and we at Fairfax have fallen behind.” Schools with exceptionally high rates of underserved students also tend to have a disproportionately high number of minority students, with minority enrollment generally hovering around 80 percent. Brabrand stresses the importance of hiring a diverse set of teachers to not only combat this issue, but also to encourage tolerance within the community as a whole. “The most important thing is to have a highly qualified teacher. It’s also important to have teachers that reflect the diversity of our student body,” Brabrand said. “[We need] to hire diverse teachers, regardless of whether the student body is diverse, because our society is diverse.” Brabrand also supports the use of certain programs to support economically disadvantaged students. “One program I’m putting in the budget this year to expand is AVID,” Brabrand said. “We have it at some high schools and middle schools, but not all, and I’ve actually 16 | FEATURES | FEBRUARY


In FCPS, neighborhoods close to each other can be very far apart proposed adding it to an elementary school.” AVID, which stands for Achievement via Individual Determination, is an elective class that has been implemented nationwide to support student learning. Students are encouraged to take it for all of high school. “It’s a class that teaches you how to learn,” Brabrand said. “It offers you several great reading and writing strategies, it offers study skill strategies and it [provides] access to tutors.” McLean will also be implementing FCPSOn next year, a program designed to provide greater access to technology for economically disadvantaged students. It has already been implemented in some FCPS schools. “Next year, to deal with disparities in access to technology, [we’re doing] FCPSOn, where every kid can get a laptop to use at school,” Brabrand said.

According to Brabrand, the economic disparities in FCPS emerged during the Great Recession in 2008 and have remained since then. “We had a Great Recession 10 years ago, and while the economic recovery has been going on now for several years, it’s helped those in the middle and the top better than those near the bottom,” Brabrand said. “The economic recovery has not been evenly applied to all economic classes.” The rate of economically disadvantaged people in Fairfax County is only rising, especially with the impending arrival of Amazon. According to The Washington Post, low-income residents in the D.C. area will suffer major losses from Amazon’s arrival in Arlington. As rent and real estate prices rise, affordability will decrease, forcing many to move elsewhere. “I think housing is one of the great challenges for Fairfax and Northern

Data obtained via Virginia Department of Education

Virginia, not just because Amazon’s coming, but because we want to have great teachers not just teach here but live here,” Brabrand said. Amazon is expected to bring more high-paying jobs to the area, but that may adversely affect the community. According to The Washington Post, high rates of homelessness in Seattle, where Amazon’s first headquarters is located, are related to a high cost of living. Still, the current scale of socioeconomic disparities in Fairfax County is something often overlooked, especially among certain elementary schools. “Some of our elementary schools in the southeastern part of the county have up to 90 percent of their students on free and reduced price lunch (FRM),” school board member-at-large Ryan McElveen said. McElveen says the socioeconomic tipping point is reached when 40 percent of the student body is deemed economically disadvantaged. Many schools in FCPS have already reached that threshold, often by a large margin. “The tipping around 40 percent, which means we need to invest more and work much harder at schools with higher rates to ensure equitable experiences and success for students,” McElveen said. While a number of Fairfax County schools have met this tipping point, McElveen believes there has been success in helping them. “When schools reach the socioeconomic tipping point, their test scores and general performance would be expected to drop,” McElveen said. “However, we had reasonable success in FCPS at schools that have surpassed this point.” FCPS combats socioeconomic disparities with systems of proportional funding depending on how many students are economically disadvantaged. “Traditionally, FCPS has used ‘needsbased’ funding formulas to address the socioeconomic disparities throughout the county,” McElveen said. This needs-based funding for schools is distributed based on a variety of factors. “Schools are provided additional funding to account for higher numbers of FRM students, English language

learners and special education students,” McElveen said. One contributor to these disparities is the economic composition of FCPS neighborhoods. “These disparities are rooted in housing patterns and land use planning that led to segregated neighborhoods,” McElveen said. According to U.S. News & World Report, McLean and Langley have minority enrollments of 42 percent and 35 percent, while Falls Church and Annandale have minority enrollments of 80 percent and 83 percent, respectively.

“Growing up I wanted to help my family because when it comes to cold weather or snow, my dad doesn’t have a job and my mom has to work crazy hard to pay for the rent,” BD said. BD works alongside his mother at McDonald’s, allowing him to understand his mother’s dedication to supporting the family. “I basically wanted to bust my ass and be able to help with [bills] and rent to provide for my family,” BD said. School social worker Marly JeromeFeatherson is heavily involved with this issue at McLean.

[THE 2008 ECONOMIC RECOVERY] HELPED THOSE IN THE MIDDLE AND TOP BETTER THAN THOSE NEAR THE BOTTOM.” — DR. SCOTT BRABRAND FCPS SUPERINTENDENT Those who attend McLean and Langley are generally located in more affluent neighborhoods. McElveen holds the same concerns as Brabrand regarding recent socioeconomic trends. “The number of students in need has been trending upwards in recent years,” McElveen said. “I believe this is due to the rising number of immigrants who are moving [to] our area.” McElveen expressed concern for how this issue will persist in the future. “I believe that these disparities will only increase in the years to come as the cost of living rises and the job market becomes more competitive,” McElveen said. Some students have been particularly impacted by the economic disparities in FCPS. A junior attending Falls Church High School, who requested to be referred to as “BD,” is one of these people. BD works nearly full-time at McDonald’s to make up for his father’s lost income in cold weather.

Infographic by Anya Chen | Page design by Maren Kranking

“We’re on the upper end but...I don’t want to negate the fact that we do have needs,” Jerome-Featherson said. Despite McLean having a relatively small economically disadvantaged population, the PTA helps those who are in a less fortunate position. “Our PTA makes gift cards available for families who, at some point or another, may need some financial assistance,” Jerome-Featherson said. Jerome-Featherson says some McLean students are affected by homelessness, and some are also unable to receive free and reduced lunch. “Some parents, for whatever reason, don’t fill out the form, and so there are kids who go through their day without eating,” Jerome-Featherson said. Despite the scale of these disparities, FCPS is taking initiatives to remedy them. Nonetheless, according to McElveen and Brabrand, the socioeconomic disparities in FCPS are still worsening. “We’re not rich but we’re not poor, but it’s hard to get that green,” BD said. FEBRUARY | FEATURES | 17


Allison Merhaut

10Qs with

Social Studies & Learning Disabilities Teacher SCAN THIS CODE TO SEE ALL HER RESPONSES:

Reporting, photos & page design by Pran Kittivorapat

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What is the first thing you do each day at school? The first thing I do is come in and check my email. How is school here different from where you grew up? The school here is actually pretty similar to where I grew up because of the size. I went to a really big high school. We had the same pressure to succeed and go to college— very similar goals as [students] do here. It’s different because I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We definitely handle the weather a lot better than here [in Virginia]. What is your favorite lesson to teach? Industrialization. I get to talk about Pittsburgh.


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What is your favorite thing about teaching teenagers? Teenagers are a little more mature than the elementary kids. I can actually have a conversation with you and explain to you why you have to turn something in, or why we have to do it this way. It’s interesting to hear the way your minds work, and some of the things you say are keeping me on my toes. What do you enjoy about teaching small classes? Getting to know the kids, focusing more on their individual learning needs. If you could invite someone in history to teach with you, who would it be? It would either be George Washington, [who] would have a lot to offer in a classroom, or Eleanor Roosevelt. She is a strong lady, the kind of person [who] gets up and gets it done. I think it would be fascinating not only to listen to her, but to learn a lot from her. I would love to see her get kids in line.

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Who is your favorite hockey player? Kris Letang from the Pittsburgh Penguins. What made you decide to coach field hockey? I played field hockey in high school and I really enjoyed it. I coached field hockey for a little bit when I was still teaching in Pittsburgh, [so] when I came down here and the position opened up, I really wanted to take it. Where was your favorite place you visited during your honeymoon? Definitely Zermatt, Switzerland. It was beautiful, a really small town, so I got to know the people there really well and settle into their way of life, which was cool.


Which movie would you call “the best of all time”? White Christmas. I know that it’s a Christmas movie, but I love the actors in it—they were amazing. The singing [and] dancing was great, and I just love the story. FEBRUARY | FEATURES | 19


Junior pursues woodworking in and out of the classroom TALIA BLAKEMORE REPORTER & MAREN KRANKING EDITOR-IN-CHIEF


ach day after school, the sounds of machinery, sanding and old ‘90s music can be heard from a room in the back of junior Andrew LaPointe’s garage. Spending hours upon hours in his selfcreated personal workshop, LaPointe has become a dedicated woodworker. LaPointe began his hobby when he moved to a new house in McLean in 2012. After he discovered the previous owners had not cleared the garage of some spare wood slabs, his interest was sparked. “My dad gave me a box of nails and a hammer and said I could do whatever I wanted, [so] I made a little bench and it was really quite atrocious. It actually was


terrible,” LaPointe said. Despite a slow start in the growth of his projects, LaPointe quickly improved and woodworking became a calming activity for him. “I’m exhausted when I come home from school,” LaPointe said. “But doing something that's not as intellectually stressing but more physical, like working with your hands, helps me recharge a lot, and it's very relaxing for me.” LaPointe is self-taught, drawing his inspiration from videos posted by woodworkers on YouTube and Instagram, as well as from several books on the subject. He specializes in creating

furniture. While there are several pieces of his work throughout his house, including a nightstand in his bedroom, he gives most of his projects to family and friends. He made a music stand for his aunt’s piano and is currently creating a dresser for his little brother. “I particularly enjoy [making] tables. You know, once you make one, you can kind of make them all. But I'd like to start getting into chairs,” LaPointe said. Along with LaPointe's affinity for making furniture, he also enjoys experimenting with other projects. He has tried making armor in the past and has a goal to build a pair of skis one day, Photos & page design by Maren Kranking

motivated by his love of skiing. Because woodworking is such an exact craft, LaPointe has faced many difficulties when making projects—especially when trying something new. Even with a simple picture frame, for example, LaPointe first found the angles difficult to align correctly. “The hardest part about [woodworking], which is what probably makes it intimidating

for people, is simplifying the projects in your head and understanding what you're actually doing,” LaPointe said. “Everything can be broken down to cutting to the line. But when you look at the whole project, it starts to become way more complicated.” Aside from his work at home, LaPointe is enrolled in Advanced STEM Engineering and Robotics at McLean, taught by Technology and Engineering teacher Cara Mosley. “He’s a very methodical worker; he really does enjoy woodworking,” Mosley said. “He's very selfless, always going the extra mile for himself and his classmates.” As he is already experienced in the subject, LaPointe often finishes his work early and is eager to aid his classmates with their projects. “With 30 people in the classroom, sometimes it's hard for me to answer everybody's questions,” Mosley said. “It's always really nice when somebody else knows what they're talking about.” Technology Education teacher Libby Settlemyer had LaPointe in her STEM Engineering class last year. She, too, noticed LaPointe’s proficiency in woodworking. “I could quickly see that Andrew needed some additional challenges because he does a lot of what I teach students about [at home],” Settlemyer said. “He already had that background.” Aside from assigned projects in class, LaPointe helps both teachers work on the equipment in the STEM classes. Replacing saw blades as well as taking machinery apart for repairs are just a few of the extra projects he has taken on. LaPointe also uses his time in class to design and construct devices that improve

the functionality of the STEM classrooms. He is planning on creating a stand for Settlemyer’s rulers, but LaPointe’s most outstanding project thus far is a fold-up counter that extends the workspace in Settlemyer’s classroom. “He took that vision [I had], he understood immediately what I was talking about and went to work trying to engineer something that would be practical,”


TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION TEACHER Settlemyer said. “He definitely likes to get things right and will keep working on it until it's right. That's the sign of a really good engineer.” LaPointe is spreading his love of the trade to the community—he is teaching his younger brother woodworking skills, and local Cub Scouts come to his shop each year to build Pinewood Derby cars. Whether or not someone is interested in woodworking, LaPointe recommends the vocational experience to everyone. “Go make something," LaPointe said. “I think it'd be awesome if everyone had at least an hour they could spend making something, because it might surprise you how cool it is." NAILED IT! — Andrew LaPointe stands in his woodshop, which is in the back of his garage. He spends an average of two hours working each day after school. THIS IS NOT A DRILL — LaPointe cuts a slab of wood using a band saw. He is currently building a dresser for his younger brother.




CHEATING SYSTEM Students under academic pressure turn to cheating




rades are success. Students are put under tremendous pressure to be academic role models for their peers, an idea that is drilled into their minds by parents, friends or teachers. Ironically, many of these students are so focused on receiving high grades in school that they compromise their morals to receive them. Since students are under such severe pressure to do well in school, they rely on academic dishonesty to achieve the perception of success that is ingrained in their minds. Why are they willing to risk receiving a zero on their assignments and earning negative marks on their transcripts in order to get a test score most likely only a few points higher than their score if they had done their own work? The only explanation for this thinking can be found by evaluating its roots. In a survey of 316 students, 80.3 percent of students at McLean admitted to cheating at some point during their academic career. That means that four out of five students have cheated. Mary Smith* was caught cheating on a test. “I looked over to the Scantron of the girl next to me and I started to [copy] it onto mine—not all the questions, just a few I was confused on. My teacher noticed me from across the room and called me out [in front of ] the whole class, which was embarrassing because everyone was pretty smart in there, and I was the only one who didn’t know [the answers],” Smith said. “He told me to pick up my stuff and move to sit next to someone else.”



After this experience, Smith said she learned the lesson that cheating is not worth the trouble that comes with it. Not only will it be embarrassing, but it will be recorded permanently for all FCPS administrators and teachers to see and track.

GRADE OVER EDUCATION “This is the only high school I’ve worked in so I don’t have a direct comparison, but I would say that at McLean, it’s really cool to be a good student,” school psychologist Beth Werfel said. “There is definitely some social status that seems to be attached to how difficult your course schedule is.” At McLean, academic achievement is the main focus for the majority of students. For some, the stress of keeping track of grades and course demands is seemingly inescapable. The halls are filled with students discussing their grades and sharing information about tests for the day. “People talk about SIS a lot and the grades they get on tests,” sophomore Max Volkov said. “They also get really nervous before they take their tests and talk about how scared they are.” This is a cycle that never ends. Even during class time, grades and tests are typical topics of conversation, causing a wave of anxiety to spread. “I commonly hear my fellow students discussing grades and tests,” sophomore Oskar Henick said. “I believe students are putting too much emphasis on grades and, in turn, are feeling stressed out.”

*This name was changed to protect the identity of the student Photo illustration by Jack Stenzel | Page design by Zach Anderson


About 84 percent of students surveyed believe that higher-level classes contribute to stress. According to U.S. News, 80 percent of McLean’s student body takes at least one Advanced Placement (AP) class. This contrasts dramatically with the national average of 37.7 percent participation in AP classes, as found by The College Board. Competition accounts for the large percentage of students who take AP classes at McLean. The student body is incredibly motivated, but it seems to be for the wrong reasons. With all of the competition and high-level classes, students feel stressed beyond their capacities. This negatively affects the mental health of all students, both those who feel stressed and those around them. “It’s a lot of competition,” said junior Jacob Paikin, a National English Honor Society leader and Model United Nations delegate. “I think a lot of that pressure is created by the students rather than the faculty, though.” Students who have seen the academic environment at McLean compared to other schools see the competition in a similar light, but realize that it is mostly unique to McLean. Sophie Garzione, a former McLean student, transferred to Bishop O’Connell High School after the 2017-18 school year and does not regret the choice she made. “At O’Connell I definitely feel less stressed out. It’s still hard courses and I’m taking APs, but I feel like everyone around you wants you to succeed instead of it being a competition. APs are less stressed [at O’Connell] than at McLean, where kids are taking five to six APs, [either] by choice or even not by choice by their parents,” Garzione said. “I also put myself in a friend group that motivates me.” The 42.3 percent AP participation gap between McLean and the nation’s standards could also explain why students feel compelled to cheat. As more students hear about others taking high numbers of difficult classes, they feel pressured to as well.

“People want to take the hardest classes to be even with their friends or get the same grade their friends are getting. If they hear someone else is getting an A, they feel strongly that they need that A as well, so there’s definitely a lot of competition,” Paikin said. Outside the high school environment, Dr. Jane Dreyfuss is the current Region 2 Interim Executive Principal for FCPS and is an adjunct professor at Marymount University. She was an FCPS English teacher for 17 years and encountered plagiarism often in her classes.



“I think in high school we’re talking about young people who are still learning, and in college we’re talking about adults who should know better,” Dreyfuss said. “On the university level, students should know that it’s wrong. They just shouldn’t do it.” Students who cheat may still be finding their moral compass. Teachers at McLean have noticed students are still learning how to handle their lives in higher-level courses. “I think McLean is a very high-achieving school, and I think that a lot of students are in competition with each other. Having that kind of pressure of having to

Of the 80.3% who admitted to cheating



get into their school [makes]...a lot of kids overextend themselves with much more ease, especially with afterschool activities,” English teacher Michael Enos said. “That temptation [to cheat] is there, and people are going to give in to the temptation sometimes to make some things easier. It’s easier to go that way.” Even those who confessed to cheating claim that the academically stressful atmosphere is what led to their immoral actions. “I didn’t want to fail,” Smith said. “I think it’s the focus on being required to do so well and get A’s all the time [that] motivated me to cheat, whereas if I wasn’t so stressed, I would have just said, ‘I don’t know,’ and taken the time to learn it later.”

ALL IN Cheating has come to light as a more widespread issue at McLean in recent years. This year, teachers have uncovered numerous incidents that could confirm a correlation between the competitive atmosphere and the desire to cheat. Nagham Abu-Bader, long-term substitute English teacher for Enos, was astonished to find in her first weeks of working that her students had been sharing answers to assessments with other class periods. She learned from her experience and discovered preventative measures as a result. “[On the first quiz I administered], first period bombed it, and seventh period got perfects,” AbuBader said. “I should have made two versions. I’m still learning.” She drew some conclusions about McLean during her two months here. She now works at Chantilly High School as a long-term substitute, and she notices the differences between the two school environments. “I feel like [McLean students] don’t care about learning as much as they care about getting good grades so they can get into a good college and get a good job,” Abu-Bader said. “I haven’t noticed [a focus on grades] with Chantilly kids as much… I had cases of [McLean students] crying because they had an A-minus. It’s just there’s so much pressure, I feel like, at McLean compared to Chantilly.” Cheating is not solely confined to the English department. This December, one instance of cheating during an AP AB Calculus test had consequences for the entirety of students taking the class. “Ms. [Linda] Johnson found that one of the students in our fourth period class had a slip of paper that had answers to some of the questions from our Unit 3 test, which she took,” AP AB Calculus teacher Caroline Cochrane-Braswell said. Following the discovery of the guilty student, they sought to find how much of the test’s material was compromised. “The student finished and we looked at how he had done on it. Because we found that he had all the multiple choice answers, we made all of our students Infographic by Dasha Makarishcheva

retake the multiple choice because we weren’t sure who had gotten the answers and who hadn’t,” Braswell said. When faced with a high-difficulty, college-level class such as AP Calculus, coupled with high expectations, a student may feel the need to use all the resources at their disposal to excel, even if it means breaking the honor code. “I think part of it is that they don’t want to fail. So they feel if they cheat, they’re more likely to get a better grade on it, obviously, but I think some of it stems just from a lot of pressure on students to get the best grades possible so that they can get into the best schools possible,” Braswell said. Cheating is also appealing to those who are not willing to put in the work to do well in a class. This is especially true for those students who do not partake in very challenging coursework and simply have a poor work ethic. “From [a teacher’s] perspective, we tend to think of it as being lazy,” Braswell said. Widespread cheating means teachers need to spend more time implementing countermeasures instead of refining lesson plans or helping students. “We’ve always had an A and B version of [assessments]. Now we’ll have even more versions than that. We’ll have a couple versions for my classes and a couple for her class…which is more work for us, unfortunately,” Braswell said. Perhaps more importantly, students may not be aware of how cheating practices can affect them. It is accepted as a commonplace, harmless occurrence which does not negatively affect any students, but this is definitely not the case. If a student isn’t caught, there might not seem to be consequences, but Braswell and other teachers recognize the effects cheating has on the classroom. “What [cheating] impacts the most is the students that are honest, and that are playing by the rules and are showing us what they know,” Braswell said. “The thing that hurts me and [angers me] the most, I think, is that my students that are doing [work], they’re studying, they’re working hard, they’re putting what they know on the test and they’re maybe getting a B, and then there’s some kid that’s cheating that gets an A [who doesn’t] know anything.”

VIRTUE MINE HONOR In order to counteract the numerous incidents involving individual students and entire classes, teachers have instituted some changes to give their students a reminder to be truthful in their academic endeavors. Several teachers now provide laminated copies of the McLean High School Honor Code for students to use as a cover sheet during tests. Principal Ellen Reilly believes that talking with a student and their family to uncover the issues behind their academic dishonesty is the best way to prevent cheating from occurring. FEBRUARY | IN-DEPTH | 25


“The thing that I always want to still know is what does that child know? There’s a reason they’re doing it,” Reilly said. “[I think it is best to] call home to the parents so that there’s a discussion… Some teachers feel comfortable handling it on their own, but I still want them to call home.” Enos agrees that having a conversation with a student who has cheated will help get to the bottom of the student’s reasons for their actions. However, he also makes it clear that cheating is a serious offense and will not be tolerated again in the future. “I don’t condone cheating by any means,” Enos said. “Whenever someone cheats in my class I always try to talk to them, but at the same time there are other people that are putting in the effort.” While teachers make efforts to prevent cheating and talk to cheaters, students feel there is more that could be done to counteract copying on exams. “I believe that cheating could easily be prevented if teachers paid more attention when students were taking tests and quizzes as well as clearly stating the consequences of cheating,” Henick said. Some of these current measures may not be enough to completely remove cheating from the school’s environment. Reilly and the McLean administration created a group to raise awareness for cheating. “Last year we started an honor committee. 26 | IN-DEPTH | FEBRUARY

[Cheating] is really a beast to be reckoned with. We had a group of 10 to 15 kids who went and talked with their peers and collected some data, but it looked too overwhelming,” Reilly said. Other teachers take preventative measures against cheating by setting up folders on the desks during exams. This forces a barrier between students, but it also hides the students from the teacher, creating an easier opportunity for students to use a “cheat sheet” or their phone. Displaying the honor code and using blockades will have minimal results. If students are working together, a cover sheet will do little to solve this larger issue. If a student wants to cheat, they will find a way to cheat. “The pressure that is instilled in the McLean culture surrounding the importance of grades has facilitated the pressure to cheat and unfairly get through classes because that is what students believe is more important,” senior Ella Sangree said. “Students often find cheating as the only way to get a leg up on their peers.” From a disciplinary view, Regulation 2601 of the Student Rights and Responsibilities booklet states that “forgery, cheating, plagiarism or dishonesty, including the use of portable communication devices for such purpose” can result in up to a five-day suspension. However, if the principal sends a referral to the Division Superintendent, the suspension can be increased to 10 days. “When we put in a discipline it will say that [you cheated]. The reason for [keeping records] is so that we can know if there is a trend,” Reilly said. “You might do it your freshman year and then you might do it again your junior year. It does go on your discipline record [for all of FCPS to see].” Other consequences of cheating could be receiving an F on the assignment, doing an alternative assignment, redoing the original assignment, retaking the test or having a conference with parents and administrators. Students who are looking to turn to cheating on their assignments need to recognize these consequences. “Most people know the consequences, which stops a lot of people,” Smith said. “I think it’s [more] about everyone being nervous about not getting an A. I know there’s a lot of instances where people in different classes who aren’t doing quite as well will turn to people doing better to help them out.” That being said, the stressful atmosphere at McLean is an obstacle to fostering a healthy learning environment. “Grades are more important than learning in McLean culture due to the high pressure environment and college competition,” Sangree said. “As students are constantly competing in classes, extracurriculars, leadership and everything else, cheating won’t stop until grades aren’t so heavily prioritized and glorified in the McLean culture, which won’t ever happen due to

the high percentage of students that pursue competitive colleges.” Even if the incoming flow of students who want to go to prestigious colleges might be unending, the McLean community needs to find an efficient manner to stop students from wanting to cheat. Reilly and the administration hope that cheating can be limited through understanding and reaching out to students. “We [help students] pick classes appropriately, and we recognize the stresses that [students] are [under],” Reilly said. “[Most importantly,] I think it’s building those relationships between teachers and students.” In higher-education environments, professors and administrators take cheating much more seriously. Consequences for college students have the potential to severely hinder their success in the future. “On the university level, students should know that plagiarism can not only ruin their academic record, but it can ruin their reputation, and it’s just not worth the risk,” Dreyfuss said. “I would like to think, on a high school level, some of it is a learning experience.” High school students are learning to become independent members of society who challenge themselves. The approach that high school administrators have towards cheating is more conversational and understanding than it would be in a university or professional environment due to the fact that high school is a period of growth for young adults.

RETAKE IT It will be hard for teachers and administrators to change the ways students think, since much of the stress is created through student-to-student contact. Students have to make some personal changes to set themselves up for success not based on comparisons with their peers. “Sometimes, when people’s schedules are really tight, they have to be strategic about how they use their study time and their homework time. For some people, if cheating becomes a strategic option they might turn to that option,” Werfel said. Students who feel overwhelmed by academic pressures should start by making a calendar to organize their daily routines. In wellness coach Elizabeth Scott’s book, 8 Keys to Stress Management, she advises, “In virtually all areas of life, it helps to plan ahead.” By applying Scott's logic, students who make schedules will be less stressed out and perform better academically. Another step that panicking students can take is to try to cut down on how often they check their grades. Instead of constantly checking SIS and seeing if that one grade has gone up however-many-tenths of a percent, they can rest easy at the end of the quarter knowing they tried their best. When a student is feeling overwhelming stress, teachers and counselors are always willing to come Infographic by Anya Chen

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together and form solutions that can take some pressure off. Students will maximize their success if they maintain a healthy body and mind throughout not only their high school careers, but their entire lives. McLean as a whole needs to remember that there is more to life than grades. Success in the real world is not based on a fluctuating grade calculated by how well students can bubble in answers. “There are so many factors that students have to overcome as far as what colleges are asking for, what parents are asking for and what teachers are asking for,” Enos said. “I was there as a student before. I remember the stress. It’s hard to see that wider picture of the learning process—what’s needed for it and why it’s important—when grading is the main indicator of success.” FEBRUARY | IN-DEPTH | 27

Steareing the show


Senior Nadya Steare puts on gallery art shows to feature McLean talent



enior Nadya Steare addresses a group of people as she stands in front of the large windows of the McLean art gallery. In a few minutes, the group will begin to file into the gallery, which is decked out in paper snowflakes and white lights, all to showcase the beautiful artwork hanging on the walls. “Magic of Snow” is the second seasonal art show Steare and her team of National Art Honors Society (NAHS) group members have put on. Steare and NAHS wanted to feature the artistic talents of McLean in a gallery-style exhibit where thematic art submissions of students—and, coming in March, teachers—are displayed. “The idea came to me in the beginning of the summer because I wasn’t planning to take an art class again, but I wanted to still be an active member of the art department,” Steare said. “I was doing a lot of traveling and participated in a couple of art shows myself, and it just occurred to me: ‘Why don’t we have something like that at the school?’” The first show she put on was the fallthemed “Autumn is Calling,” which opened on Oct. 1 after months of preparation. “I had the idea back in July, and I printed out a calendar and wrote this whole thing,” Steare said. “I came in and got it approved late August, when school first started.”

This ambitious idea was surprising to her peers, who had never witnessed an art show at McLean. “I came into the art room with this packet in my hand and I put it on the table, and I said, ‘We’re going to have an art show,’ and the art department’s eyes just went [big],” Steare said.


SENIOR & EXHIBITION CURATOR Steare had to build her project from the ground up, which was not an easy feat. “It was stressful...and I knew it was going to be hard. Whenever you start a new project, it’s difficult to get it going, so you really need a lot of patience, a lot of guts to really kick it and push it until people start responding,” Steare said.


The same drive that inspired Steare to propose the idea of the art show carried her through the tumultuous process of setting it up. “I’ll be honest, in the beginning I had those doubts...but I think it was too much ambition,” Steare said. “I wanted it really badly, so that kind of pushes you past a certain point.” As the project continued on, more and more people began filing in to help. “Now it’s gotten a lot better because we’ve gotten Art Honors Society members [to help]; as we started having meetings they’ve started showing up and they’ve really donated so much time through their hours collectively,” Steare said. “People kind of just came together, and now it’s a lot easier.” One of the people working side by side with Steare is sophomore Ryan Brownson, a photography student who has had three works featured in the gallery. “I help a lot with hanging up [submissions] and getting holiday materials,” Brownson said. The hard work of everyone contributing to both shows paid off in the end, with the comment book resting inside the gallery being full of positive messages about the show being “amazing,” “beautiful” and “absolutely stunning.” Math teacher Michael Farmar attended the “Winter is Calling” opening ceremony.

“[Steare’s] very talented. The lights, the Christmas [and] the snowflakes [all contributed to the winter theme],” Farmar said. “I think a lot of the photos were geared towards snowy landscapes.” This type of audience feedback is motivating and encourages the artists with featured works in the gallery. “I think [my favorite comments were the] people who came in that weren’t necessarily part of the school, people who just came in as visitors or over the weekend. They wrote comments [about] how they liked the work and that McLean was so talented,” Steare said. “And that felt good to me because that was the point—we wanted to showcase McLean as not only a school with sports and academics but also an art department.” Looking to the future, Steare has big plans for the upcoming exhibitions.

CLIMBING TO GREAT HEIGHTS — Nadya Steare decorates the window of the “Autumn is Calling” exhibit. This was the first of the series of art shows she started at McLean.


SENIOR & EXHIBITION CURATOR “Right now we’re taking entries for our faculty show. It’s going to be a specialty show, because we did have two largely student work-based shows,” Steare said. “Now I’m hoping to test the boundaries a bit and have a staff-only photography exhibition where all staff members around McLean, if they’d like to, can submit a photograph of one of their travels with a little excerpt.” Steare is still seeking to expand the project as they plan the theme and logistics. “[The faculty show] is travel-themed, with a lot of luggage and arrows. It’s going to be great,” Steare said. “At this point we have a base and it’s about outdoing yourself for every show.” Steare’s experience executing and now expanding on her initial idea of having an art gallery has given her leadership skills she can use in future pursuits. “If you want to be a leader of a project, just go for it. Make logistics,” Steare said. “There will be difficulties, there’s always difficulties, but once you get past a certain point you just have to overcome a certain barrier and then it’s hopefully—usually—easier.”

Page design by Jessica Opsahl-Ong & Camille Blakemore

A WINTER WONDERLAND — Math teacher Michael Farmar checks out the “Magic of Snow” exhibit after the opening ceremony. NAHS members helped Steare create the wintry atmosphere of the exhibit.

FALLING IN LOVE — A row of pictures for the “Autumn is Calling” exhibit adorns the walls of the gallery. The photographs, paintings and drawings were submitted by McLean students. FEBRUARY | A&E | 29

MOD modernizes

MOD Pizza offers a new take on a classic comfort NICKY VARELA REPORTER & JACK SHIELDS SPORTS EDITOR


s you step inside MOD pizza, the first thing that hits you is the smell of fresh, delicious pizza. While you gaze around the room, you notice how different it is than a normal pizza place. The family-friendly style and availability of more than 30 toppings for both meat lovers and vegetarians make this clever restaurant stand out. Founded in 2008 in Seattle, Washington, by Scott and Ally Svenson, MOD Pizza—standing for “made on demand”—was created to improve the way business and pizza were traditionally done in the industry. The duo also sought to give customers the freshest ingredients possible while paying their employees much more than the standard restaurant. 30 | A&E | FEBRUARY

Thanks to these ingenious ideas, the restaurant rose in popularity and the chain spread across the U.S. Now only a decade after the restaurant first started, more than 300 separate locations have sprung up in over 20 states and even in the United Kingdom. Several of these pizza parlors are close to McLean, including Vienna and Reston. When we sat down and dined at the Vienna location, we found out the place was just as good as it sounded. MOD functions like a restaurant similar to Chipotle, Subway or Cava, where the counter attendant works step-by-step to add the ingredients the customer wants. This clever method prevents the customer from getting food that contains ingredients they don’t like or are allergic to. Prices at MOD are very reasonable, as a standard size pizza is 11 inches in circumference and costs $7.87. If you’re looking for a smaller serving size, then you can order a miniature six-inch pizza that costs only $4.87. And for folks who don’t mind a fattening meal, an 11-inch double crusted pizza costs $10.87.

The customer service at MOD was exceptional. The workers were very kind and satisfied every request we had. When it was our turn in line, the workers focused all their attention on making sure the pizza turned out great to give us exactly what we wanted. Once we placed our order, the pizza came out extremely quickly—about three minutes—yet the crust was still cooked to a perfect golden brown. The pizza itself was phenomenal. The cheese was perfectly melted and tasted great against the sauce. The sauce was the correct thickness and provided a slightly zingy and robust flavor. Th e toppings tasted exactly how we hoped they would and were all that we anticipated. If you want a pizza that contains fresh ingredients, tastes delicious and has exactly what you want, then sit down and enjoy some MOD pizza.

MOD wins because:

Pizzas are meant to be round! The cheese and toppings are layered perfectly to make every bite meaningful.

Photos by Nicky Varela & Addie Brown | Page design by Dasha Makarishcheva

&Pizza can’t be topped &Pizza streamlines the traditional pizza BEN BROOKS SPORTS EDITOR ADDIE BROWN FEATURES EDITOR


nlike your traditional family pizza restaurant, &Pizza’s dark walls and blasting music set it apart from other establishments, adding a modern twist to pizza. Founded by Michael Lastoria and Steve Salis, &Pizza’s first shop opened up in Washington D.C. in July 2012. The founders hoped to create a restaurant that prioritizes a consumer’s experience by making an environment that reflects the community’s culture, supplementing that with fresh pizza ingredients. &Pizza doesn’t only focus on pizza— the company places high emphasis on equality and fairness. They partner with other small businesses with big dreams like their own, highlighting their connection to the community. Lastoria is also a known advocate of a $15 minimum wage. The &Pizza in D.C. certainly mirrors the culture its founders value. Black walls with contrasting white lines and upbeat, loud music convey the vibes of the modern city. What also distinguishes &Pizza is their creativity. In the front of the store, a long counter is

filled with toppings, cheeses and sauces. Comparable to Chipotle, &Pizza allows you to create your own pizza by moving along the counter and adding various toppings. This also helps the customer feel more comfortable with their pizza’s quality since they can see it while it is being made, unlike most pizza restaurants. With 37 different toppings, four sauces and five cheeses to choose from, &Pizza allows for complete customization of your pizza. After the pizza is assembled right in front of the customer, it is put in the oven and is ready to enjoy in minutes. Another aspect that sets &Pizza apart is the shape of their pizza. While traditional pizza stores go with a circular shape, &Pizza prefers a long, narrow shape on a flatbread pizza. This unique shape and style allows for quick cooking time to maximize efficiency. Each pizza is cut into small rectangles rather than large slices, giving customers an even easier way to enjoy their food.

&Pizza also prides itself on its use of unique, house-made sodas and teas. Instead of a traditional soda bar full of Coke or Pepsi products, &Pizza uses their own blends of sugar cane-based sodas and signature herbal teas, which include their unsweetened lemongrass white peach tea and their peach ginger tea. Between their pizza shape, countless toppings, quick cooking process and homemade beverages, &Pizza provides a truly one-of-a-kind pizza experience.

&Pizza wins because:

The combo of flatbread pizza and custom soda are more unique.


Tidying Up sparks joy

Marie Kondo’s show on cleaning up becomes a phenomenon



t’s not often that a show can send people into a folding frenzy, but there’s something special about Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up. “[My family and I], right after the first episode, all went and started folding our clothes in the way she does it,” sophomore Kara Murri said. Most shows addressing American consumerism tend to be critical, but Kondo is full of positive insight. She advises her clients to look to the future, and always has a kind word or smile to guide them along the way. There is no judgment in Kondo’s method, only optimism and gratitude. “I just love listening to her. She is so happy. She’s just the cutest, happiest person doing this task that most people find to be just absolutely terrible,” social studies teacher Cynthia Hawkins said. The show is very successful, and it’s not just because of Kondo’s positive nature. “They did a really good job of releasing it right when I had time to watch it and [around the] new year, [when] everyone’s making resolutions,” Hawkins said. Tidying Up highlights people from different sociocultural backgrounds, allowing lots of people to identify with it. “I remember the bit where they were

cleaning up their garage and they just had stuff everywhere,” Hawkins said. “I think the reason I identified with it [was]...because it’s very much how my parents’ house is, where they want to hold on to things in case their kids want them or need them.”

Kondo addresses the overwhelming nature of living in an unorganized home with too much stuff. Her efforts relieve stress, thus easing family tensions. This is evident in the new follow-up clips showing the long-term effects of life with Kondo’s methods. “Some of the people were adamant they didn’t want to get rid of any of their stuff, but then just the change in their attitude was very cool,” Murri said. The show is not just about cleaning; it

carries messages for all aspects of life. “Everything has to happen in its time,” Hawkins said. “If you’re going to try and force something before all the parties are ready then it’s just not going to be successful.” The variety of content is eye-opening. As I watched more episodes, the issue of clutter became more apparent. The first stage of the Kondo method is to pile all the clothes the clients own onto the bed. The highest pile reached the ceiling. However, the before and after clips of rooms are aesthetically pleasing. The cleaning process felt repetitive, yet the show took active strides to counteract this feeling. When a client needed advice on a topic already covered, the information would be presented in a different way or Kondo would transition to a different individual in the family she is working with. Kondo’s tidying up methods are helping families reshape their priorities while sending a positive message to viewers. “I made my kids learn how to fold their clothes. My daughter is super jazzed about it because she is like, ‘Mom, I can see all my things now,’” Hawkins said. “There’s something to be said for taking that extra minute or two to put something in its place, so that when you need it next you can find it.”

Step two: Fold it in half with the lower part folded forward.

Step three: Fold it in thirds and tuck the lower part in, allowing the shirt to stand.




Step one: Lay the shirt flat and smooth it out. Then fold both sides to the middle. (Photos by Kara Murri)


Page design by Cordelia Lawton

International Night returns First International Night in years celebrates McLean’s diversity CAMILLE BLAKEMORE REPORTER


or the first time in four years, International Night was held at McLean on Feb. 7. It was a celebration of diversity, giving students the chance to showcase their culture and what makes it unique. Senior Rita Siadi played a major role in bringing International Night to fruition. “It’s my first time planning, being in it and emceeing it,” Siadi said. “There used to be a club at McLean, years ago, with International Nights like this. Five of us [restarted] International Club last year but [since] it was at the end of the year nothing really took off. This year, we worked since August for this night.” The road to the event came with its own set of challenges. “The hardest part, I feel, was getting the administration to approve everything [and] just organizing everything,” Siadi said. “At the end of the day, we are seniors trying to balance schoolwork, and planning this was a lot of work.” Luckily for the organizers, they weren’t

DUO IN DRESSES — Miyu Oe and Erina Takeyama model traditional Japanese clothing at the event on Feb. 7. They performed “Mirai-e,” a popular tune in Japanese culture. (Photo by Michelle Cheng)

Page design by Camille Blakemore

RAISE THE ROOF — Zayan Baig performs a traditional Punjabi dance known as bhangra at International Night. He has performed this dance more than 10 times. (Photo by Anna Brykczynski) alone in planning—many stepped in to help with the event as it grew closer. “The last three months is when the work really came in: volunteers, food, donations [and] decorations,” Siadi said. After months of hard work preparing for International Night, Siadi had high hopes for the event. “At 6:30 when the night started, there were like 30 people, and I was freaking out,” Siadi said. “But then slowly, people started filling in, and [by the end], there [were] 200 people in the audience.” The execution of the event was excellent, with 14 student performances, a beautiful fashion show and a much-appreciated culinary array. Sophomore Zayan Baig represented both Pakistan and India at International Night, performing a dance called bhangra. Bhangra is a popular style of dance that originated in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent. “I feel it represents my culture because it really shows how dancing can evoke happiness,” Baig said. “Dancing is an outlet for people.” Baig appreciates every culture’s variety of

dances because each has a unique style. “Dancing really showcases how people from that [particular] region relax and celebrate with each other, whether it’s at weddings or different events,” Baig said. Even though Baig was proud to represent his culture, stage fright was still an obstacle. “[My biggest challenge was] getting myself up on the stage,” Baig said. “I always get nervous before performing, so I have to overcome [it] before [each] performance.” With the success of this year’s event, it is safe to say that many attendees will be excited for next year. “I think it was pretty amazing for our first International Night, and I’m really proud,” Siadi said. “Everyone loved it and I’m so glad.” Siadi hopes to stay involved in cultural matters and inspire others to as well. “I actually want to go into international affairs. I grew up in another country, Lebanon, so I just love international aspects and cultural diversity,” Siadi said. “I think it’s something everyone needs to educate themselves on and it’s just a great thing to celebrate.” FEBRUARY | A&E | 33

student journalists’ rights OPINIONS Protect New Voices bill must be passed upon reintroduction The staff editorial represents the opinion of the majority of The Highlander editorial board


ired for defending constitutional rights. Quitting for fear of being punished. Forced to hide the truth from the public. In schools across Virginia, student journalists and their advisers are hindered by censorship and forced to present a false reality that harms schools and their surrounding communities. Across student media platforms, school boards and administrations are able to act irresponsibly but are protected by Virginia law. They make students conform to their values at the cost of First Amendment rights. Virginia House Bill 2382, known as the New Voices bill, provided measures to solve this issue but failed to make it out of committee. Similar legislation has been passed in over a dozen states. To protect both students and teachers, this legislation must be passed upon its reintroduction next year. By exploiting Supreme Court precedents, school administrations can distort student media to portray their schools in a positive light. Student media advisers can be fired or reassigned for not supporting the agenda of administrators. Current Marshall High School newspaper adviser Sam Hedenberg was dismissed from Mount Vernon High School in FCPS after fighting for his students’ right to publish a story in their school’s yearbook. The journalists explored the life of a teen mom at the school and included photos of the pregnant student in their article. The story was challenged by administrators. For refusing to tell the staff to cut the article from the publication, Hedenberg was asked to leave. “The biggest problem is when administrators go too far and start impressing their own social or political beliefs into their decisions,” Hedenberg said. “I’m a good person; I work hard; I know what I’m doing. [Had this legislation been put in place in 2016] it would have prevented my students and me from going through the heartache of hiring a lawyer to defend ourselves and our right to the truth.” Censoring content like this threatens the public’s ability to obtain important information, a cornerstone of our democracy.


As journalism does in any society, student media provides checks on school issues. Investigative journalism at McLean has provided students with opportunities to learn the inner workings of our community and contact high profile officials. The Highlander’s reporting on vaping at McLean was featured on local news stations and alerted people to an epidemic sweeping through FCPS. Students have analyzed the effects national issues have at McLean, including transgender awareness, gun control and race issues. “It’s good to keep the public aware of things that are going on in their school,” said senior Matt Hutchison, McLean’s yearbook editor-in chief. “We’re very honest and open in how we report. We tend to cover a lot of the stories that wouldn’t have otherwise been covered.” Globally, professional journalists reporting on key issues analogous with those covered by student media are in more danger than they have been in 10 years, according to The Guardian. Oppression of honest and relevant reporting is beginning in middle and high schools, hindering the growth of student journalists. By not supporting New Voices legislation, delegates and administrators stand for violence and the abolishment of democratic institutions around the world. It is unjustifiable that students, who have not even entered the realm of professional journalism, already feel threatened because of their works’ content. After the incident at Mount Vernon High School, staffers dropped out of their

yearbook class for fear of getting in trouble. New Voices would eradicate such fears. “The new bill [will] hopefully…increase the ability for young journalists to hone their craft and to decide whether or not they want to pursue [journalism] professionally or in college. That will be of a huge service to the Commonwealth,” Delegate Chris Hurst said in an interview with The Highlander. Hurst is a former journalist and was the chief patron of New Voices. Education subcommittee members criticized New Voices for fostering the distribution of inappropriate content. But this claim ignores New Voice’s purpose. The bill’s goal is not to eradicate censorship but to place trust in advisers—paid experts in responsible and ethical journalism. “If there are individual principals, administrators or school board members who had been onerous or egregious in their censorship in recent years, I think it would give them great pause as whether or not to continue that censorship into the future,” Hurst said. Officials must overcome their fears of giving student journalists their First Amendment rights by passing this bill. “[In Virginia] we empower students to learn how to work underneath cars... In college, we give them blow torches, and we give them lathes,” Hurst said. “So why should we be afraid of them having a pen?” Contact your district delegate and tell them to support the New Voices legislation when it is reintroduced next year.

Reporting & page design by Nicholas Lohman | Comic by Dasha Makarishcheva


he Baby Boomers watched Marilyn Monroe’s skirt fly above a subway grate. Generation X saw the release of Jaws and the popularization of bell bottoms. The Millennials were around for dial-up internet and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby.” What about Generation Z, you ask? Well, we’re addicted to our iPhones, vaping and pretending to know more about politics than we really do. If our Instagram photos don’t reveal us wearing skimpy clothing or engaging in illegal activities, don’t fret—the rest is probably on Snapchat. We compromise our morals for the perfect picture, video or tweet, striving for the most likes or favorites. A member of Generation Z will question the constitutionality of some law on Twitter as if they didn’t steal from their parents’ liquor cabinet last Friday. Every amendment is fair game except for the 21st. But it’s not like I can’t share the blame. I once faked an asthma attack in order to post a close-up video of Juice WRLD on my Snapchat story. The crowd did part for me, but security took me by the underarms and sent me to the back of the mosh pit soon after. And then there’s our unhealthy obsession with astrology. Somehow, we think the stars can tell our future and predict the success of new relationships. When you realize your boyfriend’s a Scorpio and you’re an Aquarius, you’ll get passive aggressive until he eventually breaks up with you. No one likes confrontation, do they? Edit: I meant the boy you have a “thing” with, not even your boyfriend. Meanwhile, what happened to our style? Nowadays, every hallway is filled with grey sweatpants and hoodies. If it’s not dress-up day for a sport, I’m not even sure whether some of us own regular clothing. Other generations drew inspiration from Audrey Hepburn and Elvis Presley, while we’ve got the Kardashians and the strange idea that wearing AirPods is an excuse for putting zero percent effort into your outfit. At least we’re politically active. During the Women’s March last year, I saw hundreds of Instagram posts from those who attended, wearing rose-colored glasses and furry coats. That excludes the millions of VSCO pictures and Snapchat stories. It’s a shame I only saw a couple of posts this year. Everyone was probably just out of town. It certainly doesn’t have to do with the lack of publicity on social media. We really care. According to everyone who watched the Fyre Festival documentary on Netflix, Billy McFarland has already ruined the Millennials. Calling all members of Generation Z: let’s fix our reputation before one of us sends 5,000 Instagram models to a parking lot in the Bahamas, void of real housing or food. After all, not even the Millennials were around for the original publication of Lord of the Flies. That was the Baby Boomers.

Page design by Maren Kranking Photo illustration by Maren Kranking & Jack Stenzel


a satire by maria mchugo FEBRUARY | OPINIONS | 35

Gov. Ralph Northam should resign over racist yearbook photo KYLE HAWLEY REPORTER


ust as Black History Month began this February, Virginia state Democrats were launched into a massive scandal when a picture of a man in blackface next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan robe was leaked from Gov. Ralph Northam’s Eastern Virginia Medical School’s yearbook page. If Northam truly is the one in the photo, he should resign from office due to this disgusting image. Virginia has a dark history of racial aggression and violence. The state turned on the Union during the American Civil War and, according to the James Madison University history department, from 1877 to 1927 Virginia held an infamous 104 lynchings. After the unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, Fairfax County itself would not desegregate their schools until 1960 during the Civil Rights era. The U.S. developed into a more accepting nation and passed laws securing equal rights to all. This picture was taken well after the days of injustice to minorities. “[The photo] happened after the Civil Rights era, which is the point that upsets me the most because the country had transformed into a country that was trying to make actual, tangible social change,” said senior Neha Rana, who worked for the Northam campaign during the Virginia 2017 gubernatorial election. “He should have been more cognizant of the fact that his actions have repercussions.” In August 2017, a Unite the Right rally met in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of Confederate statues. The alt-right clashed with counter protesters, resulting in the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer. Northam had been very open about his stance on the removal of these statues. In a statement released to the press, the governor said, “I believe these statues should be taken down and moved into museums. As governor, I am going to be a vocal advocate 36 | OPINIONS | FEBRUARY

for that approach and work with localities on this issue.” Northam also often advocated for the rights of underrepresented groups. “He was all for inclusivity for minorities, and that includes LGBTQ community and also racial minorities, but it was nothing that struck me as odd or out of place,” Rana said. “So when [the photo] was released about the blackface and KKK allegations, it kind of came as a shock.”


SENIOR WHO WORKED ON NORTHAM CAMPAIGN The yearbook picture that surfaced was not taken kindly, especially in a state that is still in its transition phase to becoming a more progressive, left-leaning region. Northam originally apologized for the photo but then backtracked, saying he was not in the photo but had dressed in blackface before for a Michael Jackson costume. “I was just really shocked at how many people were doing blackface in the ‘80s. I kind of thought this was a thing that was long past us. And even though [it] seems like a long time ago, it really isn’t,” said Dr. Lindsey Fisher, an AP World and, as of next year, Combating Intolerance teacher. Democratic leaders such as Hillary

Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders and both Democratic Virginia U.S. Senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, have openly encouraged Northam to quit and let a person with no racially charged background lead the state into the new era. Republicans alike have called for the governor to step down. “It’s sad because I honestly don’t think he’s a bad person,” Rana said. “He did make a mistake, but that mistake is something we cannot hold in our political offices.” The Virginia governor told the public he will not resign from office and vowed to finish the rest of his term by focusing on ending racial inequality in the state. However, if Northam does not step down for his adulthood actions, not only will this impact the next election but also the next generations. Teenagers and children already grow up in a society that makes fun of race, culture and lifestyles. Watching Northam continue to serve shows that people can get away with anything and face no repercussions. “I think the teenagers today have a better understanding of what being overtly racist looks like or not,” Fisher said. “But I think that racism and cultural appropriation, especially when it comes to costumes, is still very much a thing.” Teenagers will read reports of their governor dressing as Michael Jackson, which isn’t a huge deal. But then they will see how he also used blackface, a racist gesture that has no place in our American society. Northam needs to resign to send a clear message to the younger generation that blackface belongs in the past. The national scrutiny he is under won’t disappear until he makes the right choice and steps down. Virginia needs new leadership. “The country’s eyes are on Virginia politics and it’d be wrong of Ralph Northam to continue to act as our governor, even though [the photo] happened a good 30, 40 years ago,” Rana said. “I think it is unfair to the citizens of Virginia and to the United States to have a governor who doesn’t represent the ideals he preaches. He should resign.”

Should Ralph Northam step down as governor over the image controversy? Northam should not step down as governor of Virginia SEBASTIAN JIMENEZ OPINIONS EDITOR


s an American people, we need to distance ourselves from outrage culture and learn to recognize how little the photo found in Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical yearbook reflects his current ideals. His participation in the picture is disgusting and shameful, a part of American history that we all need to learn from in order to progress as a society, but it simply doesn’t correlate with his present self. It is a period of time we would all like to move past for its rampant discrimination, and unfortunately it has come to the forefront today.



It is important to establish that both the KKK and blackface were instruments of black oppression. Both were used to cause inordinate amounts of hate and discrimination toward the African American community. Both were used to keep black people in the same state of inferiority they existed in as slaves only decades prior. And both are unacceptable to portray in our modern time. Nevertheless, there is a point in the progression of a person’s character at which they grow out of certain beliefs. The incident was poorly dealt with by the administration, with Northam failing to use it as an opportunity for a teaching moment, but the simple fact is that this image does not accurately represent his current opinions. “As people grow over years, they change.

You can think one way a certain year and two years later you can think completely different,” junior Ethan Magne said. “In 30 years, his image of the world has definitely changed.” Using a photograph that was taken 34 years ago—when Northam was 25 years old—to claim he is currently racist and should resign is a breach of logic. The political and social climate in the 1980s was much different than what exists today, and fewer restrictions were placed on what was defined as politically correct. “The fact that he was so young in the picture, and especially since it was a different time period, it was [less offensive] back then but extremely offensive now,” junior John Godwin said. At 25 years old, one is still discovering new opinions and mindsets, without a solid moral compass to rely on. “This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service,” Northam said in a statement to the press. To judge a 59-year-old, accomplished and democratically elected man by his actions as a young medical student is absurd. “It was just part of his past. I’m sure he wouldn’t do something like that now,” Godwin said. “I think he’s matured, and while it was a horrible thing for him to do, I think people can apologize and become better and prove that they’re a different person.” Even if one doesn’t believe that 34 years makes a difference, just look at his record as governor. Logically, if he was as racist as he was when he was 25, being governor would present a multitude of opportunities to further his interests. However, in his tenure as governor, he has done absolutely nothing to even offhandedly indicate any racial targeting or discrimination. In fact, when recounting the events of his current term, the most controversial event that appears is late-term abortion, a milestone in the pursuit of women’s rights.

Page design by Sebastian Jimenez | Infographic by Dasha Makarishcheva

“[The photo] was him growing up and being young and stupid, admittedly very stupid. But the person who is our current Virginia governor would never do something like that,” Godwin said. People need to be more open-minded when it comes to issues like this, considering our country’s long history of rampant racism. President Lyndon B. Johnson championed the late John F. Kennedy’s momentous Civil Rights Act of 1964, but was known for calling it the “[n-word] bill.” The Act, while somewhat ineffective, paved the way for other legislation that would actually secure many of the rights African Americans have today. When taking into account how racially sensitive the issue is, it can be hard to form an opinion that doesn’t correlate with the politically correct ideals of our time. It is crucial that we recognize first that the image is irrevocably and unacceptably insensitive, disgusting and offensive. However, progress will prove impossible if we hold on to people’s distant and foolish past.

Considering everything, do you think Northam should step down as governor of Virginia or not?

YES 47%





40% 46%

37% 58%

* Statistics from a Washington Post poll of 706 Virginia residents


Destructive Donald

Two years of amorality, chaos and lies JEREMY SIEGEL MANAGING EDITOR


t the start of his campaign, President Donald Trump was little more than a joke. When he finally took the reigns of the country, the joke turned into a horror story. His policies, actions, words, lies and nearly everything he has done as president have been destructive and damaging. Nothing is more indicative of his untrustworthiness than the government’s scrutiny of him. The FBI, which is tasked with hunting and taking down the most dangerous criminals, has led two major investigations of Trump within only two years. One concerns whether he is an agent of Russia, and another has been transitioned to a Special Counsel regarding Russian collusion during his campaign. His presidency has reflected a lack of


morality, decency and integrity. Over the course of two years, he has lied thousands of times, averaging over 15 lies per day according to The Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler. “No recent president has told as many falsehoods so consistently as Trump,” Kessler said in an interview with The Highlander. “We created [a] database specifically because we were not able to keep up.” Yet the lies touted by Trump do far more damage than expected. They erode America’s integrity and normalize amoral behavior. “His perpetual lies have led to distrust among citizens,” senior Neha Rana said. “When a country’s own people start to doubt the integrity and reliability of their government, that’s when things go south— and that’s what we’re witnessing first hand.” His lies are constantly repeated and often pointless. Following his inauguration, he

sent former Press Secretary Sean Spicer out almost daily to repeat the blatant lie that his inauguration crowd was larger than former President Barack Obama’s. Such repeated falsehoods have led to the creation of the Bottomless Pinocchio, a new rating created by Kessler. “We were looking to a way to highlight the fact that he says some false statements so often that it becomes a form of disinformation,” Kessler said. These falsehoods, if all harmless and plainly stupid, would be forgivable. The lies, however, spread beyond himself. His advisers, administration officials and campaign officials are embroiled in scandals that will soon come to implicate him. “The ‘minute’ lies that are spewed have shown an administration full of pathological liars,” Rana said. Over the course of two years, CNN reports















Infographics & page design by Jeremy Siegel, Maria McHugo & Jack Stenzel





16.5 d





Source: The Washington Post

that 59 members of the administration have departed their posts. Those include personal advisers, economic advisers, White House lawyers and even Cabinet secretaries. “Citizens are supposed to trust their government, and when constant scandals and improprieties are a regular part of the government, it gnaws at the legitimacy and credibility of the president,” senior Noor AlSaloum said. Some of the most high-profile firings concern the Russia investigation, with FBI Director James Comey and acting Director Andrew McCabe both being fired for it. The Special Counsel leading the Russia investigation has exposed multiple officials and citizens who were close to the campaign and the president. Those include his former campaign manager, former National Security Adviser and personal lawyer. The Russia investigation and likely collusion is indicative of a larger issue: a lack of overall morality, understanding and competency. Trump has treated his office as a way to further his personal aims, using the name of the presidency to project his apparent frustrations towards minorities. A series of interviews with Virginia lawmakers further highlighted the way Trump’s character affects policy. “[His policy] reveals who he is—a man who longs to return to the days when African Americans and members of other ethnic minorities are denied the equality promised by Jefferson and Lincoln that is enshrined in our Constitution as America’s moral North Star,” Sen. Tim Kaine said. Images obtained via Creative Commons

His use of power and policy to target minorities is especially clear in his treatment of immigrants from Hispanic countries and the Middle East. “From the travel ban to the birthright citizenship statements, the president has tended toward extreme measures that have been used as political tools to divide the



country, and they have often fallen directly at odds with the fundamental values of our nation,” Sen. Mark Warner said. In fact, the majority of Trump’s foreign and economic policy is completely senseless. He has alienated allies, withdrawn from treaties and engaged in impulsive diplomacy, endangering American lives. “He brought us a dangerous and disastrous foreign policy,” Rep. Don Beyer said. Trump doesn’t understand, or refuses

to use, real and credible information when making major policy decisions. “People in the military [do not] appreciate being used as a political prop or stunt and to be deployed when there isn’t necessarily a reason for it, especially over a holiday,” Kaine said. “That’s not the way a commander-inchief should treat the military.” Trump’s lasting legacy will be in ruining the progress Americans have made towards solving climate change. In one year, Trump has removed countless Obama-era regulations that were meant to protect water, air and the environment. Emissions skyrocketed by more than three percent in 2018 after years of going down. If nothing else, his refusal to acknowledge climate change as a present and real issue, despite the Director of National Intelligence’s yearly threat assessment including it as a major threat to the U.S., represents his inability to function as an effective or even mediocre president. His failure to recognize facts, his attacks on minorities and, worst of all, his persecution of the media show how amoral he is. “I am concerned about his attacks on the media,” Kessler said. “Especially because his language is being used by autocrats around the globe.” Trump is a dangerous entity. With every opportunity, he and the members of his party have attacked Americans’ prospective futures. He has breached decency and tested constitutionality. “The U.S. presidency is not a dictatorship. Patriotic Americans must rally to defeat the president’s unprecedented attempt to rewrite the Constitution on his own,” Kaine said. In his second State of the Union speech, Trump essentially lambasted any and all oversight. He bashed Special Counsel Robert Mueller, attacked Democrats and dismissed investigations, much like President Richard Nixon did in 1974. Yet as time wears on, Trump seems closer and closer to leaving the White House and entering a white cell. “Lawmakers are responsible [for solving] authentic and real ethical problems,” Beyer said. “This administration needs oversight.” And while there is certainly much to be pessimistic about, polls prove good still exists. According to NPR, 57 percent of Americans say they will definitely not vote for Trump in 2020, a comforting and reassuring figure. Finally, Americans are realizing that Trump is not only a terrible president, but also simply a bad person, void of any sense and morality. FEBRUARY | OPINIONS | 39

Trent Hay

Aidan Todorov

Steven Song

Miranda Johnson

Emma Johnson

Ian McCormack

Crosstown rivalry escalates


The competition between McLean and Langley intensifies REBEKA RAFI ADVERTISING MANAGER & FEATURES EDITOR


cLean students woke to an unpleasant surprise on Jan. 11, the morning of the first rivalry match-up of the season at home against Langley. The rock had been vandalized, covered with Langley’s school colors and an inappropriate message. “It was just vulgar,” Safety and Security Specialist Buddy Sekely said. “You can put anything you want on there, as long as it’s not obscene.” Sekely and the rest of security quickly covered up the vandalism that day. Although the perpetrators were not discovered, they would have been charged with trespassing and destruction of property for their actions. Tensions escalated on Jan. 25 when a fight broke out at McDonald’s following Langley’s defeat at the boys basketball game. “It started at the game when McLean and Langley held up signs trash talking each other,” junior Mia Goldberg said. “And then when the game ended and McLean won, kids from both schools rushed onto the court and the police had to keep them apart.” After the game, students from both schools went to the McDonald’s on Old Dominion Drive, a typical post-game hangout spot. A fight started abruptly when one student threw a punch at another, and after the first punches were thrown, the entire restaurant broke out into chaos. Goldberg, who was in the restaurant at the time, was caught up in the brawl. “I stood up on a chair because people started crowding around and looking like they were gonna fight, so I started taking a video,” Goldberg said. “Out of nowhere this guy started punching this other kid and before I could process what was happening, they came close to me and fell on me.” Multiple tables in the restaurant were toppled as the conflict progressed, and police officers soon arrived to handle the skirmish. “[The] police came and told everyone to get out, and they questioned people [who lingered],” Goldberg said. Since the incident, the Directors of Student Activities (DSA) from both schools have made an effort to encourage positive school spirit among their students. Last year,

they commenced an official competition known as the Chain Bridge Cup to promote such spirit. “We keep a running total of how well our teams do against each other,” McLean’s DSA Greg Miller said. “[If ] we play them twice [in a sport], each time would be worth one point, and if we only play them once in a sport, it would count as two points.”



DIRECTOR OF STUDENT ACTIVITIES Langley won the trophy last year, but this year’s competition is much closer so far. “I think it’s great that there is a rivalry that brings people out. The only time we ever sell out the gym is for the McLean-Langley game,” Langley’s DSA Geoff Noto said. “Not many high schools can say that they can sell out.” Math teacher and McLean graduate Dr. Crissie Ricketts has been teaching at the school for 17 years, during which she has witnessed both ends of the rivalry spectrum. “I played softball... Back then, it wasn’t like it is now,” Ricketts said. “They were our rival, but it wasn’t ugly... It was just a game.”

Illustration by Dasha Makarishcheva | Page design by Rebeka Rafi

Ricketts believes the aggressiveness of the rivalry among the student body has greatly progressed since her time as a student. “It gets all blown out of proportion now because of social media and everything online,” Ricketts said. “Everything has just escalated and escalated in the past 30 years.” Now, the DSAs from each school are urging fans to root for their schools in a healthy manner in an attempt to promote a friendly rivalry. “Sometimes in the stands, whether it be inappropriate language, people throwing stuff or doing something to each other’s buildings, that’s the part that frustrates us,” Noto said. It is clear the DSAs do not want bad behavior to be the center of attention during rivalry sporting events, but rather the actual competition taking place between the two schools. “I take pride in myself in working here. I think we have really classy kids, and I’m sure Mr. Noto would say the same thing about his,” Miller said. “It’s probably [just] a couple kids making an entire school look bad, but it’s not the way we want ourselves represented.” Due to the recent fight at McDonald’s, the rivalry and its ensuing events were covered in a Fox 5 D.C. news report aired on Jan. 28. “I do want to make a point [to] make a plea with our kids—it’s not cool, it makes us look bad when that stuff goes on and I know both schools would like to see it stop,” Miller said. “Mr. Noto and I are both the DSAs [and] we’re good friends, [so] there is no reason why it can’t be a friendly rivalry... We want to win and play hard and be competitive.” FEBRUARY | SPORTS | 41

McLean Madness

Highlanders predict the winner of upcoming tournament NICKY VARELA REPORTER


PICK: Duke WHY: “They

have four elite players in Zion, RJ, Cam and Tre, which could end up being a huge mismatch problem for opposing teams.”


PICK: Duke WHY: “With Zion,

RJ Barrett and Tre Jones, Duke is unstoppable.”


PICK: Tennessee WHY: “Their

defense is insane, and SEC teams are always the best."


PICK: Virginia WHY: “Their

defense is incredible and they’ve developed a solid starting five.”


PICK: Duke WHY: “Their

lineup is incredibly stacked with lots of talent.”



PICK: Duke WHY: “They

have a deep freshman class that makes them so dominant.”

Photos by Nicky Varela & Ben Brooks | Page design by Dasha Makarishcheva


PICK: Michigan State

WHY: “They have a strong team with many solid players that have many different talents.”


PICK: NC State WHY: “It’s my

alma mater, so I always root for them.”


ATHLETE OF THE ISSUE GABBY WILLIAMS SENIOR COLOR GUARD WHO IS YOUR BIGGEST INSPIRATION? My biggest inspiration is one of the seniors who graduated last year, Daniela Montalvo. She did color guard throughout all of high school, she was my friend from other classes and she was an amazing person. She was so kind, and she was amazing at color guard. She cared about it so much and devoted herself to it. WHY DID YOU START? I have always been exposed to color guard because of marching band, but I’ve never done it. A friend of mine who did winter guard recruited me. I went to the first free spin and in five minutes, I said, “I’m going to do this.” I fell in love with it instantly.


WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF COLOR GUARD? It is as mentally challenging as it is physically. Just from the moment [the flag] leaves my hand, I have to be able to judge how it spins, how high is it going to go, how fast is it going to spin, when is it going to come down and at what angle is it going to come down. I have to be able to judge it while perfectly in the air. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY IN COLOR GUARD? There was this one competition last year. It was a really good run [and] we were clicking. While another team was performing, we were eating lunch and watching [our] video. This was a smaller team of about 14, and we were clustered around watching the video. Seeing how together we were, how clean we were, everything we had been working on clicked. We came together as a team, we were all so proud, and it was validation for everything we had been working for. DOES COLOR GUARD INTERFERE WITH YOUR OTHER EXTRACURRICULARS? The other main thing I do is band; I still play clarinet. I still have practice as well as [color guard]. Color guard is so integrated with band, there is typically no conflict.

Page design by Imani McCormick Reporting by Brooke Newell | Photo courtesy of Gabby Williams




How well does the girls soccer team know their coach? We asked two team members questions about Cara Mosley.

































Photos & reporting by Maria McHugo Page design by Anya Chen & Maren Kranking

Profile for The Highlander

The Highlander - Issue 5 - February 2019  

The Highlander - Issue 5 - February 2019