The Highlander - Issue 5 - June 2021

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Volume 65 • Issue 5 • Cub Edition • June 2021 • McLean High School • • @MHSHighlander


SCHOOL year in review

Letter from the

Cub EDITION Editors Dear McLean, To say this year has been unprecedented is an understatement, but it has been repeated ad nauseam since the world grinded to a halt in the spring of 2020. Slowly but surely, we’re focusing on the future again as the world shifts back into drive, with mask restrictions being lifted and vaccine distributions skyrocketing. In contrast to the issues we put out under the constraints of distance learning, this issue contains relatively few articles directly pertaining to COVID-19. However, it would be impossible to ignore altogether the effects the pandemic has had on our community. Our cover story this issue takes a look at how McLean High School adapted and evolved during the pandemic. We focus on the perspectives of the students and staff whose regular ways of living have had to be drastically reworked in order to make this past year as safe and productive as possible. We hope you can take this as an opportunity to reflect on the growth, changes and sacrifices you have experienced and witnessed this year in your own life. The Highlander’s Cub Edition is the culmination of a year of learning for Journalism 1 students. What follows this introductory page is 28 pages of hard work from firstyear journalism students who put a huge amount of effort into researching their topics, finding sources, setting up interviews, writing and editing their articles and designing their pages (with some help from students in Journalism 2-4). In tandem with the Senior Edition, this issue is the pride of our hard-working staff and their dedication to maintaining the high standards of The Highlander. After living through varying degrees of lockdown for a full year and then some, we’re all a little older, a little stronger and a little wiser than we were before. Undeniably, it’s been a fight, but the only way to go from here is forward. From all of us at The Highlander, we appreciate your support in the roughest of circumstances and hope you have a great year moving forward. Here’s to the future!

Volume 65 • Issue 5 • Cub Edition • June 2021 • @MHSHighlander McLean High School 1633 Davidson Road McLean, Virginia 22101 Editors-in-Chief

Tanner Coerr, Philip Rotondo & Madeleine Stigall

Managing Editors

Isabella DiPatri & Natalie Vu

News Editor

Madie Turley

Features Editors

Jongwoo Park & Dania Reza

A&E Editor

Lexi Scott

Opinions Editors

Madelyn Frederick & Josephine Phillips

Sports Editors

Conaire Horgan & Dario Sutera

Fact Checker

Emma Hu


Morgan Muntean


Yours truly,

Graham Courey Sofiya-Mirabella Kucher Sean Lee


Philip Rotondo, Madeleine Stigall, Tanner Coerr & the students of Journalism 1

Elyse Lochmann Zach Simon Andrew Von Elm

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 In-Depth article. The staff reserves the right to reject any ads it deems libelous, obscene, disruptive or otherwise inappropriate. To Submit a Letter to the Editors: Please email 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.


11 Cuddly COVID companions



Ms. Duluc named Outstanding New Teacher


FCPS must keep asynchronous Mondays


How college decisions changed


County makes wise move in eliminating concurrent learning



Cafeteria set-up needs improvement



2 3 4 5

Changes coming next school year Junior launches Cicada Defender Lee Carter’s campaign for governor Teenagers receive vaccines

FEATURES 6 7 8 9 10

GLC leader achieves big goals Clubs adapt to hybrid learning


2020-21 SCHOOL YEAR IN REVIEW A look back at a strange year Cover photos by Maya Amman Cover design by Taylor Olson

Gardening club starts to grow


10 Qs w/ Mr. Nicolaides

students win national 20-21 Art awards

Custodian shares love for environment


TheatreMcLean presents Love and Information



The scoop on the girls lacrosse team


Former McLean baseball player makes up for lost season at D-III college


Freshman develops passion for snowboarding


The Finish Line


fcps starts planning for next year ONE STEP AT A TIME — Highlanders returned to school under FCPS’s concurrent learning plan in March 2021. Currently, FCPS plans for a full return to in-person school next year.

Students will see several changes this fall LARISSA NWOKOBIA REPORTER ALEENA GUL NEWS EDITOR


ince the start of the pandemic, schools have taken countless measures to ensure a safe return. With vaccination rates increasing and infection rates decreasing in Northern Virginia, FCPS is preparing for a full return to five days of in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year. The elimination of concurrent learning will have several effects. As all teachers return to the building, classroom monitor positions will be eliminated. Students with medical challenges are eligible to take all virtual classes next year but must submit the COVID-19 Health Eligibility Form and the Virtual Enrollment Application. “Eligibility will be determined on the basis of a health/medical certification of need submitted by a licensed physician, nurse practitioner, psychiatrist or a licensed clinical psychologist,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a countywide email on May 5. McLean High School plans to keep a similar bell schedule to the current one, with Highlander Time taking place every other day for about 90 minutes. Students are looking forward to being able to take part in club activities after school. “I’m glad things will go back to normal because it’s important for students to socialize and do activities with their clubs,” junior Auvai Ramalingam said. “I’m excited to have club meetings in person instead of virtual meetings.” McLean will continue its current health guidelines and contract tracing procedures.

2 | NEWS | JUNE 2021

(Photos by Polina Zubarev)

FCPS will require masks for students regardless of their vaccination status for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. Students will not be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine to attend school next year. However, it is still uncertain whether mask policies will change. “Everything that we have right now is what we would be doing next year until the governor’s orders change,” Principal Ellen Reilly said. In an effort to ensure a steady transition back to the building, McLean’s Committee on Raising Student Voices (CORSV) plans to work over the summer to address students’ concerns about potential policies. This year, they have worked with the administration to make several reforms, including grading and testing policy changes and implementing Highlander Time pods. “Our plan is to make sure that the transition is super easy for next year,” said junior Bella DeMarco, the incoming president of CORSV. “It’s just really emphasizing communication between all levels of the committee and keeping in communication with administration as well.” In the face of challenges ahead, Brabrand, like so many others, is looking forward to a return to normalcy. “We are excited to welcome everyone back to our buildings for the in-person experiences that we all so dearly missed since March 2020,” Brabrand said in his May 5 email. “We are encouraged and hopeful that all FCPS staff and students will return.” Infographic by Nyla Marcott | Page design by Aleena Gul

INSECT INVASION Junior starts business to mitigate cicadas’ effects



eventeen years have passed since the last large-scale emergence of Brood X cicadas, and it’s time for them to surface, shed their skins, mate and die. Junior Michelle Martinkov is taking advantage of this environmental phenomenon by turning it into a business opportunity. “As we approached the spring of 2021, I was surprised by the lack of awareness around the emergence,” Martinkov said. “I expected people to be preparing for the event and cicada-oriented services to be offered, [so] I came up with Cicada Defender.” The business’s services include removing cicadas and their exoskeletons, which have already started to pile up in lawns throughout Northern Virginia. To help prevent live cicadas from damaging plants, Cicada Defender will also install protective netting. “Deceased cicadas take time to decompose and emit a very strong odor,” Martinkov said. “Our cicada removal services help our community maintain their landscaping… while having as little of an impact on the cicada life cycle as possible.” Cicada Defender’s process is sustainable and does not include the use of pesticides or heavy machinery. “It involves sweeping and shoveling cicadas and exoskeletons into buckets, where we have someone pick up and relocate them to a specified wooded area where the cicadas can continue their life cycle,” Martinkov said. Martinkov has been eagerly anticipating the emergence for years. “My parents always joked that I was a cicada baby since I was born in Spring 2004, the year of the last Brood X emergence,” Martinkov said. “They told me stories of trillions of cicadas emerging seemingly overnight, and for 17 years, I have been excitedly waiting to finally experience what my parents were talking about.” When Martinkov first got the idea to help the community learn about cicadas while mitigating their effects, she found that getting her business off the ground was harder than she expected.

“Being a high school student, I did not have much experience in building out a business, but I was learning a lot about it in my Entrepreneurship class,” she said. “Founding the business was [relatively] easy, but making it operate smoothly was very difficult.” Martinkov faced some NOTHING BUT NET — Michelle Martinkov initial difficulties establishing covers trees with nets to prevent them from the basic framework of the being damaged by cicadas. Her business’s business, such as estimating services also include sustainable cicada the break-even point for removal and community education. each order. “One of the biggest challenges was “The challenges we faced during the first setting up a pricing model that ensured we order were critical to our success [because] made a profit on every order and allowed us they allowed us to create a streamlined to account for unexpected circumstances,” process and know what to train our she said. “Another challenge we had was employees on,” Martinkov said. finding reliable employees and training them In order to improve the process, the team to ensure they met our expectations of of five employees put in efforts to measure service.” the work necessary to successfully complete Martinkov asked her friends for help in a service. the initial stages, but, surprisingly, not her Although the business hasn’t taken off parents. yet, Martinkov feels optimistic about the “Michelle told me right away that she coming weeks. would not need my help [because] she “The emergence is just getting started, wanted to prove that she could come up [so] we expect our volume to pick up with an idea and follow it through,” her during the end of May and into June when mother, Maria Martinkov, said. “She was cicadas really make their presence known,” very determined to do it all by herself but Martinkov said. “We have developed a highly allowed assistance from her older brother, engaging Instagram following which we are who graduated from college with a degree in very proud of, and [we’re] also excited that business management.” the local news stations reached out to do a Martinkov’s mother is hopeful that the story about us.” experience will open up new doors for her. In addition to helping people cope with “I was very proud of Michelle for coming the effects of the Brood X emergence, the up with an interesting business idea,” her ultimate goal of Cicada Defender is to give mother said. “I hope this initiative will back by educating the community about teach her some valuable lessons about the cicadas. value of money, organizational skills and “We are looking to partner with schools perseverance.” to provide free activities and educational Cicada Defender’s long-awaited first opportunities for younger kids,” Martinkov order was from a family friend. Martinkov said. “We want customers to know that when describes it as an invaluable experience which they purchase our services, they are investing resulted in improvements to the business. in their community.”

Page design by Arnav Gupta & Sangmin Song | Photo courtesy of Michelle Martinkov

JUNE 2021 | NEWS | 3

DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST RUNS FOR GOVERNOR Lee J. Carter shakes up Virginia’s political landscape ANDREW VON ELM REPORTER ee J. Carter, a democratic socialist from Manassas, is running to be the next Democratic nominee for the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election. The primary election that will decide Carter’s fate ends June 8. “I don’t come from a normal background for a politician,” Carter said in an interview with The Highlander. “I’m not an attorney. I’m not wealthy. Yeah, I’m an electronics repairman.” Carter’s interest in politics began when he was unable to get workers compensation after being injured at work.


I DON’T COME FROM A NORMAL BACKGROUND FOR A POLITICIAN. I’M NOT AN ATTORNEY. I’M NOT WEALTHY. YEAH, I’M AN ELECTRONICS REPAIRMAN.” - LEE J. CARTER GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE “I started going to people I knew that worked in and around politics and asking [them] what the plan was to fix workers’ [compensation], and nobody had a plan,” Carter said. “Clearly, it needs to be fixed and clearly, nobody wants to fix it. So I guess that leaves me.” Carter proceeded to challenge Republican incumbent Jackson Miller for his seat in the Virginia House of Delegates for the 50th district. During the campaign, Carter criticized Miller for having been elected through gerrymandering, while Miller criticized Carter for being politically extreme. “I don’t describe myself as a democratic socialist, I describe myself as a socialist,” Carter said. “One of the core pieces of socialism is that you have to have democratic control over the economy and politics. If it’s not democratic, then it can’t be socialism.” Carter defeated Miller in 2017, and he has spent the last three years serving in the House of Delegates. Now, Carter is running for governor of Virginia against former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has already raised more 4 | NEWS | JUNE 2021

than $6 million for his campaign. “We’re up against the very embodiment of the big-money political machine in Virginia,” Carter said. “We’ve got former governor Terry McAuliffe, who is a multimillionaire many times over.” Freshman Timo Brown has supported Carter and his policies through phone banking. “I like that he doesn’t take corporate donations,” Brown said. “I can know he is really gonna do what’s best for students like me.” For now, Carter is working on pitching his plan for Virginia to voters. His number one issue: healthcare. Despite Medicaid expansion in 2018, the number of uninsured people in Virginia has risen to nearly 700,000 as a result of job loss due to COVID-19. “To me and to a lot of people, the only acceptable number of uninsured people is zero,” Carter said, “and the only way we get to zero is to have the government guarantee health care for everyone. It doesn’t have to be more complicated.” Standardized tests have also changed as a result of the pandemic. Many of these tests have become optional or been modified to be more equitable. Carter hopes to carry these changes past the pandemic. “The reason that we’ve got so many standardized tests is because it makes it very easy for politicians to chase a headline about test scores being up,” Carter said. “It’s much harder to say our LISTEN UP — Virginia gubernatorial candidate Lee J. Carter speaks into a megaphone at a Not My President’s Day rally in D.C. on Feb. 20, 2017. Carter has served in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Photo courtesy of Lee Carter | Page design by Ariana Elahi

schools are better because our kids are happier.” With the increased attention on policing and justice systems last summer, Carter positioned himself as a vocal advocate for the cause of changing the criminal justice system. “We have destroyed god knows how many lives, god knows how many families, god knows how many communities just locking people up. And it’s got to stop,” Carter said. Carter’s opponents McAuliffe and Jennifer D. Carroll Foy have both campaigned for criminal justice reform, with McAuliffe advertising the fact that he restored the voting rights of 173,000 Virginia residents, the most of any governor. “Now is the time to finally deliver Virginians an equitable, just system that is firmly rooted in redemption and second chances,” McAuliffe said in his Plan of Action for a Fairer Commonwealth. The increase in Carter’s supporters signify a growth in the progressive movement in Virginia, but he is worried about what this could mean for Virginia. “Whenever you get a period where there’s an upwelling of progressive energy among the people, but the politicians only respond halfway to that, then the backlash is extremely far right and often incredibly violent,” Carter said. “We do have an opportunity to fix it, and we can say that we don’t care what the Wall Street donors think. We’re just going to do what the people want.”


What you need to know about the three shots DANIA REZA FEATURES EDITOR




& JOHNSON 1 dose 95% effective 95% effective 94% effective 94% effective 66% effective VACCINE 66% effective 95% effective 94% effective 66% effective 2 doses 2 doses

2 doses


2 doses

2 doses

2 doses

21 days apart 21 days apart 28 days apart 28 days apart 21 days apart 28 days apart 1 dose

1 dose

12 yrs or older 12 yrs or older 18 yrs or older yrs or older 2 doses 18 yrs or older 218doses 18 yrs or older 12 yrs or older 18 yrs or older 18 yrs or older

21 days apart

28 days apart

12 yrs or older

18 yrs or older

95% effective

SIDE EFFECTS According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most commonly reported side effects in all three COVID-19 vaccines are:


1 dose

66% effective 18 yrs or older

EXPERIENCES “Everything was organized and the people who helped out were really nice. It was quick and easy,” senior Rishica Peraka said. “After getting my shot, I found out that staying hydrated helped me a lot with my lack of symptoms,” junior Michaela Aka said.

• Pain/soreness • Fatigue • Headaches • Chills • Fever

I ENCOURAGE EVERYBODY TO GO GET VACCINATED. IT’S CRUCIAL FOR EVERYONE “After the first dose, I didn’t feel any TO BE PROTECTED FROM 2 OUT OFVIRGINIA 5 PEOPLE IN VIRGINIA ARE FULLY 2 OUT OF 5 PEOPLE INTHIS VIRGINIA ARE FULLY VACCINATED different VACCINATED other than my arm being Side2effects within OUT usually OF 5 occur PEOPLE IN ARE FULLY VACCINATED DEADLY VIRUS.” seven days of getting vaccinated and are more common after the second dose.


sore. After the second, I slept so much and my arm hurt for about four days,” junior Sophie Tursi said.


As of May 23, according to the Virginia Department of Health Graphics & page design by Taylor Olson & Dania Reza

JUNE 2021 | NEWS | 5



Junior thrives in Girls Leadership Committee and on the soccer field JOSEPHINE PHILLIPS OPINIONS EDITOR | ISABELLA DIPATRI MANAGING EDITOR


unior Susan Shobeiri grins from ear to ear as she counts the total number of feminine hygiene products from McLean’s Girls Leadership Committee’s (GLC) collection drive: a grand total of 32,626 tampons, panty liners and pads. The GLC is a club that focuses on teaching young women important skills for future careers and preparing them for positions of power. Shobeiri is proud to be one of the student co-leaders of the group. She has been a member of the GLC since her freshman year and has held leadership positions since her sophomore year. OUR MAIN FOCUS IS TO EMPOWER AND INSPIRE GIRLS IN OUR COMMUNITIES, SPECIFICALLY AT MCLEAN, TO GO AFTER THEIR GOALS.” - SUSAN SHOBEIRI JUNIOR “Our main focus is to empower and inspire girls in our communities, specifically at McLean, to go after their goals and do what they want, given the current social climate,” Shobeiri said. Being involved with the GLC has affected Shobeiri’s life in several ways. “It has given me a lot of opportunities to connect with people who have similar goals to me, and it has allowed me to do things within my community that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do,” Shobeiri said. According to Shobeiri, the skills she has learned during her time in the club can easily translate into future careers. She urges all girls to apply themselves in any way possible, especially if they fear failure. “I think the kind of formal and professional atmosphere of writing emails and making calls is going to be the biggest way that I use these leadership skills in my future,” Shobeiri said. 6 | FEATURES | JUNE 2021

In addition to leading the GLC, Shobeiri stands out on the soccer field. She verbally committed to Boston University as a goalkeeper for women’s soccer in October 2020, and she will officially commit this coming fall. “We are so excited for her,” Eileen West, Shobeiri’s mother, said. “Boston is a fabulous university for students, and the school offers tremendous academic opportunities. They have a wonderful well-established Division I women’s soccer program with one of the top college coaches in the country.” Shobeiri’s co-leader on the GLC, senior Rohini Kumaran, shares this excitement for Shobeiri. “I know how much time and effort she puts into playing soccer and the commitment it takes to be good enough to commit to a school for a sport while still being active with clubs and school,” Kumaran said. Kumaran believes Shobeiri has been a successful club leader because of her empathic personality. “This position is more than just having a title—it’s about being a person in the community that helps others and can be a positive role model for others,” Kumaran said. Shobeiri and Kumaran led the GLC throughout the pandemic, and Shobeiri feels she learned important lessons over this time period. “I’ve learned to just go for things, because even if you don’t get the position you were hoping to get, you may be opening up doors that you weren’t really anticipating,” Shobeiri said. Shobeiri has simultaneously found success on the soccer field and in school. “I’m so proud to see her juggle her commitments so effectively,” West said. “She has really come into her own as a person, friend, scholar, team player and leader. She is a delightful young woman.” Shobeiri’s ability to excel in so many different areas of her life has shown her that the possibilities are infinite, and that’s a message she hopes to share with members of the GLC.

“Being in Girls Leadership is really about showing that girls really aren’t limited in any way,” Shobeiri said. “We can do anything we set our minds to.”

DONATION CELEBRATION — Susan Shobeiri holds up bags filled with feminine product donations from the Girls Leadership Committee’s feminine product drive in February. The club collected over 30,000 products.

EPIC SAVE — As goalkeeper of the Metro United soccer team, Susan Shobeiri jumps to block a goal.

Photos courtesy of Susan Shobeiri | Page design by Polina Zubarev

CLUBS MAKE SMOOTH SWITCH TO HYBRID Student club leaders adapt activities to stay relevant



hen McLean closed its doors last March, clubs were stuck with the question of how they were going to continue having meetings, and most of them found ways to adjust to the virtual environment. Nearly a year later, the school reopened under a new hybrid schedule, bringing up whether meetings should be held in person or remain virtual. “One of the hardest challenges for the Interact Club is not being able to work on hands-on projects as a club,” said junior Cynthia Ma, co-president of the McLean Interact Club. While teacher sponsors were essential in offering support and guidance to their club leaders, this year’s clubs were more studentdriven than ever before. “My role is really just to facilitate. It’s more about making sure students have access to whatever they need during this time,” Interact Club sponsor Ava Kaye said. “I’ve also helped to be a sounding board for Interact’s leaders to bounce ideas off of when it comes to fundraising and planning events.” Clubs used various platforms such as Google Meet and Blackboard Collaborate to hold their meetings. Scheduling has been a struggle since there are so many clubs and such little time in Highlander Time. “Virtual clubs have limited time to hold meetings,” said sophomore Kelly Mance, copresident of the McLean Red Cross Club. “There have been a handful of members who have to decide which club meeting they prioritize.” Students in the building on Silver Days for Highlander Time still attend meetings virtually. “Many of our club members go to school virtually, but many people, like the other copresident, Stella Shen, have attended online meetings at school,” Ma said. Club leaders have had to be creative in finding new ways to promote their clubs. Social media has been a common way for clubs to put out information about meetings, events and updates. “We’ve been promoting Interact projects mainly on our Instagram page,” Ma said.

STAYING ON SCHEDULE — McDance-A-Thon members and club sponsor Bridget Donoghue hold up signs to represent the $33,000 the club raised “for the kids” at the end of their hybrid fundraising event for Children’s National Hospital on May 1. Some members attended in person, while others joined in virtually over Zoom and Instagram Live to participate. Instagram has been vital for many clubs and has helped McDance-A-Thon continue fundraising virtually for Children’s National Hospital. “We do a majority of our fundraisers and meetings through social media platforms, which makes things a lot easier when we aren’t able to meet in person,” said senior Alex Lin, a McDance-A-Thon executive. ALTHOUGH THE EXPERIENCE IS NOT THE SAME, IT’S DEFINITELY POSSIBLE TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL VIRTUAL CLUB.” - KELLY MANCE SOPHOMORE Students have used some of their extra time at home this year to start new clubs and revive old ones. “McLean students have tried to start the Red Cross Club in the past, but it hasn’t sustained itself through the years,” Mance said. “We restarted the club this year, and although we faced some difficulties at the beginning, the past few months have been great.” Although certain in-person events have had to be canceled due to COVID-19, virtual events have still been very successful. “Just last month we held a Mapathon,”

Image courtesy of Bridget Donoghue | Page design by Lexi Scott

Mance said. “Our members helped to virtually map an undocumented village in Indonesia in order to receive lifesaving aid.” Several clubs have hosted guest speakers to take advantage of the possibilities virtual platforms offer. The Interact Club featured Bob Jansen, the McLean Rotary Club’s youth director. “He talked about service work and shared his own experiences,” Ma said. Club leaders found ways to run fundraisers both in person and online. “[McDance-A-Thon was] able to do a Valentine’s Day fundraiser in person where we sold roses to students,” Lin said. Being willing to adapt has helped McLean’s clubs continue to succeed in spite of all the obstacles. “Although the experience is not the same, it’s definitely possible to have a successful virtual club,” Mance said. Club leaders plan to circle back on many of the ideas that they were unable to use this year, and they are looking forward to returning to their previous missions. “Nothing is quite like volunteering with your friends in a safe and inclusive environment at McLean,” Kaye said. As club members look ahead to the upcoming school year, seniors are passing off their roles and responsibilities to the next groups of leaders. “I look forward to seeing what the new team does and what goals they’ll break,” Lin said. JUNE 2021 | FEATURES | 7

Gardening Club takes root

Students plant garden near McLean football field SEAN LEE REPORTER


cLean’s Gardening Club, founded by Mary Steinbicker and Lauren Hensley, has seen a successful inaugural year as quarantined students became more interested in gardening. The two had the idea to start the Gardening Club while they were on the track team together. “Prior to organizing the club, there were a good [amount] of students interested in the gardening plots,” said Antigone Stark, the club president. “That interest inspired us to start the club and give people an opportunity to work on the garden beds.” One of the club’s missions is to contribute to both the community and the environment. “Our goal is to connect people with a common interest in gardening and the environment,” said sophomore Tejini Holavanahali, one of the club officers. “By

growing a variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers, we aim to provide both food and pollinator plants for our community.” The club started to recruit members one by one. They ended up with three officers, 16 students and a sponsor, social studies teacher Corinne Mazzotta. “I had one of the members of the Gardening Club in my classroom last year in AP World,” Mazzotta said. “We would discuss at the beginning of class how certain propagations were growing, so my student remembered my love of plants and asked me if I would sponsor the Gardening Club.” After the club got into shape, it had its first official meeting at the garden near the football field bleachers on April 29 to work on preparing the garden beds for planting. To make sure that members aren’t exposed to COVID-19, the club limits the number of people who can work on each garden bed at a time. They also require masks along with social distancing. “Since we have four garden beds, it’s

easy for us to stay at least six feet apart,” Steinbicker said. “We also heavily encourage all of our members to wash their hands before and after coming to work at the garden.” Once the garden beds were ready, the club members started planting seeds. “We are currently growing lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and a variety of native wildflowers,” Stark said. “By the end of the year, we hope to add cucumbers, marigolds, basil, kale and mint.” The club is currently caring for the seeds as they wait for them to grow into healthy plants. “Right now we are monitoring the growth of all of our plants,” Steinbicker said. “Hopefully as the summer progresses, we will see a lot more noticeable change, but right now the growth is subtle.” The club is still looking for new members who are interested in not only gardening, but also in ways to contribute to the environment. “The Gardening Club is for everyone,” Stark said. “We’d love to have new members.”

How to start a garden 1

Find a location



3 choose what you want to grow 4

plant with care


nurture your garden




Painting & planting 6

harvest and repeat

The Gardening Club painted signs to label the plants in their garden beds near the football field at McLean. So far, they have planted wildflowers, carrots, tomatoes and several other plants. (Photo courtesy of Antigone Stark)

8 | FEATURES | JUNE 2021

Infographic by Taylor Olson | Page design by Akash Balenalli

10 Qs with

Nicholas Nicolaides (Chemistry Teacher) Photo & reporting by Madie Turley

1 2 3 4

How long have you been teaching, and what do you plan on doing after retiring? This is the 14th year that I’ve been teaching. After retirement, I’ll probably go to Greece and continue with my photography.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, and then we moved to Springfield, Pennsylvania, when I was in middle school. I stayed there until high school.

How would you describe yourself when you were in high school? I was a curious kid. I read a lot, but always things outside of high school like philosophy books. I wasn’t interested in school.

What was your first job? What was your first job?

My first job was with Wyatt pharmaceuticals in their research and development department’s physical chemistry lab.


Where did you go to college, and what did you study?

At first, I went to Bloomsburg State College. I wasn’t a very serious student there so I dropped out after a year. Some years later, I decided to get serious about things and I went to St. John’s University to study chemistry and philosophy.


7 8 9


What prompted you to start a deli, and what was your experience as a deli owner like?

I wanted to be my own boss. My father owned restaurants when I was a kid, so I thought I could do that. I bought a deli and refurbished it. It was a lot of hard work, it was 100-hour weeks, but over time I built up the business.

Did you have any popular dishes at your deli? I made a really good hoagie. Philly is known for their hoagies—they call them hoagies up there, down here I think we call them submarine sandwiches.

Do you think a chemistry teacher is more skilled at making a great sandwich than, for example, a history teacher? The advantage a chemistry teacher has over a history teacher, as far as cooking goes, is that cooking involves a lot of chemistry. Cooking involves ingredients. A chemist has to be very methodical in whatever they’re doing.

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What other types of jobs have you had since college?

I had my chemistry job, I worked as a commercial photographer, I owned a deli, I worked at Trader Joe’s, I got a job with FedEx driving a truck, then I slowly found my way to being a teacher.

When did you decide to become a chemistry teacher?

At one point, I had to create a career for myself and do something new. In The Washington Post, I saw a little ad saying “Career changes at George Washington University,” [so] I applied for the program. I got in and that was it.

JUNE 2021 | FEATURES | 9


School custodian puts effort into the protection of the planet JONGWOO PARK FEATURES EDITOR


fter students wrap up their school day and start heading home, custodian Ki Lee wipes the floors and organizes music stands in the choir room. Even after several hours of working, Lee remains enthusiastic. Lee came to McLean in 2012, making this his ninth year. “I think the most important role [of a school custodian] is keeping the school clean,” Lee said. “[Then], everybody in the school can work in a clean and orderly environment.” Lee’s hard work has certainly not gone unnoticed by the people around him, as Building Supervisor Francisco Quintanilla says Lee is extremely dedicated to his job. “[Lee is] a hardworking custodian,” Quintanilla said. “He wants everything nice and neat, and he’s very organized.” Lee likes being a school custodian, especially the rewarding moments that help him remain dedicated to his job. “I like it when teachers or students say that the school is clean,” Lee said. “It’s also heartwarming to see the band members playing music [in a room that I cleaned up].” Besides helping keep the school in optimal condition, Lee believes that school custodians can help the students in a unique way.

I WISH STUDENTS WOULD...TRY TO SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT. EVERY STUDENT’S SMALL EFFORTS CAN GIVE OUR DESCENDANTS A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE IN.” - KI LEE CUSTODIAN “This building is where students learn and grow,” Lee said. “By demonstrating recycling to the students, I’m helping the students learn how to love the environment.” Knowing the severity of pollution, Lee wants to help students learn about how they can help the Earth. “Today, people are damaging wildlife 10 | FEATURES | JUNE 2021

FOR THE BAND — Custodian Ki Lee empties the trash bin in the band room. Lee says he is proud of the students in the band and all the McLean High School students who work hard. and their [natural habitats],” Lee said, “so I want to ask the students to protect the environment.” The emphasis Lee places on taking care of the world around him is seen across the custodial team at McLean, as Quintanilla also insists that more people should recycle for everyone’s benefit. “If everybody was recycling and [keeping] everything clean, then the planet [would be much better],” Quintanilla said. Lee thinks the school should do more to make sure students know how important this message is. “I wish the school could create a campaign [about taking care of the environment] so that students could get to know about nature and learn to protect it,” Lee said. Quintanilla agrees that more people need to know how they can help. “[Everybody] can do a better job sometimes,” Quintanilla said. “The environment is something that some people forget about.” Lee is planning to retire in three years due to his age. However, his efforts to save the planet won’t stop there.

“I pick out every plastic bottle from the trash can and put it into the recycling bin,” Lee said. “I wish students would [learn to] recycle well and try to save the environment. Every student’s small efforts can give our descendants a better place to live in.”

Infographic by Cameron Tebo | Photo & page design by Jongwoo Park

CUDDLY COVID COMPANIONS Introducing the latest additions to the quarantine family DANIA REZA FEATURES EDITOR


A clumsy & energetic Labradoodle/Boxer mix Age: 9 months Owner: Kate Hernandez, freshman Why did you adopt George during quarantine? We have another dog, and we decided it was time to get him a friend. In October, we found the right puppy for our family.

MOLLIE A loving Border Collie/German Shepherd mix Age: 2 years Owner: Hannah Vincenzo, junior Why did you adopt Mollie during quarantine? We wanted to have time to train a dog, and quarantine was perfect for that.

Where did you adopt George? We adopted George from Wolf Trap Animal Rescue.

Where did you adopt Mollie? We adopted Mollie from Homeward Trails Dog Rescue.

What is your favorite thing to do with George? My favorite thing to do with George is picking up his favorite toy for the week and playing indoor fetch.

What is your favorite thing to do with Mollie? I love taking her on walks with my friend’s dogs because she loves playing with other dogs that aren’t little white fluffy ones, which she hates.



A smart & obedient mini Bernedoodle Age: 10 months Owner: Ken Kraner, English teacher

A hyper & nosy German Shepherd Age: 9 months Owner: Alina Mirzayan, freshman

Why did you adopt Tucker during quarantine? Our 10-year-old Golden Retriever had passed, and our family had always liked to have two dogs so we got Tucker.

Why did you adopt Andy during quarantine? I have always wanted a dog since I was little, and quarantine seemed like the perfect time to get a dog.

Where did you adopt Tucker? We were very lucky to find a breeder since there was a puppy shortage because so many people wanted dogs during COVID-19. What are Tucker’s hobbies? He loves playing with family members and our other dog.

Images courtesy of owners | Page design by Dania Reza

Where did you adopt Andy? We got Andy from a dog breeder. What are Andy’s hobbies? Andy loves to sleep on my lap, play with bees and catch balls.

JUNE 2021 | FEATURES | 11

SUPERSTAR SPANISH TEACHER Melissa Duluc wins Oustanding New Teacher of the Year

MADELYN FREDERICK OPINIONS EDITOR alking outside to the tennis courts, up the clanging metal ramp, and through the doors of trailer 14, students will likely be greeted with a smile and an enthusiastic “¡Hola!” from one of McLean’s Spanish teachers, Señora Melissa Duluc. Her classroom is full of life, with posters adorning the walls around a large whiteboard in the front of the room, and her teaching style is just as lively. “She keeps her students engaged and interested in the material,” freshman Talia Bolden said. “It’s a comfortable learning environment.” Duluc recently earned the Region 2 Outstanding New Teacher of the Year award, which is proof of her excellence in the classroom. “It was the most unexpected yet most amazing thing to receive, especially during such a difficult year,” Duluc said. “It made all my efforts feel valued.” Duluc currently teaches Spanish 2 and AP Spanish, but her dedication and hard work serve her students in more ways than just learning a language. “She’s good at noticing when students are


struggling, and she really tries to help them,” freshman Riley O’Donnell said. In order to win this award, Duluc had to be chosen by McLean High School administration as the new Outstanding Teacher of the Year. After that, she moved on to compete against other teachers nominated from different schools in the region. She found out she’d won the award at a virtual faculty meeting in April. “It has just been such an amazing experience,” Duluc said. In addition to her Spanish and English knowledge, Duluc is fluent in French. She devotes her extra time outside of school to working with her Latinx students who are learning English as their second language, an effort that sets her apart from an average educator. She began teaching high school after she earned her undergraduate degree at the State University of Brooklyn and her master’s in Spanish and French from George Mason University. She taught at another high school for half a year, and then she taught at schools in France. In January of 2019, Duluc started teaching at McLean. “Something I like about McLean is that they really emphasize this sense of

TEACHING TOOLS — Spanish teacher Melissa Duluc poses in front of her colorful Spanish verb posters after teaching a Spanish 2 class. She started teaching at McLean in 2019.

IN-TENSE — In preparation for her Spanish 2 class on May 20, Melissa Duluc writes the focus of the unit on the board. As the Region 2 Outstanding New Teacher, she will compete against other regional winners for the FCPS-wide award.

community. That community not only exists among students, but it exists with teachers and administrators.” This year, Duluc had to adjust to the COVID-19 safety guidelines while still fostering a strong learning environment. “My teaching style is very interactive,” Duluc said. “I enjoy having my students work in groups and sit close to one another, so definitely the biggest challenge I’ve faced has been finding ways for students to collaborate. It’s been difficult, because I usually do a lot of standing activities that involve walking around the room, which I can’t do now.” Initially, when students returned to school, Duluc had some concerns.. “I was worried that students would not be as enthusiastic because of limitations and restrictions, such as mask wearing and not having as many students in person,” Duluc said. “But students do want to be in the classroom, and that makes my teaching more exciting, because you see that kids want to be here.” Despite her concerns, these limitations have not had a negative effect on her students’ engagement. “I’m very happy she is my teacher this year,” freshman Alice Holoubek said. “She is able to keep [us] entertained and focused while doing the work we need to complete.”

12 | FEATURES | JUNE 2021

Photos & page design by Madelyn Frederick

COLLEGE UNDER COVID Students adapt to new college application process



s seniors prepare to head to college in states all across the country and beyond, they are beginning to reflect on this year's college admission process as current juniors start to worry about the road in front of them. College applications in 2021 were full of changes. Exams that used to directly affect students' college decisions transformed significantly since the pandemic began, especially AP exams. “It is totally different. A lot of students who would do well normally did not do well, but there were also many who unexpectedly aced it,” said Nancy Yang, the parent of a 2021 McLean graduate who will attend MIT in the fall. McLean's college and career counselor, Laura Venos, helped guide seniors through the changes and challenges this year. Even with years of experience in helping students transition from high school seniors to college freshmen, Venos found herself learning new things in this virtual environment. “I would say the biggest challenge was the inability to visit colleges in person,” Venos said. “While colleges offered a ton of amazing online programs and virtual tours, nothing compares to physically being on campus, which is really important when trying to figure out what a student wants out of their college experience.” One interesting phenomenon Venos noticed was an increase in students applying to Virginia public universities and a decrease in applying early decision, which is a binding agreement to attend a college if accepted. “It has been a hard time for colleges because of the increase in applications— they are making very difficult decisions and relying on the waitlist more and more,” Venos said. To adjust to the circumstances

created by the pandemic, colleges changed some of their application requirements. Many colleges this year, including Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia, made standardized tests like the SAT optional, which caused some students to feel hesitant about submitting their scores. “I can assure students that test-optional really means test-optional. We had many students apply without test scores this year and get into their dream colleges,” Venos said.

HAVE YOUR COLLEGE LIST READY AND START WRITING YOUR ESSAYS IN THE SUMMER, BECAUSE PROCRASTINATION WILL BE YOUR BIGGEST ENEMY.” - EMILY CHEN EMORY UNIVERSITY '25 What stands out to colleges has shifted. With a lot of colleges no longer looking at standardized test scores and many planning to go permanently testoptional, graduates will need to find new ways to catch admissions officers' eyes by demonstrating their talents in other fields such as leadership and sports. “To be completely honest, I believe that COVID helped me a bit because my standardized testing doesn’t stand out,” said senior Emily Chen, a rising freshman at Emory University. Juniors face the biggest challenge now,

Photo by Morgan Muntean | Page design by Ariana Elahi & Emma Hu

between transitioning from virtual to inperson school and starting to think about their upcoming college applications. Venos advises rising seniors to safely visit colleges of interest and work on essay ideas over the summer. She recommends not planning to apply to an overwhelming number of colleges. “Get ready to hit the ground running when you return to MHS in August. Only apply to 5-8 colleges to maintain your sanity,” Venos said. “Also, you should focus on your own unique needs—what do you want out of your life after MHS?” Chen recommends starting to work on applications soon but also not being too worried about the whole college admissions process. “Have your college list ready and start writing your essays in the summer, because procrastination will be your biggest enemy,” Chen said. “For me I believe that the whole college application process wasn’t as intense as what I’ve heard from college sessions.” So many aspects of life have changed for students since the pandemic hit, but after a year of uncertainty, it seems like everyone is figuring out how to adjust. “There are risks and rewards in this virtual learning environment,” Yang said. “What we can do is to adapt to the environment and max ourselves out.” JUNE 2021 | FEATURES | 13

14 | IN-DEPTH | JUNE 2021


2020-2021 SCHOOL YEAR IN REVIEW A look back at a strange year PHILIP ROTONDO EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Artwork & page design by Taylor Olson | Additional reporting by Madie Turley & Madeleine Stigall

JUNE 2021 | IN-DEPTH | 15


he 2020-2021 school year, which has simultaneously felt interminably long and as though it was flying by, is coming to an end. This year, everyone was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in one way or another. Living through historic times allows for opportunities to gain new perspectives, and Highlanders have learned much about themselves, their communities and life in general from their experiences over the last year. While the days have blurred together, each season has had its own distinct feeling. The story of the school year started during a strange, surreal period that felt like being suspended in mid-air: the summer of 2020.

Summer The summer of 2020 was full of confusion. The 2019-2020 school year ended in a state of stagnation, and Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) realized that this system of virtual learning would need to be overhauled before the next school year. “At the very beginning of the summer, the plan was to come back in person,” P.E. teacher and wrestling coach Kenneth Jackson said. “Three or four weeks before school actually started, [FCPS] then changed it over to a completely virtual setting.” For virtual learning, teachers would have to learn new systems and methods of teaching. “Preparing for the beginning of the school year looked very different to how it did in the past,” English teacher Mariya Chatha said. “We had to learn how to use a lot of new tools, and we had to adjust a lot of our lessons to fit in a virtual setting.” Teachers went above and beyond county requirements in order

to make their virtual classes engaging for students. “[Band teacher] Mr. Weise, [choir teacher] Ms. Martin and I were diving into these video editing programs, trying to learn the ropes,” orchestra teacher Starlet Smith said. “Some of those weren’t mandatory things, but I believe a lot of teachers were using the summer to get ahead and prepare.” Some parts of McLean were still operating in a limited capacity. Coaches were able to prepare their teams for the coming year with minimalistic training drills. “[The wrestling team was] able to do these conditioning days over the summer where we could meet at the school,” Jackson said. “We had to be outside with no equipment and no contact. We had those once or twice a week over the summer up until the season started.” July 15 was the deadline for families to submit their enrollment forms to determine whether their children would return to school fully online four days a week or attend in person at least twice a week and virtually for the remaining time. At the time, 40% of FCPS students chose to enroll in all-virtual learning, and 60% chose to enroll in partial in-person learning. Those who did not respond, which included 31,289 students, were treated as though they had selected partial in-person learning. On the same day, teachers and school-based technology specialists finalized their responses to a similar form. In that group, 52% said they preferred online learning for the coming school year, while 48% chose in-person, including 1,093 people who did not respond. “We [staff members] only knew what we were being told as parents and students were being told the same thing,” Chatha said. Teachers were completely reinventing their curricula, facing

OCT. 30:

End of first quarter


WINTER 2020-2021 FALL 2020

SEPT. 8:

day of school he 2020-2021 ool year – all dents begin virtually

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July 15:

Due date for the choice of enrollment in either in-person or virtual learning

Dec. 14: SEPT. 8:

First day of school Virginia High School the 2020-2021 League winterfor sports school year – all season begins, followed students by shortened fall and begin spring seasons. virtually

brand new challenges that were unique to teaching in a pandemic. “I don’t want to say there was a scramble,” Jackson said. “But there was a huge push by teachers to prepare in a totally different realm than [anything] we’ve ever dealt with before.”

Fall Following multiple stressful months of preparations by staff, Sept. 8 marked the first day of the 2020-2021 school year in Fairfax County, a first day which started like no other the student body had ever seen. “It was anticlimactic. You’re like, ‘Oh, yay, first day of high school,’ but it was just clicking a few buttons and being quite silent throughout the class and not really getting to see people,” freshman Camille Stephant said. “Like most freshmen, I was disappointed to have my first high school year online. You don’t get the full experience.” At this time, teachers were finally getting to see their experimental systems at work. As expected, while virtual learning plans looked good on paper, their execution was far from flawless. “When you first start [teaching in a new way], everything’s very difficult, technology isn’t working exactly how you want it to,” Jackson said. “I’m a P.E. teacher, and I didn’t get into P.E. to teach in a virtual setting.” Behind their gray Blackboard Collaborate Ultra avatars, many students were isolated from their peers and teachers. The space between the members of a virtual classroom brought communication to a minimum. “It is very difficult to feel a connection with students when

you can’t see them in person to understand what they are going through,” Chatha said. “It is very difficult for students to approach and communicate their needs with teachers in a virtual setting because it can be very intimidating.” Classes rely on collaboration and discussion as a way to learn, and the online distance between students and teachers all but completely removed this aspect of education. In classes where group activities are central, the lack of interaction both among students and between students and teachers had a negative impact on their productivity and success. “The main problem for my class, being one of the performing arts classes, is that you can only see five people at a time on Blackboard,” Smith said. “I really wanted to see as many students as possible to see how their posture looked. Thankfully, we were allowed to use Google Meet, [which shows more participants at one time than Blackboard], so that was a really good change.” Throughout the fall, while students and staff were attending school virtually, the path forward was unclear. “We’d be given a date that was, ‘Hey, this is right around when we’re gonna be going back in person,’ and then we’d get closer to that date and they’d say, ‘Alright, well, we’re pushing it back,’” Jackson said. “We were kind of gearing up and gearing down, gearing up and gearing down.” Some staff did not feel that FCPS’s promises for a return to school were realistic. “They first told us we’d be going back in December, and I was skeptical but I was so ready to see everyone in person,” Smith said. Staff were, for the most part, in the dark about when a return to in-person learning would occur.

OCT. 30:

End of first quarter

WINTER 2020-2021 Dec. 14:

Virginia High School League winter sports season begins, followed by shortened fall and spring seasons.

Infographic by Jayne Ogilvie-Russell & Taylor Olson

JUNE 2021 | IN-DEPTH | 17

“I can’t say I personally had an idea of when we were [going to return],” Jackson said. With the county making empty promises about the return to school, students could only guess when they would get back in the building. “I expected things to go back to normal by October,” freshman Will Cody said. “Then when that came around I started thinking, ‘Alright, well they’re gonna be here by December. And then, ‘Alright, January.’ And then I thought, ‘Alright, we’re not going to do it at all.’”

having a full season to grow and improve, McLean wrestlers did not see the same kind of development they would have during a normal season. Overall, the changes brought on by the pandemic have affected the wrestling team negatively. “One thing that really hurt [us] as a wrestling program is just that we did not have many new people come out,” Jackson said. “Normally I have about 15 brand new kids that weren’t on the team the previous year. I had three or four kids that were new this year. I am concerned about what lasting effect that’s gonna have on the McLean wrestling team and other teams that had to deal with the same thing that I dealt with.” Despite efforts to make the 2020-2021 seasons as normal as possible, the pandemic has made the student-athlete experience more difficult. As the year progressed, daylight grew short, the air became “I’m a freshman so I didn’t do [cross country or track] last year, cold and different parts of the McLean community gradually but from what I’ve heard, there was a lot more of a team dynamic began to find a way to operate during a pandemic. in previous years,” Stephant said. “We had Green Days twice a week starting at the end of One group of students seems to have been hit particularly October and all throughout November, and then we had track hard by the pandemic: those in transitional phases of their tryouts in December,” said Stephant, who is on the track and cross educational lives. Having a largely virtual year meant missing country teams. “That’s when we really started having practice five out on experiences that could potentially change the course of a days a week.” student’s life. McLean sports teams were finally getting to participate in “Seniors this year didn’t really get to tour colleges in-person,” SEPT. 8: SEPT First day of school First day o July 15:senior Audrey JulyKhoriaty 15: said. “We had to pick from online abbreviated versions of their seasons. tours, for the 2020-2021 for the 20 date for datereally for the “We didn’t start [wrestling] practice until the second Due Monday sothe you Due couldn’t get a feel for the school.” school year – all school y choice of enrollment choice of enrollment in December,” Jackson said. “We normally start at the in beginning Seniors have spent the year trying to focus on the positives and students begin student either in-person in or either in-person or of November, so the season was condensed by about a virtual month,learning making virtual the most of the situation. virtually virtu learning and [the number of] competitions was drastically reduced as well.” “In the future, we’ll be able to tell people that we were the Limitations on the length of seasons could potentially have graduating class during COVID,” Khoriaty said. “Not a lot of a detrimental effect on some teams’ athletic progress. Without people can say that.”



FALL 2020 FALL 2020

JAN. 22:

End of second quarter

JAN. 22:

End of second quarter

SPRING 2021 SPRING 2021 WINTER 2020-2021 WINTER 2020-2021 MARCH 2:


Hybrid in-person Hybrid in-person learning begins at learning begins at McLean McLean

18 | IN-DEPTH | JUNE 2021

Spring On March 2, 2021, after nearly a full year of virtual learning, McLean High School students finally began to return to school in person for two days per week. When CDC social distancing guidelines changed from six feet to three feet in April, students gained the option to attend school in person four days per week. While they did reach their goal of returning students to school buildings, the county’s efforts also resulted in even more confusion among staff members with their frequent change of systems. “It’s like everything changed every two weeks,” Smith said. We’d getOCT. into 30: a routine andOCT. then30: [the county is] like, ‘Just kidding! Let’s change this.’ really frustrating.” End of first That was End of first quarter one brandquarter As if learning new learning system was not enough, teachers suddenly had to balance a combination of virtual and in-person learners. “Teaching virtual, then teaching half of the students in, half of the students out, and then every student that wants to be here is here—there’s been a lot of consistent change, which has made it very difficult,” Jackson said. “You’ve just gotta keep adapting.” By March 16, 109,000 Fairfax County students had returned to school in person, roughly 58% of the total student population. Some students, however, opted to remain virtual. “I went back for two weeks,” Khoriaty said. “I switched back to virtual after that. I think a lot of seniors stayed virtual.” The pandemic’s effects had an extremely wide reach both to activities during the school day and after, particularly for seniors. McLean’s administration was tasked with completely revamping traditional senior year celebrations like prom and graduation to make the events safe while maintaining their appeal.

“[Prom was] not what I expected,” Khoriaty said. “It was in the parking lot, and they had time slots, which was a little weird, so you weren’t able to see everyone.” Graduation is currently slated to take place at Jiffy Lube Live. The change of venue has some clear advantages. Because the graduation will be held outside, masks will not be required for anyone in attendance, and the increased capacity will allow each senior to invite more guests than they would have been able to in previous years. “More people’s families can come because we each have [more tickets than usual],” Khoriaty said. Graduation will take place on June 1. June 11 marks the last day of school and the official end of the 2020-2021 school year. The last year has been, simply put, difficult. Never was there a school year where simply going about one’s day was such a challenge. Hopefully, as people look back at this past year in the future, they can view it as a time that led to much personal growth and improvement. “I do feel like I have grown as an educator,” Jackson said. “I have more strategies and more tactics, some that I will continue to use, even when we are back to normal. It’s made me a stronger teacher. It brought me out of my comfort zone and made me think outside Dec. of the14: box.” Dec. 14: Virginia High School High School One of the upsides of Virginia living through a time of turmoil and winter League winter sports change isLeague that when thesports world settles down, all one is guaranteed season begins, followed season begins, followed is an array of life lessons and a clean slate. by shortened fall and by shortened fall and “I feel like thisseasons. year, I missed outseasons. on a very important moment spring spring in my life, going into high school for the first time,” Cody said. “At the same time, I feel like it’s taught me a lot… [In the future,] I’m looking forward to doing better than I did this year.”

WINTER 2020-2021 WINTER 2020-2021

SEPT. 8:

day of school he 2020-2021 ool year – all dents begin virtually

MARCH 26: End of third quarter



Graduation for the McLean Class of 2021

End of third quarter


Graduation for the McLean Class of 2021

SUMMER 2021 SUMMER 2021 MAY 15:

McLean High School hosts its senior prom

MAY 15:

McLean High School hosts its senior prom

JUNE 2021 | IN-DEPTH | 19



McLean art students earn national recognition NATALIE VU MANAGING EDITOR


fter countless hours of sculpting, drawing and painting, visual arts students at McLean received national recognition for their efforts. This year, art teachers Christina Carroll and Swapna Elias entered their students into two nationwide competitions. Two students earned top honors in the national Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and four students were chosen for the National K-12 Ceramic Exhibition, one of the most prestigious ceramic competitions in the country. “It was unbelievable because I was so worried about doing ceramics during COVID, but they all rose to the occasion,” Carroll said. “I was beyond excited and [found myself] jumping up and down.” Sophomore Arin Kang won Best in Grade in the Scholastic drawing and illustration category with her self portrait “Refuge” and received a Gold Key, automatically making her eligible for scholarship awards. Senior Sara Bowers was a national Gold Key winner in the ceramic category for her sculpture “Sea of Despair.” “I really wasn’t expecting it,” Kang said. “I wasn’t going to submit this art piece, so I was really surprised when it won.” Kang worked on “Refuge” before the pandemic hit but missed the deadline for last year’s competition, so Carroll decided to submit it for her this year. “Hands down, the kids that are winning are almost beyond what the high school level is. A lot of times they’re more at a college level already,” Carroll said. “Sara Bowers has been with me for four years, so that’s four years of developing skills, and Arin, she is just…unbelievable.” Kang spent around four class periods making “Refuge.” She started by drawing a realistic self portrait and then combined various materials to create a collage. “We were supposed to study this particular artist and use her techniques and make our own artwork,” Kang said. “Art is one of my biggest passions—I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember, and it’s just fun for me to do.” Carroll decided to enter students’ artwork in the National K-12 Ceramics Exhibition 20 | A&E | JUNE 2021

for the first time, and everyone from McLean who submitted got into the show. “I am just blown away by how well we did on our first [try], so of course I’m going to continue it,” Carroll said. “Everybody that’s anybody in the ceramic world, internationally and in the United States, goes to those conferences.” Professional ceramic artists judge the competition, so the standards are very high. “I came from teaching at other schools, and it never [reached] this level at all,” Carroll said. “I just think with McLean kids, first, they’re talented, but I would also say it’s 40% talent and 60% hard work.”

I WAS PASSING OUT THOUSANDS OF POUNDS OF CLAY. I NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS THOUGHT IT WOULD BE AS SUCCESSFUL AS IT WAS.” - CHRISTINA CARROLL ART TEACHER The judges evaluated 668 entries for this year’s exhibition. The work that’s selected is considered among the best in the country. “I was pleasantly surprised,” junior Stefan Van Biljon said. “You enter these things that the teacher recommends, and you think, ‘Sure, why not? There’s no harm in entering.’ Then when you find out you won, you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s good, always nice to win.’” Along with qualifying for the show, Van Biljon won the Shadow Award for best representation of an animal in ceramics with his sculpture “Let the Earth Rise Up.” He made the piece entirely through virtual class over a period of two months. The sculpture starts with a solid lump of clay as the base, and on top of it stands the hollow body of a tortoise with a fragile tree protruding from it. “For this particular piece, I was thinking of the environment—that’s always something that most students are concerned about,” Van Biljon said. “Another reason I wanted to make it was simply because I wanted to make a tortoise.”

There were some tense moments while Van Biljon was sculpting, but he managed to persevere until the end. “The head almost fell off, which is not good, but I just basically kept building on it until I had a piece,” Van Biljon said. Like many other art students, Van Biljon had to adjust to virtual learning and creating his work in a different environment. “Normally, you’re in a class with lots of other people, but this time you’re totally by yourself,” Van Biljon said. “You still have the same studio setup and tools, so I’m not sure how different it would have been, but the feeling was certainly different.” Although virtual learning changed the process in some ways, Carroll found ways to overcome these obstacles. “What happened was, I set up breakout groups and I was able to meet with kids individually, almost on a daily basis,” Carroll said. “The parents and families having to pick up and drop stuff off have been super supportive, so I didn’t really change my curriculum too much.” Even after the sculpting was finished, there was still much left to do. Each student was responsible for photographing and uploading their piece. Despite this year’s unique challenges, students were ultimately able to adapt and succeed. “Incredibly, the kids did so much [more] on their own than [they] ever had,” Carroll said. “Of course, there were a few calls around 10 or 11 o’clock at night talking them through any complications they had.” Several of this year’s award winners plan to continue developing their artistic skills throughout high school and potentially turn their talents into a career. “I want to go to an art school, and I want art to be my whole career,” Kang said. “You can really bring out your own style and make it unique to yourself.” Following McLean’s success this year, Carroll plans on continuing to encourage her students to compete in the Scholastic Art Awards and the K-12 Ceramic Exhibition. “I had no idea how it was going to work out,” Carroll said. “I knew I was passing out thousands of pounds of clay. I never in a million years thought it would be as successful as it was.”

Photos courtesy of Christina Carroll | Page design by Natalie Vu

MAKING MASTERPIECES — Clockwise starting from the top left: Sophomore Arin Kang’s self portrait “Refuge” won a National Gold Key and Best in Grade in the Scholastic Art Awards. Junior Stefan Van Biljon’s “Let the Earth Rise Up,” Kathryn Kim’s “Dessert” and Sara Bowers’ “Breaking Point” and “Sea of Despair” were all accepted into the K-12 Ceramic Exhibiton and won various awards. “Sea of Despair” also earned a National Gold Key.

JUNE 2021 | A&E | 21


TheatreMcLean returns to in-person productions with Love and Information ISABELLA DIPATRI MANAGING EDITOR s the school year comes to an end, TheatreMcLean is finally getting a taste of normalcy as they return to the stage with their production of Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information. The play is a compilation of 48 scenes, all less than a minute in length, and contains over 100 unnamed characters who can be double-cast. “I wanted to find a show that would allow me to play with the numbers [of students] that auditioned,” theater teacher Phillip Reid said. Love and Information’s cast consists of about 30 students, which Reid says is perfect. There are no set decorations, costumes or props— simply the actors’ and actresses’ words and delivery. The scenes work to address current issues about technology, communication, knowledge and the human capacity to love. “It will definitely be an interesting play,” freshman Rafik Hanna said. “The setup is an eight-foot box, and all the scenes are done in that.” In order to prepare for this play in person, the entire cast was required to take several preventive measures. In accordance with CDC and FCPS guidelines, each individual scene only includes, at most, three students, and masks are required both inside and outside of the box. The biggest change from previous years’ performances, though, is that there will still be no in-person audience. “We will be filming the play and then uploading it to YouTube and watching it all together in a Google Meet,” sophomore Wyatt Lahr said. Although fans will be able to watch the play any time they choose once the recording is released near the end of the school year, TheatreMcLean members have missed performing live. “The production during COVID was a lot more difficult because of the lack of interaction with a live audience’s feedback,” sophomore Arielle Else said. TheatreMcLean rehearsals took place on Google Meet up until the return to school


22 | A&E | JUNE 2021

in April, and Else found that the confines of her room made it more difficult to build chemistry with her classmates and the audience. IT WASN’T QUITE NORMAL, BUT IT WAS DEFINITELY CLOSE TO WHAT IT WAS THE LAST TIME WE DID A SHOW IN PERSON.” - PHILLIP REID THEATER TEACHER “I don’t think anything could replace the live theater productions,” Else said. “The difference between online productions and live theater is the energy you get from the audience, and you just don’t get that during pre-recorded plays.” Although students know the production this year will not be exactly the same as past shows, senior Will Chapman believes they are well on their way to returning to normal. “It’s kind of slowly picking back up the

way that things used to be,” Chapman said “It’s not obviously going to be the exact same thing, but it’s coming pretty close.” TheatreMcLean typically puts on a musical in the spring, but COVID-19 restrictions eliminated that possibility this year. “Singing on stage is still really hard right now,” Reid said. With mask and social distancing restrictions easing up, Reid is looking forward to TheatreMcLean’s full return to in-person performances and is already considering some potential projects for next year. “[Theater students have] been wanting me to do Shrek for quite some time,” Reid said. “I think it’d be pretty weird but an awesome turnout.” For now, he is happy to get back into the swing of things with Love and Information. “It was awesome the first time we had a read-through when everyone was in the space and we were reading it [together],” Reid said. “It wasn’t quite normal, but it was definitely close to what it was the last time we did a show in person,” Reid said. “It will definitely be a step forward into getting back to how things were.”

BOXED IN — Senior Chloe Lahr stands inside a box on stage where she rehearses her scenes for Love and Information, directed by senior Lyssa Bass. This is where they will film the production, two to three students at a time, socially distanced and with masks. Photo & page design by Isabella DiPatri

FOUR-DAY weeks fit perfectly


FCPS should keep asynchronous Mondays in upcoming years GRAHAM COUREY & ZACH SIMON REPORTERS


his school year has undoubtedly been the craziest one students have ever had. One of the biggest changes to the schedule this year has been the introduction of a fourday week. Every Monday this year has been an asynchronous work day. Students were expected to complete assignments without attending class, and many approved of the change. “The extra time to complete assignments has been very helpful this year,” freshman Kennedy Muñoz said. With Mondays off, students were less stressed about their schoolwork. Teachers often made assignments due on Monday, effectively giving students an extra 24 hours to complete their work. “It helps me deal with stress and allows me to prepare for my week,” freshman Owen Loucks said. In a poll of 180 FCPS students, 96% agreed that asynchronous days should remain a part of the schedule. Evidently, most students have been positively affected

by the change made this year and want to keep it going into the future. “I think Mclean should keep Mondays asynchronous because it allows us to catch up on work for the week,” Loucks said.

THE EXTRA TIME TO COMPLETE ASSIGNMENTS HAS BEEN VERY HELPFUL FOR ME THIS YEAR.” - KENNEDY MUNOZ FRESHMAN In addition to helping students complete work, asynchronous Mondays give them more time to participate in extracurricular activities. When students have to do a lot of work on the weekend and spend most of Sunday completing their assignments, they aren’t able to devote as much time to other

Should FCPS keep asynchronous Mondays? Out of a poll of 180 students 4% 8 students

Yes No

96% 172 students Page design by Graham Courey & Zach Simon | Infographic by Jayne Ogilvie-Russell

activities such as sports and clubs. Though it may be difficult to cover all of the required curriculum with one less day a week, FCPS already proved that it is possible. Even with the asynchronous Mondays, most teachers were able to fit in all of the necessary lessons this year. According to the CDC, only three out of every 10 students get enough sleep on school nights. If schools are able to give students a day to get more sleep and be productive at the same time, they should absolutely take that opportunity. Asynchronous days offer time for students to be able to communicate with their teachers, enabling them to arrange appointments to meet with the teachers in classes they are struggling with instead of having a set of three or four classes every day. “I have time to meet with my teachers that doesn’t interfere with my schedule,” freshman Nick Barnard said. The flexibility of the asynchronous day is great for students, especially since they have the ability to work whenever and wherever it is convenient for them. This year, students have become comfortable learning and being productive in a more flexible learning environment. “Because Mondays are so flexible, it allows me to relax and complete all of my work on time,” Muñoz said. Even though the asynchronous day is overwhelmingly popular with students, FCPS is preparing to return to a Monday through Friday schedule for the 2021-22 academic year. This decision has left many students distraught and disappointed. “Without asynchronous Mondays I am going to have much less time to work on assignments next year,” Barnard said. Asynchronous Mondays have been an invaluable asset to students this past year, and the county would be doing everyone a disservice by taking them away. With the countless academic, mental and social benefits of asynchronous Mondays, they should remain a standard part of our school week for years to come. JUNE 2021 | OPINIONS | 23



What was once a bustling hotspot for students has turned into a socially distanced ghost town



tudents enter the cafeteria expecting to see long tables lined with hundreds of people eating lunch, but they are met with something quite different. Spaced six feet apart from each other are rows upon rows of desks with QR codes taped on them. Unfortunately, this is the situation students at McLean High School have been presented with every day since the return to school in March. Clearly, not what we were expecting. According to a poll of 57 McLean students, 54% choose to eat almost anywhere but the cafeteria. They eat outside, in doorways or on benches.

QUIET CAFETERIA — During a typical lunch period, very few seats are filled in the lunch room. The setup deters socialization and communication between friends. “The environment in the cafeteria isn’t that good,” freshman Thomas Terzaken said. “Everyone is all quiet and to themselves.” Although FCPS is trying to maintain a COVID-friendly cafeteria, they are making it almost impossible to socialize with friends during the one part of the day when students are allowed to do so. Without being able to sit near friends, the

Covid Cafeteria

of those who don’t eat in the cafeteria

eat outside or in the courtyard


of those who don’t eat in the cafeteria

eat in classrooms or hallways



eat in 16% always the cafeteria


never eat with friends

44% always eat with friends


*Data obtained from a poll of 57 McLean students

of students never sometimes eat in the cafeteria eat in the cafeteria 24 | OPINIONS | JUNE 2021

cafeteria is dull during lunchtime as there is very little to do there. Students can really only watch TV or look at their phones, so it’s not surprising that so few students eat there. Many students prefer alternate seating options to the cafeteria. “I can’t say I like [the situation at lunch] because I feel like you’re just sitting in a classroom while you’re eating food,” junior Collin Coerr said. “That’s why I don’t eat in the cafeteria.” A common hotspot for students is the cafeteria courtyard, as it features the fresh scent of the outdoors, tables with seating for four and a crisp calmness the cafeteria simply does not have. Offering additional seating in these areas would make it possible for more students to enjoy eating outside. “I eat in the cafeteria courtyard by the observatory,” Coerr said. “I’d rather not sit in [the cafeteria because it feels] like a mental institution. I’d rather be out in a warm place.” For days when the weather isn’t nice, additional seating throughout the school building would provide better alternatives to the cafeteria. Lunch is a time for students to socialize and relax, and we need this time together more than ever. Here’s some food for thought: the administration should prioritize coming up with more options that allow students to safely enjoy their break in time for the return to school in the fall.

Infographic by Ariana Elahi | Photo & page design by Maya Amman

making the right call

FCPS’s full return to school plan makes sense



or the past 14 months, the halls of McLean High School have been uncharacteristically silent. Ever since the start of hybrid learning in March 2021, classrooms that once sat 30 students now only hold six. This year has been marked by unprecedented challenges, and FCPS has not always been able to address them effectively. However, the county should be praised for their efforts to plan for a five-day in-person school week next year. The return to school plan eliminates concurrent learning and offers a fully virtual option for students with health concerns, making it a flexible and ideal approach for students with differing situations. For so long, students at McLean High School have endured masks, social distancing and isolation from family and friends. Due to the nature of the pandemic, many elected to stay at home and continue virtual learning. Now, with several promising vaccines, including one approved for children 12 and up, most students are excited to get back to traditional learning. “I absolutely want to go back full time,” freshman Thomas Van Meter said. “FCPS has to realize that virtual learning doesn’t give learning to the students—it just takes up their day.” Students have been highly critical of the learning situation this year. Many noticed that the concurrent learning environment created a stark divide between in-person and virtual students. The current model often leaves virtual kids feeling left out and neglected. “I can tell the teachers are not paying as much attention to the virtual people, and when I’m in class, sometimes it feels like they’re being ignored,” freshman Colin Manzel said.

Hybrid learning created many challenges for teachers, who struggled to divide their attention between in-person and virtual students. The concurrent model made it practically impossible for both sides to be properly attended to. On top of that, teachers and students alike found it difficult and tiresome to navigate the virtual learning environment. “BBCU, or whatever it’s called, just really isn’t a good way to teach,” Van Meter said. “Sometimes it lags, sometimes you can’t see the teacher or what they’re sharing. Accessing it through my email is a bit of a hassle, too.” Ideally, a return to 100% in-person learning will help solve these issues. Gone will be the days of frustrating lagging,

unavailable sessions and excruciatingly awkward silences. While most students are welcoming the idea of a somewhat normal year, some teachers are worried about staying safe. To address these concerns, the county is offering teaching options in its virtual school. “Designated teachers will need to apply and interview for placement in the divisionlevel Virtual Program,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a countywide email on May 5. “Base school teachers may teach one or more virtual sections based on division programming needs. Teachers will be compensated if additional sections are taught beyond their full-time assignments.” The concurrent learning system put forth by FCPS made learning and teaching incredibly unenjoyable. Teachers, who struggled to teach virtually, received even less attention from both sides. Students, who hadn’t attended actual school in 14 months, weren’t used to the in-person environment. Parents, who worried for their children’s education, were disappointed by their quarterly grades. Concurrent learning isn’t the best way for anyone to learn, and with low transmission rates and a relatively high vaccination rate in Fairfax County, McLean should easily be able to shift back to traditional learning in the fall. Evidently, FCPS has been paying attention. The county realized that teachers, students and parents all want the same thing—a return to normalcy. Their plan allows for just that, while still accounting for those with health concerns. Simply put, everyone wins with the county’s new proposal. “If the virtual platform [continues], my first half of high school is going to be wasted,” Van Meter said. “I want to go back, and for that matter, I think we should all go back.”

Oh no! We’re unable to connect you to the session. Try reconnecting or contacting the session administrator. Failure Code: J10 Graphic & page design by Ariana Elahi

JUNE 2021 | OPINIONS | 25



Girls lacrosse team learns valuable lessons for the future MADELEINE STIGALL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ertainly a trying year for sports, the pandemic’s implications have served as a bump in the road for all teams at McLean, especially lacrosse. “Lacrosse is more of a contact sport than other sports,” senior girls lacrosse captain Lianne Garrahan said. “If you’re on the defensive side, you always need to be pressed up against your attacker. You can never leave any space [between yourselves]. It’s definitely a very face-to-face sport.” A popular sport in the area, lacrosse has always been a fan favorite at McLean. However, tryouts this year had a surprisingly low turnout compared to seasons past, largely due to the pandemic. Still, the girls have been hitting the field with the same determination and enthusiasm as years prior. “[The tryouts] weren’t that different from other tryouts I’ve done before—still just as hard and nerve-wracking,” freshman Kyra Macomber said. “[There was] a lot more focus on individual skill.” Despite the lessening of restrictions as the year progressed, the players were deprived of a lot of the social aspects of sport. “We used to do team dinners and power breakfasts before games,” Garrahan said.


“And obviously with COVID-19, we’re not [allowed to get together] in huge gatherings anymore.” For the team’s new faces, this season served as a somewhat strange introduction to McLean sports.

I’M REALLY HAPPY TO BE BACK ON THE FIELD WITH MY TEAMMATES. I DEFINITELY MISSED OUT ON LAST SEASON.” - LIANNE GARRAHAN GIRLS LACROSSE CAPTAIN “I’ve never been on a high school-level team for lacrosse, but it would not have been what I was expecting before the pandemic,” Macomber said. “It has definitely been an adjustment to not have the same dynamic as before.” While some of these adjustments may have held the team back this year, the players were glad to be able to play. “I’m really happy to be back on the field with my teammates,” Garrahan said. “I

definitely missed out on last season.” Coach Priscilla Hooban said she has been impressed by the girls’ resilience in the face of the pandemic. “The girls missed out on a lot last season and are continuing to play [at a high level] while missing a key part of the game,” Hooban said. “What impresses me most about this team is their ability to push through the circumstances we’re in. They keep up morale and their hard work, which I am so proud of them for.” The season started with hard-fought losses to Marshall and Chantilly and peaked with an 18-0 win over Mount Vernon on May 3, but in spite of their record, it served as a learning experience for the team. “A lot of what I learned was to be ready for anything,” Macomber said. “This season was totally new territory for my teammates and I. It taught me to just be prepared for the challenges to come.” As the year comes to a close, Hooban is hopeful this mindset will boost the team to success in the future. “The biggest takeaway from this season for my team is to play every game like its their last,” Hooban said. “[This season] has pushed our players to play their best. Our girls play like there’s no tomorrow.”

GOAL-ORIENTED (photos from left to right) — 1) Sabrina Berry and the girls lacrosse team prepare to take on Mount Vernon at home on May 3. Athletes wear masks while not actively playing. 2) Hailey Buursink works hard during the game against Mount Vernon. 3) Kyra Macomber looks down the field to find a teammate to pass to. McLean beat Mount Vernon 18-0. 26 | SPORTS | JUNE 2021

Photos courtesy of Kent Arnold | Page design by Ariana Elahi

MCBASEBALL player moves on

Former McLean star copes with effects of canceled season TANNER COERR EDITOR-IN-CHIEF


he coronavirus pandemic hit hard for many, especially 2020 graduate Anthony Farmakides, a former McLean High School baseball player whose lights-out play earned him a commitment to Division III Randolph-Macon College. “[The pandemic] kind of shut me down. We didn’t really get out to practice,” Farmakides said. Athletes across the U.S. shared concern about the pandemic, with the future of their athletic careers in jeopardy. “Once COVID-19 hit, no one really knew what was happening,” Farmakides said. Farmakides was lucky to have already secured his commitment, as the lack of a senior season was a serious detriment to anyone hoping to be recruited. The extended period of time off left many athletes rusty. “Not seeing or hitting baseballs for a while is not good for your body [as a baseball player],” Farmakides said. The lack of play that occurred as a result of the pandemic has had a lasting effect on recruitment. If he hadn’t committed to RandolphMacon in the fall of 2019, Farmakides would have had to try to reach out to colleges himself during the early months of the pandemic.

Players weren’t the only ones affected by the pause. Coaches and recruitment teams also struggled with the situation. “It didn’t take very long to realize the writing was on the wall for us: [the season] was going to get canceled,” varsity baseball coach John Dowling said.

I’M STILL HERE, I GET TO COACH AGAIN THIS YEAR, BUT, FOR [THE CLASS OF 2020], THAT WAS IT—THEY WERE DONE.” - JOHN DOWLING BASEBALL HEAD COACH The seniors losing their final year of eligibility was one of the hardest things Dowling has ever dealt with. “I’m still here, I get to coach again this year, but, for them, that was it—they were done,” Dowling said. For current varsity baseball players, it is all about overcoming the ramifications of the canceled 2020 season. “The team didn’t have very good chemistry in the beginning [of the year] because we were all getting to know each other,” freshman pitcher Aidan Carey said.

UP TO BAT — Anthony Farmakides prepares for an incoming pitch during the 2019 season. The outfielder wore McLean’s colors for three seasons before going to play in college. (Photo by Julia McElligott) Page design by Tanner Coerr

With an influx of new players from the freshman and sophomore classes, the team took a while to mesh. This was the first full season for many players. “The team has gotten better and everyone is feeling more confident in each other [as the season has progressed],” Carey said. The Highlander baseball team went on a roll mid-season despite a shaky start, stringing together a four-game win streak as they approach the playoffs. As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease, players and coaches alike are settling into a more familiar routine. For Farmakides and other collegiate athletes, that means a return to balancing hours of schoolwork and rigorous sports practices. This step up from high school to college has proven to be no problem for Farmakides. He has been able to stay on top of his commitments at Randolph-Macon, and, with the help of his coaches and teammates, is only getting better at his craft. A freshman in college, Farmakides considers his future wide open—his most valuable recourse is the time he has to grow as a player. “I played all the way from T-ball to [the collegiate level] where I play at RandolphMacon,” Farmakides said. “Hopefully I’ll play many more years after that.”

SIGNING DAY — Anthony Farmakides commits to Randolph-Macon College in the fall of 2019. The commitment was the culmination of years of playing baseball. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Farmakides) JUNE 2021 | SPORTS | 27

SNOW PLACE LIKE THE SLOPES Freshman develops a passion for snowboarding T


he bright sunlight hits the snow and reflects back into freshman Tea Coronado’s eyes. The heat of the sun feels nice despite the chill of the air, as Coronado carefully situates her goggles. Suddenly, she’s off, racing towards her goal. Obstacles appear from all directions, but she dodges them easily, focusing on nothing but the rush of wind that keeps her company during this race. Crossing the finish line, she slows with a smile. Coronado has loved snowboarding for as long as she can remember. “I started [snowboarding] when I was 4,” Coronado said. “I went snowboarding every couple of years until I was 9, and then started again at 11, when my family moved [to McLean].” Both of her parents snowboard, which is why she started at such a young age. “It’s been a family thing for a while,” Coronado said. “Without my family, I would have never gotten into this sport.” Their move from Texas to the East Coast offered more opportunities for the family to go snowboarding, which has ended up having a strong impact on Coronado’s life. “My family has always gone to Pennsylvania to snowboard, and it’s a lot closer now than it was before,” Coronado said. “So my family and I really became more focused on snowboarding than before.” Her parents have supported her through her development as a snowboarder, taking her to practice three times a week and making long trips early in the morning so she can hit the slopes. When Coronado started snowboarding again after not practicing for a while, things were difficult at first. Relearning the fundamental steps required a lot of hard work. “The most difficult part about snowboarding is getting past the basics. Once you’ve gotten past the point where you fall over every two seconds, it’s all really downhill from there,” Coronado said. With hard work, focus and discipline, she was eventually able to improve. As she developed her skills, she decided to challenge 28 | SPORTS | JUNE 2021

herself by exploring the competitive side of the sport. “The best part of snowboarding is just being able to do the sport, but a close second is winning,” Coronado said. Coronado’s victories became a common occurrence as she continued to practice and began working on tricks.

THE BEST PART OF SNOWBOARDING IS JUST BEING ABLE TO DO THE SPORT, BUT A CLOSE SECOND IS WINNING.” - TEA CORONADO FRESHMAN “I started to be able to focus on not just getting down the hill but also being able to go to the terrain park and work on my jumps and boxes,” Coronado said. Her success motivates her to try harder. “[Tea] used to complain about having to be up at six in the morning,” her mother,

Elizabeth Coronado, said, “but after she became focused on snowboarding, she’s worked past that to reach her goals.” Coronado’s passion for snowboarding has brought her countless good memories, and she plans to pursue the sport further. “I’m definitely going to continue [snowboarding] through high school,” Coronado said. “And then, after high school, there are so many different ways to go. But, I believe I will be [snowboarding] for the foreseeable future.” Now that she’s confident in her own skills, Coronado has taken to coaching her friends. “Honestly, the worst part about the sport is falling,” Coronado said. “It is about the worst thing that can happen, because when you get up you’re all wet, and you just have to try again.” For Coronado, pushing through the challenges is the key to enjoying the best parts of snowboarding. “You can show off in front of beginners, or you can race your friends down the hill.” Coronado said. “You can have fun and be carefree, which really is what the whole sport is all about.”

BABY BOARDER — At just 4 years old, Tea Coronado’s father helps her onto her snowboard. Her family has always enjoyed snowboarding together. (Photo courtesy of Tea Coronado) Page design by Madeleine Stigall


































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

JUNE 2021 | SPORTS | 29

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