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Volume 64 • Issue 1 • October 2019 • McLean High School • thehighlandernews.com • @MHSHighlander


Check out the highlander Website for more news! Meet the new counselor at McLean Rebeka Rafi Get to know McLean’s newest counselor, Jenna Jablonski, as she shares her expectations for the upcoming school year and details about her life.

TheatreMcLean puts on first “No Shame” show of the year Jessica Opsahl-Ong For those who were unable to see “No Shame” in person, check out our website article to see a full review as well as multiple audio and video clips from the show.

McLean cross country runs at Monroe Parker Josh Bass Sporting events, such as the cross country meet at Burke Lake, are frequently covered online. Readers can take a look at the unique structure of this cross country course and why runners like it.

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thehighlandernews.com 2019-20 online editors Website Editor-in-Chief:

Dasha Makarishcheva

News Editor:

Aleena Gul

Features Editors: A&E Editor:

Grace Gould & Mae Monaghan Cc Palumbo

Opinions Editors:

Josh Bass & Saisha Dani

Sports Editors:

Josh Bass & Matthew Zarkani


ighlander patrons

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Letter from the editors

Dear McLean, This year marks the 400th anniversary of slavery arriving in America. The Highlander staff’s investigation into McLean’s racist past comes on the heels of universities across the country exploring their ties to the legacy of slavery. Our staff discovered that this legacy was deeply rooted at McLean. This issue’s front and in-depth cover images represent our struggle to face the wrongs of the past and create a better future for all students. As you read through this issue’s in-depth, we urge you to think outside of the progressive bubble we live in and reflect on the racial insensitivity that took place throughout our halls. Even today, the legacy of discrimination lives on at McLean. Washing off the effects of racism has proven difficult, and it will take more than the current measures we have in place to defeat it. Yours truly, Nicholas Lohman, Ava Rotondo & Dasha Makarishcheva

Editorial policy:

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

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

To submit a letter to the editors:

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

contents 12


4-5 6 7 8 9 10-11

Overcrowding issues persist at McLean

12 13 14 15 16 17 18-19

Behind the scenes of Homecoming

20 21 28 29 30

Hong Kong protests sparks outrage Johns Hopkins University purchases Newseum Parking lot over capacity Teachers try out deskless classrooms The hazy future of vaping

10Qs w/ Riley Larkin Introducing the new McTeachers Admins’ desk essentials Environmental issues on the rise Ben Nash adjusts to McLean Highlander of the Issue: Mia Valencic

The Highlander’s Halloween Scavenger Hunt Reviews of Northern Virginia’s haunted attractions Female rappers on the rise Young Thug’s So Much Fun falls short Burger King’s Impossible Burger review

The Highlander newsmagazine Volume 64 | Issue 1 October 2019

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

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


on the cover


34 35 36 37

News Editors:

Addie Brown Cordelia Lawton Marina Qu

Features Editors:


COMING CLEAN: Exploring McLean’s past

Cover photo illustration by Dana Edson

31 32-33

Copy Editors:

Zach Anderson Ben Brooks Addie Brown Emily Jackson


Jackson Clayton Arin Kang Dasha Makarishcheva Jayne Ogilvie-Russell

Digital Media Editors: Editorial: Browsing should not be restricted Crossfire: Is the new laptop initiative a good addition to the school district? Reporters harm the nation with CIA exposures Students should be grateful for an education High college prices are unnecessary School renovations don’t help students

Maya Amman Emily Jackson Dua Mobin Katie Romhilt

Skye Sunderhauf

Zach Anderson Erica Bass Andy Chung Kaan Kocabal Taylor Olson Marina Qu

Sports Editors:

Advertising/Circulation Manager: Rebeka Rafi

Social Media Managers:

Football recap Lack of fundraising hurts McLean sports Tuff Puff girls battle it out Athlete of the Issue: Joe Lokke Finish Line: fall sports

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

Printed by aPrintis

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

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

Opinions Editors: Erica Bass Heran Essayas Kyle Hawley


Erica Bass Sydney Langston Assistant

38-39 40 41 43 44

A&E Editors:

Michelle Cheng Elizabeth Humphreys Isaac Lamoreaux


Ben Brooks Rohan Mani Nicky Varela

Fact Checkers: Grace Gould Aleena Gul Mae Monaghan

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

Adviser: Lindsay B. Benedict


The county-wide issue of



BUSY BLUE HALL — People struggle to push through the crowded intersection right after third period. It is like a battle, and the winner is the person who makes it to class on time without being trampled in the hall. (Photos by Maya Amman)


he bell rings, and students immediately leave class hoping to beat the hallway traffic, only to be quickly met with the irritating sight of the red and blue hall intersection. Students struggle through crowded hallways, teachers lose their classrooms to trailers and school board meetings are held throughout the year to debate overcrowding. But the question remains—what’s the solution? The school board has finally begun the process of ending overpopulation at McLean. They initiated a boundary adjustment study between McLean, which is at 116% capacity, and Langley, which is at 82% capacity. If they decide to change McLean and Langley’s boundaries, this will most likely occur for the 2020-21 school year, according to school board member Jane Strauss’s proposal. School board members, staff and McLean students expressed the negative effects of overcrowding during a school board meeting on Sept. 12. Sophomore Atticus Gore spoke at that meeting. “I am here to give you a viewpoint from someone who gets slammed into doors, walls and people, day after day,” Gore said. “I am going to give you a view of a student who is in classes where there is not enough space for all of the students. A class where our talented teachers cannot do their jobs.” McLean’s overcrowding not only affects hallway traffic, but also hinders teachers from keeping students safe. “During passing periods, teachers are instructed to stand outside of their doors to monitor students,” English and American Sign Language teacher Heather Bovaird said. “I can’t stand outside of my door because of the buildup by the stairwell.” Traffic is especially bad in the blue hallway. “English and history are the only classes you have to take all four years, which are all found in the blue hall,” Bovaird said. Although passing time between periods has increased because of the significant size of last year’s incoming freshman class, the extra two minutes are failing to have much of an effect. McLean currently has 2,356 students, which is 363 students above its capacity and is only expected to grow as incoming class sizes rapidly increase each year. “Projections show that we are going to have 200 more students in 2022 than we currently have right now,” Director of Student Services Paul Stansbery said. The administration has removed hallway lockers and added more trailers to keep pace with its growing population. But this had not impacted McLean’s packed classrooms. With a surplus of students in each class, teachers fear that the quality of learning will steadily decline. “There’s plenty of data which indicates that adding more students to a class is going to decrease the amount of information students can learn and weaken the relationships they build with their educator,” social studies teacher Anthony Puzan said. Even Kent Gardens Elementary School, which eventually feeds into

Page design by Maya Amman

T THE SEAMS of overcrowding persists

McLean, is currently at its maximum capacity, with 1,048 students. They have had to install four new trailer classes to relieve overcrowding. “We currently have seven sixth grade classrooms while all other grades only have six classrooms,” said Holly McGuigan, principal of Kent Gardens Elementary School. To combat overcrowding, McLean plans to construct a modular complex next summer. It will be located on school grounds but separate from the main building. The complex will consist of a large trailer building comprised of 14 connected classrooms, a bathroom and a teacher workroom. But the idea of a modular complex is not a cure-all solution. “What happens is when you put in modulars, students end up sitting for a very long time, and they end up substituting for a fuller addition to the school,” school board member Ryan McElveen said. Another solution to overcrowding is open enrollment—something many parents of Langley students are advocating for. “Basically every student is guaranteed a spot at their designated school, but if they would like to apply to a school that has capacity, they can apply,” Langley parent Erin Lobato said. “You have to provide your own transportation, so that’s one thing that could be a barrier for some folks. But in a situation like Langley and McLean, where you have two schools that are three miles apart, some kids are probably zoned to one school but in walking distance to the other,” Lobato said. Langley is currently under capacity and unable to provide certain courses to its students because of a lack of student participation. School board member Scott Brabrand thinks open enrollment would be mutually beneficial to both McLean and Langley students. “Langley is next door, and there’s a lot of room because it’s a new school. So it’s not about just running around and slapping new boundaries down everywhere. It’s about thoughtful policy with community engagement,” Brabrand said. McLean has exhausted almost every solution in the Capital Improvement Program (CIP), which is a document with all of the overcrowding issues in the county. Suggestions in the CIP include adding temporary classrooms to accommodate a short-term capacity deficit. Other solutions in the CIP including capacity enhancement through either a modular or building addition. Potential boundary adjustments with schools having a capacity surplus are being considered for the following years. Although the boundary adjustment study is the first step in reducing overcrowding at McLean, much progress will have to be made to alleviate the crisis. With potential solutions in constant development, the discussion between parents, students and teachers has led many to realize that McLean is just like any other community with problems. Although McLean and Langley are viewed as wealthier schools, they are just as much in need as other Fairfax County schools. “And I think it’s, again, we’re playing as a victim of its own success,” McElveen said. “We are not perfect—no community is perfect—and we need help, just like everyone does.”

Statistics from FCPS Enrollment Dashboard



McLean students voice opinions on Hong Kong protests SHRUTHI MANIMARAN REPORTER


espite its reputation as one of the world’s liveliest cities, the past few months have shed a dark light on the true state of Hong Kong. Nearly eight months ago, Chief Executive Carrie Lam introduced a bill that would extradite anyone convicted of a crime to mainland China in order to be tried. The move sparked outrage from Hong Kong citizens, who claim the bill takes away their autonomy. “No one wants to give up their freedom to a communist country like China, so we don’t want to give up our freedom,” said senior Sydney Ng, whose family is from Hong Kong. By early June, massive protests began taking place on the streets, at government headquarters, police stations and even the Hong Kong airport. Mostly peaceful protesters organized sit-ins, strikes and marches. “[Hong Kong people] know we’re Chinese. Yet, we love the country and not the government,” Ng said. Ng does not believe China was justified, although she does think it was inevitable for Hong Kong to follow China’s will. “Technically, Hong Kong is part of China, so there’s not much we can do by law,” Ng said. “But I do agree that the government can make things more peaceful.” Junior Megan Leung, whose mother’s family is from Hong Kong, has visited four times. Leung was surprised by how widespread the protests

April 3, 2019 Extradition bill first introduced by Hong Kong government

were. The increase of police violence in the city, such as using tear gas and rubber bullets against the protesters in public places, has led to her family taking extra precautions. “I have a lot of my family living in Hong Kong at the moment, and as a result of the protests, they had to avoid certain MTR [Metro] stations,” Leung said. Since most protesters wear black, Leung’s family had to be careful.


“They had to be cognizant of the shirt colors they were wearing [to avoid being misidentified by the police],” Leung said. The protesters are mainly younger college students, who grew up knowing Hong Kong as a city free from Chinese influence. A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 and guaranteed a high level of autonomy. Hong Kong is operating under a “one country, two systems” policy until 2047, when China is

June 12, 2019 Police fire tear gas at protesters, violence breaks out

June 9, 2019 One million Hong Kongers protest against bill

legally set to reclaim it. “We can’t deny the fact that Hong Kong is still part of China, so technically what the protesters did is not rightful to the Chinese government; they are obviously not justified to Chinese people,” said junior Stella Shen, who was a Beijing resident for 13 years. The protests grew more chaotic and violent over the past few months, with tension between the Hong Kong police and protesters at an alltime high. On Sept. 4, Lam formally withdrew the controversial extradition bill and called for a peaceful end to the riots. However, it had no effect on the movement due to the protesters’ new call for a democracy with no strings attached. To some, there is no ideal outcome for the people of Hong Kong. “It’s nearly impossible for them to be independent from China, and it is definitely not ideal for them to be under the rule of communism,” Shen said. In early September, protesters took to the streets to wave American flags and ask U.S. President Donald Trump to intervene. In Congress, there is bipartisan support for a bill that punishes Chinese officials by possibly restricting special trade privileges. “In government class, one of the first equations they’re going to give you is freedom versus order versus equality, and every country on the planet is trying to balance that: freedom, order, equality,” social studies teacher Ian Howell said. “This is just a slow version of Tiananmen Square.”

Aug. 5, 2019 City-wide strike in Hong Kong takes place

June 15, 2019 Chief Executive infinitely delays extradition bill

Oct. 1, 2019 Police shoot protester on Chinese National Day

Sept. 4, 2019 Chief Executive withdraws extradition bill Information obtained via bbc.com and nytimes.com


Infographic by Dasha Makarishcheva | Page design by Shruthi Manimaran

NEWSEUM CLOSING Johns Hopkins University purchases building for D.C. programs BEN BROOKS SPORTS & COPY EDITOR


fter over a decade of business, the Newseum is shutting its doors. The museum dedicated to journalism was purchased by Johns Hopkins University for $372.5 million and will be shut down by the end of 2019. The Newseum offers a modern, unique experience that is largely absent from the sprawl of museums in the nation’s capital. While there has been no official announcement from the Newseum, it is largely expected that the Freedom Forum, who owns the museum, will reopen the Newseum at some other time in a different location. Located on Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown D.C., the Newseum is dedicated to sharing the importance of First Amendment rights and highlights the importance of free press in America, a privilege many other countries do not have. “My favorite part was the press freedom map,” senior Ed Chamberlayne said. “It was really shocking to see what countries didn’t have freedom of press.” The overall goal of the Newseum is to provide visitors with a one-of-a-kind experience dedicated to journalism; rather than showcasing dinosaur fossils or pictures of past American leaders, the Newseum gives people a real look at past news stories as they happened and the evolution of news. Aiming to increase public understanding of the importance of journalism, the Newseum provides interactive experiences and exhibits that all people can enjoy. Another unique aspect of the Newseum is its ability to cater to all ages. “My favorite part of the Newseum when I was little was taking a part in becoming a news anchor,” senior Robert Wegmueller said. “When I got older I really appreciated the Berlin Wall exhibit and the Unabomber house, as well as the 9/11 exhibit. They were all really chilling and Photos & page design by Ben Brooks

helped me realize the importance of the media.” With recent attacks against the media, the Newseum has been a way to show the positive aspects of media, going back through history to show the important role media plays in everyday life.

[THE NEWSEUM] REALLY SHOWED HOW MEDIA CAN BE A WAY FOR PEOPLE TO COME TOGETHER IN DESPERATE TIMES.” -ROBERT WEGMUELLER SENIOR “It really showed how media can be a way for people to come together in desperate times, and connect people,” Wegmueller said. “For example,

looking at the wall of newspaper titles following 9/11 were very unifying for the country.” The Newseum helps visitors to see media in a new light, providing lots of information to help them fully understand the importance of the museum and the journalistic world as a whole. “The press gets a really bad rap from a lot of people, and having this museum here giving you all the facts is really helpful to make people understand the press,” Chamberlayne said. Johns Hopkins University will take ownership of the building, and they plan to turn it into a building for those participating in the Hopkins programs in the D.C. area. The building is just a few blocks away from Capitol Hill, making it easily accessible for many tourists in the area. Despite its closing, many want to see the artifacts and exhibits from the Newseum carried on in the future. “It is one of the only museums in D.C. that covered both relatively new events and really old ones as well,” Wegmueller said. “It brought a modern feel to the D.C. museums.”

MAKING HEADLINES — Every day, the Newseum displays the front pages of newspapers from each U.S. state along with several publications from around the world. The Newseum will be closing its doors by the end of 2019. OCTOBER | NEWS | 7


MHS deals with more parking passes issued than available



verflow traffic, tight spaces and cars bumper to bumper: this all describes a typical after school scene in the junior parking lot. Parking passes were sold on MySchoolBucks, an app used to facilitate school-related purchases. However, this year, there was a glitch in the system that issued more passes than were available. “I didn’t anticipate what happened this year— we had such a demand for parking, we had more people pay for the parking than I had permits to issue,” Safety and Security Specialist Buddy Sekely said. “That all happened during the summertime while I wasn’t even on contract, so it just kind of blew up on me.” Students are frustrated due to the crowded lots at McLean and have concerns about the hazards of the current parking situation. “Leaving school is so hard, like with the J-lot. And then the Kiss & Ride is also in the middle of where everyone ends up,” senior Elizabeth Ghyka said. The increase in students this year required more teachers to be hired as well. Some senior spots were turned into teacher parking spots to provide adequate parking spaces for the new teachers. “Once 7:40 hits, the senior lot is barely even a lot anymore. It’s pretty much just like 10 spaces because they need more staff parking,” Ghyka said. “The senior lot is non-existent at this point.” Although the new section of parking spaces may have provided more spots for students, they do take up a lot of space when driving by. Ghyka got into an accident over the summer, after the college application workshop, when backing out of the new spots in the junior lot. “I pulled in and then I was a little crooked, so I was going to re-adjust my parking. I was backing out and then some guy came driving and I’m assuming there was another car going the other way. He just kind of like zoomed by as I was backing out,” Ghyka said. Although Ghyka accepts some of the responsibility for the crash, she said it can be quite difficult to back out of a spot in the new section of spaces. “With the lack of space, if two cars are both trying to go through, there’s enough room for two cars perfectly next to the spaces,” Ghyka said. “So if anyone is trying to back out either side, they can’t get out.” Each year, parking passes have sold out sooner


BUMPER TO BUMPER — Drivers try to leave a crowded junior lot after school. Students have to wait patiently in a long line of cars out the rock exit. (Photo by Rebeka Rafi) than the previous year. Last year, parking passes stopped being issued in November and the previous year it was February. However, students are constantly going in and out of school due to their academy classes, appointments and more, so Sekely did not anticipate such an issue with the passes this early in the year. “This year, we were basically oversold or sold out before school even started, and it just snuck up on me. I mean, we’re busting out the seams here,” Sekely said.

I DIDN’T ANTICIPATE WHAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR—WE HAD SUCH A DEMAND FOR PARKING.” -BUDDY SEKELY SAFETY & SECURITY SPECIALIST This is Sekely’s 22nd year, and he has never experienced an overcrowding problem quite like this year’s. When Sekely first started at McLean, there was an assigned parking system that seemed to cause problems. Not every student received a parking spot and many were left empty each day. “Each individual student had an assigned

spot, [but] I had 100 students on the waiting list,” Sekely said. “That’s why I went to this new system of overselling a lot.” Senior Amanda Mullet, who is in her second year of parking at McLean, has had some difficulties this year. “A few days before my [parking pass] pickup date, I heard from someone that they’ve stopped handing them out,” Mullet said. “I panicked and ran to go and ask about it, and they told me...that they ran out of passes.” As a solution to the problem, the school is now renting the community pool parking lot near McLean in order to provide more spaces. “At the end of the day, we have to lock the gate,” Sekely said. “Every car in there by 3:30 is stuck for the night, so that’s the plan this year.” Sekely hopes the school will continue to rent the community pool lot next year. “The overcrowding for the foreseeable future is only going to get worse because every class that comes in is a little bigger than the previous one,” Sekely said. Despite ongoing rumors regarding the passes, no parking permits were confiscated from any students, although eight people requested refunds. “I want to park as many students as possible; I would sell permits forever, but I don’t have the space, that’s all I can say,” Sekely said. “It’s not that we don’t want to issue the permits—we can’t. We’re limited now.” Page design by Rebeka Rafi

CLASSROOMS GO DESKLESS Teachers introduce new classroom dynamic SAISHA DANI REPORTER


tudents move swiftly around a classroom, discussing the activity questions posted on the walls. Rather than having to walk around countless desks, they move through a desk-free classroom, making it easier for them to interact with one another as they do their class activity. Heather Bovaird’s American Sign Language (ASL) room and Jamie Heath’s Spanish class are spearheading this deskless classroom trend. Heath has been researching deskless classrooms for a while. This year, she is trying out the new arrangement to see if it is more effective than an ordinary classroom. “In world language classrooms you’re supposed to be talking to people and communicating,” Heath said.“I found that desks really allow students to do other things instead of Spanish, like having their phones under their desk. If you’re not listening to me or to your classmates, you’re really missing out on crucial learning.”

IT’S SO MUCH EASIER TO MOVE AROUND AND DO GROUP OR PARTNER WORK OR REVIEW WHEN WE DON’T HAVE TO MOVE AROUND DESKS.” - HEATHER BOVAIRD ASL TEACHER Similarly, Bovaird implemented a deskless classroom for her ASL class to make the class more comfortable for students. “With sign language, you have to have a full range of motion from your waist above,” Bovaird said. “Having a table or desk gets in the way of producing the signs properly, so getting rid of desks seemed like an excellent idea.” Deskless classrooms facilitate movement in the class and allow students to interact more freely with one another. “It’s so much easier to move around and do group or partner work or review when we don’t have to move around desks,” Bovaird said. According to Heath, students learn better when they move around. “When you sit, your blood flow is less to your brain,” Heath said. “Moving [plus] doing equals learning.” Now, students have to adjust to their new classroom arrangements and a Page design by Marina Qu & Saisha Dani

GET MOVING — Spanish 4 students Eliana Durkee, Susannah Bianco and Benjamin Cudmore participate in a class activity, requiring them to walk around the class and communicate with each other. Two classrooms incorporated the deskless style this year to encourage further student engagment. (Photo by Saisha Dani) different way of learning that they have never experienced before. “I think [the class dynamic] is going to be an issue when we have to take tests,” junior Eliana Durkee said. “It’s just kind of annoying to have to write on a clipboard, but I think it does make our speaking better in Spanish. It forces us to speak more in Spanish, based on the activities we do.” While students have noticed certain inconveniences, many have admitted that the new classroom layout is beneficial to learning. “I like a classroom without desks because that way students can’t lay their heads on the table and fall asleep,” sophomore Natalie Bennett said. “Without desks, I feel like you interact with your peers because you can see each other and be more aware of what may be going on.” Teachers have also changed their teaching techniques to accommodate the new deskless classrooms. “I can’t bail out and pass out a worksheet or make [students] do seat work all class because that would be impossible with no desks,” Heath said. “The onus is on me to be better prepared and have engaging lessons and activities.” Although Heath and Bovaird hope that having no desks in classrooms will encourage more interactions between classmates, Durkee said she feels that having no desks has resulted in a decrease in those interactions. “We’re all looking at the teacher instead of talking in our group, so I don’t really talk to anyone directly around me,” Durkee said. “We’re not being forced to talk to our table groups like you usually would.” From the teachers’ point of view, though, this opens up new opportunities to talk to students. “I feel like I have better interactions with [students] because they’re physically closer to me in proximity,” Bovaird said. Both Heath and Bovaird will continue with this classroom arrangement for the rest of the year and evaluate whether this style will work out for the following school year. “I have talked to a lot of world language teachers who have gone deskless, and none of them want to go back,” Heath said. “They all said it was the best move they ever made for engagement.”



What is known about vaping, why students



recurring threat to public health continues to harm America’s youth: vaping. JUUL, a leader in the vape industry, replaced their chief executive with K. C. Crosthwaite, a high-ranking officer from a Big Tobacco company, Altria, on Sept. 25. This heightened the “company’s turmoil” and raised more uncertainty concerning what lays ahead for the e-cigarette industry, The New York Times said. The last week of September, lung cases linked to vaping increased by 52%, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). As of Sept. 26, there have been 805 individual cases with 12 deaths across 10 states The symptoms begin with the victims feeling shortness of breath or chest pain. They may also experience weight loss, nausea or vomiting before they reach the point of hospitalization, the CDC said. Most of the cases being reported are from users who have a history of using e-cigarrettes containing THC, according to the CDC. Approximately 16% of cases appear in underage, teenage users. Dr. Christopher Holstege, a director of the University of Virginia’s Division of Medical Toxicology and the medical director of the Blue Ridge Poison Center, emphasizes the hypocrisy in the teenage generation’s frequent vape use. “Young generations are really concerned with chemicals and the environment, everything from what foods they eat, the air they breathe, the water they drink; yet they’re voluntarily taking these chemicals into their bodies,” Holstege said. E-cigarettes were presented as a safer alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes when they were first introduced to the public a decade ago, and the FDA recently attacked JUUL for allegedly illegally marketing their devices to teens. In response, Michigan became the first state to ban flavored e-cigarettes, which appealed to youths, in early September, and New York followed soon after, but the epidemic continues. McLean students are no strangers to vaping.


“There have always been issues regarding vaping among students,” School Resource Officer Scott Davis said. Students are often found in the bathrooms taking part in this activity during the school day. Davis has personal experience with this lung illness outbreak. His family friends were bringing their daughter to college when she had trouble breathing. She then admitted to having engaged in vaping for the entire previous year. “They don’t know what will happen to her,” Davis said. “She’s in the hospital in the ICU.”

THEY COULDN’T EVEN DO HUMAN RESEARCH ON [VAPES] BECAUSE THEY’RE WORRIED ABOUT THE SAFETY OF THE SUBJECTS.” -CHRISTOPHER HOLSTEGE, M.D. DIRECTOR OF UVA’S DIVISION OF MEDICAL TOXICOLOGY In a recent poll, 85% of 173 McLean students said they think vaping is dangerous, over half of them said they still participate. Young people may continue vaping because they believe it is safer than traditional tobacco. Adolescents have a “low perceived risk” of nicotine vaping, according to a 2019 Monitoring the Future study conducted by the University of Michigan. Holstege sees vaping as a major threat to the health of these young student populations. “To truly say that it’s safer than smoking cigarettes—until we have decades of data—

we’re not going to know that for sure,” Holstege said. “Go back to the 1940s with smoking. It really took a long time to definitively prove that it caused harm. It took decades to show that it caused cancer.” When traditional cigarette popularity exploded in the 1940s, most people considered it to be a safe pastime. As evidence of the correlation between smoking and cancer accumulated, tobacco companies simply marketed smarter and smokers turned a blind eye. The vaping industry seems to be following a similar pattern. As smoking rates have been decreasing, rates of e-cigarette usage have increased over fivefold since 2011, according to The Washington Post. Currently, medical research has not established what substances in vapes could cause these reported illnesses and deaths. No human studies have been conducted yet to determine what the long-term consequences of vaping may be. “Even the NIH wasn’t sure if it was safe to conduct human studies with these devices,” Holstege said. “That’s concerning. They couldn’t even do human research on this because they’re worried about the safety of the subjects who will do the inhaling of these substances.” The exact compositions of those substances are still unknown. Vaping devices heat these substances, and the “products of combustion” are what are inhaled and absorbed into the user’s system, Holstege said. The products that are created from superheating these unknown chemicals could be the cause of reported lung illnesses and deaths. Knowing what the chemicals are is not even the final piece to the puzzle. “One company doesn’t make these [chemicals],” Holstege said. “The liquids come from all over the world, depending on what you’re purchasing, and with different chemicals in them that aren’t regulated.” This is the most terrifying fact of all. What is in an e-cigarette or flavored cartridge? It’s impossible to know; each one can have a different mix of chemicals. What is permeating into millions of young bodies? No one knows. Even with all of the uncertainty, the youths of

Page design by Ava Rotondo | Additional reporting & infographics by Kaan Kocabal


vape and what it means for their health America continue using vapes. Of 173 McLean students, 58.7% have used a vape, a 20% increase from a similar poll conducted in 2018. About 38% of students said they vape for the “buzz” it produces, and 28% have tried it out of curiosity. Only a little over 7% claim they were coerced to vape by peer pressure. Others say stress is the main reason behind their vaping practices, and that they rely on it to escape from their school life. The tremendous amount of pressure to succeed put on students, whether it be by their parents, teachers, coaches or friends can cause students to vape, as well.

“It makes me feel good, and it relieves stress from school,” John Doe* said. “When I do badly on a test or in sports, I need a vape to make me feel better.” Davis feels students vape for other reasons. “The school isn’t the one making students vape,” Davis said. “Students are choosing to vape.” Regardless of the reasoning behind e-cigarette use among teens, the risks outweigh the rewards. Holstege recommends that users quit immediately, but that can be easier said than done. For instance, Doe said he is trying to quit, but he feels he may be addicted. This is because

e-cigarettes are just as—if not more—addicting than tobacco cigarettes, and today’s younger generations are getting most addicted, according to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Almost 40% of McLean students vape anywhere from weekly to daily, a worrying statistic which has shown no signs of slowing down in recent years. Students have proven they are on board with inhaling potentially harmful chemicals into their lungs, which begs the question: what is the future of the e-cigarette industry? Unfortunately, just as with the other questions, only time will tell.

In a poll of 173 McLean students... Have you ever vaped?

How often do students vape?

25% 53.1% 12.5%


of people said yes


of people said no

9.4% Very rarely

Almost daily

Once a week

Once a month OCTOBER | NEWS | 11

HOCO HYPE A behind the scenes look at McLean Homecoming

TAYLOR OLSON & EMILY FRIEDMAN game, Leadership students returned to McLean at REPORTERS 8 a.m. and spent hours setting up the gym.


omecoming is one of the most important high school dance experiences, but most students are unaware of the hard work that goes into this phenomenal event. Leadership is a club and class at McLean that plans all aspects of Homecoming. They have dedicated every third period since school began to planning the festivities. “Leadership thinks of Homecoming as an event instead of one specific day with one specific thing,” sophomore Leadership member Atticus Gore said. “Most people think [of it as just] the dance, but Homecoming [consists] of a bunch of different things.” The class is split into committees that each arrange an aspect of Homecoming. These committees plan the lunch games, spirit days, pep rally, Tuff Puff, Homecoming court and the dance itself. Leadership teachers Bridget Donoghue and Karen McNamara oversee all of the committees and ensure everything runs smoothly. “My role is to make sure that everything gets done,” McNamara said. “Ms. Donoghue and I call the DJ [and] the companies that are [involved]… We organize all the different events to make sure they can happen.” At the end of last year, leadership proposed about five different theme ideas, and the class this year voted on their two favorites. The two finalists were put in a poll on the McLean Leadership Instagram. “This year’s theme is ‘Home Sweet Homecoming.’ We took ideas from Willy Wonka and Candy Land and are going to have lots of candy-[inspired] things, an LED dance floor and lots of balloons and streamers,” Gore said. “It will be really colorful and super fun.” Homecoming tends to be in October, but because of the football schedule, the dance was moved to late September. “The hardest part, especially this year, is [getting the work done in] time because our Homecoming is so early, and we only have 45 minutes a day to [prepare],” senior Leadership member Zoe Mallus said. The morning after a late night at the football


“My favorite part is probably the morning of [the dance] when we finish setting up,” Mallus said. “It looks so cool...and then when you go to the dance [later that night], you’re going to see all your hard work pay off.” The hard work Leadership members put into the dance does indeed pay off. Their tireless efforts create a Homecoming experience that students will never forget. “I love seeing everybody come in all dressed up, [and] seeing your faces,” McNamara said. “That to me is so much fun. I feel like all the hard work is worth it when lots of kids show up and come out to the different events and have a good time.”

SPECTACULAR STREAMERS — “We attached streamers around a hula hoop, and we’re hanging it up and taping the streamers to the ceiling. We tried to make it pastel or candy-related colors,” said junior Caroline Lucia, a member of Leadership.

COTTON CANDY CONQUEST — The theme of the dance is “Home Sweet Homecoming.” Leadership students spraypainted cotton candy clouds and hung banners to fill the room.

WARM WELCOME — Leadership students hang silver streamers to welcome students to the dance. The gingerbread men and peppermints on the floor accentuate the Candy Land theme. Page design & photos by Emily Friedman & Taylor Olson

10Qs with

Riley Larkin

(AP Psychology & World 1 Teacher)

1 2

Reporting by Katie Romhilt Page design by Pran Kittivorapat Photos by Dana Edson & courtesy of Riley Larkin

Why did you start teaching? I started teaching because I had some high school teachers who really changed my life for the better. I thought it was a great opportunity to do the exact same for the younger generation. My goal in education is to impact lives.

3 4

What is your favorite memory from coaching football?

Just being with the kids every single day at practice. It’s so much fun seeing them progress and get better and better. And it’s not even about the football side of things—it’s the relationships that I have with my players. I had an offensive lineman who never played tackle football before, and a couple days ago in practice...he looked me in the eyes with a huge smile on his face and was like, ‘Coach, I did it.’ And that was the most rewarding thing.

5 6 7

When did you start playing football?

I started playing football when I was 6 years old.

What is your favorite memory from football?

My favorite memory from football is probably playing high school football and the relationships that I made. Even in college, the relationships that I made with my teammates will last me a lifetime.

Five words to describe yourself?


What would you name your boat?


What are you going to be for Halloween?

I’m passionate, enthusiastic, caring, hardworking and a leader.

What was your dream job as a kid? So I guess it depends on what part of my childhood you are talking about. Early on, I would have told you I wanted to be an NFL football player. But shortly after I came to the realization that being an educator was a better fit for me, and I’m very happy with my decision, to say the least.

Why did you choose to be a psychology teacher? I’m a big history guy. I love history, and psychology falls under that category of the social studies major. I also find psychology extremely interesting.

The Blue Streak because that is the name of the football program at John Carroll University, which was where I went to college. Or something about the Pittsburgh Penguins—maybe Syd the Kid or the Floating Crosby.

Coach Scholla


If you were to open a restaurant, what kind of food would you serve?

I would open a seafood restaurant. I really like seafood, and moving from Ohio to D.C., it didn’t seem like there would be a lot of it. But the Chesapeake Bay satisfies my seafood needs. So probably some sort of crab shack with a lot of Old Bay seasoning, since it’s my favorite.


GET TO KNOW THE MCTEACHERS Welcome these new teachers to McLean by learning a little about them MAE MONAGHAN ONLINE EDITOR |JOSH BASS ONLINE EDITOR

Christine Price, Mathematics

Ryan Abrams, History & Econ







“I used to coach track and field, and I’ve taught Algebra, Pre-calc and Geometry.”

“I would build houses and be an interior designer.”

“I love the beach—just going there every single summer and bike riding on the shore. I remember eating ice cream on the beach as a kid.”

FAVORITE MATH LESSON: “I really like teaching linear regression because it is very applicable in real life.”

Linda Chang, English

“I coach JV golf at McLean, and my wife and I like to find new places to hike when I’m not teaching.”

“I would be a full-time world traveler.”

“I love the openness and the community orientation that we have here.”


“Dont be afraid to ask questions and seek out help. It doesn’t make you look weak—it just makes you look like you want to learn.”

Lizzie McManus, Health & PE







“I like to paint. I’ve been painting with watercolor recently.”

“I would work at Disneyland, so I could meet new people and see the happy faces.”

“At my old school I taught Algebra. I like teaching English, but I really miss teaching math.”

ADVICE TO STUDENTS: “Always keep trying. Any time your teacher gives you feedback, it’s not because we hate you—it’s because we want to see you succeed.”


“I like hiking and being in nature either alone or with friends. But I really enjoy being outside.”

“I think I’d want to be a pop star. I’d really want to just play the guitar and sing.”

“The students not only try to excel in the classroom, but they’re [also] kind and respectful.”

ADVICE TO STUDENTS: “Find some adults you trust in the building, and seek help when you need it.”

Page design by Dasha Makarishcheva


What do three administrators need in their workspace? MATTHEW ZARKANI ONLINE SPORTS EDITOR | ANDY CHUNG DESIGNER

SEAN ROLON Assistant Principal

“This is a little hippo statue. It came with me from when I worked at Marshall. It taught me how to handle situations and put kids first.” “This is the Dwight Schrute Scottie dog that the fine arts department does. I love the fine arts department, and I love The Office.” “This bag of Jolly Ranchers is something that Mr. Olcott gave me as a joke for the amount of times I stole candy from his office during my first year.” “This is a pickle-flavored soda that Dr. Reilly gave me. I am not a big fan of pickles, which everyone on the admin team knows, so I keep this as a reminder that I love the people I work with.”

Sean Rolon’s desk essentials are mostly things that have sentimental value to him. Items like the pickle-flavored soda remind him why he comes to work every day.

MEGAN SHERRILL Assistant Principal

“I have coffee. I used to have a huge Starbucks addiction. You know it’s bad when all the workers know you.” “I have a picture of my two kids. I love them a lot, and my dog Mango is in the picture, who I love just as much.” “I have a planner, and I write down the weekly schedule and what I am doing every day.” “I have these flossers. I have them at my desk, and I use them all the time, so I swear by these.”

Megan Sherrill’s desk essentials revolve around keeping her day organized and running smoothly.

Photos by Andy Chung | Graphics & page design by Dasha Makarishcheva


Systems of Support Advisor

“I have multivitamins. I got vitamin B12W. They were buy one, get one free.” “Creamy peanut butter, and don’t bust my chops because it’s the Giant brand. It might have been on sale—probably $2.99.” “I have oats and honey Kind bars. I had three [today], and my man Felipe had one. They were on sale.” “I have apple cider vinegar. I like to wash down once after breakfast and once after lunch. It’s good for the digestive system, good for the skin— it’s disgusting.”

Nick Corsi’s desk essentials are mostly food, especially healthy snacks that allow him to take on his day.




housands of miles of trees burn into ashes and smoke rises into the air. The Amazon rainforest fire is just another example of mancaused environmental destructions. “There is an old saying that goes, ‘Where there’s fire, there’s man,”’ said technology and engineering teacher Cara Mosley, the sponsor of the environmental club. Known as an essential ecosystem in the world, the Amazon rainforest is famous for its biodiversity and unique species. However, as it burns down, it poses a real threat to the environment. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research shows that 100,000 wildfires occurred in the country this year, a 45% increase from last year. Additionally, half of these fires took place in the Amazon biome, setting the record since 2010. With false and misleading news—such as 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon—going around, it has become hard to understand the truth. What is known, though, is that the percentage of oxygen the Amazon rainforest contributes is significantly lower and mostly used up by itself, according to National Geographic. “The Amazon rainforest acts as a carbon capture. So as more of it burns out, we have more carbon in the air that can’t be captured by the trees and all the plant life there,” said junior Srinjoy Dey, McLean environmental club president. “As a result, we have a more polluted [environment] and global temperatures are still going to rise up.” Other issues include rising water levels, melting glaciers, endangered animals, increasing temperatures and more natural disasters. These effects of global warming are all connected and impact one another. When one issue intensifies, other problems arise, causing more environmental impacts. While many students think that climate


change may be distant, they can help to resolve the problems around them, starting by making small-scale impacts within their respective communities. “No matter what country you’re in, I think you should start [solving the problem] locally, and then work your way out. If you can’t take care of something in a smaller area, then you can’t take care of it in a larger area,” Mosley said. Taking this advice, the environmental club is focusing on spreading awareness in the region by cleaning national parks and completing other projects that they hope to be able to start soon. “I think the main thing to do is raise awareness and change your [everyday habits],” Dey said. “So the more people know about these issues, the better they can address them and combat them. And if we change everyday practices, we can also directly make an impact on and help the environment by reducing our [carbon] footprint.” Students can start making a difference with everyday activities, such as recycling. “The more educated people are about issues, the more they are able to make informed decisions. It is easy to feel completely helpless with all of these big issues,” said Kate Hoefer, who teaches AP Environmental Science and Oceanography. “However, if we educate ourselves and make changes in our lives, it’s a good step.” In order to alleviate the environmental crisis, teachers and students suggested that people should not only acknowledge its impacts but also take actions to reduce their carbon footprint. “I emphasize all year long to my students the importance of remembering the interconnectedness of all of Earth’s systems,” Hoefer said. “If you destroy one system, it will lead to destruction of many more. Students should keep this always in their minds as they learn and become global citizens.” Page design by Ariana Elahi & Aleena Gul | Infographic by Dasha Makarishcheva

BRITISH STUDENT TRANSFERS TO AMERICA Junior Ben Nash takes sudden leap across the pond



he Queen of England, dressed head to toe in royal purple with a warm smile, met junior Ben Nash at the commissioning of an aircraft carrier. “I was sitting at the commissioning as part of the choir,” transfer student Nash said.“They were like, ‘Oh, the Queen wants to meet someone from the choir.’ I was head chorister at the time, and [so they said], ‘Oh, then you go.’” What stuck out to Nash during the exchange was the Queen's height. “She’s really small. She’s like, 4 foot 11. Well, she [might be] a bit taller than that,” Nash said. Two years after meeting the Queen, Nash was sitting at home in Portsmouth, England, waiting for final exam scores, when his family delivered the news that they’d be moving to McLean, Virginia, due to his father’s job in the Navy. Nash and his family headed to the airport the weekend before school started. Nash wondered what life in the U.S. would be like. “I expected [everyone] to be loud and quite informal,” Nash said, “I think every person, when I was telling them I was going to America, [said], ‘Oh, they’ll love your accent there!’” A few of his family’s predictions came true. "Everything lived up to the expectation of being big,” said Nash's mother, Beck Nash. On the first day of school, Nash was relieved that McLean wasn't entirely different from what he was used to. “Once you start talking to people, everybody seems nicer,” Nash said.

He made friends quickly. "I actually have no idea where to start with Ben—he's the type of guy you just want to be around," junior Harrison Huynh said. Aside from people, there were still some things about Nash’s school in England that were different than McLean. Portsmouth Grammar School was significantly more strict and formal.

I THINK EVERY PERSON, WHEN I WAS TELLING THEM I WAS GOING TO AMERICA, [SAID], ‘OH, THEY'LL LOVE YOUR ACCENT THERE!’” -BEN NASH JUNIOR “[At McLean], you can just get up and walk out, or start eating in class, you know, get your phone out. All that kind of stuff,” Nash said. Additionally, expectations for homework and testing are much different in the U.S. “There's a lot more schoolwork [at McLean]. It's a bit more independent and so you don't have someone telling you what homework you should be doing. But they just expect you to go on Blackboard and find your homework. I've missed [assignments] a few times,” Nash said. This is different from his experience in Portsmouth.

“In the U.K., if you don't do your homework, they don't care,” Nash said. U.K. students are expected to manage their time in order to succeed on the exams at the end of the year, and as a result some students don’t take homework very seriously. “[The teachers] are like, ‘This is your own problem,’ but they might put you in detention if you haven't done the work,” Nash said. Nash said he had a greater ability to take courses according to interest and future plans in the U.K. than he does at McLean. “If I was still in England, I'd be doing maths and then further maths, which is like more maths, and then physics and chemistry,” Nash said. Nash’s school also had uniforms and house competitions, each house with a color—red, yellow, blue or green. Sound familiar? “Apparently [people think] it's like Hogwarts,” Nash said. “It isn't.” With all these new adjustments, Nash and his parents miss a few things about England, but don’t miss others. “We miss the dog the most, probably! Although she is arriving soon. Also we miss friends and family," Nash's mother said. "We don’t really miss British politics at the moment. Also we don’t really miss the weather." Nash’s advice for transfer students is to just put themselves out there. “You can be confident in the fact that [McLean is] not actually that different. It seems quite different superficially,” Nash said. “However, when you actually get there and meet everyone, it's still a school, and it's still doing subjects.”


Favorite treats with tea:

Jaffa cakes Chocolate digestives

Recommended British media:

Animal Farm by George Orwell The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling The original The Italian Job movie English comedian James Acaster

Hobbies: FUN IN THE SUN — Ben Nash kitesurfs at a beach in Cape Verde. Rainy weather is one thing his family doesn’t miss about the U.K. (Photo courtesy of Ben Nash) Page design by Kara Murri & Swetha Manimaran

Rugby and cricket Mountain biking The piano and violin OCTOBER | FEATURES | 17


VALEN(SICK) THREADS Senior Mia Valencic interns at Australian fashion company



love for accessorizing her outfits and a passion for fashion fueled senior Mia Valencic’s summer adventure to Australia, where she interned at a fashion company for two weeks. “I like wearing simple, more basic colors on clothes, and then I accessorize with jewelry and by switching up my shoes,” Valencic said. “I like wearing sneakers that have something special about them, with a twist.” Valencic’s interest in fashion began at the early age of 2, and has lasted since then. “She always had an eye for putting her own outfits together and was very opinionated on what accessories she would like to wear,” Theresa Valencic, Mia’s mom, said. Valencic departed on her two week adventure on July 14, leaving home without her parents or siblings. Her extended family lives in Sydney, though, so she stayed with them.


“I was a little nervous about her traveling such a far way on her own, but we’ve done that trip practically once every year since she was born, since her dad’s family lives there, and so I knew she knew what the journey entailed,” Theresa Valencic said. Her internship was with Apparel Group Company. Established in the 1950s, this worldwide fashion business focuses on creating high quality products that follow modern trends. The company operates in three branches: Jag, Sportscraft and Saba. Valencic was able to take advantage of family connections to score a short internship with the brand. “My aunt on my dad’s side used to work for Sportscraft Women and she was in the fashion industry,” Valencic said. “She had connections with the people there and she knew I was interested in fashion so she kind of set it up for me.” Valencic began her internship by performing typical beginner work: organizing the workplace. She coordinated binders filled with different colored fabrics that the company bought to create their products. Page design by Dasha Makarishcheva

“It was mostly a learning experience more than a work experience because they taught me everything they do on a daily basis,” Valencic said. The following week, Valencic got to work with the individual branches of Apparel Group by presenting their products in actual stores. “I also got to work at the storefront, so I got to see the people who work the cash register and organize the store and see how it’s laid out,” Valencic said. “I got to put things on display on the tables and see how they decide to dress a mannequin.” Valencic’s style, combining basic colored clothes with fun jewlery and shoes, parallels the fashion of the Apparel Company, especially the brand Jag. “[Their] style was more targeted towards young adults because they had basic colors and really nice fabrics that were produced in very high quality,” Valencic said. “I would wear a lot of clothing from there.” Valencic had a well-rounded experience, learning skills stretching across all aspects of a fashion workplace. “I learned how they put together a tech pact, which is what they send to the factories, all the measurements they do for the garments, and how it gets approved for bulk production,” Valencic said. “They showed me how they’ll get the garments sent back to them and then they’ll fit them on the mannequins and see if they fit correctly and if not, they have to make adjustments and send them back to the factory. It’s a very tedious process.”

...when you walk into a store, it’s like, ‘Oh, this looks pretty,’ but you never realize how much work goes into it.” -MIA VALENCIC SENIOR With the Apparel Group Company sourcing their textiles and fabrics internationally, Valencic learned the complexity of a business and the time and hard work it takes to succeed. “I kept saying, ‘Oh my god, this is all so much more complicated than I thought it was,’ because when you walk into a store, it’s like, ‘Oh, this looks pretty,’ but you never realize how much work goes into it,” Valencic said. “There’s a specific job for everything that goes into the store and there’s a whole group of people working just with what the display in the front looks like and you wouldn’t think that that much thought goes into it when you are just walking by.” Though performing the work at the company was a complicated process, Valencic’s determined and diligent personality allowed her to thrive. “Mia is such a hard worker and responsible person,” senior Jackie LeVasseur said. “If there is something she needs to do you can always count on the fact that she will do it to the best of her ability.” Valencic’s internship opportunity abroad served as an early bridge into the professional world. “The experience has definitely given her a greater sense of confidence in her ability to look after herself and experience communicating with adults in a work environment and overcoming that intimidation,” Theresa Valencic said. After living the reality of working at a fashion business, Valencic hopes for a possible future career in the industry. “It seems really up my alley,” Valencic said. “While I was there I didn’t really feel out of place at all, even though I was probably the youngest one there.”

BEACHSIDE CHILLIN’ — Mia Valenic and her grandmother visit Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. They went on a shopping trip while Valencic had time off from her internship. (Photo courtesy of Mia Valencic)



hat’s right, The Highlander is doing this again. Will it actually work this time? Absolutely. This time, you will be taken on a journey to some spooky spots in McLean High School’s building and history. The first to complete the scavenger hunt wins a huge bag of candy. Happy hunting, Highlanders!

Clue 1: What is the year Sun K. Bae graduated? (Hint: look for a mural.) Use the last two numbers of the year (e.g. 2012 = 12) Clue 2: What is the room number of the broadcast studio? Take that number and subtract 100. Clue 3: How many college logo flags are in the circle in student services?

Clue 4: How many DECA trophies are in the blue hallway? Clue 5: How many football players are wearing numbered jerseys in the 1995 championship photo? Clue 6: What is the year on the brick in the red hallway? Subtract 2000 from that number.

Put your numbers here as you go along!

Clue 7: Now that you have these numbers, you will use them to make a word. To find the key, search where not many look, in the green hallway.

Put the word you found here!

You’re almost done! Scan the QR Code! 20 | A&E | OCTOBER

Page design by Isaac Lamoreaux & Dasha Makarishcheva

SPOOKY REBOOS Reviews of haunted attractions in NOVA



AMERICAN SCREAM: HAUNTED SELFIE MUSEUM Our first and closest stop was a unique experience. Located next to Lord & Taylor in the mall, American Scream truly behaves like a museum. Featuring about a dozen different small exhibits, each depicts a scene with a classic Halloween theme or from a wellknown horror film. While there, our $20 gave us 45 minutes to go through the museum and take selfies in the scenes using the provided props. The scenes were very detailed, but we were only scared when entering a few of the rooms. The experience was fully immersive, as we each had the opportunity to lie down in a real casket and pose for photos. We recommend American Scream for anybody who wants to boost their Instagram content, but if you’re looking to get that adrenaline rush of fear, this is not the place for you.



COX FARMS FIELDS OF FEAR A classic Northern Virginia fright, Cox Farms offers three different attractions over roughly 150 acres. The childlike charm of the beloved farm transforms at night, becoming ominous as the lights turn off. Ghosts and ghouls emerged from the dark depths of the woods. A particularly memorable character was a witch doctor, who approached families to give them a fright. The attractions operate on a paced schedule with specific assigned times, so we started with Cornightmare, then the Dark Side Hayride and then the Forest: Back 40. With time to spare between each attraction, we had access to the Firegrounds, where we found slides, food stands, karaoke and more. Was it worth the $20? Definitely. Each event certainly got our hearts racing, and the actors had no hesitation with touching us, giving us a full, frightful experience. This all helped make our night even more terror-filled. The decorations could have been a little more intricate, but the well-placed jumpscares made up for it. Overall, Cox Farms is perfect for anyone looking for either a decent scare to laugh off later or a wholesome spooky time.



Page design by Tayor Olson & Zach Anderson

Page design by [Redacted]

We covered our chilling experience in our podcast! Check it out! OCTOBER | A&E | 21


Photo illustration by Dana Edson

Page design by [Redacted]

COMING CLEAN ExpLORing McLean’s past



HISTORY OF HATE “‘Human bondage’ will be the order of the day April 1 as members of the Key and Keyette Clubs raffle themselves off as butlers and maids. Potential slaveholders will be able to buy an unlimited number of chances at ten cents.” This was in a March issue of the 1966 Highlander newspaper. So went the proceedings of the McLean Key and Keyette Clubs’ slave auctions, held annually through the 1960s. McLean students were bid on and sold as “slaves” to raise money for the Key and Keyette Clubs, service-focused student organizations. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first slaves arriving in America, landing in Jamestown, Virginia. McLean was not untouched by slavery’s painful legacy. It may be hard to imagine this took place in the “progressive” McLean bubble we call home. It was illegal to educate white and black students in the same building when Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) first opened in 1870, so schools were separated based on race, and there were a total


of 28 schools for white students and 13 schools for black students. Luther Jackson High School opened in 1954 and was the only black high school in the county. A few months prior to Luther Jackson’s opening, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which led to the controversial decision to desegregate public schools nationwide. Fairfax County schools officially became desegregated over a decade later, in 1965. Daniel Richards, a former FCPS teacher and current McLean substitute, attended Luther Jackson High School. As a black student, Richards experienced integration firsthand when he entered Woodson High School late in his high school career. “Woodson High School wasn’t a very good year. There was a lot of racial riots and racial discrimination and all I wanted to do was to get through school,” Richards said. “You have to remember that I was nothing but a teenager myself. It wasn’t a good experience. I had some difficult thoughts going through my head.”



TEAM PHOTO — The 1965 McLean cheerleading squad takes their team picture with megaphones on their heads. The team mimics the Ku Klux Klan, a well-known white supremacist group. (Photo obtained via the 1965 McLean yearbook)


Students integrating into McLean faced similar hardships, and these memories fill the school’s yearbook, formerly known as The Clan.


In the 1962 yearbook, white girls dance in black face at a countrythemed party. At the same party, a group of people in blackface sing “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” a song written and sung by James A. Bland, a black musician and songwriter. In the 1965 yearbook, nine Highlander cheerleaders pose with white megaphones over their heads. Captioned as “The Clan,” this photo appears the year FCPS desegregated. In the 1966 yearbook, students participate in an American Civilization Party. A group of four students dress as characters from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel about slavery. Three students’ faces are covered in black makeup. The fourth student is whipping one of the girls in blackface. The Highlander staff recently discovered these photographs while investigating past discrimination at McLean, and members of the McLean community responded.


Students sing the song “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” at a school party. The song was written by black singer-songwriter James A. Bland. (Photo obtained via the 1962 McLean yearbook)


The U.S. Supreme Court decides on Brown v. Board of Education, claiming that “separate but equal” is unconstituional


Virginia legislature passes the Virginia Free Public Schools Act, creating a public, segregated school system



Luther Jackson High School becomes the first high school for black students in FCPS


The Fairfax County School Board passes a resolution to integrate its schools


After Blackwell v. Fairfax County School Board, 15 black students are admitted into FCPS white schools for the first time

Page design by Heran Essayas & Dasha Makarishcheva | Infographic by Kyle Hawley

“I’m not surprised, and that’s a really sad statement I just said,” Principal Ellen Reilly said. “I’m not surprised. I’m disappointed.” Students of color were also not shocked by the photos. “I’m not very surprised, to be honest, because of the area we are in. It’s not even just a McLean thing—it’s not surprising to see that anywhere in the United States just because that was a very, very big part of our history,” senior Maeron Kebede said. “So, me seeing someone wearing blackface at my school is not surprising, which is kind of sad, but it’s true.” Ironically, those same yearbooks feature feminist clubs and even an annual foreign exchange program. German and Swedish students were hosted by McLean families, who showed them American culture, while they shared their own cultures. McLean students also traveled abroad to learn in foreign environments. “My adjustments to a foreign family and a foreign life were not as jolting as many have encountered, because West-Berlin is probably the most American city on the other side of the ocean,” wrote Richard Henninger, McLean’s American Field Services Student to Berlin in 1962. “The problem of Berlin is in the realization of our divided world.” American students saw the injustices in the world, but failed to


A male student applies blackface for a theatrical performance. McLean was putting on a play called Finian’s Rainbow. (Photo obtained via the 1969- McLean yearbook)



Catherine Hudgins is elected the first black Fairfax County Supervisor


McLean hosts the American Civilization Party, where students come dressed as characters from Uncle Tom’s Cabin


Fairfax County conducts its 2000 census—minorities comprise 40.5% of FCPS students

The Fairfax County School Board votes to rename J.E.B. Stuart High School to Justice High School


McLean offers a Combating Intolerance class, which teaches students about solving racial discrimination


see the injustices in the U.S. Their sense of patriotism blinded them from the truths of discrimination and hate in their nation, but the 1960 U.S. Presidential Election changed the course of discrimination in America. Senator John F. Kennedy, a pro-civil rights candidate, promised new opportunities for African Americans. The senator was publicly endorsed by Martin Luther King Sr. and emerged as the president-elect in November 1960 with 70% of the African American vote. McLean’s predominantly white district voted for Kennedy. The school system was segregated during the 1960 election, yet they still voted for a progressive democratic president, a step toward integration. After integrating in 1965, Fairfax County changed laws surrounding race. This was a transformation that provided black people with more opportunity to join the FCPS workforce.

LEGACY Richards witnessed the lasting roots of segregation and discrimination during his time as a McLean teacher from 1980 to 2001. “When I started McLean High School in 1980, they were racist,” Richards said. “I’m talking about the staff. I was called the N-word several times, but I never reported it. That was for my own survival.” During the 21 years Richards worked at McLean, attitudes toward race changed, but many of the mechanisms which maintain racial divides stayed in place. The first black Fairfax County Supervisor, Catherine Hudgins, sees the lack of affordable housing in the county as a main cause of persistent school segregation. Lower income black families are driven away from moving to McLean due to expensive housing, which impacts the number of black students at the school. “[Fairfax County] failed to tackle the affordability of housing,” Hudgins said. “One of the most difficult jobs we have is trying to create diversity. Our communities are segregated all over this county, and I think some places still have the intent to be so.” Inequitable real estate practices in McLean, including racist housing contracts, have deterred black families, regardless of their socioeconomic status, from moving into this area. “My uncle was going to buy a house right across from McLean High School, maybe 15 years ago, and he loved it,” Kebede said. “It was perfect, but in the contract from 100 years ago, it said no black person could own this house. He could have bought it if he wanted to, but he just felt like he couldn’t at that point, because he didn’t want to be in a house where someone didn’t want him to be.” McLean’s lack of diversity is not only affected by these invisible boundaries, but also by the attitude of community members, according to Hudgins. “McLean likes to pretend that if you have lots of money then you have a lot of [moral] character, and that isn’t the case,” Hudgins said. “It’s very hard to fight such a powerful area that continues to have that old mindset.” Reilly disagrees with this statement. “I think we’re one of the most diverse schools there is. You look around, and it’s diverse. We do a nice job of welcoming people,” Reilly said. “There’s this assumption that we have so many rich kids walking through the hallways. I don’t see that at all, and I find that to be offensive that somebody would say that about our community.”

DIVERSITY McLean High School 5.59%


24.86% 19.6% 3.28%


10% 11.19%

Hayfield Secondary School 7.54%





FCPS Schools 6%

19.6% 10%








26 | IN-DEPTH | OCTOBER Page design by [Redacted]


The numbers prove McLean’s socioeconomic and racial diversity to be limited. Only 6% of students are on free or reduced lunch, compared to 28% of all FCPS students, according to The Washington Post. McLean is 55% white and only 3% black. McLean and Langley High Schools have the lowest racial diversity in Fairfax County. The FCPS website states that the school system in its entirety is 38.5% white and 10% black. Hayfield Secondary School is the most diverse school in the county, with almost 29% of the student body comprised of black students, and just over 29% comprised of white students. Even classrooms in this county are segregated. Only 6% of black students take AP courses in FCPS, and white students are 2.2 times more likely to take AP classes than their black schoolmates, according to ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom dedicated to investigative journalism. “If you’re a kid who takes mostly AP classes, you’re probably not running into a ton of students of color. Students and teachers will walk into classrooms and know based on the racial makeup of a classroom if it’s an honors class, AP class or not,” Combating Intolerance co-teacher Julia Braxton said. “I wish there were more opportunities for students to self-integrate and interact with other students who are not like them.” Moving forward, McLean plans to do exactly that. Combating Intolerance, a new class this year, raises social awareness about racial divides in our community. Combating Intolerance students are planning nights to discuss the ongoing, covert racism at McLean with local and state officials. “[We are planning a night] where students are able to dispel these different stereotypes that affect them, or affect marginalized groups,” Braxton said. “That is one way that we are actually combating intolerance in this class.” Rachel Baxter, Braxton’s Combating Intolerance co-teacher, leads McLean’s Equity Team with counselor Kathleen Otal. This group is new this year and is working with the teachers and staff to shed light on classroom issues regarding race. “We’re looking at our unconscious bias, and we’re starting that with our teachers. [That bias] is sometimes out of lack of

understanding,” Reilly said. “Our Equity Team is bringing that to us. We are working on that.” While there is still work to be done to solve racial inequality at McLean, the changes being made indicate the school is heading in the right direction. Richards recognizes this as well. “I have seen blackface, I have seen the yearbooks, I have seen a whole bunch of things, and all they tell me is that things have gotten a lot better. I can laugh and joke at McLean, while at other schools you can’t laugh, you can’t joke and you can’t play,” Richards said. “I love the atmosphere at McLean.”

THE LIFE OF THE PARTY — Two McLean students dance at a Southernthemed school party while wearing blackface. (Photo obtained via the 1962 McLean yearbook)

Data obtained from the 2018-2019 FCPS School Profiles | Infographic by Heran Essayas



Emerging females overturn historically male-dominated area of music ELIZABETH HUMPHREYS A&E EDITOR




Atlantic Records

Foundation Media, LLC

Republic Records




rom the “cash me outside, how 'bout dah” Dr. Phil disaster to being a successful teen rapper, Danielle Bregoli, or Bhad Bhabie, embodies the fact that anyone can achieve anything they work to be. Although she began as a viral internet meme, Bregoli is the youngest female artist to enter the Billboard Hot 100, with her debut single “These Heaux.” Bregoli released her first mix tape, 15, in September 2018. Her May 2018 track “Gucci Flip Flops,” featuring Lil Yachty, brought her success and popularity among fans. While her voice can be slightly irritating, Bregoli successfully makes the point that her haters are, in fact, broke, while she is making millions of dollars. She has endured a lot of hate due to her race, age, gender and the laughable Dr. Phil incident. “People will be like, ‘Oh, she's so young and has all those tattoos.’ If I were a guy, you wouldn't think about it. People never say sh*t about [Lil] Pump's or [Smokepurpp's] tattoos. And they were under 18 when they got theirs,” Bregoli said in an October 2018 interview with Billboard. In the music video for her single “Momma Don't Worry," Bregoli goes into detail about her past, depicts the struggles she dealt with as a child and describes how she managed to rise above her debilitating circumstances. As Bregoli said in a 2017 tweet, “If you don’t like where you are in life... Move. You ain’t a tree.”

28 | A&E | OCTOBER

otorious for dating Trippie Redd, Aylek$, also known as Angvish, is one of my favorite rising female rappers due to her alienlike style. With every Instagram post comes a new wig and matching nails. Meanwhile, fans eagerly await her album, Angvish Tape, to drop. The most popular singles she has released so far are “No Feels,” “FWM” and “We Live in Hell.” Most recently, Aylek$ dropped her first single with an accompanied music video called “No F*x.” Decked out in all white, she uses the metaphor of a car crash and subsequent trip to the hospital to symbolize her broken past relationships. Though her music may be catchy, Aylek$’s overall style and fashion work together to create her unique platform. Known for her iconic face tattoos—one reading “Love Scars”—Aylek$ has been criticized over the unprofessionalism of her appearance. In a May 2019 YouTube interview, she said that she would never change for anyone or try to fit someone else’s standards. “If I have to work a job, [they] should be honored I'm working for [them],” Aylek$ said. “Love Scars” is the name of one of Redd's songs; however, she explains that even though she got the tattoo while she was with him, she was more focused on the true meaning rather than the association the tattoo has with Redd. “I like the meaning of it," Aylek$ said in the interview. “Love does scar. Anything can scar you.”

ollowing Aylek$, Coi Leray is the most recent ex-girlfriend of rapper Trippie Redd. Known for her deep, masculine voice, Leray is most successful for her 2018 album, everythingcoZ, as well as her most famous single, “Huddy.” Leray’s true year for music began after the release of everythingcoZ, which became the face of her career. “everythingcoZ is something I’ve been sticking to since day one,” Leray said in a 2018 interview with Republic Records. “It basically stands for self-acceptance and being cozy at times. That’s all it really is; it's about loving yourself and accepting who you are.” At 22 years old, Leray brings a new, versatile sound to the world of music. Within her songs, Leray is able to rap in a way that is pleasing to the listener, particularly in her single “Tricks.” Though Leray is older than the teens who typically dominate this area of rap, she still possesses the character of someone who will rise to fame. Leray began writing her own rhymes at age 14, recounting how much she loved music. “I love trap music. It makes my adrenaline pump. I used to like the Black Eyed Peas, too,” Leray said in a June 2019 interview with XXL Magazine. “I know I’m gonna blow up because you gotta speak it into existence. Perfect example: if I’m trying to build a robot and I want it to move,...I’m gonna do whatever it takes to make it move, and I’m gonna find all of the pieces.” Page design by Elizabeth Humphreys


Young Thug plays it safe with his debut album NOAH BARNES REPORTER ELIZABETH HUMPHREYS A&E EDITOR


espite the fact that Young Thug is celebrating stardom with his debut album So Much Fun, it does not possess the key essentials that made Thug recognizable in the first place. Lacking his personal touch, this album falls short. Young Thug is popular because of his unique voice and unpredictable style. That’s what makes him a standout artist. These vocals were not highlighted in the album as much as Thug fans were hoping for. For example, in the tracks “Light it Up” and “Jumped Out the Window,” Thug raps in monotone without any of the signature highpitched vocal changes that many fans enjoy. The album starts off with a boring track, “Just How It Is,” which presents nothing new or exotic in its lyrics or vocals. This song did not get listeners excited for the rest of the album, since most were expecting a more notable opening track. Thug’s goal for So Much Fun was creating an informal album that fans could have a good time with. “All of the songs are like…parade music,” Young Thug told No Jumper in an interview last month. “It ain’t no story lines to it. This…is all about fun. If you’re not having fun or in a fun mood, don’t even play this album.”

Page design by Dasha Makarishchev

300 Entertainment / Atlantic Recording Corp.

“Surf ” feat. Gunna, in particular, embodies the album’s theme. The sound of the song is very tropical, and the beat makes listeners feel like they are on a beach vacation. The essence of the song is very carefree and all about letting loose and partying. While “Surf ” exhibits Thug’s usual creative sound, the rest of the album doesn’t make the cut.



The whole album gives off mainstream rap vibes, and it’s hard to differentiate many of the tracks from generic rap music. Thug didn’t go for anything novel or interesting, choosing to play it safe in an attempt to appeal to bandwagon rap fans, who disagree.

“[The album is] fire. He’s got so many great features, and the beats in all the songs are fire,” sophomore Zach Hassan said. Admittedly, “Hot” feat. Gunna was the standout song of this album. Gunna was a great choice for a feature as he is one of the more popular rappers right now. The beat created by record producer Wheezy fit well with Gunna’s flow. “‘Hot’ was definitely the best song on the album. The other songs were just like any other track out there,” sophomore Tyler Lee said. Unfortunately, this track was about as good as the album gets. Thug has never been a lyrical genius, so it’s his vibrating vocals that hook people in. This album is already not anything special because most of the words in his songs are meaningless. He truly relies on his signature sound, something that is not included in So Much Fun. Overall, the album has a few songs that display Thug’s talent, but many of the songs are similar to other rap projects and are not special. Other than “Surf ” and “Hot,” this album isn’t as much fun as its title promised.

Final Rating: 2/5 STARS

OCTOBER | A&E | 29

THE IMPOSSIBLE WHOPPER: IMPOSSIBLE TO LOVE Burger King’s vegetarian option fails to meet expectations ATHENA LE & BENJAMIN PHAM REPORTERS


hink of the perfect burger: light, airy buns that are slightly crispy, encompassing a thick juicy and decadent patty, complemented by the crisp freshness of lettuce and perfectly balanced by the acidity of tomatoes. Take this idea, throw it in the trash and you get the Impossible Whopper. Not only was this dastardly dry burger an utter disappointment, but it simply did not live up to its hype. Burger King released this burger in August as an attempt to appeal to the surge of veganism and vegetarianism brought by the increased awareness of animal cruelty and environmental repercussions of meat production. The focus on this niche group has allowed its novelty to sell rather than its quality, forgetting the key aspect that drives consumers—the taste. This burger is more comparable to a soggy sandwich than the American staple it strives to be. The patty—if, you can even call it that—was dry and lacked the bold, smoky flavors that give burgers their quintessentially addictive qualities. Biting into it was like sinking your teeth into a wet towel, the rancid flavors bursting in your mouth and engulfing your tastebuds, leaving the most grimy and foul aftertaste. Not only was the patty abhorrent, the burger in its entirety was unpalatable. The textures were all wrong, with the overall consistency of mush. The biggest perpetrator of this shameful sodden sop was the bun, which was like two pieces of damp cardboard in taste and texture alike. It did not hold up well against the soaking faux meat patty, which left the bun absolutely drenched in what one can only assume to be the distasteful replication of “meat juice.” The bun offered neither structure nor support for the burger and fell apart almost instantaneously upon arrival. One would assume that with 1080 mg of sodium (more than the original Whopper) this burger would have a decent balance of flavors, but this proposition does not stand true. Underneath the sharp zingy piles of raw onion, the patty itself tasted completely underseasoned. The burger had to be drowned in condiments in order to be remotely edible, and even under the mountains of ketchup it was still undeniably unpleasant. Honestly, we should’ve reviewed the Popeyes chicken sandwich instead.

Rating: (1.5 / 5 burgers)

30 | A&E | OCTOBER

Photo courtesy of Rebeka Rafi Page design by Dasha Makarishcheva


FCPSOn devices should have fewer website restrictions The staff editorial represents the opinion of the majority of The Highlander editorial board


ooking for pictures? Searching up design inspirations for projects? Reading news articles online? Oops, that website is not available because it is categorized as mature. Most students are familiar with this message at this point in the year. In 2001, FCPS installed software called Lightspeed on all FCPSOn devices, which bans websites that are classified as harmful, malicious or inappropriate for students. Even though the system has been in use for almost 20 years, issues are more prominent than ever with the newly issued personal laptops this school year. The blocked websites are more than just annoying messages on a laptop screen—they have evolved into problems in the classroom. “For my networking class, I was unable to access certain articles about the cyber attacks that happened around the globe because the websites were not mainstreamed as ‘credible’ such as The New York Times,” junior Lily Can said. “I was unable to complete my assignment for class because of this setback.” Another issue is that the search engine Google is blocked in other languages. “For me, the main thing is google.fr, which gives more access to French sources, is blocked,” French teacher Isabelle Brazell said. “We’re doing this whole class on countries and how to talk about countries in French. [But] I couldn’t find a good map that’s labeled in French.” Although French Google was unblocked as of Oct. 1, German Google, google.de, is still inaccessible for students and staff. “I Google it at home or on my phone, and then I send myself the link via email,” German teacher Frau Wolpert said. “There’s no reason to block [German] Google.” Not only does the system complicate teaching, but it also limits students’ creativity and learning productivity, as students are unable to access websites like Pinterest and Reddit. “Pinterest can be really helpful for classes like Journalism and Yearbook to come up with ideas for formatting,” senior Emily Chopra said.

Although there is a process for teachers to request a website to be unblocked, it’s too complicated and has many restrictions. “Anyone who wants a site to be unblocked should share that request with the principal. If the principal supports the request, he or she will submit the request to IT for review,” said Maribeth Luftglass, assistant superintendent for the Department of Information Technology. “Not all requests are granted, but they are reviewed against the risks of unblocking the site.”

FCPS SHOULD BE ACTIVE IN RESPONDING IF PEOPLE HAVE DISPUTES CONCERNING A BLOCKED WEBSITE.” - EMILY CHOPRA SENIOR FCPS should expedite the website approval process by allowing students to directly appeal to the county officials. This would improve the current complex process of website approvals, which drives teachers to look for other ways to find the information they need, which is not always the most efficient process. “You have to make yourself a note when you

go home, [and do things on] your own computer,” Brazell said. “It makes things complicated.” Teachers are able to look for an alternative, but students who only have the school device cannot. Granted, protecting students who use schoolissued devices from inappropriate sites is an important mission. “When we talk about responsibility, we mean both an ethical one and a legal one,” Luftglass said. “The federal government requires online safety measures for children via the Children’s Internet Protection Act, so we need to make sure we are in compliance with that law.” It is undeniable that the software is aimed to benefit FCPS students, but it also prevents them from receiving a proper learning experience when certain educational websites are inaccessible. “This policy could improve by re-analyzing which websites should be restricted,” Can said. “They should take into account classrooms that extend beyond the core subjects.” FCPS officials should help students by employing an alternative approach to getting a website unblocked. “FCPS should be active in responding if people have disputes concerning a blocked website,” Chopra said. By allowing students to directly appeal to county officials, FCPS will both speed up the website approval process and demonstrate how much they respect students’ voices and opinions when it comes to their education.

Out of a poll of 100 McLean students 77% are dissatisfied with the internet policy 93% think that some useful websites are blocked 93% think students should have a voice in website filtering 79% experienced learning complications due to website filters

Reporting & page design by Marina Qu & Rebeka Rafi | Infographic by Marina Qu


First world problems—the disadvantages of privilege SEBASTIAN JIMENEZ MANAGING EDITOR


undreds of millions of children in developing countries would consider free computers a blessing, but McLean students think otherwise. For the 2019-20 school year, FCPS established a one-to-one computer program. All high school students were given access to a laptop for a fee of $50. FCPSOn, as the program is called, is necessary and beneficial to students, and it’s ridiculous that anyone would complain about it. If the one-to-one program was really a complete waste of time, then the sight of a sea of black Dell laptops in classrooms would not be so common. This initiative aims to shift the classroom dynamic away from traditional lecture-based teaching, replacing it with more project-based learning. “We’re moving away from a classroom where the teacher gets up in front of the class and lectures for 90 minutes. That’s really not what we want in our classrooms,” SchoolBased Technology Specialist Nishi Langhorne said. It may not feel like McLean’s educational approach is changing, but students are already learning in new ways. “In my physics class, we run a program that involves plugging things in to the computer to measure velocity,” senior John Godwin said. “If we didn’t each have a computer, we wouldn’t be able to work on those labs.” According to a poll of 201 students, 75% of students report having a personal computer, but they were not encouraged to bring them to school before FCPSOn was implemented. Teachers refrained from incorporating technology into their lessons because not all students had access to laptops. They were forced to choose between laptop carts or class trips to the library every time technology was a part of a lesson. Those options are now two unpleasant memories.


“Every day, we have that option to enhance a lesson using digital technology,” social studies department chair Rachel Baxter said. “Last year, there were school laptops, but we had to

I HOPE THAT THE STUDENTS AT MCLEAN WILL TAKE A MOMENT TO REFLECT AND TRY TO HEAR HOW THEY SOUND FROM OTHERS’ PERSPECTIVES,” - RACHEL BAXTER SOCIAL STUDIES DEPARTMENT CHAIR sign out a cart and make sure it was available. We were sharing one giant laptop cart between a whole department of teachers that were all trying to do exciting, new activities.” It’s worth it to provide equitable access to the 25% of students who do not have a

personal laptop. The new policy is superfluous only if one’s outlook does not take into account students with less privilege. “I hope that the students at McLean will take a moment to reflect and try to hear how they sound from others’ perspective because not everyone has the same access to technology,” Baxter said. The public school system was designed to give all students an equally advantageous educational opportunity, which is impossible if some students do not have access to technology, a central component of the classroom. “Technology should be part of public education whether or not students can pay for it on their own,” Baxter said. FCPSOn addresses financial hardships that prevent students from buying laptops when there is a classroom need for technological immersion. The fact of the matter is, FCPSOn does not hamper the education of those who already have personal computers. Above all, McLean students should be grateful. Being given a practically free laptop to use for school and complaining about it is the epitome of first-world privilege.

Did you bring your computer to school every day last year?

Do you use your school-issued or personal laptop more often in class?








Page design by Zach Anderson & Dasha Makarishcheva




Page design by [Redacted]

Is the new laptop initiative a good addition to the school district? New one-to-one program is one and none ZACH ANDERSON COPY EDITOR


en years ago, school laptops may have been a groundbreaking addition to schools. By implementing this program in 2019, FCPS is trying to play catch-up with online educating, and not doing very well. The FCPSOn initiative this year has rightfully been widely disapproved among older students at McLean. “I already have a computer that is light and works just fine,” senior Sabrina Benmira said. “I [do] not want to carry a heavy laptop that [takes] forever to charge. My back is already in pain from my heavy backpack.” Unnecessary costs also delegitimize the arguments used to support FCPSOn. The laptops cost $50 annually, meaning all students in the Class of 2023 and below have to pay $200 for a computer that they don’t even get to keep. “It’s nice that the school is giving computers,” Benmira said. “But the fact that we have to pay for it? Absolutely not.” This cost only rises for larger families. “I don’t think it’s fair that my family has to pay the rental fee three times this year. My siblings and I already have our own personal laptops,” junior Christian Carroll said. Like many of her peers, Benmira, whose parents recently bought her a brand new laptop, strongly disagrees with the county’s decision to make students rent a laptop. “Honestly, $50 won’t break my bank, but [why would I] purchase something that I didn’t want or ask for in the first place?” Benmira said. While students can apply for a fee waiver, the fee isn’t the main issue here. Of the 201 McLean students The Highlander polled, 150 already have access to a personal laptop, meaning 75% of the school is paying for something which they already own. “My parents didn’t spend $1500 for me to

not use my laptop,” Benmira said. “My laptop works faster and much more efficiently than any of my friends’ school laptops.” FCPSOn is inconvenient for those with personal computers and virtually useless. “The only positive is the fact that, now, in class, instead of having to use our phones for everything, we can use school-designated laptops,” Carroll said. “[But] we could have just been told to bring in our personal laptops.” Many students who have attempted to substitute the school laptop for their own computer have experienced some roadblocks that have made that process more difficult. “I went to the library to get school Wi-Fi, but the librarian said that they couldn’t give it to me if it wasn’t on the school computer,” Benmira said. Even after these issues are solved, the school computers are ineffective. “I think [my laptop] is faster than the school ones, and I’m still more comfortable using it,” said freshman Charlotte CalabroCarroll, the youngest of Carroll’s three siblings. “I feel like I’m still using a school thing. I feel like it’s not my own.” There are also those who prefer to learn using pencil and paper—a method of learning that has worked for hundreds of years. FCPSOn encourages teachers to use more technology, which neglects students’ learning preferences. “I personally can’t learn on the computer,” Calabro-Carroll said. “That is just not for me. I learn more by looking at [the information] and [being] verbally taught, instead of looking at a screen and studying the words.” Even some teachers have expressed disinterest with the new technology, but the main group who appears to feel this way is the senior class. The majority of students who are in favor of FCPSOn are underclassmen. About 85% of 33 freshmen said they like their schoolmandated laptops.

Infographics by Sebastian Jimenez & Zach Anderson, based on a poll of 201 students

Students who needed a school-mandated laptop: NEED TO USE SCHOOL LAPTOP

25% 75%


FRESHMEN: Do you enjoy the new laptop initiative?

15% 85%


SENIORS: Do you enjoy the new laptop initiative?

YES 48%


NO The data obtained from underclassmen is drastically different than the information collected from seniors. When asked the same question, just under 48% of 67 seniors said they like their school laptops. All things considered, the program should be reworked to support lower-income families who can’t afford to purchase laptops for their children or for students who do not own a personal laptop. At the very least, seniors should have been excluded from participating in the program. The county should have better thought out this decision because the current initiative is leaving many students frustrated and, ironically, disconnected.


MEDIA EXPOSES CIA OPERATIVES FOR POLITICS Reporters should stop leaking CIA names to save lives and nation KYLE HAWLEY OPINIONS EDITOR


onservatives and liberals can agree that national security plays a vital role in our nation’s success. The CIA is a crucial intelligence agency that works in favor of U.S. citizens so we can remain safe. While we live free in our borders, CIA officers must put their liberties on hold and travel to foreign nations to gather as much intel as possible. Thousands of officers serve our nation and its interests, and for that we owe a lifetime of gratitude. A fair amount of people don’t seem to respect the privacy and lives of our covert agents. These people include our American media and even high-level politicians. The media and U.S. government employees who leak the names of assets—undercover agents who are recruited to spy on a country’s government—endanger our national security and American heroes. On Sept. 9, CNN released an article containing tremendous amounts of classified intelligence that was leaked to mainstream outlets. The report declared that in May 2017, the CIA extracted a high-ranking official in the Kremlin who worked for the U.S. in fear President Trump would out him to the Russians as spy. “It is really not the responsibility of the media to protect our nation’s secrets,” General James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, said in an interview with The Highlander. “In the case of the publicity about the alleged extraction of a U.S. intelligence asset, someone, or a group, exposed the information to CNN. From the standpoint of the government, this is a serious and damaging leak of classified information.” CNN’s article stated the agency was worried about how Trump was handling classified information and allegedly nearly exposed the asset in a meeting with the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office. The CIA director at the time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, declared he was in immediate danger and ordered his extraction. While the CIA slammed CNN for false and misleading reporting, NBC went to the asset’s home in the Washington D.C. area to ask questions, thereby revealing his location. Freedom of the press will always be valued in a democratic nation, but CNN and NBC crossed a major line for a cheap swipe at the president and good ratings.


“While I did not enact initiatives in my time as director, since the [Director of National Intelligence] is not directly involved in such operations, I did have a couple occasions to interact with certain media outlets to try and persuade them not to publish information which might put an asset at risk,” Clapper said.

THE MEDIA SHOULD NOT BE PUBLISHING SECRETS AND REVEALING IDENTITIES OR HOW THE [INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY] COLLECTS INTELLIGENCE.” - FORMER CIA OFFICIAL This is not the first time mainstream media leaked sensitive information to the general public. In 2003, former CIA operative Valerie Plame was exposed after her U.S. diplomat husband wrote an op-ed in The New York Times disagreeing with an assumption made by the Bush administration regarding uranium and Iraq. Allegedly, this stunt angered Vice President Cheney. Under his orders, he told his chief of staff, Scooter Libby, to leak Plame’s name to Washington Post reporter Robert Novak. As Plame was sending her kids off to school a massive group of reporters were standing outside her house. “Having a press that eagerly exposes assets discourages recruitment and those who might be willing to cooperate,” said a former CIA top official in an interview with The Highlander. “The country owes a debt to those who have taken risks and provided valuable information. I believe most are assured we can protect them after they provided us information.” It was unpatriotic and illegal to leak Plame’s name to the press for political purposes. Novak should not have run that story, and the same applies for any other journalist who might have been given the name.

Leaders are performing these unjust acts for political gain by attempting to take down political opponents. “Political leaders never have the right to reveal the identities of assets,” the anonymous official from the CIA said. “The assets did not sign up for the risk of exposure based on politics. Any exposure should be extremely rare.” Like Plame, many operatives live in northern Virginia and have built a life around their job. Spouses and children are either left in the dark or must keep their parent’s secret from their friends and neighbors. All this hardwork by the families should not be undone by reporters searching for an article to publish. “My parents’ deployment was during the Cold War era so their names were declassified by the government,” said an anonymous McLean student, whose parents are retired CIA officers. “However, if this information got out five years ago, it would have been very dangerous.” Beyond just the effects on their family lives, leaking names is cruel and stressful for the operatives. The press needs to stop leaking names. There is no need to put someone through this situation when it can be easily avoided. “The Intelligence Community (IC) and the media have responsibilities. The media should not be publishing secrets and revealing identities or how the IC collects intelligence,” the former top CIA official stated. “The media knows why the IC exists and should not be making the job harder by exposing sources and methods. The media is the first to criticize when something goes wrong. The media should be respectful of oversight and not abuse authorities.”

Cartoon by Jane Ogilvie-Russell | Page design by Kyle Hawley

BE GRATEFUL School is a gift, not a curse



oung adults across the globe are held back from the vast opportunities school provides, yet McLean students complain endlessly about this privilege. Without school, students wouldn’t be able to learn invaluable life skills to help themselves and their society. “By having knowledge, it gives us the power to learn more about ourselves, to inspire others and to improve society,” school counselor Deb You said. But many students complain that school is hard or too much work. Comments like ‘I hate school’ or ‘this building is awful’ are commonly heard throughout the halls and on the bus. Yes, school is hard, but school is hard in a good way. Not everything is easy in life, nor should it be. School presents students with challenging situations to help them grow. This is a safe way to be challenged while students still have teachers and friends to support them. “AP teachers in general know what they’re doing,” senior Sofya Protsenko said. “They are always ready to help.” Being the third best public high school in Virginia, McLean offers a plethora of opportunities for students. Math teacher Emily Jaffa said these include AP as well as academy classes. “As soon as [academy students] graduate high school, they should be able to get a job or go to a trade school,” Jaffa said. Additionally, crucial life skills are taught in school, including communication and critical thinking. “It’s about how to become leaders, how to become civic members of society and learning how to socialize with different people,” You said. Jaffa emphasized skills such as time management, organization and perseverance. “It’s better to learn these skills now...[when] you’re not concerned with putting a roof over your head,” Jaffa said. Not only should we feel grateful for the numerous opportunities offered throughout school, but we should also recognize how immature it is to complain about school when, according to UNICEF, one in five of 262 million Infographic & page design by Cordelia Lawton

children worldwide don’t even have access to an education. “The things you learn transform and impact you; that maturity is a real gift,” You said. “There are some students who are in third world countries who don’t have that opportunity, and it stifles their growth.”

[KNOWLEDGE] GIVES US THE POWER TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OURSELVES, TO INSPIRE OTHERS AND TO IMPROVE SOCIETY.” -DEB YOU SCHOOL COUNSELOR Students often complain that coursework or homework is boring. In reality, homework allows students to better understand the material they are studying. “Homework is really helpful if you do it honestly and properly,” Protensko said. “If you just do it to get the grade, of course it will be annoying.”

It’s important to recognize that school helps us discover who we are. You likes to have this conversation when her students feel stressed about grades. “It’s not the letter grade, it’s not what you got on a test—it’s who you are as a person that really adds value to the school and our society,” You said. Looking back, You said becoming a counselor changed her perspective on school. “[Now] I strive to learn new things, to continously fill up my knowlege bucket,” You said. While finding students to interview, it became apparent that many people complain constantly, but later reveal that they’re ultimately grateful for school. “While I always get students who are complaining, I also get a lot of students every year who are grateful to be here,” Jaffa said. If most students are truely grateful for school, can we change our attitude towards it? We have an incredible opportunity here, so before complaining, take a second to remember how lucky we are to be getting these opportunities. We are able to have more possibilities in the future and are able to grow in a supportive school community. So let’s start thanking school, not cursing it.

There is a 1 in 3 chance a child from a

low-income household won’t finish school In high-income households, that chance is 1 in 50

Out of 262

million children, 1 in 5 are not able to be in school


Only 85 girls to every

100 boys are in school by “upper secondary” age in Sub-Saharan Africa

(Statistics found in UNICEF Annual Education Results Report 2018)


HIGHER EDUCATION SHOULDN’T MEAN HIGHER PRICES College prices are skyrocketing at an alarming rate



hat does $11,260 mean? Other than being an extremely high amount of money, it is also the average tuition cost for a public, in-state school. If that number seems high, just remember that the average annual tuition for a public, outof-state school is $27,120, and the tuition for a private school is $41,426. Clearly these numbers are far too high, which has created a national crisis for college students and recent college graduates. According to the The New York Times, since 1974, the median annual income in the U.S. has risen from just under $62,000 (adjusted for inflation) to $64,000, and median home prices have gone up two-thirds. The price of higher education, though, has tripled. Even worse, Virginia’s public colleges had the fifth biggest increase in tuition and fees in one year with an increase of 22 percent. “College prices rise every year by a couple thousand dollars, and it’s rising a lot faster than inflation is too,” senior Katherine Walker said. These high “sticker prices” have been accepted without question by students across the U.S. “Everybody knows that college is expensive, and they expect to have to pay thousands and thousands of dollars,” English teacher Heather Jorgenson said. Those thousands and thousands of dollars in tuition become thousands and thousands of dollars in debt. According to CNBC, students currently have a collective $1.4 trillion of debt. High interest rates on student loans are partially to blame for the extreme amount of debt a majority of recent college graduates are in. “It becomes this vicious cycle of being in debt, trying to pay it off, still being in debt, and then the interest keeps going up,” Jorgenson said. Before students worry about debt, they have to consider whether or not they can afford to apply to certain schools. Students are put in a position where they may not be able to apply to a top 10 school because of the absurd price tag. “I have to restrict the colleges I’m looking at to be in a certain group that will provide 100 percent of [my] need in loans, jobs and scholarships,” senior Julia Johannsen said. Many colleges attempt to lower their tuition for some students, but that doesn’t help everyone in need.


“I will say that most colleges try to make their tuition more affordable for students through grants, scholarships and loans, and will often say that students rarely pay the ‘sticker price,’” College and Career Center Specialist Laura Venos said. To help further ease tuition costs, colleges will try to meet 100 percent of demonstrated need, which is determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The form asks questions such as what the household’s income is and how many kids the family already has in college.



In addition, the increase in demand for higher education has made it possible for colleges to continue raising the prices without losing students. “It’s impossible to get a job. Now you need a college diploma to get jobs that you wouldn’t have needed a college diploma for 20 years ago,” Walker said. “So they keep getting students because [college] is completely necessary.” When looking at the tuition for a college, students try to keep in mind that the price tag they see is partially supposed to account for the cost of maintaining a campus. “Having visited so many college campuses, you can see that the buildings are very new. They pay for a lot of staff to take care of [the campus],” Johannsen said. While it is true that these costs must be accounted for, there is a better way to get the funding. “I do think that their funding should come from the public so that the strain is not on each individual student who has to pay so much money just to go to school,” Jorgenson said. With student debt piling up, it is becoming increasingly clear that colleges need to make changes. It is time for the FAFSA to become more thorough in helping to make college more affordable. Students who fill out the FAFSA form and feel they should have qualified for more aid must write an appeal email to their college’s financial aid office. If enough emails come in, it will become clear that there is a fundamental problem with the form.

“They use the data generated from the FAFSA and potentially the CSS Profile to determine the family’s Expected Financial Contribution (EFC) and then fill in the gaps with scholarships, grants and loans,” Venos said. Although many students with financial needs do meet the FAFSA requirements, the application often fails to take important information into account. “I personally did not qualify for much [financial Since 1980, public aid] because my parents college tuition made a decent amount of costs increased money, but we are a big family and there’s a lot of and private kids and people to take care college increased of,” Jorgenson said. So why are these prices rising in the first place? CNBC attributes the increases to huge budget cuts in state funding for public higher education and the decrease in subsidies at private schools have forced the financial responsibility (Data obtained from CNBC) onto students and families.



The average student loan borrower has

$37,172 in

student loans

...and total student loans are up to $1.4 trillion

Page design by Dasha Makarishcheva

FIXING THE WRONG ISSUES New school facelifts are not helpful to students



ew year. New classes. New teachers. Same old issues. Over the summer, McLean High School made some changes to the outdated building. The walls were freshly painted and the lockers were removed in the blue hallway, allowing a two-foot width expansion. Unfortunately, these fixes fail to address some of McLean’s biggest problems. Most students expected some improvements to the bathrooms, where common complaints include foul odors, horribly placed mirrors and limited privacy. Some teens even go as far as only using specific bathrooms, or none at all, during the course of the day due to their worn out and repulsive state. “They smell horrible and they’re the worst things ever—like I can’t even use them,” sophomore Naveen Patury said. Regardless, funding was placed in areas that defy the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” As for the student population, it is growing at extreme rates. The current population is at an all-time high, around 2,360 kids. Minimal fixes are not enough to accommodate the size and state of McLean. Teachers also feel the need for proper accommodations such as additions to the school instead of new trailers. “I think the concerns of the students are absolutely, 100 percent on point, that they do feel overcrowding is an issue,” social studies teacher Anthony Puzan said. In spite of these clear complaints about the school’s state, Highlanders will have to deal with these problems for the foreseeable future “We have to get through a whole process. Fairfax County has a list when people go into the queue, and we are not on the list for quite a

while,” Principal Ellen Reilly said. Students are attracted to McLean from all over due to stellar academics and a diverse range of language classes. This leads to a very populated environment. For that reason, McLean High School should be higher on the list for school renovations. As population increases, the school will not be able to last. However, McLean’s administration does not have much power over which fixes are completed around school. They can only plan projects with the money they have. These limited funds can only cover small projects such as new furniture or painting the hallways.



On the other hand, a division of FCPS called Design and Construction controls most decisions about renovations that are out of the school’s own budget. While small projects may look nice, they aren’t greatly changing the school’s environment for the better. “We understand and we want those bigger needs to be taken care of, but there’s only so much

Page design by Aleena Gul & Cc Palumbo | Cartoon by Jane Ogilvie-Russell

money the school can spend on certain things,” Director of Student Activities Greg Miller said. These little fixes are just bandages. Painting the walls will not last long enough for the future. It seems as if it will be quite a while until the school is properly fixed to accommodate everyone. “I think that they are fixes to a problem that we are immediately trying our best to make better, but do I think they are renovations? No,” Reilly said. With a problem so dire to McLean students’ well-being, it is astonishing that nothing has been done. On behalf of the McLean student body, the new fixes are appreciated but just not beneficial given the circumstances at McLean. Students are not put into the right spot on the priority list when it comes to decision making. McLean High School needs to focus less on physical appearances and more on how it serves the students who spend their days here. Fairfax County Public Schools should start informing the community of the options regarding school fixes before spending funding on it. They could open suggestions to a panel of student representatives so that their complaints and opinions can be heard directly and taken seriously. It is time to put the students first. “The county is the one who has the power to make the change and pay for the change,” Miller said. Without sufficient support from FCPS, there is no chance of changing the school for the better. Either the McLean administration should save the money they have to solve the bigger issues such as bathrooms, or, if renovations are still out of reach, Design and Construction should provide the funds to fix the more alarming problems.




hirty seconds left on the clock, McLean holds a five-point lead over Wakefield, poised for a historic win. Fans pour out of the student section, filling the space between the bleachers and the fence, preparing to storm the field. Finally, the clock hits zero, and a sea of red rages onto the field in a chaotic mess of celebration. Yes, Highlanders, it’s real. For the first time since 2016, McLean varsity football has won a home game. Two years in the making, Sept. 27 ended in a long-awaited triumph for the players and fans alike. Now with a 3-1 record*, it looks like the two long years of painful losses are a thing of the past. “Oftentimes when coaching staffs change, players can still be tied to a different kind of coaching or program philosophy compared to the one you’re selling. We saw a lot of that during the last two seasons,” varsity football head coach John Scholla said. “[The juniors and seniors] have been together for a couple of years now and have built that chemistry and trust within themselves and the coaching staff. It’s obviously starting to pay off.” This changeover has created a varsity team with players who love football. “We had a thunderstorm that kicked us out of practice in August, and I’ve never seen a team disappointed to leave a practice until this year,” senior varsity captain Cotter Smart said. “The second that happened I knew something was really different from years prior.” McLean was confident that this year’s homecoming game would end in victory. The Highlanders entered the game with a 2-1 record—the first wins for varsity football since the 2016 homecoming game. The student section was filled 40 minutes before kickoff, and additional students were forced to pack into the pep band section. “It was pretty hectic trying to find friends and stuff, but it was exciting to know that the whole school was gonna be there,” senior superfan Christian Nguyen said. “I lost my voice in the first three minutes.”


TOUGH TOUCHDOWN — Junior Ryan Jessar falls into the endzone for a second quarter touchdown. Jessar dominated the first half of the homecoming game against Wakefield. (Photo by Nicholas Lohman) McLean’s spirit was noticed by the football team, helping to motivate them. “It was electric to look at all the fans over there to support us. We had a great crowd,” Scholla said. “Our student section is one of the best in the region.” Despite the hype, the early progressions of the game started to chip away at the Highlanders’ hope of ending their home game losing streak. The red hot Wakefield offense claimed a quick 19-8 lead, but fortunately for McLean, kicking woes slightly slowed Wakefield’s scoring. “Defensively, we gave up a lot of rushing yards. That’s something that we’re going to have to get back and take a look at and fix,” Scholla said. “But we made stops and got off the fuel we needed in order to limit the second

half points for Wakefield.” The Highlanders based their first half offense on a ground-and-pound run game, using junior running back Ryan Jessar as their main scoring threat. Wakefield’s blitzes were unable to slow down the McLean rush attack, and a two possession comeback left McLean with a 29-25 lead at halftime. “We ran Ryan just real hard. He played a great game—probably one of the best games he’s ever played,” Scholla said. “He compiled almost three-quarters of our total yards.” The second half featured a much slower showing from both offenses and displayed a variety of strategic changes from both teams. “Really what it took was for our defense in the second half to settle down,” Scholla said. “Once they kind of settled down, they only *Record accurate as of Oct. 2

Page design by Rebeka Rafi & Nicholas Lohman

gave up one score after that, which is good.” Most notably, McLean made a bold change to their offensive scheme, replacing junior Bijan Soltani at the quarterback position with dual-threat sophomore Griffin Stieg. Stieg allowed the McLean offense to implement a read option formation in the third quarter, confusing the Wakefield defense and eating up valuable time on the clock, until Stieg left the game with an injury during a third quarter drive. “The whole credit should go to the offensive line. Coaches had really good game plans and executed them,” Scholla said. “But at the end of the day, the players had to go make the plays, and I’m very proud of our offense and what we did.” The play of the night came on a perfectly executed trick play midway through the second half. Senior Tio Graybill received a handoff on a jet sweep, drawing in Wakefield’s secondary. He then pulled the ball out to throw before crossing the line of scrimmage, finding senior receiver Joe Lokke wide open on a fly route for a touchdown. Lokke’s touchdown gave the Highlanders a two possession lead, putting the nail in the coffin for Wakefield. “I was probably the most excited I’ve ever been at a McLean football game,” Nguyen said. “The whole crowd erupted. It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced.” Towards the end of the fourth quarter, with an 11-point lead, it became obvious that the Highlanders had done it, and students crowded the fence—the only remaining barrier between the faithful Highlander fans and a chaotic celebration. At the moment the clock hit zero, hundreds of students poured onto the field to enjoy the monumental win. It’s a miracle that the stadium’s old, rusted fence didn’t collapse in the process. That Friday night game was an unforgettable McLean sports memory. “I hopped the fence with everyone else and joined the mosh pit that formed on the field,” Nguyen said. “This is probably going to be a game I remember for the rest of my life.” Seeing their fans rushing on the field was an emotional experience for the football team. “It was amazing seeing hundreds of people on the field jumping around and hearing Coach Scholla’s speech at the end of the game, which damn near brought me to tears,” Smart said. “It was one of the greatest moments of my life.” Part of their success is due to their

camaraderie and powerful team dynamic. Their team bond continues to grow stronger as the season progresses. “It’s a very competitive atmosphere, where every kid wants to be out there on Friday. This is something that we’ve been trying to get here for a while,” Scholla said. “No one wants to be the weakest link, so they all feed off each other.”



McLean football has definitely had a comeback season this year and is using their momentum to lead them into future games.

The team will continue to work on their weaknesses for the tougher teams to come. “The upcoming two games against Yorktown and Langley aren’t going to be easy by any standard. We’ve got to play our game and not [worry about our opponents],” Smart said. “Going from an 0-10 team to a 6-4 or 7-3 team would be amazing, but why not 9-1? There’s no reason why we should not win the rest of our games.” Despite facing some critics due to previous losing seasons, the team has persevered and proved what they are truly capable of. “Success breeds confidence, and I’m very proud of what we’ve done,” Scholla said. “Being 3-1 is great and puts us in a spot a lot of people didn’t expect us to be in.” Scholla appreciates the support the team has received from the McLean community and hopes to continue to have a great season. “I’m proud of our student section and happy with the support we get from administrators and teachers. It’s something that we really want to build off of,” Scholla said. “We want to continue to foster a relationship with the McLean community through football, and I think it’s something that’s really special when it all comes together.”

HYPE HIGHLANDERS — Senior Joe Lokke and junior Ryan Jessar lead the Highlanders onto the field minutes before kickoff against Wakefield. The players carried their pregame energy through the entire game. (Photo by Ava Rotondo) OCTOBER | SPORTS | 39


MAKE THE CASH COUNT Failing to fundraise lets the whole team down NICKY VARELA SPORTS EDITOR


s summer ends and the school year begins, the dawn of the fall sports season emerges. Athletes all around the country rejoice in the return of their beloved activities. Unfortunately, the start of the sports season also delivers something that strikes fear into the hearts of all student-athletes: fundraising. More often than not, fundraising involves going door-to-door to sell certain products or openly asking for donations from the homeowners. Other fundraising methods include bake sales, car washes and even selling mattresses. The funds collected are put directly into the program. “Fundraising is really important because we need each individual team to take care of the wants of the program,” Director of Student Activities Greg Miller said. “Our activities office is able to pay for all their needs when it comes to the necessary equipment for their sport and the necessary equipment to keep our kids safe, but all the ones that our kids and coaches want, you know, we just can’t afford that. So that’s why it’s important for teams to fundraise individually so they can take care of all the wants of their program.” The wants of a program may include practice equipment, new uniforms and team merchandise, like shirts and hoodies. They are not necessary in order for the team to play but can make the athletes feel more like a united family. While ticket sales for games provide the majority of the money the program needs, the money from fundraising is still important. “On average, the activities office spends around $100,000 on our sports teams every year, and our ticket sales last year were around $70,000. That other 30 is things that we get from our athletic boosters,” Assistant Director of Student Activities Tzeitel Barcus said. Still, this money only covers the cost of the needs of a program, not new equipment that can give them the edge over others schools, like elaborate machines. “For football, we’re usually fundraising anywhere from $10,000-20,000 a year,” Miller said. For sports that don’t have high ticket sales, fundraising is crucial, especially for non-schoolsponsored sports such as crew, which has to rely on their annual mulch sale in order to raise


enough money for the season. Fundraising is, at its core, purely for the good of the programs. Unfortunately, not every athlete quite understands this staple.

IT’S IMPORTANT FOR TEAMS TO FUNDRAISE INDIVIDUALLY SO THEY CAN TAKE CARE OF ALL THE WANTS OF THE PROGRAM.“ -GREG MILLER DIRECTOR OF STUDENT ACTIVITIES “It’s a difficult thing, too. You’re going around asking people for money. And a lot of times, it is uncomfortable. Bottom line is, fundraising is not something I think a lot of people enjoy doing, but I do believe it’s a necessary evil,” Miller said. “We want our kids to have the best equipment, the nicest uniforms, whatever it is, we want to have nice things, and if they’re going to have those nice things, fundraising is necessary.” Not only does a lack of participation in fundraising hurt the program itself, but it also

hurts the player’s teammates as well, who have to pick up the slack to subsidize some of their teammates’ unwillingness to improve the team. “Personally, I don’t think I should have to pick up where my teammates slack off. We must contribute to reach our goal,” junior Mason Munoz said. “Do it and get it over with. It helps your team out and pleases the coaches.” All that teams are asking from a player is to sell a few things here and there, maybe even conjure up 10 emails to send donation information to. This little bit of extra commitment is really all a team needs. “I think it’s just another task that they have to complete. I think that maybe they might feel uncomfortable asking for money,” Barcus said. “But I think at the end of the day, people want to support the athletes, so they shouldn’t feel like it’s an undue burden. And people can always say no, so they shouldn’t feel bad about having to ask to support their team.” To all the athletes at McLean, this school is providing an opportunity to play a sport that students have passion for. If the team wants to play at their best, then athletes need to do their part to achieve that goal. “Without our teams fundraising individually, we don’t have the nice things that our kids have here, so we’re thankful to the community for their efforts in helping our kids raise money,” Miller said.

Cartoon by Jayne Ogilvie-Russell | Page design by Nicky Varela


Junior and senior girls continue homecoming football traditions DANA EDSON MANAGING EDITOR MICHELLE CHENG NEWS EDITOR


he longstanding tradition of the girls fall football game prevails, except under a new name. Instead of Powderpuff, the sport took on a more contemporary and empowering title this year: Tuff Puff. Not only is this a fierce rivalry of flag football between the junior and senior classes, but it is also a perfect spirit booster during Homecoming week. “Tuff Puff is different from other sports [because] any girl can play. It’s an inclusive sport that allows you to just have fun, and there’s no pressure,” junior Maggie Womack said. Despite the inclusive nature of the sport, exclusivity was an issue in the past. In previous years, the administration was concerned with the old name and the negative connotations surrounding it. “Some people had issues with the name ‘Powderpuff’ because [it was] offensive to women,” Leadership teacher Bridget Donoghue said. “We asked the administration if we were allowed to have [girls football], and they said that it was fine if we changed [the name],” Donoghue said. To prepare for the game, girls on the team attended weekly practices, starting at the beginning of September. “They’re learning to stick with something they’ve committed themselves to,” Donoghue said. “They’re learning how to stick with something because a lot of them have never done anything like football before.” Junior and senior varsity football players served as coaches, helping the teams build an essential foundation in the sport. “We are going to try and keep things simple. We’ll work on simple movement stuff. Since it’s flag football, [we’ll work on] mostly flag pulling drills, basic running, catching the ball, coverage stuff—keep it to the basics,” junior coach Bryce Molnar said. The coaches offered valuable expertise and strategy during practices. “I’ve been playing football for a really long time, pretty much always as a defensive player. I’m just going to be giving them a lot of tips and tricks on playing better defense,” Molnar said. Going into the game, Molnar was confident about his team’s chances. “The junior team is going to win. Quote me on that—we are the best junior team in the history of McLean girls football,” Molnar said. Despite Molnar’s confident prediction, the intense junior and senior match resulted in a senior victory, as the game ended with a score of 16-12. “During the game, everyone put in their 110 percent, and I had faith in our team and our ability to win,” senior Sofia Ortiz Neidhart said. “[The win] felt incredible. It was the moment that made all of the practices and extra time worthwhile. It was everything we hoped for.” After close calls and aggressive play, both teams walked away with an overall positive experience. “It was still fun,” junior Kyra Bolden said, “and I’m glad [the seniors] won because they deserve it.”

Photos & page design by Dana Edson

EYES ON THE PRIZE — Junior Jenna Wood eyes the end zone as she sprints through the field. Senior Sofia Ortiz Neidhart chases Wood down.

ON THE RUN — Senior Sofia Ortiz Neidhart dodges junior defenders. Ortiz scored one of the two senior touchdowns.

FLAGGED DOWN — Junior Ellen Shine attempts to run with the ball, but senior Maggie Campion dives just in time to pull her flag. OCTOBER | SPORTS | 41




The Highlander Newsmagazine



CHECK OUT OUR WEBSITE: thehighlandernews.com







Reporting by Marina Qu & Shruthi Manimaran | Photo & page design by Marina Qu








































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

Profile for The Highlander

The Highlander - Issue 1 - October 2019  

The Highlander - Issue 1 - October 2019