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8 months later... 2020: one for the books


Inside the Pages

News, p.2-3

An unprecendented year has called for unfamiliar new measures for students and faculty.

Focus, p.6-7

With cyberbullying becoming more rampant now than ever, senior Sean Chaiswat shares his experience.

Features, p.11

Inspiration from students pushes College Adviser Janae Lopez on the path of earning master’s degree.



thematadorsghs.us WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2020

2020: The end of the classroom, the beginning of distance learning



Compared to in-person learning, distance learning provides less opportunities for students to actively engage with their teachers and peers.

A classroom and campus library remain untouched by students for nine months since March 13. Students have been attending classes through Zoom for this school year, although they may transfer to hybrid learning in the future.

With in-person classes no longer a viable option, teachers and students were forced to adapt to an entirely new learning environment, resulting in never-ending disruptions to education. BY LEANE CHE AND KELLY MA NEWS EDITORS


n outbreak like no other. Desperate to escape the downpour, many students rush home, unaware that it would be their last day at school for the rest of the year. Following an upsurge in local COVID-19 cases, the district announced a school closure on April 2. Instruction continued through distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year and resumed for the 2020-21 school year. Distance learning resulted in disorder among students and staff regarding the efforts made to preserve the quality of students’ education in the midst of an international crisis. When distance learning was initiated, there was no established platform, schedule, or mandatory work, prompting students to lose the incentive to continue their studies. As teachers were accustomed to instructing in a physical

environment, the sudden shift to a virtual environment also resulted in a lack of training for managing online classes. Testing Rather than cancelling the 2019-20 AP exams, the College Board released a shortened version of the test, claiming to be “committed to ensuring that AP students receive the credit they have worked this year to earn.” To safeguard the integrity of the exams, they adopted a range of digital security tools and limited the tests to only free-response questions. “The test was disappointing because much of what I had practiced was not included, and I know that I could have done better if there was a multiplechoice section,” senior Jason Chow said. “I really hoped to save money by earning college credits through the AP exams, so I studied for months. I plan on taking AP exams again this year, and in the case that we are still taking them online, the College Board should provide

us with a fairer experience.” Due to the many delays and uncertainties concerning testing through remote learning, the California Department of Education suspended all statewide testing, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exams. Many colleges, namely the University of California system, waived their SAT and ACT requirements. Preparation By the time the new school year started, teachers had undergone months of technology training on navigating Zoom and Google Classroom. To ease the transition from distance learning to hybrid learning, the district organized block scheduling, decreasing instructional time and impeding student learning. Participation Despite the improved distance learning measures, students demonstrated how a lack of engagement could

inhibit their educational growth when they do not participate or submit assignments in a timely manner. However, due to personal as well as technological problems, many students disagree with some teachers’ policies that enforce camera usage. “The fact that so many students are using distance learning as an excuse to not participate is ridiculous,” sophomore Linh Dinh said. “Some students may have personal issues that stop them from turning on their cameras or turning in work on time, but it is appalling when not a single person in the entire class seems to care about their education.” Cheating Incidents of cheating have been a reoccurring issue throughout the year, forcing many teachers to use preventative measures such as time restrictions, plagiarism detectors, and platforms designated for online testing. The increase in cheating also elicited many test reforms,

including requiring students to explain their answers when they are suspected of cheating. “The unwillingness of some students to actually struggle through and complete assignments greatly diminished their writing, analysis, and reasoning skills,” history teacher Henry Osborne said. “This often becomes apparent when students must demonstrate those skills either in school, during testing, or later in the workforce. When students cut corners by cheating, they weaken their own skill set.” Future of Education A return to normalcy may be sooner than expected as the district has discussed possibilities of reopening in a hybrid learning model in January. For the time being, block scheduling will continue, new precautionary measures will be implemented, and new limitations on education will arise, making it uncertain whether the quality of education will improve by then.


thematadorsghs.us WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2020

Explanation of district distance learning policies SCHEDULE | Homeroom periods were created in preparation of hybrid learning as a designated day for sanitizing the campus, holding staff meetings, and relaying information to students. Block scheduling and five-hour school days were enacted to reduce contact and screen time. PARTICIPATION | Camera usage is not mandatory because the district aims to create safe and comfortable learning environments. However, to ensure participation and engagement, teachers are required to submit daily participation marks onto PowerSchool. ATTENDANCE | As long as students are present in the Zoom meeting, they cannot be marked absent if unresponsive, but teachers may contact their families to assess the situation. If unsuccessful, homeschool coordinators and counselors will conduct home visits. CHEATING | The district purchased plagiarism detection software, and teachers are utilizing platforms to combat cheating. To ensure students are treated fairly, incidents are not recorded into disciplinary records unless the teacher directly witnessed it or has definitive evidence.

Students reflect on their first semester of distance learning OUT OF 454 RESPONSES

How would you rate the quality of your education under distance learning?

Do you think that the district could provide more support for students?


COVID-19’s impact on AUSD Following school closure, the district coordinated several approaches to mitigate the difficulties of distance learning in accordance with the pandemic’s progression. March 7: The first case of COVID-19 in the City of Alhambra was reported several months after the disease surfaced in late December of 2019. The number of cases continued to rise in an exponential trend. March 16: AUSD dismissed over 16,000 students from all 21 schools and initiated distance learning until April 6 as a precautionary measure to ensure the health and safety of students and staff. March 24: District employees began distributing Chromebooks to students who did not have the materials for distance learning and completed a Device Request Form by drive-through appointments. April 2: AUSD announced that students will not return to campus and will remain under distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. As a result, many activities were postponed or cancelled. April 6: Teachers officially began technology training during a professional development day. They were given a month to determine their level of technological expertise and which topics they needed to improve on.

How often do you feel overwhelmed or isolated during distance learning?

Do you feel safe returning to school this school year?

April 7: To ensure students will have access to nutritious food, AUSD resumed food services at four areas: the district office, Marguerita, Granada, and Ynez Elementary Schools. As distance learning progressed, more sites were added. April 29: The district enforced a new grading policy in which grades during school closure can only improve. Students can petition to receive credit instead of letter grades, and those unable to participate will not be penalized.

Adaptations among extracurriculars amid pandemic Sports are no longer allowed to condition, and teams are debating about tryouts and practice options. Teams are operating under the modified 2020-21 CIF schedule, primarily meeting through Zoom.

Service and recreational clubs, such as Environmental and Art Club, are offering events that promote social distancing. Several clubs have been hosting both virtual and physical fundraisers.

Performing groups, such as All Male and Choreo, are meeting and practicing on Zoom and hosting virtual tryouts. Performances and competitions are tentative.

Academic groups, such as Academic Decathlon, are continuing to meet and prepare for online competitions either as a team or through independent study.


To read the full articles, visit www.thematadorsghs.us.

Spring-Fall: AUSD purchased personal protective equipment, such as disposable and cloth masks and air filters, in order to preserve health and sanitation during the transition from distance learning to hybrid learning. Aug. 12: The 2020-21 school year opened in distance learning with a revised schedule. Extended home learning, block scheduling, and homerooms, as well as new policies, were introduced. Oct. 28: Superintendent Denise Jaramillo announced that the district will continue distance learning until at least the end of January. Refinements to distance learning will be made.



thematadorsghs.us WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2020

The ignored relevance of our newspaper ILLUSTRATION BY DESTINY CHOW

Sleeping on problems LYNDA LAM COPY EDITOR


s I was laying on a mattress, unidentifiable alarms blared through my ears. I frantically tried to mount myself up and escape to a secure setting. But no matter how hard I tried and tried, my body wouldn’t budge. After multiple failed attempts to cry for help, I succumbed to the noise. I knew that I wasn’t experiencing a normal dream—I felt too conscious. My first episode of sleep paralysis relentlessly occupied my mind. Still, I decided to ignore my concern because I was drowning in responsibilities I needed to take care of. Over time, the insufficient sleep I was getting became increasingly apparent. I was once able to still walk with a bounce in my step with three hours of sleep. Now, I’m constantly dragging myself everywhere I go. The only time I’m able to recharge myself through sleep, ironically, is during the day since sleeping at night has become riddled with paralysis and dreams that cause me to stay up all night. Whenever I try to push through the urge to rest my eyes during class, or anytime, really, I feel as if I’m Sisyphus. My obligations are to his boulder. Although pushing a boulder may be difficult, there are hopes that the task could be done on a leveled surface. Unfortunately, in order to push his boulder, he must deal with an obstacle: an inclined surface. In my case, the incline making my life a never-ending uphill battle is my lack of energy. My efforts to escape my poor sleep cycle have always been futile. Whenever I try to go to bed at 9 p.m., I’m constantly shifting and shuffling with no actual sleep acquired. I felt trapped, and I always wonder if there would be a day that I was free. Being bogged down by sleep opened my eyes to how I was living everyday with a flaw: not prioritizing my health. People are pressured to disregard their well-being since it’s supposedly trivial. However, the revelation that nothing is properly handled when half dead is encouraging me to think of myself more. I sincerely hope that others are able to realize how crucial rest is for focusing and energy. Even if my words are ignored, I firmly believe that one day, they would start to notice how it’s tiring to roll a boulder on a surface that works against them.


Student journalism neglected in time of pandemic


istance learning, the new way of doing school, has brought a decline of a multitude of adored school activities. The Matador has been no stranger to these effects as it has lost its importance to its audience. When the school closed, The Matador switched its physical print editions to digital versions on its website. An inability to distribute newspapers directly to its audience has dramatically deteriorated the newspaper’s value to students. Online versions require greater proactivity on readers’ part, whereas stumbling upon trays of newspapers or having teachers pass out copies practically presented itself to students. As distance learning has removed students from school, they are no longer provided easy access to a newspaper. Although social media promotion exists for online issues, from navigating PDFs to having to search up specific articles, a greater effort is required from readers. Naturally, less are inclined to go through

MATADOR BULLRING Students share their opinions on current topics.

Has newspaper lost importance to students during distance learning? INTERVIEWS BY LAURA CAI PHOTOS COURTESY OF INTERVIEWEES

this extra mile, even if the publication quality remains consistent. Not only is it more complicated to actively seek out online articles and PDFs, but the lack of a tangible copy of the newspaper also complicates students’ reading experiences. Print editions of the paper always prioritized the most important and engaging articles, compiling a collection of compelling material. The print editions of the newspaper were designed in an orderly manner with the most important article having the largest titles and pictures so that the audience would know what to read first. But with the Matador’s website having a large range of content, students may be unfamiliar with what articles to click on. Online articles do not share the same sentiment and accessibility of being organized as opposed to visually seeing the layouts and images of familiar faces. Arguably, students may find themselves less compelled to read the paper due to the perception that

distance learning does not require as great a level of interaction with school affairs. However, The Matador publishes articles that are specifically catered toward the community, and a plethora of relevant topics are covered. Especially at a time like this, it is vital for students to familiarize themselves with the newspaper as new policies are made for the upcoming campus reopening. Articles concerning topics such as new Zoom policies, school lunches, and updates from the Superintendent allow students and staff members to voice their opinions on issues and mitigate the detrimental effects of misinformation. Readers must recognize the newspaper’s importance, even if distance learning inconveniences it. With no physical newspapers available and an overload of articles, it is often difficult to find interest. Nevertheless, The Matador does angle its articles so that they are geared toward the school population, bringing insight to pertinent issues that may affect the audience.

Devon Thai, 9

Keilyn Arjona, 10

“Newspaper has lost importance to me because I can always [rely] on social media since it can easily alert me [about] any upcoming information.”

“I feel like the importance faded away once COVID hit. I don’t read the school’s newspaper a lot, but I have friends that are into it since students like to see what is going on with our school.”

Alondra Zubiate, 11

Chin-Tan Ma, 12

“The newspaper lost some importance during distance learning as many are unaware that it’s still up and running. On campus, students paid attention to the newspaper because it caught their attention.”

“Newspaper has been less significant because of its [inaccessibility]. Students are less encouraged to read it online as they may feel that they have better things to do at home.”


thematadorsghs.us WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2020



You tried, College Board: why you failed 2020

‘Wik’ed mind



he pandemic forced change to college admissions and the way Advanced Placement (AP) classes operate. However, the College Board failed to adapt the SAT exam and AP courses, placing students at a disadvantage in pursuing a higher education. Although submitting SAT scores to colleges is optional this year, the tests can still be taken to enhance college applications. The College Board issues in-person tests at facilities with limited capacity rather than online versions. Additionally, many students sign up to boost their admission chances, but the exams are spontaneously cancelled. Continuing their current methods risks test takers’ lives and causes disadvantages to those who want leverage in college admissions. The College Board makes students choose between competitiveness and their safety. The most challenging courses are AP classes that the College Board supplemented with condensed online exams. The tests failed to accurately gauge students’ knowledge of all the material, and some could not submit their responses due to catastrophic technical difficulties on the College Board’s behalf, forcing them to take a makeup exam later. As several exams were carried out, the college board then suddenly allowed those who encountered those problems to email their responses. This was unfair for those who did not have that alternative because while others waited for their scores, some had to wait until June or accept a zero. This provoked many, making the 2020 AP exams one of the worst within the College Board’s history. To assist students in AP courses, the College Board developed “AP Daily,” a collection of videos that teach an examneeded skills. Admittedly, the organization is



helping students succeed in both their classes and exams, but the resources are vague, and the video releases are inconsistent with teachers’ pacing. The College Board continues their traditional approach this year by maintaining the curriculum, which is absurd since schools cannot reopen. Refusing to pursue a different path will wreak havoc. The College Board is setting up students for failure with their response to the pandemic for AP and SAT, necessitating

change in these programs. The organization’s AP Classroom possesses a Secure Lockdown Browser, a software that can be utilized to create an online version of the SAT. In regards to AP, with the reduced amount of time spent in class, it is only fair to reduce the amount of content that should be taught while including both multiple-choice and free-response questions. Only by considering these methods can the College Board truly appeal to students’ best interests.

Peer assessment degrades the value of assignments Although convenient, peer assessment fails to accurately determine grades. ANNA NGO REPORTER


eer assessment is a common grading method where students grade each other’s assignments. Oftentimes, teachers utilize this method because they do not have the time to grade themselves, or they wish to teach students better analytical skills. Despite its convenience, peer grading is a risky and poor method to score student’s work. Peer assessment allows for unreliable grading among students. Students are often biased, giving their peers an undeserved score. They may arrange deals with their friends to fix or ignore mistakes, leading to a dishonest grade. Students can also be unfamiliar or confused with the grading rubrics, thus giving inconsistent, subjective scores that do not accurately reflect a student’s performance. It is unreasonable to make students responsible for their peers’ grades when they are prone to being unreliable. Despite teachers having a schedule of plans for the entire year, peer assessment is still a waste of class time. This time could be more beneficial

for students if it was used to teach new material. Spending days on peer assessment unjustly slows class progress. It would be best for teachers to grade on their own time, rather than waste valuable class time. Although peer assessment may be used to train students to appraise work with a critical eye, many students do not grade thoroughly or seriously since it is not their main priority. Allowing students to determine grades is irresponsible, given they lack training and expertise. Teachers would also be able to provide more useful feedback that a student can learn from as opposed to a peer who is unfamiliar with grading. The job of grading must remain to teachers. Peer assessment creates more problems than it solves. Not only are students bound to score inaccurately, but student grading also slows the class down. Teachers must grade on their own time and assign work that truly sharpens students’ evaluation skills, such as sample documents for students to assess without putting real grades at risk. Peer assessments does nothing to help students and must change so that it is no longer a method to determine a student’s score.

THE MATADOR Editors-in-Chief, Print Editor-in-Chief, Digital News Editors Opinions Editors Focus Editors Life and Art Editor Sports Editor Features Editors Copy Editors Business Manager Social Media Managers Photoshop Editors



Wally Lan Qilin Li Amanda Lerma Leane Che Kelly Ma Andrew Lam Aaron Lu Chelsea Lam Chelsea Nguyen Ken Yu Eric Mai Mytam Le Tiffany Nguygen Justin Fang Lynda Lam Tammy Vuong Lily Cam Tammy Vuong Leane Che Lynda Lam Jett Le Andrew Bolivar Laura Cai Adwik Chaturvedi Nan Jiang Jett Le Anna Ngo Hanna Jalawan

The Matador is published monthly online and bi-monthly on PDFs by the journalism class of San Gabriel High School. The Matador is a public forum for student expression and highly encourages responses in reaction to issues discussed in the paper. The opinons expressed are those of the writers, not the faculty or administration. Articles without bylines are the opinion of the entire staff. Submit comments as a letter to the editor, signed (anonymity is guaranteed if requested) to Ms. Jalawan’s email.

’m living with a creature who feeds upon my stress and fears to gain an advantage. A creature who is relentless, tiring my brain to the point of collapse. However, this is not the devil or a giant that I live with. It is my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I remember having the disorder in second grade. I used to check book pages when reading and touch stationeries multiple times. It irritated me, but I saw it as a habit. Thus, it stayed passive. I soon was able to identify it when my father told me about the events he dealt with when he had OCD. My OCD rose to a dangerous level this year. I’m certain it was from fears and stress of my academic and personal life. Many don’t know what an OCD victim has to live with and fail to understand it. Most of my friends don’t even see it as a mental condition, never seeing OCD play out, as it is mostly in the head, and most victims act normal. Even when trying to explain, it tires my brain with so much going on inside my head. Although my father’s past experience with OCD doesn’t make me feel alone, I’m still afraid to describe my experiences. Not being able to do so leads to many panic attacks and distress. Yet, I still go by my father’s words to describe what the disorder is like. “It is like a monster inside your head,” he said. “The more food you give it, the more control it has over your mind.” This phrase directly translates to my version of OCD, more danger comes from more fear and stress. OCD for me, was a dreadful experience of constant urges that would trigger distress. These urges would include constantly touching different objects, such as pencils, phones, and notebooks, two, four, or six times, turning the lights on and off multiple times, and writing and erasing my notes multiple times. This tired my mind, I procrastinated, and I couldn’t continue my hobbies. It’s a terrible experience as it disrupted my life to a devastating degree. My family are my true motivators as they supervise me when it starts, and stop it by distracting me. That’s all it takes, not experiencing it one day and having it disappear the next day. OCD is an experience that I don’t know how long will last for, but I do know that the only thing that will rid me of it will be my actions and judgement to defeat this monster inside my head.



thematadorsghs.us WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2020

Behind the screens...

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cyberbullyi "Watching Static" CC BY 2.0, xJason.Rogersx


of students at school have been cyberbullied.


of students who were cyberbullied never reported it.


of students have said abusive words to someone online.


DISCLAIMER: These articles do not and cannot constitute professional advice. If you have a psychiatric emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.


thematadorsghs.us WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2020

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING MAY CONTAIN SENSITIVE TOPICS. Bullying has seldom been a foreign concept to students, and with the rise of technology in the past decade, cyberbullying—bullying through digital communication—is becoming more prominent. As this pandemic has limited physical interactions, virtual communication have become the only means of contact students have with their peers. Many are now finding themselves using apps such as FaceTime, Instagram, TikTok, and Zoom more than ever but at a risk of exposing themselves to the dangers of digital communication. L1ght, an organization that aims to address online toxicity, reported that cyberbullying increased by 70% in the past few months. BY WALLY LAN

Chaiswat triumphs over cyberbullies As a freshman, Sean Chaiswat was bullied online and at school on a daily basis.






"What's up, yellow monkey? Fatty!" Hateful and threatening messages from anonymous harassers flood senior Sean Chaiswat’s direct message inbox on Instagram. The messages had been sent from accounts with followers and following counts of zero. With no way to identify these accounts, Chaiswat begins to feel helpless. Confused. He attempts to ignore the messages, but they overwhelm him. In the second semester of his freshman year, Chaiswat fell victim to cyberbullying when he started receiving vulgar messages on social media. Only a month later, bullies, whom he shared classes with at the time, began harassing him at school. “Every hour, my inbox would explode with hate,” Chaiswat said. “It was harsh. I don’t even know what I did. One of the messages was like, ‘Why can’t you run, fatty? Best go find a bridge. Why are you even alive?


Just go get a car and drive into a wall.’ There were so many threats. The people behind the accounts would send links that hacked my account and videos of torture. They were really brutal.” Although Chaiswat was never able to confirm the identities of the people behind the Instagram accounts, he noticed similar behavior from classmates in person. Bullies targeted Chaiswat verbally and physically every day.

The burn developed into a scar, reminding Chaiswat, years later, of what life at school had previously been like for him. “It felt like being pressed with the hottest thing in the world,” Chaiswat said. “It hurts at first and then numbs. The worst thing is putting on clothes afterwards because you feel it sting when it makes contact. This incident made me hate the world because it showed that some people are

“I assume that the bullies at school were the same people who messaged me because it all happened at the same time,” Chaiswat said. “To my face, I was told that I was a fat piece of sh*t. People used me as a punching bag.” In one instance, the bullies jammed a heated vape into Chaiswat’s right leg, holding it until he pushed them off him.

very cruel.” Chaiswat had considered reporting the bullying to school administration but refrained from doing so. He was afraid it would worsen his interactions with the bullies and that administration would lack any findings of concrete evidence. Instead, to cope with the stress of being bullied, Chaiswat found an outlet by working at his parents’

Thai restaurant. “I worked at the restaurant for two years,” Chaiswat said. “It helped me cope with the constant negativity of people because the rule is that the customer is always right. If I ever got mad, I would just put a smile on and say, ‘Have a gold day!' It was nice counting money and cleaning the tables because it made me feel like I was a part of something. It was peaceful.” After a year, the bullying suddenly ceased after the bullies lost interest. A relieved Chaiswat began joining sports, such as wrestling, and working out to remind himself that he was in control of his life. He looks back on his past trauma and believes it has shaped him into the stronger person he is now. “Becoming physically active made me more confident to go out,” Chaiswat said. “Back then, I wanted revenge, but then a good friend of mine named River told me that it was not worth it, so I let it go. I am telling my story because I would rather spread awareness about cyberbullying than keep it to myself. To everyone reading this, please think before you act and treat others how you want to be treated.”




www.suicidepreventionlifeline. org/ 1-800-273-8255 Available 24/7

www.stompoutbullying.org/ helpchat Monday 6:00 p.m. -12:00 a.m. Tuesday 8:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m.

www.crisistextline.org/ Text HOME to 741741 Available 24/7

“To my face, I was told that I was a fat piece of sh*t. People used me as a punching bag.” Sean Chaiswat Senior



thematadorsghs.us WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2020


“Baba Marta” CC/BY NC-SA 2.0, Greta Georgieva (top left) “Rosca de Reyes 2015” CC/BY NC-SA 2.0, Nearsoft (top right) “Dia de los Velitas 2016, Mosquera” CC/BY 2.0, Reg Natarajan (bottom left)

88rising revolutionizes music industry through Asian representation

“New years shrine visit” CC/BY NC-SA 2.0, kob42kob (bottom right)

These winter holidays all have deep ties with religion. Día de los Reyes celebrates the visitation of the three kings, Día de las Velitas celebrates the Immaculate Conception, Baba Marta comes from Bulgarian folklore, and in Oshogatsu, the new year is welcomed by shrine visits.



ass media company and music label 88rising is a catalyst for increasing Asian representation in the media. It globalizes eastern and western music, fusing them into one unique sound while opening doors for Asian artists to break through. In a literal sense, 88rising changed the face of hip hop. Japanese-American CEO Sean Miyashiro launched it in 2015 as an Asian-American music collective with members of Filipino, Taiwanese, and Korean descent. From there on out, 88rising began blurring the lines between western and eastern music, featuring various Asian hip hop and R&B artists and collaborators who put their own spin on western music by singing in English, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. The incorporation of Asian languages allowed for intercultural exposure as both listeners in the U.S. and Asian countries could appreciate their music. Revolutionarily, 88rising provides representation of a demographic of talented Americans who have consistently been left out of mainstream media. In 2018, 88rising’s debut album “Head in the Clouds” peaked at the 76th spot on the U.S. Billboard 200 Chart despite only being formed three years prior and featuring artists of a multitude ethnic backgrounds—a rarity in American music. In addition, 88rising dismantles the stereotype that music genres are exclusive for specific racial groups. Prior to 2015, it was unheard of for Asian artists to be known in the hip hop music industry. Now, names like Joji, a half-Japanese and halfAustralian 88rising artist, are being considered mainstream after he topped the Billboard R&B and hip hop charts in 2018 with his album “BALLADS1”—the first album released by an Asian soloist to ever accomplish such a feat. In a local context alone, 88rising has proven to be game-changing. The San Gabriel Valley consists of an especially large and growing Asian population, and representation is vital in bringing together this diverse group of people, especially the youth, where 88rising has had the greatest impact on. Combined with the accolades of its artists, the expanding popularity and strong influence of 88rising is crystal clear. 88rising’s music serves not only to entertain, but also to break new barriers.

Winter celebrations: taking a worldwide glance BY ANDREW LAM AND KEN YU OPINIONS EDITOR LIFE AND ART EDITOR

Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, Día de los Reyes, or Three Kings, Day starts right after Christmas and continues all the way through Jan. 6. The holiday celebrates the biblical story of the three kings who traveled to visit and deliver gifts to Jesus Christ. Children place a box of straw under their bed to feed the three kings’ horses while the kings bring their gifts. Children who behave well will be rewarded in the morning with candies or other small treats in their box. A popular dish enjoyed on this holiday is a wreath-shaped sweet bread called Rosca de Reyes (Kings’ Wreath) that is embellished with candied fruit and contains a figure of a baby inside.

Places far and beyond have their own signature holidays and traditions in the coldest time of year. So, what are they?


Started in 2003, La Alborada (The Dawn) is a relatively new winter holiday. This holiday gives December a warm and lively welcome with grand firework shows on Nov. 30. The Colombian city of Medellín is a popular hub of vibrant Christmas lights, making it a prominent tourist attraction. Before La Alborada was created, Día de las Velitas (Day of the Little Candles) was the official start to the holiday season. It gets its name from the tradition of lining roads that the Virgin Mary will travel through with candles and lanterns and celebrates the eve of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 7 ,and parties leak into the next day.



In order to start the new year fresh in Japan, many people spend the last day of the year, called Ōmisoka, carrying out activities like house cleaning. People often gather one final time to eat toshikoshi soba or udon. This tradition comes from the easily-cut noodles which are associated with letting go of the hardships of the past year. Crossing into the new year is a three day period called Oshogatsu. Large numbers of Japanese visit a shrine for Hatsumode, the year’s first shrine visit to make a wish in this period. Visitors also often buy a pre-written oracle called an omikuji that tells the buyer how they will do in various aspects of life.


Toward the end of winter in Bulgaria is Baba Marta Day which is held on March 1. On this day, people buy or make martenitsa which are tiny, red and white wool male and female dolls given to close friends and loved ones to wear. The wearer takes it off when they spot a stork or swallow returning from migration or until they come across a blossoming tree. The ritual of taking off the adornment varies throughout the country with some tying the dolls onto a tree, while others place it under a stone. Stemming from folklore about Baba Marta, the final holidays of winter revolve around her with ritual activities to quell her anger.

‘Red Flag’ by Bebe Tran, 12

In this digital art piece, Tran practices painting backgrounds on Photoshop.



thematadorsghs.us WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2020

Students share their Christmas wishes in a letter to the man in red. us,

la Dear Santa C

olish the you could ab if ve e able to lo ly al You should b t? I would re gh ri , al ic u. If You’re mag ch, even for yo k u m o coronavirus. to e b s that may . I won’t as do that. I gues greatly appreciate money ey is still ld u o ount of mon am not that, I w l al sm a I’ll have amount; gadgets that ss le se for a specific u y u b ing nice od! I could s buy someth ap h able to do go er p r o s some a few day e time to do th e fun with for ar s ay d li all-year s. The ho uld do good o sh for my friend e n yo er portant fe (but ev arity or an im ch a good in my li to e at n . I can be I’ll do , I can do that ey n o round!). May m t u o h ns, or . Even wit us organizatio o ri organization va r fo er I guess s, volunte e world. So, th d sign petition n u o ar m list.. . but news fro my Christmas n share crucial o ly ri sa es isn’t nec even money s, Santa! want. Thank I at h w ’s at th

n, 9

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thematadorsghs.us WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2020


Return of CIF Sports: the problems, benefits The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) announced plans to recontinue sports in mid-December. Current reopening guidelines require that all students and coaches be screened daily, that anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 not attend practice or games, and that face masks are worn, except in high-intensity aerobic sports. BY ANDREW LAM AND KEN YU

PRO | December has come, and it will have been eight months since COVID-19 has brought the nation to a virtual standstill. Although the pandemic is still a major risk to health, adaptations can occur so our lives do not remain stagnated. Resuming CIF is one way. Sports are not only beneficial towards the body, but also to mental health. Humans are social beings, and sports helps achieve the needs of both the body and mind, which has become even more essential to maintain in these times. Students have likely not seen their fellow players for months, creating gaps within their team that can potentially hurt them when CIF resumes. In addition, some students only feel motivated to exercise when with teammates, making it increasingly essential that CIF resume for more frequent practice. Although there are concerns that sports will be difficult to play in accordance to social distancing protocols, it is a necessary sacrifice in order to responsibly and safely play sports. Some protocols are, at best, a minor hindrance, and

current practice routines can be adapted to them. For example, volleyball safety guidelines mandate that any drills with volleyballs must be done individually with each player to their own ball. While tedious, it is not entirely different from the way individual drills were executed before the pandemic, where time was made for individual drilling with coach supervision. Although the risks exist, students stand to benefit from reconnecting with each other through sports, helping relieve the pressure and mental fatigue of the pandemic. Resuming CIF, with the addition of strict guidelines, will be one of many ways to adapt and bring lives from a halt to a slow walk, ensuring that even in times of uncertainty and fear, people will still be able to move forward. CON | CIF sports must not resume because the dangers of COVID-19 are ever-present and worsening, reminding us that reopening cannot begin safely. CIF plans to resume sports in mid-December, which is the worst time to reopen. There has been a recent surge in cases in Los Angeles County, with over

17,000 new cases on Nov. 23, the largest increase yet. This highlights that we are still in the thick of the pandemic, and reopening cannot be safely conducted. Resuming sports displays ignorance of this fact, and such a disregard would have drastic consequences, especially since CIF’s proposed reopening date would coincide with flu season. The flu may exacerbate the pandemic. Following social distancing protocols and staying safe will be difficult with sports. Although CIF requires athletes to adhere to local mask guidelines, athletes in sports involving “highintensity aerobic activity” are exempt from these guidelines because masks would restrict their ability to breathe. This poses a concerning health risk for athletes, as there is now a window of opportunity for infection. In such aerobic sports, athletes may come into close contact with each other. Masks act as a barrier to infection in close quarters, and by taking away this vital barrier, all protection is removed. Having already claimed thousands of lives in Los Angeles County alone, this

virus has proven itself deadly. No chances can be taken when it comes to the health and safety of athletes. Having been in quarantine for months now, moving on and accepting these inevitable health risks as intrinsic to our daily lives seems to be the only option. Today, the situation is far from normal, and reopening can begin once the situation is actually normal. By reopening at the correct time, these health risks do not have to be inevitable. Rushing reopening would be one of the greatest mistakes in this pandemic because the guidance is not fully fleshed out yet. Without guidance, reopening would be sloppy and uncalculated, spiraling the situation out of control once more. In order to ensure a safe transition back to normal life, CIF must wait for the statistics to indicate that the curve is flattening and proper reopening guidance to be given. This guidance should outline the process of resuming activities, like sports, in great detail to ensure reopening safely. Safety cannot be shrugged aside and must be of paramount priority when planning reopening.

Kaya Luong, senior setter: Q: How have you guys been adjusting and preparing for games in light of the pandemic? Do you feel as if this will dramatically affect your performance? A: “We are doing our best to workout at home and, if possible, attend the park practices. But other teams, I hear, are having official practices, [and] I know that some clubs are actually still active, so other schools will likely have advantages. What will dramatically affect our teams [is] the willingness of the freshmen to participate in workouts we send them and go to the practices without being shy.”

Jimmy Liung, senior setter: Q: What are some of the team’s specific strengths that will help you guys this season? What do you hope to work on? A: “We have a lot more height in our team now because of our young players coming in. This will benefit us as we’ll have a bigger block and better offense. We’re all experienced and skilled players, so I believe we’ll have great communication and teamwork. I hope to work a lot on defense because I believe we’re lacking in that area. I know my teammates and I will step up on that part of the game.”

Winter sports season previews Varsity Volleyball

Cross Country Steve Morales, Head Coach: Q: How is the team adapting to COVID-19 currently and once official practice begins? A: “With no official team practices due to COVID-19, some kids are practicing without the coaches and following all the guidelines from the state. Whenever we are permitted to officially start practicing as a team, I will create a plan for practice with the school that will follow the CIF and state guidelines at that time. I am considering splitting practice [among] small groups: some of the team may run before school and others after school.”

Emily Chen, senior Zoom leader: Q: What are your goals for the team for the upcoming season? A: “I am hoping that the team is well prepared for the races ahead. My main concern is how we will adjust to running after all of these athome workouts since they are very different from actually running. Through Zoom, we can’t physically do what we would normally do [for] practices; [however], it has been a great way to mentally prepare members. I am also hoping that when or if we do have a chance to meet physically, we can bond even more as a team.”

Bryan Pagdilao, Boys and Girls Varsity Assistant Coach: Q: What are some of the team’s specific strengths that will help you guys this season? A: “We have a lot [of] young but talented kids coming back this year on both the boys and girls varsity teams. A majority of our starting lineup from our boys varsity last year is coming back. I expect quite a bit from junior outside hitters Washington Nguyen and Brandon Phan. Both of them will be expected to carry the workload for our team. On the girls [team], senior libero Kimberly Yip and senior middle blocker Anna Cai will be our goto players.”




thematadorsghs.us WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2020


College Adviser Janae Lopez and alumnus Ives Morales pose at the Panda Restaurant Group headquarters before an interview with the Panda Cares Foundation, discussing the benefits of college advising. In 2019, Lopez graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor’s degree. She majored in sociology and minored in education studies but took a gap year. Since then, she has been in a two-year USC School of Education advising program and will leave her current job in May 2021, like the seniors she has been helping.

Lopez pursues Master’s degree Inspired by her students, College Adviser Janae Lopez takes the next step in her educational journey. BY TIFFANY NGUYGEN FEATURES EDITOR


ne Zoom meeting after the other, College Adviser Janae Lopez spends hours helping students through the stressful rigors of the college application season. Little do they know that after a hectic week of guiding them through their personal statements, Lopez wakes up early on the following Saturday to work on her own. Using her experience at the school as a catalyst for her academic goals, Lopez is in the process of applying to the University of Southern California (USC), the University of California, Los

Angeles (UCLA), and Azusa Pacific University to pursue her Master’s degree in student affairs. Lopez enjoys working with the youth as she understands the inequities that exist in the education system as a first-

insight questions and provide students with resources, I think about how much I wish I could follow students through their journey in college to make sure that they always have that level of support and encouragement,” Lopez said. “In my experience

connecting with students through their post-high school plans, she recognizes her role as a College Adviser to be a pivotal turning point in her career that has influenced her academic journey. “You all have inspired me

“If it wasn’t for my role at San Gabriel, I still would not have the courage or conviction to take on this process.” Janae Lopez

College Adviser

generation Latina graduate. By offering her support with college applications, personal statements, and financial aid, Lopez fills in those gaps one student at a time. “As I work to read personal

as a student at UCLA, however, I know that this isn’t usually the case. Because of this, I have decided that I want to work in a college or university to be that person for students.” Now, after over a year of

in so many ways,” Lopez said. “If it wasn’t for my role at San Gabriel, I still would not have the courage or conviction to take on this process.” Like many of the students working toward their college

ambitions, Lopez is experiencing the anxiety and self-doubt of submitting applications that will determine the following years of her future, but she remains hopeful. “It is scary to hit that submit button and wonder if you will be good enough, but it is rewarding when you get to see it all come together,” Lopez said. “With the UC and California State University deadlines approaching, more and more seniors will feel the same sense of relief that I did when I submitted my USC and UCLA applications. I encourage you all to take on the college process even when you’re scared, and that has given me the confidence to take my own advice.”

Chen gives vulnerbility a ‘chen’ce through spoken word performances TIFFANY NGUYGEN FEATURES EDITOR


(Left) Senior Emily Chen poses with the 2019 Get Lit Classic Slam team. (Middle) She performs her duo poem titled “Late Bloomers” for the 2019 Get Lit Classic Slam as a semi-finalist and sacrilegious poet. Her poem encapsulates the struggles she faced as a late-blooming adolescent and the standards of femininity that plagued her. (Bottom left) Chen puts up a peace sign with the team after an after-school practice session.

She steps onto the big stage and exhales nervously. The microphone lets out a small echo. Her words flood the crowd and fill the room with the emotions she was always unable to express. After watching a schoolwide Get Lit poetry slam, senior Emily Chen found an interest in spoken word in her freshman year. She has since earned several poetry honors, including being a two-time Poetry Out Loud district champion and sacrilegious poet for the Get Lit poetry slam finals. However, those mean little in comparison to how poetry connects her to herself and others. “I’ve met a lot of great people along the way and have heard

many stories through poetry,” Chen said. “I feel like I could connect and relate to them even though I’ve never met them.” Being exposed to the personal experiences of poets from various backgrounds fills Chen with much inspiration. She feels comfortable sharing her story to others who can relate and exude the same passion for poetry that she has. “All of the poems I write are very personal,” Chen said. “I am most surprised when even adults can relate to my poems, but it inspires me to know that I can impact others with my personal experiences.” As a member of Speech and Debate and with her natural confidence, Chen finds the public speaking aspect of spoken word performance to be easy but not the public emotional vulnerability. That was a skill

that she honed with every new poem she performed. “It was hard for me to be vulnerable in public because I was scared of how people would respond,” Chen said. “But in poetry, I can speak out about anything I need to say freely, and no one bats an eye. Instead, my problems are empowering because they come out as poems.” In Chen’s eyes, listening and sharing poetry pushes her to appreciate the significance of being vulnerable with herself and to embrace those feelings. “I have a stronger understanding of myself and my situations because there is so much emotion involved in poetry,” Chen said. “When I write and read those poems, I gain clarity of what my problems are, and I become more connected to myself.”



thematadorsghs.us WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2020

Coming to America Senior Tao Tao Xing and sophomore Ava Walker share their struggles of moving and adapting to a new country.

Xing battles language barrier BY LAURA CAI REPORTER


Senior Tao Tao Xing reads one of the books that helped her improve her English dramatically called Atomic Habits, a book about developing good habits and psychology. “They are books that help me stay on track and give me insight into the way people think,” Xing said.

er heart began to thump loudly, and she took deep, heavy breaths. Senior Tao Tao Xing was tasked by her family to make a call to a health insurance operator, solely in English. She was bombarded with questions, struggling to string her words together. Xing immigrated from China to the U.S. in June 2017. Although she was taught basic English in China, it was not enough to communicate in day-to-day conversations. Because her

native language is Mandarin, she had trouble expressing her thoughts in English. Xing’s family desired a better education for her since China’s school system was stressful. Xing did not feel particularly emotional about immigrating. However, obstacles still remained, with the language barrier being the most notable. “I was afraid of what people would think about my English,” Xing said. “During class, I was unable to comprehend the lessons because they went too fast, and the vocabulary was above my level.” To overcome the language barrier, Xing

immersed herself in various activities to refine her skills, including journal writing and communicating with her online friends through games. However, reading books especially made an impact in her learning, welcoming the most progress in both her grades and practical skills. “Reading taught me how phrases are connected and how to structure a sentence and paragraph,” Xing said. “And even though learning English was not the main cause of me having good grades, it definitely helped. I did what I should do, completed all assignments, and worked hard on every test.”

Xing’s English skills have undoubtedly made life more convenient for her. From academic tasks to at-home duties, she completes these tasks with more ease, and not to mention, confidence. She recognizes that there is room for more growth and hopes to keep connecting with teachers and peers, obtaining more experience by talking to them. “Learning English made me more confident in conversations with natural English speakers as I am able to say what I want without feeling shy,” Xing said. “Academically, I am willing to take the lead in group projects—something I never dared to do before.”

Walker grapples with constant moving ANNA NGO REPORTER


s she hosted a goingaway party in Germany to see her friends for the last time, sophomore Ava Walker was overcome with a wave of sadness. Moving countries is not a foreign experience for her. From being raised in England, living in Germany, and to finally arriving in the U.S., Walker is exhausted from packing up her suitcase because of her mother’s job as a seismologist. During her transition from Germany to the U.S., Walker and her family stayed at her grandmother’s home in England


for over two months due to visa complications. She spent days in a cramped bedroom, isolated and lonely with little belongings and no friends. To cope, Walker tried reading to deal with the isolation. “I used to love reading, but it was difficult during that time,” Walker said. “I was in a small house with quite a few people, so there was never a place that was quiet. Even at night, I wasn’t allowed to turn my light on.” Unable to read books normally, Walker stumbled across audiobooks. They drowned out the commotion in the house, allowing her to peacefully listen to stories even in the dark. Over time, she fell in love with them as they continued to help her

combat loneliness even after arriving in the U.S. “Audiobooks provided some well-needed escapism,” Walker said. “Having someone read you a story feels nice and calming. It helps on bad and lonely days. I wouldn’t even feel bad sitting alone at lunch if I had a good audiobook.” Today, Walker continues to use creative hobbies when she is overwhelmed. Because of her mother’s career in seismology, a field with rare opportunities for a permanent job, the possibility of moving again remains probable. “It would be easier if we just knew what our future looked like, but audiobooks definitely help me cope,” Walker said.


(Top left) Walker and her younger sister pose outside their new home before the first day of school in the U.S. She and her family moved in Aug. 2019, but her mother had previously arrived a year earlier in Sept. 2018 to study martian seismology as part of her job.

Profile for The Matador

The Matador: Issue 4 - December 9, 2020  

The Matador: Issue 4 - December 9, 2020