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TJTODAY vol 7 issue 2 oct. 2021

thomas jefferson high school for science and technology 6560 braddock rd. alexandria, va 22312


Jefferson’s class of 2025 — the class like no other — paves a path like no other through classrooms, student government, and social dynamics.


Stationed beside the cubbies, senior Kyuree Kim and the rest of Jefferson’s cheerleading squad wait for their turn to perform in the Oct. 16 cheer district showcase. Jefferson’s cheerleaders try to generate excitement and focus instead of anxiety in the moments before a performance. “Hitting all of our stunts usually causes the most nerves because we really want to put out our best performance and not have anyone falling. Even though we’ve practiced them so many times, you never know what can go wrong. The most we can do is concentrate when we need to and take that energy and success from practices and not let the pressure get to us,” captain Justine Chu said. PHOTO // Z. Viterbo


Print & Online Editors-in-Chief Aafreen Ali Annika Duneja Anuj Khemka Rachel Lewis Christina Lu Nathan Mo

Broadcast Executive Producers Team Leaders Sahishnu Hanumansetty Elaine Li

Social Media Manager Yoo-Bin Kwon

Eric Feng Aarya Kumar Sai Mattapalli Robert Stotz

Advisor: Erinn Harris tjTODAY is the official newsmagazine of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. The staff is deeply committed to a code of journalistic ethics that demands the exercise of accuracy, good judgment, and impartiality. The content of tjTODAY is determined by the editorial board. Unsigned

editorials reflect the majority opinion of the staff of tjTODAY, but not necessarily the opinions of individual editors. The tjTODAY staff would like to thank the Jefferson community for coming together to work towards a return to normalcy and helping us better tell your stories.

tjtoday.tjhsst @tjhsst_media



CONTENTS tjTODAY vol. 7 issue 2


20 cover story 06

FACING THE FRESHMEN From classroom desks to Froshcomm to interactions in hallways, the Class of 2025 leaves an imprint wherever they go, their stories and faces ready to be discovered.

COVER PHOTOS // A. Khemka, A. Ali, A. Duneja, J. Feng

features 04





opinion 16

PARENTAL CONTROL Parent advocacy for aspects of their children’s education is important, but when it becomes a danger to others, they have to change the way they advocate.


FREEDOM TO READ High school students are mature and educated enough to handle potentially racy material in school library or classroom content, as long as they are school-approved.


WORKING OVERTIME Actually following the 30 minute rule requires a change in understanding why the rule is implemented.


SKEWED TOWARDS SUCCESS Teachers must continue finding new ways to reduce workload.

REVIVING TJ REVERB Six years ago, Jefferson’s Nanosat club initiated TJ REVERB to construct a radio satellite for NASA. Now after several delays and a global pandemic, they’re running out of time.


Jefferson’s student athletes reach the end of the recruitment process.

FIRED UP FOR FITNESS A new eighth period club designed entirely for women to exercise changes the game for female athletes.



JUMPING BACK INTO JAPANESE Even with the departure of longtime Sensei Koji Otani and the loss of an entry-level class, Japanese at Jefferson continues to flourish.

oct. 2021

entertainment 20

THE THING: A QUARANTINE HORROR Entertainment reporter Max Vetter shares a review of his Halloween horror movie pick, “The Thing” (1982).


G back N I




JAPANES by Aarya Kumar and Elijah Tillemann

Even with the departure of longtime Sensei Koji Otani and the loss of an entry-level class, Japanese at Jefferson continues to flourish


on! The sound of bachi wood mallets slam against black trash cans covered in tape. Sweat drips off the drummer’s forehead as the intense routine comes to a close. Despite a year full of setbacks and a smaller class size, the Jefferson Japanese program is returning with a bang.


Japanese 1 is not offered this year due to low student interest. Students entering the Japanese program at Jefferson will now have

to begin studying at the Japanese 2 level. This hit the Japanese program hard, as Japanese 1 was a way of bringing new members into the program. “In the past we’ve had an increased amount of interest in the Japanese language. I’m not sure exactly why they took [Japanese 1] away. Two years ago, last time we had in-person school, we had the largest Japanese one class we’ve had in a long time, almost 30 people,” senior Alyssa Rask said. The loss of Japanese 1 for the

2021-2022 school year is only one of the many changes made to the program. For example, their former full time teacher Koji Otani has been replaced with part time teacher Fumiko Kuriki. “[Otani Sensei] got us so many connections and gave us so many opportunities, so [losing him was] definitely was a big hit. He knew a lot of people at the Japanese Embassy, so [we had access to] those connections,” Rask said.


Other teachers have stepped in to fill the hole left by Otani. Spanish teacher Andre De Megret has become the sponsor of Japanese Culture Club (JCC) and Kuriki has been working hard to fill the gaps left by the pandemic in her





students’ understanding of the language. “[I think the] review is good for everyone. They can work together and the lower level students can recognise [things they would have missed] through peer teaching. ” Kuriki said. Beyond language courses, Japanese-related clubs are facing their own set of problems. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, recruitment efforts before school started were not as effective. In an attempt to combat these challenges, students and teachers came up with creative ways to help the program. “Doing taiko [a drum routine] during pep rallies has gotten us a lot of attention because people see these huge drums in front of the whole school, and they go “Oh, I want to do that.” We want to try to do more things like that, where we perform or we showcase,” Rask, the taiko captain, said. JCC has also recruited students through entertainment. “Mr. De Megret, our sponsor, does karate, so he did a demonstration on martial arts during one of our meetings. In another one

of our lessons, we did a shoto [Japanese calligraphy] introduction. I think using hands-on methods as a way to advertise means we can actually show people what it is that we do,” Rask said.


Student-led efforts have also been made to assist students who are interested in participating in the Japanese program. Junior Trisha Naidu, who wanted to begin Japanese but was faced with entry level class closures, was tutored over the summer by senior Aneri Shah. “It’s a shame that we don’t have the Japanese class that we used to have, but we do have a lot of people still interested in Japanese culture, and they’re free to attend JCC or Taiko club,” Shah said. With efforts like this in place and all the outreach that’s being done there are many who are optimistic about the future of the Japanese program. “I believe this program will grow. It will take a while but [we] will increase the number of students,” Kuriki said.

Taiko drummers line up for practice at a meeting of the Japanese Culture Club. “[In] Japanese Culture Club, we create and give presentations on different aspects of tradition. For instance, we have held origami workshops, calligraphy workshops, Taiko workshops, and a karate workshop,” senior Aneri Shah said. PHOTO // Elijah Tilleman

PHOTOS // A. Khemka, S. Nguyen, A. Duneja, The Washington Post


FACING THE By Anuj Khemka, Aafreen Ali, Nathan Mo, & Annika Duneja

FRESHMEN From classroom desks to Froshcomm to interactions in hallways, the class of 2025 leaves an imprint wherever they go, their stories and faces ready to be discovered.


hen it comes to Jefferson’s admitted Class of 2025, we know the numbers.

7.1% Black. 11.3% Hispanic. 22.4% Caucasian. 54.4% Asian. 25% low-income. But to learn the stories of the newest freshman class, numbers will only go so far. Since the class of 2025 is the first to be affected by new admissions and grading policies alike, it’s easy to jump to conclusions about them. And it’s time that instead, we learned their story.


he Jefferson classroom.

It’s been the source of widespread stress, competitiveness, and debates over workload . Now with the Class of 2025 getting settled behind desks, Jefferson faces controversy once more.


Ever since changes to the Jefferson admissions process were approved in December, the class of 2025 has faced rampant speculation over its academic qualifications. But from RS1 classrooms to biology labs, teachers and counselors say that they haven’t seen anything to suggest that the new admissions policy has led to a drop in grade performance or curriculum rigor. “The ninth graders to me seem delightful. The vibe I get is the kids have lots of personality and seem pretty eager to learn,” counselor Sean Burke said. “[Grade performance] seems very typical to me at this point. The transition into TJ is hard, and there’s no way to prepare for it.” Though many teachers have in fact been forced to adjust their curriculum to start the year, they have done so because

of the learning gaps opened up by a year-and-a-half of online learning, as opposed to the admissions process for the newest class. In regards to math, for example, students were given a self-paced learning tool to develop the algebra skills needed to succeed in Jefferson math. “With people coming from so many places with different algebra backgrounds and because we have so many more students who are in RS1, to help that process, we have a program called ALEKS which is adaptive to each student,” math teacher Marianne Razzino said. Foundations of Computer Science teacher Shane Torbert cautioned observers not to jump to conclusions about the admissions process simply because of curriculum changes across classes. “If I hadn’t known anything different happened with the admissions process, I would not have noticed anything out of the ordinary,” Torbert said. “It’s actually important to know when two things have no relation to each other. Changes to the curriculum are not necessarily because of the admissions process.”


For freshman Lemar Samizay, Jefferson’s increased workload



Froshcomm members Ray Zhang, Kesso Doramodou and Katherine Thomes give a look into the class.

Working in RS1, freshman Lemar Samizay continues his progress on the final project. “I didn’t find it difficult. I just had to [put] more time into studying and doing homework, and I just adapted to it,” Samizay said. PHOTO//Fiona Zheng

was a shock at first. However, the former Hayfield Secondary School student has since eased into the school’s academic life. “There is more work and studying and learning information required here. I just laid more time into studying and doing homework, and I just adapted to [Jefferson],” Samizay said. Whether due to the long spell of online learning, or because of the diversity of backgrounds, freshman English teacher Stephanie Glotfelty has sensed that the Class of 2025 is calmer than previous years of Jefferson students. “I think this year, the main difference is they’re more okay with going with the flow. People seem more okay with whatever’s coming up. Previous classes, if any kind of structure was changed, they had a harder time dealing with that,” Glotfelty said. The individualism intrinsic to Jefferson’s newest class has also stood out to Principal Ann Bonitatibus. “I’ve seen a lot of the incoming freshmen class chart their own course here at TJ. Sometimes, we get into some TJ mythologies about, when you’re a freshman, you have to do this, or take this course,” Bonitatibus said. “I’ve really seen some independence with the Class of 2025, approaching it as: this what I’m interested in, and I don’t have to do this over here because my counselor told me or my teachers told me this. I’m just gonna do what I like.”

Q: What are some of the unique qualities of the class of 2025? Ray: I think that since so many people come from so many different backgrounds, our class has more diversity and so many different perspectives. When doing projects and working with our peers, just because everyone is so different, it’s a lot easier to come up with ideas to brainstorm. Q: What do you say to people who question the qualifications and ability of the Class of 2025 to thrive at this school? Katherine: We still belong here. You know, we were still selected, and we worked to get here. [The admissions changes] brought in more people and more different types of people, and that shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing. Q: How have you and other members of the class adapted to the increased workload at Jefferson? Kesso: I definitely feel like we had some trouble at first because like I said we’re all coming from a virtual middle school. I feel like it was pretty hard at first but we’ve all started to grow on it and we’re PHOTOS//Anuj Khemka all getting better.






Hailing from historically underpresented middle schools in Parkside MS and Holmes MS, freshmen Parker Mitzkovitz, Diana Gabino, and Akrem Mohammed discuss experiences from their first several weeks at Jefferson. Why did you decide to apply to Jefferson?

Parker Mitzkovitz: My parents told us that TJ would open a lot of opportunities for us. Diana and I, coming from a school that’s not too good, this is a great opportunity for us. We decided to take it and see where it leads. Akrem Mohammed: I knew about TJ a lot because I live really close to it. I used to come to TJ in the summers with my friends to play in the field. It’s funny, because even though my middle school was so close to TJ, only five people or so got in a year. But schools further away, like Rocky Run and other schools, sent something like 30 to 40 kids.

What have been your initial reactions to Jefferson? Diana Gabino: When I first got here, it wasn’t too bad, but I

just didn’t feel like this was the school for me and that this was a place where I belonged. There are a lot of students here who had a way easier transition to [Jefferson]. Compared to them, I’m not that smart, not the brightest. Over at our middle school, I’m considered pretty smart but [not] here. But I decided, while I’m still here, I’m gonna give it a chance. Parker Mitzkovitz: I was a bit overwhelmed, but it got better. I was doing sports two times a week, but I started seeing myself slip, so I cut my practices and did them at home instead. During the week I don’t go on the phone much either. It’s all homework, homework, homework. I knew it was gonna be hard, so I’m just gonna push through and keep going, because it’s a good school.

What are some standout differences between Jefferson and your middle school?

Parker Mitzkovitz: Teachers, counselors, and everyone here is here to support you. They’re here for you and they want you to succeed and do anything. They’re willing to give you an extension or stay after school to explain things. It’s a lot different from what [Diana and I came from. Our school didn’t have this. PHOTO// Anuj Khemka




2025 1.5%














a last word


here is no doubt that Jefferson’s newest incoming class has been the target of countless contentions, criticisms, controversies. But we must remember that this class is the future of Jefferson - that we, too, were once wide-eyed-

freshmen, awed by Jefferson’s ornate laboratories and its nationally acclaimed clubs and teams. We were once left scrambling for solutions amidst a barrage of biology tests, RS1 assignments, and English projects. Our role is to give them support and guidance through their first year. It’s


time to abandon the flawed conversation of “lottery kids” and unprepared students, and help our newest class find their place at our school, just as upperclassmen did before us. And to the Class of 2025: We hope that you find a home in Jefferson, just as we did.


FUTURE by Sai Mattapalli and Keertana Senthilkumar



Jefferson athletes recruited by colleges for sports reach the end of the recruitment process



Fion a

Zhen g


e came for the sports. Althought often uttered with humor in mind by many students, Jefferson’s unoffical slogan is very close to reality. For some athletes, being recruited can be a one way ticket to dream colleges and scholarshops.

Getting Seen

With a 78 mph fastball, senior and Jefferson Baseball player Gavin Cramer has had recruitment in mind since he first entered high school. As a freshman, Cramer joined a showcase team which is a team composed of talented players made specifically to catch the eyes of recruiters. “I started thinking about recruitment probably in freshman year as soon as I got into high school, I also started playing on a showcase team at that time,” Cramer said.


SPORTS 13 “It’s a whole different game now, rather than colleges reaching out to you, you’re reaching out to colleges, like emailing schools and really going hard with it. You have to follow up and stay in contact as much as you can,” Cramer said. Official visits are a final opportunity for athletes to gauge a school’s atmosphere and athletics. “The school pays for you to go down for [about] three days, stay in the dorm rooms with the team and shadow them and their everyday life,” Topchy said.

Cramer also juggled academics with success on the field. “School was always priority number one; there were times where I would even miss practice if I needed to,” Cramer said.

Communicating with Coaches

Contact between coaches and athletes is regulated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) recruiting rules, and specific dates vary by division and school.




Y H C P O rnold



Unlike Cramer, track star and senior Annika Topchy, whose main event is the 300 meter hurdles, initially didn’t plan on athletic recruitment. “Once I found out that I could possibly run [after] high school, it was kind of all I could think about. I would stay up researching how fast to be to go to certain schools,” Topchy said.

Academics and Athletics

For recruited athletes, academics are just as important as performance. “I’ve been looking at two Ivy League’s and they care about your transcripts almost as much as regular admission students. It’s not a guaranteed way in,” Topchy said.


“Division One schools can contact you after June 15 of your sophomore year. You can email them before that so I sent two emails before that date. Once that date hits, [coaches] can contact you,” Topchy said. Recruitment by colleges is a long process of contact through email, phone calls, in-person evaluations, and visits.

Recruited athletes can commit to a school much earlier in the year than students accepted through the regular admissions process. “Athletes can get accepted into schools, early on, by getting an approved pre-read from the admissions office. Once your pre read gets approved, then you’re in the clear and you commit to a school,” Topchy said. Some aspiring recruited athletes may wonder what comes after college. “If you want to go pro, you can decide to, it’s just a decision and that comes a lot later in the athlete’s career,” Topchy said. “Right now, my next step would be college and then, who knows.”

For most of Jefferson’s weight room history, never has there been a club that has called for an eighth period entirely for girls to work out and exercise. This year, this change has finally happened.

By Eric Feng and Nivika Gandhi



irls want to lift. It's not them that hinders it, it's the environment," junior Riley Cooper said. Going to the weight room causes a lot of pressure for girls that are interested in fitness. The environment is very different, and there aren’t a lot of their peers there that they can exercise together with “I didn’t really go [to the weight room] at the beginning just because I didn’t really know is was an option and also, I didn’t know how to lift, and I was too afraid to


learn, because I didn’t know any of the guys there and they were all scary seniors, Cooper said. Before the Club Two years ago, Cooper was a freshman playing on the girls varsity softball and basketball teams. Her love for athleticism and sports led her to spend as many of her lunch and eighth periods in the Jefferson weight room as she could. However, as driven as she was to learn how

to lift, the weight room was never the most comfortable place for her. “I was just a little freshman, trying to get a bench, some squats, maybe some free weights, and all these upperclassmen guys that were double our size and height would just stare at us. They wouldn't let us use a lot of equipment, some of them would just be shirtless all the time. It was just like a really intimidating environment,” Cooper said.



In the lifting station, junior Emma Cox spots for junior Camila Janada while they go through benching reps. “I’d only really benched once before so it’s nice that we taught how to bench and we also practiced squat form too.” junior Megan Enochs said. PHOTO // Eric Feng

Cooper would often visit the weightroom with her friends Emma Cox and Damilola Awofisayo, who at the time were a freshman and sophomore respectively. The three of them faced the struggles of not only being new to lifting, but also being the only girls in the weight room majority of the time. “It’s not bad to not be good at something immediately, but I felt embarrassed. My form was bad, I could barely bench the bar, and that’s intimidating to go into this environment that you’re already uncomfortable in and know that you’re not good. At that point, it was just about having an environment where we ourselves could learn,” Cooper said.

Forming a sisterhood Cooper, Cox, and Awofisayo eventually decided in Jan. 2020 to form the Women’s Fitness Club. However, pushback from people already using the weight room kept the club from taking flight until early this year. “A lot of girls were already interested in the club, which is great, but we faced a lot of resistance from the guys who also wanted to use the waiver and they thought that we were going to take up their lifting periods,” Cox said. The club was eventually created, and now, in Wo-Fit, inexperienced weightlifters can find a place to start their fitness journey in an accepting environment.

“I feel like the girls who had never really lifted before, like me, really feel accepted, and it’s a very nice community. [The club founders] did a really good job of making sure everyone was included and no one felt left out if they didn’t know how to do certain things,” junior Megan Enochs said. The club, though new, is already creating a sense of community among the new weight lifters. “This [club] is like a sisterhood," Cooper said. "The older girls can teach the younger girls and just foster this environment where they can be vulnerable and be not good at something while feeling comfortable about learning how to do it."


T N CO Parents’ looming figures cast a shadow over their child’s education. ILLUSTRATION//Pramodani Arulkumar




eath threats sent to Loudoun County school board members. Parents rioting outside a Tennessee school, banging on its closed doors. In today’s world of controversy and conflict, we sometimes forget that there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. However, current discussions surrounding America’s schools have been increasingly influenced by outraged parents around the nation, polarizing issues from mask and vaccine mandates to the validity of teaching critical race theory. This effect has been even more prevalent in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), where the presence of suggestive material in school libraries and changes to Jefferson’s admissions process have been hot topics of debate at Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) and school board meetings alike. While input from parents is valuable and impactful, their actions must also be respectful and remain within reasonable bounds. Violent reactions to policy-related concerns such as the death threats recently levied against Loudoun County School Board members are unacceptable. They create an environment that intimidates wouldbe participants, alienating those prospective members from joining discussions and sharing their perspectives. Additionally, attempts to disparage school board members, teachers, or administrators via social media and news channels have no place in education advocacy. Although parents are important members of the Jefferson

Parent advocacy for aspects of their children’s education is important, but when it becomes a danger to others, they have to change the way they advocate.

community and the policy changes related to it, they are not the main stakeholders. Teachers and students are. To address this issue, it is important that parents find ways to advocate for their beliefs without crossing these undrawn lines. For example, sending letters or emails to the Jefferson administration or staff allows for opinions to be expressed with minimal disruption to proceedings within the Jefferson community. Speaking at School Board meetings is another way in which parents can voice their opinions to a larger audience. When addressing contentious subjects such as critical race theory or admissions policies, it is important that parents leave room for other parties to comment. Finally, parents must recognize that educators and school members are professionals — addressing education and educational issues is their job, and they have more knowledge of how to further educational systems than most parents. Parents’ individual beliefs or opinions may not always be highlighted in school system actions, but the people behind these motions are usually better informed. As a school, Jefferson is undergoing a period of massive change. As a community, we have the power to effect that change and what direction the school will take in the future. It is important that Jefferson’s stakeholders make their voices heard, but it is just as important to ensure that those with the ability to create change have the best possible environment to foster that change.


By Chris Yoo and Robert Stotz


Six years ago, Jefferson’s Nanosat club initiated TJ REVERB with the goal of constructing a radio satellite for NASA. Now, after several delays and a global pandemic, they’re running out of time.

Project Manager Nikil Kalidasu and junior Nicolas Makovnik review the launching details of the satellite. After a shaky transition of progress, the club works to fill the holes remaining in order to make their deadline. “A lot of the work has been done already. We were basically given a functional satellite, now we have to learn how to use it. We’re currently writing our main control software to work with the hardware that they have given us,” Kalidasu said. PHOTO // Robert Stotz


club losing their senior class at the end of the year can be a hindrance. A club losing almost every member who knows the logistics of a six year long project can be catastrophic. UNFINISHED BUSINESS Jefferson’s Nanosat club faced this unfortunate reality as the Class of 2021 graduated during the pandemic, leaving the remaining members with limited experience to pick up after them. The project in question is

TJ REVERB, where the club constructs and eventually launches a fully fledged satellite for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Senior and Project Manager Nikhil Kalidasu has been on the frontline of this transition of leadership. “[The 2021 seniors] did their best to continue to work on the satellite itself and to transfer their knowledge, but because of COVID-19, weren’t able to see each other,” Kalidasu said.

“I wouldn’t put the blame on the seniors themselves. I think they tried their very best. I personally think that it was the pandemic’s fault for setting us back.” With consistant in person eighth periods, the team works to balance their efforts between finishing the satellite, and educating newer members. Knowing first hand how disjointed leadership can influence the club, they hope to learn from their experiences.

FEATURE 19 SCI-TECH 19 Sophomore Pranav Vadde and senior Aarush Sivanesan work on the 3D printed model of the satellite. As newer members to the team, they are responsible for helping out wherever they can. “Our priority as of right now is 100% getting the satellite done so that NASA doesn’t hate us and never give up another grant in the future,” senior and Project Manager Nikil Kalidasu said. “Once that’s been completed, we’ll start transitioning the focus to involving the community and getting some of the PHOTO // newer members more actively engaged.” Robert Stotz

“Now that we’re back in person, I definitely know the value of being able to work side by side with experienced members. We have the opportunity to do these things again; we’re all trying to involve the new members to try and transfer that experience down. We don’t want to have the same problem again,” Kalidasu said. THE TASK AT HAND When the project was first introduced to Nanosat, their launch date was far earlier than their current deadline of March of 2022. However, unfortunate circumstances from standard delays to global pandemics have pushed the launch to its limit. “We’ve been on NASA’s CSLI (CubeSat Launch Initiative) grant since 2015. We had a bunch of delays early on, and then COVID-19 happened, and they gave us a further extension. It’s at the point where we have a final deadline for NASA that we have to submit our satellites by, otherwise they will not launch it,” Kalidasu said. The club has just over five months to produce a working satellite in March of 2022. “We have to take our satellite from where it is now and assemble it, test it, and get a working product and give it to NASA. That’s a huge deadline. That’s what the team has been trying to do for the past four years, and we’re being asked to do it in the next couple of months,” Kalidasu said.

WHAT NOW? While last year’s seniors may have left a gap in experience, they still passed on a semi-functional satellite. Armed with working hardware, junior and returning member Viraj Bala sees the partially completed programming as the next major step. “We’ll need to take a step back and understand what has been done already, and how we can make use of it. Most of the hardware is done; right now, we’re working on modifications to the software,” Bala said. Currently, Nanosat eighth periods are spent introducing the program to new members while returning ones evaluate where the club stands and the following steps. While their starting point may be up in the air, their March deadline is set in stone, regardless of where they end up.

A key piece in the creation of the satellite is the Computer Aided Design (CAD). With an older model having been passed down, modifications are needed to fit the needs of the club’s new leadership. “There’s a separate CAD assembly team where you get to design and assemble the [satellite] with configuration for all the electronics. The team is still working on slight modifications,” junior Viraj Bala said. PHOTO BY TJ REVERB

“We can’t push it back any further. Either we’re ready and we launch, or we’re not ready and we can’t. Regardless, we just have to work towards it and see what we can do,” Bala said. To Kalidasu, the focus is less on the March launch date, and more on whether the team gives their 100% throughout the process. While the goal of March still certainly stands, the club members hope their motivation will carry them to the finish line. “My honest opinion is that we have probably a 90% shot of launching it in time. We’re a team that is putting in work after school, putting in work during eighth period, and putting in work outside of the meeting. I’m not assigning this work: they’re choosing to do it. I’m fully confident that, because of the amount of passion and commitment that people in this club have, this can totally get done,” Kalidasu said.


by Max Vetter

THING A Quarantine Horror




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// P






hat might be the most important feature of “The Thing” regarding its staying power might be that—much like the titular monster—the film is able to adapt to interpretation like no other. While much of this is due to the text of the work, it doesn’t hurt that horror is a genre which has historically been predicated on further context. Take vampires, for example, which, given their setting, can represent wealth, sexuality, foreigners, or in Chinese vampire films… fear of jumping? My point is that good horror movie monsters rarely come without baggage, because the easiest way to connect to the fears of an audience is to prey on the ideas that already make them shiver. Which leads us to “The Thing”, which might be the greatest testament to the power of body horror ever devised. It centers on a group of researchers deep in the Antarctic who, unbeknownst to them, have just released a parasitic alien that can take the form of any living creature it consumes. While this premise already breeds tension, what truly elevates the movie to its legendary status is what happens when you expose the Thing’s secret. When the Thing gets found out, it doesn’t just revert to its original form and give up.


Instead, it morphs into a sick perversion of its last victim; growing tendrils, oozing puss, and viciously trying to kill and infect as many men as possible before slinking off into some dark corner to look for its next host. The transformations in this film amount to some of the most disgustingly effective terror ever put to the silver screen, with each level of the monster getting removed like a morbid matryoshka doll. But grossness does not make a great film. What truly carries “The Thing” is raw artistic talent applied at just the right time in history. John Carpenter’s meticulous composition and pacing perfectly draw out the tension of each scene like razor wire, each frame is imbued with luscious color and precise framing that emphasize the cold and cramped conditions of the Arctic base, and the body horror is executed with near flawless practical effects by Rob Bottin, which still frighten today. This melding of talents results in a horror film that in other hands would be pulpy trash (as evidenced by the 2011 soft reboot of the same name), but because of the talent behind it, “The Thing” is equal parts artful and exciting. But what truly makes “The Thing” stand out in the modern horror landscape, even in today’s world of photo-realistic CGI and ever-increasing budgets, is that its meaning has been able to adapt to the cultural fears of each subsequent generation. In 1982, the film acted as an allegory for the Cold War Era paranoia of the

PHOTO // Redbubble

“Alien”(1979) Ridley Scott’s horror classic is an anomaly in the genre: as much terror comes from the setting as the monster that inhabits it. Rich in atmosphere and ripe with scares, it’s a perfect companion piece to “The Thing”.

PHOTO // The Criterion Collection

Hausu (1977) A criminally underseen gem, Nobuhiko Ōbayashi’s “House” is like a nightmarish episode of Scooby-Doo. While the candy-coated exterior might put you off guard, when the film gets going, it’s a claustrophobic and deeply disturbing trip.

U.S. Back when nuclear annihilation was a real possibility, it was easy for regular people to feel trapped; each person around them, however normal they might have seemed, was a potential threat. Despite the timely themes, though, “The Thing” was not a critical or financial success upon release. Whether because “ET: The Extraterrestrial” (1982) was still fresh in the mind of Americans and cute aliens were more in style or because there was an excessive amount of gore and grossness, audiences did not sympathize with the movie. Alas, like most truly great films, time has only been kinder to its reception. Now that the Cold War is over and “The Thing” has had time to become a part of the cultural miasma, it has come to represent something more relevant. After nearly two years of constantly being on high alert that someone around us could have a potentially deadly virus or be inadvertently trying to spread it, “nobody trusts anybody now, and we’re all very tired” (as R.J. MacReady says in “The Thing”). If you want this specific feeling conveyed in one of the most perfectly plotted and immaculately constructed horror films— no, films in general—ever made, then I can not recommend “The Thing” highly enough. It’s the perfect film for our second quarantine Halloween.


Freedom to Read

High school students are mature and educated enough to handle potentially racy material in school library or classroom content, as long as they are school-approved.

Annika Duneja Convergence Editor in Chief In “1984” fashion, parents have recently attempted to remove certain books from Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) libraries, citing inappropriate or mature content. While they may have valid personal reasons to not want their children to read these books, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should restrict all children in

the county from being able to read a certain book. A chief complaint from parents was that schools were ‘forcing’ students to read these books. None of the books in question were in a class curriculum. They were in school libraries for a student to read if they so choose. They could also choose not to read that book, and parents can tell their child not to read that book, but allowing parents the power to pull any book that they disagree with off the shelves sets a dangerous precedent. The message cannot be that they can remove a book if they please, as this could result in erasing certain

viewpoints and representation in books provided to students. FCPS has a required process behind approving books for schools that takes maturity levels, biased writing, and student backgrounds into account. Those books were approved by that process, and weren’t just put on shelves without reason. No matter what controversy they bring up among parents, they serve the purpose of educating students on issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, which is an important part of their learning experience. There was also a question of whether the books’ content was too mature for

students to read. This point, however, is entirely dependent on what parents feel is too mature for their child. Parents also may not always be correct on what level of maturity their child has, and in high school especially, they need to trust that the students can decide what material is uncomfortable for them to read. Ultimately, it is beneficial for students to at least have the option to read books such as these.They aren’t the first and they won’t be the last books to address current issues and controversial topics, and we have to be willing to be open to those perspectives.


Skewed towards Success

New exploratory RS1 class is a step in the right direction


Working overtime Actually following the 30 minute rule requires a change in understanding why the rule was implemented When considering the 30 minute homework limit, it’s easy to reduce the issue to a clear Christina Lu cut solution. But Online Editor in I’m not going to tell Chief you that teachers should be following the rule and aren’t, because this issue requires a far more complex opinion. Students need to appreciate that many teachers are putting enormous amounts of effort into making their lives easier. Coming off a frustrating online school experience, teachers this year received their course assignments at the last minute and were bombarded with a significant restriction that they had little time to redesign the curriculum to accommodate. At the same time, teachers should consider the student’s perspective. For the homework rule to be implemented correctly, they must truly support the reasoning behind it, as opposed to simply limiting homework for the sake of following a rule. I understand teachers have a lot of material to cover in a limited

amount of time, but it’s crucial to understand that the immense presure students are under is exacerbated by large amounts of homework. Feeling like you’re stuck in a never ending cycle of homework there simply isn’t enough time to finish leads to a state of constant stress and dread. This directly impacts students’ abilities to feel happy, much less perform well in school. Many teachers have made noteworthy changes to their courses — such as providing more work time during class and assigning introduction paragraphs instead of entire essays — in an attempt to ease workload. I recognize and appreciate these efforts, but they still aren’t enough. I urge teachers not to fall into the mindset that because they’ve made accommodations, they’ve done all they can. As long as a significant number of students are still pulling all-nighters and experiencing symptoms of extreme stress such as fatigue and change in appetite, there is more to be done. Obviously, reducing homework isn’t a silver bullet for all mental health issues at Jefferson, but it has the potential to make a big impact.

Last year, marked by the pandemic, students had a lot to adjust to; however, one thing that many weren’t able to tolerate was the seemingly endless amounts of homeSai Mattapalli work and difficult quizzes Team Leader from one particular class, RS1. Following student and even parent outcry, the RS1 teachers did a great job of mitigating the complaints by making some helpful albeit temporary changes such as allowing students to drop quizzes they did poorly on and making an effort to decrease the amount of homework. That being said, the new school year has brought with it a new wave of complaints from freshmen which has fortunately sparked the creation of a long term solution. Inspired by Mr. Eckel’s changes to the traditional foundations of computer science class in the form of the new experimental CS class, Mr. Ng and Mr. McFee have adopted an exploratory RS1 class, which like the experimental CS class, gets rid of all tests and quizzes and in exchange offers a project based alternative. For example, instead of the traditional packets of homework and assessments, students now receive R labs which are mini projects that students complete using Rstudio, a program that runs on the programming language R, to digitize graphs and the data. I strongly believe that having students use R in this new RS1 class is revolutionary as R is the most widely used programming language in the data science field and being proficient in its usage is a valuable skill for freshmen to pick up early in their high school years. Widespread implementation of the new exploratory curriculum should be strongly advocated for by students and continuing to move down this path will be highly beneficial for every freshman that takes RS1 in the years to come.


THOUGHT I played football last year from March to May. If I’d kept the same work ethic [from before football], I don’t know if I’d be able to survive TJ. I was still working into [the] night hours, even though it was a lot easier [online]. But, after I got into football, I really improved how I organize my work and how much I focus on different stuff. Now, I’m much better at time management and discipline.

Recently, a lot of the news stories have gotten dark, and there’s lots of bad things happening in the world. But, even in that darkness, there’s always some hope. My cousin, who lives in Canada, works as a surgeon. He’s told me [about] a patient who’s gone against the odds and survived some painstaking surgeries. Anything is possible.

I’m a Sikh. Before, I didn’t want it to define who I am, and I was worried [about] how I stood out. But now, when I think about religion as a part of who I am, it’s more about the tenets of the religion. Its tenets include equality of all people and community service, and those are tenets that really appeal to me because I think we all need to come together and work towards reaching our common goals.

I’m interested in cardiology, because my family has a history of hypertension and high blood pressure. I learned [that] heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, so there’s a lot of preventable deaths. That’s why I joined [Cardiology] Club, and I’m an officer now because I want to work towards raising awareness.

PHOTO by Anuj Khemka REPORTING by Anuj Khemka

WHAT I’VE LEARNED Hardeep Mann Sophomore

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