Page 1


To Catch a Dream

DreamCatchers p. 18足 Urban Debate p. 21 Tennis and Tutoring p. 24



may 2015 Volume 16 Issue 5 47

52 47


Inside 8 The Launch 12 News

Cover 18 Dreamcatchers 21 Silicon Valley Urban Debate 24 East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring

Culture 26 27 31 32 34 36 38 40 42 43 44 46

SoulCycle Senior Section Smart Watches Tony Awards The A Review Acai Bowls Hanahaus Indie Films Car Crash Protocol E-Sports Dorm Food Summer Hangout Spots

Profiles 47 50 52 54 56 58 60 62 63

Train Security Guards Hersey Servane Alex Nee Pets in Need Jenny Xin Bocksnick Therapy Dogs Night Watch

Perspectives 67 68 69 70

How are you doing, really? Redefining Senioritis Every Body is a Bikini Body That’s What Shi Said

On the cover Jacob Adams, a senior at Eastside College Preparatory School, speaks rapidly as he participates in a debate practice session. In “Words for the Wise” (p. 21), staff writer Jasper McEvoy describes the process of creating the Silicon Valley Urban Debate League. Founded in 2014, the organization teaches low-income students to debate, equipping them with presentation and research skills that can be applied to their lives beyond high school. Photo illustration by Jack Brook and James Wang. 3

From the Editors

into the future


E LIVE IN A WORLD OF SENSORY saturation. No matter where we look — whether it’s to education, the media or professional industries — the sheer breadth of information available is intimidating and sometimes paralyzing. To guide us through this cultural impasse, local communities have banded together to steer our generation’s journey into the future. This issue, in our cover package, we explore the efforts of these communities and the profound changes that they have made in the lives of underprivileged students. In “Words for the Wise,” the newly-founded Silicon Valley Urban Debate League makes debate accessible to the streets of East Palo Alto, with the goal of instilling creative and academic efficacy in the lives of struggling students (p. 21). In “Catching Dreams,” low-income middle schoolers receive academic support, practical experience and one-on-one mentorship to help them explore future careers (p. 19). Lastly, in “Under the Bleachers,” an after-school program located at Stanford University’s tennis stadium helps support students through tutoring and tennis instruction, with adult role models who encourage students to strive for goals that once seemed unattainable (p. 24). Beyond the community programs, in our everyday lives, this wisdom can also be found in unexpected places — in “Coin Wash,” staff writer Caroline Young chronicles her experiences as she camps out at a laundromat and a donut store to hear strangers’ life stories (p. 63). “Guardians of the Rail” discusses the sense of duty that the Churchill Avenue railroad crossing guards feel to diligently stand sentry despite the monotony of their jobs (p. 47). “The Indie Side of Things” reviews five films that take advantage of their independent production to communicate unorthodox but impactful messages to audiences (p. 40). Overall, this issue offers perspectives in regard to the challenge of finding direction, but also highlights the abundance of guidance community members can offer. This especially resonates with us as we bid goodbye to Verde’s outgoing leadership staff and look forward to the magazine’s future. We would particularly like to thank the outgoing editors-in-chief for their support during this transition, and we wish them all the best in their endeavors. And to all of our readers, enjoy a relaxing summer break! — Anna, Esmé, Bethany & James 4

Editors-in-Chief Esmé Ablaza Anna Lu James Wang Bethany Wong Managing Editors Elana Rebitzer Siddharth Srinivasan Features Editor Anna Nakai Profiles Editor Rachel van Gelder Perspectives Editor Gabi Rossner Culture Editor Emilie Ma Digital Editor Kai Gallagher Multimedia Editor & Statistician Roy Zawadzki Business Managers Emma Goldsmith Natalie Maemura Art Director Karina Chan Artist Anthony Liu Photo Director Ana Sofia Amieva-Wang Staff Writers Eliza Ackroyd Zofia Ahmad Jack Brook Lucy Fox Brigid Godfrey Alexandra Hsieh Jasper McEvoy Joe Meyer Madison Mignola Christian Miley Tira Oskoui Claire Priestley Ansley Queen Ryan Reed Kelly Shi Anand Srinivasan Bryan Wong Caroline Young Adviser Paul Kandell

Contact Us


@VERDEMAGAZINE Information Publication Policy Verde, a feature magazine published by the students in Palo Alto High School’s Magazine Journalism class, is a designated open forum for student expression and the discussion of issues of concern to its readership. Verde is distributed to its readers and the student body at no cost. Letters to the Editors The staff welcomes letters to the editors but reserves the right to edit all submissions for length, grammar, potential libel, invasion of privacy and obscenity. Send all letters to veics-1415@ googlegroups.com or to 50 Embarcadero Road Palo Alto, CA 94301. All Verde stories are posted online and available for commenting at http://verdemagazine.com Advertising The staff publishes advertisements with signed contracts providing they are not deemed by the staff inappropriate for the magazine’s audience. For more information about advertising with Verde, please contact the Verde business manager Zofia Ahmad and Alexandra Hsieh at 650-796-2358 for more information. Printing & Distribution Verde is printed five times a year in October, November, February, April and May, by Fricke-Parks Press in Fremont, Calif. The Paly PTSA mails Verde to every student’s home. All Verde work is available at http://verdemagazine.com



S A PART OF THE ONGOING DISCUSsion surrounding mental health and student stress, many community members continue to petition the school board for immediate solutions. While Verde commends the school board, PAUSD and the Palo Alto community for working tirelessly for the sake of students’ well-being, and for supporting many student forums, we believe that district administrators and parents need to give more consideration to the voices of students; and udents also need to meet the district halfway and take advantage of the outlets we are given to express our voices. Since the recent tragedies, there has been a community-wide movement to tackle the issues of academic-based anxiety. While each suicide was an individual tragedy caused by multiple factors and there was no single “root” cause, they have triggered an intense reevaluation of our school system. In its rush to address student stress, the Palo Alto community has often failed to listen to those who are facing the problem head-on every day. While we as teenagers certainly have a lot to learn about life, students are the ones who are most directly and immediately impacted by stress and decisions Art by Karina Chan regarding it. We aren’t asking the district to do exactly what we students say, but PAUSD cannot cater its policies towards students unless they have an accurate narrative of student experiences. Therefore, any productive steps toward a healthier student community can only be formed with help from student feedback. The district and School Board should actively collect student feedback, not just from a couple of individuals, but from the student body as a whole when making large decisions. This could be done through the use of advertised polls and other survey techniques, as well as through the development of some method so that students can submit their critiques as they arise. Additionally, the reasoning behind all decisions

should be publically available. In the past two months, there have been many academic changes in PAUSD high schools, including but not limited to, the abolition of the academic zero period, limitations on the number of Advanced Placement classes a student may take and schedule changes (most notably for Gunn High School). In multiple cases, students felt like they were not consulted or their ideas were not respected during the decision making process. The community has also seen many students attend and speak at school board meetings and come forward with movements of their own. Students at Gunn have created Tumblr pages such as “My Voice Matters” to express their collective frustration with the lack of attention to student opinions. Verde commends these students, among others, for speaking out and making their voices heard. As students, we are a captive audience and have the right to at least try to improve our academic and social environment. While Verde believes that the district has room for improvement in consulting the student body, making our voices heard also requires students to express those voices in the first place. PAUSD Board Meetings are open to the public, and Verde encourages our fellow students to actually attend the meetings on issues they are passionate about. Additionally, our schools have sent out polls about scheduling and other issues that many students did not fill out. To fix this problem, such polls should be better advertised in the future, and we students should take the time out of their days to fill them out even if they seem like a waste of time. Such surveys gather important information that the district cannot get otherwise, and thus are a valuable way for students to express their feedback. Throughout our years in the Palo Alto Unified School District, we have been taught to communicate eloquently and effectively. Now is the time to speak and be heard. 5



RAPE ON CAMPUS,” AN ARTICLE IN Rolling Stone magazine published in November 2014, details a traumatic gang rape inflicted upon anonymous source Jackie by fraternity brothers at her school, the University of Virginia. The story was widely shared across many news and social media outlets. Upon closer inspection, inconsistencies within the story became apparent, such as the fact that no party occurred in the fraternity house on the night of the alleged rape and no fraternity members matched the descriptions Jackie gave. A few weeks later, Rolling Stone retracted the article and commissioned the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism to conduct a full investigative report. The finished product stated that the magazine failed to engage in “basic, even routine journalistic practice.” After the publication of this report, journalists and rape victims alike have come under fire. While false accusations like Jackie’s are considered to be rare, widely considered to be occurring in less than two percent of rape accusations, widely publicized false allegations lead to people becoming suspicious of anybody who reports a rape. This mindset creates a stigma against those victims who do speak up about their experiences. Verde is critical of Rolling Stone’s article, and we believe that the power of journalism is one that should not be taken lightly. Journalists have a responsibility to write a truthful story at all costs and should not get swept up at the idea of writing a catchy story and produce content at the cost of the truth. The journalists responsible for the incorrect article made several glaring mistakes, according to the Columbia Report. They did not attempt to follow through and contact other sources who could have supported or negated Jackie’s story, and they did not independently try to corroborate the details of her story such as the date of the 6

party, but rather chose to take Jackie’s story at face value. At several levels of the editing process, safeguards to prevent false stories being published were overlooked, and multiple people, not just the writer, put their name and work behind this story. The blame for the publication of the false allegations does not go entirely to the magazine. Jackie ignored her inherent social responsibility to tell the truth about what actually occurred. Falsifying stories of rape negatively impact actual victims of rape who already deal with heavy amounts of stigma and who are discouraged from sharing their stories of sexual assault. While Jackie’s story was not true, there are many more cases of rape, both on and off of college campuses, that truly did occur. Verde believes that journalists still have a responsibility to tell those stories. One widely publicized false allegation should not dissuade student and professional publications from engaging in the dialogue about incidents of rape and sexual assault that continues to gain acceptance. Verde calls on our fellow journalists at student and professional publications alike to see this incident as a cautionary tale of journalists jumping the gun and publishing their story without fully fact-checking their information. However it is imperative that journalists continue to stand by their obligation to protect the truth and keep their allegiance to their readers and that they do not shy away from publishing stories because of this one false allegation. The purpose of journalism is to give a voice to the voiceless. It is in this spirit that protecting the truths of the unheard should be every writer’s priority. Art by Anthony Liu

Congratulations Class of 2015 Nadine Priestley Photography nadinepriestley.com nadine.priestley@gmail.com 650.868.0977



“I would like to transform Not In Our Schools Week into something year long that really carries an impact on campus that lasts longer than a single week.”

—Anmol Nagar, future ASB vice president Reporting by JOE MEYER Photography by ANA SOFIA AMIEVAWANG


verde seniors’ favorite ice cream flavors 1. Old-Fashioned Vanilla 2. Mint Chocolate Chip 3. Brownie à la Mode 4. Caramel Cookie Crunch 5. Mint Oreo 6. Tiramisu 7. Chocolate-Hazelnut 8. Chocolate 9. Fish Food 10. Strawberry 11. Cookie Dough 12. Cookies and Cream 13. Salted Caramel 14. Mocha Difference 15. Peanut Butter Toffee Crunch 16. Coffee

Reporting by CLAIRE PRIESTLEY Photography by RYAN REED

What is the best compliment you have ever received?


That I was the nicest guy at Jordan.” — freshman Bruno Vargas


You have beautiful eyes.” — sophomore Daniel Baeza

summer bucket lIst


1. Lie on the ground in many different places for extended periods of time

Summer is the time for relaxing. We’ve been working all year; now it’s time to lie down and do absolutely nothing for extended periods of time. Take advantage of the great weather and lie down in your backyard, at a pool, at the beach, in a canoe drifting slowly down a river, in a park, on top of a hill, anywhere you can find a horizontal surface under the sun.

2. Be a paid test subject at Stanford

Everyone expects you to come back in shape, sporting a full tan, and with a new look. Won’t they be surprised when instead you come back with a thumb growing out of your ear and a crippling addiction to an experimental drug? Plus, you’ll earn enough to buy a whole burrito!

3. Spend three arduous months toiling on your family farm during the harvest Go the old school route and dedicate your entire summer to back-breaking work in your family’s fields. It’s exercise, gets you outside, and helps you get that farmer’s tan you have always been dreading.

4. Sleep outside (on a roof?)

With summer come warm summer nights, nights when you can walk around outside in shorts and a t-shirt. Take advantage of this and lay out some blankets in your backyard or on your roof and drift off to sleep surrounded by the quiet calm of nature. (As always, please be sure to be sober and safe.)


You have perfect eyebrows.” — junior Alisha Kumar


One time someone told me I looked like Taylor Lautner” — senior Grant Smith

COUNTRY SUMMER PLAYLIST 1. Courtesy Of The Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American) - Toby Keith 2. I Got A Car - George Strait 3. 5-1-5-0 - Dierks Bentley 4. Country Girl (Shake It For Me) - Luke Bryan 5. My Kinda Party - Jason Aldean 6. How Do You Like Me Now?! - Toby Keith 7. Little Red Wagon - Miranda Lambert 8. Something Like That - Tim McGraw 9. Somethin’ Bad - Carrie Underwood Reporting by RYAN REED Art by JACKSON KIENITZ

teachers Draw teachers Mimi Park

“We might have to take down James Franco’s painting to put this up.” — Marc Tolentino

Marc tolentino “I apologize for the mouth ... But I’m very proud of my faithful depiction of his hair.” — Mimi Park


Caption this:


“No, you may NOT compare Ansel Adams with James Franco!” caption by math teacher ARNE LIM

Teachers pose for photographs captioned by other teachers


“Uptown funk gone give it to ya.” caption by social studies teacher MELINDA MATTES


“Hmmm, shall I go with my id or my ego on this next unit? ah-the-superego-yes!” caption by photography teacher MARGO WIXSOM

Reporting by GABI ROSSNER Photography by ANA SOFIA AMIEVA WANG

streak week alternatives 1. 2. 3. 4.

It’s illegal to pick poppies in California — plant them in the shape of 2015 on the quad Hide alarm clocks all over campus that are set to go off at different times Post a sign in front of school: “SCHOOL CLOSED INDEFINITELY,” along with a QR code linking to a Craigslist listing for Paly Hire a Mariachi band to follow (principal) Kimmy D. around all day

Reporting by KELLY SHI Art by KARINA CHAN

Take the Caring Neighborhood Challenge See devassetspaloalto.org for details

Caring neighbors lead to connected youth and connected youth are healthier, happier youth. Thissummerholdaneventinyourneighborhoodthatbringsgenerationstogether,encouragesparticipationfromallneighborsandbuilds community to make yours a Caring Neighborhood.


Gunn pushes new block schedule After years of considering a redesigned schedule, it appears that Gunn High School will switch to a block schedule this upcoming fall semester. According to principal Denise Herrmann, the classes will be 75-minutes long with three to five periods per day. After working on the schedule for three months, the Gunn Creative Scheduling Committee came up with a schedule that will reduce the amount of classes each day in order to reduce the frequency of deadlines and student stress. The longer periods will allow more time for project-based learning, authentic assessment and instruction that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards. According to Herrmann, the new schedule will have a period dedicated to social-emotional learning to develop skills that aim to help students later in life. “When you talk to colleges and employers, they want students who can deal with stress,” Herrmann said. “We wanted to make sure that was part of our curriculum.” Gunn’s schedule currently includes a Tutorial period at the end of the day on Tuesdays. However, the new schedule places the Tutorial period between two other classes in the middle of the Tuesday schedule, making students more likely to come and get help from their teachers. “With Tutorial at the end of the day, students don’t stay who really need help,” Herrmann said. In addition to benefitting the academic performance of students, Herrmann supposes that rescheduling the Tutorial period will reduce student stress by improving student understanding of class requirements and thus, reducing student workload. Another reason for moving Tutorial to the middle of the day is to fulfill the required instructional minutes in California. “If you are not taking attendance at the end of the day, you can’t count it as instructional minutes for the State of California,” Herrmann said. “You know that students will come if it is a part of their

BLOCK SCHEDULE Under the Creative Scheduling Committee’s proposal, Gunn High School will implement a block schedule. This switch will decrease class frequency from four times a week to three. Photo by Gunn Creative Scheduling Committee school day.” Gunn student and Creative Scheduling Committee member Shannon Yang says that the committee hopes the new schedule will allow more flexibility for students. “Classes wouldn’t be meeting almost every day, which for short-term assignments is helpful,” Yang said. “If I have a busy day and my commitments keep me from being able to do all those classes’ worth of homework, then I have another day and more flexibility, even if the teachers assign more homework per class meeting date with the new schedule.” So far, the general reaction in the Gunn community has been positive. In an independent survey conducted by the Palo Alto Student Union, a group of students who advocate for their voice to be heard in schools, 37 out of 40 students favored the schedule model that was chosen. According to Herrmann, some teachers would have preferred launching the new schedule for the 2016-2017 school year but were

mostly in favor of launching it for the upcoming school year. “When Paly changed to a block schedule, it was decided in May and started in August,” Herrmann said. “While it’s not ideal to implement it so soon, many other schools have done it well.” The amount of stress and the homework load that students deal with on a daily basis led to the switch to the current modified block schedule. The Creative Scheduling Committee hopes that the new schedule design will decrease the number of hours students spent on homework each night and improve students’ mental health. “With longer periods, teachers could incorporate more one-on-one time rather than lecturing, and people could perhaps even start homework,” Yang said. “Less classes per day means less classes to worry about per day in terms of homework.”


NEWS TOP The new Performing Arts Center will feature a motorized orchestra pit, backstage green rooms and dressing rooms, and second floor side boxes to create an intimate environment for a theater of this size. BOTTOM LEFT The plans blend the modern appeal of Silicon Valley with the classic mission elements of the historic buildings on campus. BOTTOM RIGHT The Performing Arts Center currently stands as steel girders, sheet metal and cement.

Graphic by Gunkel Architecture

Art by Gunkel Architecture

Photo by Brigid Godfrey

Performing Arts Center to be completed in April According to Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson, the new Palo Alto High School Performing Arts Center is scheduled to open in April 2016 but the plans for the new gym have yet to be approved and are now a year behind schedule. Two state level review meetings remain before June 6, the earliest date for approval of the new gym construction plans by the state, according to Berkson. If the gym plans are approved at that time, the construction of athletic facilities should take approximately 18 months, and 14

the project will finish in December 2016, according to Berkson. The plans and funding for the PAC were approved by the state in October 2010. In addition to the district funds being spent on the PAC, the district received notice recently that a $3 million state grant for the building would finally be approved. “A Reservation of Funds in the amount of $3 million was approved by the State” according to Superintendent McGee’s Weekly from April 24. According to Bob Golton, the bond

manager for the district quoted in McGee’s May 15 weekly report, the contractor has completed the superstructure for the PAC, which means the initial framing is finished. According to Berkson, the new Performing Arts Center will be a huge advancement for Paly. “[It will be] the best of the best — world class — the envy of a lot of schools and school districts,” Berkson said. BY BRIGID GODFREY

NEWS NEWS NEWS Alumna to speak at Baccalaureate Student art to A venture capitalist and Palo Alto “We chose her because she is an inHigh School alumna is set to speak at this spiring woman in our community who has year’s Baccalaureate on Frian amazing story to tell,” day, May 29, at the Flint CenBen-Efraim said. ter in Cupertino. “She has had a very meAnn Miura-Ko, dubbed andering path to where she the “most powerful womis now, and I think as we all an in startups” by Forbes take our next steps it will be Magazine, will be the guest great to hear from someone speaker. who has done it all on her Senior Class Presiway to success.” dent Maya Ben-Efraim and This will be Miura-Ko’s Principal Kim Diorio will second major appearance also speak, and they will be on Paly campus this year, joined by student speakers following her March Career and performers selected by a Photo By Anna Lu Month presentation about staff panel. her work as a venture capiBen-Efraim and the other senior class talist. officers were part of the process in choosing Miura-Ko as the guest speaker. BY SIDDHARTH SRINIVASAN

Human rights advocate to deliver speech on woman’s education Human rights advocate Malala Yousafzai’s lecture will be hosted by Yousafzai will give a lecture at San Jose Khaled Hosseini, author of the “Kite RunState University on June 26. ner.” It is part of the Unique Lives & Ex“[Yousafzai] is going to talk about periences lecture series, self-described as education for young North America’s forewomen in third world most women’s lecture countries,” associate series. producer Janette Roach“[High school stusays. dents] would benefit Yousafzai is an adgreatly by going and lisvocate for female edutening to the words of cation as well as other wisdom from a young human rights issues. She person who has, at the became the youngest age of 18, received a Norecipient of the Nobel bel Peace Prize,” Roach Prize in 2014 for her says. struggle against the supThe lecture will be pression of children and Photo By Russell Watkins held at 7 pm at SJSU’s their right to education. Event Center, with the Yousafzai recently released a mem- doors opening at 5:30 p.m. Ticket prices oir detailing her and her family’s struggles range from $60 to $220. and successes in the face of intense hardEvent coordinators advise those atships entitled “I Am Malala: The Girl Who tending to arrive in advance due to expectStood Up for Education and Was Shot by ed long lines. the Taliban.” BY CHRISTIAN MILEY

accompany Franco art

The Palo Alto High School administration’s decision to change James Franco’s mural on the cafeteria wall has evolved into a faculty campaign to promote a positive school environment. Spearheaded by art teacher Margo Wixom, the project is to happen next year. “Everything here is dreary and drab,” Wixsom says about many of Paly’s buildings. “They [buildings] are depressing, slabby, generic nothings.” Rather than eliminate Franco’s cafe installation, the campaign’s ultimate goal is to revitalize Franco’s art as well as promote a constructive environment. Wixsom hopes to incorporate Franco’s art with positive, colorful student messages, icons and phrases. “[I want to] get together a group of people who [will decide] what are all the important positive messages that we want ... positive choices, supporting other people and personal empowerment,” Wixsom said. Wixom opposes eliminating Franco’s art. However, she acknowledges that the art itself has caused controversy due to its somber appearance. “Certainly, the artwork is depressing, and does not help our campus climate … that supersedes all my personal opinions about the art,” Wixsom says. She hopes that, by combining both Franco and student art, the art can represent both Franco’s experiences at Paly as well as current student’s views.





per hour wage for railroad security guards Mike Haight and Prentiss McKnight. page 47 TECHNOLOGY Senior Gary Chen concentrates on his laptop in his AP Psychology class. The course’s new structure will build flexibility into students’ Monday (C Day) schedules and feature a blended curriculum starting next year. Photo by Brigid Godfrey.

APPsychologytoimplement blended course in fall The AP Psychology classes at Palo Alto High School will become a blended course, beginning in August 2016, according to teacher Melinda Mattes. The new blended course will allow students to use Mondays (C Days) as a flex day, which will give students time to complete the course’s work independently and at their leisure, says Mattes. Mattes and Chris Farina, the other AP Psychology teacher, are optimistic about the possibilities with the new structure for

their classes, hoping that the new format will engage their students in work that will support and extend the student’s understanding of course material. “We are excited… with this new format, and it’ll be fun to take this leap with next year’s senior class,” Mattes says. “The students will have to employ self-discipline, but we also intend to build in some checks and balances.”

10 years old at which the average girl begins worrying about her weight. page 69

1:42 when staff writer Caroline Young meets Arturo Wolf. page 63


Palo Alto will hosts annual World Music Day in June Amateur and professional musicians will perform a diverse range of music on June 21 across Palo Altofor the cities seventh annual World Music Day. The event, which takes place on Father’s Day, will feature jazz, blues, classical music, rock, klezmer and other genres. The festival will take place in downtown Palo Alto, where musicians will play along University Avenue and at public squares such 16

as King Plaza,where City Hall is located. Palo Alto World Music Day has occurred annually since 2009, according to founder Claude Ezran. Ezran says that he was inspired to organize the event after a trip to Paris. “It [World Music Day] is known there [in France] as Fête de la Musique,” Ezran said. “I enjoyed the musical diversity and the enthusiasm of the crowds so much

that I decided to bring this fantastic concept back to Palo Alto. World Music Day is a great fit for Palo Alto given our broad cultural diversity and the availability of so much great musical talent here.” The festival will run from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., with admission free of charge, and University Ave will be closed to traffic through its duration. BY JOE MEYER

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SMOOTHIES DreamCatchers students participate in a cooking class where they made smoothies and kale chips to teach them about nutrition.

CAtching dreams




HIS HAS 30 GRAMS OF SUGAR ALCOHOL,” says Corinna Martinez Luna, frowning at a bag of sugar-free Jelly Beans. As part of a lesson on examining deceptive health claims, she continues to read off the nutrition label, her eyebrows inching higher with every ingredient. Martinez Luna, an eighth grader at Terman Middle School, is one of the 60 students whose lives have been changed by DreamCatchers, a twice-weekly after-school program based at Palo Alto High School that is devoted to helping underprivileged middle school students within the Palo Alto Unified School District with academics and life skills. “I want to double major in architecture and interior designing,” Martinez Luna says. For Martinez Luna, the fact that her parents never finished grade school isn’t even a speed bump on the road to achieving her aspirations — so far, she’s well on her way, with all As save for in her math class. For eighth grader Giselle Navarro, whose parents never had the opportunity to attend college and whose older siblings graduated from Palo Alto schools but prioritized raising a family over higher education, DreamCatchers promises a brighter future: with their help, she overcame the difficult transition to middle school. In the first few weeks of sixth grade, she couldn’t turn in her homework because it was too hard; now, she consistently turns in work and can explain solutions to the class. “I hope to be different,” Navarro says. “I want to go to a four-year university.” DreamCatchers helped Navarro improve her study habits, gave her a place to ask questions about homework and helped her plan her future. For sixth grader Javier Vizcardo, DreamCatchers helped him 18

realize his passions for coding. He looks forward to high school and a future as a software engineer. “I like … seeing what it [the computer] can do,” Vizcardo says. “I use Terminal a lot, and I like to program specific parts of the computer to make it look and sound [different and] so when you click on something it does something [else].” For the other 57 students currently enrolled in DreamCatchers, the program represents the first rung on their climb to achieving their aspirations, with college seeming as a realistic step in the process. For them, DreamCatchers isn’t just extra school; it is a way to truly grab ahold of their dreams. To Catch a Dream Seven years ago, Sarah Mummah, then a sophomore at Stanford University, founded DreamCatchers with a mission: to engage the next generation of leaders in helping underprivileged middle school students thrive academically, socially and physically. Now, the organization has expanded to include 60 students and 60 volunteers, a full-time board and staff members, and full access to classrooms and materials at Paly. But it has been a long journey for the program to get to where it is today. “We’ve grown from just a drop-in homework help program to one where we really get to know the students really well,” says Fairley Nickerson, program director at DreamCatchers. “We provide enrichment activities to help expose them to ... things they might not learn about in school.” Nickerson, DreamCatchers’ first full-time Program Director, originally volunteered with DreamCatchers as a classroom director during her senior year at Stanford. “[When I was] a classroom director, the activities that we did in the classroom as a group were more like bonding activi-

COVER | MAY 2015 ties and really basic math skills,” Nickerson says. “But now we’re able to do a lot more because I spend time ... outside of class ... develop[ing] more purposeful curriculum.” Students come to DreamCatchers twice a week for two-hour sessions, which are comprised of a short lesson followed by homework time. The lessons are grouped together in different units such as mathematical skills, cooking and nutrition, and journalism. “We’ve done some academic [units], some life [and] future planning, thinking about your future horizons, and then some study skills, social-emotional [lessons],” says Barbara Klausner, executive director of DreamCatchers. To balance academics with futureplanning, the leadership team designed lessons to get students thinking about potential jobs. Once students chose a career, they built up monthly budgets and calculated expenses for their future. Careers ranged from becoming YouTubers to doctors to computer scientists, but all students began to set goals for their futures. “For high school, I really want to get good grades,” says Josue Romero, a sixth grader at Jordan Middle School. “When I graduate, I want to go to college to get my job ... [as] a doctor.” More than Just a Tutor While lessons are a large part of DreamCatchers, the majority of the time is spent on homework, with tutors coming once a week. The other session of the week is devoted to independent homework time to help the students develop study habits. The tutoring program has been helpful for many DreamCatchers students, who often come from exclusively Spanishspeaking households, lacking the ability to consult their parents about their homework. “I could ask [my tutor] questions on my homework because my parents don’t speak English, so it was hard for me to translate [my homework],” Giselle says. Javier was also able to get help in English. Before coming to DreamCatchers, Javier ruefully notes that he was unable to spell. “I learned a lot on how to use good tricks and techniques to spell,” Javier says. “Now I get the words I usually got wrong, right.”

To provide individualized tutoring, the program opened up tutoring opportunities to local high school students this year. “They [high schoolers] are closer to the middle school experience,” Klausner says. “Not only that but they had that curriculum in PAUSD, so unlike the Stanford students, our high school students understand how things are done in our middle schools.” The tutors include Paly freshman Frances Zhuang, who enjoys the experience and plans to continue mentoring her student. “For me, [my favorite part] … is watching my student grow,” Zhuang says. “In the beginning, teaching was pretty difficult because you need to lead your student to the answer without just saying the answer. But as you grow as a tutor, it becomes an incredibly rewarding experience.”

able to form with their tutors,” Nickerson says. “At the beginning, they [the students] showed up … not want[ing] to do the work, and by the end of the school year, they’re excited to come because ... they want to see their tutor. They see the tutors as strong role models ... so that just creates for a better environment where they work together and trust each other.” v TUTORING (TOP) Javier Vizcardo works with his tutor. WORK TIME (BOTTOM) Corinna Martinez Luna and her brother collaborate on their math homework.

Plans for the Future DreamCatchers has expanded significantly this year, and the board hopes to refine the quality of the support offered and eventually extend the opportunity to more students. “I’d say our immediate priority is building a program that will really be customized for each student, … so that whatever tutoring we do, whatever lessons we provide really make the most sense for what [a] kid needs,” Klausner says. DreamCatchers hopes to expand to 90 students within the next few years. But first, the organization must recruit more volunteers so that they can continue to provide the benefits of one-on-one tutoring. “What makes DreamCatchers special is the relationship that [the students are]


COVER | MAY 2015

words for the wise Text by JASPER MCEVOY Additional Reporting by JACK BROOK Photography by JACK BROOK

PREACHER Jacob Adams reads from a prepared sheet while debating at Eastside College Prep.



PON STEPPING INTO room 110, the sharp, commanding cadence of Jacob Adams’ voice is immediately noticeable. With the poise of a preacher and words that hang heavy with meaning, Adams spits his sermon to a lone judge, accompanied only by dim lights, stacks of chairs and his opponent. “The affirmative side is not going for the complete elimination of surveillance technology. Rather, we would like to improve surveillance technology,” Adams says, pausing for effect on the crest of the “o” in improve before bursting downhill, rifling through the rest of the sentence in a matter of seconds. It is an unseasonably cold Saturday morning at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto and Adams, along with 20 or so other high schoolers, is at debate practice. He does not have to be here; today’s workshop is optional. Even more telling, he is a senior and today’s subject — governmental surveillance and the

war on drugs — will not be used in competition until after he has graduated. Regardless, Adams tackles the topic of surveillance like his life depends on it. As a member of the eight-month-old Silicon Valley Urban Debate League, he represents everything that league founder Jennie Savage and director Dmitri Seals hope to see in their students. SVUDL, in turn, characterizes the dream of a debate aficionado and political activism enthusiast: a chance to build within underprivileged urban youth the invaluable skills of speech, critical thinking and self-efficacy. Urban Debate League: A User’s Guide How does one build a successful urban debate league? Savage and Seals have a formula, though it is far from simple. They start with a community that struggles, one where the schools are underfunded and the kids drop out like water slipping through a leaky pipe, where the young adults are arrested for stealing and dealing when they know no other way

to support their families. They believe in this community, invest in it and hope it can change. The next steps are beams laid upon this foundation of trust: Savage and Seals solicit coaches, teachers already engaged neck-deep in the classroom. They talk with the principal and convince him or her to create a partnership with a nonexistent debate league. Added on are volunteer mentors, experienced debaters who will come teach these kids for free. And not to be forgotten are the kids themselves. After all, it’s no guarantee enough students will show up to even field a team. At this point the framework for the league is in place, and yet there is still so much to do. Student captains must be appointed within the first two or three months, and other schools must be contacted, sister programs set up, donors convinced to lend support, more teachers and principals and students and debaters roped in. Will this creation stand strong, or crumple in the first breeze that passes by? Only time will tell. 21

COVER | MAY 2015

INSTRUCTION Students from Overfelt High School take notes during an example debate round between coaches. In 2008, Savage and Seals helped found someone with a fifth grade reading level to the the Bay Area Urban Debate League, based in place where they could write a 25-page college Oakland. Starting with only 24 members in its essay,” Seals says. first year, BAUDL grew to a nationally comAs of nine months ago, Savage and Seals petitive powerhouse that now encompasses have begun work to extend these opportuni14 schools and ties to high school600 students. ers in Silicon Valley. The program “I [realized] that [debate] could It’s safe to say the has spun more take someone with a fifth grade bar for SVUDL has than a handful been set quite high. of intellectual reading level to the place where rags-to-riches they could write a 25-page colSVUDL stories, such as “To bring lege essay.” that of Rashid the transformative ­— DMitri Seals, Director of svudl power of debate Campbell, who attended his first to schools that practice after seeing a flyer on the street, drawn wouldn’t have it otherwise.” This, Savage says, solely by the possibility that there would be is the motivation for starting an urban debate food. Debate turned Campbell’s life 180 de- league in Silicon Valley, an area that, despite grees; he is now a national award-winning de- its overt wealth, houses many latent pockets bater with a full ride at Oklahoma University. of poverty. Still in the process of construcTo Seals, who never debated himself, the tion, SVUDL currently comprises two pilot program has shown to be an incredible source programs, one at Eastside and one at Overof academic transformation for urban youth. felt High School in San Jose; eight more high “I [realized] that it [debate] could take schools remain on the wait list. 22

The high demand can not only be attributed to the deep coaching experience of Savage and Seals, but also to the strong leadership team they have assembled. From coaches and mentors to donors, SVUDL can promise a support system of people who both care and are knowledgeable about debate. Take, for example, Stanford student Thomas Choi, a freshman working with the Stanford Youth Debate Initiative. As one of about a dozen Stanford students in SYDI, Choi helps mentor young debaters from underprivileged schools around Silicon Valley, such as those at Eastside and Overfelt. “I was lucky enough to have an older sibling walk me along the path of debate,” Choi says. “It’s only right to pass on those skills with people who don’t have that opportunity.” Or look at Palo Alto High School debate alumnus and former chief engineer of Facebook Jocelyn Goldfein, who is now giving back to SVUDL as a donor. “Speech and Debate has been hugely formative in my own life,” Goldfein says. “With all my advantages [growing up in Palo Alto] I

still felt that debate gave me a huge hand up in terms of leadership, communication, storytelling, thinking on my feet, making my voice heard and having the will and drive to succeed no matter what. I look at the arc of my career, and I don’t think it would have been possible without that formative experience.” This solid framework, well-steeped in debate, has SVUDL on an upward trajectory. Currently, practices are held once a week at Overfelt and twice at Eastside. Once a month, a workshop is held for both schools, giving the students an opportunity to practice debating against fresh faces. Seals hopes to add a monthly tournament, as well as more schools, to the cycle by October. The program is small now, but given some time it could stand as a national contender, 600 strong, straddling a corner of the bay opposite BAUDL and striking fear into the hearts of privileged powerhouse schools. “I’d like to see Bellarmine students quake in their boots just a bit when they find out they’ve got a tournament match-up against Overfelt,” Goldfein says. The Transformative Power of Debate Adams lies at the crossroads of nature and nurture, a product of both lineage and schooling. He has powerful speech in his blood, hailing from a family of preachers and rappers. In four years at Eastside, Adams has learned to channel this voice into strong and compelling debate; he likes to show what he has to say and does so with confidence and authority. This talented team captain was almost not to be; Adams grew up in Oakland and likely would have ended up in public school playing football had his grandmother not pushed him to apply to Eastside, a boarding school, in eighth grade. Still, on his first day, Adams arrived red-faced and teary-eyed out of fear. It was not until he started debate that the future team leader began to emerge. “I feel that debate has helped me refine myself as a speaker and as a person,” Adams says. “You have to be organized and have your act together, or no one can understand you. And it always helps to have an organized argument when you’re talking.” Before Eastside joined SVUDL, Adams was one of only two students on the debate team. Despite the limited resources, he managed to grow by leaps and bounds. A crowning moment came during his junior year, when he and a partner won a tournament at Presentation High School. Suddenly, the bleary-eyed

COVER | MAY 2015

SCRIMMAGE Overfelt student Brandon Montes debates against Jacob Adams. freshman was looking down the other end of Nevertheless, no one said starting, or the telescope. running, an urban debate league was easy. The “I was holding [my partner], she was cry- gains are not all made in leaps and bounds, ing and she was like, ‘I didn’t think we could do and not every story has a happy ending. Seals it,’” Adams says. “I hadn’t thought we could do will be the first to tell you how difficult the it either, but I had process can be — to be like, ‘I knew you can have the “give us your kids who are bright best coaches in we could do it.’” With the and bored in the classroom. give the world and stuinflux of oppordents will still fall tunities provided us your kids who interrupt, who through the cracks. by SVUDL, sto- have something to say but don’t And yet, for those ries like Adams’ know how to say it.” who do succeed, are looking to the reward is that ­— Jennie Savage, founder of SVUDL much sweeter. become a more consistent reality. “Let’s think In the eyes of Savage, debate represents a truly about someone starting out with the deck unique outlet for students, one that a tradition- stacked against them,” Goldfein says. “A sysal educational environment does not provide. tem and a set of stereotypes that tell you, you “Give us your kids who are bright and can’t achieve academically, school is not for bored in the classroom,” Savage says. “Give us you, people in your family or your community your kids who interrupt, who have something don’t finish school. That system engenders to say but don’t know how to say it. The kids hopelessness — and that’s when you most who you kick out of the class because you can’t need conviction. With hard work and a little stand when they talk back to you.” support, you are capable of anything.” v 23




UCKED UNDER THE grandstands of the Taube Family Tennis Stadium at Stanford University, Palo Alto High School freshman Roberto Rivera and his friends spend their evenings, quite literally, studying under bleachers. These bleachers are part of a stadium that has hosted the Williams sisters, Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova and other tennis legends annually as part of the Bank of the West Classic. On a daily basis, they are home to the Stanford tennis team, but from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. a different team of tennis players trains both on and under the bleachers. From Monday through Thursday each week, these alcoves house the East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring team, an after-school community program that has combined academic assistance with athletic training for 27 years. Since its founding in 1988, EPATT has been driven by its mission to keep East 24

Palo Alto kids off the street. Beginning with a primary focus on tennis coaching, EPATT now splits its instruction: 80 percent for academics and 20 percent for tennis and fitness training. EPATT is in high demand and caps the number of students in the program at 120 with many others on the waitlist. More than a Tutor and a Tutee EPATT takes pride in having 120 students and 120 tutors, and assigns one student to each tutor every year. Owen Gonzalez, a freshman at Paly, has participated in other academic after school programs in the past but prefers EPATT’s more intensive, hands on approach. “You want to make your tutors proud of you, you want to get good grades and you don’t just want to get by,” Gonzalez says. Rivera, like many other students at EPATT, has made strong connections with his previous tutors. Not only were they his role

models, but he says that over the course of each year they became his friends. The EPATT tutoring program’s benefits are far from one-sided. For Matt Mahowald, a freshman at Stanford University, the process has been incredibly rewarding. “Tutoring with EPATT has helped me develop a genuine passion for teaching,” Mahowald says. In his high school years, Mahowald tutored sporadically, taking on individual tutoring sessions as his tutees needed him. Just six months after hearing about EPATT at an opportunity fair and joining the program as a tutor, Mahowald is now a part time employee of EPATT as the Elementary School Tutor Coordinator, the mentoring tutor in charge of the fourth and fifth graders in the program. Part of his job includes developing the students’ independence as they begin their transition into middle school. “Teachers are not holding students’ hands in middle school, ... so we don’t

LEFT: Stanford student Chester Thai, reads to two third grade students. TOP RIGHT: An EPATT tennis coach works with a student on his technique. BOTTOM RIGHT: Paly freshman Ezequiel Vasquez prepares to swing. want their tutors doing the same thing,” Mahowald says. To develop independence, Mahowald and the tutors emphasize skills such as organization — they check binders and backpacks weekly and encourage students to actively participate rather than follow along passively. For 36-year-old Sean Kalsi, who has tutored at EPATT for the past four years, the experience is unlike any other in his tutoring background. Kalsi only previously tutored in college, and currently works at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. “It [teaching] is also probably one of the reasons why I am here,” Kalsi says. “I do have an interest in teaching long term so … it kind of helps me test out whether I am an effective teacher.” Integrity, Responsibility and Tennis Unlike the tutors recruited from Stanford, EPATT’s tennis coaches are all graduates of the program. Brothers Lupe Talakai and Vita Talakai have continued playing tennis since their days as EPATT students and now serve as coaches for the program. Lupe knows there is a benefit to hiring EPATT alumni as coaches. “We are minorities, we live in East Palo Alto, and so we already have that connection,” Lupe says. “If we were to hire someone from like a high-end tennis academy and bring them here to EPATT, they’ll have nothing in common with these kids. The kids will be like, ‘Who is this guy?’ It just won’t work.” The coaches understand what the kids are going through because the troubles and worries of their students were once their own. During his time as a participant in the program, Vita was kicked out after he repeatedly failed to turn in his report cards. However, upon graduating high school, he returned to EPATT in the hopes of influencing the lives of kids in the same situation in which he grew up. As coaches, Lupe and Vita’s roles transcend those of most tennis coaches. Given the kids’ limited tennis background, the coaches end up teaching a broader

range of life skills that come with playing a competitive sport, such as problem-solving. While coaching intensive tennis skills becomes logistically difficult with only two hours twice a week, the coaches recognize that their goal is not to create professional tennis players, but to inspire a future generation. “We are not going to produce the next [Roger] Federer [or] the next Serena Williams, so whatever [students] we get, we make the best,” Lupe says. For him, the most important messages he can teach the

students are integrity and responsibility. “Tennis is a one-on-one sport,” he says. “You can’t blame anyone else for your mistakes. You make a mistake, that’s you, you made it. Nobody else did.” One thing is clear: under an example of success and excellence, through a tightknit community dedicated to sports and academics, EPATT is creating opportunities. “At EPATT we encourage every kid to take each ball as an opportunity,” Lupe says. “Each ball you get is an opportunity to change and get better.” v 25




T IS 6 A.M. THE INSTRUCTOR STARTS CLASS, and I am immediately struck by a blast of music. I am sure I have just incurred permanent hearing damage, and with that comes another painful truth; the seat of an indoor bike is completely devoid of any type of cushioning. Before my quads were even given the chance to prepare for the burn, I was already struggling to find a position that I could sit in for 45 minutes without obtaining some serious bruises. Here we go. “Intimidating” is the most accurate way to describe SoulCycle, a fitness company that elevates indoor cycling to a new level and that continues to create a loyal following across the United States. For an average $30 a class, or $20 if it’s your first time, it’s only right that the 45-minute class supplies more than just a bike ride. When I rented out a seat at SoulCycle, I also unknowingly bought myself a ticket to what felt like the most exhausting dance party of my life. While pumping my legs and feeling the burn, I was tasked with executing a series of movements that can most easily be understood as push ups on the handlebar of a bike. These movements are done in conjunction with the beat of whatever song is setting the pace of the workout. And yes, it is just as confusing and impossible to keep up with as it sounds. The 45-minute class is split up in intervals of high and low intensity periods, with a portion devoted to free-weight upper body strengthening. At the end of the class, you are invited to participate in a few light stretches. After almost an hour of frantic pedaling, a relaxing stretch sounded amazing, but little did I know it would be more of an acrobatic exercise, as everyone flung their bodies forward, pressing their legs against the handlebars for balance as they leaned over the edge of their bike. Here come the acrobatics: what I didn’t realize was that you must lift yourself above the stem of the Photo by BILL QUEEN

handlebar, or you will experience, much like I did, a very unfortunate collision. After that came a muffled yelp, while I tried to conceal my pain so as not to disrupt the sacred moment occurring between the other SoulCyclers and their bikes. Beyond the supposedly rewarding cardio torture, what really makes a SoulCycle class is the music. Off the bike and out of the studio, if your favorite song comes on, there’s nothing you can’t do. Music is used to regulate your pedal strokes and to outline the class; upbeat songs take the riders through intense sprints while more mellow songs set the tone for the recovery periods. As the left-right-left-right tempo forced me to maintain my momentum, it came as a welcome substitute for the sound of my heart pounding rapidly. I was able to hold myself accountable, and if you don’t have an iron will, your instructor sure does. Especially if you are one of those people who, if given free reign over the difficulty of their workout, will just take it easy and ride off into the sunset, think again. After all, the resistance knob is directly in front of you. When my instructor started the class, I could already tell the rider next to me was in trouble. Clad in a pink trucker hat and a face full of makeup, she didn’t look like someone who was prepared to lose half her body weight in sweat. A few minutes into class, while we were climbing an imaginary hill, the instructor dismounted and personally adjusted Trucker Hat’s bike and encouraged her. The instructors ensure that you are getting your money’s worth; the last thing they will let you do is coast through the workout. SoulCycle is not a workout that appeals to everyone. It is much better suited for the adrenaline junkies of the world. Walking out of Soulcycle, I experienced a feeling of euphoria, and this postworkout sensation was addictive. I walked in feeling out of place among the Lululemon-adorned regulars, but I walked out feeling like an equal. Drenched with sweat and struggling to walk out of the studio in shoes that were made solely for cycling, even the pros looked like they were about to fall over. This feeling of belonging is especially advantageous to the people behind the counter as they invite you to purchase SoulCycle gear. SoulCycle is revered by its fans as the perfect full-body workout. Despite the fact that it makes exercising more enjoyable, some people have critiqued its price and questioned how effective “boutique cycling” actually is. I can promise that this is a worthwhile workout. Despite the anxiety and initial discomfort that confronted me at the start of my Soulcycle experience, I experienced something extraordinary: an environment that distracted from the pain of exercise. v



senior section CLOCKWISE from top left: Peter Nishimura; Sarah Tayeri and Grace Kim; Isaac Kasevich; Yvette Wu; Jonathan Martinez; Hannah Nguyen


class of 2015

i’d Tell my freshman “Don’t run to be on time to tutorial. I did do that.” — Hannah Nguyen


“It gets way worse, and then it gets way better. APUSH was a mistake.” — Aaron Cassini “If you look hard enough and wander around, you’re going to find someone who’s crazy like you. You’ll find your crowd.” ­— Peter Nishimura

self... “Don’t fall behind. you don’t want to take summer school.” — Jonathan martinez “Don’t overload yourself, and try to have fun.” — Promise Lee CLOCKWISE from top left: Seth Alston and Coby Parker; Jess Feeman and Gabe Galang; Clara Harrington



I’ll most miss... “Just the daily interactions, like just seeing them [my friends] every day and talking to them. I love the family.” — Isaac Kasevich “The people, the whole class — people I’ve been with since freshman year, middle school, e l e m e n ta ry school.” — felix ibarra CLOCKWISE from top left: Ariana Tindall and Aaron Cassini; Harry Halsted and Alec Sullivan; Ellis Obrien; Alex Ramirez; Makayla Walton. 30





ELCOME TO THE RING OF SILICON Valley, where cutting-edge technology is constantly fighting to reign supreme over all else. A new contestant to arise out of the bleak pits of obscurity reveals itself in all its glory to be

the smart watch. In the top right corner, we have the Pebble watch, known for its Kickstarter origins and practicality, and in the bottom left, we have the Apple watch, flaunting its snazzy Apple logo and costly price tag. The fight of the century is upon us, and let’s hope it’s better than the Pacquiao-Mayweather fiasco. v

PRO: Incorporates practical apps appropriate for watch platform


PRO: Highly durable while maintaining lightness PRO: Cost efficient — starts at $100 PRO: Week-long battery life CON: Pixelated display CON: Lower-end models made of plastic CON: No touch screen CON: Customization is limited PRO: It’s like a mini iPhone on your wrist CON: Who needs a mini iPhone on their wrist? CON: Expensive — starts at $349 PRO: Expensive ­— #I’mwealthy PRO: Durable, moderately light PRO: Siri oriented PRO: Highly customizable PRO: Heart rate monitor 3.5/5






VERY YEAR, BROADWAY CELEBRATES THE BEST MUSICAL PERFORMANCES and plays of the season with the Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre, better known as the Tony Awards. Broadcast on June 7 this year and hosted by Broadway legends Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth, the Tonys are the general public’s one chance to get a glimpse of the wonders of New York City’s live theater. Though we could not see the performances ourselves, Verde researched all of the nominated shows and predicted who we think will win this year’s Tony Awards. Below are our top picks for Best New Musical, Best Revival of a Musical and Best Featured and Supporting Actors and Actresses. v

Use this QR code to see our honorable menion nominations and links to the perfomances.



BEST revival of a musical: The king and i


un Home,” written by Lisa Kron “ he King and I,” written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, with music by Jeanine Tesori, is the tells the story of a Welsh schoolteacher who travels to Siam to tumusical adaptation of the graphic novel tor the children of the Siamese King. While this Golden Age show has autobiographical memoir by acclaimed a reputation for having politically cartoonist Alison incorrect humor, according to Bechdel, who came many reviews, the cast manages out as lesbian a to stay true to the story without few months before being offensive. With a stunning her closeted father set, costumes and acting, this took his own life. production masterfully brings Three touching new depth to the original story. actresses por- The revival at Lincoln Centray Alison in ter is directed by Bartlett different stag- Sher and stars Broadway es of her life, and all veteran Kelli O’Hara alongthree received Tony side Japanese actor Ken nominations for Watanabe, both of whom their performances, revieved Tony Award garnering the high- nominations for their perest reviews of any formances as Anna and the new production King, respectively, adding to opening on Broad- the total of nine nominations way this season. earned by “The King and I.”



roadway legend Chita Rivera is returning as Claire Zachanassian, a wealthy woman who returns to her hometown to enact revenge on the man who broke her heart years ago. At the age of 82, not many people could take on a role that requires so much movement, let alone perform it with Rivera’s finesse. Her performance makes her a standout in a category full of impressive actresses, and for what may be her final turn on Broadway, it makes sense to acknowledge that work with what could be her third Tony.



ichael Cerveris, who plays Alison Bechdel’s father, Bruce, in “Fun Home,” fills a difficult role with emotional passion and vitality. Bruce, who runs a funeral home with his family in addition to teaching English at the local public school, has spent his entire life in the closet. Throughout the show he deals with his daughter’s coming out as well as his own attemps to reconcile his sexuality with the closeted life that he has lived for many years. His rendition of “Edges of the World,” the penultimate number in the show, is a tear-jerking portrayal of a man who feels like his entire world has come crashing down on him and does not know what to do.



his year, Judy Kuhn is nominated for the fourth time for her role in “Fun Home” as Alison’s mother Helen, who has put up with her husband’s temperamental and angry demeanor for years. While this constitutes a smaller role than many of her past appearances, Kuhn’s solo number “Days and Days,” as she details her experiences of keeping her husand’s secrets, brings a stand-out passion to the role. Although Kuhn is competing against two other members of the “Fun Home” cast for this award, her experience and long-standing career make her the deserving choice.



n “On The 20th Century,” the current revival of the 1978 musical with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and music by Cy Coleman, Andy Karl plays Bruce Granit. This character is both the lover and costar of leading theatrical lady Lily Garland (played by Kristin Chenoweth), who is fated to lose Garland to her old flame and mentor Oscar Jaffee. Karl, perhaps best known for his role as the mailman in Legally Blonde, was nominated for a Tony Award in 2014 for his starring role in “Rocky.” In this production, he delivers an expertly hilarious performance according to the many theater critics and audience members who gave him favorable reviews.


The “A” Review


Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp A Butterfly Text by ANAND SRINIVASAN Art by KARINA CHAN


’M NOT AFRAID TO TALK to people,” told Kendrick Lamar Duckworth to “The Breakfast Club” radio show on April 3, 2015. “I’m not afraid to interact, whether it’s a 5-year-old kid or an 80-year-old man. Of course I read, but I’ll put it to you like this: I’d rather be interacting with a person, rather than gathering up information from somewhere else.” This response to host Charlemagne’s question, “Do you read a lot?” perfectly illustrates what separates Lamar from other rappers, and even perhaps the rest of the world. Lamar’s wisdom and knowledge is not derived from any singular source — no, he absorbs it thirstily and greedily from the entire world surrounding him. His unconventional way of uncovering life’s secrets, his ability to discern the minute details of those surrounding him, his acute perception of the struggles of the underrepresented — this is what makes Lamar a leader as opposed to a follower. As Lamar said on his first album “Section 80,” “I’m not on the outside looking in. I’m not on the inside looking out. I’m in the dead f—ing center — looking around.” On March 15, Lamar made hip hop history with the leak-release of his third album, “To Pimp A Butterfly,” the followup to what is considered a modern-day classic, “Good Kid, m.A.A.d City.” On “Good Kid” Lamar exhibited one of the most complex and socially conscious autobiographical character portraits found in hip hop to date, with the artist focusing inwardly on his youth and childhood growing up on the streets of Compton. Now, on “Butterfly,” Lamar refocuses his metaphorical lens, this time looking outwardly, at African-American culture and its place in America today. On “Butterfly,” Lamar makes a noticeable effort to shine light on every per34

spective, to tell as many stories as possible. These stories, though singularly appearing as simple snapshots, fuse together, forming the movie reel that is “Butterfly.” The rapper jumps effortlessly from character to character, changing the inflection of his voice to depict the vast array of cast members featured on the album. Unlike in “Good Kid,” Lamar isn’t only telling his story with “Butterfly.” He’s taken it upon himself to tell everyone’s. “Butterfly” doesn’t just draw from multiple character perspectives. It also spawns from an equally varied set of musical styles. “Butterfly” drifts from jazz to funk to soul, and then back to hip hop throughout its entirety, contributing to a colorful overall aesthetic. In all aspects of “Butterfly,” Lamar’s desire to include absolutely everything — from the endless list of varying narratives, to the diverse sonic experimentation — comes through in a brilliant display of social and musical consciousness. The album is a complex work of art to say the least — and, luckily, in the case of Lamar, saying the least is not within his capacity. The Album One of the standout tracks that makes good use of this multiple perspective contrast is the opener, “Wesley’s Theory.” Its concept is loosely inspired by the tragic story of African-American actor Wesley Snipes and more broadly depicts the entertainment business’ exploitation of successful black artists. Courtesy of bassist Thundercat, globulized, jello-like bass lines warble vibrantly as Lamar raps in the first verse from the perspective of the stereotypical, newly successful rapper, detailing the reckless and indulgent acts of partying and buying jewelry so as to pimp oneself


to superficial extravagance. In the second verse, Lamar switches sides and raps from the perspective of the government or ‘Uncle Sam,’ luring the young artist into spending senselessly, and promising him a seemingly happy and fulfilling life. Another great example of a track that pushes the boundaries of perspective is the track “The Blacker the Berry.” With it’s hammering snares and ominous instrumental a la producer Boi-1da, Lamar snaps, angrily growling out three verses that are all aimed at convincing you he’s “the biggest hypocrite of 2015.” Lamar goes down a list of black stereotypes, illustrating the self-hatred prevalent in, not only past, but also current black communities today. To emphasize this point, Lamar ends his third verse with the couplet, “So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street? / When gang-banging make me kill a n— blacker than me? / Hypocrite.” Then you have the dichotomous pairing of the tracks “u” and “i,” one addressing Lamar’s self-loathing and depression and the other promoting self-appreciation and universal love. Ironically, on “u” Lamar focuses only on himself, yet on “i” he speaks for everybody. On “u,” Lamar viciously berates himself in the third person, slowly tripping into a pained, inebriated flow as clinky pianos and shrill trumpets decrescendo in tandem to a depressingly lumbering kick drum. As sounds of bottles clinking and swishing interject Lamar’s verse, the line “I’m f—ed up, but I ain’t as f—ed up as you,” aptly sums up the degree of Lamar’s self-hatred and depression. Then on the song “i,” you have Lamar yelling in a high pitched voice, “I love myself,” over a soulful, feel-good Isley Brothers sample, conveying absolute positivity and love through a seemingly narcissistic message. Lamar cuts off in the middle

of the song to spit an a capella freestyle, talking about how the “infamous, sensitive N-word [that] controls” his people actually originates from the word “Negus,” meaning “black emperor, king [and] ruler.” In this way, Lamar reclaims the already reclaimed N-word, redefining it in a positive light. The Caterpillar and the Butterfly One aspect of “Butterfly” that has not been brought up thus far, but is perhaps the most significant nuance of the album, is that every story, every narrative, every lyric that Lamar presents to the listener is simultaneously being posed toward the ghost of Tupac Shakur — the late, legendary West Coast rapper who also hailed from Compton, and who was known for his emotive storytelling and lyricism. In fact, from the very beginning of “Butterfly,” Lamar slowly constructs a single poem that acts as the intros and outros throughout the album, dictating the topics of either the next or previous songs (For example, the song “u” about Lamar’s battles with depression is preceded by the lines, “I remember you was conflicted. Misusing your influence. Sometimes I did the same. Abusing my power, full of resentment. Resentment that turned into a deep depression. Found myself screaming in a hotel room”). This poem is finalized in the last song, “Mortal M a n ,” where Lamar reveals he’s been talking to Tupac the entire time. Promptly afterwards, Lamar and Tupac begin candidly discussing the state of the black community, and, uncannily, it seems like Tupac’s words reference today’s world, not just in his time nearly two decades ago. This haunting, creeping realization that seemingly nothing has changed is starkly contrasted by the second and final poem Lamar tells to Tupac, about change and hope — a poem about the caterpillar and the butterfly. According to Lamar, “One thing [the caterpillar] notice[s] is how much the world shuns him, but praises the butterfly. The butterfly represents the talent, the thoughtfulness and the beauty within

the caterpillar. But having a harsh outlook on life the caterpillar sees the butterfly as weak and figures out a way to pimp it to his own benefits.” Lamar’s literary allusion to Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” in his album title “To Pimp A Butterfly,” finally comes full circle in this moment — just like how killing an innocent mockingbird, or causing one to loose their innocence, is morally wrong, Lamar claims that pimping a butterfly, or cutting short the potential of a talented individual for selfish motives, is also morally wrong. Lamar further elucidates that the “cocoon,” or the mad city that surrounds the caterpillar, traps him, further cutting short his vision, but by looking back and returning to his origins, he’s able to “bring back new concepts.” Through this process, “wings begin to emerge, breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant. Finally free, the butterfly sheds light on situations that the caterpillar never considered, ending the internal struggle. Although the butterfly and caterpillar are completely different, they are


one and the same.” Essentially, Lamar’s point is that through our past we are able to move forward. When he asks for Tupac’s perspective, he receives no reply. The message is clear: We need to look within ourselves if we want to seek change. v




CAI BOWLS (PRONOUNCED AH-SIGH-EE) HAVE BEEN ALL THE RAGE RECENTLY, AND rightly so — they’re delicious, healthy and beautiful. They’re essentially thick smoothies topped with granola and fruit, with one key ingredient: acai berries. These berries, dubbed a superfood and grown in South America, have made their way into health food stores around the world. Equally delicious as they are Instagram-worthy, acai bowls have become a fast hit in the Palo Alto area with the recent additions of several locations that serve them. Verde sampled the acai bowl offerings at a few local eateries and developed a recipe for an affordable, do-it-yourself version of these colorful bowls of sunshine. v

BARE BOWLS 530 Emerson St. As downtown Palo Alto’s first and only eatery specializing in acai bowls and blends, Bare Bowls offers a diverse selection of bowls. Bare sports the motto “Live generously, go Bare,” and this mission of honesty and transparency is apparent from the open kitchen filled with hundreds of fresh bananas to the handcrafted poster labeling the local sources of nearly all their ingredients. Their bowls are hard to beat, though their prices are steep at $8 for a small and

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$12 for a large. The granola provides the perfect complementary crunch to the satisfyingly thick smoothie base, and Bare’s method of including granola at both the top and the bottom of each bowl ensures you never run out of this tasty mix. Other toppings include coconut, goji berries, sliced banana, sliced strawberries, blueberries, hemp seeds and roasted almonds. Though selecting a bowl from their nine options can be a daunting task, it’s hard to go wrong with Bare Bowls.

FRAICHE YOGURT 200 Hamilton Ave. Not one block from Bare Bowls in downtown Palo Alto is Fraiche Yogurt. Fraiche is renowned for its delicious frozen yogurt, but in 2012, the popular business tacked an acai bowl onto its menu. However, there is currently only one option, and unfortunately, we were disappointed. Acai bowls are clearly not Fraiche’s forté. The acai bowl was disconcertingly liquid-y — hovering somewhere between


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juice and a smoothie in consistency. It almost felt wrong to be eating it with a spoon rather than drinking it. Though still tasty and the least expensive of the three places we reviewed, the lower price did not make up for the discrepancy in quality. With that said, Fraiche definitely dominates Palo Alto’s frozen yogurt scene, and we wholeheartedly recommend it for its yogurt.


Everyone Talking NEKTER JUICE BAR 685 San Antonio Rd. Located in a shopping plaza on San Antonio Road, Nekter is a little more outof-the-way than Fraiche or Bare for most Palo Alto residents. This juice bar chain definitely has a more business-like atmosphere to it. The walls are lined with baskets of fruits and vegetables, reassuring you of their products’ quality and freshness … although we were surprised to find upon closer inspection that the produce on display were actually made of plastic. The menu largely focuses on juices

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and smoothies, but when it comes to acai bowls, there are a few different options. Nekter’s bowls are on the larger side, so $6.95 begins to seem cheap when compared with Bare’s prices. The smoothie base was delectable, and the granola was good but nothing special. There was a thick layer of granola at the top of the bowl, making it difficult to get through to the acai in the first few bites. Despite these complaints, the acai bowls were both delicious and filling.



Our acai adventures sold us on the idea of acai bowls, but not the price tag. So, seeking some solace for our wallets, we decided to try creating a homemade version. Below is the recipe we came up with: First, blend the “base” ingredients in a blender, then top with whatever toppings inspire you. We suggest including granola both in the bottom of the bowl and at the top. Another advantage to making your acai bowls at home? You can add more toppings as you eat to guarantee you always have the perfect base-to-topping ratio.


Topping Suggestions

1 pack Sambazon Acai Superfruit Packs ½ - 1 banana ½ cup frozen mixed berries ¼ cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk) 1-3 dates (optional, for sweetness) 1-2 tablespoons peanut or almond butter (optional)

Honey Fresh berries Sliced banana Granola Coconut shavings Chia seeds Nuts Goji berries






HAT USED TO BE the desolate courtyard of the late Borders Bookstore is now a buzzing hub of creative flow and collaboration. Underneath the lights that hang above the courtyard, the only sounds are those of the many customers seated at small tables and benches scattered around the courtyard, engaged in innovative discussio. On the 400 block of University Avenue sits Hanahaus, the newly opened tech-cafe and study spot. Hanahaus prides itself in fostering an environment where passionate individuals can come together and build an intellectual community, enhanced by the many events sponsored and hosted by Hanahaus such as musical events and guest speakers. “He [founder Hasso Plattner] had this vision of creating these community

WORK TIME Two women work on the stage area in the atrium.

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workspaces for entrepreneurs and creative individuals,” says Sanjay Shirole, vice president of SAP and Global Head of Hanahaus. “[It’s] a place where they can come in and work and meet their peers and learn from experts and be entertained.” Hanahaus is geared towards providing a productive work environment, which is achieved through features such as the tech desk and work different environments. A large portion of the space is dedicated to an atrium where people can come to work and is filled with many different types of seating and tables to accommodate a variety of needs. This communal space is surrounded by smaller conference rooms that can be rented for private use. George, a patron of Hanahaus, values the café’s aesthetics. “I find the architecture inspiring, I find it old and new,” George says. “It [Hanahaus] is quieter than coffee shops and has a mixed use of

space.” Hanahaus also caters to the procrastination that accompanies a work period, with spaces that include a foosball table and a cafe that serves different types of food — from small plates and pastries to drinks that’ll give you a much-needed caffeinated kick. To check out Hanahaus’s upcoming events, take a look at the community calendar on the wall before the entrance to the main atrium. Whatever the occassion, Hanahaus wants to be accomodating for its customers. “The culture is to be generous,” Shirole says. “I’m trying to push that to everyone, to be generous. In the end, generosity doesn’t mean that you lose your shirt, but you don’t nickel and dime people.” v


IN THE AUS FOOD & DRINK Hanahaus has partnered with Blue Bottle Coffee, which serves an assortment of beverages and food. They offer caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee; mochas; and cappuchinnos and espressos; among others, each with a swirled pattern etched into the foam on the top. Customers can also enjoy food that ranges from pastries to salads to sandwiches. The cafe and accessibility of food fulfills the Hanahaus founding ideals created by founder Hasso Plattner. The values of community and collaboration are fueled and encouraged by the quality of the food available. “It [their vision] needed to be anchored by the cafe that provided world class coffee, nourishing food and … some libations like beer and wine,” Shirole says. COURTYARD (above) Patrons sit in the courtyard of Hanahaus, enjoying coffee and interacting with their peers. This space atπ Hanahaus is free and dog friendly. TECH DESKS (below) Customers work at the Tech Desk, which will be fully operational in June, when the full system is implemented.

THE TECH DESK The Hanahaus tech desk is a tool available for customer use, that provides tech support on topics such as user interface design and software architecture. Much like the Genius bar at Apple, the Tech Desk allows customers to be able to benefit from the knowledge of experts. Hanahaus plans on partnering with technology companies and other expert individuals so that said individuals may hold office hours at the tech desk, where patrons can reserve time to collaborate with them at no cost. This is a place intended to facillitate interaction between individuals who are passionate about technology. This system is projected to be implemented in June, but until then the desk will function as a regular work desk. “It’s ... for either technology or expertise that a developer or an entrepreneur would need [while] working here,” Shirole says. “We would have at least five or ten technology partners, as well as individuals who are experts [such as] user interface experts, user experience experts [and] design thinking experts. They would offer their services at no cost during their office hours.” 39


The indie side of things



OR DECADES, THE SILVER SCREEN HAS been a place of worship for the big budget movies — the over-the-top action movies, the horror films, and the reign of the feature-length animation, to name just a few. These movies have commanded the full strength of both theater screens and studio money because they’ve been proven to work. After all, how could another Avengers movie fail? And yet, hidden just off-stage behind a curtain of obscurity, independent movies have been making some big moves. By spending less money on big names or CGI sets, indie movies can af-

ford to explore ideas unheard of in mainstream cinema. Maybe the main character is a zombie. Maybe the characters age in real time as the movie is filmed. Maybe it’s a documentary on sushi. Even with the same subject as big movies, a fresh angle makes a big impact. Yet for all this diversity in subjects, indie movies represent so much more than just cinematic novelties. They represent a change of pace in the movie schedule, a break from the assembly line of films made from continually more identical cookie-cutter scripts. Ranging from romance to thriller to horror, here are Verde Magazine’s top indie films from the past few years. v

Blue Is The warmest Color (2013)

Budget: $5 million gross: $7 Million

You’ll be hard pressed to find a love story more emotionally moving than French director Abdellatif Kechiche’s romance “Blue is the Warmest Color.” “Blue is the Warmest Color” tells the story of a teen girl, Adèle, whose sexual orientation is tested upon meeting Emma, a blue-haired lesbian in art school. As the story unfolds, the connection between Adèle and Emma only grows stronger, yet also more complicated. At three hours long, the film’s plot goes into full detail, with no attempt to summarize or paraphrase anything. Filled with what some may see as meaningless drivel, it would not be a tall task to shorten the film significantly, while simultaneously transmitting the same story. However, every second of the movie film does have an effect, and although one may not see it at the time, every last detail makes the ending as powerful as it is. The plot is moving, the screenplay poignant, the acting sublime and the film’s direction and use of colors is borderline genius. From beginning to end, the color portrayed in the film reflects the storyline and foreshadows what is to come. Although not for everyone — it is dramatic, heartbreaking, and sexually explicit — “Blue Is The Warmest Color” is certainly one of the best romances in recent memory. — Ryan

Ex Machina (2015)

Budget: $12 Million gross: $29 million

Even days after my initial viewing of “Ex Machina,” a lingering sense of paranoia runs through my mind. Set in the near future, “Ex Machina” follows Caleb, employee at Bluebook, the fictional world’s largest search engine company, who wins a chance to visit Nathan’s (the company’s CEO) residence and take a look at what he’s working on. As it turns out, Nathan is working to change the world — his creation, Ava, is an artificial intelligence that appears to be a beautiful woman. The challenge for Caleb, then, is to spend the week he has at Nathan’s house to determine if Ava is truly conscious or just an assembly of routines and processes. Almost immediately, the test takes on a darker tone as Ava quietly hints to Caleb that Nathan’s surface-level motivations hide a darker scheme. While the story is a bit simple for a philosophical movie — the movie has only three characters — the subtext is carried by many small scenes, each another piece in a puzzle without any real edges. Although the ending is frustratingly vague, “Ex Machina” is a story that could never end in a concrete way — the real ending for artificial intelligence will be, for better or for worse, decided in the real world, an aspect of the story that makes the film both intriguing and terrifying. — Kai


Blue Ruin (2013)

Budget: $420,000 gross: $258,400

Although it certainly has its moments, “Blue Ruin” is a highly unorthodox film. A dark, violent drama, “Blue Ruin” tells the story of a maladroit drifter who goes to great lengths to exact revenge for the death of his parents. An overused cliché, certainly, but the film manages to execute it much better than most — mainly due to the unconventional direction of the film. Right from the start, one can tell that “Blue Ruin” is not a normal movie. From the dialogue — or lack thereof — to the imagery to the characterization, “Blue Ruin” is a very unique film. The movie’s most noticeable feature is unarguably its use of ambiguity, reinforced by the cryptic introduction. Clearly intended by director Jeremy Saulnier, “Blue Ruin” conveys the key points of the story with very little crucial dialogue; in fact, the most salient details of the story are left clandestine until midway through the movie. Although this maneuver is highly effective in catching the curiosity of many viewers, it can be an immense turn-off to viewers who prefer a more common, black-and-white viewing experience. Personally, I quite enjoyed the film’s odd production — it was highly refreshing, though a tad confusing at times. Despite the unique direction of the film, “Blue Ruin” is worth a view, as long as you’re willing to see a non-traditional type of movie. — Ryan

Let the Right One In (2008)

Budget: $4.5 Million gross: $11.2 million

Without question, Swedish flick “Let The Right One In” was my favorite pick out of the bunch. A dark story of a young, bullied boy who befriends a mysterious girl of the same age, “Let The Right One In” has all the components of a great film — the characters are well-rounded and develop throughout the story, the plot twists and turns, and the movie’s feel changes with each passing minute. Artistic praise aside, the story is highly gripping, tense, and, rather surprisingly for a film categorized as horror, emotionally powerful — the secondary theme, a love story, gradually becomes the focus of the film. As the relationship between Oskar and Eli, the movie’s two main characters, develops, the viewer’s fascination of the story grows. However, this movie is not for everyone. The first half of the movie moves rather slowly, and this may turn off some viewers. Despite this, I feel as though the slowest parts of the movie perfectly set up the end of the movie, which is certainly one of the best I have ever seen. In other words, the story’s is nothing special at individual parts. Rather, each scene builds upon the previous one to create a grand masterpiece that leaves the viewer in awe. From the grim introduction up until the sensational ending, “Let The Right One In” is nothing short of a cinematic gem. — Ryan

Whiplash (2014)

Budget: $3.3 Million gross: $14 Million

“Whiplash” is a film that attempts to show the pitfalls of reaching for the peak of success, as well as the uncertainty that comes with that success. It’s a lofty goal, to be sure, but Whiplash pulls through in spades, delivering not only a great score and cinematography but also a compelling narrative. The film follows Andrew Neiman, a drummer at New York’s Shaffer Conservatory, the fictitious most prestigious music school in the country. Andrew is determined to become a drumming icon, and eventually earns a chance to be an alternate drummer in the Conservatory’s studio band. This is where the movie really picks up — J.K. Simmons absolutely dominates the screen as Terence Fletcher, the abusive conductor of the studio band. Andrew’s motivation to succeed and Fletcher’s unrelenting drive for perfection mesh on screen beautifully — though Fletcher is a heartless and demanding character, it’s clear that Andrew is improving under his intense gaze. The film does an expert job of painting both characters as two people striving for the same goal, but with clashing mentalities; Andrew simply aspires for greatness, while Fletcher makes him bleed for it. “Whiplash” is a tense narrative moving to a fast tempo that hits a climax and resolves in a way that resonated with me for days afterwards. — Kai 41





AR ACCIDENTS ARE SCARY, INTENSE AND INEVITABLE. FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS JUST beginning to drive, these crashes are much more frequent and much more confusing when they do happen. It is therefore important to know how to deal with them. Because it can be hard to think clearly in the wake of an accident, Verde has compiled a list of the steps to be taken after a crash. v

1. safety first

The first action you must take in the event of a car crash, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles, is to ensure your immediate safety. If you are in a dangerous situation, such as the middle of traffic, you should move yourself and your car out of the way (to the side of the road).

2. check for injuries

The second step is to determine if there are any injuries. If there are, you should call 911. Even if there aren’t any injuries, you are legally obligated to call the police.

3. exchange info

Make sure to exchange names and insurance info with other crash participants. “The most important thing, assuming no one is injured, is to exchange information with other driver(s) involved,” State Farm insurance agent Bob Anderson says. “Try and take the emotion out of the conversation. Nothing will be settled on the side of the road.” Be polite and courteous. You are legally obligated

to give your vehicle’s make, model, year, color, Vehicle Identification Number, your name, your insurance company’s name, your insurance agent’s contact information and your insurance policy number.

4. document damage

Document any damage. The easiest way to do this is to use your phone to take pictures of the vehicles’ license plates as well as any damages inflicted on either vehicle or on other property. This information will be useful when you are filing your insurance claim and can also help prevent fraudulent claims directed against you. “Hopefully, all parties involved in any accident tell the truth, but it doesn’t always go down like that,” Anderson says.

5. insurance

Call your insurance company. If necessary, request a tow from them. They can also help you reserve a rental car and repair your own, if needed.




T IS A QUIET MONDAY afternoon on the Palo Alto High School campus as the long C-day comes to a close. As most students walk out of class, a few are walking into Room 203 not to speak to a teacher or finish an assignment, but to play Super Smash Brothers (Smash, for short). Every Monday at lunch and afterschool in Room 203, Paly students, including junior Andrew Baer, the Paly Super Smash Bros Club co-president, get together to play Smash and organize tournaments with other high schools around the Bay Area. Rather than simply playing with friends at home, these tournaments add a real life element to gaming. As opposed to sitting in front of a TV alone, a player like Baer is in front of many cheering fans who are watching players like Baer battle an opponent sitting next to him. In short, E-Sports, are type of spectator sport. Though the Paly Smash Club caters to all levels of players, both casual and competitive, the club is one of the many communities which are part of a growing culture in this generation’s youth called Electronic Sports (often abbreviated to E-

Sports), or video game competitions. In the past few years, professional ESports has amassed millions of players and fans with a shared interest in gaming. Prize pools for proffesional esports tournaments can contain up a million dollars for the victor. Although the stakes are much lower in the Paly Super Smash Bros Club, some of the club members, such as Baer, wish to become professional gamers and participate in high level tournaments. “Competitive Smash is an important part of my life, but I keep it in balance with my other responsibilities,” Baer says.“I like to think that life is a huge scale with many parts ... you can get maximum enjoyment out of where you are in life and not lose perspective on the big picture.” In reality, the chances of becoming a professional gamer are very slim. One needs a combination of skill, luck and connections in order to make it. Even then, job security for these players is very low. But that does not stop Baer. “When you put honest time into developing your hobbies and doing what you love, you’ll go places,” Baer says. “The only challenge is to keep your priorities in order and not let that passion blind you from the

rest of life’s responsibilities.” Pursuing this passion, Baer and his fellow Smashers in Smash Club have organized two tournaments at Paly dubbed “Smash @ Paly.” “Competitive Smash has been a sort of double life,” junior and Smash Club co-president Daniel Cottrell says. “I have had my Smash friends that I’ve met at tournaments and almost always meet up with again at [many] tournaments I go to. I have met all sorts of interesting people playing Smash.” Though E-Sports could be considered a typical hobby, a very distinctive aspect of the E-Sports fan bases is that they mostly reside online. “It’s unique factor is that it is completely Internet-based and can be anonymous, yet it is an extremely communitybased hobby,” Gunn High School junior and Gunn E-Sports Club leader Ameri says. In the end, E-Sports is about having fun and enjoying the company of others who share similar interests. “Being with people who share your same passions, interests and dedication inspires you to continue doing what you love, and love doing it,” Baer says. v


“Good Game” usually said after each game has finished.


When a player completely destroys another player in game.


An epic combo that completely shuts down the other team or player.

Top Kek

A Turkish muffin brand used by people of the internet to mean “LOL.” First used in the video game World of Warcraft.






HE TRANSITION TO COLLEGE IS DIFFICULT, NO DOUBT ABOUT IT. YOU HAVE TO DO YOUR own laundry, manage your sleep schedule, write the names of the week on your underwear yourself and, most importantly, take the time to properly nourish your feeble, overworked body. The local dining hall is there to assist, but its subpar food and overcrowded tables can only do so much. Therefore, the duty of proper nutrition rests upon you, a poor soul thrust unprepared into this world of self-dependence. But there’s no need to fret — we’ve assembled our favorite mug recipes out there known to busy students. All you’ll need is a microwave and your trusty mug. v

NUTELLA CAKE 4 tbsp flour ¼ tsp baking powder ¼ cup Nutella 3 tbsp fat-free milk


RECIPE FROM “KIRBIE CRAVINGS” Sugar is an essential part of the human diet that often gets neglected when new college students go on their firstyear fruit-and-salad binge. This Nutella mug cake recipe is the perfect solution to such a nutritional deficiency; all it takes is a handful of basic baking staples and a minute in a microwave, and you’ll have before you a delicious cake, warm and ready for you to devour whether it be 8 a.m., 3 a.m. or 4:21 p.m.


RICE KRISPIE TREATS 1 tbsp unsalted butter 1 ¼ cups mini marshmallows 1 ½ cups rice krispies

OMELETTE 2 large eggs 1 tbsp flour 1 tbsp skim milk 1 tbsp low-fat grated cheese ¼ cup meat of your choice Salt/pepper RECIPE FROM “JUST PUTZING AROUND THE KITCHEN”

RECIPE FROM “DESSERT FOR TWO” Rice Krispie Treats are the quintessential snack food from our childhoods, but they haven’t lost any of their crispy shine with time. Simple and easy to make, it only takes a few minutes to get a good helping of deliciousness that’ll give you all the energy you need to keep going. Prepare yourself: you will need not one but two mugs for this confection. Pour your Rice Krispies in one mug, then melt the marshmallows and butter in the lesser receptacle. After a couple minutes in the ol’ magic oven, pour the decidedly healthy liquid butter mixture into the eagerly waiting mug of cereal. Stir thoroughly with a utensil of your choice — feel free to get creative.

Omelettes are the perfect breakfast food: they’re full of protein, energy and vitamins. But when you’re in a rush to get to your first class in the morning, there is simply no time to flip and fold egg batter in a pan. You need your nutrition fast and with minimal effort. Luckily for you, we have the ultimate omelette solution. Simply mix these ingredients together in your mug and then microwave the resulting yellow concoction for about two minutes until you’re left with a mug full of delicious, golden, fully-cooked cheesy omelette that you can wolf down on the go. With a mug of pure energy in your hand, nothing can stop you now on your quest for education.


Text and Photography by JOE MEYER



S A TEEN, IT CAN BE DIFFICULT TO FIND THE IDEAL HANG-OUT SPOT. MOST PLACES are either too populated or too unpleasant. However, Palo Alto hosts a great selection of teen-friendly gems simply waiting to be idled at, if only you can find them. Verde compiled a list of the city’s most obscure and unique hangout spots, all of which offer their own distinctive attractions, and all of which are free to access. Loiter away, kids. v GUNN TUNNELS Perhaps one of the most intriguing spots in Palo Alto is the Gunn tunnel network. The tunnels, located below Bol Park and Gunn High School, were originally built for water drainage purposes but have since been repurposed by generations of Palo Alto teens for exploration, loitering and graffiti. Although tresspassing in the tunnels is technically illegal, the interior walls are layered in student-created art, including giant portraits of Bart and Homer Simpson and a couple of hastily scrawled ghost stories. To access the tunnels, prospective explorers must climb down a tiered wall and ford a section of river via wooden beam. If you advance beyond the entrance chamber, the tunnels are pitch black, so a flashlight is a necessity. TAGS Graffitti adds color to the Gunn Tunnels. STANFORD CACTUS GARDEN The Stanford Cactus Garden hosts a variety of cacti, from small flowered spikeballs to giant sprawling trees. Crisscrossing paths provide visitors with walking as well as cactus-viewing opportunities. The cacti come in different shapes and sizes, ranging from century plants, which flower only once in their lifetime, to yucca and prickly pear cactus. The garden, first planted in the late 1800s for Jane and Leland Stanford, provides a serene and pleasant atmosphere for meditation, exploration or high-intensity water gun fights.

BIG AND SPIKY Cacti and trees such as this one provide the Stanford Cactus Garden with character, rendering it unique. 46

NOTHING BUT FLOWERS Palo Alto offers several gardens, such as this one at Pardee Park. PARDEE PARK Eleanor Pardee Park offers picnic areas, play structures and a colorful garden for teens to enjoy. It also contains an oak tree which is so gnarled that kids can walk up its trunk without using their hands. Located on Channing Ave. near Center Dr., Pardee is both spacious and peaceful, providing a spot to hang out, draw, or simply relax in the shade of one of its many trees.


Text by JACK BROOK Photography by ANA-SOFIA AMIEVA WANG RAIN OR SHINE Mike Haight stands beside the makeshift shelter the guards have constructed to protect them from the rain.


IKE HAIGHT HAS worked a lot of jobs — from landscaper to bowling alley clerk — but none of them are quite like this one. For the first time he feels pride in what he does, a strange sense of satisfaction during his arduous $9-an-hour shifts, which sometimes go for as long as 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. He relies on his pride to keep him going when the exhaustion takes hold in the dawn hours and his eyes start drooping after staring at nothing for so long and his legs get heavy from standing all day and he has to remind himself of why he must stay awake. Some people working minimum wage jobs flip burgers, others sweep floors,

but Haight has found himself carrying a heavy burden, responsible for keeping the tracks safe in a time when they seem most threatening to the Palo Alto community. Haight is the sort of man who likes to bully bullies and has so many tattoos on his neck — including the names of his wife and two sons — that he jokes he doesn’t have room for any more. He is also one of the crossing guards who monitors the train tracks at the Churchill and Alma intersection, right next to Palo Alto High School, where he graduated in the Class of 1996. The train guards work for Val Security, a private security firm commissioned by the City of Palo Alto to watch over the tracks since 2011. So far, the city manager

has spent $133,000 on an emergency contingent of train guards this year. In April, the city council earmarked $175,000 to effectively continue the guards’ presence into the summer months, though the longevity of this arrangment remains to be seen. The city has started to experiment with intrusion detection systems — motion sensor cameras which alert police in the event of unauthorized movements around the tracks. “Guards are one thread of the safety net,” says Kenneth Dueker, of Palo Alto Emergency Services. “We don’t know how long we’ll continue with them. As technology improves, they may become less important and we may phase them out.” 47

Yet, as Haight’s colleague Prentiss McKnight points out, “I truly believe that a person’s presence can change the atmosphere of a situation.” Machines might be more efficient, but a person can provide a unique sense of assurance and empathy that a camera cannot. One afternoon toward the end of McKnight’s shift, a minivan pulls up at a red light and a woman sticks her head out the window. “Thank you for everything,” she says, and hands him a pink bag of muffins. “You’re a sweetheart,” he tells her, smiling. Little instances of gratitude like this one make the job worth doing for McKnight, despite the fact that it has caused him to cry more in the past few months than in the last 20 years. For the city, the physical presence of people seems to provide a sustainable sense of visible protection against the suicide cluster that has plagued Palo Alto this past year. “This [the guards] is the last resort,” Palo Alto school board member Terry Godfrey says. “It’s the point where you’ve got nothing. It’s desperation. You’re putting these people out there as the last line of defense.” After the original suicide cluster of 2009-2010, a group of concerned Palo Alto community members began to stand along the railroad to serve as a deterrent. They were all volunteers, but they felt strongly about the importance of maintaining an active presence. The organization became known as Track Watch. “A suicide contagion is a strange phenomenon,” says Godfrey, who often worked the Friday morning shift for Track Watch. “It’s sort of like with yawns — there is no reason for yawning to be contagious and yet it is. We don’t understand it [the suicide cluster], but we just want to do what we can to stop it from spreading.” When the imminent threat of suicides began to subside, fewer and fewer people signed up to volunteer to stand by the tracks, leading the city to hire private security guards, who worked the evening hours at the two busiest locations. Now, in light of the city’s risk assessment, guards are stationed at all times on every single intersection of the Caltrain tracks. The Moments That Save Lives It’s nearly impossible to measure, tangibly, the impact of Haight’s job. He watches hundreds of pedestrians cross the tracks 48

each day, along with thousands of cars, and for all but an infinitesimal amount of them the tracks are merely a passing point and not the final destination. Still, studies have shown that creating noticeable suicide barriers does indeed prevent suicides. Only one suicide occurred in the five years after the Duke Ellington Memorial Bridge, in Washington, D.C., added a prevention barrier. Even more telling, there was no increase in suicides from the nearby Taft bridge. However, in the seven years before the construction of the barrier, 24 people died by suicide. To Project Safety Net, the organization which originally speerheaded the implementation of guards, case studies like that of the Duke Ellington are enough to justify the expensive cost of maintaining private security alongside the tracks in Palo Alto. And then there are the moments the guards themselves remember. Haight has only been on the job for two months — he didn’t even know about the suicides in Palo Alto until a passerby told him — but even he has had his share of trouble. It was well past midnight and Haight noticed a drunk man standing on the edge of the rails. Lingering. “Is anything wrong?” Haight asked. “I could do it, you know,” the man told him. “But I wouldn’t do it on your train.” Haight wondered whether he should call the Palo Alto Police Department dispatch, which in turn will notify Caltrain. “I’m just joking,” the man added, after a long pause. “I have kids.” No one else was around. Haight got ready to make the phone call. Finally, before the next train came, the man stumbled away and didn’t return. The rest of the night passed in silence, punctuated only by shrill blasts from the horns of passing trains. Haight has no preparation for these moments — few jobs come with such a steep learning curve. “It’s like training for an earthquake,” Haight says. “Nothing prepares you for it when it actually happens.” One security guard, on his first day on the job, says that his training lasted seven minutes: the seven minutes before his shift began, when he listened to the guard before him explain what to do. “Be alert” is the only thing he says his supervisor told him before he started. All Haight really has are his own words. He doesn’t practice what he would say because he wants to sound genuine, not

CHURCHILL AND ALMA Prentiss Alexander McKnight, Jr. spends 10 hours, six days a week standing by the intersection to keep people safe and detect trouble.

rehearsed, if he ever needs to talk someone out of something. He is not even supposed to leave the little yellow box where he stands, but Haight believes he would never be able to stand by and watch someone die. “You know how most people are born with that fight or flee instinct,” he says. “I’m missing the flee part.” Others share similar experiences. Alejandro “Big Mo” Rodriguez, a recently retired crossing guard, says in his four months on the job this year, three people exhibited suicidal intentions. One time, Rodriguez noticed a kid loitering by the tracks late at night, who admitted, when pressed, that he had recently gone through a family dispute. “The truth is, you know all you’re go-


ing to do is depress your whole family,” Rodriguez told him. “You’re going to ruin everyone else’s life because you’re going to be gone. Everyone else here is going to be thinking of you. Missing you. And you’re going to be gone.” Later, the kid passed by with his friends and didn’t say a word to Rodriguez. He came back alone and tapped Rodriguez on the shoulder and said, “Thank you.” Rodriguez nodded. And then the kid left. Reflections on Lessons Learned But these moments are the exceptions. Mostly, the hours are long and boring, and the prospect of staring down the tracks lacks any real stimulation. Still, Haight has come to learn some things about the job.

He has learned the grueling nature of a 10-hour shift and has coped by relying on a zebra-patterned plastic tarp propped up with sticks to create a makeshift shelter from the rain and sun. He has learned to spend his time squinting left and right down the tracks, checking for the three points of motion, an old trick to detect a person. “The arms, the legs, the head,” Haight says. “One of them will move if you wait long enough.” He has learned to enjoy the trains because they break up the monotony. When they pass, he makes a jot on his clipboard, noting their time and direction. He’ll watch as many as 50 trains over the course of his shift and he always raises a hand to acknowledge the conductor.

But most of all, Haight says he has learned that there is a sense of community in Palo Alto, and he appreciates that. Police officers wave to him, old ladies clasp his hands and whisper, ‘Thank you’ into his ear, and every now and then someone comes along to quietly pay homage to a lost friend. He lets them stand nearby. He wants to “start a dialogue with others” about the deep-seeded issues at hand, the things that are troubling Palo Alto teens, and he always welcomes the chance to do so. He recognizes the limitations of his job, but understands the larger purpose. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time I’m here nothing will happen,” Haight says. “But that point one percent makes a huge difference in the world.” v 49

Putting the Camera on the Camera Man LOOKING BEYOND THE LENS WITH MR. HERSEY Text and Photography by MADISON MIGNOLA

IN THE CLASSROOM Mason Hersey happily stands at the front of the room, smiling at the camera. This is his 10th year as a substitute teacher at Paly, commonly seen in Margo Wixom’s classroom.


QUIET MAN WITH A CALM DEMEANOR, MASON HERSEY IS ONE OF THE MANY SUBSTITUTES who come in and out of Palo Alto High School. As he grew older, he developed a love of photography that later evolved into a love of filmwork. Starting in Germany and then on to Hollywood, he has worked as a camera operator on many feature films and countless commercials. He now spends his time subbing at Paly or hiking with his wife in Los Altos Hills. v VERDE: WHAT WERE SOME OF YOUR INTERESTS AND PASSIONS WHILE GROWING UP? Mason Hersey: I kayaked a lot, a lot of kayaking. Photography from about 14 on. I skated a lot growing up, played hockey every afternoon. That pretty much filled it up. V: I KNOW YOU DID SOME CAMERA WORK WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER? MH: Yes, for about 35 years. Yeah, mostly movies, very few television shows and a lot of commercials. Thousands of commercials. V: CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR JOURNEY INTO CAMERA WORK? YOU WORKED WITH CELEBRITIES? MH: Well, yes, working on feature films you get to work with well known actors. It kind of came out of photography, you know, the same idea. I had a fascination with the framing and exposure. But when you work on a feature film or commercial you tend to be a small cog in a much bigger machine. Whereas in photography, you do most of it yourself. In film you’re a part of it. V: ANY HORROR STORIES OF CELEBRITIES OR DIRECTORS? MH: You know, people often ask me that but I’ve been very lucky because most of the directors I’ve worked with have been pretty 50

decent. There were some smaller, lesser known directors who have been more difficult, but the big guys have always been great. V: DO YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE BESIDES SUBBING OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL? MH: These days I pretty much just sub. And I travel a lot with my wife when she gets the opportunity. But subbing and camera work actually work really well together because what was happening was I’d have one or two weeks down [from camera work] so I started substitute teaching and it really works well because you take jobs one day at a time and if a film job comes up then I could grab that. So I could kind of flop back and forth between the two. V: DO YOU MISS CAMERA WORK? MH: Honestly, no. I did it for long enough. I really enjoy what I’m doing now. I sometimes think of going back and I got a call last week for a job which I turned down. It is really a young man’s job. I hate to say it but there’s many long hours. It is a hard job, and it keeps you away from the family. V: AND DID YOU LOVE IT? MH: Yeah, it’s a great job. Just because you’re always problem solving. You’re always jumping from one problem to another. It’s always interesting.

Did you know?

• We have hundreds of stormdrains all around the city that flow directly to local creeks • This water does not get treated! Anything on our streets and parking lots washes straight into a creek, including litter such as water bottles, cigarette butts and food wrappers.

What can you do about it?

• Don’t litter! If there is no trash can nearby take the item with you to throw it away. • Pick up trash you see laying in a curb and throw it away • Avoid creating trash. Bring a lunch box and avoid disposable items.

Don’t let litter go down the storm drain!



SERVAne the boundless



VEN THREE DOORS away from Studio E3, located in Cubberley Community Center off Middlefield Road, a wild range of sounds can be heard spilling out the door. Everything from the sharp snip of leather being cut to the high-pitched squeak of a mysterious wheel resonates through the halls as the studio, its door fully ajar, approaches ever closer. There’s an idea of what to expect from this place — some leatherwork, maybe a bit of screenprinting — but like the inhabitants within, it tends not to settle down too much. This is the art studio of Servane Briand, leather and bookbinding wizard. When she speaks, it is with a native French accent, and almost always excitedly about some new medium she’s just dying to show off. Indeed, a quick glance around the room makes it look less like it’s just Briand and Paloma Lucas, her fellow artist in E3, and more like a veritable clown car of artists works here — leather books, screenprints and various pieces of wax art are strewn about the space, with a range of subjects as wide as the media themselves. Over here, it’s a book about bicycles, the pages around and held together by rivets, just like the bikes they show. There, it’s a piece of leather decorated with a laser-cut photo of a ribcage, the leather itself once the skin for the animals featured within. erratically, but once she chooses a course, she works methodically. It’s not uncommon to walk by her studio over the course of several hours and see her working on the same piece of leather over and over, paring it with special knives until its once-ragged surface is indistinguishable from a piece A LEVEL HEAD Briand pares leather on a lithographic stone. The stones are essential for making smooth leather due to their remarkable flatness.


of paper, it’s previously thick folds now undetectable to the touch. But as focused as Briand seems now, she definitely has not always been like this. “To be honest, I have looked for something I like [to do] for probably many years,” Briand says. These many years began in France, where Briand was dead-set from straight out of high school to studying both science the humanities. Thinking it would be easier to go into one then transition to the other, Briand pursued a business degree, only to find almost immediately that it was not a path for her. Despite this, France’s ridgid education system kept her locked in place and she went on to finish her business degree. “I wish I hadn’t had to decide that early what I wanted to do,” Briand says. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was 17.” After college, Briand bounced around jobs for a few years, which took her from Paris to San Francisco to Palo Alto and finally back to Paris, where she found herself at yet another major crossroads — Briand received a tantalizing job offer to work in cognitive psychology at University of California San Diego, the first program of its kind in the United States. Despite this being a field Briand had wanted to work in for2

several years, she turned the job down for another offer in Paris, where she eventually met her best friend of 25 years, a decision which still haunts Briand. “I tell this story because I hope it inspires people to just plunge in,” Briand says. After a few years at her new job, Briand and her friend quit their jobs together and, for a few years, left to find their passions. It was during this time that Briand met her husband, Emmanuel Mignot, the professor of sleep medicine at Stanford University, and settled down in the Bay Area. After the Silicon Valley bubble popped in 2008, Briand began attending Foothill College for web design classes, where she met Kent Manske, the book arts teacher there, and the flame of art was ignited. “I was just so taken by ... how fantastic it was to do something with my hands instead of the computer,” Briand says. “I took Kent’s class and I never looked back.” The rest is history — for the past six years, Briand has devoted her days and nights to her art, and encourages anyone else struggling with their passion to break off from what they’re doing, just as she did. “I was never really in business ... I was always trying to find my way back to something closer to what I like,” Briand says. v2

TOP LEFT Briand’s leatherworking tools dangle from hooks on the wall. TOP RIGHT Briand often uses an assortment of colored waxes to mark paper and wood. ABOVE A strip of leather laser cut with the image of a ribcage was the test piece for a book cover. BELOW Briand adjusts a printing press.




once in a




ASTARDS!” A broken figure lurches into the room, clutching his suit jacket in his hands and wringing the green-grey material. “BASTARDS,” he cries again as he hurls the jacket to the floor, stumbling a few more steps and crumpling to the ground. One of only 13 characters in the Tony-Awardwinning show “Once,” the heartbroken man is played by Palo Alto High School Class of 2009 alumnus Alex Nee. As a part of the Broadway National Tour, Nee plays Andrej, a manager of a fast food chain whose dreams of receiving a promotion are crushed. Andrej copes with this period of sorrow through the music of the main characters Guy and Girl, two Irish citizens who meet and form a band that Andrej joins. “Once” is the second Broadway National Tour for Nee. On his first tour, Nee played lead character Johnny in “American Idiot,” a musical based on the life and music of Green Day lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong. Nee was given the opportunity to audition for Johnny after a casting recruiter saw his performance

PROFILES |MAY 2015 as Roger in Northwestern’s production of “Rent.” teachers who mentored and inspired me to really delve into According to Nee, he has loved theatre ever since he art and collaboration and music,” Nee says. participated in a play in third grade at Addison Elementary Nee also appreciates the traveling aspect of life on a naSchool. tional tour, and says this really hit home for him when he “I didn’t have any lines, I just carried a spear on stage, tried food from Sushirrito restaurant for the first time. but I loved it,” Nee says. “I loved the people and [theatre] “I was eating a sushi burrito, basically, and I had a cup became my extra-curricular activity.” of New Orleans-style chickory Iced Coffee,” Nee says. “I reNee started to songwrite at the age of alized I’ve sort of touched all of the origins 13, the same age he started playing guitar, of these things (Japan, Mexico and New his main instrument. A member of Paly’s Orleans). I was just sitting there thinking musical theatre program throughout his because of this show I’ve gotten to “I didn’t have any lines, I ‘Wow, four years at Paly, Nee starred as the lead, see so many different cultures and so many Tevye, in the school’s production of “Fid- just carried a spear on different people.’” dler on the Roof ” his senior year and won stage, but I loved it.” Despite these perks, performing eight Most Dramatic in the Senior polls. shows per week can be tiring, and Nee will — alex nee After his graduation, Nee headed to have been touring for three years by the Northwestern University, where he matime the “Once” tour is over. Nee says he jored in Theatre and earned a certificate is keeping his options open but hopes to in Musical Theatre, while also making a point to pursue oth- settle down. er academic interests and keep himself well-rounded. “As an actor it’s hard to turn down good jobs,” Nee says. “I minored in economics to keep my left and right brain “So if another amazing national tour comes along that I may equally working and [to] be a real person beyond just an ac- be right for, I’m not going to not go for it.” tor,” Nee says. For now, Nee says that “Once” has been a unique and Throughout his career, he has learned to take advantage rewarding experience. of opportunities as they come instead of always looking “We’re allowed to change what we’re playing, so I can ahead for the next big break. improvise musically,” Nee says. “It keeps it alive.” “I’m really glad looking back on my school experiences The lack of a conductor in “Once” also adds fluidity to that I invested so much in the school part of it and I wasn’t it’s overall mood, according to Nee. spending all of my time looking for professional auditions “If you were to watch this show every night for a week, and outside work,” Nee says. “I mostly just did school the- you would start to notice sort of significant differences in atre and built strong relationships with the teachers and the tempos of songs,” Nee says. “If we’ve had a lot of coffee students there, which I think is a valuable way to go [be- that day, it’ll be fast, or if we’re sleepy it’ll be slow.” cause] often those people have outside connections [and] are According to Nee, each cast member was intricately inthen more likely to help you get work afterwards or down the volved with choreography and blocking and allowed to write line, which is how I got on to my first show.” some of the music played on stage despite the success of the After finishing his run with “American Idiot,” Nee re- original Broadway setup. turned to Northwestern to graduate and then joined the tour“They were adamant that this is how you treat the mateing cast of “Once.” rial — as a living breathing thing,” Nee says. “Ultimately, we A love story with an atypical ending, “Once” won eight created it, which is amazing.” v Tony’s, including the award for Best Musical, and differs from the average musical in many ways. The set, which mimics an Irish pub, stays the same throughout the entire play and actually serves as a working bar open to the audience both before the musical starts and during intermission. Fifteen minutes before the official starting time, cast members play a short concert on stage with a rotating set of three songs. At the end of this mini live concert, audience members are led off the stage and the cast members seamlessly transition into the opening scene of the musical. “Once” has no pit orchestra — instead, every member of the cast plays at least one instrument. Nee plays four throughout the musical: guitar, ukulele, electric bass and the cajon, a South American percussion instrument. The Broadway tour of “Once” ran in San Jose in April. According to Nee, he really enjoyed being able to return home and perform. “It’s incredibly special to share my work now with the

ONCE Alumnus Alex Nee (far left) as Andrej, a Dubliner who joins his roomates band and finds solace through their music.

55 Photo: ©2015 JOAN MARCUS


dog days are over

Text and Photography by ALEXANDRA HSIEH



OVE THROUGH THE WINGS OF THE lives,” Hollander says. “They were going to other facilities, realbuilding at Pets in Need in Redwood City and izing that other dogs and cats were being killed.” you can hear the bark of dogs eager for attenAnimal euthanization is prevalent in Palo Alto as well: the tion. Walk beside the stalls and there will be cats Palo Alto Animal Services Shelter has been through a series of reaching through the little holes in the glass wall. ups and downs and was on the brink of shutting down just last Sit in the welcome center for a while and you’ll understand why year due to financial problems. Pets in Need may be the lifeline there’s a sterile stillness in the air: the entire facility is eerily orga- that helps support the shelter. nized — cats in one section, dogs in two separate sections, the quarantine area upstairs (only medical staff can enter) and the adoption Branches at Pets in Need offices right by the sitting area. Brody the boxer mix has called this Pets in Need has been taking in animals from euthanization building home for 11 weeks, lists at other shelters for a couple of dean uncommonly long amount “The hardest part is seeing dogs that cades. In order to be as efficient as possiof time. ble, the organization sets a number of pets stay longer than they should...but for “The hardest part is seethat must be adopted out every month. ing dogs that stay longer than whatever reason they [stay] just beAnd to make or even surpass that quota, they should, knowing that cause of minor things.” it’s split into four branches: Kennel, Adopthey’re really good dogs,” says tion, Medical and Finance. ­— MARSA HOLLANDER Marsa Hollander, head of the The Kennel staff takes care of the adoption branch at Pets in day-to-day maintenance, bringing the dogs Need. “But for whatever reason — a tan chihuahua, a cat that’s not out for walks early in the morning, power cleaning the pet’s stalls­ very social — ­ they [stay] just because of minor things.” — bleaching, scrubbing, rinsing — feeding the animals and moniAnd yet, Brody would have been just a number if it weren’t toring their general well-being. The medical staff works upstairs: for this building. In the state of California alone, over 500,000 dogs taking the adopted animals into a quarantine to be spayed, neuand cats are killed every single year in public facilities. To make that tered, microchipped and assessed for around 10 days for diseases easier to grasp, in the time it has taken you to read up to this sen- and injuries before placing the animals in the Kennel staff ’s care. tence, a dog or cat has been killed at a shelter. The Finance team works with local newspapers around the Bay Pets in Need houses 17 puppies, 26 cats and 41 dogs as of late Area and organizes fundraising events. Finally, the Adoption staff April. They were rescued from the euthanization lists of shelters is in charge of taking in animals from the kill lists at other facilialong the California coast and given one more chance to get ad- ties. opted by a loving household. “We take them from any public facilities that are high kill,” “Pets in Need was started in 1965 by two women, Jean Ma- Hollander says. “It’s shelters that are overcrowded ... they end up honey and Alice Hodges, who decided they were going to save euthanizing a lot of them because they simply just don’t have the 56

PROFILES |MAY 2015 space for them... we tend to take a lot of smaller dogs because we can keep two of them in a room while a bigger dog might have to take its own room.” Despite their business-worthy management, the animals are not referred to by their species or color of their coats, but by their names. It’s not that terrier mutt, it’s Milo, who suffers from eye and skin conditions as well as lung cancer. It’s not that chihuahua mix, it’s Leo, who has been there since 2011 due to his fiendish disposition. It’s not that half-blind poodle, it’s Clarence, who was abandoned by her owner with her medical procedure only half finished. After finding Clarence filthy, emaciated and trembling on the streets, Hollander had identified Clarence’s owner and dialed her home. The response, she recalls, was short: the slam of the telephone receiver back on its station. Silence, it seems, is the only response many people have for cruelty. “I’ve learned a lot about compassion — but you know, I’ve also learned that I don’t really like people,” Hollander says. “Working here, you realize that there’s a lot of messed up people out there who don’t care about their pets ... You meet people that have really big hearts and then you hear these stories about perfectly good pets running in the streets.” Future Goals Pets in Need moved into their current eco-friendly building in 2009, and features sanitary hospital vents and glass walls that are not only less stressful for the animals but also helps keep the noise level down. And, according to Alexandra Baggs, the development and marketing coordinator, Pets in Need has only been continuing on and spreading the word from their state-ofthe-art building. “We’ve been taking our mobile van to other locations in the bay area to do spay and neuter procedures, and low cost vaccinations,” Baggs says. “So we’re really trying to reach out, to really tackle issues like pet homelessness, abandonment ... I think Pets in Need is in a really good place to increase partnerships, and we’re really becoming a lot more visible, too.” Among these potential partnerships is with the Palo Alto Animal Services Shelter, which has declined to give news sources their 2014 euthanization, adoption and output statistics. “We’re just starting to talk to a few groups in Palo Alto, so we don’t have any details yet,” Baggs says. “But we’re really making an effort to expand our geographic reach through relationships with other animal welfare organizations.” Looking Forward With all that’s going on, Brody resides quietly in his stall. Right behind the glass is a little plaque that discloses all of his personal information. Out of eight different adjectives, the words outgoing, playful, and energetic are highlighted. He’s one year old. He gets along with other dogs. Brody is the epitome of what animal lovers want in a family, but just a few months ago, he would have been gone. “The best part about working here is giving these little guys a second chance at life,” says Patty Santana, the shelter manager. “Seeing them from when they are first rescued, watching them come around and trust people regardless of what they’ve been through, to seeing them go into their forever loving homes.” v

Clockwise from left page KENNEL staff members feed the shelter animals before taking them outside. The Kennel staff is currently looking for volunteers to help with manual tasks like walking the dogs and feeding the cats. TWO DOGS look straight at the camera. Both were adopted from Pets in Need before the end of April. BRODY presses his nose against a gap in the glass walls. A boxer mix, he is one of two power breeds (bigger dogs) at Pets in Need. REX looks at dogs outside while Foxwell hangs in the back. Rex had demodicosis, but has been treated and is at Pets in Need as of May 13. 57







STAR IN BOTH SPEECH AND CHOIR, Jenny Xin is hilarious, no doubt about it. Other than her famous faces and her perfectly terrible Advanced Placement U.S. History puns, what don’t we know? Hailing from New Jersey, she was the first Paly student to advance to the State Championships for Speech. Xin sat down with Verde Magazine to discuss her life. v VERDE: HOW MANY FACES CAN YOU MAKE?

Jenny Xin: At least 14.6 ­— maybe more. It’s really useful when somebody says they want to have a “face-to-face” with you and you end up making enough faces that the cosmetic surgery industry gets jealous. V: WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?

J: Usually I sleep a lot, I eat, sometimes I cry. That’s basically it. I don’t think I do anything else other than that. V: TELL US ABOUT YOUR APUSH PUNS.

J: So Mr. Bungarden had this extra credit option at the end of first semester where we had to make some multiple choice questions for the end-of-year review session, and one of the available topics was “puns”. He required six, so I wrote down six, including my most prized possession “What do you think of when you think meat lingerie? A-bra-ham, Links-on.” And then I figured he might get so angry that he’d accidentally set those six on fire, so I made 12 more, just to be safe. This semester, he didn’t have ‘puns’ as a topic, but I handed in eight with my extra credit on Prohibition for fun. I don’t have a social life. V: CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SPEECH AND DEBATE AND CHOIR?

J: I do this a cappella group called Vikapella and we just do pop songs, mostly really badly, and I think people have died trying to hear us. It’s been three years ... I just went to the [State] Championships in speech actually, in original prose and poetry, which is basically anything you want it to be, and I just kind of went for a stand-up comedy kind of route. Yeah, that was really great. There was a snow cone truck. V: SO WE HEARD YOU WERE THE FIRST STUDENT EVER TO ADVANCE TO STATE IN STAND-UP COMEDY?

SPEECH Xin shows off a few of her famous faces while performing an impromptu comedy routine. 58

J: A lot of the pieces that I’ve seen in league are acting, and they have a 10 minute block in which they cry really really dramatically as someone else, so it’s an acting spiel ... I kind of figured I couldn’t pull off the 10 minute weeping for my dead son thing, so I just kind of went for stand-up comedy.

Jenny Xin




J: It’s mainly just a compilation of the jokes I’ve made in the past 16 years. It’s jokes about my name, my heritage and the place I came from. I moved from New Jersey when I was a freshman, the summer before freshman year. Then there were a lot of things I had to do to adjust, like I had to take the ESL [English as a Second Language] test for one. California is pretty different from New Jersey, so I kind of capitulate upon that in the stand-up comedy, and make fun of what people think of New Jersey and what people think of California. So it’s like an origin story … with bad jokes. V: CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR SNAPCHAT HABIT?

J: My parents are always telling me that I run out of time to do things, so I subscribed to Time Magazine and regularly tell them that I’ve got too much Time on my hands. They also wanted me to get them that annual college map, so I bought a world map, pasted different shapes on top, and glued it to the bathroom wall. I tell them it’s a “collage map.” They’ll probably excommunicate me sometime in the near future. But yeah, I couldn’t figure out what to do with the magazines and the large six-foot world map because I can’t really read, so I figured I might as well do the other thing people usually do with magazines and take ten-second pictures of various Rosetta Stone advertisements that sound a lot like Napoleon’s path to European dominance such as “First, France. Next, the world.” V: HOW DO YOU STAY GROUNDED WITH ALL THIS TWITTER FAME?

J: I have a few yoga-pilate-stretch-barre classes with my publicist and Michelle Obama, a sprinkle of conscious uncoupling exercises with Gwyneth Paltrow, five course meals involving champagne and caviar l’orange mignon parsley cash money a la mode and an entire house on Capitol Hill to keep myself from becoming too rich and famous from my renowned 74-follower Twitter account. It’s really difficult sometimes. I have to tell myself to not immediately drop out of school.

Scan this QR code with your phone and travel to Verde Magazine’s website, now featuring a video of Xin’s full stand-up routine.




MEMORIES Herb Bocksnick flashes a smile as he reminisces about his life growing up.



ÁCIL? OK, CHERUBS, engage,” Herb Bocksnick says to his Geometry and Introduction to Analysis and Calculus classes as they practice solving math problems. With his Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions, high squeals and unique catchphrases, Bocksnick transforms mathematics into a entertaining departure from the monotony of school. Not all teachers can have such a close-knit friendship with their students and not all teachers refer to their students as “cherubs” — after all, not everyone can be a “Bocksnick.” Montana born-and-bred, Bocksnick never imagined living in California, let alone for 16 years. Hailing from a family of teachers, Bocksnick entered the mathematics teaching program at the University of Montana; however, he encountered a major obstacle near the end of his senior year at college. “Nobody [in Montana high schools] was hiring [teachers] that could only teach math; [teachers] had to teach multiple subjects,” Bocksnick says. After deciding to check out the California section on a whim, Bocksnick was 60

relieved to discover the demand for math Bocksnick attributes his famous Spanteachers in California high schools. Despite ish catchphrases to his experience of teachhis love for his home state, he decided to ing in Spanish. Aside from Spanish, Bockmove to California with his wife. snick claims that his humorous sentences “As long as I have my wife with me, come from watching movies and stand-up I don’t really care where [I teach],” Bock- comedians. The integration of life stories snick says. and student nicknaming in his teaching Before comstyle allow Bocking to Palo Alto snick to maintain High School, he “At the end of the day, math and a relaxing learnspent 12 years education is important, but the ing environment. teaching at San Di“He [Bockmost important thing is relaego High School snick] is always and Hollister High tionships.” able to engage School, and coach­— Math teacher HerB Bocksnick students in math,” ing football at San says junior Joseph Benito for 10 years. Kao and current He notices a stark difference between the Bocksnick student. “The environment in his atmospheres of Paly and San Benito. class is never tense. ... I probably will hardly “The main difference is that it [San ever find someone like him.” Benito] was a low performing school from Bocksnick tries to create friendships an academic standpoint,” Bocksnick says. with students and stresses the importance “Academic motivation was a bigger part of of connecting with them on a deeper level. my job.” “I really like working with your age In addition to teaching at the two high group because I am able to use humor or schools, Bocksnick taught a bilingual Pre- sarcasm,” Bocksnick says. “At the end of Algebra class that required him to learn the day, mathematics and education [are] Spanish in order to communicate with his important, but the most important thing is students. relationships.” v

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ITH FINALS AND SEMESTER GRADES ON THE LINE, THE END OF ANOTHER SEMESter for a typical high school student comes with a large helping of stress. Palo Alto High School administrators launched a new program that brings therapy dogs on campus every Wednesday in the hopes of helping students cope with their stress and improving overall school climate. According to Paly librarian and therapy dog organizer Rachel Kellerman, the dogs are a great way to improve student mental health. “Animals are not judgemental. They don’t care if you are enduring a boring day [or] didn’t do well on a test,” Kellerman says. “All they care about is their connection with you in the moment, and if you are looking at them while petting their ears, they love you — it’s as simple as that.” Below are three of the popular dogs that come to Paly. v




Thane, a loving 7-month-old yellow Labrador Retriever, is a guide-dog-intraining. Thane loves the outdoors and is extremely active, keeping his owner Tracie on her toes. He has been with Tracie, who also raised his father, since he was eight weeks old. Tracie hopes that Thane will one day become a successful working dog to help someone in need. Although Tracie does not know Thane well yet, she says that Thane’s father went as far as to stop a possible gang fight when Tracie’s daughter took him to her high school and went between the gangs with the dog. According to Tracie, one of the group members said, “Stand back, he’s wearing his colors. He’s going to help a brother with no vision.” Though Thane still has a lot to learn, he shows great promise.

Kaia, a calm and content 5-year-old Miniature Goldendoodle from Iowa who loves head rubs and chasing bubbles, is a recently certified Canine Good Citizen therapy dog. Because Kaia is not certified as a higher level therapy dog, she cannot participate in all therapy dog programs but is still able to visit Paly. To obtain certification from the American Kennel Club, Kaia and her owner Gwen had to complete a rigorous training program, Paly was the first place they came to do therapy together. According to Gwen, Paly is a good environment for both her and Kaia to learn in. Gwen knew Kaia would be a successful therapy dog because of her energy and friendliness. For her, just having Kaia around makes for a less stressful environment.

Lois, a friendly mix of Golden Retriever and Labrador, is training to work with people who have disabilities other than blindness. According to her trainer Joanne, Lois is learning how to open doors, pick things up and turn on lights. After completing her time with Joanne, Lois will go to Santa Rosa for six months, where her future occupation will be decided by a professional. The possibilities for Lois’ future are endless: she could be a hearing dog, a helping hand for someone in a wheelchair, or even an aid for autistic children. One of Joanne’s previous dogs became a courthouse dog that specializes in helping young victims of crime. “When kids are interviewed … the dog will be in the room,” Joanne says. “Sometimes they [the kids] are afraid to talk … so they’ll end up talking to the dog.”





ITH LESS THAN 20 minutes left before midnight, I scan the laundromat at 3894 El Camino Real and notice a glowing red handprint on the front window, as if someone had highfived the premises in the after-euphoria of clean laundry. As I walk closer to get a better look at it, I realize that the red hue is only a reflection of the glowing “OPEN” sign, and that the handprint is actually colored a filmy, ghost gray — like the residue of dried soap. At the time, all I saw was the red handprint, gleaming bright and steady despite the

gray that lay underneath. But in reality, the handprint existed as a coalescence of multiple colors. This moment, in my mind, stands as a reminder of the people I met that night: a unique mixture — much like the combination of the smell of fresh laundry and smoke — of an underlying feeling of hope despite a murky or difficult past. At 10:30 p.m., I had left my house to go on an adventure — but the final destination was not a house party or a school roof. Instead, carrying a heavy basket of laundry, two grocery bags of snacks and a picnic mat, I headed out

with three other staff writers to camp out at the local laundromat. The location in question: Pacific Breeze Laundromat until its 2 a.m. closure, followed by Happy Donuts until we can no longer stay awake. The objective: Explore Palo Alto after dark and take a glimpse into the minds and lives of others who visit the premises during the witching hours. We stepped through the glass door of the laundromat around 11:20 p.m., and soon realized that we were completely out of our league — like 10-yearold kids camping for the first time, we had a large stash of food and nourish63

FOLDING Around 2 a.m., Arturo Wolf, a Papa John’s employee, folds his clothes. Wolf enjoys his job, despite that it necessitates that he does laundry at this late hour. “Tomorrow’s going to be the same all over again: wake up, get up, go to work,” Wolf says. ments along with a dangerous case of the giggles. A few people milled about, without batting an eye at our misfit baggage, but we soon drew their glances as we spread out our picnic mat in the corner. In a lastditch attempt to go incognito, I mirrored the other patrons and loaded billows of pink and green bed linens into one of the many washing machines lining the walls of the room. The adventure was off to a slow start. The TV blared Honda Civic commercials while the washing and drying machines spun for an eternity, their whirring setting the monotonous tone of the midnight shift — anonymous passersby would come and go, quietly loading their laundry without exchanging a single word. At first, several of my attempts to approach fellow patrons were shut down, but eventually I met a confident, boisterous woman who was once in jail, a man who works more than 14 hours a day at Papa John’s and a homeless man who eloquently performed the words of an inspirational poem. The appearances of these people, much like the handprint, may fluctuate based on the moment — 64

past, present or future — but what unites them is how their past experiences, present actions and future dreams converge into their own unique stories. What follows are the findings and experiences of a journey, undertaken by three other staff-writers and I, to get at least a glimpse into the lives of those who we might not have encountered otherwise. The Past and Present While I scan the room, searching for subjects to be interviewed, 26-year-old Reyna Chavez brings in the wafting smell of smoke as she plops down on a countertop, clad in a leather jacket and hair pulled back by a red barrett. “It’s fun, huh?” Chavez asks. “A project snooping out at the laundromat? … But yeah, it’s just weird.” When we take Chavez’s picture, her smile brightens, her eyes twinkle and her back straightens — according to her, it feels like she’s in Hollywood. “My name is Reyna … in Spanish it means queen,” she says. Arturo Wolf also thinks that it is late

for teens to be out. I ask him where he works and he responds, “Come on, come on” and vigorously points at the red, white and green “Papa John’s” logo on his shirt. The two of us concur that it’s hard to think at 1:42 a.m. But despite the hour, people are willing to lend a few words to our eager ears. Chavez, who went to school in East Palo Alto, tells us about how she began to skip class in fifth grade and never graduated from middle school. Despite the fact that she went to Juvenile Hall and got kicked out of Woodside High School for beating up a girl, she appears approachable and confident, full of both hope and an awareness of the socioeconomic divide in our community. When she was around 14, Chavez got a taste of the “life of a white, rich kid” — for a year and a half, she lived in a group home in Southern California and fell in love with the picturesque lifestyle there, in front of a backdrop of vast mountains and opulent houses. “So there’s another life, you know, besides the life that goes on over there, on the


WAITING Reyna Chavez, 26, waits for her aunt’s laundry. Chavez is currently working on getting her GED to get back on her feet, after doing time in prison. She has a 6-year-old daughter, whom she says is very smart. “I love my baby,” Chavez says, “She’s cute.” other side of the freeway,” she says. “And I want it, you know? I want to try it out.” Later, with a combination of apparent resignation and lack of surprise, Chavez mentions her plans to visit her friend tomorrow, whom she heard was shot in the head. I don’t know how to respond. According to Chavez, Child Protective Services often take her friends’ kids away when their parents go to jail or commit crimes, like auto or identity theft. But Chavez, who now lives in Redwood City, is currently working on getting her GED and turning her life around for her 6-year-old, “pure pure pink” daughter Eileen. “She [my daughter] doesn’t know nothing else either but negative,” Chavez says. “She doesn’t like rap, she doesn’t like the hood ... she wants to be away from it. [She] ... wants the other life that we see on TV ... you know?” For her, the “other life” is the one portrayed in children’s TV shows “Even Stevens” and “Austin & Ally.” Although I do not possess an appreciation for the overly-boppy atmosphere of modern Disney

Channel, I realize that its strange, color-saturated world isn’t as far-off of a portrayal of my life as it could be. Also a witness of the unsaturated real world, Wolf, a driver for Papa John’s, observes the street every day. Wolf was raised in Mexico and moved to the United States 20 years ago, learning English through school. He plans to go back to Mexico, but for the moment remains in a daily routine in Silicon Valley. At the Papa John’s in San Jose, he starts work at 10 a.m. and gets off around 5 p.m., then heads to the Papa John’s next door to the laundromat to work from 5:15 until as late as 2 or 2:30 a.m. “I like my job because I’m always out,” Wolf says. “I see people, I see money, I see many things. You know, if you are inside the store, nothing happens.” As he speaks, he snaps a shirt out like the crack of a whip before beginning to fold it against his leg. Looking Back and Moving Forward Later, at Happy Donuts, we meet Kenny Bush, a 56-year-old man with a slow, earnest voice that possesses the consisten-

cy of molasses mixed with soft, rumbling gravel. The dim lights, aroma of hot oil and warm atmosphere of Happy Donuts seem to fade away into the night as I stand in front of him, captivated by his poetry: For you are that one who comforts when doubt and fear comes near / For you are no disgrace to the human race / … You never question my fear, you have only been very dear / You are my night and shining stars — Bush looks at his hand and raises it up toward the ceiling in one fluid motion — that which brightens up the lights from dark morning nights. According to Bush, his poems and songs are inspired by past experiences. He used to live in Solano County, but now, living in the heart of Silicon Valley, he finds many more opportunities to recuperate and get back on his feet. “Being homeless out there, you have to find a way to escape from that county in Solano because the police’ll arrest you for sitting at the bus stop,” Bush says. “Out here, you can get on the 22 line and ride all night.” He chuckles. “And then nobody has to know your business. ” Bush says that he grew up with a fa65

REFLECTING Poet and songwriter Kenny Bush, 56, believes in helping others form a foundation in their life, alluding to a person climbing a building amid the blowing wind. “The first blows might be devastating,” Bush says. “The second blow might be a little bit more, but less.The third might even come to the same trauma, but yet you got more sense to know how to deal with it.The fourth, pfft. Oh no, you can’t hit me like you used to. I don’t even feel it no more.” ther who was sometimes overly demanding and aggressive, making it hard for him to maintain his self-esteem. He struggled to find the real Kenny Bush beneath a wave of derogatory names, but eventually gathered the guts to stand up to his father. “That’s how I learned to have self respect, ‘cause I fought to get back my dignity,” Bush says. “He couldn’t take that from me.” I rub my eyes, and Bush asks, “Are you crying?”, sending waves of hiccup-laughter through the room. I assure him that my eyes are just dry due to limited sleep, but his story does both sadden and inspire me — despite his past, Bush remains positive about the future. He believes that his father’s aggression stemmed from the “toxic waste” of his father’s own childhood, and through his words, he hopes to help others cope with the hardships in their own lives. “I don’t take things — my past experiences, for granted,” Bush says. “Life is a journey. We have an opportunity to ... help others have some insight on the positive 66

things in life, or we could be destructive with it and bring them down, to where they have no foundation of any solid ground.” Chavez, similarly, hopes to rebuild her life — she knows that, due to her past, “statistically” the odds are stacked against her. Despite this, she dreams of a future where she can give foster children a home — a big house like the one she lived in when she was 14 — where she can take care of them all. “It’s hard out here. [I’m] a single parent, my kid doesn’t know her dad and I’m a criminal,” Chavez says. “[But] I’ve been trying to get my life back … I wanna bring them [kids] in, and I want to take care of them … There’s a lot of kids [whose] parents ... don’t give them the acknowledgement and the security that kids need to hear, to feel capable of doing whatever they want to do, like having the courage to stay here all night. You know?” We do not lose courage — hearing the stories of others invigorates us. However, eventually the inevitable desire for sleep

takes over: At 3:22 a.m., we head home, and I mull over the lives, words and hopes we have gathered throughout the evening. Learning about the pasts of others, from Chavez’s childhood and Bush’s father, to glimpsing that present moment in which they are forever captured by my mind and paper, of Wolf whipping shirts with expert efficiency and Bush taking a sip of coffee — these images stay with me. And their futures, still unwritten and yet still tangible as dreams, remain as a source of inspiration and a means of seizing the past, no matter what the content, and using it to create what is to come. We ride home, the air crisp and cool beneath the dark lavender-tinged sky, caught between the end of night and the beginning of day. Last words from Bush echo in my mind. “So take what I said in your own life, because you’re not here for no reason at all,” Bush says. “[Of] my experiences I wouldn’t ever change nothing … your life is important, just like mine.”





RIGID: HI [PERSON]! HOW ARE you? [Person]: Great, etc. How are you? Brigid: I’m great, how are you? Humiliation ensues. When someone asks me how I’m doing, I don’t even take a breath before saying “I’m good, how are you?” — Even if we’ve already gone over how they are. It’s humiliating. But my question is this: why does someone asking me a simple question cause such an abnormal reaction? I, like everyone, am not always great. So why do I always answer that I am? I should just make a mask of a smiling emoji and put it on my face. That’s not too different from lying to everyone about how I feel. Not talking about how we feel is detrimental to our mental health. There’s a simple solution: talk about your feelings. Saying your troubles out loud makes them feel a little more manageable, and prevents awkwardly repeating small talk. Izzy Lloyd, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had a similar idea during this past school year after four of her classmates died by suicide. She created rubber wristbands emblazoned with “TMAYD,” which stands for “Tell Me About Your Day.” Lloyd then noticed an interesting trend among her classmates. “Things just sort of stopped for a week or two and there were people posting on Facebook and sending out emails ... and people were saying, ‘I care, you can come see me,’” she told Priska Neely on National Public Radio. Lloyd wanted to make something physical to convey this same message. She told NPR that 2,500 bracelets are being worn on students’ wrists. “I look at it and I think, ‘OK, I’m gonna stop what I’m doing now and go talk to that girl over there sitting alone,” Lloyd told NPR.

Unfortunately, we don’t all have wristbands reminding us to talk about our feelings. Even with the bracelets, and especially without them, saying what you feel is still scary. Usually I tell myself that other people don’t care about my problems and they have issues of their own. I don’t see the point in subjecting someone else to an uncomfortable two minutes listening to me rattle on about my life, so I try not to shove my feelings down the throat of unsuspecting bystanders. Instead, I choose to move along with my day. As teens, we are taught to not talk too much about ourselves, so it’s understandable that jabbering on about our lives feels uncomfortable. But we all have problems, and we all have feelings. Maybe that’s why we find it so hard — we don’t want to add to the already heavy burden on our friends’ shoulders. I propose a solution. Instead of quietly worrying about our burdens in an attempt to avoid adding to our friends’ baggage, we should worry about our burdens boldly and help support each other’s metaphorical loads. My friend could hold my slipping grade, and I could hold her family drama. I could hand my brother my college financial aid struggles, and he could hand me his problems balancing sports and school. It’s always easier to get up when someone gives you a hand. So go up to a friend and ask them to tell you about their day. But don’t stop at ‘fine’ or ‘good.” Get real answers. After that, tell them about your day and don’t be afraid to be honest. Now, I’m not pretending to be some sort of allknowing genius. Just like everyone else, I’m a work in progress. But maybe we’d all progress a little faster if we didn’t have to deal with it all by ourselves. Give your friends a hand, and let them give you theirs. So, how are you doing, really? v JUST SMILE Brigid shows what it feels like to lie about her emojis — wait — emotions. 67







WELVE YEARS AND NINE MONTHS AGO, I bounced around my house, eagerly trying on my purple polka dot backpack, my mind racing with thoughts of my highly-anticipated first day of kindergarten. I couldn’t wait to meet my teachers, make new friends and, most importantly, learn. Unfortunately, as I grew up and the many stresses of school, college and life piled up, my innate love of learning dwindled. But as a second semester senior, I have found myself rekindling this optimistic attitude that I possessed as a 5-year-old. Now that the pressures of grades and college applications have been lifted, I have realized that elementary-school-me had it right all along: School is a place to learn and explore passions, not to stress and build a resumé. I lost my young, healthy attitude toward school as my academic reality shifted from ungraded projects and historical simulations in elementary school to near-daily quizzes, tests and essays just a few years later. I still loved learning the subject material; the difference was that as a middle and high school student, my intrinsic motivation to learn was buried under seven classes’ worth of rubrics and grades, often making school feel like a prolonged audition for college. In my last semester of high school, I’ve finally escaped the burden of competition. I no longer feel the need to impress anyone or to build a resume, and I’ve discovered whole new layers of personal passion and motivation that were previously overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. I try to exert all my energy in class toward fully engaging with my education, even if it means leaving my beloved colorful notetaking de-


vices in my bag. Now, I go to school because I genuinely want to learn, participate and create. Though my stress level has dramatically decreased, in reality I’m probably doing about the same amount of work as before, and my grades have actually improved. The difference is in my attitude — I’m living in the present, and I feel more like I’m choosing to work and learn rather than “needing” to succeed for college and my future. I’m more efficient with my work, since I don’t waste time stressing out in an exhausted state of unproductivity. I’m sleeping more, devoting more time to extracurriculars, cultivating deeper relationships with my friends and family, and even learning how to cook. In short, I’m happier than ever, and at virtually no cost. Sadly, I know I was not alone in my struggle to maintain a positive outlook on school. Everywhere we turn, it seems like everyone is talking about college. Earlier this year, my seventh grade brother showed me a list of the schools he thinks he plans to apply to in five years. And with plummeting college acceptance rates, it seems nearly impossible to avoid getting trapped by the feeling that everyone around you is your competition, and that you must come out on top. I admit that though I certainly wish my high school years were less stressful, I can’t say that I know exactly what I’d do differently if I had a second chance. It’s a sad reality that traditional academic “success” in our future-focused culture nearly necessitates stress and an unhealthy lifestyle, and seeing as I cannot look into my future, I can’t say either way whether it was all worth it. Still, this final semester offered the unique chance to take a step back and savor the present rather than obsess over the future, and I know that I’m happier than ever. Going into college next year, I recognize many of the same emotions that I felt on that night before my first day of school. It’s inevitable that I’ll eventually slip back into periods of stress and anxiety about the future, but I always want to remember how at peace I feel in this moment, on the cusp of the end of my childhood and the beginning of the rest of my life. Maybe it’s time to break out my purple polka dot backpack. v


every body is a bikini body



S SUMMER NEARS, I, like many other girls, begin to ready myself for bikini season. Some of the aspects of my preparation are similar to the average girl’s: I break out my razor from hibernation, find my bikini underneath a pile of forgotten summer clothes and whip out my SPF foundation. But that’s honestly where the similarity ends. While other girls are doing five minute workouts, drinking kale smoothies or trying out the newest diet, I’m bracing myself for what’s to come. Because if you’re a fat girl in a bikini, you’re in for a lot of crap. On the beaches, on the pool deck, near other bodies of water, people won’t hesitate to tell you that you “don’t necessarily have a bikini body.” Because according to them, in order to wear a functional piece of swimwear, you have to fit a certain image. But society’s obsession with the thin and sexy stretches far past bikini season. According to a study by the Schools Health Education Unit in 2013, girls begin to worry about their weight starting at age 10. I’m one of those millions of girls. It has been a struggle for me to love my body. That journey was hard, but what comes next is harder. Because being fat with self-love? Society is not OK with that.

So here we are. I’m fat, I’m pissed and I have a really cool bikini. Regardless of what the scale says, regardless of the doctors and regardless of the thinspiration blogs, you don’t have to be in perfect “shape” all the time. Being in shape is not a prerequisite for not hating yourself. If you love your body and wear what makes you happy, then you’re healthy. Because hating yourself ? That’s definitely not healthy. If you also want to lose weight, that’s OK too. I’m fat ­­— not just curvy in the right places — and in today’s day and age, fat isn’t beautiful. To me, fat is just a way to describe my body and my weight. It doesn’t mean I’m ugly, it doesn’t mean I’m out of shape; it means I’m overweight, and that descriptive fact should not be derogatory. I love my body, but that fact is the issue that causes the most contention. When I tell people that I’m OK with the way that I look, they’re shocked. They try to talk me out of it. Because while people may spout “self love,” they still do not like fat. Oftentimes, people’s unwillingness to accept overweight people comes from concern about their health. People think that if a fat person hates their appearance, they’ll be more motivated to lose weight. And while fat women may

be more likely to have certain health risks, those risks are exacerbated by society’s prejudice against fat people. According to an article published by CNN in 2010, studies show that women get lesser quality medical care if they are 20 or more pounds overweight. And when 70 million American women are overweight, it’s a big problem. For example, researchers at Rice University and the University of Texas found that as a patient’s weight increased, doctors reported wanting to help their patient less. “Our culture has ... negativity toward overweight people, and doctors aren’t immune,” Harvard Professor Jerome Groopman says to CNN. “If doctors have negative feelings toward patients, they’re dismissive ... and it can cloud their judgment.” It is plain and simple: society needs to stop telling fat women to hate themselves. The inherent health risks that people seem so concerned about when I tell them I like my body don’t come from my acceptance of myself, but from the fact that others can’t seem to accept me. And sure, maybe I do have a higher risk of getting diabetes, but that doesn’t justify body shaming. This summer, when I’m spending time at the beach, I’ll wear my bikini with pride. Once you accept your body and love yourself, the rest will fall into place. v


TI em






BOUT THREE MONTHS BEFORE MY 18th birthday, I was struck by a terrifying revelation: “Oh my god,” I whispered to myself in horror. “I only have, like, 90 days to become a child prodigy.” Never mind that the cut-off age for child geniuses is actually 10 years old; I just wanted to be like the teens in the news. Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Prize at age 17, eighth grader Shubham Banerjee in San Jose has his own startup company producing Braille printers and Kelly Shi . . . well, she’ll come up with something eventually. Ever since I was little, I have always believed I would do “something great.” I wasn’t exactly sure what that something was, but I figured it would be more impressive if I somehow got it done before becoming a legal adult. Now, at the age of 18, I have yet to make an appearance in the national news. Even though my expectations for myself have become more realistic, they aren’t any easier to accomplish. My confidence in my ability to succeed in life has created self-expectations that I struggle to live up to. This self-confidence first reared its overachieving head when I moved to Palo Alto in the third grade and walked around town with my mother, exploring the new neighborhood. “When I grow up,” my eight-year-old self proclaimed, “I will buy a whole block of houses on Waverley St.” I planned to live in seven different mansions, one for each day of the week.


This overwhelming confidence in my future self ’s financial security eventually translated into more realistic goals, such as “I will make lots of friends,” “I will get good grades” and “I will convince my parents to buy me a fish.” But somewhere along my coming-of-age process, my confident “I will” statements transformed into expectant “I have to” assertions. The positive “I will get an A on this test” from freshman year morphed into the almost frantic junior year chant of “I have to get an A on this test.” And although the pressure to get accepted into a “good” college contributed to this sudden change in mindset, I found that the expectations I had for myself played the biggest role in trapping me into a constant state of overachievement. My high self-standards even came to determine how I would spend my leisure time, and I’d find myself “having” to accomplish relatively unnecessary feats. Because I had read 100 books during my spare time in sophomore year, I also had to meet my reading goal of 100 books junior year, despite a significantly heavier workload. And since I had made my friends laugh with a funny anecdote, I had to come up with a funnier story for the next time I saw them. But January came, and I was 62 books short of my goal. Many of my laugh-out-loud punchlines fell flat, and I experienced disappointment after disappointment as I consistently asked too much of myself and fell short of my great self-expectations. I’m positive that as I realized it was impossible to juggle 100 books and Honors English readings, many other people were also failing to meet their own self-set goals. And I hope that they have also learned that dreaming big is not the problem. Although it has taken many hits over the years, my confidence is still strongly declaring that I will be rich enough to buy out a block of Waverley by the mere age of 30. The only change is that I have enough self-awareness to acknowledge the overachieving nature of my personal goals. My multimillion dollar purchase may not ever happen, nor is it even relatively important to my future happiness, but it’s still nice to dream while keeping my limitations in mind. I’ve begun to check the unrealistic nature of my confident way of thinking, and accept that it’s okay if I don’t meet my extravagant self-expectations. It’s okay to not stand out from my peers, who already have set the bar defining what is “normal” very high. Even though I didn’t and never will earn the title of Child Prodigy, and even though my “something great” has yet to manifest, I still like to believe that I will graduate from Paly and accomplish a feat worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. And on the off chance that I don’t — well, that’s OK too. v

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Profile for Verde Magazine

Verde Volume 16 Issue 5  

Verde Volume 16 Issue 5