The Mirror | SPRING 2024

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SECTIONS CURRENT EVENTS 3 LIFESTYLE 9 OPINION 18 ENTERTAINMENT 28 ATHLETICS 40 SPRING 2024 | Van Nuys High School | Van Nuys, California Battling Suppression Student-run publications continue to face censorhip from administrators. CURRENT EVENTS 6 Evolving Genres Modern hip hop is moving into an experimental, unconventional direction, captivating listeners. ENTERTAINMENT 28 Chasing Championships Girls basketball team lands second place at city championship finals. ATHLETICS 43 THE MIRROR PHOTOS BY JALYN BAUTISTA; PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY BRIANNA ALVARADO PAGE 24 | ENESPAÑOLPÁGINA 26 How safe are our scHools? How safe are our scHools? How safe are our scHools?
Armenians have been wronged. It’s time to talk about it.

To me, Artsakh is Armenia. Most Armenians would agree. Yet in recent years, this has been a controversial opinion.

The Republic of Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, is a small breakaway state that borders Armenia and Azerbaijan. 95% of the population is ethnic Armenian. After the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, Artsakh declared itself an independent political unit.

This caused an uproar in Azerbaijan and as a result, they launched a military invasion of Artsakh. From 1918-1920, Azerbaijan carried out violence and massacres against the Armenian population, aided by military units from its closest ally, Turkey. In 1921, Artsakh was forced to submit to Azerbaijani administration, leading to a century of destruction and horror for the Armenian people. Armenians have always had to fight for their right to live. This is made clear by the war waged against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

Over 1.5 million people were killed in the Armenian Genocide, and the rest were turned into slaves or people who no longer had a place to call home. The same is happening today, but this time the Azerbaijanis are trying to do it.

In 2021, for the first time in history, a president of the United States recognized the Armenian Genocide.

Student Voices

As an Armenian American how have the ongoing conflicts in Armenia had an impact on you? From the 1915 genocide in the Ottoman Empire to rekindled strife in Artsakh, generational conflicts have had significant ramifications on the Armenian community. But the shockwaves reach far beyond those living in the midst of clashesArmenian-Americans, many of whom have family in their home country, follow developments in the Caucasus with bated breaths. Handling heartbreaking news about their homeland proves to be devastating.

“Armenian Americans are a vital part of the fabric of the U.S.,” President Joe Biden said. “Even as they continue to carry with them the tragic knowledge of what their ancestors endured. We recognize their pain and honor their story.”

In response to a similar statement made in 2023, Turkey’s dictator President Erdoğan was angered, saying it wasn’t a politician’s place to speak about history. The Turkish foreign minister dismissed Biden’s statement, claiming it was an “attempt by political charlatans to distort history.”

Just like that, people forgot that Biden ever mentioned us.

Noting how little support there was for Armenians during the Armenian Genocide, even Hitler thought he could get away with exterminating an entire race.

“Who after all is today speaking about the destruction of the Armenians?” asked the architect of the Jewish Holocaust.

When asked what America is doing for Armenia and Artsakh, U.S. voices remain silent. When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, escalating an ongoing conflict, the U.S. sent more than $75 billion to Ukraine. But the U.S. has only given $28 million in aid to Artsakh over the last four years.

“Our wounds are still open” is a very common saying that Armenians have repeated over the years. The phrase is accurate on a level that only Armenians can understand. Our great-great-grandparents were hurt, and we feel their pain.

“I have lost a lot of people. Even if we won the land, there aren’t any happy memories left. Being born Armenian is a great pride. I’m proud of my country’s legends and people who supported my motherland. I always try to help my friends who aren’t Armenian understand what’s going on right now in Armenia. The media only talks about Ukraine and Palestine, but in my opinion, Armenia is in even worse condition. They kill people without warning and shoot Armenian military positions everyday.”

“My ancestors felt the genocide. The Turks tried to kill them, and in order to escape, they changed their place of residence to Russia. I feel the longing of living in Armenia. Being Armenian is a great honor because Armenians have always been united and shown great companionship. I feel very terrible about the fact that the war is not being talked about. It is very hurtful to not only me, but every Armenian.”

‘‘ Oh, Armenian people, your only salvation lies in the power of your unity.”
Armenian poet and writer Yeghishe Charents

We feel the anger surrounding how our people and land are being destroyed, and we feel the sadness that we cannot do anything about it.

Every year on April 24, American Armenians protest for recognition and to seek justice for the Armenian Genocide. They do this to attract media coverage. They partially achieve their goal, but the news only lasts for the day, if not for a couple hours.

The L.A. Times made a heartbreaking parallel between Armenians fleeing the most recent conflict and the Armenians fleeing the 1915 Genocide. My heart absolutely shattered reading it, yet its truth was undeniable.

“It echoes photography documenting death marches across the Syrian desert during the 1915 Armenian genocide, proof of forcible expulsion and ethnic cleansing,” the L.A. Times reporter wrote.

“Within the next 25 years there will be no state of Armenia in the South Caucasus,” the Azerbaijani defense minister said in 2004.

Armenians have been threatened with extinction for a long time, but to blatantly say that by 2030 Armenia will be gone is crazy. How are we supposed to ever be free if this threat forever looms over our heads?

Artsakh is at war. The homes, the people and the culture are being destroyed. Another piece of us is gone. In 2023, the president of Nagorno-Karabakh signed a decree to dissolve all state institutions. After three years of war, getting nowhere and sending young soldiers to their death because they wanted to protect their motherland, Artsakh was forced to surrender. We gave up because the world couldn’t help us.

Now my people must weep like our ancestors did.

“The border crisis has been very heartbreaking for me and my family. If the world wasn’t so quiet about it, we would’ve still had our land. The biggest slap in the face was when Biden recognized the genocide but then decided to donate weapons to Azerbaijan. Most of my friends didn’t know what was going on until I told them. Many people still don’t know what went on. It felt like we were screaming but no one heard us because the world had better plans.”

“It definitely brings negativity into our daily lives, because it is always on our minds. We are always stressing about the Armenian citizens, and it really traces back to the Armenian Genocide. The genocide changed the structure of Armenia, our homeland, because much of our land was lost. If we want to revisit, we wouldn’t feel safe because of the ongoing conflict. People are hearing about Ukraine and Palestine, but for Armenia there isn’t really much recognition. I really dont think it’s equitable to Armenians.”

| SPRING 2024 the MIRROR
Gagik FreshmanAleksanyan THE MIRROR | PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY GIANNA IOVINO Hrayr FreshmanMovsisian Anait JuniorAtkozyan NOT FORGOTTEN The Armenian Genocide still lives on in memory, with the saying “our wounds are still open” resonating among generations of Armenians. In 2021, President Joe Biden officially recognized the event.


AP EXAMS | After a year of working towards finishing their curricula, AP students will take their respective AP Exams in the span of two weeks in May. These exams test students’ knowledge that they have gained throughout the prior two semesters, generally through both a multiple-choice section and a free-response section. AP Exams will be administered nationwide from 8:00 a.m. until roughly 4:00 p.m. depending on the time each student takes the test between May 6-10 and May 13-17. Students are designated to take their exams on the date they are administered on campus. However, if they provide a valid excuse, students may reschedule their AP Exams for a later date. Exam scores are graded on a scale from one through five and will be released in the middle of July.

MATH CAMP | AP Statistics and AP Calculus students will be attending Math Camp from April 26-28. Students will be spending three days at camp to prepare for their upcoming AP Exams, tackling review assignments and completing practice tests. The cost of the trip, accommodations and food is $260 for each student who attends. Many have lowered their cost by fundraising. Throughout the year, students have been given the chance to sell World’s Finest Chocolate for $1 per candy bar. Each box that they sell deducts $25 from their total costs.

SBAC & I-READY | The SBAC will take place from April 22 through May 24, and the i-Ready is set to occur from April 15 until June 5. While there is a possibility that seniors will be exempt from the i-Ready, all students will be taking the SBAC. The i-Ready will test students comprehensively for their academic progress throughout the years, while the SBAC will ensure that students have learned and understood the necessary material for their grade levels. These exams will test students on math and English and will inform them of their academic standing for these subjects, according to the California Smarter Balanced Assessment and the California Common Core Standards.

CAST TESTING | While also spending two weeks on SBAC and i-Ready testing, juniors will be required to take the California Science Test (CAST). The test is primarily to guage students’ science knowledge and problem-solving skills. It assesses students’ standing on performance expectations between ninth and twelfth grade. Administered by the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), the assessment will be administered on May 22 with a makeup test scheduled for the following day.

COLLEGE & CAREER DAY | During lunch on May 30, a College and Career Day event will take place to celebrate and send off seniors. Clubs will present tri-fold posters promoting careers and colleges, and guest speakers from various universities and the military will be in attendance. Career experts will speak on behalf of their institutions in an attempt to recruit and inspire students.

MIRRORS REMOVED | The mirrors in the girls’ bathrooms have been removed by administration for a couple of months now and despite much opposition, they haven’t been replaced. Their removal is mostly due to the large number of girls either being late to class or skipping altogether to spend time in the bathroom. The tactic has decreased the number of students in the bathrooms before and during class.

Back to reality: Your dream college might not be the right fit for you

Dreams are a great thing to have. But sometimes they don’t align with reality.

Many students yearn to be accepted by Ivy League institutions.

“There are many students who shop for a name-brand school,” Ms. Mary Banks, a college admissions officer from Quad Education, said. “Everybody wants to go to Harvard but not everybody is going to get into Harvard.”

Out of the multitude of those who do apply, most don’t get in. The acceptance rate for Ivy Leagues is between 2.5% and 9% and no matter how much you want to believe that you’re one in a million, you may not be part of that bracket.

Not all dreams come true and in college admissions, your chances of acceptance are based on the reality of your situation, not what you wish for. Seniors need to realize that this is real life, not a fairytale.

Ms. Banks explains that the first years of college for any student are always an eye-opening experience. Students receive a new type of freedom; for some, it might be detrimental to their success. Going to a twoyear community college to get comfortable with the routine of a college education might be more progressive.

She says that it’s safer to make mistakes in a community college where the stakes and tuition are lower.

While it is not a path that many find ideal, it’s a path that many students take. Around 32% of high school graduates in California enroll in a California Community College and Ms. Banks insists that there’s nothing wrong with that.

“I think we have to encourage young people to have an open mind and to know that even if they go to a two-year community college, they can always transfer to a four-year

ROCKY ROAD A collage of pamphlets for colleges across the state. For many students, going to a prestigious universtiy is a dream of theirs. However, the path to college can be overwhelming.

school, saving themselves money,” she said.

When considering a dream college, it’s also important for one to understand their financial situation.

“Parents need to be honest with their students about financial situations,” Banks said. “It’s the family situation that has to come first. Over two years, you’ll be working and doing summer work, and then maybe you’ll be able to consider transferring to a more expensive school.”

Ms. Banks stresses that if this necessary conversation is not had, it can be detrimental to students and their families.

“You’ll graduate overwhelmed wtih debt,” she said. “It’ll take you a long time to make up for the debt that some students incur.”

The next step is figuring out how to make your dream school see you as their dream student. You want to go to a college that will aid you in your quest for a career, and the college wants someone who can benefit both their pockets and their reputation.

“It isn’t just about one test, it isn’t just about your GPA, it’s about what you will bring to the cohort, to the group of admitted students,” Ms. Banks said. “What are you

‘‘ One of my friends is the director of admissions at Dartmouth. He denies admissions to at least 500 valedictorians a year.”
College admissions officer Ms. Mary Banks

going to do while you’re on campus? How are you going to make the University you’re applying to a better place? Will you help make a difference on campus?”

Universities want to know who their applicants are and why these applicants are interested in their institution.

“You have to start thinking about who you are as a person and what you’re going to bring to the table,” she said. “You need that unique perspective in your college essays because colleges want unique individuals.”

If you keep dreaming about who you wish you were, your perception of who you are will be tainted, making it difficult to accurately present yourselves to universities.

If you set yourself apart from other applicants, even with not-so-perfect standardized test scores, you might stand a chance. Your grades cannot be the only thing defining who you are, Ms. Banks emphasizes.

“One of my friends is the director of admissions at Dartmouth,” she said. “He denies admission to at least 500 valedictorians a year.”

Your ability to let a college know how wonderful you are has a significant influence on your chances of admission.

“Most programs, either overtly or subtly, are looking for students who want to make the world a better place,” Ms. Banks said. “Those who want to change the world, who aren’t happy with the status quo. Not rebels without a cause, but students who believe in the causes they are fighting for.”

While there’s no specific recipe for guaranteed admission, the best way to ensure you are being noticed in the sea of thousands of applicants is to clearly signify how you want to make a global impact.

“Schools don’t want followers, they want leaders,” Ms. Banks said. “They want somebody who’s going to make a difference on campus and in the classroom, not someone who’s raising their hand to say irrelevant things, but someone who’s going to be able to take the discussion in a direction and positively influence their classmates. The college application process forces us to really come to terms with who we are.”


A FORCE FOR GOOD Human Rights Watch


Student Task Force fights for a greener future

In the heart of the fight for human rights, student involvement is often overlooked.

“Thinking back to when I was in high school, I didn’t get a lot of human rights education,” Emily Steidl said.

Having been a part of leadership and advocacy programs since she was in high school, Steidl is passionate about empowering the new generation to make change in their communities.

She currently serves as a Human Rights Watch Student Task Force (STF) youth program assistant. Supporting student involvement in human rights advocacy, she works with seven of 25 STF schools in California to amplify youth voices on subjects relating to human rights violations and social justice.

“The program was created because they wanted students to know how to have a voice regarding these issues,” Steidl said. “They’re the future generation that’s going to be working to solve these issues and bring about change. The purpose of the creation of the STF was to give students a voice and help them to kind of

understand what they can do to make change.”

Unlike other clubs which may have limited ilocal impacts, STF’s ambitious projects are a testament to its commitment to making tangible, reverberating impacts.

“Schools are one of the biggest energy consumers within a community, so some schools in the state are working on transitioning their entire campus to 100% renewable energy,” Steidl said. “Obviously, this is kind of a big project and that takes a lot of time. But some schools are definitely starting to work on that, with solar being one of the biggest considerations right now. It begins with working with the administration to see that they’re implementing these practices over a certain timeframe.”

The STF at this school is equally as impactful, preparing to orchestrate a tent event campaign to highlight the intersection between human rights and climate change. This in-school event will specifically address how using nonrenewable energy strips marginalized communities of access to basic needs by polluting air and water.

“We’re planning an event for Earth Day coming up where we’ll set up an info tent

and have teachers take their students there to learn about how the climate crisis directly affects people in impoverished areas,” STF Club President Dwayne Famenia said.

With initiatives stretching far beyond local boundaries, some STF schools are working to make an international impact to show their commitment to global human rights. They are determined to engage in activities such as collecting signatures for their causes.

“As for the immigration situation on the southern border, some of these schools have also worked to collect petition signatures to end deadly deterrence policies on the border,” Steidl said. “They’re working to make crossing the border much safer for people who are migrants or seeking asylum. Some of those schools that have collected signatures will also be going to deliver them to their Congress members, and that’s going to be happening over the next couple of months. They’ll bring those signatures in and hopefully see that petitions are put to good use and help with enacting policies that protect immigrants.”

While the real-world results that STF clubs have outside of their campuses are imperative in the fight for human rights, Steidl states that education within schools is also a crucial step in making a difference.

“Getting this education about human rights on campuses teaches students about the world they live in, what their rights are and how to advocate for themselves,” Steidl said. “I

LAUSD searches for recycling alternatives

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) will no longer provide recycling services for LAUSD schools. This leaves recycling measures up to the district to find a private company to do so.

“For schools, we have our own trash system,” Assistant Principal Ms. Anabel Bonney said. “The city is saying that LAUSD has to have its own recycling system.”’

This means that on top of the budget cuts that the school has had over recent years, now the district is also expected to fund a new recycling company.

“The city’s blue recycling bins are intended for homes and are no longer for schools,” Ms. Bonney said.

This is because the recycling bins are for homeowners with minimal waste, unlike schools with large populations. The

responsibility of seperating items into bins now falls on custodians.

Placing emphasis on the importance of recycling, the school uses recycled water and wood chips from cut-down trees to provide nutrients for the garden.

The LAUSD website claims to reduce Water Consumption by 20% by 2024 from 2014. This is one of the goals that LAUSD is working towards, accounting for the reason that our school uses recycled water to water the grass on the quad.

“There are signs on the faucets that say to not drink this water because it is recycled water which helps us maintain our school’s greenery,” Ms. Bonney said.

The school does not currently have a recycling method for recyclables other than paper.

Although there is no club currently on campus that focuses on promoting the recycling of plastic bottles and more recyclable mediums, Ms. Bonney says that the school will continue to do its best to recycle despite the limitations imposed by the city.


Some schools in the state are working on transitioning their entire campus to 100% renewable energy.”

Youth program assistant Ms. Emily Steidl

think while their schools are doing really cool things like transitioning to renewable energy or collecting signatures for policy changes, one of the biggest impacts that can be made is just educating people and just making sure people are aware of the rights that they have and how they can be leaders and how they can be activists.”

An emphasis on education and improvement constitutes the core of STF’s approach, not only preparing young people to face worldwide obstacles but also fostering a mindset that actively seeks solutions for these challenges.

“You’re never too young to make a change and to be involved in advocacy in general,” Steidl said. “If you want to be an advocate for whatever the cause may be, it’s important that you learn the skills to be able to do it. That’s what STF does. It equips and empowers students to have those leadership skills to then be able to go and feel empowered.”

SCALING BACK The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) will no longer provide recycling services to schools.

COURTESY EMILY STEIDL Task Force (STF) allows high schoolers in California to amplify their voices on human rights issues. The school’s STF is focusing on how climate change impacts human rights in marginalized communities. School buses park under solar panels, which are sources of alternative energy.

Newly revised graduation speech policy aims to bring new voices to the stage

In previous years, a select few of the highest academic achievers were allowed the opportunity to give a graduation speech. However, a change in policy now allows nearly any student who has made satisfactory academic progress to apply to give a graduation speech, considerably broadening the scope of people who can seize the opportunity.

“In my past experience, many of the valedictorians did not really want to give a speech,” Assistant Principal Mr. Marc Strassner said. “It became very difficult to get kids to come and do the speech writing process and the rehearsal process.“

The policy was implemented in the 2022-23 school year.

“Last year we had a boy who immigrated here who gave a speech, and it made a lot of students in the audience cry because he put so much effort and emotion into it,” Mr. Strassner said. “I think I continued this program because of his speech.”

Mr. Strassner is trying to foster an approach that not only yields better speeches, but also streamlines the preparation process for involved administrators.

“There have been challenges in previous years, especially in convincing students, ” Mr. Strassner said. “Some students benefit from all the programs a school offers, but when it’s time for the school to call on them to do something in return, they can’t be bothered.”

The success of the new policy’s implementation has cultivated a sense of belonging and allowed students to hear from peers who have undergone similar experiences.

Thanks to the diverse array of perspectives now amplified at graduation ceremonies, students are much more engaged and attentive when listening to speakers. Assistant Principal Ms. Maria Cristina Phillips echoes this notion.

“I would say that of all the years that I’ve been here in my 20 years and attending graduations, last year’s speeches were the best,” she said. “Sitting close to the stage, administrators are in front so we get to see the audience’s faces. I could tell that people were more connected. Their body language indicated to me much more connection than in previous years.”

Senior Lilit Aprahamian is one of several individuals applying to give a speech at the 2024 graduation.

She urges underclassmen to utilize this new policy and its provisions as a way to make their voices heard.

“If any underclassmen are considering trying out to give a speech in their senior year, just do it,” she said. “That’s your final moment.”

Lack of candidate choices concerns student voters

History seems to be repeating itself as we approach the 2024 United States presidential election. Once again, the leading candidates appear as though they are going to be Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.

The last time these two politicians faced off was in the 2020 presidential election. They are now preparing to go up against each other for the second time, making the 2024 election the first election rematch in over 70 years.

“It’s interesting that these two possible choices have done the job before so that people can now look at what they’ve done while in office and base their decision on that,” AP Government teacher Mr. Robert Docter said.

Their infamy provides both candidates with an incumbent advantage, making them extremely popular amongst the American public.

“No matter who the media focuses on, the two candidates are going to be Trump and Biden unless something substantial happens between now and then,” Mr. Docter said.

As the date of the election approaches, students are getting ready to cast their ballots as they are now of legal voting age.

“It hurts knowing I am going to have to choose between two candidates that both have huge unignorable issues,” senior Nancy Guerrero said. “Although neither would be my first choice, the electoral college doesn’t really allow third parties to win so there is no point.”

According to The Mirror’s survey, 14% of student voters are planning to vote for Trump in the upcoming election. In contrast, 45% are going to be voting for Biden, and a whopping 40% of student voters are choosing not to vote at all.

‘‘ It hurts knowing that I am going to have to choose between two candidates that both have huge unignorable issues.”
Senior Nancy Guerrero

The prominent two-party system in the U.S. makes it hard for a third-party candidate to step up and win the election.

“The U.S. population is so polarized to either the Democratic or Republican party that any deviation from the norm is met with ridicule or just plain disinterest,” senior Jerry Garcia said.

In this upcoming election, the third party candidate is going to be Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

“Odds are, he will not make any big moves,” Mr. Docter said. “But he is going to take votes away from Trump and Biden and throw off the numbers.”

Although Trump and Biden will almost undoubtedly be the two leading candidates, both are facing a considerable amount of scrutiny from the public and the media.

Trump is currently dealing with 91 charges across four criminal cases. Some of the charges he is facing include conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to obstruct justice and fraud under campaign finance laws.

These charges make Trump the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges.

Since he has not yet been found guilty, he is continuing his presidential campaign.

Guerrero explains that Trump has been able to evade consequences for his actions in a conniving manner.

“He has so much power in the political world that there are no consequences for him,” Guerrero said. “It makes me think about what is happening in the government that they are unable to prosecute him.”

Both Trump and Biden are facing criticism for their age. With Biden being 81 and Trump 77, many believe they are too old to be running a country.

Outside of whether or not they are physically and mentally able to do their job, their ages have also brought about the concern of whether they can relate to younger generations.

“It is incredibly disappointing that our government has become so lazy that the only remaining candidates are two people who should have been in retirement homes years ago,” Garcia said.

Issues regarding these two presidential candidates have sparked the question of whether new restrictions should be put in place to determine who has the right to run for president.

Currently, the only restrictions listed under the constitution are that candidates must be at least 35 years of age, are citizens born in the U.S. and have lived in the country for at least 14 years.

These restrictions seem minimal considering the extreme amount of power and influence the president has over the country.

“There should be increased restrictions because the president has complete power over the military and has the ability to appoint people for things like the Supreme Court,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero believes it is extremely important that people of voting age utilize their rights and vote for who they think will be best fit for the presidential position.

“I have asked others in my grade if they are planning to vote and many said no,” she said. “In my opinion, the school should bring more awareness of the voting process to students and explain to them the importance of voting.”

CANDIDATE CONUNDRUM With the presidential election coming up in November, new voters are presented with two choices: Donald Trump or Joe Biden. Unfortunately, due to the issues that both candidates pose, many voters feel dissatisfied with the choice they are going to have to make and wish they had better options instead.

Silenced... Student media censorship continues plaguing schools

Despite the freedom of the press enshrined in the First Amendment, student journalists across the nation continue to grapple with censorship, facing challenges that threaten the very essence of free speech.

Regis Jesuit High School, a private Catholic high school in Colorado, is one of many high schools that allegedly limit what topics students can write about.

The school's student-run magazine had at least two articles pulled and the school board fired two advisers due to editorials on sensitive themes such as abortion, the Black Lives Matter movement, sexual harassment in churches and LGBTQIA+ issues.

Public schools with student-run publications across the country continue to face censorship.

After allegedly being mandated by school officials to use legal names when publishing articles, a transgender student refused. Administrators retaliated by shutting down the paper and cancelling the school’s journalism program for the remainder of the year.

Retracted articles and restricted topics underscore the challenges student journalists encounter in exercising their First Amendment rights.

An expert in Cultural Studies, Rhetorical Theory and Criticism, Social Change and Freedom of Speech, communication studies Professor Dr. Bernardo Attias at California State University Northridge (CSUN) discussed the complexities of censorship within student media and the

significance of safeguarding liberties.

“There is an assumption that an administrator’s job is to keep order, that their job is to keep things running smoothly,” Dr. Attias said. “They don't think about their job also being to protect your rights.”

In California, students have broad free press rights under Education Code Section 48907 which affirms the free speech and press rights of private and public school students while simultaneously protecting school employees from disciplinary action for defending student rights.

Students have the right to distribute printed materials or petitions regardless of financial support or use of school facilities, with exceptions for expression deemed obscene, libelous or slanderous, as well as material that incites unlawful acts, violates school regulations or disrupts the orderly operation of the school.

However, schools in California continue to face censorship.

In 2022, after publishing an article in Daniel Pearl Journalism Magnet High School’s newspaper that disclosed the name of an unvaccinated faculty member who refused to comply with LAUSD's covid-19 mandate, the adviser was placed on unpaid suspension.

The incident was widely covered by local media.


According to former editor-in-chief Ms. Delillah Brummer, the adviser was given an ultimatum: either take the article down or be suspended without pay.

She refused and was suspended.

“We kept it up because we weren’t going to change our position based on intimidation tactics by the district,” Ms. Brummer said. “We really wanted the district to understand that they were silencing student voices."

With support from the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) and other national journalism organizations, the suspension was finally rescinded by a district official.

Last spring, Mountain View High’s student newspaper published an investigative article covering sexual harassment on campus and allegedly received de facto censorship from the school’s principal.

Shortly after the article was published, the school announced that the beginning journalism class wouldn’t be offered for the following year and that the advisor would be replaced.

Last November, student reporters and editors here at Van Nuys High School quickly uploaded an article about a campus brawl and stabbing to the student news website.

Just hours after it was published online, LAUSD officials ordered the the article be taken down without providing

California, students have broad rights under Education Code Section 48907 which affirms freedom of speech and press while simultaneously protecting school employees from disciplinary actions for defending student rights."

any explanation.

While the incident unfolded, TV helicopters broadcast continuous live footage across the nation’s second largest TV market, news crews were reporting live from campus and Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho was holding a news conference in front of the school’s main building.

For the following two days, staff made various attempts to contact school administrators to get a reason as to why the article was required to be taken down.

Student journalists were not provided an explanation prior to being ordered to remove the article.

“California lawmakers enacted Section 48907 precisely to prevent what happened at VNHS,” SPLC attorney Mr. Mike Hiestand said. “You covered breaking news accurately and responsibly. One would think they would have praised your excellent work as journalists instead of censoring it. By their logic, the next time your quarterback scores the winning touchdown, they will need to be benched immediately.”

Two days later, the journalism staff was given the go-ahead to repost the article on the website with the stipulation that faces be blurred and no names of those allegedly involved in the incident would be published due to an ongoing investigation, even though the original article did not publish names or identifiable images.

“Administrators often view student newspapers as a privilege rather than a right, which is a problematic approach,” Dr. Attias said. “While the resources to run a student paper may be a privilege, the ability to speak and publish without censorship is a fundamental right for students.”

FOR THE RECORD Across the country, the student press continue to encounter censorship from school administrators.

Replacing the Renaissance STAR assessment, which LAUSD students have been routinely taking since 1998, the i-Ready Assessment was administered to high school, middle school and elementary school students as of Sept. 18, 2023.

“The i-Ready test is longer than the Renaissance test, but it is more detailed, so it gives you a more comprehensive score of where the students are at in terms of their understanding of reading and mathematics,” testing coordinator Ms. Michelle Park said. “There is an assessment for reading literacy, one for reading comprehension and one for vocabulary. There are five sections overall. It’s the same thing with math; there are multiple sections about operations.”

The i-Ready was adopted due to its alignment with the California Smarter Balanced Assessment, a system that allows students to understand their academic level based on the Common Core State Standards.

Ms. Park says that the i-Ready test provides a proper understanding of where a student is standing academically. For

students who are not up to par, the suite provides lessons designed to catch students up to grade level for math and English.

“If they’re below grade level, there are certain lessons that the i-Ready provides for students to take,” she said. “I think it really does support students in their growth.”

According to HumRRO, a third-party research firm, schools with school-wide implementation of the i-Ready have significantly increased student achievement in a three-year research period compared to schools that did not implement the i-Ready.

While administrators believe that the i-Ready is an effective measure of a student’s progress in a respective subject, many students disagree, with some even dismissing the notion of standardized testing as a whole.

“The testing format doesn’t make sense to me and it frustrates me as I’m taking the test,” sophomore Fatima Dela Cruz said.

Junior Anthony Sanchez echoes this sentiment, agreeing that the i-Ready does not provide a comprehensive overview of a student’s academic performance.

“I have friends who purposely don’t try on the i-Ready because they know it’s not graded,” he said. “If the teachers use this

Since early March, the school’s morning announcements have been embedded with historical poems, figures and writing, all in an effort to meet the state’s patriotic requirements.

During a school-based management (SBM) meeting that occurred in December, some members brought to the school’s attention that a certain state education code was not being met, despite others thinking that ROTC routinely raising the American flag was sufficient enough.

score, there’s honestly no point because the results are tainted.”

According to The Mirror’s survey, only 3% of students polled consider the i-Ready helpful.

Some students and teachers insist that the more pressing issue at hand is time. Teachers, who are already navigating tighter schedules to cover increasingly extensive curricula, may also face the repercussions of lower class averages due to an instructional time setback of nearly one-and-a-half weeks every year due to i-Ready testing.

“I believe it’s a waste of time,” senior Djaeda Hall said. “We could be learning things we need to be using for the future but instead we’re taking a test on things we learned a while ago. I would change everything about the i-Ready. It’s not a good test, and it’s way too long.”

Math teacher Mr. Bradley Margolin agrees with students’ complaints to some extent.

“It’s not a waste of time, but I really wish it could be fine-tuned so it would take up less instructional time,” he said.

However, Ms. Park disagrees with the claim that the test takes too much time.

“I do wish it was a little bit shorter, but for the most part, if the students are actually on top of it and focused on the test and trying

This eventually led to a debate about what was appropriate for the school’s display of a patriotic moment.

“Section 52720-52730: In every public secondary school, there should be conducted daily an appropriate patriotic exercise,” history teacher Mr. Jacob Ferrin said. “The giving of the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States shall satisfy such requirement.”

Ultimately, it was ASB and Senior Board’s decision what would be said during announcements to display patriotism.

“ASB has the freedom to execute the patriotic moment,” science teacher Mr. Brent Shano said. “Our

their best throughout, I think most students who are focusing can probably finish it within two or three days,” she said. “I think the problem is that some students are absent when testing is happening, and that’s why it feels longer than it should be.”

Brain breaks are a non-skippable component of the i-Ready, providing meditation breaks that last for a couple of minutes. These breaks guide students through breathing exercises meant to calm their brains, attempting to combat test anxiety. However, many students agree that these brain breaks do not serve their purpose, as most simply want to get the test over with and to finish the assessment faster.

“The brain breaks add even more pointless time wasted, and it’s almost like they are treating you like a child,” Sanchez said.

Hall suggests incentivizing students with a leaderboard in order to better motivate students to perform at their best.

On paper, i-Ready is supposedly a beneficial standardized testing platform meant to assess a student’s subject grade level. In practice, it’s clear that the i-Ready is ready for reform if it is to be widely accepted by students and staff as a reliable assessment tool.

understanding is that they have a set agenda of being able to satisfy the Ed Code and the patriotic moment."

Mr. Shano advocated for the Pledge of Allegiance to be said over the announcements. He wanted to do so because it not only satisfied what the Ed Code required, but also paid respect to those who have fought for America’s freedom.

“I think that having that patriotic moment is so important to so many people for what it represents: paying homage to those who have greatly fought for the freedoms that we have every single day,” he said.

ASB listened to perspectives presented by teachers. Educators

had different ideas about what would make students feel represented.

Eventually, students in ASB and teachers were able to come to a compromise and develop a schedule that incorporated both parties’ ideas.

The first announcements began with the Pledge of Allegiance. Then senior board read aloud excerpts of important documents like "Uncle Tom’s Cabin," a novel that highlights the horrific truths of slavery and allows students to gain a new perspective.

The hope for such incorporations of documents, novels and poems is that every student feels represented or seen in some way.

I-Ready or not, here it comes: LAUSD's new standardized test kindles controversy
DAZED & CONFUSED The i-Ready has been criticized for adjusting lesson plans for students based on their performance on the diagnostic test. Many students never go back on the website to actually take the provided courses.
A pledge, a poem , a speech A patriotic moment gets incorporated into the morning announcements
Gen Z’s

shrinking attention span: Social

media’s promotion of short-form content has irreversibly altered the classroom

Influencers walk viewers through their two-hour morning routines in the span of 20 seconds. Hour-long sports events are condensed into oneminute highlight reels.

Teenagers show off their abundant shopping hauls of 30 items within 30 seconds.

While scrolling through social media, a wide variety of content is thrown at viewers, with almost nothing of substance lasting more than a minute. Social media’s shift towards short-form content has made a whole generation accustomed to receiving information quickly, and in an entertaining fashion.

When TikTok surveyed its users, over 50% of them confessed that when videos are longer than a minute, it stresses them out. About a quarter of the app’s users are between the ages of 10 and 19.

This is crystal clear when taking a look at how Gen Z teens can’t seem to focus on anything for more than a minute, with both students and teachers noticing the shrinking attention spans among high schoolers.

Social science teacher Ms. Aditi Doshi said that she began noticing the problem when students came back from online learning.

“I have seen that once students came back from covid, particularly in that first year, it was very difficult for them to stay engaged in any kind of classroom activity for more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time,” Ms. Doshi said.

Math teacher Ms. Kyrie Martin shares a similar sentiment, saying that during the pandemic students got used to being on their phones and scrolling through social media instead of paying attention to instruction.

“Students got used to being able to do school and something else at the same time, and they carried that over into the classroom," she said. "Social media is addictive. It

A new era: AP Exams go digital

Students who have taken an AP Exam know the tradition of being handed a packet sealed with plastic wrapping, given by the procter. They know the feeling of bubbling each letter to fill out their name and having to do everything on paper.

As the College Board catches up with an emerging era of technology, they have decided to digitize AP Exams for history and English classes.

The specific classes that will be taking digital exams this May are AP African American Studies, AP Computer Science Principles, AP English Language and

grabs your attention and you constantly want to look at it."

According to The Mirror’s survey, 20% of students polled have an average daily screen time between one and three hours. 48% of students polled have a daily screen time between four and six hours, and a whopping 31% of students have an average screen time greater than seven hours a day.

Sophomore Lauren Leal admits that she spends an average of four to five hours a day on her phone, often putting her school work on hold to mindlessly scroll on apps like TikTok and Instagram.

“I do find myself checking my phone and going on social media when I am studying or doing my homework because

I get bored easily,” Leal said. "On average, I can only stay engaged for a few minutes, depending on what the task is.”

This lack of focus has affected how well Leal can pay attention to and understand lessons taught by her teachers.

Countless students share this struggle and teachers have begun altering their teaching styles to accommodate this.

“I try to keep my lectures shorter, or I divide them up between multiple days so it’s not a 40-minute lecture because I don’t think students have the ability to sit and focus for that long of a period anymore,” Ms. Doshi said.

Though some teachers are making accommodations for students’ inability to focus, this is not always the case.

“School is hard and it’s a long day with six sets of classes and expectations, and when you layer in your inability to focus because you are being drawn to whatever is on your phone, it makes it very difficult to succeed in school,” Ms. Doshi said.

AP Psychology teacher Mr. Jonathan Mitchell says that consistent focus is something you have to learn through self-discipline.

“In life, you need to learn how to concentrate and pay attention to things that aren’t always fascinating,” Mr. Mitchell said. “That’s a skill.”

He says students don’t get the opportunity to practice this skill with the accessibility of phones.

“The phone shortens attention spans because it’s so exciting and entertaining and very different from activities like quietly reading,” Mr. Mitchell explained.

Ms. Doshi feels that people who grew up reading are overall better at concentrating.

“If you have that background, then it seems like you can balance it,” Ms. Doshi said. “You can have your social media consumption, but your brain also knows how to flip that switch and be able to focus on large amounts of text and have that sustained focus.” Fortunately, the situation is not entirely hopeless, as there are multiple ways to lengthen attention spans. Reading is one great way to practice maintaining prolonged attention since it requires individuals to concentrate on words on a page for a substantial period of time.

Americans can also monitor their social media usage by limiting their screen time or deleting apps altogether, thus maintaining and even lengthening their attention spans

Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP European History, AP Psychology, AP Seminar, AP United States History and AP World History: Modern.

However, since this is the first year that AP Psychology is being offered in a digital format, this exam is also being offered on paper.

Last year, the school experienced many issues when submitting digital exams, with the website crashing entirely.

AP Government teacher Mr. Robert Docter recalls his experience with dealing with the digital exams last year.

“There were a few cases where some students took the test and it was never submitted properly, and then they had to retake the test after the summer,” he said.

“That’s a great disservice to the student and totally unfair. And so, when those instances occur, as a teacher and an instructor, I don’t have trust in this option.”

After the setback that the exam caused students last year, many teachers believe that sticking with the original paper option is the best choice.

The College Board states that digital exams remove the need to manage paper

exam booklets on exam day and reduce the risk of exam security issues and lost exam responses.

“If you think about the entire United States population taking the same AP Exams, and wasting the same amount of material, you’ll think about this topic differently," senior Selma Timpers said.

According to The Mirror’s survey, 40% of students prefer the digital format, 15% prefer the paper format and 44% are indifferent.

After the backlash from both students and staff, teachers assume that the College Board is changing the style of exams for

DEBATABLE DIGITIZATION History and English AP Exams are going to be fully digital this year. Internet outages and computer crashes have placed distrust in the new testing format.

their own benefit.

“The question needs to be seen as whether this is an advantage to the student, or an advantage for the College Board,” Mr. Docter said. “If the answer is College Board without the students' consideration, then that’s flawed. I think that this is purely an advantage for the College Board.”

Many factors hinder students while taking a digital exam. For example, students who are not adequate typers, or have sensitive eyes, can find it hard to focus while taking the test on the computer.

For students who are taking a digital exam, Mr. Docter advises ways to prepare for it.

“Just practice typing, and practice the skill of editing your work on your computer,” he said. “Your exam is partially dependent on that, especially as a timed test. It’s not that you're just typing, but in a timed fashion.”

STOP THE CLOCK Teenagers are facing shortening attention spans at an alarming pace. This makes it difficult to focus on tasks such as schoolwork.

Focusing attention on the reality of ADHD

Sophomore Maria Mungia has lived her entire life with ADHD. Early on, teachers noticed her inability to focus and expressed concerned.

“My mom got me tested because the school told her I wasn’t like the others,” Mungia said.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that’s most common in children and lasts throughout adulthood.

Some symptoms associated with this condition are anxiety, depression, the inability to focus, a surplus amount of energy, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Mungia rarely tells people about her disorder, as she feels that people won’t understand what it truly means.

“ADHD is not just everybody that’s energetic or has a hard time focusing,” she said. “When people first think about ADHD, they think about having a lot of energy but there’s more to it. You could just be an energetic person but that doesn’t equal having the disorder.”

ADHD can manifest in children in a multitude of ways. In contrast to the popular belief that all patients are hyperactive, some with ADHD tend to sit quietly, focused on something in their mind.

Mungia went on to say that people keep looking at ADHD through a narrow lens, but what they don’t realize is that millions of people struggle with the condition in a million different ways.

“It’s not just about energy,” Mungia said. “It is about emotion, mood swings and anger issues too. Everyone is different.”

To others battling ADHD, Mungia says the most important thing is to let others in and never give up.

“Don’t do it all on your own,” she said. “Share your situation and try to get help.”

National History Day documentary team advances to state contest

In San Gabriel High School’s gym, the group sat surrounded by their competitors. All finalists for the senior division group for documentary film were going to be announced.

Buzzing with nervousness and excitement, senior Andre Ruiz and juniors

David Lara, Kaela Longboy, Hudson Mirsky and William Schnider shivered in eager anticipation.

This group, among many other ambitious ensembles, took up the challenge of showcasing their National History Day (NHD) Project on March 2. After what felt like ages of waiting, it was announced that they won first place in their category and would be going on to compete at state level on April 21-22.

With the aid of history teacher Ms. Aditi Doshi, the students were able to create, refine and perfect their project over the course of three months to ultimately produce a ten-minute-long documentary film that clearly addresses this year’s NHD theme: Turning Points in History.

Their film explores the impact John Hammond had on jazz and racial relations from 1930 to 1960 as an American record producer, music critic and civil rights activist.

Incorporating historical imagery and immersive voice-over, the group worked towards showcasing the influence Hammond had on incorporating Black musicians into the segregated music industry.

“We were trying to highlight the complexity of needing a white record producer to promote black music to white America,” group leader Ruiz said.

Delving into the topic did not prove to be an easy task. Using their research, the group needed to compose a script.

“I did the script editing, most of the annotated bibliography and the voicing for the project,” Schnider said. “My role

was necessary to make sure the project was organized and presentable for the judges, as we avoided getting penalized for any glaring errors.”

Finding time outside of school to dedicate to the NHD project was tough, but they persevered.

“One of the challenges was getting everyone to work together on time,” Mirsky said. “Everyone has their own lives to work on, so having a time for us all to sit down and work together was hard.”

This led Ruiz to take initiative and encourage his group members to do their part.

“I learned that sometimes you have to understand that you have commitments to a lot of things, but that isn’t an excuse to not work on another commitment, in this case being in NHD,” Ruiz said. “Sometimes I would have to tell my group to get on top of things, join calls and pressure them to get things done, but I only did this because I knew they were smart and wanted them to win. So I learned you have to make sure everyone steps up to their full potential to get things done.”

Leading up to the competition, preparation and finalization were very time consuming.

“The time we spent working on it ramped up throughout the project,” Schnider said. “Near the beginning, it was only an hour or two a week or so. But in the final three weeks, I was spending nearly an hour a day compiling sources and finishing everything up before the due date.”

Highly involved in the collaborative process, Ms. Doshi ensures that her students feel prepared to compete. She helps them construct ideas, suggests how to conduct research, revises the final product and offers constructive feedback.

“They need to know how to conduct research, construct an argument and support it with evidence,” Ms. Doshi said. “Every step along the way, in my classes,

students are supported. They’re given all sorts of examples and constant feedback so that their work is of the highest quality.”

Her ultimate goal is to teach students how to develop crucial research skills.

“I want them to take away a sense of confidence in their skills, to know that they are strong historians,” Ms. Doshi said. “I want them to leave knowing that they have the ability to do authentic, rigorous research and also to feel a real sense of pride to come together and collaborate to create something that’s real.”

Overall, 22 students belonging to eight different projects won first place awards at the regional competition.

“The competition wasn’t exactly something we breezed right through,” Longboy said. “We had high expectations, but after seeing the other competitors and their films, we were actually intimidated. I know my teammates’ heartbeats stopped when the presenter called up our school. It all just happened so fast, and since we were the last team to be announced as going to state, it was really shocking to us.”

In anticipation of the state competition, the group is actively working on making changes that can improve their film.

“Some of the subtitles were messed up,” Schnider said. “Other than that, there are some spots in the video we’d like to flesh out with images. We’re still waiting on the judges’ feedback, so we’ll take that into account too.”

Ruiz says that it was through teamwork and leadership that the group was able to propel forward.

“Honestly, I’m just really proud of my friends,” he said. “Though they had their laziness here and there, I was able to push them to their fullest potential. All that hard work really did pay off. I can’t wait to see what happens at state; win or lose, I know we did our best.”

CASH FROM COFFEE Senior Anastasia Petrova works as a barista at Panera Bread in Encino, a job that allows her to expand her social skills and earn her own money. A HISTORIC WIN (L to R) William Schnider, Hudson Mirsky, Kaela Longboy, Andre Ruiz and David Lara work on their project for National History Day. They won first place at the regional competition with their documentary film “America’s Dissonant Harmonies” and are advancing to the State Competition. MYTH VERSUS FACT Misconceptions swirl around ADHD, reducing it to a harmful stereotype. The condition often results in hyperactivity, inattention and anxiety. THE MIRROR | JALYN BAUTISTA

An aging infrastructure: The urgent need to tackle overdue renovations in L.A. public schools

The state of school infrastructure plays a crucial role in providing a conducive learning environment for students and faculty. However, several schools, including Van Nuys, face significant challenges in improving infrastructure.

Sunny Brae Avenue Elementary School, located in the San Fernando Valley, had students, teachers and parents protesting at the beginning of March over the presence of mold and carbon monoxide in classrooms.

Picking his 10-year-old son up from school, Mr. Mike Barnard observed a sudden change in his son’s health and behavior. The boy was experiencing headaches, throat infections and more.

After being handed a letter by another parent about what was occurring at the school, Mr. Barnard discovered the real perpetrator that was repeatedly making his son sick: mold.

“I noticed that he didn't have the same energy he used to where he would always want to play and always wanted to do something,” he said.

Experienced in organizing campaigns, Mr. Barnard adopted the role of being the speaker of a movement vocalizing the complaints of the school community.

Before protesting in front of the campus, Barnard and other parents attempted to communicate their concerns to LAUSD, hoping to receive a response from the district. They submitted medical records, pictures of mold in classrooms and a petition asking for Principal Dana Carter’s removal.

“Ideally, we wanted the district to address the situation,” he said. “But nobody responded and we moved forward with protesting.”

According to Mr. Barnard, Principal Carter had been aware of the mold since September and advised faculty to not tell parents.

Uploading evidence of mold and videos of the protest on his TikTok and Instagram pages, Mr. Barnard is determined to continue to advocate not just for Sunny Brae, but for schools everywhere.

The American Society of Civil Engineers found that 53% of public school districts need to update or replace building systems, like heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units.

NEGLECTED Some of the drinking fountains and sinks in the Science Building are faulty, starving students of much-needed water in order to quench their thirst on hotter days.

Over 100 years old, Van Nuys faces issues with much of its infrastructure in disrepair.

From deteriorating parking lots to outdated restrooms and “temporary” bungalows, the list is extensive.

The presence of asbestos in certain areas, such as on the floor of the main building, further complicates infrastructure repairs and replacements.

Despite plans being laid out more than 15 years ago, the school continues to lag behind in receiving improvements.

The school's age and neglect from district officials have created hazards for students and faculty that continue to degrade the campus. These issues become more expensive to repair as time goes on.

“Bathroom renovation can be anywhere from $200,000 to $400,000,” Facilities Administrator Ms. Anabel Bonney said. Introduced as temporary structures to

relieve overcrowded classrooms, bungalows have become a long-standing fixture at various schools across the district. Notably at Van Nuys, they have occupied the 500s area for over 25 years.

Apart from the lack of restrooms and residential classrooms, outdated HVAC units occupy the Main and Science Buildings.

The Main Building currently uses a portable HVAC unit that the district rents for approximately $10,000 per month, while the Science Building has a temporary HVAC unit that has occupied its exterior for more than seven years.

Van Nuys will be receiving taxpayer money from the state of California to improve schools in the next five to 10 years.

Ms. Bonney hopes that the school will advance to establish a 500s Building.

She believes modernizing the school will retain faculty members and attract students to attend Van Nuys.

“We could benefit from the modernization,” she said. “I think it would definitely attract more students and help increase our enrollment and maybe retain a lot of our staff that we have.”

The continuous lack of improvement in school infrastructure is a pressing issue that demands urgent attention and action.

Neglected schools not only fail to meet the basic needs of students and teachers, but also perpetuate inequality and hinder academic achievement.

Coming out to help homeless LGBTQIA+ youth

Approximately 40% of the homeless youth in California identify as a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual community and more than one out of four youth LGBTQIA+ members have encountered homelessness or housing uncertainty at a point in their lives.

The school’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) Club was founded on the concept of harboring a safe community at school for those in the LGBTQIA+ community.

To help teens who have no homes and whose only offense is their identity, the GSA and Help the Homeless Clubs are collaborating to fundraise supplies to donate to support these struggling youth.

“We contacted the local LGBTQIA+ center and told them we were interested in doing a drive,” GSA Club President Max Sandoval said. “We asked them what they needed, and we decided to do a drive to help the community and give back.”

The clubs hope that through their donations, they can reach beyond the school walls and touch the lives of LGBTQIA+ individuals.

The drive will be taking place from April 8-19. Students, parents and staff alike are encouraged to donate clothes, food, toiletries and other necessities.

According to Help the Homeless Club President Maya Diaz, the club focuses on providing information about homelessness and the issues that contribute to this crisis. They hold coordinated volunteer events in an effort to proactively make a difference.

Sandoval explained that it is the first time they have facilitated a drive that isn't just a club fundraiser.

“None of the funds are coming back to our club,” they said. “It's all for the shelter. Usually if we do fundraisers we are making some sort of a profit that helps benefit our club, but this time we are not getting anything back from it.”

Though both parties have yet to determine whether this collaboration will be a recurring event, Diaz and Sandoval urge the community to make donatations.

“We encourage people to bring hygiene products,” Sandoval said. “They mostly ask for clothes and canned goods. They want us to focus on clothes because most of the youth, when they run away from their homes, they don't bring their clothes with them so that's their most needed item.”

Diaz went on to explain that knowledge warrants change. And so, through their drive, GSA and Help the Homeless are working to spread awareness.

“Even though we’re making a physical impact because we're giving them clothes, it's also raising awareness,” she said. “Getting clubs to collaborate like this brings people from GSA and Help the Homeless together and spreads awareness. It makes people want to help and contribute their time.”

RAMSHACKLE Many grates protecting the HVAC units in the bungalows are rusted and have been pulled off, leading to poor air circulation in classrooms. THE MIRROR PHOTOS BY IVAN ALCALA

Film project captures the value of intergenerational communication

From formulating the story idea to ensuring that the camera angle is on point, film teacher Mr. Thomas McCluskey's film group strives to follow junior Kerra Bae’s vision of a heartfelt short film.

As Mr. McCluskey’s fourth-period Video Production film group works on “Sincerely Lost,” they aim to inspire the school community.

Working around the clock, the amateur film crew hopes to make Bae’s dream a reality.

With Bae as the director and writer, her group includes producer and actor Sam Eusebio, director of photography Lakith Jayathilaka, camerawoman Faith Perez and editors Andrea Hernandez and Gavin Vargas.

"Sincerely Lost" is a story that revolves around Peter Davis, a 17-year-old teenage boy, and Charles Wilson, an elderly man.

A handwritten letter meant for Peter's mother ends up in the hands of Charles. This unexpected encounter brings Charles and Peter together. The pair navigate the challenges that Peter is going through, some of which Charles has experienced in the past.

According to former professional screenwriter and current film teacher Mr. McCluskey, the film captivates audiences due to how relatable it is. Because of this facet, the project is highly regarded by Mr. McCluskey.

“It is a very nice and relatable film,” he said. “I think a lot of young people have difficulty finding people to talk to whom they could get good advice from and the film covers that.”

With the guidance of Mr. McCluskey, Bae's crew is working diligently to finish the short film in time for the annual Van Nuys High School Digital Showcase on May 30.

Every student involved in the making of this film has been balancing various

extracurricular activities. Thus, the crew has had to work around scheduling issues.

“One of the challenges that our group faces is scheduling, because not all of us have free time,” Bae said.

Mr. McCluskey is tasked with ensuring that all students have a viable role in the production and that all are working together towards the same goal.

“It is challenging for everyone to have a worthwhile job because it's like juggling,” he said.

In addition to scheduling difficulties, casting the characters presented another conundrum.

“I signed up as an actor because I wanted to try new things,” Eusebio said.

With Mr. McCluskey and the crew being

What's brewing? Special education students launch coffee delivery enterprise

Oftentimes, a rich cup of freshly-brewed coffee in the morning is just what teachers need to get them through the day.

To meet this demand for caffeine, the school's special education program has kicked off a smallscale coffee enterprise that delivers coffee directly to teachers.

Intending to provide a full vocational education, this enterprise was launched in January with the aid of special education teacher Mr. Eric Mahoney.

“It's a school-based enterprise and it is for students on the alternative curriculum, meaning they are working towards a certificate of completion,” Mr. Mahoney said.

Using a QR code on Schoology to facilitate and track coffee orders, the team works together to have coffee ready for teachers before the start of first period upon demand.

Seniors Alexander Salinas and Chris Gonzalez are the managers of the operation, overseeing orders and directing their team accordingly. Junior Brandon Tapia accounts

actively involved in the production, they support each other no matter the challenges they encounter.

“I help them develop their scripts," ” Mr. McCluskey said. "I go through this process where each class has a studio, and every class divides up into four projects every week."

Through the process of working together on the film, the students have developed a bond that wouldn’t have been possible without collaborating on the film.

The students have formed genuine

friendships through working together to ultimately produce a successful film.

“When the film is done, it will definitely be something that will stay in my memory,” Bae said. “It's a project that has taken up a lot of our time, but has been a really enjoyable experience. I feel like it will be something that will pop up in my mind when I reminisce about my high school years in the future.”

Bae expresses her gratitude for the class, as she was able to make great connections with her crew members.

“I didn't know any of them before the year and it was definitely awkward at first, but being in this group we got to know each other and now we look forward to filming,” Bae said.

Designed to help students develop skills that can be applied to everyday life, this operation is meant to prepare them for a Career Transition Center (CTC).

for all orders while seniors Andrew Aviles, Michael Buchanan and Erick Cabrera and juniors Tristan Ojeda and Osvaldy Tellez are the ones who make the daily trek to deliver coffee.

Teachers were required to submit a proposal for the project and get it approved by the district.

“This is one of the avenues for vocational education that the district encourages schools to have,” Mr. Mahoney said. “And so, through the district, we applied for a grant and received $500 to go towards the enterprise.”

The team of students has the full support of teachers like Ms. Maria Renard, Ms. Maria Ochoa and Mr. Justin Baldridge. Loyal customers, these teachers help further finance the enterprise and enable the team to buy the supplies needed to run their business.

The money earned from the business is invested right back into the program and utilized to purchase necessary materials.

“It provides the full range of vocational and life skills that they need,” Mr. Mahoney said. “Everything from cleaning up, to measuring their inventory, with the goal of going to a CTC. There, they will continue this type of work. What we do here hopefully sets them up for success over there.”

This business offers the participating students transferable life skills that are not only useful in this entrepreneurial educational setting, but also in the workforce.

“Hopefully what we are doing is increasing the number of interactions that the community has with the students in our program,” Mr. Mahoney said. “People are learning about the amazing stuff these guys can do. We are breaking down some of the barriers that stand in the way of them doing stuff and interacting with others. It allows them to form connections with one another and with teachers and other students.”

Ultimately, this enterprise gives students the chance to develop themselves both as individuals as well as entrepreneurs.

THE MIRROR | MICHAEL ARREDONDO PICK-ME-UP Senior Alexander Salinas prepares to deliver coffee to teachers bright and early in the morning. THE MIRROR | IVAN ALCALA ACTION Junior Kerra Bae and the production crew of “Sincerely Lost” review footage from their recent shoot. The film follows a young boy, Peter Davis, and an elderly man, Charles Wilson, as they tackle hardships together.

Nourishing minds, fueling success: Inside the daily grind of the cafeteria

It’s 10:37 a.m. and the bell has just rung, signaling the end of second period. Students pack their belongings as quickly as possible before rushing to the cafeteria line to satisfy their stomachs.

From coffee cakes to french toast and cinnamon swirls, the cafeteria offers a diverse menu to cater to every palate. For many students, these meals set the tone for the day that lies ahead, providing them with the essential energy they need to prosper in their classes.

Approximately one in five children live in households where they experience inadequate access to nutritious foods, as stated by the School Nutrition Association.

Researchers from No Kids Hungry discovered that students who eat breakfast achieve 17.5% higher test scores in mathematics, attend school 1.5 times more, are 20% more likely to graduate high school and become less likely to experience hunger as adults in contrast to students that don’t.

Behind the bustling lines and tantalizing aromas lie stories of hard work, dedication and a commitment to fueling the minds of tomorrow.

At the heart of this culinary operation is the new cafeteria manager Ms. Glenda Maldonado, whose leadership sets the tone for the entire team of cooks, servers and kitchen assistants who begin their day well before the first bell rings.

Beginning her day at 7:30 in the morning, Maldonado ensures that the kitchen is clean and refrigerators are at the right temperature before checking her emails and preparing meals. With dietary restrictions and preferences in mind,

she and her team ensure that there is something for everyone, including vegan and gluten-free options.

Preparing ingredients according to the menu, the cafeteria staff wash fruits and vegetables, chop vegetables for side dishes and arrange food items into their designated locations.

Replenishing food items as needed to maintain availability and freshness, a staff member stands at each food station and ensures each student receives the required food items in accordance with the nutritional guidelines mandated by the LAUSD Board of Education.

Observing and listening to how students react to food options offered for the day, Maldonado uses their reactions as feedback to decide what items students favor and which ones they don’t, all in an attempt to maximize her at-times limited budget.

“Recently, they had us adding pickles to the sandwiches and I noticed that we were having more leftovers,” she said. “My job is to make sure that there’s the least amount of food waste because we don’t want to throw anything in the trash.”

With strict guidelines to follow, Maldonado reports to her supervisor who manages 30 schools, expressing that at times it can be frustrating when she has to report an increase in food waste.

“We work so hard sometimes and when the food goes to waste, we feel like we did all this work, all this preparation and we’re running around only to have to throw it away,” she said. “But when we serve all the students and hear positive feedback, we feel like we’re doing something good.”

Despite this, she and her team persevere.

“I love my coworkers,” she said with a smile.

In March of last year, Service Employees International Union Local 99 (SEIU Local 99) went on a three-day strike with support from United Teachers L.A. (UTLA), demanding better work conditions and higher salaries.

Shortly after the strike, they reached a tentative agreement with LAUSD on attaining a 30% salary increase and improved work conditions.

Their efforts paid off, resulting in a salary increase from $25,000 to $33,000 and improved benefits including fully paid healthcare and paid time off.

For Andres Pascuaz, who has worked at the school for 18 years, these benefits are more than just perks — they’re a lifeline for his family.

“It used to be my part-time job but I chose to go full-time because it has good benefits,” Pascuaz said.

“This is my job and I love this as my job.”

According to, the average hourly wage for a food service worker in LAUSD is $22.56 per hour and $52,491 annually, a salary that is 131% greater than the national average for a food service worker.

After achieving the deal with LAUSD, SEIU Local 99 continues to advocate for workers in surrounding communities to gain better working conditions and higher wages.

In a world where their contributions oftentimes go unnoticed, the impact of the cafeteria staff reverberates throughout the entire school community.

Their tireless dedication and unwavering commitment to excellence make them the unsung heroes of the school, ensuring that every student has access to nutritious meals and a welcoming environment in which they can flourish.

Mercedes Arevalo, a cafeteria member with 32 years of experience, shares the feeling of friendship she has with members of the team.

THE MIRROR PHOTOS BY CHRISTOPHER MONTERROSA HOT AND READY Cafteria worker Celeste Morales (above) serves up chicken nuggets, cheesy garlic bread with sausage and chicken mashed potato gravy bowls for lunch in the school’s cafeteria.

Spreading optimism and hope to detained migrant children

Within the vibrant hum of the Science Building, amidst the energetic flow of students moving to and fro, exists a sanctuary in room 213, resides a haven pulsating with a feeling of belonging and purpose: UNIDOS.

Spanish for “United,” UNIDOS is not just a club; it’s a beacon of inclusivity that caters to Hispanic and Latin American students, providing them with a nurturing environment where their voices are heard and heritage is celebrated.

Founded by senior Melanie Arista, a first-generation Mexican-American, UNIDOS became a testament to the values and pride encompassed within Hispanic culture and the characteristics of being Hispanic.

“I didn’t want to create a club centered on just one country, I wanted it to include countries of all Hispanic or Latin origin,” Arista said.

She reflects on her journey and the sacrifices made by her family to pave the way for her.

“It’s a set of values that regardless of what Hispanic country you’re from, they’re kind of


shared amongst all Hispanics,” she said.

Through engaging in slideshow presentations on GoogleSlides, the club delves into cultural events like Día de la Candelaria.

Even when celebrating culture and diversity, UNIDOS doesn’t shy away from acknowledging harsh realities such as the migrant crisis at the southern border.

The club actively participates in the Letters of Love campaign launched by the Training Occupational Development Educating Communities (TODEC) Legal Center, a nonprofit organization that commits to empowering and representing marginalized immigrant communities.

The Youth group, a part of TODEC, launched the Letters of Love Campaign in May of 2018 to raise awareness and support migrant children who were separated from their loved ones at the border and detained by the federal government in immigrant detention centers.

“Having to be separated from your loved ones at a very young age is horrible,” club member Samantha Silva said. “We can’t just let it continue to happen. By not doing anything, it’s accepting and enabling it to continue.”

The federal government defines

unaccompanied foreign children as migrants under 18 years of age with no legal immigration status and no guardian to care or take responsibility for them.

In spite of this definition, some children arrive with relatives or acquaintances but are separated at the border whereas others are transported by traffickers or other migrants by car or on foot.

In collaboration with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed the medical records of 165 children held at the ICE family immigration detention facility in Karnes City, Texas.

The 2024 report revealed that between June 2018 and October of 2020, researchers found that there was an inadequate amount of medical staff members, lack of documentation of medical care and sanitation, malnutrition, tuberculosis and widespread flu outbreaks.

Detained children have higher rates of emotional and behavioral difficulties, as stated in a study featured in Science Direct.

Through the Letters of Love campaign, UNIDOS stands as a beacon of hope. They send a powerful message of solidarity to these children, constructing letters filled

with color and words of encouragement, reminding them that they are not alone and that there are people who care, empathize and are willing to take action.

Sophomore Alison Peña and her fellow club members understand the importance of tangible action by writing personal yet universal messages of encouragement to try and give faith to the children in detention centers.

“When I’m writing cards I make sure to have a message that would be hopeful to the children in the detention centers,” Peña said. “Sometimes just to hear ‘It’s going to be okay’ isn’t enough, so I try saying something more personal in hopes that it gets through to them.”

Preferred by TODEC to be written in Spanish, each card must have color and a message that is easy for children to understand.

Beyond raising awareness with discussions, the club actively engages in making a difference, one letter at a time.

As they continue their campaign, UNIDOS remains committed to spreading hope and love to those who need it most. With each letter penned, they send a message of resilience, reminding these children that they are valued, cherished and not forgotten.

their names. Students are encouraged to provide information about their plans after high school.

WALL OF REJECTION | College decisions time can be rough, hindering mental health, especially if students become embarrassed or demotivated after opening a rejection letter. To help open up, the Senior Board has begun planning a Wall of Rejection to allow seniors to call out any colleges that they have turned them down. The idea is that students can look at the wall and realize they are not alone. Their plan is to bring people together, and normalize the process of not getting accepted.


GRAD NIGHT | Taking place on May 31 at Universal Studios, Grad Night provides seniors an opportunity to bond with not only the graduating class but seniors from nearby schools as well. Bus transportation to Universal will be provided. Students will not be allowed to leave until the event is over and will return at 2 a.m. General park admission will close at 8 p.m. and only seniors will be at the park. Tickets are $145 and sold during lunch at the student store. MULTICULTURAL DAY | This year Multicultural Day will on April 12 in the quad during lunch. Multiple clubs will sell different types of food from cultures around the world. Only a select number of clubs will be able to sell, so those who are interested will have to submit their applications promptly. A variety of cultural performances will be taking place in front of the Victory Stand while food is sold. Lunch will be extended to allow students to fully enjoy the event. COMMITMENTS PAGE | As college decisions roll in, Senior Board opened up an Instagram account called @ vnhscommitments. The account was created to allow seniors to inform their peers and classmates which school they have decided to attend. Seniors can send in their major, the college they committed to, a photo of themselves and
the weeks leading up to the big event. The maximum cost for tickets is $110.
will be asked to volunteer to help run the event alongside administrators and teachers.
the school
draws to a finale, Prom is on the
On Saturday, May 18, seniors will have the chance to attend an unforgettable
at the Universal Sheraton Hotel from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tickets will be available for purchase at the student store in
THE MIRROR FARAH ALSIBAI UPLIFTING OTHERS Melanie Arista, Yanitzy Alatorre and Nancy Alvarado (L to R) create cards for the Letters of Love campaign, an initiative working to support migrant children who have been separated from their loved ones in federal detention centers. Arista, a first-generation Mexican-American, founded the club to promote the inclusion of Hispanic and Latin individuals.

Paving the way as a first-generation college student

Stress overtook her senses as the thought of starting her college applications loomed over her. Senior Andrea Herrera had no idea who to turn to for help, especially since her parents had no experience with the process and could not help her with college applications. As a first-generation college student, she was on her own.

Herrera could feel all eyes on her as she struggled to reach her goals.

“In my family, going to college came with a lot of pressure because I am the oldest born here in the United States and I have two little sisters who see me as their role model,” she said. “My parents have never said it, but I would feel like a failure if I didn’t go.”

College Counselor Mr. Arnulfo Castaneda wants first-generation college students like Herrera to feel at ease coming to him with their college-related questions.

“There are never any stupid questions, because not everyone knows this information,” Mr. Casteneda said. “I am a first-generation college student too, so I hope kids feel more comfortable talking to someone who has been through the same experience and is able to help walk them through the college process step by step.”

In addition to frequenting the college office, Herrera got help from her close companions who include an older cousin, as well as her friends’ older siblings.

With the help she’s gotten, Herrera was able to figure out what life after high

school is going to look like in order for her to achieve her long-time goal of becoming a psychiatrist for children with autism.

“I am going to Los Angeles Valley College for two years and then I am going to hopefully transfer to Mount Saint Mary’s University because they have a really good medical program,” she said.

Herrera’s parents are proud that she is taking the steps to pursue a higher education, something they wish they would have done.

“My parents definitely supported my decision and always have,” she said. “They say that without a degree it’s harder to get to these higher places in life, so college has always been a very important thing for them because they want my life to be easier than theirs was.”

On top of making her parents proud, Herrera hopes that getting a college education and obtaining a well-paying career will one day raise the economic status of her family.

“For me, it’s not about the money, but I do think pursuing a career in the field I want will break the cycle in my family of having to live paycheck to paycheck.”

For many students who don’t have family members who attended college, the idea of being the first can be extremely overwhelming. They feel as if they are carrying the hopes and dreams of their parents as well as their own.

“A lot of kids get discouraged because they feel they are doing it for their mom or they are doing it for their dad and it’s a lot of pressure,” she said. “But I think going to college is so much more about

STARTING STRONG Senior Andrea Herrera was bewildered by the college application process. Her parents never attended college and couldn’t give her advice. But with the help of College Counselor Mr. Arnulfo Castaneda, she was able to forge a path for herself.

doing it for yourself.”

She went on to say that college provides you with a new array of experiences that help you grow as a person, all the more reason that the decision to go should be based on personal aspirations and not those of others.

“College gives you a whole new perspective that’s different from high school,” Herrera said. “You are able to explore who you are in ways that you didn’t think you could. It’s an experience not just for education, but an experience of life.”

The college counselors want students from minority groups to know that they can go to college if they set their minds to it.

“Our number one goal is trying to get these students to feel more comfortable with the process, since a lot of the time they don’t have the resources at home to navigate the process themselves,” Mr. Castaneda said.

While Herrera has been given the opportunity to live out her college dream due to hard work and sacrifice, she recognizes that this is not the case for every student from her ethnic background.

“There is still racism towards Latinos when it comes to going to college,” Herrera said. “Some people discriminate against us because they don’t think we can do the things that they can. They don’t view us as the type of people who go to college or view us as hard-working people, even though I feel in reality it is the complete opposite.”

She has experienced the effects of these stereotypes personally and tries to fight them every chance that she gets.

“As a Latina myself, I’ve encountered these stereotypes firsthand,” Herrera said. “It’s important to challenge these stereotypes and showcase the diverse talents and ambitions within the Latino community.”

We regret to inform you... Not every college that you want wants you

Senior Thomas Kim opened his computer, apprehensive about the results of his early decision application to Columbia University.

His palms were sweaty, and his thoughts were swarming with uncertainty. Four years of ruthless studying for AP Exams, extracurriculars, competitions and volunteer hours had led to this moment.

“We regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you a spot at our institution,” the letter read.

As results concerning college admissions get released to students all over the country, it has become a time of stressful anticipation for seniors.

About 56% of students are stressed about not knowing if they will get in anywhere, and 58% are anxious about when they will hear back from colleges.

College acceptance rates have been drastically dropping. The acceptance rate at UCLA ten years ago was 18%. It has gone down to 8.6%, almost as low as certain Ivy League schools.

But Ms. Mary Banks, a college admissions officer from Quad Education, explains that facing rejection is a life skill that everyone has to master at some point.

“Some people fall to pieces when they don’t win and that is not a good formula for success,” she said. “You have to go into the application process knowing that there’s a chance you might not get into every single college you want, but hopefully you get into some.”

Ms. Banks emphasizes that failure is an important part of life.

Kim believes that not getting into an acclaimed undergrad school isn’t the end of the world. Oftentimes, graduate schools have more of an impact on one’s career.

“I think it’s really important for people to understand that you’re supposed to go where you’re supposed to go,” he said. “Rejection is redirection.”

It’s important to realize that college admissions are not a measure of one’s success. What truly defines a person’s character is their power to adapt.


Challenging the narrative: Defying the unspoken expectations of attending college

“If you don’t study hard enough and don’t go to college, you’ll spend the rest of your life working at McDonalds.”

Many students raised in the early 2010s have heard similar warnings.

While this harsh narrative was spread by parents and teachers in an attempt to motivate students to academically excel in their pursuits, in an ever-changing digitalized economy, this caveat no longer holds up in accuracy.

While some students may not pursue postsecondary education at a well-known institution, attending a trade school, going directly into the workforce or signing up for an apprenticeship are all vital roles that need to be filled, and can lead to success.

“We have labored with this idea that every single person has to go to college and we’re coming to the realization that this isn’t necessarily true,” Ms. Mary Banks, a college admissions consultant from Quad Education, said. “It’s a great plan, it’s an ideal, but it doesn’t work for everybody. And that doesn’t mean that someone who does not choose to go is lesser intellectually or otherwise.”

College Counselor Ms. Jo Duke wholeheartedly agrees with this concept.

“We need more plumbers, electricians, house builders and mechanics that can work on cars,” she said. “We need all of that as a part of our economy, so thank God for the kids trying to go to trade school.”

Senior Taylor Acoff plans to commit to

‘‘ We have labored with this idea that every single person has to go to college and we are coming to the realization that this isn’t necessarily true.”
College admissions officer
Ms. Mary Banks

Los Angeles Trade Technical-College in the upcoming fall semester.

“Trade school is more for me,” he said. “I feel like I can be real hands-on and I wouldn’t get bored doing it. It would keep me interested and intrigued and trade school grads also get a decent pay.”

Not only do pathways such as trade schools and apprenticeships provide students with connections that can guarantee their employment after graduation, but they also provide flexible class schedules with lower tuition costs than typical universities.

Compared to the 64% employment rate of bachelor degree students, trade school grads boast an employment rate of 74%.

While many working-class citizens frequently switch career paths throughout their lives, the convenience that comes with finding a trade could mean not having to waste years on end switching paths.

“For my trade, I’m trying to become an electrician,” Acoff said. “Being an electrician looks the most fun to me. With all the technology and power, it’s fun to hook things up with wires, routing them and just building something. It’s cool that as an electrician, what you build can be useful.”

Sophomore Michael Cerritos has other ideas about his post-high school decisions.

“College doesn’t fit with my path,” he said. “It’s because of the amount of money that I have to spend.”

College debt can be especially dangerous to economically underprivileged families. Student loans and college debt are significant factors of economic strain for American families.

Cerritos details that he plans to go into the workforce as soon as he graduates using family connections.

“I’m trying to take over my uncle’s company,” he said. “His company buys houses, rebuilds and fixes them, and sells them for more. My parents support me in everything I do, and they are okay with me taking over the company.”

While some may opt for simply diving head-first into the workforce, others, like senior Max Calvan, take gap years to discover their internal passions and explore different opportunities that might align with their future career paths or personal growth objectives.

Calvan was able to successfully land a job at Galpin Ford through a rigorous training program, allowing him an opportunity to receive a paid internship.

“I’ve been in school for most of my life,

and I kind of want to take a gap year,” he said. “Originally, I was not against the idea of going to college; I was going to go straight to community college, get my requirements done and transfer to a four-year institution. But now I have a job at Galpin. It just makes sense to take a gap year, get my experience, and considering that the automotive industry is where I want to go, I want to get my foot in the door there.”

While choosing a career path may be a solo operation for a few, many teens often rely on their parents’ advice and guidance. Often being the first influence on a child’s life, parental support and suggestions can essentially shape one’s career path.

“My parents have always been pretty supportive of a lot of my decisions,” Calvan said. “They were very supportive of my job with Galpin Ford. They have always checked in and made sure I have a plan.”

According to The Mirror’s survey, 13% of students polled are not planning to attend college after graduating high school. While 2% of students plan to enroll in a trade school, 4% want to immediately join the workforce and 7% hope to take a gap year.

Amidst an ever-changing economy that increasingly values college experience, Acoff, Cerritos and Calvan reflect a growing embrace for alternative educational and career paths that prioritize personal passions over academic pressures.

“Having a job where you can use your natural talents is being successful,” Ms. Duke said. “Everyone should want to work a job where they’re happy and good at what they do.”

GO AGAINST THE FLOW While it may seem like a widespread goal nowadays, attending college is not every kid’s dream. Tuition debt and career interests factor into students’ decisions on whether to continue their education after high school.

UNPLUGGED The hidden costs behind operating electric vehicles

As the world races towards electrification, the allure of zero-emission travel clashes with the hidden costs of lithium extraction, the looming specter of e-waste and the logistical hurdles of charging infrastructure.

Tracing back to the early nineteenth century, electric vehicles (EVs) emerged as a cleaner alternative to steam and gas powered cars and gained popularity in urban areas due to their lack of smell and noise.

But with advancements in battery technology and environmental concerns, the hype around EVs is growing.

From tax credits to low maintenance costs and the allure of reducing one’s carbon footprint, the appeal of electric cars is undeniable. However, a closer examination of how electric cars come to be reveals a nuanced picture that raises questions about the unspoken environmental impact and practicality of these vehicles.

Transaction prices for EVs are consistently thousands higher compared to gas-powered cars.

The production of EVs involves the extraction and processing of raw materials, including lithium. Lithium mining has been associated with water contamination, disruption of local ecosystems and environmental degradation.

“In order to produce one ton of lithium, 20 to 21 million liters or about 500,000 gallons of freshwater are required,” AP Environmental Science teacher Ms. Tracey Kim said.

Chemicals such as sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide used in the lithium extraction process permeate soil and water and contaminate water sources and harm local species.

The environmental impact of EV batteries extends beyond the manufacturing stage. Lithium batteries contain flammable and toxic materials that can be released into the environment if not properly disposed of.

Apart from the environmental hazards that arise from the production and disposal of lithium batteries in EVs, other issues such as reliability and lack of charging infrastructure discourage consumers that are considering purchasing an electric vehicle.

The lack of charging infrastructure for electric cars in the United States has generated “range anxiety” in consumers apprehensive about

purchasing an EV. Due to low mile ranges, consumers fear being stranded in an area with no charging ports, further exacerbating the challenge of widespread EV ownership in the U.S.

The uneasiness in purchasing an electric car is additionally demonstrated by car owners in areas that experience winter conditions, as colder temperatures decrease the charging capacity of EVs.

Despite these challenges, the EV market continues to grow, with projections by Progressive indicating EVs account for nearly all new car sales in the next 16 years.

Electric cars have significant advantages in terms of environmental sustainability and performance. However, it’s essential to recognize the trade-offs and obstacles present with their widespread adoption.

As technology advances and infrastructure progresses, the viability of EVs as a cleaner alternative to traditional gasoline-powered vehicles will only continue to improve.

While they may not be perfect, EVs represent a crucial step towards a more sustainable future for transportation.

NOT SO GOOD FOR THE PLANET While consumers may think that they’re doing their part to save the environment when they buy an electric vehicle, it’s not so clear cut. Though EV emissions are significantly lower than gas vehicles, manufacturing is significantly more intensive.


Touching the hearts of cancer patients one card at a time

Asmile spread across her face as she drew the finishing touches on her card.

Junior Sharlene Kaur had just spent the last thirty minutes creating a heartfelt card for a cancer patient at Kaiser Permanente Hospital.

“Cards help boost the moods of cancer patients and let them know that they are not alone,” Kaur said.

She has created a club dedicated to making special cards for patients in the oncology department at Kaiser, and it has been up and running since last year.

The Golden Hearts Club meets every Wednesday in room 323 and members spend their lunchtime crafting cards patients of

all ages would enjoy receiving. Besides being cheerful and entertaining, the cards have to meet certain requirements laid out by the hospital.

“There are specific guidelines that we have to follow and as of now, we are still establishing them with Kaiser,” Kaur said. “For example, we can’t sign our name or say things that would give patients false hope.”

Once the cards are ready, Kaur works with a volunteer at Kaiser to deliver them to patients.

“I had seen on TikTok other schools having clubs like Golden Hearts where people get volunteer hours for helping patients in hospitals, and I was inspired to bring this to our school as well,” she explained.

For Kaur, making these cards has always been about having fun and uplifting sickly patients. Kaur wants the club to be filled with

people who choose to make cards out of the goodness of their hearts.

She and her club board make sure to inform their members on the various types of cancer their card recipients are dealing with.

“The club board makes the slides, using reliable sources such as Mayo Clinic, to share general information about cancer,” she said. “We link the sources we use as well so people can have access to them.”

The slides describe the causes, symptoms, stages and possible treatments of various forms of cancer. These slides inform club members and allow them to sympathize with patients and their situations.

“Showing what these cancer patients are going through makes others feel for them and be able to better connect to the people they are making cards for,” she said.

The cards the club makes are meant to show patients that others understand what they are going through, making it all the more important that students are properly informed on the effects of cancer.

“I feel putting a lot of effort into the cards for patients and informing ourselves on their condition is important,” Kaur said. “It shows them that people are aware of their situation and are there for them.”

According to Kaur, patients appreciate knowing that someone is aware of their situation and took the time to create something special for them.

“I do believe patients enjoy receiving the cards,” she said. “I am not allowed to go into the oncology department and see their reactions due to state regulations, but I am positive they appreciate it. The hospital continues to ask the club for more.”

PLUGGING IN, OPTING OUT A lack of charging infrastructure and the hard-to-recycle lithium batteries can deter customers.
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From busboy to boss: Serving up success at Nat’s Early Bite

Immigrating from Mexico as a young boy, Victor Carlos never could have imagined the fate that awaited him in the restaurant industry. 50 years later, he still can’t believe it.

Every morning, Carlos arrives at Nat’s Early Bite, located at 14115 Burbank Blvd., and begins cracking eggs and stirring batter.

Making hundreds of muffins in a variety of flavors, cleaning the restaurant and prepping staff all before 7 a.m. might not seem like the American dream to most people. But the Nat’s Early Bites owner couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

“Being the owner is amazing,” he said. “I come to work, I start making muffins, hundreds a day, and I just go table to table. I love people, I love the customers. I love doing it even if I don’t have to do it anymore.”

Growing up, Carlos never imagined owning a restaurant or being in the food industry at all.

“I grew up in the food industry in Mexico, with my family,” he said. “They used to make all kinds of candies, but I didn’t like them — I didn’t like the industry. Once I moved to the United States, I became a dishwasher and grew to love it. ”

Carlos moved to the U.S. in 1979 when he was only eight years old. Not knowing how to read, write or speak English or Spanish well, attempting any form of schooling was difficult.

After being rejected from American schools for not having prior knowledge of the languages, Carlos never returned to school. Instead, he taught himself how to communicate.

“I would go to the library with my daughter and look at books,” he said. “I never quit, even though it was very challenging not knowing either language. I now understand both languages well, but learning those languages was the most challenging part of my life.”

As Carlos continued his journey in the culinary industry, he eventually found himself as a dishwasher at The Early Bite, an up-and-coming San Fernando

Valley favorite.

“I’ve been here so long,” he said. “I was here before Nat Elias, the original owner. He came in six months after I did and changed the name from The Early Bite to Nat’s Early Bite.”

Elias and Carlos grew close as the years went on. Carlos viewed Elias as a father figure and worked his hardest to impress him.

“Elias was like my American dad,” he said. “All I was trying to do was be his manager. I was working extra hard, and made a good salary.”

And four years later, Carlos became the manager of the establishment. Then Elias announced he was selling the restaurant.

“It hurt me, the fact that he was selling,” he said. “I thought I was out of the job, but he tells me ‘I’m going to sell it to you.’”

Carlos willingly took ownership and never looked back.

“It was exciting,” he said. “I was excited. Most people ask if I was nervous, but I wasn’t. I had always wanted to run the business.”

40 years later, Nat’s Early Bite is still run by Carlos. Having franchised out to a second location in the early 2010s, the restaurant is more successful than ever.

“I have the best staff in the world,” Carlos said. “I try to keep them happy. When I come to work, I do the same things they do. If a cook is out, I’m back scrambling eggs. If a waiter is sick, I’m taking orders.”

Carlos never hesitates to work with the staff and holds himself to the same standards as them.

“If I make the rules, we all follow them,” he said. “It wouldn’t be fair if just because I’m the boss, I didn’t follow the same rules as my staff.”

He lives by this principle of equality.

“To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re famous,” he said. “You’re going to sit and wait just like everyone else.”

Located only miles from Hollywood, Nat’s Early Bite is frequented by celebrities.

“Most celebrities don’t mind my system,” he said. “But Ashton Kutcher and Shaquille O’Neal? They’re used to getting what they want when they want it, but we don’t do that for anybody. If Shaq wanted a certain booth at a certain time, but 30 people are waiting, we don’t care, he’s going to sit and wait.”

The staff treat all clientele, big or small, the same because Nat’s wouldn’t exist without the little guys. Carlos believes that regular customers, and the environment that they provide, really make a restaurant successful.

“We have the same customers now that we had 20 years ago,” he said. “I’ve seen so many kids grow up. I’ve seen families form and break apart, and even when they break apart, they still come back.”

The unique relationships formed between staff and clientele are one of the main reasons Carlos has continued to work.

“I’ve always been interested in what the customers like, what they think is interesting,” he said. “I took three days off a few months ago to go to Vegas. I came back on a Saturday, and I was so excited. I was going crazy, running around the restaurant

serving coffee, getting drinks, picking up plates. I just love doing what I do, and I love getting all of the interactions I get to have.” It turns out that the restaurant’s customers adore Carlos just as much as he loves them.

“Back in 2000, I retired and business went down,” Carlos said. “And I realized that nothing was wrong. I just needed to be here.”

About 17 months ago, after the birth of his grandson, Carlos was ready to sell the Woodland Hills location of Nat’s Early Bite to his nephew.

“My daughter was running the one in Woodland Hills, but then she got married and got pregnant and she couldn’t work anymore,” he said. “50 hours a week is hard, and I kept running back and forth. So I eventually sold it. I don’t need it, I want to enjoy my grandson now.”

However, Carlos isn’t ready to retire just yet. He still loves his work, his staff and the community he has built.

“Running the restaurant is a challenging job, but I never look at it like that,” he said. “When you love doing what you do, you just come and get it done.”

No matter how much Carlos makes at the end of the month, he doesn’t care, so long as that money comes from a place of hard work.

“I’ve opened four restaurants,” he said. “And I don’t do it because I want the money or want to be some type of millionaire. I’ve just always been grateful to have a job that I love and whatever comes every month I don’t care. I’m just happy.”

Carlos encourages those interested in the restaurant industry to give it a chance. Once can never know just what might come of it.

“Follow your dreams, but you have to work hard at it,” he said. “A lot of young people nowadays want to be YouTubers, they want to be influencers, but they want it instantly. They want to start making money the first day, but things don’t happen like that. Things take time, courage and hard work.”

SERVING THE COMMUNITY Nat’s Early Bite has been a staple of Sherman Oaks for over forty years. Victor Carlos has run the restaurants with a fervor for the food industry. LEADING BY EXAMPLE Victor Carlos places a dish upon the counter for a waiter to pick up. He continues to work alongside his staff while managing the restaurant. THE MIRROR | PHOTOS BY IVAN ALCALA

Editorial Criminal president or geriatric president?

When people think of the president of the United States, many qualities come to mind. Strength, courage, confidence and competence are just a few that people envision in the leader of a global powerhouse.

What people don’t visualize, however, are animated fossils and conceited bigots — precisely what our last two presidents and upcoming candidates are.

Both Joe Biden’s and Donald Trump’s tenures in office are marked by cringeworthy gaffes and utter incompetence. As America witnesses a repeat of their 2020 head-to-head in the upcoming 2024 election, analyses of their respective shortcomings are necessary.

Anyone can tell that Sleepy Joe’s not all there; he’s clearly got a few screws loose in his head and his joints, masterful as he is at falling down the stairs of the Air Force One and onstage podiums. You can’t even blame him for it; conditions like dementia and arthritis commonly plague people of his age. But the fact remains that putting an 81-yearold man in the Oval Office is a poor idea.

Aside from public displays of unreliability, Biden’s failed policies have proven him to be an ineffective leader.

The crumbling state of the economy, for instance, is just one consequence of his rickety administration. There was a 500% increase in inflation during Biden’s term.

An analysis found that the average middleclass American family loses thousands of dollars in spending capabilities when accounting for inflation trends.

America’s standing as a global power is compromised by the Biden administration’s repetition of regretful foreign military activity. The catastrophic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 is just one example of how America, under Biden’s leadership, has demonstrated weakness for the world to see.

There have been more than 5.5 million illegal border crossings since Biden’s inauguration in January 2021. Thanks to his current policies, welcoming new populations into America has never been easier.

Activity across the southern border also highlights the only meaningful upward trend in the economy. The 530,000 pounds of meth, cocaine and fentanyl seized at American borders illustrate a wonderful increase in domestic imports and job opportunities for drug and human traffickers.

Trump doesn’t seem to fare much better.

Following Trump’s inauguration in 2017, it soon became clear the promises that got him into office weren’t backed with real substance.

Repealing Obamacare, deporting all illegal immigrants and ending birthright citizenship are a fraction of claims Trump made and failed to follow through with.

However, the biggest blunder of Trump’s tenure was remaining unresponsive to the most chaotic development in recent history — the covid-19 pandemic.

From publicly undermining the severity of covid-19 to asserting everyone would be tested even when test supplies were far too limited, Trump continually added fuel to the fire. After each presidential statement, the state of the union grew even more chaotic.

As if the verbal gymnastics weren’t terrible enough, there was a severe lack of efficiency and effectiveness in organizing an appropriate response. Too little tests were produced too late, resulting in a nationwide inability to screen for infected individuals.

Trump is also the first president in U.S. history to have been impeached twice: once for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, and again for inciting a riot.

During a campaign rally in Georgia for the upcoming election, Trump imitated Biden’s lifelong stutter. While making jabs at political opponents is nothing new, mocking any individual’s disability is a new low.

Like Biden, Trump is clearly unfit to head the American government, and proves that money can’t buy manners or competence.

America has long been a world power, respected and feared for its strength and commitment to democracy. Neither a fragile puppet nor an egotistical bully deserve to sit in the highest office of our nation.

Despite this, no other candidates from either the Democratic or Republican party come remotely close to receiving the sheer support Biden and Trump enjoy.

No other candidates can amass enough views to shift large media companies away from the Trump versus Biden narrative.

Different, younger candidates deserve a shot at running the country. Given a fair chance, they could usher in a brighter era for all Americans. Unless politicians who won’t run America into the ground step up to the plate, the 2024 election could spell the start of the end for our country.

Legacy admissions LAUSD's AI hypocrisy

EQUAL ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION The California legislature is looking to pass a bill that will impact legacy admissions – preferences for children of alumni – at private universities. While some argue that legacy admissions from these students may result in increased revenue from their donors, which helps all students out when it becomes financial aid, at the end of the day, the goal of these colleges should be to prepare the next generation of Californians for future careers, regardless of their background. This initiative will be sidelined if legacy admissions continue, giving children of alumni who may not be as qualified to attend these colleges an unfair advantage over potential students who are qualified, yet get rejected anyway to make room for legacy students.

LAUSD JUMPS ONTO AI LAUSD’s superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho unveiled an artificially intelligent tool named Ed to help students design academic plans, understand their homework and find out their grades. This measure only reveals the hypocrisy behind LAUSD’s policy over AI. The rules of the policy block everything from similar AI chatbots like ChatGPT to innocuous websites like the New York Times Games, making it challenging for students and teachers to find out which sites are and aren’t blocked. If LAUSD really wants to break into the AI realm, they should look inwards at their AI policy first. Otherwise, Ed reads as an attempt by LAUSD to monopolize AI resources while leaving others in the dark.

Los Angeles, published twice a year. Opinions expressed in bylined commentary articles and columns represent the views of the individual writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mirror or the Editorial Board.

DISTRIBUTION Copies are free to students, faculty and staff and are available in Room 112, Second Floor, Main Building. Digital issues are available at or

CORRECTIONS We strive to be accurate and factual. Please report errors via email to

READER PARTICIPATION Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board. Letters to the board may be delivered to Room 112 or mailed to The Mirror, Van Nuys High School, 6535 Cedros Ave, Van Nuys, CA 91411. Letters must be signed and may be edited for space and style.

ADVERTISING Publication of an advertisement does not imply endorsement of the product or service by the newspaper or the school. Advertising questions may be directed to Ron Goins at ronald.goins@

MEMBERSHIPS National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA), Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA), Southern California Journalism Educators Association (SCJEA), Los Angeles Journalism Teachers Association (LAJTA) and Los Angeles Press Club.

18 | SPRING 2024 | OPINION | the MIRROR VOLUME 110 | ISSUE 2 EXECUTIVE EDITOR Angelina Gevorgyan LAYOUT & DESIGN EDITOR Brianna Alvarado PHOTO EDITOR Gianna Iovino ONLINE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Daimler Koch ASSOCIATE ONLINE EDITORS Maya Diaz Haik Ushaglyan NEWS & FEATURES EDITOR Olamide Olumide ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR Madison Thacker ATHLETICS EDITOR Isabel Valles OPINION EDITOR Joel Nam STAFF Ivan Alcala Farah Alsiba Liiit Aprahamian Val Arias Michael Arredondo Jalyn Bautista Adrianna Bean Alyson Cerna Kristina Charshavdzhyan Marcello Chester Chioma Chiawa Jerald Choondakaran Jaden Gervacio Lindsay Han Viktoriya Khanliyan Abigail Kim Baron Kim Rogers Levitt Skylie Molina Christopher Monterrosa Natalia Navarro Alexa Parry Kimberly Perez Mia Ramirez Mia Rodriguez Kimberly Salazar Max Sandoval Delmis Vaquerano Roxana Vasquez David Vazquez JOURNALISM ADVISER Mr. Ron Goins
US The Mirror is the student newspaper of Van Nuys Senior High School in Van Nuys, California, a district of
Editorial Students and admin need to be on the same page about censorship


One of America’s finest ideals, outlined in the First Amendment, is freedom of the press. It represents the ordinary man’s right to be informed, to have an awareness of reality within their nation and local neighborhood. People suffer when that right isn’t recognized.

Thanks to freedom of the press, ordinary people are informed about the ongoing events of the world they live in. This is a matter of such great importance because it is only when people are allowed to be informed that they have the chance to make logical decisions and form sensible beliefs.

The realm of student journalism is grounded in those same principles, aiming to arm the community with relevant knowledge that affects their lives. Unfortunately, the spheres of large-scale press and student journalism face opposition at times from a similar obstacle — wrongful censorship.

Various forms of censorship have been observed throughout history. Military censorship is practiced to strengthen national security, and speech which threatens to incite violence are rightfully kept out of mainstream broadcasts: these are examples

of appropriate censorship. On the other hand, political and religious censorship have been observed in certain governments throughout time with the intent to suppress.

Student journalism has long been the subject of wrongful censorship. The community’s right to be informed is routinely denied.

In early 2022, an incident at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in Los Angeles sparked controversy. The school’s journalism advisor was pressured by school administration to censor an article naming a campus staff member who refused to get the covid-19 vaccine. When the adviser balked at complying, she was suspended for three days without pay for insubordination. Though she successfully appealed the suspension, the situation sheds light on the threat wrongful censorship poses to student journalism.

Even Van Nuys High School recently experienced censorship. In November 2023, following the timely upload of an article covering an on-campus stabbing, LAUSD ordered that the article be temporarily removed from the student news website without explanation.

Following up with administration proved to be continually difficult for the school journalism team. Confusion and misunderstanding characterized the few interactions that took place. While the article’s reposting was

‘‘ But that disconnect between administrative and journalistic bodies, the gap that's proven itself to be real time and time again, won't close on its own."

eventually authorized, a lack of joint effort to resolve the situation illustrates a pattern that repeats all too often.

California Education Code 48907 states that the actions of student press may only be obstructed for select and specific reasons. Under the law, student journalists are prohibited from saying anything offensive, false and damaging to another’s reputation, creating disorder in school or promoting illegal activities. None of these applied in either case.

Student press is protected in California. In spite of that, repeated occurrences of inappropriate censorship throughout the state illustrate the disconnection between high school administrative bodies and journalists. The aftermath of any unfortunate series

Editorial Wokeism should be put to bed

In the midst of today’s hyper-political culture, a disease has crept into our society and wreaked havoc on the common sense of Americans: wokeism.

Initially coined by Black Americans facing evident discrimination in the 1940s, wokeism has been twisted into a toxic movement that promotes liberal policies and progressive ideologies in the name of systemic inequities and prejudices.

Freedom of expression and independent thinking have been abysmally shunned. Between forcing liberal agendas into education and inordinately dominating news media, wokeism is long overdue for a snooze.

The myriad doctrines and organizations upheld by wokeism are remarkably irrational and obtuse. Take critical race theory (CRT), a social movement rooted in the idea that race is not a biological characteristic of nationality;

rather, it stands as a cultural construct invented to oppress and exploit nonwhite individuals. Of course, the motive behind CRT is conscientious. However, the basis of their ideology is nonsensical. Stereotypes surrounding certain groups may be a cultural construct, but race itself certainly is not.

Blatant woke brainwashing also manifests in homosexuality teaching in elementary schools.

The California Healthy Youth Act was passed on Jan. 1, 2016, an act that requires the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity for grades K-12, including extensive sex education on the founding principles of LGBTQIA+. Several other states have implemented like-minded policies.

The thought of elementary students learning sex ed is heartbreaking and disturbing. Corrupting young minds in the name of wokeism and political correctness is utterly despicable, not to

mention wildly inappropriate.

Another senseless ideal wokists have adopted is the rewriting of history to fit their narrative of racially motivated victimization. The best way to progress as a country is not to rewrite history, but to embrace all aspects of our past and learn from our mistakes. Evidently, wokists are hesitant to adopt a mindset that values such objectivity.

In true wokist fashion, liberals dominate news and social media by a notable margin. As a result, the number of Americans with no trust in the media is at an all-time high, with 44% believing it is too progressive.

Woke agendas have catalyzed severe political divisions, and the movement must be terminated. Ultimately, the most productive way to achieve harmony is to promote a diverse range of viewpoints, maintain Americans’ freedom of thought and finally put the blazing topic of wokeism to rest.

of events calls for reflection. So, what’s to be done?

It’s tempting to point fingers and throw blame around. But that disconnect between administrative and journalistic bodies, the gap that’s proven itself to be real time and time again, won’t close on its own. Without dismissing accountability, facing that ugly truth is the first step to making wrongs right.

The greatest common factor administrations and student journalists share is the motive to operate for the empowerment, protection and good of the community — the people that are involved in a high school environment.

Administration oversees and enforces policies that maintain an orderly and appropriate school atmosphere. Student journalism aims to inform the community of and around the school. The two forces do not stand at odds with each other; in fact, it is only with the other’s cooperation that each can best perform their responsibilities.

It is within the community’s best interests, therefore, that high school administrations and journalists foster a spirit of understanding and work in tandem. If serious efforts are made to realize such an air of unification, there is no doubt that everyone can win.

• Kareem Carr • ~kareen_carr

Mathematical statement like 2+2 = 4, when applied to the real world are always intermediated by definitional ambiguity, measurement uncertainty, ambient stochasticity, exchangeability assumptions and the limits of causual intervention such that it may sometimes occur that 2+2=5,

• @jessicamhehe

Honestly if your a white person who says they're committed to racial justice and you are in good standing with most of your family I have *questions* for you and they are definietly pointed.

| OPINION | SPRING 2024 | 19 the MIRROR

Sign me up: American Sign Language is another step toward inclusion

Let’s face it. The school’s language classes are sorely lacking in variety.

Van Nuys only offers French and Spanish in order to achieve its LAUSD foreign language requirement. While both classes succeed in immersing students in a new culture, having only two options to pick from leaves many students wanting more.

Adding another set of language courses to a school includes benefits beyond providing students with more options, decreasing classroom sizes and opening new jobs for teachers and heads of language departments.

At this

school, where most individuals share a deep intimacy with cultural inclusivity, having more language courses would encourage students to not only expand their horizons, but invest in a worthwhile skill.

In a country as diverse as America, bilingual communication offers a competitive advantage in most professions. ASL would open a door to future translators and educators. Those who plan to travel abroad in the future find these courses essential to respecting and integrating into new cultures and environments.

13% of people aged 12 and older in the United States have full hearing loss. That’s 30 million deaf people within our population. Additionally, 6.1% of the world has disabling hearing loss.

In my own family, deafness

is hereditary. My family members are often plagued with ear infections that permanently damage their eardrums. I myself have minor hearing issues that become worse with sickness.

Over time, I’ve had to teach myself small phrases in ASL in fear that those skills will become necessary for further communication. Knowing I’ll have to teach myself or pay for lessons feels disheartening when it could have been offered at school for free.

As we grow older, our hearing will decline. I know that I’ll lose my hearing sooner than usual, but knowing that I’ll still be able to express myself is a great comfort.

For individuals that are deaf or struggle with hearing, ASL is one of the best ways to find a tighter-knit community. ASL is simple to learn and has been

known to improve social skills because of its clear signs for objects and actions.

It’s human nature to find connections and build community. We crave solidarity and have evolved as social creatures.

Everyone expresses themselves differently, some more verbally and others more visually. ASL offers another way to communicate your feelings. Even if times get tough, I know that when I can’t find my voice, I can use my face and hands.

Bringing ASL to Van Nuys would put another learning style on the table for all students and foster a supportive environment for people like me. Introducing students to cultures within their community should be a pillar of our school.

Attention billionaires: Space is not a commodity

are able to fly more people at lower costs, space won’t remain an object of fascination. It will be reduced to a mere commodity, one that is infinite in size and finite in interest.

Richard Branson. Jeff Bezos. Elon Musk. All three have launched individual initiatives to do one thing, and one thing only: to send potential customers into space.

Humanity’s final frontier, outer space has long been the realm of imagination and intrigue. The only people who could touch it were the lucky few handpicked by governmental space organizations around the world to go up into the International Space Station, orbital aircraft and even the moon.

However, with the advent of Branson, Bezos and Musk, who have created Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX, respectively, space has not only become a mass-market product that can be sold piecemeal, but also a last-ditch hope come doomsday.

Many have pointed out that these billionaires are obsessed with the idea of moving humanity to another planet. They see themselves as the last hope for all of us; after we’ve destroyed the Earth with climate change, widespread poverty and global conflict, they can pick us up and drop us onto another planet. This is absurd. The money that could be going into potential solutions is instead being channeled into early efforts to relocate from our home planet. Rather than

focusing on trying to find the cure, they have simply decided to abandon the patient and move on to another.

They don’t see how diverting money from efforts to reverse the negative consequences of human development on the planet to their own selfish pursuits prevents billions of people from living better lives around the world.

Also, once space travel becomes cheaper and billionaires

Millions of people – children especially – are enchanted by the mystery of the cosmos. For them, it remains a driving force for their curiosity, fueling them in their future undertakings and becoming an essential part of their personality.

These billionaires have an unspoken responsibility to make sure that this fragile sense of curiosity remains intact. No doubt, many of them were enraptured by the same curiosity that their peers faced when they were kids. It’s important for them to look back and remember what it felt like to look up at the night sky at that age, and remind themselves that their decisions may affect the course of future generations to come.

Instead of only investing in machines that could get off the ground, for example, they can also invest in museums that educate people about the wonders of space. Instead of only splurging on ideas for future interplanetary colonies, they can also splurge on plans for getting Americans interested in astronomy and beyond.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with sending more people into space. After all, that has been humanity’s dream since the very dawn of civilization. But these billionaires can’t get too lost in the clouds. They must ground themselves in the wider context of their duty to serve humanity as a whole.

20 | SPRING 2024 | OPINION | the MIRROR
DAIMLER KOCH MISSED OPPORTUNITY American Sign Language (ASL) can open many doors for students if it were to be more widely taught across LAUSD schools. Doing so would more accurately represent the diversity of the school community.
MUSKRAT ON THE MOON Elon Musk’s drive to commercialize outer space risks fracturing humanity’s curiosity of the cosmos.

Lose some weight. It’s not healthy to be heavy


Fat people are everywhere. Seriously, I can’t walk down the street or attend class without seeing them. The belly rolls, the multi-chins, the stomach-in-pants— these are a few common characteristics of the too-heavy individual.

Nearly 70% of all adults in the United States are overweight or obese, a staggeringly high number, while one in five children aged 2-19 years are obese.

People today are too fat. Facing this ugly truth is profoundly uncomfortable for both obese and normal-weight individuals.

Social media movements promoting inclusion have made discussions about redressing fatness a social taboo. Body positivity movements like “Health at Every Size” and “fat acceptance” contribute to misleading notions that being fat is okay. Every extensive health study since the dawn of time says it’s not.

Such movements often send the harmful message that accepting one’s fatness is synonymous with an unwillingness to change it. Phrases like “plus-size” only promote the avoidance of recognizing fat for what it is and taking appropriate measures to become healthier.

People today have come to fear being criticized as fatphobic, fully aware of the cancel culture we live in.

On the other hand, fat people who want to make a change freeze at the thought of how others may perceive them. The shame and embarrassment they associate with their body can be overwhelming and encourage avoiding the issue.

I can attest to the mental and emotional struggle, having been much-too-fat for years on end. Being ashamed of your own body is a uniquely horrific battle. The figure in the mirror was a routine reminder of how disgusting I was; my sausage fingers, chunky legs and stomach flab fueled destructive cycles of self-negativity.

Cycles of binge eating and self-inflicted starvation became my coping mechanism.

I understand how it can be a touchy subject that people don’t want to address. However, closing the door on serious discussions about obesity is detrimental to the individuals who are suffering from it. Obesity is a harmful medical condition and it should be treated as such. Society has agreed to acknowledge conditions like cancer and depression and help victims overcome them. The approach to obesity should be no different.

Tweens aren’t tweens anymore

Boy bands, Disney Channel and awkwardness defined tween culture in the 2000s and 2010s. Now it’s all about Sephora, Instagram and behaving like an adult.

A tween is anyone between the ages of nine and 13. This is a formative time for most young people, especially girls. The tween years are a time of self discovery and identity development. Tweens are often lumped in the same category as children, but that’s not entirely accurate.

Most tweens are already in middle school and find themselves in an awkward limbo; tweens are too old for most things marketed to kids, but still too young to participate in the same activities as teenagers. For some, this creates confusion over where to group tweens as both consumers and audiences. All the while, tweens continue to struggle with navigating their identity.

Wanting to be more like an adult is an interest shared by most young people.

Kids look up to older figures in their lives and place them on pedestals. Celebrities, parents, older siblings and cousins can easily become idolized. Unfortunately, this admiration for adult figures, coupled with modern consumer culture, can lead to inappropriate and harmful imitation.

Trends like the Sephora kids epidemic, which began in early 2024, highlight just how extreme tween attempts to emulate adulthood can get. In a concerning fashion, preteens stormed Sephora, a cosmetics store specializing in makeup and skincare, desperate to purchase products from the likes of Drunk Elephant and Charlotte Tilbury.

Adult customers of numerous cosmetic brands found themselves contending with individuals who don’t even have their own money for the hottest makeup products.

These products are obviously not meant for the skin of preteens. Dermatologists have voiced their concerns about young consumers using mature skincare products. Prominent ingredients, such as retinol and exfoliating acids and fragrances, can lead to skin irritation and development of contact allergies in youth.

Ironically, anti-aging products and routines are in particularly high demand

amongst tweens. Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see how ridiculous this is, a perspective that is widely shared by professionals.

But while growing trends continue to raise awareness surrounding this issue, the public responses that have ensued are cause for even greater concern. Adults, the very people tweens have gone so far off the deep end to mimic, have been shaming these kids and relentlessly mocking them on the internet. It’s as if these people forgot that they were also clueless kids once.

The tween phase has always been awkward. This is a time for fangirling and


Justice was my Lululemon and Claire’s was my Sephora. Where I had actors on TV to admire, kids today have Instagram and Youtube vloggers. Some may say it’s a harmless shift in influences. However, the content isn’t simply different. It’s become downright inappropriate.”

having bad taste in music. I remember my own tween years being filled with watching reruns of Hannah Montana and obsessively listening to One Direction. And while I might sometimes cringe at the thought of those years, being able to explore the things that appealed to me without having anyone tell me what I should care about has enabled me to grow in tune with my own identity.

Today’s tweens don’t have access to that same culture of unadulterated exploration. They don’t even have Disney Channel anymore. Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, Disney Channel ruled tween culture. Stars like Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Demi

Lovato were the biggest role models to tweens watching them. Young girls, myself included, would try to emulate their style, look and talent. Tweens today look up to glamorous YouTubers and influencers with flawless skin as their role models.

Justice was my Lululemon and Claire’s was my Sephora. Where I had actors on TV to admire, kids today have Instagram and YouTube vloggers. Some may say it’s a harmless shift in influences. However, the content isn’t simply different. It’s become downright inappropriate.

The media’s current portrayal of beauty standards, for instance, is at an all-time low. Countless videos on YouTube and Instagram showcase unrealistic beauty routines and diets. Such widespread normalization of extreme lifestyles, the vast majority of which are enhanced through filters and lighting, is incredibly toxic.

When I was a tween I dreamed about wearing high heels and sparkly eye shadow. Nowadays, tweens dream about owning crop tops and getting botox.

Additionally, there is almost no modern media appropriately targeted towards preteens. Most current shows on Disney Channel, for example, are cartoons aimed at elementary schoolers. On the flip side, a lot of popular teen shows and movies that tweens turn to for entertainment instead are simply not appropriate for them.

The rise of streaming combined with a lack of shows and films aimed at tweens means they have started watching things that are too mature. We need to keep in mind that what is appropriate for a 16-yearold is not also appropriate for a 13-year-old. What our society needs to do is re-examine and redress our approach to tween behavior. Making fun of cringy and childish behavior has become another toxic norm, so much so that kids today are doing everything they can to not act their age.

Middle schoolers are pressuring each other into wearing makeup and dressing in revealing clothes in order to appear cool. Stanley cups and makeup products have become determiners for their social status. Tweens are either scolded about behaving childishly, or judged for acting too old.

The best thing we can do to help kids experience their tween years fully is to just let kids be kids, with more encouragement and less ridicule.

the MIRROR | OPINION | SPRING 2024 | 21
Christian values are not what a lot of people make them out to be

The “self” in selfie: Empowering or dangerous?

This article has not been written to convert anyone to Christianity. This is not an attempt to preach to readers from a higher moral ground. Everyone is entitled to having their own beliefs and opinions, and to choose to listen to or disregard others in a respectful manner. Now that it’s been established that I’m not a religious nut, cue the exposition.

Our context shall begin with some brief family history.

Going to church has always been a part of my life. My parents both come from Christian families, and my dad is a pastor. Due to various reasons, I resented religion intensely for most of my teenage years, only truly turning to Christianity in January 2024.

It’s become evident that the teachings of Christianity hold incredible relevance to secular life. A great number of Christian values can and should be integrated into general society; I am confident that communities will improve as a result.

On the surface, society encourages total inclusion and acceptance. Driven by this ideal, efforts have been made to inspire positive change. Movements promoting disability awareness and inclusion, for example, are testament to this fact.

Yet, cancel culture, so unforgiving and deprived of understanding in nature, endures. Cancel culture opposes the call for compassion. The reality that a person’s entire life and career can crumble at the touch of controversy is tragic and has no place in the world I envision.

Unfortunately, cancel culture doesn’t only persist in the ranks of celebrities and politicians. Disguised as a normal concept, it’s infiltrated the lives of ordinary people, adults and children alike. It’s so integrated into our sense of ideals that it’s difficult for many to actively recognize it as harmful.

Consider the following scenario. Suppose a close friend of yours was suddenly exposed as a raging racist, or perhaps a misogynist. Maybe even both! Common sense tells us that the right thing to do is to react with disgust, to shame, scorn and cut off the former peer because they’re toxic and full of red flags you just couldn’t see before. Being a bad influence becomes their identity.

This entails denying them the empathy all people deserve. To promote understanding and inclusion under a set of conditions is contradictory. The moment someone falls short of the standard we hold as acceptable, we view them from a higher moral ground and react with indignation and outrage. We tragically succeed in turning a human being’s entire identity into something lesser in our eyes.

Christianity is opposed to this toxic culture and calls for understanding and forgiveness with no strings attached. It goes against the modern notion of selective kindness, when common courtesy is only applicable to ideas or individuals who support your own beliefs or the public opinion.

Taking on a new perspective can be difficult. After all, we’ve grown to believe that forgiveness is second to justice. However, the Christian values of being patient and peaceable are applicable and appropriate in all interactions.

It’s easy to be hostile to opinions and ideas that contradict your own. Being argumentative is tempting, especially when we feel a belief we’re attached to is being threatened.

Online political debates are a breeding ground for interactions fueled by immediate judgment. Any post featuring either Joe Biden or Donald Trump in a positive or negative light is flooded with accusatory or dogmatic comments.

Reading through them is a surreal experience. MAGA fanatics question why the president is incapable of stringing coherent sentences together or appears to enjoy

nibbling a child’s ear; Biden supporters retaliate with claims that Trump hates immigrants and clown on the sorry state of his hair. Of course, curses and foul language go hand in hand with these conflicts.

Even in regular conversations with friends and family, stubbornly arguing our side without consideration for the other is commonplace. Biases regularly fuel our thinking as conversations that started off tame go up in flames.

People especially enjoy scorning others behind their backs. It may not seem like a big deal, but constant repetition primes us to react without compassion when push comes to shove.

In any case, it’s clear that people today are quick to react without thinking.

Patience disappears as fiery impulse takes the wheel. Too often, rational thought never even makes it into the car, left behind as the emotional vehicle speeds off to collide head on with another.

Patience and kindness make the road to mutual respect and understanding far less treacherous. Staying true to our own beliefs doesn’t necessitate beating others over the head with them, and certainly doesn’t exclude openmindedness.

You don’t need to be a believer in Jesus Christ to be compassionate or forgiving. My inspiration to address these values and how society stands to benefit from them happens to be derived from my faith, but this is not a religious matter. Rather, it is a call for change and action so good can be spread in the world.

I encourage you, dear reader, to practice mindfulness and unconditional empathy as you go about your days. Take time to reflect on past situations in which you wish you had reacted differently and look to apply a new approach.

Remember that there is nothing to lose from trying. There is only something to be gained.

A few months ago, my dad poked fun at the launch of the 2009 iPhone 4, the first iPhone to feature a front-facing camera. Prior to its release, front-facing cameras were widely unestablished. He jokingly remarked that pandemonium would ensue if the latest iPhone debuted without a front-facing camera.

Though it was said in jest, I pondered the underlying truth in my dad’s statement. With the reign of social media and selfie culture, it now seems nonsensical for a phone to lack a frontal camera. As this generation grows increasingly concerned with me, myself and I, the problem with selfies is evident.

Narcissism is a buzzword often thrown around to define a disagreeable, selfimportant individual with little empathy. Endlessly uploading pictures of oneself can trigger hyper-awareness of one’s appearance and accomplishments, potentially spiraling into chronic selfabsorption.

Further, behaving narcissistically can swiftly lead to addiction. Taking twenty pictures at a time and selecting a flawless shot to post has become wrongfully normalized.

To fill these gaping holes of insecurity, filters and altering appearances have become the most pitiful trends of the century. Not only does this behavior indicate deep sadness and dissatisfaction, but it also fans the flames of unrealistic beauty standards.

Selfies can encourage personal expression, which begs the question of whether they lean more toward selfempowerment or self-destruction. Considering the detrimental impact of selfies, it’s clear that selfie culture is wrecking livelihoods and skyrocketing insecurity. If self-empowerment is a universal goal, then removing the “self” from selfie by limiting the number of pictures we take and post will be immensely beneficial.

22 | SPRING 2024 | OPINION | the MIRROR

Chronic perfectionism makes you far from perfect

and being rejected from colleges due to one imperfection.

Your calculus test stares accusingly at you. A 65% has been viciously inked in red at the top of the paper, tearing a hole through your chest.

Your expectations for a flawless GPA are crushed as your A in the class plummets to a C. You frantically begin concocting explanations for your parents, burning with anxiety at the thought of their disappointment.

This is a prime demonstration of chronic perfectionism, a phenomenon consuming competitive students at alarming rates. Chronic perfectionism has become a silent epidemic eating away at the well-being of young individuals and shackling the gratification of progress.

Perfectionism is often viewed as a onedimensional personality trait that strives for impractical excellence. However, researchers have identified three disparate branches of perfectionism: self-oriented perfectionism, an unreasonable desire for flawlessness; socially prescribed perfectionism, or perceiving irrational standards from others; and other-oriented perfectionism, the act of housing unrealistic expectations for others. The hyper-competitive nature of today’s school environments have fueled these toxic tendencies, and it’s high time to acknowledge the chronic perfectionism that has plagued students over the years.

Psychology Today defines perfectionism as the intense craving to be flawless. Chronic perfectionists are notorious for setting absurdly high expectations for themselves. They are quick to condemn their mistakes and easily disheartened at perceived failures. Although perfectionists strive for success, they wrongfully emphasize avoiding error and obsess over meeting their personal standards.

The National Library of Medicine has established that three out of 10 adolescents are afflicted with chronic perfectionism.

Furthermore, the American Psychological Association revealed in a 2018 report that perfectionism among young individuals has dramatically increased since 1980, with self-oriented perfectionism growing by 10%, socially prescribed perfectionism by 33% and other-oriented perfectionism by 16%.

Modern society contributes greatly to these numbers by placing academic success on a lofty pedestal, paving a dangerous path of comparison and self-sabotage for students.

The competition ravaging through today’s learning environments is astonishing. The perpetual pursuit of exemplary grades and outshining peers has provided the resources for chronic perfectionism to wreak havoc on students’ livelihoods and mental health. Every exam is another opportunity to fail, and every project must astronomically exceed the requirements.

A recent publication by Sage Journals unveiled that up to 30% of students suffering from chronic perfectionism are at an increased risk of anxiety, depression

and suicidal impulses. Such an unhealthy mindset can also lead to eating disorders or indicate obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Mental health is already a major societal concern, and we must not condone further destruction upon the minds of younger generations.

Not only does chronic perfectionism fan the flames of notable preexisting mental health issues, but it also plays a role in severe indecisiveness. Severe indecisiveness partners with unrealistic expectations to suck the pleasure out of learning, promote procrastination and burden individuals with protecting their self-esteem when making decisions.

Acute perfectionism can also spiral into catastrophic thinking, a cognitive distortion that prompts individuals to immediately assume the worst possible outcome.

As a student who suffers from chronic perfectionism, this is a disheartening reality. At the sight of one poor test grade, my mind races with dark thoughts of failing the class

Detoxing: Retake control of your life

Everything is too attractive. This is both the greatest appeal and most disruptive facet of the modern age. With the constant presence of unhealthy stimuli, functioning normally can become difficult.

This phenomenon is most evident in screen time patterns amongst Americans. In the United States, the average screen time is just over seven hours. The typical high school student clocks in at a staggering eight and a half hours.

Dedicating absurd portions of our day to the cyberverse has become dangerously normalized, in part thanks to technology’s prominence in our lives. Checking messages, accessing social media, playing games, watching videos or utilizing any other app contributes to your screen time total. It isn’t hard to understand how it’s gotten so out of hand. Even schooling has embraced the digital realm. Over the last several years, I’ve noticed a steady shift away from handwritten work. Now, the vast majority of all my assignments and tests are completed and submitted online.

As a result, people are often unaware of the severity of this issue. It’s gotten to the point where most can’t fathom going an entire day without screens. Just think about how often you check your phone or use a computer. Today, you’d be hardpressed to find someone who doesn’t interact with a screen at least once every hour.

The digital abyss is seductive without a doubt. But life is far too vast to be adequately experienced through a screen, or when several hours a day are dedicated to staring at one. It’s true that screens can show you incredible things. However, a problem arises when it keeps you confined at the same time.

Beyond screens, Americans face a growing problem in food choices. The food industry discovered long ago that tasty foods sell better; today, a large fraction of food engineering is dedicated to finding new ways to please our taste buds, often through copious amounts of sugar or similarly addictive ingredients.

Having sweets around is awesome, don’t get me wrong. I could devour a 12-count box of Häagen-Dazs ice cream in a flash. But products so laden with junk ingredients should never have become mainstays in our diets.

Whole aisles of grocery stores are dedicated to snacks and chips. There is no shortage of fast food restaurants. These details are normal in American life, but highlight just how widespread the problem has become.

The notion of a detox is to cleanse something out of your lifestyle to improve living quality. Various trends have taken social media by storm; influencers preach about drinking superfood smoothies religiously or abandoning all forms of unhealthy dopamine the modern age provides.

However, it doesn’t need to be as aggressive as people make it out to be. Being mindful of screen time doesn’t necessitate abandoning technology. Cleaning up your diet shouldn’t equal only drinking green veggie concoctions.

Burnout becomes an additional concern as chronic perfectionism pushes students beyond their limits. A survey revealed that a startling 80% of upcoming college graduates reported a lack of motivation and other symptoms of burnout. High school and college students are the future of the world. The future doesn’t look promising if learners continue to suffer from mental disorders and burnout as a result of their toxic perfectionist tendencies.

A distinction must be made between healthy perfectionism and chronic perfectionism. Healthy perfectionists are achievement-oriented, set ambitious but attainable goals, hold themselves to admirable standards and relentlessly chase success. Conversely, unhealthy perfectionists are failure-oriented, fixated on avoiding blunders and adopting an all-or-nothing mentality.

Some may argue that extreme perfectionism is advantageous for students, as it encourages them to harness their full potential. Of course, sensible perfectionism promotes excellent work habits and a growth mindset. However, chronic perfectionism adds fuel to the fire of academic struggle rather than dousing it.

As a student with chronic perfectionism, I am struck by how undisclosed this condition remains despite its growing commonality among ambitious students. Although my acute perfectionism largely contributes to my academic motivation, it has inflicted more harm than good on my livelihood and mental health. I have fallen into severe bouts of anxiety due to low exam grades and subsequently believing I’d disappointed teachers. There’s no cure for chronic perfectionism, but the first step entails raising societal awareness surrounding this issue. Only then, with newfound support, can student perfectionists emerge from their bubble of unreasonable expectations and learn freely, unshackled by self-deprecation and irrational attitudes.

Instead, everyone should try to identify if they’ve got a problem and cut back on what needs to be dialed down. Time dedicated to screens can be refocused to some light exercise. Get some sunshine and funnel effort into a hobby you enjoy. Find time to eat a little better; cooking with friends or family is a great way to have fun and be more conscious of what you’re consuming.

Indulging in excessive screen time or a terrible diet comes at too high of a cost. Detoxing is a great way to increase your happiness and take better control of your life. If people would give detoxing a try, they’d be pleasantly surprised at just how much better they end up feeling.

the MIRROR | OPINION | SPRING 2024 | 23

How America’s schools violence and improving

One minute, Assistant Principal Mr. Martin Tate was supervising the quad, strolling the school grounds and overseeing students.

The very next minute, he found himself on the phone with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and school police. He was standing inches away from victims of a stabbing, and had his foot on one of the knives used in the incident.

Mr. Tate was in shock at how instantly the situation escalated.

School violence is a common phenomenon in the United States, one that everyone hears about on the news. But not many people expect to experience it firsthand.

On Nov. 2, 2023, Van Nuys High School witnessed a stabbing, reminding the community that the safety of students and staff members can never be guaranteed.

Incited by a dispute between two crews, two students came to school with knives determined to execute a targeted stabbing during nutrition. After two students suffered stab wounds, various fist fights broke out.

Mr. Tate, Principal Ms. Lourdes De Santiago and Assistant Principals Mr. Marc Strassner, Ms. Dawn Brown, Ms. Anabel Bonney and Ms. Maria Cristina Phillips took charge. With the help of school deans, they contacted police officials and placed the school on lockdown, following emergency protocol in an effort to get the situation under control.

“I found out that the administrators here work as a team,” Mr. Tate said. “All six of us sprung into action. We stepped up and were mindful to ensure that students and staff were safe. It made me feel much more assured that I have the support that I need in case an emergency happens.”

While students and teachers remained inside offices and classrooms, cafeteria workers continued to prepare lunches. When police officials authorized it, administrators delivered food to classrooms and escorted students to restrooms.

During the lockdown, in the midst of confusion, students and staff were not fully aware of what had transpired. Many individuals found out about the incident when they saw it on the news. This is not uncommon, according to Southern California law enforcement veteran Mr. Adam Coughran.

“When it comes from a law enforcement point of view, there’s a lot of things that officers have to worry about, because stabbings can quickly escalate,” he said. “It’s a dangerous situation no matter which way you look at it, and so the lockdown is designed to keep teachers and students and everyone else removed from that. The communication of what’s going on isn’t always a top priority of law enforcement. The top priorities are getting there quickly, responding, saving lives, stopping the incident and trying to secure the campus.”

A former marine, Mr. Tate believes that his training and experience with responding to emergencies allows him to more effectively maintain safety and discipline on campus.

“I’m thankful for the training that I’ve had, and the ability to carry protocol out efficiently,” he said. “Because of it, I have the ability to let everything slow down so I can see things clearly.”

Though he has dealt with violent situations in the past, it was unsettling

for him to observe violence on a school campus.

“It’s disheartening that students did what they did,” Mr. Tate said. “There are still some shock and after effects from the incident. I’ve never been right in the middle of an incident like that with students.”

Administrators worked with police officials to identify the students involved in the violence by analyzing videos of the incident taken by bystanders. The two students who carried out the violence were ultimately arrested for attempted murder. Since they are minors, their current criminal status remains undisclosed. It has been confirmed that they were relocated to other schools.

“Sometimes law enforcement or neighbors can tell that there’s tension between two crews,” Mr. Coughran said. “If a school knows that, then it can be on high alert. But all too often, schools don’t know about these tensions until it’s too late. Thus, it is important to establish effective communication and partnerships between schools and their surrounding communities.”

Fortunately, the injured students received adequate medical attention and survived the incident.

“Things can always be worse, but it shouldn’t have happened at all,” Mr. Coughran said. “There should not have been an act of violence on the school campus. It’s a big deal. Campuses should be safe from violence.”

The school’s Psychiatric Social Workers (PSWs) proactively collaborated to make sure both students and staff were supported.

“It had a different impact on different students given what they’ve experienced in the past in terms of exposure to violence,” PSW Ms. Katherine Stockly said. “We connected students and staff to the type of support that they needed at that moment. Whether that was connecting them with a counselor, a teacher, a crisis team member or a mental health professional.”

The team’s therapy dog Trixie paid visits to different classrooms to give comfort and support to students. PSW Ms. Karina Lares says that the situation proved to be a learning experience for everyone.

“There are students who were directly impacted by it and staff who were on the frontline,” Ms. Lares said. “What happened that day was a very scary situation to live through. Since I’ve been on this campus, I’ve never experienced something like that. Even with the training and knowledge that we have, when it came to responding to this situation, there was definitely a lot for us to take on.”

Ms. Lares stresses the importance of making sure that people have access to mental health resources. She says that this is one of the ways to build a healthy community on campus that serves as a safe space not only for students, but also for staff members.

Two days after the incident, administrators hosted a Zoom meeting for parents and families and did their best to address the community’s questions and concerns. People adamantly wanted to know how the violence was being dealt with, but there were many questions the school couldn’t answer.

“There’s certain things we can’t share, things that aren’t public knowledge because there is still an ongoing police investigation,” Mr. Tate said. “Investigations are ongoing until subjects are brought to justice.”

The administration also held a faculty meeting to speak with teachers and staff members about the incident. However, the school never directly discussed the incident with students. As a result, some students felt like they were left in the dark regarding important information.

BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY The school has implemented several new safety measures as precautionary initiatives. New security cameras have been installed, additional campus aides have been hired and the visitors policy has been revised, all in an effort to protect students and staff from future tragic events.

“There’s a lot of factors that kind of come into even what information can be released,” Mr. Coughran said. “A lot of schools essentially assume that if parents are being told what’s going on, the parents will then relay the information to their students in a way that the parents feel is probably the best route or the most valid way to relate the information to the student. We can’t always tell you exactly what happened if there’s confidentiality issues, since there are compounding issues when it comes to juvenile law. We can’t always release as much information as you would probably like, but information starts slowly getting out once everything is secured.”

In an effort to improve the safety of the campus, the district has paid for

‘‘You can have the something could Southern California law
24/25 | SPRING 2024 | COVER

schools are overcoming improving student safety

an ample amount of cameras to be installed in hallways, in stairwells and on the exterior of buildings. These cameras are four-dimensional and can be used to zoom in on and identify individuals.

“We are always growing and trying to find new and intuitive ways to build our safety and security,” Mr. Tate said. “Families can trust that VNHS is going to do everything in our power to maintain safety.”

Also, the school hired three new campus aides who participate in Campus Aide PBIS Training and systematic security training for active supervision.

“More campus aides essentially provides more people to help, but also more eyes on campus to see if something is brewing,” Mr. Coughran said. “To supplement that, cameras serve as a force multiplier when it comes to trying to see what’s happening on campus. Cameras can provide a historical record of what happened and can allow you to figure out what happened, who did what and those types of things for the investigation after the fact.”

Additional cost-effective safety measures that can be implemented, include locking classroom doors and windows during instruction and ensuring that gates are secure to limit possible points of entry.

“We should think about security in layers,” Mr. Coughran said. “Similar to an obstacle course, if someone wants to hurt you, there should be obstacles to try to get to you. You can probably spend no money and still really be able to increase school safety by assessing what your school currently has, what they’re currently doing and also the culture of the school community. Let’s help each other as opposed to trying to hurt each other.”

To further improve systems, Mr. Tate has developed a new visitors policy.

“The topic of school safety is a very multifaceted, complex field where there are multiple avenues that need to be addressed and that are consistently evolving,” Mr. Coughran said. “Every time something happens at a school, we start learning more and start to develop better strategies, policies, plans and standards surrounding how we design schools. The school is actively trying to get ahead of it and actively doing things to keep everyone safe. They’re learning, changing, evolving and trying to provide the best environment they can for you.”

To prevent possible violence, students and staff are urged to report any alarming activity.

“Be aware,” Mr. Coughran said. “Have critical conversations with your friends that you might know are going through a crisis. If they’re saying or exhibiting disturbing behaviors, tell or report it to a counselor or a teacher. The emphasis is on getting that student help, not to have the police come and arrest them.”

In case an emergency arises, Mr. Tate advises teachers to act in accor-

dance with their training. He also implores students to follow directions given to them by adults.

An avid advocate for school safety, Mr. Coughran is the founder and president of Safe Kids Inc., an organization based on the premise that there has to be an age-appropriate and trauma-informed way for teachers and students to learn how to prevent and survive violence.

“We talk to students from preschool all the way through high school and their teachers,” he said. “There should be a way to do it that feels empowering. One of our cornerstones is that we want students, teachers and everyone on campus to not only feel safe, but to be safe as well.

The H.E.R.O. program in particular is an active shooter training program that teaches students to hide, escape, run and overcome. It is an optionsbased response to violence that applies to different threatening situations.

“The program was designed by a multidisciplinary team of law enforcement educators and school psychologists to take the simple, basic premise of how to stay safe and be able to convey the information through lesson plans, stories, narratives and activities based upon grade level,” Mr. Coughran said. “That way, not only teachers know what to do, but also students know what to do as well. So should anything ever happen, either on campus or off campus, students and teachers and parents know how to react to that in order to stay safe. We’re teaching life skills that can be used to stay safe not only while at school, but also in our communities as well.”

The organization has received certificates of recognition from the United States Congress and from the California State Assembly. Mr. Coughran and his team are partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Strategy for Youth and Safety Preparedness.

Every year in the United States, an average of 1,600 people are murdered as a result of stabbings. It’s startling to think that some of these tragedies are taking place on school campuses. This calls the true safety of American schools into question.

“Yes, school violence on the rise statistically, but I still think schools are, by and large, still safe,” Mr. Coughran said. “There’s hundreds of thousands of professionals every day out there constantly trying to keep kids and teachers safe on school campuses. You can have the safest campus in the world, and something could still potentially happen. You could be doing absolutely everything right and doing everything that you’re supposed to, and

the safest campus in the world, and could still potentially happen.”
law enforcement Veteran Mr. Adam Coughran

something could still happen.”

Mr. Coughran emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and learning from school violence, but he also emphasizes the importance of not being defined by it.

“Should instances like this happen?” he asked. “No, they shouldn’t. But when they do happen, it’s about learning and moving to make sure that they’re not a regular occurrence.”

One thing can be said for certain: on the day of the stabbing, the school community came together to help one another. The district’s superintendent, chief of operations and regional director arrived on the scene to support the administrative team.

“Use the incident as a means to come together, as opposed to being divided on the issue,” Mr. Coughran said. “All too often, we have different camps about what happened or how it was handled and it can really split a community. There’s all kinds of issues that can happen around us. Conversely, it’s important to come together and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Moreover, mental health consultants from the district’s School Mental Health crisis team came to help the school’s deans, counselors and PSWs.

“We were very fortunate to have support from outside support staff,” Ms. Stockly said. “It was very heartfelt to have support staff from other divisions here on our campus. They were here trying to help us figure everything out, and help us move forward as a school community.”

According to Mr. Coughran, students and staff should strive to foster a healthier, more supportive culture on their campus.

“When it comes to leaving a lasting impact on your school, leave the school in a closer, tight-knit family,” he said. “Leave it a little bit safer. Leave it in a way that, as the students behind you start to inherit the school, they inherit a safer campus and a campus that is closer, that is open to talking and that has resources. If we use this as an opportunity to come together, that’s a way to make the best out of a tragic situation.”


Como las escuelas americanas están superando la violencia e mejorando la seguridad de los estudiantes



Un minuto, el subdirector Sr. Martin Tate estaba supervisando el patio de la escuela, paseando por los edificios y vigilando a los estudiantes. Al siguiente minuto, se encontró hablando por teléfono con el Departamento de Policía de Los Ángeles (LAPD) y la policía escolar. Estuvo a centímetros de las víctimas de una puñalada y tenía su pie sobre uno de los cuchillos utilizados en el incidente.

El Sr. Tate estaba conmocionado por la instantánea escalada de violencia de la situación.

La violencia escolar es un fenómeno común en los Estados Unidos (EE.UU), del que todo el mundo oye hablar en las noticias. Pero pocas personas esperan vivirlo en carne propia.

El 2 de noviembre de 2023, la escuela secundaria Van Nuys fue testigo de una persona apuñalada, que recordó a la comunidad que nunca se puede garantizar la seguridad de los estudiantes y de los miembros de la facultad. Instigados por una disputa entre dos pandillas, dos estudiantes llegaron a la escuela con un cuchillo decididos a ejecutar un apuñalamiento selectivo durante el período de nutrición.

Después de que dos estudiantes sufrieran heridas de apuñalamiento, e inmediatamente después estallaron varias peleas a puñetazos.

El Sr. Tate, la Directora Sra. Lourdes De Santiago y los subdirectores Sr. Marc Strassner, Sra. Dawn Brown, Sra. Anabel Bonney y Sra. Maria Cristina Phillips se hicieron cargo de la situación. Con la ayuda de los decanos de la escuela, se pusieron en contacto con la policía y cerraron la escuela, siguiendo el protocolo de emergencia en un esfuerzo para controlar la situación.

“Descubrí que los administradores aquí trabajan en equipo”, dijo el Sr. Tate. “Los seis actuamos rápidamente. Nos pusimos en acción y estuvimos atentos para garantizar la seguridad de los estudiantes y los miembros de facultad. Me hizo sentir mucho más seguro de que tengo el apoyo que necesito en caso de que ocurra una emergencia”.

Mientras los estudiantes y maestros permanecían dentro de las oficinas y salones de clases, los trabajadores de la cafetería seguían preparando los almuerzos. Cuando las autoridades policiales lo aprobaron, los administradores entregaron comida a los salones y acompañaron a los estudiantes al baño.

Durante el encierro, en medio de la confusión, los estudiantes y la facultad no fueron informados de lo

que había ocurrido. Muchos se enteraron del incidente cuando lo vieron en las noticias. Según Adam Coughran, veterano de las fuerzas del orden del sur de California, esto no es común.

“Desde el punto de vista de las fuerzas del orden, los agentes tienen que preocuparse de muchas cosas, porque los apuñalamientos pueden agravarse rápidamente,” dijo él. “Es una situación peligrosa, se mire por donde se mire, por lo que el encierro está diseñado para mantener a los maestros, a los estudiantes y a todos los demás alejados de la situación. La comunicación de lo que está ocurriendo no siempre es una de las prioridades de oficiales. Las prioridades principales son llegar rápidamente, responder, salvar vidas, detener el incidente e intentar asegurar al plantel escolar.”

El Sr. Tate fue un miembro de la marina de los EE.UU y cree que sus experiencias y entrenamiento en respuesta a emergencias le permite mantener la disciplina con una mayor aptitud en el plantel.

“Estoy agradecido por el entrenamiento que he recibido y por la capacidad de llevar a cabo el protocolo con aptitud,” dijo. “Gracias a eso, tengo la habilidad de permitir que las cosas se calmen para poder ver la situación con claridad.”

Aunque se ha enfrentado a situaciones violentas en el pasado, para él fue inquietante ver la violencia en un plantel escolar.


La escuela ha implementado varias medidas de seguridad nuevas como iniciativas de precaución. Se han instalado nuevas cámaras de seguridad, nuevos asistentes en el campus y una nueva política de visitantes para proteger a los estudiantes y al personal de futuros eventos trágicos.

26 | SPRING 2024 | EL ESPEJO | the MIRROR
‘‘Puedes tener el plantel más seguro del mundo y aún asi puede ocurrir algo.”

Veterano de las fuerzas del orden del sur de California Sr. Adam Coughran

“Es desolador que los estudiantes hicieron lo que hicieron,” dijo el Sr. Tate. “Todavía quedan secuelas del incidente. Nunca había estado en medio de una situación así con estudiantes.”

Los administradores trabajaron con oficiales de policía para identificar a los estudiantes involucrados en la violencia mediante el análisis de vídeos del incidente tomados por transeúntes. Los dos estudiantes que llevaron a cabo los actos violentos fueron detenidos por intento de asesinato. Dado que son menores de edad, no se ha revelado su situación penal actual. Se ha confirmado que fueron reubicados en otras escuelas.

“A veces los oficiales o los vecinos pueden darse cuenta de que se está gestando una tensión entre dos grupos,” dijo el Sr. Coughran. “Si una escuela lo sabe, entonces puede estar en alerta máxima. Pero muchas veces, las escuelas no se enteran de estas tensiones hasta que es demasiado tarde. Por eso es importante establecer una comunicación y una colaboración eficaz entre las escuelas y sus comunidades circundantes.”

Los estudiantes heridos recibieron la atención médica adecuada y sobrevivieron al incidente.

“Las cosas siempre pueden ser peores, pero no debería haber ocurrido,” afirmó el Sr. Coughran. “No debería haberse producido un acto de violencia en el plantel de la escuela.”

Los trabajadores sociales psiquiátricos (PSW) de la preparatoria colaboraron proactivamente para garantizar que tanto los estudiantes, como la facultad, recibieran apoyo.

“Tuvo un impacto diferente en los distintos estudiantes, dado lo que han vivido en el pasado en términos de exposición a la violencia,” dijo la Sra. Katherine Stockly. “Ayudamos a poner en contacto a los estudiantes y a los miembros de facultad con el tipo de apoyo que necesitaban en ese momento. Ya se trate de conectarlos con un consejero, un maestro, un miembro de un equipo de crisis o un profesional de salud mental.”

El perro de terapia del Equipo del distrito escolar, Trixie, visitó diferentes salones para dar consuelo y apoyo a los estudiantes. Karina Lares, PSW, afirma que la situación resultó ser una experiencia de aprendizaje para todos.

“Hay estudiantes y miembros de la facultad que estuvieron ayudando en primera línea que fueron directamente afectados,” dijo la Sra. Lares. “Lo que ocurrió aquel día fue una situación muy aterradora. Desde que estoy en esta escuela, nunca había vivido algo así. Incluso con la formación y los conocimientos que tenemos, a la hora de responder a esta situación tuvimos que asumir muchas cosas.”

La Sra. Lares subraya la importancia de asegurarse de que la gente tenga acceso a recursos de salud mental. Dice que ésta es una de las maneras de construir una comunidad sana en el plantel, que sirva de espacio seguro no sólo para los estudiantes, sino también para los miembros de la facultad.

Dos días después del incidente, los administradores organizaron una reunión Zoom para padres y familias e hicieron todo lo posible por responder a las preguntas y preocupaciones de la comunidad. La gente quería saber cómo se estaba enfrentando la violencia, pero había muchas preguntas que la escuela no podía responder. “Hay ciertas cosas que no podemos compartir, cosas que no son de conocimiento público porque todavía hay una investigación policial en curso,” dijo el Sr. Tate. “No podemos revelar todo. Las investigaciones continúan hasta que los sujetos sean llevados ante la justicia”.

La administración también tuvo una reunión de facultad para hablar con los profesores y miembros de la escuela sobre el incidente. Sin embargo, la escuela nunca discutió directamente el incidente con los estudiantes. Como resultado, algunos estudiantes sintieron que se les

había ocultado información importante.

“Hay muchos factores que influyen en la información que se puede revelar,” dijo el Sr. Coughran. “Muchas escuelas dan por sentado que si se informa a los padres de lo que está ocurriendo, éstos transmitirán la información a sus hijos de la forma que consideren adecuada. No siempre podemos decir exactamente lo que ha pasado si hay problemas de confidencialidad, ya que hay problemas agravantes cuando se trata de la ley de menores. No siempre podemos divulgar información como probablemente le gustaría a la gente, pero la información empieza a salir una vez que todo está asegurado.”

En un esfuerzo por mejorar la seguridad de la escuela, el distrito ha obtenido mas cámaras que se instalarán en los pasillos, en las escaleras y en el exterior de los edificios. Estas cámaras son cuatro dimensiones y pueden utilizarse para acercarse a las personas e identificarlas.

“Siempre estamos tratando de encontrar formas nuevas formas de reforzar nuestra seguridad,” dijo el Sr. Tate. “Las familias pueden confiar en que VNHS va a hacer todo lo posible para mantener la seguridad.”

Además, la escuela contrató a tres nuevos ayudantes del plantel escolar que participan en Campus Aide PBIS Entrenamiento y capacitación sistemática de seguridad para la supervisión activa.

“Más ayudantes del plantel esencialmente proporciona más gente para ayudar, pero también más ojos en el plantel para ver si algo se está gestando,” dijo el Sr. Coughran. “Para complementar eso, las cámaras sirven como un multiplicador de fuerza cuando se trata de ver lo que está sucediendo en el plantel. Las cámaras pueden proporcionar esencialmente un registro histórico de lo sucedido y pueden permitir averiguar qué pasó, quién hizo qué y ese tipo de cosas para la investigación posterior a los hechos.”

Otras medidas de seguridad que se puedan aplicar son cerrar las puertas y ventanas de los salones durante las clases y asegurarse de que estén seguras para limitar los posibles puntos de entrada.

“Deberíamos pensar en la seguridad por capas,” dijo el Sr. Coughran. “Similar a una carrera de obstáculos, si alguien quiere hacerte daño, debe haber obstáculos para tratar de llegar a ti. Probablemente se pueda no gastar dinero y aún así aumentar realmente la seguridad escolar evaluando lo que tiene actualmente la escuela, lo que están haciendo actualmente y también la cultura de la comunidad escolar. Ayudémonos unos a otros en lugar de intentar hacernos daño.”

Para mejorar los sistemas, el Sr. Tate ha elaborado una nueva política para visitantes.

“El tema de la seguridad escolar es un campo muy polifacético y complejo en el que hay múltiples vías que deben abordarse y que evolucionan constantemente,” dijo el Sr. Coughran. “Cada vez que ocurre algo en un colegio, empezamos a aprender más y a desarrollar mejores estrategias, políticas, planes y normas en torno a cómo diseñamos las escuelas. La escuela intenta adelantarse a los acontecimientos y hace todo lo posible para mantener la seguridad de todos. Estamos aprendiendo, cambiando, evolucionando y tratando de ofrecer el mejor entorno posible.”

Para prevenir posibles actos de violencia, se le pide a los estudiantes y la facultad a que informe de cualquier actividad irregular.

“Sé consciente,” dijo el Sr. Coughran. “Ten conversaciones críticas con tus amigos para que puedas saber si están pasando por una crisis. Si están diciendo o mostrando comportamientos perturbadores, díganselo o infórmenlo a un consejero o a un maestro. El énfasis está en conseguir ayuda para ese estudiante, no en que venga la policía a detenerlo.”

En caso de emergencia, el Sr. Tate aconseja a los maestros que actúen de acuerdo con su formación. También

implora a los estudiantes que sigan las instrucciones que les den los adultos.

Ávido defensor de la seguridad escolar, el Sr. Coughran es el fundador y presidente de Safe Kids Inc, una organización basada en la premisa de que tiene que haber una manera apropiada para la edad y con información sobre traumas para que los maestros y estudiantes aprendan a prevenir y sobrevivir a la violencia.

“Hablamos con estudiantes desde preescolar hasta secundaria y con sus maestros,” afirma el. “Debe haber una forma de hacerlo que resulte fortalecedora. Una de nuestras piedras angulares es que queremos que los estudiantes, los maestros y todos los miembros de la escuela no sólo se sientan seguros, sino que también lo estén.”

El programa H.E.R.O. es un programa de formación para autodefensa que enseña a los estudiantes a esconderse, escapar, huir y sobreponerse. Es una respuesta a la violencia basada en opciones que puedan aplicarse a diferentes situaciones de amenaza.

“El programa fue diseñado por un equipo multidisciplinario de educadores de las fuerzas del orden y psicólogos escolares para partir de la premisa sencilla y básica de cómo mantenerse a salvo y ser capaces de transmitir la información a través de planes de clases, cuentos, narraciones y actividades basadas en el nivel de grado,” dijo el Sr. Coughran. “De este modo, no sólo los maestros saben qué hacer, sino también los estudiantes. Si alguna vez ocurre algo, dentro o fuera de la escuela, los estudiantes, los maestros y los padres sabrán cómo reaccionar para mantenerse a salvo. Estamos enseñando aptitudes para la vida que pueden utilizarse para mantenerse a salvo no sólo en la escuela, sino también en nuestras comunidades.”

La organización ha recibido reconocimientos del Congreso de los EE.UU y de la Asamblea del Estado de California. El Sr. Coughran y su equipo están asociados con la Agencia Federal de Gestión de Emergencias y la Estrategia Nacional de Preparación para la Juventud y la Seguridad.

Cada año en los Estados Unidos, un promedio de 1.600 personas son asesinadas como consecuencia de apuñalamientos. Resulta sobrecogedor pensar que algunas de estas tragedias tienen lugar en recintos escolares. Esto pone en tela de juicio la verdadera seguridad de las escuelas estadounidenses.

“Sí, la violencia escolar está aumentando estadísticamente, pero sigo pensando que las escuelas son, en general, seguras,” afirma Coughran. “Todos los días, cientos de miles de profesionales intentan mantener la seguridad de los niños y los maestros en los planteles escolares.”

El Sr. Coughran subraya la importancia de reconocer y aprender de la violencia escolar, pero también de no dejarse definir por ella.

“¿Deberían ocurrir casos como éste?” preguntó. “No, no deberían. Pero cuando ocurren, se trata de aprender y de moverse para asegurarse de que no son algo habitual.”

Una cosa puede decirse con certeza: el día del apuñalamiento, la comunidad escolar se unió para ayudarse mutuamente. El superintendente del distrito, el jefe de operaciones y el director regional llegaron al lugar para apoyar al equipo administrativo.

Además, consultores de salud mental del equipo de crisis de Salud Mental Escolar del distrito vinieron a ayudar a los decanos, consejeros y PSW de la escuela.

“Utilicemos el incidente como un medio para unirnos, en lugar de estar divididos sobre el tema,” dijo el Sr. Coughran. “Con demasiada frecuencia, empezamos a tener diferentes opiniones sobre lo que ocurrió o sobre cómo se gestionó y eso puede dividir a una comunidad. Hay todo tipo de cuestiones que pueden ocurrir a nuestro alrededor. Por el contrario, es importante unirnos y asegurarnos de que no vuelva a ocurrir.”

the MIRROR | EL ESPEJO | SPRING 2024 | 27

Modern Hip Hop

A constantly evolving art form

The current state of hip hop seems to be one that has bored die hard fans for years now. It’s not that the product fans are being given is bad, but rather the fact that we’ve heard it before.

Few artists have the creative ability to deliver something new with every album. However, when executed properly, the genre offers a kaleidoscope of invigorating sounds for listeners to feast on.

Artists such as Kanye West were among the first to show people that there’s other sides to rap and hip hop. Ye introduced many to the soulful side of the genre, including samples and uplifting beats into his music. Songs like “All Falls Down” include catchy and soulful vocals that stick with listeners beyond a first listen, the reason why I still find it bumping in my house 20 years later.

Not only did West popularize the use of soulful samples, but he also brought to light the idea of rapping about something other than drugs and violence. This inspired many and drew a whole new demographic to the genre.

Ye influenced Kid Cudi, another pillar in what turned out to be modern hip hop. Drawing inspiration from Kanye’s success in exploring

different topics, Cudi would go on to be a pioneer in the emo-rap scene.

He was the first rapper to openly talk and make music about his struggles with mental health. His hit song “Pursuit of Happiness” was not meant to be the party anthem that some have turned it into. Rather, it is a song with a worrisome undertone in which Cudi talks about driving drunk and not giving a care about life in the search for his happiness. These themes are prevalent through his music.

Fans attribute Cudi’s vulnerable lyrics to saving their life, and many modern-day rappers owe their success to this trailblazer.

It’s impossible to talk about the modern era of hip hop without mentioning the colossal impact of Soundcloud. As a free streaming platform, what separates the app from its competitors is the fact that anybody can post their music on it.

This feature allowed for up-and-coming artists to gain traction fast. The platform has given us some of the most relevant names in hip hop to this day. Rappers like Playboi Carti, Juice WRLD, XXXTentacion and Lil Uzi Vert all emerged from the Soundcloud era.

These new artists came with their own style and perspective of the genre, most of them resorting to mumbled-rap to deliver their flows, gaining success in the process. The


SHOW-STOPPING | The VNHS Theatre Program will be presenting its first annual One Act Showcase on April 18 and 19. The show features ensembles of students from the Advanced Theater Company taking their turns in the spotlight as they perform original and published works in 20-minute segments. The show will take place in the black box theater, also known as Room 303. Tickets for $5 will be available for purchase in the theater room, from any company member or at the door.

FROM SCREEN TO STAGE | In the fashion of iconic blockbuster movies, the VNHS Choir Program is putting on a Hollywood Music Spectacular. All three choir classes will come together to sing not only oldies but goodies, such as “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King,” but also some modern pop hits like “Dance the Night Away” from “Barbie.” The show will be on Apr. 25 and 26 in the auditorium. Presale tickets will be available for $8 from any choir council member, or for $10 at the door.

stylistic approach to the genre rubbed some fans the wrong way, with some claiming that the mumble-style approach disrespected the culture. However, a quick glance over their charting numbers tells a different story.

Autotune soon oversaturated the genre as new artists found interest in experimenting with their voice. Autotuned voices over energetically produced beats intrigue the younger demographic. Yet, nobody has perfected autotune quite like Travis Scott.

After releasing his second mixtape “Days Before Rodeo,” it was clear Scott was going to be something special. His dark vocal performances over ominous beats on songs like “Skyfall” with Young Thug were a refreshing sound for the time.

In 2018 Scott proceeded to drop what some fans regard as one of the best rap albums of all time: “ASTROWORLD.” The psychedelic beats and synthetic vocals transport listeners to a dystopic amusement park. Outros on songs like “WAKE UP” support the idea of modern rappers prioritizing their artistic vision for the album, rather than the accompanying lyrics.

Old school rappers conveyed their messages through aggressive poeticism, emphasizing their impacts through their lyricism. Nowadays, rappers use visual and auditory ambience to strike emotion in their audiences.

...AND ACTION | The award-winning Digital Media Program is hard at work preparing for its upcoming Annual Film Showcase on May 2 and 3 in the school’s Donna Hubbard Auditorium. Led and advised by film and video production teacher Mr. Thomas McCluskey, film students have collaborated in groups of eight to write, cast, direct, edit and present their original films. Tickets will be available for $10 in the video production room, from any film student or at the door.

Looking through the discography of Tyler, the Creator, it is difficult to find two albums that sound alike. Utilizing sonic wavelengths and visual presentation, he creates a new persona for himself through every album, bringing characters to life in his live performances and music videos.

For instance, in his 2019 album “Igor,” Tyler plays a character dealing with the ups and downs of a harsh love life. As a real-life Frankenstein, he expresses the concept of just wanting to be loved and treated well. Two years later, he reinvented himself as Tyler Baudelaire, a man much more content with his place in life on “Call Me If You Get Lost.”

With rappers straying further and further away from the origins of the genre, many OG fans are left looking for the lyrical storytelling that was so prevalent once upon a time ago. However, artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole have been successful in maintaining the sound that once was in this respect.

Hop hop has become vastly experimental and unconventional. But at its root, the genre strives to recognize the beauty that comes with struggle. Tackling topics like socioeconomic adversity and mental health, artists have showcased levels of vulnerability that magnetically draw listeners in, cultivating a more raw and real hip hop scene.

FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT | Sure to attract quite the crowd, the 2024 Spring Dance Show will be taking place in the school’s Donna Hubbard Auditorium on May 9, 10 and 11. Centered around the theme of heartbreak, it will showcase performances by the various dance classes taught by dance teachers Ms. Reesa Partida and Ms. Diane Hula. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $8 from Ms. Partida in Room 424, Ms. Hula in Room 426 or at the door before the performances.

RHYTHM OF THE NIGHT | The awardwinning symphonies of the Strings Orchestra will fill the Donna Hubbard Auditorium with music on May 24. The concert will feature a collection of instrumental music performed by all band classes, under the direction of music teacher Mr. Robert Eisenhart. Featuring the award-winning musical ensemble, the classes will perform group and solo arrangements, boasting pieces they competed with at this year’s competitions.

TRENDSETTERS Artists like Kid Cudi, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Playboi Carti and Tyler, the Creator have kept the hip hop scene alive.

Ariana Grande’s “Eternal Sunshine” shines through the backlash

“Eternal Sunshine” was released on March 8, establishing a new era for Ariana Grande after three years of radio silence.

Her past albums “Positions” and “Thank U, Next” were focused on personal growth, self-empowerment and independence. Meanwhile, this new album is much more emotionally charged and vulnerable.

With music that expresses new feelings and old sentiments, complemented by wonderful melodies and lyrics, Grande did not disappoint with the release of this 13-track album.

This is her seventh studio album, but her first R&B album.

Using her iconic “Thank U, Next” album as the archetype for a successful album release, the first single Grande launched from her new album was “yes, and?”

Similar to the song “Thank U, Next,” this first single was celebrated by the public and played on loop in retail stores.

However, she saved her real show-stopper “we can’t be friends (wait for your love)” to be released shortly after. Just like the sensational “7 rings,” this track is the true star of the show.

Accompanied by a music video inspired by the story of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” the song “we can’t be friends (wait for your love)” captured the attention of listeners everywhere and became an instant hit.

Based on themes of heartbreak and loss, the song tells the story of a woman who would rather have her memory erased entirely than to be forced to live with memories of her past relationship. Using dystopian technology as a coping mechanism instead of accepting

the situation, Grande addresses the age old question: Would you rather to have loved and lost, or never loved at all? It’s no surprise that the track resonated with singles all over the globe.

Grande’s opening track “intro (end of the world)” lyrically tells the story of an anxious end of something that wasn’t really expected. With a beautiful and soothing melody, this track is a calming listen, combined with wonderful vocals that Grande hits gracefully.

In the currently trending “yes, and?” released as a message to the media, listeners get a look into Grande’s pop-style vocals.

People on social media have speculated that the song was made due to the backlash she received from her controversial relationship with Ethan Slater, who played Spongebob on Broadway and was Grande’s “Wicked” co-star.

The relationship between these two has been rumored to have

started when both were still in their respective relationships and working on the set of “Wicked.” Grande dissolved her marriage with Dalton Gomez to pursue the affair, and Slater left his wife and baby for the pop star.

Fans interpreted the song as Grande seeming unfazed by the situation and not taking accountability for her part of the affair. With certain lines in the song such as “Your business is yours and mine is mine,” fans are excited at the upbeat hit, but disappointed in the song’s meaning.

“Saturn Returns Interlude” and its continuation into “eternal sunshine” hold intensely deep meaning in the album, and add to its overall aesthetic.

These songs deal with selfdiscovery and healing, teaching that people must learn to focus their energy on themselves, rather

GLOWING REVIEWS “Eternal Sunshine” did not disappoint, focusing on self-discovery, healing and emotional vulnerability.

than on those who would just take their time and effort for granted. This is a wonderful message that compliments the soft beats and melodies of these songs.

Grande’s album takes a more vulnerable approach towards the end. Her voice breaks as she says the second to last “I wish I hated you” in the song of the same name. In a way, Grande is grieving over what could have been or how things could have gone in past relationships. From the sound of her voice, its obvious how this affects her mental state.

The emotional vulnerability of the trials and errors of love described in songs like “true story” combines beautifully with melodies that make you want to cry.

The album also has strong, intentional beats that create the feeling of resentment and not caring about being viewed as the bad guy in a situation.

Although Grande has received a fair share of hate, audiences have separated her controversies from her music, making it clear that this pop diva is uncancellable.

Exposing Faye Webster’s “Undressed at the Symphony”

Although she’s been releasing music for over a decade, Faye Webster has finally made herself a coveted indie name. Described as a unique blend of Mac Demarco and Lucy Dacus, her natural talent for mixing awkward yet truthful lyrics with soft melodies instantly draws listeners in.

Her recent album takes a different approach to her soft voice and powerful instrumentals.

This album defines a shift in genres for Webster. It features forty minutes of short melodies and jazz breaks with heartbreaking lyrics.

Webster has always been able to capture her emotions and thoughts perfectly. This time, it feels like she’s holding back.

The first track on the album, “Thinking About You,” gives us a classic Webster song. It tells us little about the album and what is next to come.

“Wanna Quit All the Time’’ is the first time Webster has

MIXED BAG Faye Webster’s new album has given her the freedom to experiment with her voice. But overall, it lacked the powerful melancholy that haunted her previous hits.

acknowledged her popularity in her music. She describes the feeling of wanting to quit music and hating public attention.

“Feeling Good Today” has the same modern feeling as “Lego Ring” featuring Lil Yachty. This collaboration holds a childlike and playful vibe to it. It’s obvious that the childhood friends enjoyed producing the song abd blending the music styles. Yachty’s hip hop and Webster’s instrumentals blend well in the uptempo rock song.

The title track, “Underdressed At the Symphony,” describes Webster’s frequent trips to the symphony to ease heartbreak. It’s one of her most honest songs on the album.

Overall, the album is just alright. As a long-time Webster

fan, I was expecting more. Every song felt the same, aside from “Lego Ring,” “But Not Kiss” and “Tttttime.”

The album lacked the same melancholy as her others. While the jazz influence is still apparent, my lack of enthusiasm comes from the lyrics. Every song felt like she was beginning to truly open up before shutting back down, wanting to keep everything a secret.

The constant repetition of lyrics in almost every song on the album felt like a disappointment. Every song seemed to end the same way, by repeating the same phrases over and over again.

The one thing that the album did right was help her grow. Longer songs let her explore with lingering instrumentals, and shorter songs allowed her to highlight more playful writing.

Webster perfected how to arrange instrumentals around her voice. Before, she struggled to hone in on the balance between the two. Now, she has found a way for her wispy voice to maintain its soulfulness.

Classical music strikes the wrong chord in teens, and here’s why

As you get ready in the morning, which artist’s hits are you playing to get hyped up for the day?

Are you leaning more toward Drake or Beethoven?

Laufey or Mozart?

Are you picking classical music at all? Odds are, you’re not, and this is reflective of most Americans.

No matter what decade Americans find themselves in, they always find themselves listening to a certain top genre. As cultures mix and expand, and technology and society progress, so do the inner workings of music.

Over the past 100 years, music has changed and developed constantly. Between the 1750s and 1830s, people listened to classical music by composers such as Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. During the 1970s, bands like Queen and The Beatles were at the top of the charts. This generation jams to Taylor Swift, Drake and Kanye West on the radio, artists whose styles differ drastically from those of their predecessors.

According to The Mirror’s survey, only 8% of students polled consider classical music their favorite genre.

The competition between classical and modern music has always been bittersweet. Pop music is popular for a reason. It holds a unique charm that attracts listeners. The majority of teens today veer away from classical music as if it were the plague, arguing that it’s too long, too boring and lacks well-needed lyrics, all of which contribute to the entertainment factor of a song.

Yet, classical music is a genre that has stood the test of time and has not only influenced the progression of music, but society as a whole, and to move on from it entirely would be a fatal mistake.

Classical music takes time to fully play out because it was crafted and composed for nobles and orchestral shows. Every classical composer wanted their composition to have a deeper meaning, a meaning that always fit with the style and tone of the piece.

This generation’s ears are trained to listen to short songs lasting an average of two or three minutes each. This is because it creates more revenue for producers. After all, the song can be played and broadcasted on more radios which makes the studios who produce these tracks make more money. This has caused people’s brains to have a more difficult time focusing on and listening to longer compositions.

‘‘Classical music is more than just music; it’s a cathartic and revitalizing experience. I hope one day, future generations will rediscover the beauty of classical music.”

According to Golden Steps ABA, Gen Z’s attention span is about eight seconds. Which is shorter than that of a goldfish, whose attention span is nine seconds. However, a millennial’s attention span is 12 seconds long, reflecting how people’s attention spans have diminished over the years based on their exposure to media growing up. By 2040, it is estimated that attention spans will last somewhere between three to five seconds, a startling prediction.

I can imagine only a tiny percentage of the population being able to listen to Symphony No. 9 “From the New World,” created by Antonin Dvořák.

The fact that people are losing their attention spans cannot be ignored. Attention spans are decreasing, and this will lead to classical music’s slow fade and eventual demise.

Classical music’s charm is sadly dissipating, and seeing one of the most inspirational genres to ever exist in human history disappear shows our generation’s lack of interest.

To preserve the beauty of this underrated genre, challenge yourself and others to listen to a piece of classical music. And in doing so, improve your attention span, cognitive performance and appreciation of the arts..

I have always loved classical music as a genre because of the meaning classical composers give to their music. You can feel the emotions that the composers intended based on the many melodies and sounds that are played through the musical instruments the composer chose.

The first time I heard “Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral,” composed by Richard Wagner, inside a large auditorium, my eyes began to water as I listened to the complex and heartfelt melodies performed by the orchestra.

The disappearance of my favorite genre upsets me greatly. Classical music is more than just music; it’s a cathartic and revitalizing experience. I hope one day, future generations will rediscover the beauty of classical music.

Dear reader, Taylor Swift’s upcoming album release hits different

This was it. Taylor Swift was finally going to announce her new album, the rerecording of her 2018 smash hit “Reputation.”

With the black and white photos on her Instagram page, the black and gold accented dress she donned at the MTV Music Awards and more, Swifties across the world were sure they were in store for another “Taylor’s Version” announcement.

As she accepted her Grammy for Best Pop Album, Swift walked up to make her speech and everyone in the audience held their breath. Swift made an album announcement, just not the one we were expecting.

She disclosed her eleventh studio album “The Tortured Poets Department,” set to

release on April 19.

“I was in total shock and lost my mind at the title,” freshman swiftie Dailyn Plummer said. “I love her lyricism and her poetry, so I immediately cleared my schedule for April.”

Junior Rachel Khutorskoy, a lifelong swiftie, is still optimistic that “Reputation TV” is on its way.

“I was completely disappointed by the misdirection of ‘Reputation TV,’” she said. “With all the black and white pictures, what else would you expect Taylor to announce?

But at the same time, I am extremely excited about the new album. Since the announcement, Taylor has been holding up twos and I am optimistic that ‘Reputation TV’ will come out as a sister album.”

Fans wonder what genre this new album will be steeped in.

“I believe that the genre will be synth-pop with some sad pop influences,” Khutorskoy said. “With Jack Antonoff producing this album, I have little to no doubt he’ll put that synth on the tracks.”

Swifties speculate that this will be a breakup album addressing the end of her relationship with Joe Alwyn.

Alwyn, a British actor, dated Swift for six years, making it the longest-lasting relationship of Swift’s.

So far, both the relationship and breakup have been kept under wraps. Hoping for privacy from the ever-prying media, Swift kept this relationship a secret and gave little information, even after it was made public.

Alywn has been a main source of attention in much of Swift’s discography. He served as the central focus of many songs on “Reputation” and “Lover.”

It is theorized that the album’s name takes inspiration from Alywn’s 2022 Whatsapp group chat called “The Tortured Man’s Club.”

Neither Swift nor Alywn have taken strides to tell their side of the story. Maybe Swift will give fans some insight into what exactly went wrong in their sad beautiful tragic love affair. She might find closure in the process.

TIMELESS BEAUTY Listening to three-minutelong pop songs may be contributing to Gen Z’s shortening attention span. Learning to appreciate the magnificence of classical music can expand focus and enhance culture.
DEVELOPMENTS Taylor Swift announced her upcoming album “The Tortured Poets Department” at the 2024 Grammys. The album is expected to feature references to Joe Alwyn.

Songs to listen to while studying

Headphones in, grades up: The musical secret to academic success



This catchy melody infused with violin, instrumentals and a repetitive beat can have you on a study loop without even realizing it. Ocean’s modern sound and soothing voice can help relax you while keeping you focused on assignments.

LADYFINGERS | Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass


This jazzy, melodic and soothing track can help focus your brain while jotting down notes. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass’s composition is a perfect background track for reading, and the captivating tune just might end up stuck in your head.

ith an AP Calculus textbook propped on his desk, junior Julian Pankowski fights to keep his eyes open as he studies. Balancing four-hour-long rehearsals for the school musical and seven academic courses, Pankowski often finds himself working until late in the night.

During starlit study sessions, he continuously trudges past midnight, and the hours only continue to multiply.

Sitting in silence, Pankowski continues to read and eventually finds himself reading the same sentence over and over again. The silence of his bedroom becomes deafening until he falls asleep at three a.m., drooling over his textbook.

According to a New York Posts 2022 article, roughly 55% of students listen to music while studying, with roughly 25% of those students choosing classical or instrumental tracks. However, Pankowski argues that listening to music while studying is distracting, and most adults would agree.

“When I listen to music, specifically music with lyrics, all I can focus on is the music,” he said. “I love the lyrics in songs more than the actual song itself, so I find myself listening and singing along to the music rather than doing my work. Even-

tually, it becomes too distracting.”

Yet, studies have shown that music produces several positive effects on the human body and brain. Music activates both the left and right brain at the same time, and the activation of both hemispheres can maximize learning, improving both memory and focus.

A 2007 Stanford study found that music moves the brain to focus and engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating memory.

Freshman Amelia Probst believes that music is her driving force. Without it, she would never get anything done.

“Music removes the noises and distractions surrounding me,” she said. “If I ever work in silence, I’m going to notice the smallest distractions. Whereas if I have music playing, there’s already a part of my brain being occupied so that I don’t look around and get distracted.”

However, she is weary of her one weakness: musical theater.

“I am a theater kid, so if I do listen to musical theater songs I will get so into it that I’ll start lip-synching and doing my own onewoman show at my desk,” she said.

A 2014 study conducted by Cambridge University shows that hip-hop music provides an uplifting effect on its listeners. Meanwhile, classical music composed by Mozart, Bach or Beethoven can help students categorize

information, which is an influential asset for studying.

Choir teacher Mr. Shawn Wilson explains that people who engage with music have key advantages that others do not.

“Music works your brain harder than most academic activities because you have to do multiple skills simultaneously,” he said. “It changes the way your brain works. Think of people in your life who play piano regularly or take music lessons, not a single one of them is dumb. Lazy? Unmotivated? Maybe. But not dumb.”

According to Mr. Wilson, this is because the brain’s mastery of music is an incredibly intense process.

“Being successful at music requires so many problem-solving skills that happen in real-time and under pressure that a regular academic environment doesn’t provide,” he said.

For students who struggle with studying, Mr. Wilson recommends that they continue trying while keeping their brains stimulated using various genres of music.

“The thought process that classical music is king and key to learning and focus is outdated,” he said. “All music is going to affect all people in different ways. Cycle through different playlists that people curate and notice the effect it has on the amount of work you get done. The best way to explore the benefits of music is to get curious.”



Everyone needs a motivating song that forces them to start working and keeps them grinding. This sweet and short tune can keep anyone on track during an intense study session. Packed with encouraging lyrics and paced rhythms, you’ll find yourself working harder while listening to this SZA hit.



The epitome of scholarly vibes, classical music is the perfect addition to a study playlist. Beethoven’s lengthy, inspiring track pairs great with long assignments that require extra care and focus. Shown to improve cognitive performance, classical composers can make for great study buddies this exam season.

In Sarah J. Mass’s instant bestseller “A Court of Thorns and Roses” a young huntress is kidnapped and brought to a mystical land where she must fight to escape her captors. Growing in popularity on TikTok and other social media platforms, this novel is not only visually appealing but hooks the reader with its detailed and suspenseful

Recipient of three 2024 Grammy awards, including “Best New Artist” and “Best R&B Album,” Victoria Monet has blossomed in the music industry. The Atlanta-born R&B artist has been in music since 2010, writing and composing tracks for notable artists like Blackpink and Ariana Grande. Monet is a safe yet spectacular choice when picking music for your next listen.


“The Glory” is a thriller based on a story of bullying and revenge. With its fantastic drama and theatrics, this Korean-language series on Netflix is certain to leave anyone who watches it hooked from the first moment.

play eat

As the popularity of TV’s “The Last Of Us” continues to grow, so does the popularity of the original video game. This action-adventure game features an array of beautiful cinematics, detailed graphics and passionate voice-overs. Featuring an emotional storyline with intense gameplay, “The Last of Us II Remastered” is significantly more intense than its predecessor.

Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers is an American fast-food restaurant that has branched out to the West Coast, with a location opening in Burbank in March 2022. With a menu consisting of chicken fingers, fries and assorted sides, this eatery has increased in popularity as a result of the quality of its tasty food combos and renowned sauce.

We’ve composed a sampling of genres and songs to try out during your next study session. HELPFUL HARMONIES Roughly 55% of students choose to listen to music while studying. 25% of those choose to listen to classical music or instrumental tracks.

Movie magic: Mastering book-to-screen adaptations

“The Scarlet Letter,” the 1995 adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic, scored 13% on Rotten Tomatoes and received scathing reviews from fans. As disappointing book-to-film adaptations become increasingly common, readers contend that the magic found within books far surpasses anything that can be depicted on the silver screen.

However, motion pictures can open doors to unexplored realms of enchantment and breathe new life into our favorite novels. In navigating creative liberties, movie adaptations must strike the perfect balance between honoring an author’s work and illuminating a story in a fresh light.

It’s evident that great movie adaptations align with their novels to the fullest extent. It is crucial that the themes and essence of the original stories are captured, as devoted fans will expect these key elements and specific scenes in the films.

The “Harry Potter” movies are a prime example of this. For instance, the first film in the saga, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” brilliantly depicts the book’s theme of the role humility plays in a hero’s success. Potter exhibits modesty and hopes he can measure up to his reputation as an

A DELICATE BALANCE Directors must remain faithful to source material while improving storylines for the big screen.

But a balance must be struck between revitalizing the story and remaining true to the author’s vision.

Some adaptations, like the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” movies, wholly disregard this balance. The plot is rushed, and the glaring inaccuracies are offensive to Percy Jackson’s fanbase. However, the most unforgivable error is the age of the protagonists. In Rick Riordan’s original novel series, Percy Jackson and his friends are twelve years old, as the plot revolves around a prophecy concerning the war that will rise when Percy reaches sixteen by the last book. This pivotal detail is overlooked as the first movie ages Percy up to sixteen, completely defeating the story’s purpose. This makes readers wonder if the directors touched the books at all.

extraordinarily powerful wizard. This theme was phenomenally illustrated in J.K. Rowling’s book, and the movies did not disappoint in capturing the same notion.

Conversely, a film that miserably fails at echoing the novel is “A Walk To Remember,” the 2002 adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ original work. Scoring a mere 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, the adaptation fell into Hollywood’s cliché clutches, as the deeper themes of the book were traded for shallow tropes and stereotypical characterizations while the books were significantly more complex.

In addition to remaining loyal to the source material, memorable adaptations emphasize character development.

Successfully portraying character development involves casting skilled actors with an intimate knowledge of their


Jennifer Lawrence captures this idea perfectly as Katniss Everdeen. As an avid fan of Suzanne Collins’ original series, the actress masterfully articulates Everdeen’s strength, independence and stubbornness.

When fans discuss adaptations of their favorite books, the changes that directors make to the plot and characters always lead the conversation.

Changes are often negatively perceived, but modifications can actually elevate a production by adding more depth to the characters and their personal journeys. They can provide a fresh perspective, even for longtime fans.

“The only responsibility of the script is to produce the best possible film,” Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert once said regarding changes in adaptations.

Illustrating the magic of the setting, especially in fantastical worlds, is also crucial to gaining the favor of book fans and crafting a sucsessful adaptation, magnified by a brilliant soundtrack. Music is the key to the soul, and a phenomenal original soundtrack (OST) can touch the hearts of books fans and movie watchers alike. For instance, the 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen’s famed “Pride and Prejudice” amassed much esteem with its song list of charming piano numbers and classical tunes. The production is brilliant in itself, but the enchanting melodies of the OST render it one of the greatest depictions of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s timeless relationship. As producers examine book characters and stories akin to family for millions of fans, movie adaptations must be executed with extreme deliberation.

By capturing the essence of the author’s vision, cherishing the characters and taking creative liberties, movie adaptations can breathe life into the magic that lies underneath words on a page.

“Party School” is a celebration you don’t want to miss

College. The looming threat that haunts every single choice a high-schooler makes.

All hours of the day are jam packed with academic commitments. AP classes, clubs, sports and volunteer hours are what define the high school experience. Inevitably, every student, teacher and counselor is talking about college.

And so are the residents of Castleton, a tight-knit small town preparing to send its newest crop of high school graduates to various universities across the country.

However, Castleton native Dylan Mills finds himself set off for North South, a “party school” known more for its weed than its academic prowess.

It quickly becomes apparent that Dylan isn’t the biggest fan of parties. Rather, he doesn’t want anything to do with them. The only things he has any interest in are his highschool girlfriend Rosemary, Barry Manilow songs and his job at Castleton’s charming diner “The Luncheonette.” Dylan, a likable underachiever who achieved nothing short of mediocrity throughout high school, lands himself in the party school of his nightmares.

And to his dismay, Rosemary the overachiever decides that it’s time for them to take a break in their relationship for the first three weeks of the fall semester, as she heads off to one of the highly acclaimed “it-schools.”

With his relationship now in limbo, Dylan must navigate a new school he already doesn’t want to be at. Little does he

know that his chaotic first year will teach him more valuable lessons than any “it-school” ever could.

When I first came across this book, an insuppressible wave of thoughts popped up in my mind.

“Oh wow, ‘Party School’, what’s this about?”

“Oh wow, it’s a super cool coming-of-age novel about college-shaming!”

“Oh wow, there’s a naked man on the cover running across a football field-”

And just like how Dylan Mills gives North South a chance, “Party School” by John Hart was an enriching and fantastic read as a nervous high school junior.

I spoke with some of my classmates, especially seniors awaiting their school acceptance emails, about the idea of school shaming, the central theme that “Party School” depicts. Many have expressed their stress towards getting into a school that has a reputation for success and is “tied in a little sparkly ribbon.”

I feel that there is a certain additional pressure placed on students, not only to get into a school that will give you a good education, but also to get into a “great school,” one to boast about and lift you onto a pedestal of academic superiority.

“Party School” teaches that as long as the school is good at heart, and the student has an ambition to succeed, it doesn’t matter if someone goes to a community college or a highly sought-after university.

Additionally, I looked around at a few colleges in my area. A little unsure of my major and with no dream school in mind, I began to wonder what would happen if I made the wrong choice in terms of picking a college.

But then I had someone remind me that there is no wrong journey to be on. Even if you face a few setbacks at first, every step of the way, even the setbacks, are monumental in the journey that you are destined to be on.

And that’s exactly what this book says. Hart’s novel reassures any high school student worried about college that it’s not about the reputation of the school that is important. Instead, it is about the personal journey you go on while navigating your future. I would recommend this book to any student nervous about life after high school, as well as to anyone who is looking for a classic feel-good story.

FORGE YOUR OWN PATH “Party School” is a witty insight into the challenges of teenage angst and school shaming.

Is love just a chemical reaction?

Love is beautiful, irrational, pure and unruly.

It’s what unites Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare’s masterpiece, Rose and Jack in “Titanic” and every other exalted couple in entertainment. Love has a tight grip on music, as the entire industry is hooked on heartache and desire. Take Haddaway, who examines love in his one-hit wonder “What Is Love.” Looking past the catchy beat of the ‘90s tune, Haddaway inquires after a subject that has puzzled humanity since the dawn of time. Naturally, researchers have turned to science for answers.

Unfortunately, science has restricted love to the inadequate confines of chemistry, identifying love as nothing more than the effects of oxytocin, the love hormone. To unpack why oxytocin falls short of defining love, we must dive into its function and impact on the nervous system.

Oxytocin regulates aspects of the male and female reproductive systems, as well as behavioral interactions of arousal, trust, romantic attachment and parent-infant bonding. Produced in the hypothalamus, the hormone is released by the pituitary gland to stimulate positive emotions.

Its tendency to promote excitement and other feelings associated with affection has led numerous scientists to label the hormone



as the true definition of love. Of course, chemical reactions are often byproducts of the strong emotions love can cultivate. Even so, with an experience so unconditional and irrational, the question must be raised of whether oxytocin fully encapsulates love’s essence as a deep, universal sensation.

The National Library of Medicine contends that no arrangement of molecules will sufficiently describe the intricacies of love. To understand this profound truth, love must be defined in concrete terms.

Psychology Today outlined three essential characteristics of love: positive responsiveness, authentic connection and stability. Positive responsiveness encompasses displays of affection and strengthening another’s self-worth through validation and support. Similarly, authentic connection relates to love’s encouragement of togetherness and vulnerability.

These factors contribute to stability, or the idea that love stems from personal steadiness rather than uncertainty or impulse. Stability composes the unconditional aspect of love that highlights dependability, acceptance and trustworthiness.

Love serves as the cornerstone of humanity and the sole catalyst for personal growth. Affirming that love is an absolute necessity, Psychology Today concludes that its value rises above the risks and effort involved in a relationship.

It’s evident that love wears many faces.

However, love ultimately boils down to a choice. It is a subconscious decision one makes to prioritize another’s needs and feelings as much as, or even above, their own. It transcends emotions and science, determining how we understand ourselves and others. Love requires sacrifice and often begets pain, but it is an indispensable aspect of the human experience.

Hormones, including oxytocin, play an undeniable role in attraction. However, enduring relationships do not rely on hormones alone. Actions make or break the connection, and longtime partners actively choose to love one another once their frenzied hormones have calmed. The phrase “love is a verb” is highly applicable, as displaying gratitude, appreciation and devotion toward one’s partner are among the most sincere demonstrations of love.

By reducing love to a chemical reaction, we dehumanize ourselves and water down our affinity to scientific processes that fail to capture love’s transcendent quality. Of course, some continuously contend that chemical reactions are responsible for love’s violent affections. However, this argument mistakes love for infatuation, a strikingly different emotion.

Infatuation is synonymous with obsession. Characterized by “head over heels” giddiness, infatuation involves attachment based on the idealization of an individual one may not know very well. Although passionate, it’s

acutely superficial.

On the contrary, love embraces a person’s individuality and calls for genuine intimacy, establishing a connection that brings out the best of both partners. Whether it’s romantic, familial or platonic, love allows one to be fulfilled and comfortable in their relationship. Of course, it’s possible for infatuation to evolve into love, but this can only be achieved if ideal fantasies of a person are relinquished. As a whole, infatuation fails to meet love’s depth and stability.

Few things in human history are as constant as love. Whether it’s your mom’s home-cooked meals or a friend offering a shoulder to cry on, love is the driving force of humanity, the one thing that keeps us grounded in a chaotic world. It never fails in its perseverance of hope, trust and protection. We often take the love that surrounds us for granted, but it’s crucial to acknowledge this blessing of compassion in our lives.

Love is many things, but ultimately, it’s a leap of faith. It’s a decision that places another’s concerns above our own, emphasizing personhood and the beauty of human connection. Transcending science, including the effects of oxytocin, love is the essence of humanity and stems from a universal desire for acceptance.

Understanding the true definition of love prompts us to effectively express our devotion to others and ponder the immense, timeless power of this unseen force.

speaking, love happens when oxytocin is released in the brain, cultivating strong feelings of romance. However, simply describing love as a chemical reaction does not fully encapsulate the emotions and experiences that go along with it.

Studio Ghilbi: A new world of cinema

Influencing musical compositions, artwork, storytelling and animation around the world, Studio Ghibli’s impact knows no bounds.

Studio Ghibli is a well-known Japanese animation studio founded in Tokyo in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki, who do an exemplary job of delivering a rich, charming, and beautiful experience.

Although the company has only produced 22 full-length films, the work behind every single film is outstanding.

Studio Ghibli’s ceramics, graphics and music have influenced other animation producers around the world,

best seen in “Avatar the Last Airbender,” “Steven Universe” and “Adventure Time.”

Influenced by Japanese, Greek, Danish and British tales, folklore and fantasy are the driving forces of Studio Ghibli’s stories.

With enchanting storytelling, the studio’s movies have made a large impact on the people who watch the beautiful collection of films by providing an immersive fantasy world for children and adults, inspiring fandoms and groups of people who continuously love the films.

A majority of the studio’s main characters are female.

Creator Miyazaki explains that he wants to create a portrayal of a strong woman on the big screen because of the respect he has for femininity.

The female characters Miyazaki creates are brave and

passionate. From women who have disabilities to those who can lead an army, the starring women provide a background of strong values and unique personalities. His characters are also fleshed out with detailed backgrounds and development, which brings them to life and makes them relatable and inspiring to the audience that watches them.

Studio Ghibli heavily focuses on femininity while also highlighting how women can also be strong and independent.

The stories are full of life, and hold a balance between inventiveness and reality, connecting with their audience through human experience, intense situations and harsh emotions.

Sadly, the 2023 movie “The Boy And The Heron” will be

Miyazaki’s final film, due to retirement.

The studio’s director decided to retire because of his old age and degrading eyesight, which causes him discomfort while developing films.

But no matter the director, the studio’s projects aren’t just films: they’re cinematic masterpieces.

Providing entrancing stories and animations that stand out amongst the hundreds of others, Studio Ghibli has captivated audiences and will continue to do so for the remainder of its existence.

Studio Ghibli bewitches audiences by giving them a world of fantasy and adventure inspired by true Japanese folklore. With amazing writing and fantastic animation, Studio Ghibli is a brand to know.

Blockbuster burnout: Hollywood’s creativity crisis

How one actor overcame his stage fright

Standing in front of a group of college students, Chris Tallman was terrified. He was ready to perform, he reassured himself. He wasn’t scared a few minutes ago.

But now, with the audience staring at him, Tallman froze. He could do nothing but sit, and wait for the show to end.

“Once the show started I was overwhelmed and didn’t speak for the entire two-hour show,” he said. “My friends who came to support me didn’t know what to say.” Through the years, Tallman learned to manage his stage fright. Even now, as a successful actor most known for his Nickelodeon show and movie “The Thundermans,” he still hasn’t overcome the fright.

“I’ve learned how to live with it and hopefully handle it,” he said. “I’m at my best when I’m calm, a little bit playful and paying

attention to the people around me. “

While a young Tallman desperately wanted to be on stage, his fear held him back.

“I was putting so much pressure on myself to do a good job that I made it impossible for that to ever happen,” he said.

Until he realized just what he had to do.

“After that first improv show, I felt terrible and said to myself, ‘I don’t like how this feels, maybe next time I shouldn’t let my nerves take over even though they feel so big and powerful in the moment,’” he said. “Finally, a friend talked about leaving your feelings about the show on the stage, which felt like a revelation. There’s nothing to be gained by hating yourself for not doing well.”

The solution for Tallman lies in the rehearsal process.

“I know to prepare ahead of time and to take advantage of the rehearsal process.

Still learning to take his own advice when he gets in front of a crowd or camera, Tallman tries to be his own cheerleader.

“I can certainly be my own worst enemy,” he said. “And I can be my guardian, too. It’s all inside me already. My job is to set myself up to succeed.”

At the 2024 Oscars, before presenting the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, host Jimmy Kimmel cracked a joke about the category,

“The worry about creating an adapted screenplay is at what age do you tell a screenplay it’s adapted?”

An adapted screenplay is simply a screenplay based on any other material.

When looking at the top three movies of last year, we see just how unoriginal every movie has become. The number one movie of last year, “Barbie,” is of course based on the iconic Mattel doll.

Following that, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” was based on the smashhit Nintendo Game.

And finally, rounding out the top three, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is the second movie in the Spiderverse series, and one of the dozens of Spider-Man adaptations, all originally based on a comic book.

One can argue that stories have been retold for hundreds of years, considering even Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” was based on the Greek Myth “Pyramus & Thisbe.” But in recent years, the percentage of movies that are remakes or sequels is rising exponentially.

I cannot agree with the argument that Hollywood has just simply run out of ideas and things to write about. Original films still exist, it’s just that people are not watching them.

The original and untold story of Robert Oppenheimer, while incredible to watch, only had popularity because of the Barbie movie and the Barbenheimer trend which had movie-goers watching both films in a single day.

Hollywood’s current rut of creativity all comes back to the financial aspect of the movie business. Original movies do not appeal to as wide of an audience as some of the more wellknown, pre-existing properties.

Cinema enthusiasts constantly wish that Hollywood would return to the way it used to be, but the fact is, that version of Hollywood never existed — it’s a creation of our collective nostalgia.

Hollywood doesn’t serve as a place for only new material, and it never will. It serves as a place to turn existing stories into cinematic, big-screen ideas and experiences.

So instead of saying there aren’t any new ideas in Hollywood, realize that there never were.

DRAWN TO LIFE Studio Ghibli has cemented itself as one of the most successful and well-known animation studios in cinema, with classic films like “Spirited Away” and “Princess Mononoke” inspiring and thrilling fans throughout its 40-year history FEARLESS For actor and comedian Chris Tallman, stage fright struck when he least expected it. He overcame it by shifting his mindset and learning to accept stage fright. COURTESY | CHRIS TALLMAN

Wake up, Hollywood. The racial wage gap is real

Walking into UCLA’s Royce Hall and looking around at his coworkers, it became apparent to technical theatre professional and now teacher Mr. Ron Greene that he was one of the only two Black people there.

He tried not to let it stop him. It was more important to him that he concentrate on the work. Although he tried to focus, he knew that his white co-workers were given better opportunities than him, including higher pay.

With suppressed voices in writing rooms and a lack of representation in the media dating back to a century of racism, Black actors have combated unequal pay rates for as long as the film industry has existed.

Today, people of color in the stage and film industry, even big-name actors such as Viola Davis, Angela Bassett and Taraji P. Henson, are only paid one-third as much as white actors and technicians.

We never hear about big-name white actors leaving roles because of pay. We only hear about actors of color turning down roles or leaving the film industry altogether because it’s not enough to pay the bills.

It’s not due to a lack of job opportunities. There are hundreds of TV shows and movies being produced every single day. It’s simply because white actors are paid more.

From the early to mid-1900s, Black actors were confined to roles that often portrayed them in racist and

stereotypical ways. As the 1900s transitioned into the new millennium, more and more Black actors and cultures were inserted into mainstream film.

But Hollywood still has a long way to go. Black-led films and television shows are continuously underfunded, and for most actors, this is where racial disparity starts: on set. Underfunded projects are setting up Black actors for failure, and in an industry where white people dominate, one shot at making it big could be your only chance.

In 2018, Chadwick Boseman starred in Marvel’s “Black Panther.” He was paid $2 million for his role. Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans made over $20 million for their roles.

Hollywood directors are notorious for whitewashing films and TV. An actor could have the same amount of experience, talent and training, but because they are white they’ll get the role over an actor of color. Directors know that historically, audiences respond better to white leads.

Junior Xavier Martin-Porter is an aspiring actor and performing arts student. While participating in the school’s theatre productions, he also performs at Act-1 Theater Company and is a Tonality Choir Program Scholar. He explains that it’s upsetting to watch white actors get roles that Black actors were never given the chance for.

“It’s very discouraging to see roles frequently given to white actors just because they’re white,” he said.

Child actor Dilan Patton realized that he would have to work extra hard to make it in the industry. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that he has a fair shot at becoming a successful actor.

“If working more will somewhat lead to equity then it’s worth it,” Patton said.

The history of racial unequal pay stems back to the nineteenth century, towards the end of emancipation.

While the racial pay gap has significantly lessened in the past hundred years, it is still prominent.

Mr. Greene, who has worked in the industry for 20 years, believes the pay gap and racial disparity that it stems from are lessening due to an increase in workers.

“The pay gap has improved,” he said. “Mainly due to the fact that there are more people of color working in the industry, helping each other achieve their goals.”

Still, rising Black actors have a hard time becoming well-known. As an actor, it’s difficult enough to get cast and earn a high enough salary to stay in the business.

Black actors are often excluded from being offered lead roles. Instead, they are often cast as the stereotypical “Black best friend” or the “angry Black woman.”

White domination of the film industry stems beyond onstage performance. Screenwriters and film technicians of color are also hired and paid less.

Over 90% of showrunners are white and two-thirds of shows have no Black writers.

The racial disparity in the entertainment industry will not silence calls for change. If anything, it encourages Black actors to challenge the issue. The more the racial pay gap is discussed in mainstream media, the more attention the problem gets and the more the pay gap closes.

Black Student Union Club Co-President Djeada Hall, who hopes to be successful in the film industry one day, believes that no matter the unjust treatment she receives, she will not stop working hard for what she loves.

“It makes me want to work harder as an actor because I’m not gonna stop doing what I love, even if people will underappreciate me due to my skin color,” she said.

through the decades at Mel’s Drive-In


Even with its 1950s jukeboxes, rounded dinner tables and classic automobiles, Mel’s Drive-In diner never goes out of style.

Located at 14846 Ventura Blvd., this attraction has been around for decades, originally opening in 1947. David “Mel” Weiss and Harold Dobbs built their first car hop eatery, inspired by similar restaurants, and served motorists in Los Angeles.

It didn’t take long for the first unit to multiply into 11. As the years went by, the diner grew in popularity. As a result, Mel’s made over $4 million a year between 1950 and 1960, equivalent to $51 million annually today.

Mel’s reigned for almost 20 years, growing to over 35 restaurants. Mel’s Drive-In peaked in popularity in the 1960s and ended up selling in 1972.

But several years later, Weiss’ son Steven had an itch to bring back Mel’s. A grand re-opening of the restaurants took place in 1985.

Mel’s easily transformed from a small drive-in restaurant into a successful franchise all over California.

Although drive-in restaurants aren’t as popular as they used to be, Mel’s hasn’t lost its vintage charm. The restaurant is open nearly all day, opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 3 a.m. It’s the perfect spot to grab breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or a late-night

The diner has a wonderful interior that matches the 50s aesthetic. With white vintage hanging lights, classic round booth seating and a jukebox to listen to all your favorite classic songs, this restaurant provides a great atmosphere as well as a unique menu.

And with delicious pineapple-flavored sundaes and sweet Coca-Cola floats, you might just have to order dessert first.

Milkshakes stand out as a specialty item. Guests can choose from chocolate, strawberry or vanilla milkshakes that are served “Old Fashion” style, meaning they’re thick, creamy and overflowing.

If you want to eat savory before sweet, the fried chicken accompanied by fries and coleslaw will leave you stuffed, and yet, still craving more.

The restaurant has a multitude of vegan options. A veggie omelet and mushroom omelet are featured on the breakfast menu, and a black bean veggie burger, avocado burger and mushroom burger are served during lunch and dinner.

Many places don’t bother putting vegan

options, especially in such large quantities, since it is not as common to see customers who don’t eat meat or avoid certain foods due to religious or personal beliefs.

Breakfast comes with its own delicacies. The thick-sliced French toast is eggy and delicious. A soft, honey cinnamon roll shines with a light sugary glaze. The freshlysqueezed orange juice is ideally suited to helping a hungry guest wash down an order of Joe’s scramble, a San Fernando Valley brunch favorite consisting of ground beef, chopped spinach, grilled onions and eggs.

Egg dishes come with terrific onionspangled grilled potatoes, which could be described as a cross between cottage fries and home fries. There are tasty dollar-size pancakes, six to an order, with a springy texture. Your inner child can order a waffle topped with berries and hand-made whipped cream.

The food and drinks create a balance of everything you could ever want and need from a diner. You won’t go hungry with the amount of choices Mel’s menu provides.

Reasonably priced and with a wide range of options, Mel’s Drive-In is a tried-and-true Valley staple.

WIDESPREAD DISPARITY For decades, Black actors have fought to be paid the same wages as their white counterparts. Viola Davis, Angela Bassett and Taraji P. Henson are just some of the few actors of color that have received unequal compensation. DELICIOUS DRIVE-IN Opened in 1989, Mel’s Drive-In has become one of the most popular eateries on Ventura Blvd. The restaurant is part of a decades-old franchise that made $4 million a year between 1950 and 1960. THE MIRROR | MICHAEL ARREDONDO Dining GRAPHIC FOR THE MIRROR | DANIEL LOPEZ

A bloodbath to remember

An eerie tone overtook the Donna Hubbard Auditorium in spring as the VNHS Theatre Company presented “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” on March 14, 15, 16 and 17

In Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, the evil Judge Turpin lusts for the beautiful wife of a London barber and transports him to Australia for a crime he did not commit. Returning after 15 years and calling himself Sweeney Todd, the now-mad man vows revenge, applying his razor to unlucky customers and shuttling the bodies down to Mrs. Lovett, who cooks them in her meat pie shop. Though many fall to his blade, he remains unsatisfied until he ultimately slits Turpin’s throat.

With casting happening before Thanksgiving break, the cast and crew worked nonstop to put on the show. While the rehearsal process was just under ten weeks long, for cast members like freshman Amelia Probst who played Beadle Bamford, everything went by in the blink of an eye.

“I feel like this process just went by so fast,” she said. “I’m not sure if it was because I was so familiar with the show beforehand, or if it’s just such a busy show so we were always working.”

Beginning in November, over 50 students auditioned for the show. With a cast size of

‘‘ You just can’t be bored with this show. There are so many things going on constantly. There is always something to watch, something keeping you on the edge of your seat.”
“Sweeney Todd” Lead Actor Dilan Patton

only 20, all individuals entered the audition ready to impress their audience.

Junior Emily Chavez, who played the leading role of Mrs. Lovett, entered the rehearsal room more than prepared.

“I studied and studied before the audition,” she said. “I listened to the soundtrack a million times and watched clips and videos, and even then, I still felt unprepared.”

Playing the role of Anthony, freshman Tucker Chandler entered the rehearsal room as an outsider. A student at the Los Angeles Charter High School of the Arts (LACHSA), last semester, Chandler explains that while he was nervous being the new kid, being a part of the show wasn’t intimidating.

“Everyone that I was auditioning alongside with was so nice,” he said. “The room was

really cold, so I couldn’t really breathe, but it just felt right, especially compared to other places I’ve been.”

Once casting was finalized, theatre teacher and production director Mr. Justin Baldridge wasted no time before starting rehearsals.

“After our first read-through and first rehearsal I became excited with the group of people we’d put together to put on this production,” he said. “The excitement from every individual hopefully permeated to the rest of the campus.”

Mr. Baldridge took a risk when directing this show. Rather than have the classic two-storied set and elaborate stage blood, he took a minimalistic approach, striving for originality over conformity.

However, the production might have looked very different if school budget cuts didn’t get in the way.

Junior ensemble member April Cho says that while the budget was a determinant for the concept of the production, the lack of funding made the show unique, and in turn, piqued more people’s interest.

“While the budget was a deciding factor, our Sweeney is supposed to be simple, so it is,” she said.

While the actors worked hard on stage during rehearsals, the crew worked just as hard behind the scenes, making sets, costumes and dozens of pies.

Junior Kayla Balikyan-Davis, who served as one of the Assistant Stage Managers for this

production, explains that a lot of the Technical Theatre program is student-run.

“Mr. B is very focused on the cast, so we learn to do everything ourselves,” she said.

“We have older students train younger students, and most of us take a technical theatre class, but tech is really about working with other people and growing from there.”

She claims that without technicians, the show simply wouldn’t exist.

“By the time the performance comes around, we have run the show so many times and it’s so embedded in our brains that it’s just muscle memory,” Balikyan-Davis said.

“We still have problems backstage, but we all work together to fix anything as quickly and smoothly as possible.”

While working the tech-end is a lot of work, Balikyan-Davis wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“So much planning goes into something like this,” she said. “We work and work, and spend so much time outside of school working. It’s what makes tech so special.”

One week before the show, Tech Week is the time when lighting, sound, costumes, props and set all come together.

Senior Max Sandoval, head of prop and set design, says that Tech Week serves as the culmination of weeks of hard work.

“Tech is so stressful in a way,” they said. “We’ve all been working separately for weeks, and Tech Week is the time where we all come together and just pray we did everything right.”

SWISH SWISH Girls basketball players Karen Grewal and Olamide Olumide challenge one another in the Big Gym.

This year for the production, the cast and crew dedicated over 40 hours to rehearsal after school in a single week, ensuring a seamless production.

Junior Pamela Fajardo-Alfaro, a sound board operator, states that when Tech Week comes around, everything in the cast and crew’s personal lives comes to a halt.

“Tech Week is like working a full-time job,” she said. “We don’t get home until close to nine, so we eat, take a shower and are drained. We don’t even have time to think about homework. We love to be here and we love the people, but it’s exhausting.”

In addition to the hours spent on campus in rehearsals, the cast spends hours at home preparing. For junior Julian Pankowski, who played the titular Sweeney Todd, this process can take hours.

“It took me a lot longer than I thought to get off the book, so by the time it was time for the run-through, I spent over five hours learning lines and songs,” he said. “I got it done, but it was stressful.”

FATAL TUNE (OPPOSITE) Sweeney Todd, played by Julian Pankowski, slaughters the evil Judge Turpin, played by sophomore Dylan Patton, while the ensemble aids in the bloodshed. BLOODY BALLADS (ABOVE LEFT)Sweeney Todd (center), played by Julian Pankowski, at the opening of the musical. A TALENTED CREW (LEFT) From L to R: Juniors Emily Chavez, Tucker Chandler, April Cho and sophomore Connor Ruckman belt out the opening number, having perfected the complicated Sondheim rhythms after many weeks of rigorous rehearsals. DEADLY DECEIT (ABOVE) April Cho, an ensemble member, after her character has been tricked and harmed by Judge Turpin.

Leads like senior Maddie K.C. Jorden, who played Johanna, spent so much time rehearsing at home, their role became second nature.

“I feel like just grinding your songs, every second available, becomes your life,” she said. “I hate hearing myself singing, but when I’m at home I’ll blast the fan, turn on the shower and just start going crazy on a specific part of the music.”

Even more hours were dedicated because this particular show is so challenging.

“Stephen Sondheim was such a genius, but the music is so tough, especially when you can’t read music,” junior Alexis Martinez said. “The problem is, you can be a single count off, and then be off for the rest of the song. So we spend time learning, listening and using a metronome because everything is just so specific.”

For the cast, elevating their acting skills for the musical was its own feat.

“Mr. Baldridge always talks about how everything is life or death on stage,” K.C. Jordan

said. “I worked on getting everything I said or did up to a much higher level.”

The production forced the actors to become creative with their rehearsal methods.

“I have a garage that we turned into a guest house,” Probst said. “I would go out there on weekends and practice and practice to get everything down before coming into rehearsal.”

During the final performances, the cast and crew saw audience numbers beyond what they ever could have imagined, with over 500 people attending the first two shows.

Sophomore Dilan Patton, who played Judge Turpin, explains that Sweeney Todd attracted such large numbers because the show is so popular in mainstream media and so different from a typical high school production.

“It’s dark, it’s creepy and like 12 people get killed back to back,” Patton said. “We can tell when people are bored in an audience, and you just can’t be bored with this show. There

are so many things going on constantly. There is always something to watch, something keeping you on the edge of your seat.”

Junior ensemble member Sophia Hillstead says that the cast really brought the show to life and kept the audience engaged.

“We work together as an ensemble to find characters and stories,” they said. “Even if no one knows what we create, we know as a cast, and it elevates the show.”’

While this year’s spring musical brought in thousands of dollars for the VNHS Theatre Company, students and staff are still fighting hard for a budget increase to continue funding programs like this.

“I think we would have more opportunities if we had a larger budget,” junior ensemble member Addi Cudd said. “If there was a better understanding at this school, and in LAUSD in general, of the arts, then we would have a better chance of success. Students shouldn’t be forced to do less, or have less experience, because LAUSD doesn’t understand why we need it.”

MYTH VS REALITY The popularity of sports has created stereotypes about athletics that do not correspond with the facts. THE MIRROR PHOTOS

The untold story of a real-life storyteller

She licked Paul Rudd’s face. She once gave Ryan Gosling a dish towel with his face on it, which made him giggle for over a minute.

Samuel L. Jackson read her wedding vows, Emily Blunt has threatened to shave her head and Channing Tatum has given her a lap dance.

Her name may be Grae, but she’s far from dull. Sporting a bright pink pixie cut and an even brighter personality, she illuminates every interview and endeavor she takes on.

A jack of many trades, talents and star-studded mischief, Grae Drake is an entertainment reporter.

“I am an entertainment nerd with the greatest job in the world,” she said.

Drake can currently be found on KCAL news at 9 a.m. and Fox 11 news at 6 p.m. On these channels, she hosts segments that review the latest movies in Hollywood.

“What I do is watch movies and television shows,” she said. “I offer my very strong opinions on them and interview the people responsible. I’m sort of a hybrid in the entertainment journalism field.”

But it wasn’t always this way, as her journey was not a straight shot. Growing up, Drake didn’t even know entertainment journalism was a possible career opportunity.

“When I was a kid watching Leonard Maltin on Entertainment Tonight, reviewing movies and talking to the stars, it still somehow did not occur to me that I could also do that,” she said “I just sat in my living room watching him thinking he was so smart and so cool. I loved listening to him

talk to people and it made me happy. I don’t know why I never put two and two together.”

Instead, Drake would find her path in entertainment journalism through her love for filmmaking. She attended the University of Texas where she studied film.

She was soon recognized by Sundance and the Director’s Guild of America for her work.

“I love being behind the camera and I love making things,” Drake said. “I love the creativity of it and eventually I discovered that. I also ended up in front of the camera and I liked doing that too. And so it kind of all just came together for me eventually, but certainly not right after college.”

In the beginning stages of her career, she would film casting interviews for reality television shows and edit them together to send off to networks. She also conducted interviews herself.

“I realized that when I would go out and film people, when I was interacting with them and asking them questions about their lives, we were emotionally connected,”

Drake said. “That’s where I started to realize that I love being connected to people and I love hearing their stories. I am also a fundamentally nosy person. I love learning who people are because I think everyone is fascinating in their own way.”

As the puzzle pieces began to merge, the picture of her future became a bit more clear.

“I started a podcast on my own time with no money and no resources, just people that I knew in the industry and my friends,” she said. “I got a job as a movie critic. The puzzle started to take shape and that was it.”

Later working on CNN as a weekly movie critic, her opinionated nature landed her a job at Rotten Tomatoes as a

content for her numerous social media accounts, like her Instagram @ graedrake, posting reviews, interviews, celebrity interactions and hilarious shenanigans.

More recently, Drake attended the Grammys as a red carpet reporter for KCAL news. As enriching as the job can be, experiences like these have shown Drake the less glamorous realities of her job.

“Covering these events is very challenging,” she said. “It’s very long hours and it’s wildly uncomfortable. You’re standing and you’re begging people to come over and talk to you and you have to deal with all of the very colorful personalities around you.”

However, the positives of the job outweigh the bad, with the experience being a memorable one for Drake.

“What I’ll say about the Grammys that made it so deeply fun to me was that musicians are so cool, and the sheer number of nominees at the Grammys is huge,” she said. “They get acknowledged for this amazing thing that they’ve accomplished, and so the vibe is just great. Everyone’s so excited and they look amazing because the fashion is sensational at the Grammys.”

Even for a seasoned journalist like Drake, jobs in entertainment journalism can be nerve-wracking.

“I have been diagnosed with anxiety, so



having to do a job in the presence of a person whose art I love is kind of a recipe for disaster for me,” she said. “My anxiety can run wild. I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I still get nervous all the time.”

Drake’s experience allows her to harness her anxiety and channel it towards improving her work.

“Over the years I’ve started to treat my nervousness as a friend that helps me do my job,” Drake said. “The process of welcoming how I feel has been very important in every aspect of my life and especially my work, because when I stop fighting it, then it doesn’t slow me down at all. It really can fuel me if I learn how to appreciate it for what it does.”

As fun as the job can be, it’s the innately human nature of it all that Drake finds to be the most fulfilling. Her favorite part of her career is making connections with people that she otherwise wouldn’t have met.

“I love people’s lives, I love hearing about what fires them up, I love hearing about the things they’ve overcome, I love how much I laugh every day, I love the openness of people, I love their creativity and I love their willingness to play along with me,” she said. “Life is full for me, just knowing that someone whose movies have changed my life is someone I can also sit down and laugh with. Everyone’s the same, and yet we have these beautiful differences about us. And so to me, that’s journalism: getting to talk to people for a living.”

Senior Video Editor. Drake also makes MULTITALENTED Grae Drake, entertainment reporter, at the Grammys. Dubbing herself a hybrid in the entertainment journalism field, she interviews celebrities, reviews movies TV shows and covers awards shows like the Oscars for local news networks. STAR-STUDDED CELEBRATIONS From L to R: Steve Gelder (Drake’s husband), Grae Drake and Samuel L. Jackson celebrate at the Roosevelt Hotel after-party for the premiere of “Captain Marvel.” REPORTING LIVE Grae Drake at the 2024 Grammys, getting entertainment coverage for KCAL CBS. She has worked for CNN as a movie critic and Rotten Tomatoes as a Senior Video Editor. ENTERTAINING JOURNALISM Grae Drake’s job as an entertainment reporter is far from dull, with her interviews culminating in the most chaotic of shenanigans. SHIMMER AND SHINE Grae Drake at the Oscars, getting entertainment coverage for ProSieben, a media company in Germany. Drake got her start in entertainment journalism after attending the University of Texas, where she discovered her love for film.



Kevin Feige are just three of the many candidates that can step into the role of CEO.

Disney’s uncertain future depends on its next leader

As I’m writing this, it appears as if the Walt Disney Company is rolling out of its slump. Their first quarter results beat pessimistic expectations, and the stock price has climbed back into the triple digits. The company’s CEO, Bob Iger, seems to have stuck to his promise to chart a better course for Disney for the foreseeable future.

Or has he?

When it was announced that Iger would return to the helm in November 2022, Disney fans (including myself) rejoiced. At last, the company would return to form, and bring back the pixie dust that had been absent during prior-CEO Bob Chapek’s reign.

For many of us, Bob Iger represented hope. At a time when most people were dissatisfied with Chapek’s vision, a familiar figure from the past elicited joy. Yet, a little over a year in, Iger has kept many prior practices in place.

The reason why Iger’s reign matters at this point in time is because he may be dethroned within the next year. There exist powerful parties that have seen Disney’s loss and want to fix it. One party is led by an investor named Nelson Peltz, who has proposed to swap out Bob Iger with another unnamed leader.

While I might be wary of Peltz’s true intentions, overall, I agree with the investor. Iger should be replaced by an executive with both business experience and an understanding of the creative process, all while maintaining a vision for where the company should go.

The most obvious candidates would appear to be Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, and Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. These two are in charge of the biggest franchises under Disney’s umbrella and make daily executive decisions for them.

However, I highly recommend Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs as primary options. I specifically advocate for making Tom Staggs CEO and Kevin Mayer CFO of the company.

The two have had extensive careers at Disney. Staggs worked his way up through the theme parks division until he became the COO of the company in 2016. Mayer led Disney+ and the rest of the streaming division from its inception. Both have since left the company and started their own, Candle Media, proving that they have the chemistry needed to successfully operate a multibillion dollar business.

If fans can use social media and start a campaign to end Iger’s reign, the company might be compelled enough to listen and comply with the fans’ requests for once.

With the right people in charge, Disney can restore magic to its entire kingdom once again, as they have in the past.

Sing or swim: Full-time sub keeps choir afloat

Merely one month into the school year, the Vocal Ensemble, Chambers and Vannaires choir classes were excited to begin preparing for their Winter Concert when they were cryptically called into a lunch meeting by their teacher, Ms. Alexis Weddle. In her seventh year of teaching, although Ms. Weddle was only beginning her second year at this school, she had a strong hold on the VNHS Choir Program and the hearts of her students.

Based on the tone of the Remind App message the choir received from Ms. Weddle, students feared that whatever news they were about to receive could not be good. Their suspicions were proven correct when Ms. Weddle announced that she would be taking a 12-week leave of absence for personal reasons.

The students wished their teacher goodbye, with bittersweet dispositions and a few tears. They praised their teacher for prioritizing her needs, but it left them wondering what this would mean for the fate of the program.

Their concerns quickly subsided when Texas State Alumnus Mr. Shawn Wilson stepped onto the scene.

Mr. Wilson was no stranger to the VNHS Choir Program. He substituted for Ms. Weddle before during her maternity leave.

Although he is technically a substitute, Mr. Wilson has taken full control of the program and has no plans of holding back.

“I’m the type of person where I don’t half-do anything,” he said. “If I’m gonna do anything, it’s gonna be great.”

He shares that a similar situation occurred to him and his classmates when he was in high school. Their choir teacher was absent for a majority of the year, for reasons he doesn’t know, even to this day. Suddenly, teenage Mr. Wilson found himself in a leadership position in a program that he was supposed to be a student in.

Both theatre teacher Mr. Justin Baldridge and Mr. Wilson are relatively new to the school. The pair frequently collaborate.

“Working on Sweeney Todd with Mr. Wilson has been great,” Mr. Baldridge said. “He comes to rehearsals extremely often, which is beneficial, considering this show is about 90% music. He is always willing to help out whenever he can, and the students work well with him. I also work well with him, and it’s been a wonderful experience.”

Although he is a talented educator and music director, teach-

‘‘ I’m the type of person where I don’t halfdo anything. If I’m gonna do anything, it’s gonna be great.”

Substitute choir teacher Mr. Shawn Wilson

CHOIR LEADER Mr. Shawn Wilson conducts his fourth period class, the Chamber Singers, in preparation for the Spring Choir showcase “From Screen to Stage.”

ing is not Mr. Wilson’s final frontier.

Mr. Wilson aspires to have a career in music, recording original songs and writing for famous singers. He yearns for a break from the traditional nine-to-five work structure.

“I’m going to be working on getting some music recorded, maybe starting a podcast or a YouTube channel, stuff that needs a lot of time,” he said. “Once I get those recorded, I wanna get a publishing deal, so I can just write for artists and not have to worry about clocking in or out, just having a publishing deal and being set. My biggest dream would be to write a musical and get it performed on Broadway.”

As a result, he’s been searching extensively for a permanent replacement. Mr. Wilson emphasizes the importance of finding someone with equal amounts of self-confidence and musical skill, a vital pairing needed to command a music class.

“They have to be very sure about who they are as a person,” he said. “There’s not much room for doubting yourself or being selfconscious. This program needs someone who will walk in and say, ‘Yes, I’m a badass. I know what time it is, I know this is what needs to happen, y’all can do it, let’s go.’”

Performing Arts Magnet Coordinator Ms. Fanny Arana has been hunting for a new educator, hoping to find a permanent fit for next year.

“We are looking for a choral teacher with experience in teaching high school choir,” she said. “We are looking for someone with a music degree who is willing to put in the time, energy and effort to adopt our choral program.”

Though Mr. Wilson doesn’t plan to stay a teacher for long, he appreciates what this job has done for him as a musician.

“Being a teacher always reminds me about how far I’ve come,” he said. “If only you knew how hard little Shawn worked. If little Shawn was able to see the fact that I just walk in here and like to sing and bust out high notes for sopranos and sing the tenor part, he would be blown out of his mind. The piano thing he probably would have seen coming, but being able to sing at the level that I do, he would be blown away.”

Having substituted classes at many other schools, he harbors a particular admiration for the VNHS Choir Program.

“I go to different schools every single day, all across the valley,” Mr. Wilson said. “Even before I was here as a long-term sub, this has always been my favorite school to go to. This school is better than y’all think; no school is perfect, but y’all should be proud of what y’all have. You should have pride in yourselves and the school.”

From to R: Kathleen Kennedy, Bob Iger and THE MIRROR GRAPHIC BY DAIMLER KOCH

The girls softball season was disappointing to say the least.

Plagued with struggles, the girls had difficulty delivering quality performances last year. Of their 14 games played, the team lost 13 with five of them being forfeits. Their sole win against the Valley of Arts and Sciences (VAAS) Vipers was a forfeit in the Wolves’ favor.

After a season like this, the girls must look past it and prove that they are a winning team.

On Feb. 23, the Wolves faced off against the Monroe Vikings for their season opener. The previous year, Monroe narrowly took the game 14-13. This time, the Wolves turned it around and won 13-10. This victory was the first since their win against the Reseda Regents in 2022.

“Last year it felt pretty bad going through a winless season because we tried our best in every game to have a positive mindset and to not give up,” pitcher Angelina Volpe

said. “Winning the first game of this season felt really good because last year we hadn’t won a single game. I think it was definitely a confidence booster for the team. That game really showed what our team can do when we are confident and ready.”

Head Coach William Cox has put countless hours of his time into making sure he can lead his team to even more victories in the future. He puts effort into making sure his girls develop both as players and as people.

“We didn’t win any games last year, but they improved every single week,” Coach Cox said. “The games that stood out the most to me were the games against Panorama and against Reseda. The girls played a lot better, and you can see the improvement.”

Despite starting off the season with a bang, the girls fell back down to earth in their game against the Vipers on Feb. 29.

“The second game against VAAS, we did poorly both offensively and defensively,” Cox said. “I don’t think we had good practices leading up to the VAAS game. We had several girls not show up to practice. Not striving to continue to do better is the bad part.”

Trying to turn it around

After a winless last season, the softball team is focusing on communication and improving skills. It’s paid off with two wins.

The team has put in plenty of work during the off-season, but some problems are still scattered about.

“I wish we could do better on our communication,” team co-captain Margaret Mejia Perez said. “We’re making stupid plays and I know we can do better than that. I think we’re all nervous so we’re just not doing our best.”

As with every team sport, communication

is vital to a winning team.

“In practice we’re trying to communicate more,” Perez says. “I tell them to call out more, I tell them to just talk because if we’re not talking then we just make the wrong plays.”

With 15 girls on the varsity roster and 19 on junior varsity, attendance is not an issue for the team. What is, however, is the lack of experience a majority of the girls have.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, especially when not a lot of them have played before,” Coach Cox went on to say.

Some players also play other sports, which limits the amount of time they get to practice with the softball team.

“The biggest challenge I’ve faced this season is not having an off-season at all,” Volpe said. “I couldn’t show up to softball practice because of my other sport being in-season.”

Looking forward to the end of the season, the girls aim to move past their shortcomings and become a winning program. Already having one win in the books, it seems like more are soon to come from the Wolves’ softball team.

Acing it: Coach expects tennis to win this time

Entering the season, the boys tennis team has high expectations. An undefeated season last year brings the team to strive for a replication of that, but with playoff success this time.

In 2022, the boys went undefeated in their season and won the Division I Championship. The following year, they went undefeated once again and made it to the Open Division playoffs, with their first round opponent being the Granada Hills Charter Highlanders. In a rough 27-2 loss, the Wolves were knocked out of the bracket immediately.

“The overall difference in skill level, due to the commitment players from Granada have, can almost be entirely accredited to the funding

that they have from their school and from their families to support their hobby,” varsity player Christian Guevarra said. “This isn’t to say they are not talented, however having that money and funding to fuel this sport is essential to making it big, which is unfortunately something most players at our school don’t have to the same degree.”

Following a devastating loss against the Highlanders, that didn’t stop the Wolves from getting right back to winning the next season.

Beating El Camino Real 4-3 on Feb. 21, on March 11 the boys blew out the Grant Lancers 7-0.

“I was one of the last ones playing, and it was really nice to see the whole team unite and root for the rest of us,” team captain Daxon Beaumia said.

While being one of the only open division sports in the school, tennis

doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it merits. Not having much of a social media presence as well as little to no support from the school itself adds up to the program not getting close to what it needs.

It is difficult for fans to go and watch the boys games as well because of the placement of the tennis courts on campus. The small gym is in an open spot that is easily accessible, and the big gym is the same. Behind the big gym is the football field, softball field and baseball field. All the way in the corner behind all of those are the tennis courts. Without any internal help, every issue combines for little recognition or support for the sport.

While the program stays underground at the school, the players continue to practice and perfect their craft. Coach Min Woo So holds practice every morning before

school from 7 to 8 a.m. Then from 3 to 6 p.m., four days a week, the boys put in their work.

“I come in the mornings just in case a player can show up in the morning but not in the afternoon,” Coach So said.

Only being one person, So can’t always help every single player with what they need. His captains lead the rest of the team when he isn’t available.

Outside of the main goal of winning a championship, tennis also allows its players to have a chance to relax from their responsibilities throughout the week. Coming off of back-to-back undefeated seasons, the boys tennis team plans to repeat what they’ve done. Undeniable team chemistry with a dedicated coach and committed players brews the perfect storm for another championship in 2024.

COURTESY JAZMINE CARRERA UP TO BAT Varsity right fielder Leah Torres glances over at the pitcher from Monroe High School, making a last minute decision as to whether or not she should swing her bat. This was the Wolves’ season opener. They won 20-13. BOUNCING BACK Varsity player Joseph Kim warms up before going up against his opponent during the first game of the season. THE MIRROR | KIMBERLY PEREZ

Playoff dreams shattered for two years straight

Down by one point, the clock chimes down from eight seconds as shooting guard Jeremy Rivas takes the last shot to put his team ahead and misses.

As the ball ricochets off the rim, small forward Khalil Marcopulos sprints toward the basket, grabbing the rebound and successfully making the shot, awarding the team victory by one point.

This thrilling game was played against Canoga Park High School on Dec. 4, marking their first league game win.

The triumph was the start of a good season with many wins to come. Or so they thought.

Last season, the boys basketball team had an even record of six wins and six losses in their league. Unfortunately, they were cut from the playoffs after a nail-biting 65-64 loss against San Fernando High School. Ever since, the team has been fired up in hopes of earning redemption.

“I felt that we should’ve made the playoffs from all of our hard work, but this made us even more determined to work even harder to not let it happen again this year,” team cocaptain Jonathan Pritchett said.

In the team’s first game of the season, they faced off against the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences Vipers on Nov. 13. Despite the game being very close, the Vipers’ offense started to pick up, resulting in a loss of 52-43 for the Wolves.

“It was very upsetting to us because it was one of those games where we knew we should’ve won,” point guard and team cocaptain Jonco Holgado said. “The good part about this game was that it showed us what we needed to improve on, which was mainly our fundamentals and decision making.”

Despite the rough loss, the team’s performance started to improve, winning three of their next five games. They acquired a 44-41 win against Northridge Academy on Dec. 1, a 43-42 success against Canoga Park on Dec. 4 and won 51-49 against San Fernando on Dec. 6.

A contributor to their winning streak was their strong defense, which prevented competitors from getting easy shots. Effective communication on both ends of the court also had a hand in their victories.

The team was filled with contentment and the boys were eager to continue having

Team captain’s takes

What’s going on in school sports, coming

Omar Serafin

“As captain, I play the role of an older sibling. I try to create a community in the team so that my teammates can know if they do their best, their teammates will be proud of them. When someone falls behind, we try to pick them up and make sure that everyone knows their work matters.”

RUNNING UP Cliffy Magee (#22) dribbles up to the net as O’shan Williams (#25) joins him. The team was scheduled to go to playoffs before a medical paperwork issue cropped up, resulting in the loss of their coach.

their hard work pay off. Based on their performance so far, the Wolves believed that they had secured a ticket to playoffs.

“We know the type of team we are, so when we make our adjustments behind the scenes, overcome all adversity, trust one another and rise above the moment, we can come out on top every time and I think those three games proved it,” Marcopulos said.

After a devastating 62-30 loss against Kennedy High School on Dec. 14, tragedy struck the team as their coach was released from the school due to issues related to clearing players.

According to athletic director Mr. Dion Coley, at the time, approximately half of the participating players did not have their medical paperwork cleared by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF).

Student athletes must have their medical paperwork signed, filled out and approved by a doctor to be turned in to Mr. Coley, ultimately to be checked by the CIF. It is very crucial to be cleared to play, as it ensures a student’s safety by confirming that they are physically healthy enough to participate.

That’s when the team’s dream of making it to the playoffs was crushed. Since so many players did not have the proper paperwork turned in, they were forced to forfeit their three victories from early on in the season as per the rules of the CIF.

The team felt hopeless. To senior players, it was as though their last shot at sucess was

ripped away from them.

“It was very unfair that we didn’t make the playoffs because of the situation that happened to us,” Holgado said. “It wasn’t at all in our control. Since myself and others are seniors, we won’t get another chance.”

The loss of their coach left the team in shambles.

To compensate, girls basketball coach Sara Marroquin stepped up and tried her best to coach both teams. Turbulence was evident, however, as the Wolves were defeated 70-45 against Reseda High School the following day.

23-year-old Isaac Wise, Coach Marroquin’s son, decided to take on this role in an effort to revive the boys basketball season.

“I was very ecstatic to see who our new coach was, because I thought we were gonna have to deal with the season without a coach,” Pritchett said. “It relieved all of us.”

Though their new coach was new to the high school sports, this wasn’t his first time coaching. Wise has previously coached travel teams of all ages, even some professionals.

“I was easily able to get along with the athletes because of the team being very welcoming and eager to learn,” Coach Wise said.

In the second half of the season, with a new head coach, the team ended their season with four wins and two losses, losing to the top two teams in the Valley Mission League which were Kennedy and Sylmar High School.

“We could already see the difference,” power forward and center O’shan Williams said. “Our new coach would host practices everyday while our old coach had few practices with us over the off-season.”

Unfortunately, their league record of five wins and seven losses cost them the playoffs.

“We have accepted failure throughout our season,” Williams said. “Everyone is prone to fail.”

Seeing as the 2021-2022 basketball team lost in their final round of the playoffs, this is the second year in a row in which the team has been cut from the playoffs. The team is devastated, but prepared to work hard for next year.

“A lot of returners are already in the gym working towards the next season,” Coach Wise explained. “I plan to develop the talent of every player on the team, even those on junior varsity so we can focus solely on getting better as a team.”

Immersed in training their hardest, the boys aspire to change their luck for the better.


“As captain, I play a different role depending on what is needed. On the court, I’m someone my teammates trust, especially when a tight situation arises. Even though winning is great, the moments you have as a team are most important.”

“It’s not about the destination but rather the journey. The moments that matter are those where the team is bonding, without pertaining to track. I feel an unimaginable joy watching the entire team cheer on our fellow teammates as they cross the finish line, pushing each other to become the best.”

“When we have conversations before or after games, I’m the one leading them. The moments that matter the most are when everyone does their part to win a point. When there’s a beautiful pass, a gorgeous set and a monstrous kill follows it, there’s never a more blissful and fulfilling moment.”

“I motivate my team by being optimistic and encouraging them. I believe that winning a game is not the main goal of any sport. I feel that the time we spend bonding before games, whether during practice or outside, has an impact on coordination and the overall vibe of the team.”

“I assist and give feedback to players on what they need to improve and how to fix certain problems. The moments that matter the most to me are when we achieve an unexpected win or when one of our teammates makes a comeback. I value getting to know the team.”

THE MIRROR | PHOTOS BY MICHAEL ARREDONDO Reynold Finnegan Track and Field Devin Brown Boys Volleyball Pragyanjyoti Dash Girls Water Polo Daxon Beaumia Boys Tennis Dechathong Girls Basketball Boys Wrestling straight from the source

Equal sports budgeting: Fair on paper, problematic in practice

Equality versus equity has always been a contentious, yet highly important topic. Equality calls for giving everyone the same resources, driven by the idea that equal resources guarantee fairness. Equity recognizes that each individual has different circumstances and allocates resources accordingly.

When it comes to sports funding, deciding on the right approach is of critical importance. As a sophomore student athlete who has been involved in five school sports, I’ve witnessed the impact of our current funding policy firsthand.

According to Van Nuys High School’s public Budget Availability Report, each sport is given a budget of $22,047 each year for equipment. The school also purchases new uniforms every three years.

Equality has no place in the realm of sports funding.

Track and field requires batons, high jump pits, shot puts, hurdles and starting blocks. Baseball and softball teams need bats, helmets, gloves, bases and balls. Meanwhile, sports like volleyball and basketball only necessitate a court and a ball.

Evidently, not every sport needs the same amount of money. It isn’t in spite of fairness that equity should be put into place, but for its sake; the nature of some sports requiring more or less equipment than others needs to be considered when allocating specific budgets.

Giving the same amount of money to all sports teams doesn’t sound problematic on paper, but the school’s array of overfunded or underfunded teams are proof that this isn’t the case.

Football, for example, typically sees a very large roster size. Combined with the various pieces of equipment required for a player to participate in the sport, problems arise when the equal budget is far too little. This year’s boys football team sports 48 students, all of whom need helmets, shoulder pads and football pants to play.

Student athletes could reuse or share equipment, but helmets and shoulder pads have to fit the player perfectly to maximally reduce the risk of injury. Few players would realistically have access to such equipment if it isn’t bought with their specific body in mind.

The immense amount of athletes is not the only problem that sports teams face with budgeting but the consistent need to replace equipment. Football mouth guards should be replaced every six months or after every season to maintain cleanliness.

On the other hand, sports like cross country don’t require nearly as much funding. Players only need a race number to compete. Factoring out uniform costs the school already covers, cross country is a comparatively cheap sport.

Considering their circumstances, allocating an increased budget to the football team and a reduced budget to the cross country team isn’t unjust. Taking variability across sports into account would result in teams getting as much money as they need and cutting down on overfunding and underfunding issues.

The end goal must be to provide all sports teams with a fair playing field. Though it may seem counterintuitive, equal budgeting is not the answer. The best environment for all sports teams can only be achieved when budgeting places equity first.

FILLING IN THE CRACKS When schools distribute equal amounts of funding towards all sports, some are left with far less funding than is required to keep athletes safe and satisfied. Instead, each sport’s financial needs should be considered individually, and the funding should be distributed accordingly so as to avoid both overfunding and underfunding.

One of the most physically demanding sports that takes a surprising amount of mental strength is wrestling. From the challenging training schedule, to needing a strong attitude, to almost making it to the city championships, this team has had its ups and downs but are still standing.

This season, wrestlers were able to compete in more competitions by participating in multiple tournaments which let wrestlers show off what they’ve been training for.

“Going into the season, I went to tournaments and I had a lot more matches in comparison to last year,” girls team captain Ron Melendez said. “Last year I only had one match and this year I had about 23 or 22 so it was a really big difference. But I felt ready to go into it because I was happy to do it.”

The team trains consistently to prevent injuries.

“Training is from 3 to around 5 or 6 p.m.,” James Baltazar explained. “We start with a warmup, which we usually do for

around half an hour and we do stretches. Each day we focus on separate types of strategies like working on upper body or lower body and even for stances or other maneuvers.”

But injuries are inevitable.

“I think the lowest point of our season was how on the same day many of us had accidents,” Baltazar said. “We were worried because one of our players, Omar, had a bump on his leg, and we didn’t know if he needed to go to the hospital. Another freshman, Aiden, he had a scratch on his leg. It was sore and purple and even the coach was worried and we thought it was over for the season but things ended up going well.”

Even though wrestling is a time consuming sport, the will to keep going overshadows the negatives.

“I definitely do want to continue wrestling and I have been thinking about college wrestling because wrestling is just such a fun sport to me, just being out there on the mat with other people and doing the moves is what makes me love wrestling,” Melendez stated. “I like knowing how much I’ve achieved and that I have enough strength, skill and speed to take down another person around my size. It strokes my ego a little bit.”

Coach Ramon Tovar is very proud of his team because of the amazingly skillful athletes that have emerged.

“Although we’re still small in numbers, everyone improved, especially our girls team,” Tovar said. “We had a couple of girls who were strong such as Melissa Chavez, who got almost fourth in City Individual Finals, which is a big accomplishment for a freshman. We went to more tournaments than last year and everyone who was active went to 15 to 25 matches.”

The team ultimately made it to the city championships.

“We have a couple freshmen in our team who were really

good,” Baltazar said. “I loved the amount of effort they put into wrestling, it was like something I’ve never seen.” Baltazar encourages others to join the team, if they can handle the amount of physical exertion wrestling demands.

“The drilling is terrible, it’s horrendous but if you’re into it, if you really want to put more effort into your body or to feel disciplined, it’s the best sport for that,” he said. “I was taught everything little by little, and whenever I forgot, I was always reminded how to improve.”

Takedown: Wrestling team makes it to city championships COURTESY | THOMAS KIM
TACKLING THE CHALLENGE Wrestling can be a difficult sport, with injuries and long practice sessions commonplace. However, with the right mindset, it can prove to be a rewarding experience.

Fractured dreams: Injuries take tolls on young athletes

Jessica Merchant’s cleats stomp on the grass as she approaches the goal. While running, she glances back to check for defenders. Suddenly, she hears a pop and feels a sharp pain in her knee before everything goes dark.

After being taken to the hospital, she was told that she tore her meniscus and injured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the ligament in the knee joint.

“This injury is known to be the worst injury any athlete can have,” Merchant said. “Everyone was telling me that I won’t be able to get back to the sport I love. It was just really scary.”

She was crushed about the fact she wasn’t able to support her team out there on the field. But that didn’t stop her from showing up to games and giving support from the sidelines.

High school athletes account for roughly two million injuries, 500,000 doctors visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States.

Merchant has been recovering for over five months. She has been able to get through this hard time with the support provided by her friends and family.

“They motivate me to let time heal me mentally and physically,” Merchant explained. “My friends visit and remind me of all the amazing accomplishments I’ve achieved in soccer.”

By maintaining a positive attitude, she is certain this experience will only make her stronger.

“I’ve reminded myself that everything happens for a reason, and to just push through obstacles because the outcome always has it’s benefits to it,” she said. “This has reminded me of what I’m made of and all the amazing things I can accomplish. I just need to stay motivated and focused.”

HELD BACK Jessica Merchant was severely injured playing girls soccer. The recovery period has placed a stressful burden on her and her family.

The entire season they sizzled... at the

very end they fizzled


The girls basketball team is no stranger to success.

From winning multiple basketball tournaments over the summer to having an exceptional overall record of 19 wins and only two losses, the team has glistened this season like never before. After winning first place in the Valley Mission League, the team made it to the final round of playoffs.

The team started off their season with an away game on Nov. 11 against the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (SOCES). The team had trouble in the first quarter, but their preparation paid off and they were successful in beating SOCES with a score of 46-24.

The team’s next game was against Eagle Rock High School on Nov. 27, where they suffered their first loss 54-28. This game did not put them down. After this, they went straight back to practicing every day, which led them to a 12-game winning streak, beating out teams like Taft High School 41-28, Sylmar High School 61-31 and Panorama High School 53-14.

The team considers their game against San Fernando High school on Dec. 6 their most memorable game of the season.

The game started off like any other. Three-point shots, layups and free throws were being made, and the team’s defense strategy was top notch. But by half time,

things started to go wrong.

Power forward Karen Grewal, small forward Olamide Olumide and power forward Kenya Perryman all fouled out one after the other at the end of the third quarter for making illegal personal contact. These players were removed from the court and required to sit on the bench for the remainder of the game.

With three girls benched, the only remaining players were small forward Yaneli Zuniga and point guards Jazmin Ruiz and Cara Dechathong. These three players went against a team of five during the last quarter of the game and were astonishingly able to emerge from the game victorious, beating San Fernando 67-61.

“Three out of six players on the varsity team were fouled out and we had to play with only three players against five players and we still won,” Olumide said. “San Fernando were salty about it, but it’s okay.”

What broke this 12-game winning streak was their home game against Kennedy High School on Jan. 24.

“I guess we just weren’t in the right headspace,” Olumide said. “A lot of Kennedy’s family and friends were at the game and I think it really discouraged us. We didn’t perform as well as we usually do.”

The players suffered through turnovers, missed layups and missed shots.

“It’s always upsetting when you are disappointing your coach or your teammates during moments like that,” Grewal said.

Losing this game really shook up their confidence.

After receiving a strong and encouraging talk from Head Coach Sara Maroquin, the team’s faith was restored.

“Our coach was really good at holding us accountable and making sure that we realized how this could have gone if we were in the right head space,” Grewal said. “It motivated us and the next day we conditioned and worked hard. After that, we came off strong in our next game.”

Dechathong echoes this sentiment.

“We couldn’t just stay stuck in the past,” she said. “What was done was done and we just have to get better from that.”

After putting in the work, the girls basketball team was able to advance to the final game of playoffs. With an amazing record of 11-1, the team qualified to participate in the 2023-2024 Division II playoffs.

They had their first playoff game on Feb. 10 against the Maywood Center for Enriched Studies and easily squashed the Maywood team with a score of 62-18.

The playoff’s quarterfinals took place on Feb. 14 in the big gym against Carson High School. With the stands full of fellow Wolves, the team beat Carson 33-29.

The girls then advanced to the semifinals, playing against Cleveland High School on Feb. 17. The team had trouble in the first half keeping up with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but shaped up in the second half, putting in all their effort and successfully beating the Cavaliers with a score of 54-43.

Finally, on Feb. 23 at Birmingham High School, the team competed in their championship game against their rivals from Kennedy High School.

The game was toe to toe the entire time, but unfortunately the team got worn out by the last quarter. Their inability to catch up to Kennedy resulted in the team losing 53-43. This loss was dejecting.

But overall, they had an amazing year but there is still more to be done. With more practice and team bonding, the team is determined to have an undefeated season next year and hopefully make it back to the playoffs to win it all.

HARD PASS Point guard Cara Dechathong (#40) attempts to make a shot under the guard of several Sylmar Spartans. Girls basketball had a very strong season, making it to the championship game before getting beaten by their rivals at Kennedy High School.

Cha-ching Club buys and builds new ping pong table

To spread their love of ping pong, Club President Joseph Kim, Vice President William Schnider and Secretary Renisha Patel created the school’s Ping Pong Club last year.

However, purchasing a ping pong table proved to be quite expensive.

“I’d say it took us about a school year to get the money we needed,” Mirsky said. “A lot of the fundraising happened last year with multicultural day. We sold donuts and we also sold a lot of ramen on PHBAO nights.”

Costing approximately $300, the club was determined get recognition for their cause and raise money for their desired ping pong table.

“With every PHBAO night, back to school night and multicultural day, we managed to sum up some money,” Patel said. “We finally found a table that was within our budget so we just settled for it.”

In the past, before the ping pong table was purchased, the club would spend their meetings combining tables and setting up nets for members to play with.

“Our goal is for the club members to have fun in the club and just play ping pong because we all love playing ping

pong,” Patel shared.

The club has not had any meetings this school year. However, now that they have acquired an official table, the juniors aim to start Ping Pong Club back up.

“Club meetings are on Tuesdays during lunch in the small gym,” Mirsky said. “The table is currently assembled. It’s a really cool, expensive table.”

Mirsky encourages students to stop by.

“The club is great because typically during lunch, all you do is sit at a table and talk with your friends,” he said. “Why not play ping pong too? That’d be more fun.”

Ultimately, Ping Pong Club is planning on holding tournaments on campus to promote friendly competition.

Girls water polo team swims against the tide

The girls water polo season ended in February, and its outcome was not the prettiest.

The team lost their commanding lead over the rest of their league and now possess a nearly winless record. Eleven losses is a tough pill to swallow, especially coming off of a dominant 9-2 season the year prior. The 2022-2023 girls water polo team steamrolled through their league, taking every game except one with ease. Experienced upperclassmen, along with promising developing players, was the perfect recipe for a dominating roster. But things fell apart.

With the number one position in their league’s standings, the Wolves were promoted from Division II to Division I going into 2023. The girls knew they would be in for a challenge, and were met with one immediately.

The Wolves faced the Granada Hill Charter Highlanders on Dec. 1 and were crushed in an embarrassing fashion with a 25-3 final score. The same happened on Dec. 6 and Jan. 8, when both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Birmingham Patriots walked all over them,

beating them 14-5 and 20-9 respectively.

“After every game, no matter if we win or lose, we talk about the goods and bads of our games,” team captain Lorena Guevara said. “It takes a lot of hyping up and stopping negative talk.”

Coach George Davancens observed some problems this past season.

“We’ve had some issues with attendance at the pool and a lot of senioritis to be honest,” Davancens explained.

Experiencing a year as difficult as this most recent one fuels the team with determination and fires them up to prove they have what it takes.

The team made it to the playoffs despite a losing league record of 11-1, giving them one more chance to show what they’re made of. On Feb. 5, the Wolves went up against the Santee Falcons, a team with a better overall record of 9-3 and higher seed. The Wolves amazingly took down the Falcons, scoring 13-6.

In spite of losing their next playoff game 15-5 against the Kennedy Cougars, their playoff win gave them hope. New players know what they need to improve, and strive to lead the team to a winning season.

Trans people find themselves unwelcome in the world of sports

There were signs that I was transgender since I was ten. I first came out as genderfluid in March of 2021. But by the end of my sophomore year, I came out as a trans male and never looked back. More specifically, I identify as a demi-boy, a person who resonates or fluctuates between both the male and non-binary identities.

As I’ve emerged from the closet, I’ve had to adapt and learn, not only to satisfy my dysphoria but to be more aware of issues in the LGBTQIA+ community.

The trans community wants to pursue their passions in life just like any other person in the world. For some, that pursuit is sports.

I remember playing and enjoying tennis as an underclassman before I transitioned. Sports allow people to become physically active and compete, bond and grow with their peers.

Here in California, we have been lucky to have a lot of pro-trans legislation, including pro-trans athlete legislation.

But in conservative states like Texas, Oklahoma and Florida, laws are now in place to prevent transgender athletes from participating in sports.

Cisgender people believe that transgender athletes are either “too inferior” or “too strong” to participate in a cisgender-dominated sports community.

Only 1.03% of American people identify as transgender.

When considering how many of these transgender people aspire to play school, collegiate and professional sports, you arrive at an extremely small percentage of the population. Yet most conservative politicians make it seem like their kids are being indoctrinated.

The average human lifespan is roughly 71 years. Humans should be able to enjoy the short time we have here on Earth. Why should we spend that precious time putting others down, too blinded by bigotry to enjoy what the world has to offer?

Trans people are trying to live and lead their lives. Yet, politicians are trying to live our lives for us, binding us to their terms using bills, bans, bullying and bigotry. America, let transgender people freely participate in sports. We are humans too and we just want to be included.

Renisha Patel assembles a newlypurchased ping pong table after school in the small gym.

Professional athletes have trainers. Why shouldn’t high school athletes?

Athletes train tirelessly to condition their bodies for the physically taxing efforts their sports demand. Continuously running up and down a basketball court, tackling a quarterback for an entire game and countless other tasks require players’ bodies to be in the best shape possible. As a result, injuries are prevalent in high school athletics.

An athletic trainer is a doctor who specializes in sports medicine. They work with players, coaches and other doctors to ensure that athletes’ bodies are being treated in the best way possible.

Professional athletes have access to athletic trainers wherever they go and get the best possible care if they ever get hurt. While high school athletes don’t play as frequently as professionals, they run a similar risk of injury due to the nature of amateur sports, where safety inaccuracies or form errors are widespread. Despite this, student athletes don’t get

the same insurance of having athletic trainers at their games.

Athletic trainers are a vital part of sports being as successful as they are. Without their efforts, endless athletes’ play time would be cut short. Being able to both prevent and treat injuries is just as crucial as physical conditioning for the sport itself. A broken bone or torn ligament needs the best treatment it can get. When athletic trainers are nowhere to be found, that treatment just isn’t possible.

California law states athletic trainers are not required to be present at high school sports games, or to even work with a school at all. This law has been disputed several times, and its existence is already an anomaly; California is the only state in the country that doesn’t require it.

Just how important are athletic trainers, though?

High school coaches in California are required to have completed both CPR and First Aid training. While those are certainly important, sports often pose a bigger injury risk than what CPR and First Aid are able to cover.

care of their teammates and unqualified adults.


It’s not just for the pros

Stop for a moment, and hear me out. The movement for paying student athletes at the high school level has been gaining traction over the past few years.

While many are quick to dismiss the idea, receiving monetary support could a game-changer for student athletes. Speaking from personal experience, being a student athlete is no joke. From the physical demand to the sheer time commitment, the responsibilities make maintaining a healthy life seemingly impossible.

Coming home from practice at 6:30 p.m. everyday, hungry and tired, becomes the norm. As the adrenaline rush from run-

Without proper and timely treatment, injuries could worsen if coaches fail to recognize their severity. Coaches can tell if a player is hurt, but cannot reliably identify important details.

Adrenaline rushes that often occur at the moment of injury temporarily numb pain, increasing the risk of severe injuries going undetected.

If an athlete tears a tendon in their leg, it goes without saying they shouldn’t walk on it. But for any combination of reasons, the gravity of the situation could go unrealized. The injury might be treated as a sprain or cramp; playing through it or walking on it from that point on could turn the unfortunate situation into something worse.

Athletic trainers are taught to identify and treat injuries as swiftly as they can. Having somebody specifically to keep players safe eases some responsibility off of a coach.

Whilst sports skills and sports medicine often correlate with one another, the two specialties are completely different aspects of athletics. A coach can refocus their efforts on

running their sport as best as possible if they don’t have to worry about overseeing everything all at once.

High school nurses, albeit having professional medical training, usually have a much more general understanding of health, while athletic trainers are versed in much more specific parts of the medical field. A high school nurse can treat nausea, headaches, scrapes and more ordinary injuries, but all they can do about a torn ligament is pass the injured player over to specialized doctors to handle it.

While concerns about additional expenses are valid, it doesn’t change the fact that the safety and health of student athletes are to take priority above all else. The ability to ensure an athlete’s health is more important than saving a few dollars.

Playing sports is what every athlete signs up to do. Whether they choose to pursue it after high school or participate as a hobby, they want to be on the field. Making athletic trainers a requirement in high school athletics has the potential to elevate the school’s sports department to a greater standard.

ning around wears off, a sinking feeling settles in.

Just the thought of all the assignments waiting for me is enough to ruin my evening. By the time I’m through with schoolwork, it’s well past midnight. There isn’t time to do anything but sleep, before the morning alarm rings instantly and another school day arrives much too soon.

During the season, the academic price becomes even heavier. The number of missed classes makes schoolwork ridiculously difficult. Before long, student athletes fall victim to burnout or academic failure.

Many contend that student athletes are to blame for this sequence of tragedy, or rather, the consequences of their own actions. How dare student athletes make foolish sacrifices for the sake of what they love?

Giving players a pat on the back for pushing their bodies to the limit and putting in so much effort simply isn’t enough, especially when considering the role sports play in a school’s reputation. A strong sports department driven by student athletes giving their all can put a school on the map. Receiving no support in return can be incredibly disheartening.

Athletes put their health on the line every time they attend practice and games, often leaving with bruises and sore bodies. Rougher contact sports can result in concussions and broken

bones. Womp womp. That sucks. Few people will dispute that.

Still, how exactly does giving students a paycheck help?

They can’t buy their health or their grades. The same problems persist; if anything, it only creates another issue where students are handed money that can be abused with malicious intent. Besides, student athletes aren’t under a professional contract to play for the school, so drawing a comparison to professionals is inappropriate. It’s a fair argument, and exactly right. Paying student athletes outright should not happen.

However, money can go a long way in providing athletes what they really need: support. Instead of paying students with cash, players should earn monetary credit under an account the school holds for them. Players should then be able to request relevant purchases, such as better sports equipment for reduced risk of injury, or academic resources to aid their overwhelming workload.

Additionally, leftover credit can be granted as scholarship money to students when they graduate to ease college tuition costs. Because the school manages and reviews purchases, the risk of students abusing monetary gain is eliminated.

This notion can upgrade high school sports to an unprecedented quality. Under this system, players may finally be able to receive the support they need.

THE MIRROR | JALYN BAUTISTA EXTRA PRECAUTIONS Athletic trainers can help student athletes prevent injuries. They can also provide appropriate medical treatment for injured students instead of leaving them to the

The quest perfectionfor

after the previous one ended.

to the upcoming season.”

With the start of the season underway, Kim has a supposition in mind for the team.

He plopped his golf bag down, moments away from the start of the game. He noticed that out of the five people on the team, it was just him and one other teammate competing. This was when the team’s hopes for making it to the state competition were dreadfully dimmed.

Despite this, team captain Isaiah Kim and his fellow golf player Jamie Huh decided to take on this challenge, completing the season.

“The lack of leadership and organization last season led to everyone leaving besides me and Isaiah,” Huh said. “On the bright side, Isaiah and I were able to become much better friends match by match.”

During the city competition, with about 25 teams competing, the young athletes’ dreams of making it to the state competition were dolefully squashed after not being in the top five teams. Regardless of coming up short of state, Kim triumphantly placed second in the

City Championship.

“I think we performed magnificently since we were able to make it into regionals which is not an easy task,” Kim said.

Usually when a team’s season comes to a close, athletes tend to take a short break from training. However, this didn’t apply to the golf team, as they wanted to push themselves right away to prepare for the upcoming year.

“Our goal is to help each other out with stuff like improving drives and ultimately help develop each others’ skills which I think will get us pretty far into the upcoming season,” Huh said.

While other teams in the league have a normal training schedule, not having a golf course on campus has resulted in rarely any team practices. This means that the players are forced to practice independently.

“Since golf is an individual sport for the most part, this didn’t have that much of an impact towards me since I usually work alone,” Kim said.

Using their confidence and avidity from last season, these athletes decided to work as hard as they

Last season, golfers got to regionals through sheer strength. This year, they promise to get further. Ranking success
What it takes to be a winner this season

Each sport demands a highly specialized skill set that is required to achieve victory. While a certain sport may come to mind when considering which is the most difficult, you might need to rethink your guess. The following rankings of what it takes to be successful in each sport were forged from statistical data, as well as student athletes’ opinions.


Endurance: 8/10

Agility: 6/10

Speed: 6/10

Strength: 10/10

Flexibility: 7/10

Coordination: 8/10

Balance: 4/10

could in the off-season to reach their dreams of making it into state this season. They are also determined to grow the team.

“Some of the people that rejoined were some players who left last season and wanted to continue doing it this year,” Kim said. “Most of the people are seniors and are trying to maximize their last semester of high school.”

Over the long break they had before the start of this season, on average they would practice by themselves for about three to five times per week for two straight hours. After arriving at either a golf course or a golf range, they would practice their swings, chippings, decisionmaking and mental game, pushing

themselves to be as adequate as they could be.

Kim says that their head coach, Brian Acosta, is doing a much better job at organizing the team.

“Compared to last season, there is a big difference in our coach communicating with us,” he said. “Everyone is much more aware.”

On Feb. 28, the team’s first practice game occurred at Harding Golf Course with 20 players in attendance. Even though this wasn’t an official game and there were no winners or losers, this match still revealed the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

“We didn’t necessarily play our best,” sophomore Ben Suh said. “However, this was a good warm up

“I expect everyone to be disciplined and well-mannered because this will reflect how we play on the course,” Kim said.

Unlike other sports, golf doesn’t require a lot of physical exertion. Golf is more of a mental game and golfers need to be able to concentrate and focus on their shots.

“Golf has humbled me, and I have also learned many mannerisms since a young age.,” Kim said. “It has really molded who I am today.”

Kim has played golf for about 13 years. He puts an intense amount of time and effort into golf, mainly because he learns a lot from the sport.

So far in his golf career, he has been a part of multiple tournaments such as the Toyota Tour Cup and multiple Southern California Junior Golf Championships.

From participating in these different tournaments, Kim gained lots of new experiences. Tournaments provide athletes with an opportunity to compete against other skilled players, receive feedback from coaches and judges and learn from their mistakes. This exposure to different styles of play can broaden an athlete’s perspective and help them understand different strategies that may not have been previously considered.

Teaching valuable skills like patience, perseverence and sportsmanship, golf is more than just a sport: it’s a way of life. For many individuals such as Kim, golf is an important part of their daily routine and lifestyle.

Endurance: 7/10

Agility: 5/10

Speed: 7/10

Accuracy: 5/10 Baseball

Strength: 8/10

Flexibility: 4/10

Coordination: 9/10

Balance: 7/10

Accuracy: 9/10

Endurance: 4/10

Agility: 3/10

Speed: 2/10

Strength: 6/10

Flexibility: 6/10

Coordination: 7/10 Balance: 7/10

Accuracy: 8/10


Endurance: 10/10

Agility: 3/10

Speed: 9/10

Strength: 6/10

Flexibility: 7/10

Coordination: 8/10

Balance: 6/10

Accuracy: 5/10


Endurance: 8/10

Agility: 7/10

Speed: 4/10

Strength: 7/10

Flexibility: 10/10

Coordination: 9/10

Balance: 10/10

Accuracy: 6/10


Endurance: 9/10

Agility: 6/10

Speed: 8/10

Strength: 5/10

Flexibility: 5/10

Coordination: 9/10

Balance: 6/10

Accuracy: 8/10

COURTESY | THOMAS KIM ON THE GREEN Junior Ben Suh tees off with his driver at the Balboa Golf Course, participating in a weekly match. The boys golf team has improved drastically, beginning practice for the current season immediately
“The energy’sdefinitely

Even though the boys volleyball team doubted their abilities, they’ve managed to win half their matches.

Not even the Sherman Oaks Knights were able to keep the Wolves from bringing the crown back to their den. The boys volleyball team started off their season with a major win against the Sherman Oaks Knights. Not even a day into their season, they successfully set the tone for the rest of the year.

The athletes exceeded their own expectations after doubting themselves prior to the beginning of the season. During practices, balls were missed and defense wasn’t on point. But as the season began to unfold, they were pleasantly surprised.

So far into the season, the boys have won five out of 11 games. The first loss they took was against the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences (VAAS), where they took their opponents up to five sets. The first ended with a losing score of 27-25, the second resulted in a winning outcome of 25-23, the third fell back into a losing score of 25-18, the fourth


ended in a victorious ratio of 25-15 and the fifth culminated in an upsetting defeat of 15-13.

Even though they lost to the VAAS Vipers, the game is one of the team’s favorites. They explain that the energy on the court was like no other. The atmosphere of the game was so vibrant that the team didn’t care that they were losing. They count it as an accomplishment that this season, they were able to challenge the Vipers to five sets.

“Even though we lost, I felt pretty good about that game because the energy on the court was definitely there,” setter Christian Callos said.

The team began to move up the ranks of the Division I league, but surprisingly, they weren’t excited. They were filled with doubt and uncertainty. The boys felt that their defense wasn’t at a Division I team level. Insecurity clouded their minds.

Another major cause of their uncertainty was that they felt lacking in their physical capabilities, compared to other teams they had gone up against in Division I matches.

“We felt like we weren’t good enough to be in Division I because the team was lacking skills and we don’t have such tall players like other Division I teams,” Callos stated.

The confidence and excitement the team had at the beginning of the season began to fade, but it wasn’t the end for them.

The team realized the value of their position and wanted to maintain their spot in the Division I league.

This drove them to focus on practicing and bettering their skills. They knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but they recognized that failure is the key to success and that

‘‘ We felt like we weren’t ready to be in Division I because the team was lacking skills and we don’t have such tall players like other Division I teams.”
Setter Christian Callos

after every loss, they were bound to come back stronger.

“We are just putting our all into practicing,” outside hitter Andrew Cho said.

The team ran through pass and hit drills that would help them strengthen their skills. They were constantly reminded to communicate on the court.

“I have much confidence that they are gonna win most of their games,” Coach Miguel Becerra said. “We are working on improving our passes and communication with each other in order to make it to the playoffs. I feel like that’s what we lack and that’s because there are moments in the game when we don’t know what to do.”

On March 6, the boys went against the Panorama Pythons where they took them to four sets and won every single set, resulting in triumphant tallies of 25-16, 25-24, 25-20 and 25-11. This was the best game that the Wolves have had so far.

“The game against Panorama was an amazing game where we tried something new and slowed it down a bit,” team captain and outside hitter Devin Brown said. “We ran higher sets instead of quick sets to try and beat the blockers. We were passing extremely well in that game too.”

Brown highlights that there is no I in team. He affirms that everyone’s individual role contributes to the team effort and that everyone has to do their job for the squad to achieve ultimate success.

Five wins and six losses into the season, the team hopes to take more crowns home to hopefully secure a spot at the playoffs. The team plans to continue practicing to overcome the doubts that they had in the beginning of the season.

PUMPED UP From L to R: Varsity players Moctar Dia, Nasim Abdul-Malik and Devin Brown celebrate after the Wolves won 3-0 against James Monroe High School. FLYING HIGH Nasim Abdul-Malik (left) and Moctar Dia block a tip from a Monroe High Viking. Boys volleyball has also faced off against the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences (VAAS). THE MIRROR PHOTOS BY JALYN BAUTISTA

High hopes & expectations

Baseball season gets off to a solid start: “We’ve got a great team this year and we’re going to make it really far.”

As Edward Islas bends down to catch the next pitch from Alexis Martinez, he feels droplets on water trickle down his face.

As he catches the next strike, rain begins to drop more heavily from the sky and soon the baseball field is soaked, causing the umpire to reschedule the game after just three innings.

This game was played against Arleta High School on Feb. 26. Unfortunately, they were only able to play three innings due to the rain. The Wolves only had time to score one run, which was made by captain and third baseman Marvin Rivera.

“The game getting postponed after playing was upsetting because we still had four innings to go and I know we could have beat them,” captain and catcher Edward Islas said. “But there was nothing we could really do about it raining.”

The baseball team has a current record of three wins and four loss. Two games have gotten postponed due to rain making the field hazardous to play on.

Subsequently to the postponed game, the team played against the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences Vipers and won with a score of 9-6. The Vipers were winning in the

first three innings with one run, but when the fourth inning began, the Wolves scored five runs which overall helped the team end the game victorious.

“The win felt good,” first baseman and pitcher Joaquin Boche said. “It was relieving finally getting our first win back into the season, so I feel like it was a good first step.”

This game was a great official start to the season.

“Winning of course is amazing and I was really proud of everybody,” pitcher and shortstop Joel Encino said.

The following game was supposed to be the team’s first away game against Grant High School. Unfortunately, it was postponed due to rain which made it unsafe for batters to be running on the infield dirt.

The next game on the schedule was played against the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences Vipers on Feb. 28. The Vipers were in the lead for the first three innings with a score of 1-0, but once the fourth inning started, the Wolves scored five runs which helped the team win the game with a final tally of 9-6.

After this game, the team had it’s first official away game against Chavez High School and unfortunately lost with a score of 10-4. During this game, the team was not in the right headspace, resulting in players making lots of mistakes and not playing to their full potential.

They know this was a school that they could have beat, but ultimately were not able to.

The team spent the following days practicing everyday to fix the mistakes that were made.

All that practice paid off in their game against the Reseda Regents on March 18, where they won 12-2. This was a spectacular game because the Wolves were able to score 10 runs in the first inning.

‘‘ So far the season is looking good, and the team is looking good. I think that we have the chance this year to win it all.”
Team captain and catcher Edward Islas

Three days later, the team faced off against the Regents once more on March 21, and won 14-2. The Wolves were able to score runs in each inning of the game, with the most captivating inning being the third. The team hit straight pop flies and line drives back-to-back.

This game consisted of many star players, but Encino, Boche and Jeremy Henriquez in particular performed like never before. Enciso executed an amazing defense at the shortstop position as two incredible double plays were made. Boche shone on the mound with his spectacular pitching, striking out many of the Regents, and Henriquez showed his skills by scoring three runs throughout the game.

Even though it is still the start of the season, the team feels that they are having a good year and plan to continue this trend for the rest of the season.

“So far the season is looking good, and the team is looking good,” Islas said. “I think that we have a chance this year to win it all.”

The team’s greatest strength is the bond that they have built by being around each other everyday, practicing and helping each other out. This strength is shown by the communication that the team has with each other on the field at practice and during games.

“Even though it is very early, I have nothing but high hopes and expectations,” Enciso said. “We’ve got a great team this year and we’re gonna make it really far.”

The team continues to practice six days a week to improve on mistakes that were noticeable in games and scrimmages. The team has an exceptional chance of winning their way to the championship.

“I think we have a great program,” team captain, shortstop and pitcher Kevin Mata said. “You’ll make a lot of memories and a lot of friendships that will last you a lifetime. You will also grow as a teammate and as an individual.”

THE MIRROR PHOTOS BY GIANNA IOVINO BATTER UP Alexis Martinez (TOP) pitches the ball in a match against the Arleta Mustangs. The game was canceled halfway through due to an unforecast rainstorm. Joaquin Boche (LEFT) takes a turn at bat against the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Wolves won 9-6.

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