The Class of 2018 Commencement Ceremony

“If you’re sick and tired of the world, turn around and lead it!”

After four years of hard work and determination, the class of 2018 graduated this Thursday, May 31. Over 600 students in attendance received their diplomas. Congratulations, class of 2018!

Senior Class President Jacob Jiao delivered a welcome speech, and class officers Brandon Hong and Lindsay Takahashi introduced the Honor Guard. Senior officers Venkata Muriki and George Wen announced the class gift, which included a new sound system and a decibel meter for class cheer-offs.

Graduating with the class, teacher Liz Williams was chosen as the staff commencement speaker.

Students then received their diplomas from Associate Superintendent Christine Mallery and Board of Trustees Jeff Moe. After turning their tassels and walking off the field, graduating students took pictures with friends and family and were treated to a reception with lemonade and cookies in the quad.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Former WEA officer speaks about abusive relationships

Women’s Empowerment Ambassadors (WEA) hosted a meeting at lunch on Thursday, March 15 with a former club officer, Tingyee Chang.

Chang is a junior at the University of Southern California and is currently studying public policy. She chose to discuss this topic, she said, because of a roommate who had recently gotten out of an emotionally abusive relationship. Her shock and anger in response to what happened caused her to share her roommate’s story with everyone she knew, Chang said.

Women’s Empowerment Ambassadors members listened to a former officer explain the differences between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive behaviors in a relationship.

“When I shared this story with people, I noticed that a lot of people had expressed that they shared similar experiences. Either they had realized the relationship was abusive and left or they had realized after they left the relationship,” Chang said. “The proportion of people who shared similar experiences was overwhelming and I knew I had to do something.”

WEA´s method of bringing awareness to certain topics inspired her to share the story of her roommate there, she said.

“This was the place that I had gotten my start as a young feminist and just simply as a young person and I thought that many students could benefit from this topic,” Chang said.

Her presentation included the story of her roommate and what the differences between a healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationship are. Chang continuously stressed the importance of communication, consent and power within any relationship, be it platonic or romantic.

Her presentation also included a short activity at the end where two pairs were given a slip of paper with a certain relationship behavior and had to identify whether it was healthy, unhealthy or abusive behavior.

In terms of why this topic is so important, especially amongst young people, Chang discussed the lack of education and conversation surrounding this topic.

“One thing that I always notice is that many people are not aware of what sexual assault or rape looks like and so they come out of these sexual experiences feeling bad about themselves, only to learn later on that that was rape or that was sexual assault,” Chang said. “If we can spread awareness about what the rules and parameters are, then we can prevent this behavior early on.”

WEA has constantly strived to educate and encourage discussion with their members when choosing their topics, Elena Kamas said. Officers Dan Cohen and Elena Kamas explained how they chose their discussion topics and what the club’s goal is.

“There are things that we know that we need to talk about as a feminist organization,” Cohen said. “Things that are happening in the media, big debates right now, things happening in legislation. But we also place an emphasis on things that have a viable application right now. We try to focus on things that are happening daily, and what we can do about it.”

Cohen participated in the activity and shared his thoughts about the presentation as a whole and what he got from it.

“I don’t think that half the world’s population is a monster and yet I do think that the entire world’s population is capable of doing really bad things and we have to be aware of that,” Cohen said. “Today we like to say that there are the good guys and the bad guys. In relationships, however, there is that funky gray area. Anyone is capable of being a perpetrator and we need to bring awareness to that.”

Kamas shared her feelings about why WEA is a special platform for topics of discussion.

“One thing that I always admired about WEA even before I was an officer is that they were never afraid to talk about anything,” Kamas said. “If a topic was deemed important, that we will bring awareness to it … With WEA, people are really supporting each other, they are caring for each other, and they’re listening to each other. Education and understanding is our main priority and the fact that we made that our foundation makes us different from other clubs.”

Students march to protest gun violence at nationwide walkout

The walk out continued on after the 17 minutes, as students walked to FHS and to city hall.

“Something needs to be done,” sophomore Ellora Lasker said. Lasker was one of many students who participated in the National School Walkout in the wake of the recurring mass shootings.

The nationwide protest, with goals to invoke change in the current gun laws, was slated to last 17 minutes long, each minute accounting for every victim of the Parkland school shooting. The HHS walkout started as a Facebook event created by sophomores Shama Tawakol and Romy Bornstein.

“My family’s from Egypt and I go there every summer … [people ask] is it safe going there, but if you look at the statistics there is a higher chance of being killed here at school than walking the streets of Egypt,” Tawakol said. “If my walking out of class for 17 minutes can do anything to change it, then [that is what I will do].”

At 10 a.m., students gathered in the Horseshoe, some wearing orange and holding signs to show solidarity with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victims. As the walkout extended past the duration of brunch, and for some the duration of their fourth periods, students were marked tardy or absent to class.

Some students returned to their fourth period classes following the end of the 17 minutes, while others continued to march. Despite harsh weather conditions, senior Lavender Payne and her friends led the extended walkout to Sunnyvale city hall. Payne said they had not originally planned to extend the march, but felt as though 17 minutes “was not enough,” and wanted to create a larger impact.

Juniors Charles Crane and Namiko Turner said the two got in contact with Mayor Glenn Hendricks as they thought going to city hall was a good idea.

“Once Cianna Burse got the group moving, we ran from the back to the front, and I thought that we should make this something by going to city hall, so I called the mayor,” Crane said.

Turner said she considered the overall walkout to be a success, since many students continued on with the march, and were able to listen to each other’s voices. The chance for people to get together allowed for not only the students to see that their voices could be heard, but also adults and city officials as well.

“And when we finally got there, everyone stood there and listened to what was being said, with high energy,” Turner said.

At city hall, students from HHS, FHS and De Anza gathered together to hear what the mayor had to say. He spoke about what the city of Sunnyvale is already doing, in terms of laws for gun control. Then he let students who led the group to city hall give short statements on why they took part in the walkout and what they want to see changed, not just in Sunnyvale, or California, but in the rest of the country.

“On the media, the government and adults seem to think the youth does not know what they are talking about,” Payne said. “… In reality, we are the ones living through it. Education is important … if we come to school to learn, we should be able to learn in a safe environment,” Payne said.

According to Principal Greg Giglio, students are allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights during school hours without fear of punishment, as per the 1969 Supreme Court ruling. This statement was reiterated by a districtwide email sent out by Superintendent Polly Bove. Giglio said punishment would only incur should a student be disruptive.

Giglio said he commends event creators Bornstein and Tawakol for keeping a peaceful protest. On the Facebook event, Bornstein and Tawakol gave guidelines outlining appropriate behavior students should follow during the march, such as carrying signs free from hateful comments.

Teachers supervised the walkout along with students to ensure safety. Giglio said teachers were allowed to wear clothing to show their support for said cause, but could not explicitly participate in the march alongside students.

“I think it’s great students are walking out and standing up for what they believe in and pressuring legislators to make changes,” history teacher Andrea Yee said.

Khanna hosts youth focused town hall on gun control

Parkland student, Golden State Warriors coach spoke alongside Khanna

Newark Memorial High School hosted Rep. Ro Khanna’s (D-CA) town hall meeting on March 12 to give teenagers a platform to speak about gun control.  Khanna was accompanied by Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Matt Deisch, a student activist from Parkland.

The event began at 3:45 p.m., with a line around the building beginning an hour before. High school students were allowed immediate entry inside the school gym, while adults waited outside. Inside, the gym was set up with chairs and cameras from various news outlets.

Mission San Jose High School student Sonia Tasser said she attended the meeting because gun control is something she’s very passionate about.

“To have the feeling that you’re not safe at school is something that should never happen,” Tasser said.

The meeting began with opening remarks from Khanna, followed by speeches from Kerr and Deisch. Then the floor was opened for students to ask questions to Khanna, Kerr or Desich, with press questions after. Congressman Mike Thompson, who chairs the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, closed the meeting with final remarks.

The entire meeting emphasized the importance of youth involvement.

“Your title doesn’t matter,” Khanna said. “What matters is your authenticity and passion.”

Kerr compared today’s movement for gun control to the civil rights movement and Vietnam war protests, both of which were led by students.

“For the first time it feels like something is happening,” Kerr said.

Other subjects addressed included bipartisanship, arming teachers and the Second Amendment.

When Deisch spoke, he focused on means of action for students to take. After sharing his experience with the Parkland shooting, he asserted the need for youth to demand actions from leaders.

“Register to vote, take this to the ballots, so we can have leaders that care about us and not their wallets,” Deisch said.

Deisch also mentioned the march against gun violence on March 24. There are 3.5 million people registered to march so far, he said.

When Congressman Thompson concluded the meeting, he cited multiple organizations, such as Brady Campaign, Giffords Campaign, Everytown USA and, to get educated from and involved with.

Deisch said using resources to receive more information is important, and to keep learning more about the cause.

“They don’t want us to talk about it, they want us to forget … I promise you we won’t,” Deisch said.

Student government, administration honor victims and take steps to improve school safety

Friday, March 9 was dedicated to commemorate the 17 fallen victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, according to an email sent through School Loop.

“The subject of the National School Walkout day came up. We wanted to do something that would commemorate the victims and show our support for the families without showing any preference toward the political issue of the gun control,” Vice President of the HHS Class of 2019 Trinity Gao said. “We felt that if we had it on [National School Walkout day], it would send a message of some sort and we didn’t want to be biased towards any side.”

A memorial gallery honoring the victims who lost their lives on February 14 was displayed in the Quad during brunch and lunch. 

“We just hoped that people would be able to see the memorial and be able to understand who these people were, keep their memory going, and not let them be forgotten souls,” Koo said.

A poster board featuring their picture, a short paragraph describing them and an area where people could attach ribbons was dedicated to each victim. Four different colors of ribbons were offered, each color representing a different message, Gao said.

“These are people that need to be remembered, especially in such a tragic event that happened in a school, which is an environment in which students feel safe. These are people just like us. If we can learn their story, then we can better our own school safety,” junior HOP Commissioner Brenden Koo said.

Students were encouraged to retrieve a school safety flyer from their literature classes on Thursday and Friday, according to an email sent through School Loop.

The handout discusses safety procedures students should adhere to in the event of a shooting. It also provides a list of resources to reach out to, including politicians such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Kamala Harris, Rep. Ro Khanna and Rep. Anna Eshoo, and their contact information.

Additionally, the Homestead Student Government and Administration urges students to fill out the school safety survey in order to provide feedback on HHS’ emergency procedures and overall school safety, according to the email sent through School Loop.

Specifically, it asks students to if they feel prepared for an active shooter on campus or community, fire on campus, earthquake and an active bomb or terrorist on campus, according to the school safety survey. There is also a section where students can voice their own suggestions with respect to improvement, efficiency, and awareness about school safety protocol.

“Homestead is a community. Even when such a bad thing happens, we still come together,” Gao said.

Students celebrate diversity through Multicultural Night

Various clubs of different backgrounds came together for Multicultural Night on Jan. 9 to share their heritage. Students experienced different ethnic and religious traditions by enjoying different exotic foods and engaging in activities hosted by the clubs. There were also performances from the dance clubs such as KSA’s Krew and IndoPak’s Bhangra as well as a fashion show that showcased various cultures.

EL commissioner Chiara Tommasi said that Multicultural Night started around six or seven years ago and was originally put together by the cultural clubs.

“The EL commissioners became kind of in charge of it but it’s still the clubs’ event. We’re just helping to organize it and direct everything,” Tommasi said.

The EL commissioners begin planning for the event a few months prior to the event and start contacting clubs to make sure that they are interested in participating, EL commissioner Mita Ramesh said.

“We basically give [the clubs] like a layout of what’s going to be happening and then we also contact organizations for performances. Like this year, we had mariachi and the Filipino dance group and taiko,” Ramesh said.

During Multicultural Night, each cultural club had booths set up to sell food and do their activity.

This year, Spanish National Honor Society (SNHS) sold pan dulce and had an activity for making corn husk dolls. SNHS president Collin Cheng said that traditionally, children would make corn husk dolls as a fun way to pass time.

“We also sort of reflected in our fashion show, where we have representing a traditional Argentinian rural outfit, so this is all sort of our idea of a simple everyday lifestyle,” Cheng said.

French National Honor Society made Mardi Gras masks because the holiday falls on Feb. 13 this year, co-president Noa Khen said.

“They have like a parade in New Orleans and they wear purple, green, and gold and each color has a symbol,” Khen said.

Russian Student Union decided to play durak, which is a traditional Russian card game, for their activity, president Josh Shamelashvili said.

Jewish Student Union decided to sell a variety of foods because it is a huge part of their culture, president Yarden Zinger and treasurer Ori Brutman said.

“Almost every holiday, even the holiday where you’re supposed to fast all day, after the fast, we eat a huge meal,” Zinger said.

The Muslim Student Association (MSA) activities involved a hijab tutorial as well as Arabic calligraphy. MSA president Anam Siddiqee said that because Muslims are part of a religion, they have a variety of outfits as it represents people from different parts of the world.

“In the fashion show, we have people wearing a western outfit, some are wearing Pakistani outfit and others are wearing more religious attires,” Siddiqee said.

IndoPak decided to showcase their Bhangra group because it is the most traditional dance that IndoPak does, co-president Nikhil Kulkarni said. IndoPak dance teams Bhangra and Film had performances throughout the week.

“Film is just kind of like from Bollywood movies, it’s like the dances from there. It gets put into the dance,” Kulkarni said.

National Chinese Honor Society had activities where people did calligraphy and played shuttlecock, president Lindsey Low said.

“It’s like a feather game where you kick it on the side of your feet and you don’t want it to touch the ground,” Low said. “Little kids play them to entertain themselves, and at school, students practice calligraphy.”

Japanese National Honor Society (JNHS) sold spam musubi and had an activity for students to play yoyo tsuri, a fishing game where a piece of rice paper is attached to a small paperclip hook and players “fish” for balloons.

“Basically what you’re trying to do is scoop up the yoyo tsuri without breaking the hook,” JNHS vice president Larissa Lai said. “They usually play it in a lot of festivals and to get children involved and also if they get it up, they can keep the yoyo tsuri.”

EL commissioner Shannon Cheung and Mita Ramesh said that the main purpose of Multicultural Night was to celebrate and promote diversity.

“Our purpose is to celebrate and promote the cultural diversity at Homestead, and just celebrate that Homestead’s unique quality is our diversity,” Cheung said.

Sophomore Katherine Rizkalla said that the performances throughout the week were fun.

“I think it shows how passionate people are about their culture, and it shows how passionate Homestead is about making each culture an important part of our community,” Rizkalla said.

Bob Peck: teacher, husband, father

Former FUHSD teacher Bob Peck passed away on Jan. 30 after a battle with cancer. Peck is remembered by students and staff for his humorous personality and ability to connect with students, as well as for volunteering his time to audio and visual related activities in most events on campus.

Peck was born on July 10, 1946 in Baltimore, MD. His family then settled in Saratoga, where Peck attended and graduated from Saratoga High School, according to a Facebook statement posted by his family. Peck then enlisted in the army, where he served in Korea as a first lieutenant, and later graduated from Menlo College with a Bachelor of Science.

Peck worked many hands-on jobs before teaching, such as wood carving and electrical work, according to teacher Marjie Fischer. He eventually became a teacher at HHS and other Bay Area schools, teaching career technical education electives that were designed to provide students with an opportunity to explore potential job options.

Peck taught the film, TV and video class and developed daily video announcements on campus. Aside from that, he volunteered in working on audio and visual displays for football games at Mustang Field and made sure the graduation live feed was up and streaming for the community.

Teacher Edmond Kwong knew Peck through collaboration in teaching career technical education electives and became friends through their similar interests in video and photography. Kwong recounted Peck’s ability to connect with students that had trouble relating to peers or adults.

“ … he [did] have a very very personal soft side of him,” Kwong said. “I know because I’d always admired how he reached some of the students that are hard to reach. He could reach difficult students better than anybody I know, certainly better than me.”

Kwong also described him as someone who was very straightforward and was honest with his opinions and perspective.

“He didn’t say anything he doesn’t need just to make you feel better, so I appreciate that,” Kwong said.

Former HHS student David Gelovani remembered Peck as having a contagious laugh and a sense of humor. He recalled hearing stories from his friends about Peck and the influence he made on them. Paraeducator Marjie Fischer also recognized Peck’s humor and wit.

“He was always very positive and happy, I mean he really was … he had just a really great sense of humor and [he was] a great storyteller,” Fischer said.

Fischer met Peck through special education students and other students who took Peck’s class and later got to know his wife through her job as well. She recalls the inspiration Peck gave kids to do many things instead of being so specialized in one thing.

“He [was] always filming,” Fischer said. “You see why film and TV became his love because it was his love and his passion because he was able to teach kids what you can have when you combine your passion and the things you love doing and parlay that into a career.”

Peck taught at HHS for five years and left in 2014 after a career of teaching and much more. Not long after that, Peck was diagnosed with cancer and passed away on Jan. 30 at age 71, according to his family. A memorial was held at Saratoga Federated Church on Feb. 5 for family, friends and colleagues. Peck is survived by his wife, Julia, his four children and three grandchildren.

The Impatient Patient: Video game addiction more than a virtual reality

Part 1 of this series can be found here

Gaming addiction now has a place into the World Health Organization (WHO) International Classification of Diseases. However, there has been debate over whether or not the decision to brand it as an actual disorder is a premature choice. The gaming world is already very stigmatized, and there are concerns that with its induction as a disorder, more stigma is added.

Are cases in which people have died due to overexposure from video games simply an anomaly? Perhaps — the American Journal of Psychiatry published a study that seems to refute the validity of a gaming disorder, in that only a small part of the population may qualify for a diagnosis of it.

In addition, according to Professor Mark Griffith of Nottingham Trent University, an author on the study, to diagnose gaming without looking at other factors is harmful, as there is the possibility of a pre-existing mental disorder present, and that it is not just video games themselves that incite such destructive behavior.

Few qualify for an actual diagnosis according to study — but is it just to write the those affected as outliers? Illustration by Renee Wang

However, in Asia, where video game addiction is surging and has taken form in its own culture, larger cases of those affected by gaming addiction have been cited. According to the U.S. Library of Medicine, in a study done, figures of 10 to 15 percent gamers addicted have been recorded in the East, compared to 1 to 10 percent of western gamers.

According to Nigel Henderson, president of Mental Health Europe, a lack of social connections or a supportive network of family and friends may spur an individual to turn toward  video games.

The need for human interaction is inescapable — in fact, friendship and intimacy have their own tier on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs — and for obvious reasons. The advancement of human civilization was not borne out of a single individual making great leaps, but out of groups of individuals.

English poet John Donne once wrote no man is an island, and this makes for more than an impactful peace of poetry. According to psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a lack of social connections with peers increases chances of early death by 50 percent.

Does the culture in Asia mirror feelings of isolation, where social connectivity is perhaps not such an inherent part of the culture? It is possible, seeing as the Korean Institute for Health and Social revealed 90 percent of Korean adults were under some form of stress daily, while  Newzoo, a market intelligence provider,  reported that 49 percent of gamers in Korea are adults between 21 and 35.

As a matter of fact, WHO’s prospective induction of gaming addiction stemmed from pressure from Asian countries, according to WHO officials. In particular, the South Korean government has funded campaigns and treatment centers all centered around the problem of gaming addiction.

South Korea has even set laws in place to limit screen time within younger children. Noted in the Shutdown Law passed in 2011, in which children younger than 16 were disallowed from video games between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Though this law has since been dissolved following backlash, the addition of it highlights the South Korean government’s battle against video games.

While gamers in Korea do not fall into the age range of that of teenagers, the precedence of the Shutdown Law marks that methods of prevention are being implemented to rid of the use of gaming and the possible dangers it might incite among youth.

If stress and lack of connectivity are concurrent factors that might result in a video game addictions, Korean students may just be at risk. According to the New York Times, 53 percent of Korean students with thoughts of suicide attributed academic inadequacy as main contributor to such thoughts. Among teens in the rigorous Korean school system with little free time, the refuge of video games is an outlet for coping with stress from school, according to Engadget.  

In the end, it is undeniable that video games and their culture induced from stress pressure, whether in the East or West, has been elevated to a point where it causes seriously destructive incidents for those affected. An individual dying from playing too much video games is rare, but the fact that there are such individuals should be a cause of concern.

While a small group of individuals may not reflect an overall population, who is to say that similar incidents may not follow? It may be better to not propose a war on video games just yet, but making available treatment options for those in danger of spiraling can only do more good than harm.

The Ripple Effect: Where the triple Salchow meets foreign relations

If you tune in at the right moment to the right channel this Friday, you’ll be just in time to watch athletes in matching outfits meander along a path. Crowds will roar. National pride will sizzle. International amity will simmer.

Now, I’m talking about the opening ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which will take place in South Korea even as the specter of North Korean threats loom in the distance.

But wait —  clearly, the Olympics are a time of international cooperation! The two Koreas are even going so far as to march under a “unified Korea” flag at the opening ceremony, according to the BBC. We’ve seen headlines pop up on our phones about blistering-fast talks between North and South Korea to arrange an awkward truce for the games. Even Kim Jong-un’s sister plans to attend.

Things are sounding pretty good, considering how much of last year was overshadowed by threats and missile tests made by North Korea. But at the same time, we must keep in mind that despite the spectacle, the Olympics aren’t an event where athletes end up joining hands and making a toast to cooperation; they’re more a thermometer dipped into the cesspool of international relations.

For one thing, North Korea is planning on showing off its long-range missiles in a parade set to coincide with the start of the Olympics, according to CNN, which doesn’t bode well for peaceful negotiations post-games. And matters have been just as icy on the other side. While some South Koreans are ready to cheer at the sight of two sets of athletes holding up a unified flag, not everyone is happy about this turn of events regarding the North’s participation.

That dissatisfaction has especially made itself known in regards to the Korean unified women’s ice hockey team, the only such combined team, according to the Independent: South Koreans have argued, in over one hundred petitions, that it gives their players a disadvantage. Around the same time, President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating dived under 60 percent for the first time in his presidency.

The reaction and reasoning behind it may sound mildly petty, especially amidst what some are touting as the “Peace Olympics,” but it makes more sense upon remembering that the Olympics are a sporting event, not a promise of harmony. With so many harping excitedly on the possibility of future peace talks, it’s easy to forget such shows of tentative unity are pageantry at their core, just like everything else in the Olympics: they’re reality TV, international politics and a game show compressed into one blindingly spectacular package.

But while displays of symbolic unity are easy to fake, underlying tensions and subtle sport-driven power moves are not. There’s a historical precedent for the games themselves being political —  not only the issues looming over the nations, but the very consequences of who wins, who loses or who even is allowed to enter.

The Munich Massacre, prompted by the ongoing Israel-Palestine dispute, killed several Israeli athletes in 1972.

The 1976 Olympic boycott held by 28 African nations was spurred by New Zealand’s breaking of the athletics embargo on apartheid South Africa, which it had toured earlier.

And in 1968, Vera Caslavska competed as a Czechoslovakian gymnast, defying the USSR, and ended up winning a silver medal — which was placed around her neck as the Soviet anthem blared in the background.

The Olympic charter has historically tried to preclude the mingling of politics with the sports extravaganza — tried, and failed. But the one thing binding these and countless other politically-driven events during the games is that they displayed the mounting pressure of the conflicts in the world around them. And these are always preexisting issues; no new international friends nor enemies are made in the Olympic process, but the cracks already there are condensed within a stadium and broadcast as faultlines.

So, no, the Olympics are likely not going to usher in a new era of peace on the Korean peninsula, at least not while the North Korean government stands firm in its position. Yet while the Olympics are a barometer of how different governments feel about each other, we should just as much keep an eye out for how people in the audience react.

In the meantime, we can spend these next few weeks ooh-ing and aah-ing over ice skaters and skiers.