The Hart of the Matter: The importance of a woman’s voice

This is my very last column of the year, so please indulge me as I make it slightly more personal than my other articles. Each Hart of the Matter has I wrote about was close to my heart and important to my values. This is why my column has been so important to me throughout the year — it allowed me the means to use my voice and speak about issues that matter to me. A voice is a powerful thing.

Ever since I could speak, I used my voice. My voice would let me take control of my surroundings. I was able to speak my mind. In group activities in elementary and middle school, I would take charge, dictating and organizing  While I was called bossy, my male peers were called leaders.

Being a girl and unafraid to use my own voice allowed many such double standards to come to light. I was frustrated that girls are supposed to fit in and be submissive, not take charge of her surroundings. That was for the boys.

I would say something in class or a group, and later a male would say the same thing. He was taken seriously, while I often found myself dismissed.

This is not an experience exclusive to me. Women everywhere have been shamed for speaking up, or talked over in a conversation.

When I started working in student journalism, I found a place where my voice was celebrated. Through journalism, I was allowed the means to develop my voice and publish it. And, more importantly, my words made a difference. Sometimes, students would come up to me and tell me how my articles offered them a new perspective. I got to talk to Principal Giglio about issues that were important to me

Journalism was instrumental in my acceptance of my voice. Being told constantly that I should not be speaking up had me believing such, but once I found a community that encouraged my voice I was able to use it. If I hadn’t, none of those little differences would have been made.

Places like this, where girls can find a community that empowers their voices, are absolutely crucial and so absolutely lacking.

In high school journalism, female students are censored disproportionately to male students, a trend noticed by the Student Press Law Center and later supported by a study from the University of Kansas.

 Despite this, women make up the majority of communications majors in college, according to DataUSA. Yet this does not translate into the workforce; only about 35 percent of newsroom employees or supervisors are women, according to the American Society of News Editors and Nieman Reports. There are always attempts to silence us.

I am not the first to take note of this alarming flip. One of my colleagues on the Epitaph, fellow columnist Thomas Denome, wrote about the issue earlier this year. In better words than mine, he comes to the same conclusion I have as to why there is still a lack of women in the industry: people don’t like tough women.

People particularly do not like the tough women who utilize their voices, which is essentially in the job description of a journalist. Society’s bias against strong women comes from decades of gender roles, as a means to keep women in their supposed place. This is exactly why using one’s voice matters more than ever. A woman speaking up is how change has been made, and how change and progress will continue to be made.

In order to empower future generations of girls, places where women can find a way to build and practice using their voice are essential. I found my place working on a school newspaper. To everyone who supported this endeavor by reading a column, picking up a paper or even writing nasty comments on my web articles, I am forever thankful. I have been incredibly lucky to be able to work in this environment.

Not all are as lucky. Nationally, student journalism programs are getting defunded, along with art and creative writing. Places of expression are shrinking, and girls are still getting censored and told to be less assertive. This is stunting the growth of our society as well as quelling the voices of our future.


Slang Word of the Month: ‘Tea’

‘Tea.’ A three letter word that was once just a simple hot cup of water with herbs, is now a commonly

English teacher Steve Lavelle mistakes the word ‘tea’ as a verb. Illustration by Avalon Allen.

known slang word referring to gossip.

According to Merriam Webster, the word’s popularity and common use is owed to the drag culture. With all of the hustle and bustle in the drag world, there is loads of gossip to go around, requiring drag queens to create a slang term.

The most common usage of ‘tea’ is by saying “spill the tea,” meaning “spill the gossip.”

However teenagers’ prone laziness in this century has given the alternative spelling of ‘tea,’ simply using the letter ‘T.’

Though many teenagers are aware of ‘tea’ as a slang word, a special HHS staff member is not.

“Tea is used as a slang word when you say I ‘TEA-D’ you. It means you are pouring a hot cup of tea over someone’s head,” English teacher Steve Lavelle said.

Rated out of 10, Lavelle gives this word a very poor score with a negative three.

“My feelings toward the word are ambivalent because tea is a boring drink,” Lavelle said.

Lavelle also adds that he rarely uses the word even in a normal context because he never drinks tea.

The first usage of ‘tea’ was in the 1990s. Lavelle, however, claims he heard the word long before.

“I was in my mother’s womb and she was having a tea party with friends,” Lavelle said. “I heard the phrase, ‘pass the tea, please,’ so I was born with the word in my mind.”

For a slang word, ‘tea’ has stuck around for a long time. Many question how long it will take for the word to wear off.

“As long as it takes to dry the tea on your shirt!” Lavelle said.

Seniors, listen up!

Seniors have only one more high school semester to deal with. College applications are finished and students are spending time with friends and family before they leave. In just a few months, they will be walking across the stage with their diplomas in hand, ready to take on college and adulthood.

Despite the end seeming near, it is still important to stay focused on school in order to avoid dreaded “senioritis.” Since freshman year, students have been cautioned about this apathetic mentality and the negative consequences it can produce. Though such warnings may interfere with plans for relaxing and rest, they should not be ignored.

“Senioritis is a big issue second semester,” physics teacher Kathleen Shreve said. “I think it’s part excitement, part relief for students, as they hear back from colleges. But that often translates into apathy because they feel like they’ve reached their goals.”

As secure as being admitted into a university may seem, second semester grades can still impact your future.

“If you get a D, you’re likely to get your acceptance rescinded,” College and Career Center adviser Mary Lund said. “So we highly stress to do well. The elite colleges don’t like to see even a C.”

Furthermore, it is easy to forget that university requirements are not the only thing you need to fulfill. HHS has set demands regarding your grades and failure to satisfy them can have disastrous results.

“Second semester has a huge impact on getting in and staying in college,” AVID and math teacher Matthew Guevara said. “Because one of the prerequisites for getting into college is a high school diploma. So you need to make sure that you take care of all of your classes in order to get the high school diploma.”

If the possibility of losing either their admission into a university or their high school diploma does not scare them into staying productive, hopefully seniors will recognize that being an efficient student is still imperative even after graduation. Shreve said there are benefits to staying a dedicated senior.

“It makes the transition easier,” Shreve said. “If you keep your momentum going through the end of high school, it’s easier to jump right into college.”

Guevara also said that rather than viewing your last semester as a period filled with unnecessary work, treat it as a time to refine and develop both your study skills and your independency.

“If you’ve already taken care of your graduation requirements, and you only have a couple classes, use that free time effectively building other life skills,” Guevara said.

Guevara and Shreve recommend adopting or practicing basic activities required for adulthood, such as cooking, apartment hunting, doing laundry, budgeting, driving and developing time-management skills.

Guevara, Lund and Shreve believe becoming more organized and independent is a crucial task for seniors. They feel the same way about making the most of your last few months of high school.

“Seniors should spend their final semester milking it for every experience they can, both academic and social,” Shreve said. ”You will never be in this time of life again, or be able to see these people every day again. Enjoy these moments, because you only regret the things you didn’t do.”

Lund and Guevara both stress the idea of trying new things. Exploring different options not only keeps you busy at high school, but can also directly help you in the long term.

“In college, you get to develop your own new identity, be more friendly or just be more of the person you wanted to be,” Lund said. “This is a good time to figure out what you want to become before you leave, so by the time you’re at college you’ve got that new image set.”

Homestead students pre-game rituals

The athletes at HHS have an interesting view on pre game rituals. Some of these students find it necessary to complete these rituals before every game however some of the students have used this pre game ritual to the point where it is muscle memory.

These students truly believe that their performance is tremendously increased when they complete their ritual.

One student with a pre game ritual of their own is Sophomore Alexa Maletis. When asked what her pre game rituals was Maletis said “Right when I get on the field in my position, i crack my ankles and shake out my legs and jump up and down a couple times”.

Maletis completes this action at every game that she participates in, it relaxes her and helps her get focused.

When asked what she thinks makes her ritual special she said “ It’s really random, I really didn’t plan it out it just came naturally”. Instead of having a set idea on what she will do, Maletis has it come naturally.

Even though the creation of her ritual was created long ago, she has it memorized to the point where it is muscle memory. Maletis said “It’s really random, I really didn’t plan it out it just came naturally”.

Another person with a very interesting pre game ritual is Senior Lindsey Haynes. Haynes is varsity girls basketball player who is an important piece to the team’s starting lineup. Haynes and her other teammate Trinity complete a group ritual before every game.

When asked what her team does pre game Haynes said “Every game after warmups, my team runs into the huddle, but my teammate Trinity and I stay on the court while she rebounds for me making one 3 pointer. I always have to make my last shot, because I’m superstitious and believe that it will help me play better in the game. She rebounds the ball, we high five, and then run into the huddle together to meet the rest of our team”.

Hayes is very superstitious and cannot recall a time in which she did not perform this ritual. When asked if she plays better by performing the ritual Haynes said “I’ve never skipped this ritual, so I’m not entirely sure. But because I’m superstitious, I would probably not play as well”.

These Homestead athletes have their own unique pre game rituals that lead to big performances in their respective games.

Model UN’s biggest event of the year

The HHS Model United Nations (MUN) club attended a conference at Stanford University for the first time. This conference lasted a total of three days, from Nov. 10-12. 16 MUN members attended.

The Stanford Model UN Conference (SMUNC) is one of the largest conferences that HHS MUN has attended, MUN President Mary Wang said.

A variety of HHS MUN members received awards at SMUNC.

Some of the major differences between collegiate conferences like this one and local high school MUN conferences are the size and amount of people involved.

Since this conference was large, a variety of people were involved.  Besides the HHS MUN club, there were people who came in from both out-of-state and out-of-country.  

The importance and size of this conference led to considerable amounts of preparation for MUN. “Sign-ups for the conference closed at the end of the previous school year,” Mary Wang said and the club has been preparing ever since.

To prepare for large conferences like these, workshops are held in order to help students improve their public speaking, researching and debate skills, Director of Internal Affairs Michael Wang said.

About a month before the conference, “each [student] gets a country or person that and then they will represent that country or person in a specific committee,” Mary Wang said.

Next, students are given time to research, pick a position and write a position paper based on the research which they then brought to the conference, Mary Wang said.

It is difficult to compare Stanford to past conferences because every conference varies, Wang said. New topics are given at every conference and the size of each committee differs greatly.  

Overall, the conference was a great learning experience, Michael Wang said, but there were both pros and cons involved.  

HHS MUN had a limited amount of people that could be brought to the conference.  A maximum of 20 people were able to be brought to Stanford, which meant limited learning opportunities for students, Mary Wang said.

The experience that was gained at this conference was memorable because it was so different from past conferences, Mary Wang said.   

“About half of the people that went won awards … and I’d say that a lot of people really liked [the conference],” Vice President Kary Wang said.

The award winners are junior Nathaniel Wright, junior Aarya Gupta, junior Thomas Dudley, sophomore Noa Bronicki, senior Ryan Wu and sophomore Naomi Ho.

‘Everyday is Christmas’ cheerfully kicks off the holiday season

Although I enjoy turning on the radio in December and singing along to the classic Christmas carols as much as, if not more than, the next person, I must confess I get tired of hearing the same played-out covers my grandparents likely listened to in the 1940s. By late December every year, my reaction is the same: if I hear one more sappy remix of “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” I will scream.

Amid a genre prone to unoriginality, Australian singer Sia’s new album “Everyday is Christmas” shines like a string of holiday lights. Released Nov. 17, the album contains ten tracks, ranging from ballads like “Snowman” to the cheerful, bouncy “Candy Cane Lane.”

The album begins with the instant hit “Santa’s Coming For Us.” Though the title sounds more fitting for a Christmas-themed horror film rather than a song, I enjoyed its joyful tone and reggae-style beat. Though I could only understand around two-thirds of the lyrics — as Sia is not known for enunciation — I still found it catchy and fun to listen to.

However, not every song featured on this album deserves to be added to your Christmas playlist. I especially could have done without “Puppies are Forever.” Despite its important message, the song’s repetitiveness gets old quickly, and its serious subject matter contrasts sharply with its peppy melody.

At times, the album seemed to be a veritable grab-bag of seasonal cliches, brimming with snowflakes, snowmen and candy canes. There is also a glaring, almost lazy tendency of repetition that is hard to write off. For example, “Snowflake” and “Snowman” both reflect on temporary love, and two of the songs are titled “Underneath the Mistletoe” and “Underneath the Christmas Lights.”

Overall, Sia deserves credit for not simply churning out another cookie-cutter Christmas album. Her vocals are undeniably excellent, and she managed to create ten holiday themed songs that still sound very much her own with a little festive twinkle. If you are a fan of Sia’s powerful, unconventional style, you will likely enjoy these songs just as much as the Christmas classics.


Release Date: Nov. 17, 2017

iTunes Price: $9.99

Length: 33:07

Rating: 3 stars

The Ripple Effect: What’s in a vote?

Catalans in favor of secession gathered in Barcelona as others attempted to vote in the Oct. 1 independence referendum that had been outlawed by the Spanish government. Photo courtesy of CNN.

Consider: a region has its own language, its own flag, its own parliament, its own police force and control over some matters of public life like its own healthcare and schools. Could it be a country?

The potential nation-to-be at hand is Catalonia, a part of northeastern Spain that boasts Barcelona as its capital and where Catalan is spoken side-by-side with Spanish. On Oct. 1, Catalonia went ahead with an independence referendum, despite the vote having been deemed illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

The Spanish government in Madrid responded by sending police officers to storm voters with batons and rubber bullets.

While Spain’s reaction to the vote was excessively violent, the country has its reasons for not wanting Catalonia to secede: according to the BBC, the area’s exports make up over 65 billion euros’ worth of Spain’s total, and at the same time, it owes a hefty debt to the government.

I am not about to pass judgment on whether or not Catalonia should secede. But a decision can’t be made based off such a deeply flawed vote defended as democracy in action.

Already, the “silent majority” of Catalans protesting against the independence effort have made it clear that not everyone got a say in the referendum, empathetically chanting “Yo soy español” (“I am Spanish”) in response to the secessionists’ cries of “Madrid nos roba” (“Madrid is robbing us”).

But the anti-secessionist side enthusiastically reaffirming its Spanish nationality barely appears in the referendum results. Much of the Catalan government’s justification of secession hinges on the argument that 90 percent of those who voted supported Catalonia’s independence.

Yet less than half of all eligible voters cast ballots to begin with.

Perhaps most voters just didn’t want to get in the way of the baton-wielding police officers storming polling stations, but what that then reveals about those who did vote is that they were the ones passionate enough about the question on the ballot that they opted for the risk. If 90 percent of 43 percent of a region supports something with that level of fervor, does that mean only 38.7 percent overall are committed?

Not necessarily, but this is what a sizeable chunk of the miscommunication between Catalonia and Spain boils down to. Catalan President Carles Puigdemont’s government is switching back and forth from the little picture argument of “90 percent of us who voted want secession” to the big picture concession of “We’re still placing our declaration of independence on hold to give us time for negotiations with Spain” — because it’s uncertain how many people that 90 percent vote represents. The conflicting messages give an indicator of how skewed such a tally is.

The democratic right to exercise the voices of the people is nothing if only a few amplify their voices with a vote and the rest are drowned out in the hubbub;  a problem not only in Catalonia’s present situation, but in democracies around the world. Even the U.S. isn’t exempt: according to Pew Research Center, out of everyone eligible to vote in the last presidential election — all citizens in the right age groups — the percentage of those who did hovered at a measly 55 percent.

Part of the burden lies on the people, of course. You can’t opt out of exercising that right and then complain about the outcome others decided on in your stead. But such a vote — especially one as precedent-shattering as that of Catalonia’s — should be made more accessible, at the very least, to keep people from making up simple excuses like “I didn’t want to be dragged away from a polling station by a cop.”

Yes, in Catalonia’s case, Spain’s argument that the vote was unconstitutional barred the way for a straightforward referendum. I’ll concede it now: virtually nothing could have been done by the Catalan government alone at that point to circumvent such an obstacle.

But I will say that its declaration of independence has rightfully been placed on pause. After all, an issue as fraught as secession, with the potential to stir up unrest in other nations, shouldn’t move forward in even the vaguest democracy without the input of as many as possible.

A decision can’t be made solely based on the loudest rather than the most.

Homecoming Rally Photo Gallery

The final day of Homecoming Week started off strong with the Homecoming Rally this morning. The HHS Marching Band performed as strong as usual, with the cheer team and the Equestriettes giving performances as equally strong as they’ve always been. The Homecoming Court King and Queen were also announced at the end of the rally, with seniors Simon Lee and Kristina Claras taking the crowns.

Congratulations to Simon Lee and Kristina Claras for winning, and congrats to all the other seniors on the Homecoming Court. We thank you for the spirit you show and for representing HHS. The Homecoming parade and football game against Los Altos take place tonight.

Natalie Owsley

This is Mrs. Owsley’s eighth year at Homestead and her fourth year advising the journalism program. As a journalism major in college, it was always her goal to teach journalism at the high school level. In addition to teaching and advising The Epitaph, Mrs. Owsley teaches 9th grade literature and writing and AVID 9. When she is not at work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, reading, cooking, and snuggling her infant son, Oscar.

Aishwarya Jayadeep

Aishwarya is an HHS junior in her first year as an opinion editor. Unsurprisingly enough, she’s opinionated about everything from international events to the plot twists in the latest novel she’s reading. When not working on her column or volunteering, Aishwarya can be found judging books by their covers (and, to be fair, their content), scrawling out drawings and attempting to channel her favorite authors while writing short stories. This is her second year on The Epitaph staff.

Aarya Gupta

Aarya Gupta is a junior at Homestead High School and is the Junior News Editor for The Epitaph. She participates in many organizations and clubs on campus including Speech and Debate, Model United Nations, and National Honor Society. In her spare time she loves to watch movies, read novels, and listen to music. In the future, she aspires to travel the world. She is excited about the upcoming year and hopes to carry on the legacy of this newspaper.