Library amending academic center

Upon the beginning of the new school year, new Academic Center Specialist Alessandro Stavoli altered the tutoring system in Homestead’s academic center. The academic center exists at the back of the library and it is where students can receive assistance  with their academics from student tutors.

The academic center has long been headed by Jessica Kirby, but this year, Stavoli, previous physical therapist, took over the role.

Kirby’s previous tutoring system was based off one-on-one methods, in which student tutors could tutor anyone in their area of expertise.

Kirby said she wanted to break the culture barrier that tutors had to have straight A’s and get perfect grades.
“That was something I was really working on, that anybody could be a tutor,” Kirby said.

Stavoli said the previous tutoring system proved to be ineffective in raising students’ grades, as tutees showed no measurable improvement in their classes.

In an effort to improve the academic center, Stavoli incorporated a group-oriented tutoring system instead of the previous one-on-one system.

Stavoli said that in this revamped system, tutors are organized into groups consisting of three tutors, each with a different role: charter, summarizer and note-taker.

The charter is the leader of the group, acting as the main tutor who relays information to the tutees. On the other hand, the summarizer condenses the information while the note-taker reminds the tutees to take notes during the session.

[pullquote speaker=”Al[pullquote speaker=”Alessandro Stavoli” photo=”” align=”center” background=”off” border=”all” shadow=”on”]I think it’s a much more organized [system], it has objectives, it actually has direction.[/pullquote]

Stavoli said that he strives to “interest people more… make it more personalized for the students that need help… and also to give a more goal-oriented approach to the tutors.”

“The school does a lot of effort to do interventions with students, not just academically but also emotionally,” Stavoli said.

The effectiveness of Stavoli’s changes has raised several questions among students, tutors in particular.

“Some of the tutors wonder how effective the new system will be in helping the tutees,” academic tutor Ryan Chen said. “But it looks like a lot of the tutors there are serious and I think it’s helping students.”

“I think it’s a much more organized [system], it has objectives, it actually has direction,” Stavoli said. “There are going to be things modified along the way but I think the system is going to be effective because it gives students the space to learn and apply their own style.”

Since it is still early in the school year and the academic center is just beginning to gain momentum, only time can evaluate if the new academic center system truly is effective, Stavoli said.

Stavoli encourages more students to visit the academic center for any academic questions and hopes that tutors will have the curiosity and patience to learn how to teach others as the year progresses.

Stavoli emphasizes that Homestead continues to make an effort to provide academic help to its students, hoping that students will take the first step into the academic center towards a brighter future.

“Bringing people in is the most difficult part… it’s a big step,” Stavoli said.

Vallco, the ghost mall with boundless potential

Residing in the center of Silicon Valley, Vallco Mall can be expected to constantly be bustling with customers. However, to locals who frequent the complex, Vallco is commonly known as a “ghost mall.”

Due to its ever-worsening lack of business, Vallco can be seen over the years as a sinking ship slowly reaching the verge of tipping over.

It was not always like this, though. According to an article by San Jose Mercury News writer, Matt Wilson, back in the 1980s when Vallco first opened, people flocked to the mall with their wallets wide open. Teenagers and adults alike looked forward to the weekends where they could enjoy strolling around the mall.

In those days, Vallco was undisputably the biggest mall in Silicon Valley. Its notable ice rink and some 190 stores drew in visitors from across the region.

Vallco’s deterioration started in the 1990s and continues today. Real estate reporter,  Nathan Weinstein, said this decline was caused by the large selection of mid-range stores, which did not reflect the affluence of the surrounding residents.

Although Vallco Mall is decorated and ready for the the holidays, it continues to receive a low traffic of shoppers.
Although Vallco Mall is decorated and ready for the the holidays, it continues to receive a low traffic of shoppers.

Unlike its competitors, Westfield Valley Fair and Great Mall of the Bay Area, Vallco lacks large stores that attract customers.

“Vallco has a very limited selection of stores, they don’t carry any big-name brands such as Nike or Vans,” junior Bilal Qureshi said. “Vallco just simply does not have what people want.”

The lack of stores, however, is not the only issue, as people also complain of Vallco’s bleak atmosphere.

“Vallco gives off a depressing vibe. It’s just a very lonely place,” sophomore George Wen said. “It seems like a place where someone might go to sit on one of the many benches around the mall and ponder about life.”

All hope for the mall is not lost, however, as a new owner recently purchased the entirety of the mall. In November 2014, Sand Hill Property Co. purchased the mall for a total of $320 million, according to an article written by Bay Area Real Estate reporter Nancy Amdur.

With Vallco in the hands of a new owner, one can only hope that major renovations will rejuvenate the mall.

According to, in August 2015, Sand Hill announced a drastic plan to convert Vallco into a retail, office and residential development that would be covered with the world’s largest green roof.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what Vallco can become,” Qureshi said. “Vallco has potential, it’s just all up to the owners to mold that into success.”

With the huge responsibility of reviving Vallco Mall, it seems as if the people at Sand Hill will have their hands full for the next couple of years.

EL Ambassador’s Program connects Homestead students

The English Language Development (ELD) department recently kicked off the Ambassador’s Program, a yearlong activity that connects EL students with student mentors. The program, which meets weekly during Tuesday tutorials, aims to help EL students with the social and communicational aspects of high school.

At the program’s first meeting on Sept. 22, mentors met their mentees for the year and participated in activities to familiarize themselves with each other.

The school’s EL Commissioners, senior Ronnie Li and juniors Tej Gokhale and Yvonne Yang, led the meeting with a PowerPoint presentation, assisted by program advisors Grace Henson and Wilma Wu.

Henson, who is beginning her 15th year in the ELD department, said ELD students previously had tutors and teachers to help them with academics, but no help assimilating to high school culture in America.

“We needed something where the students would be more involved with the rest of the student body,” Henson said.

The program, founded in 2008, started with around 20 students, but has now doubled in size.

[pullquote speaker=”Ronnie Li” photo=”” align=”left” background=”on” border=”all” shadow=”on”]When you’re not good at a language, you don’t want to talk to people[/pullquote]

Each meeting usually begins with a presentation from the EL Commissioners about upcoming events and holidays at school, as well as a topic about American culture. Mentors and mentees are prompted with questions about the topic to discuss with each other.

The program also puts on several events throughout the year, including a Halloween Movie Social, Thanksgiving Lunch, Christmas White Elephant and International Soccer Tournament. Some of these events, such as the soccer tournament in the spring, are open to participation for the entire school.

Currently, mentors and mentees are encouraged to spend time together at least once each month outside of the weekly meetings. This year, the EL Commissioners and advisors hope that partners will meet up more than once each month, suggesting that students take their mentees to see a movie, attend a club meeting or just hang out. This will allow mentees to further experience social events in the local area.

Li joined an ELD class the second semester of her sophomore year, after moving to the U.S. from China.

“When you’re not good at a language, you don’t want to talk to people,” Li said. She hopes the program will encourage more students to open up about themselves, their cultures and their interests.

“We meet all the new EL students. For me, it was really nice to meet them because I was one of them,” Li said about her aspirations for the program. “I really want us to be a family.”

Passing the poms

To continue the Mustang passion and spirit into the future, the Homestead cheer team held a community Youth Cheer Camp last Friday for elementary and middle schoolers interested in performing under the bright stadium lights.

The cheer team has made some significant changes over the past few years with the addition of a competition team and a change in uniforms. Now, cheer coach Connie LaScola has decided that the biggest change she wanted was for her girls to be leaders.

“The camp did make me feel like a leader just because my co-captains, the team and I got to teach them the basics of cheer leading,” cheer captain Paola Navarro said.

During the camp, young campers learned the notorious cheers that many students have learned word-for-word at every football game. In addition, the campers were given their own set of pom-poms and a HHS Cheer Camp shirt as their uniform for last Friday’s game against Leland High School.

The girls and boys excitedly cheered on the Mustangs from the sidelines during the nail-biting game.

One of the campers, Alaina Harlow, said, “[The game was] very loud and very exciting.”

The small campers positively warmed the hearts of the cheer team, and even captain Alycia Harlow learned from the experience.

“It sort of gave me an idea of what my coaches do when they work with us,” Harlow said.

Even though the Youth Cheer Camp only lasted two weeks, its impact on the campers will last a lifetime.

“I thought it was was weird because I actually went to one of the camps while I was in middle school, and now I was one of the leaders for it,” Navarro said.

Coach Connie puts on collaborative events like these for the benefit of both the existing and future cheer teams.

“The youth camp is a fundraiser for all of the cheer teams,” Navarro said. “Plus a lot of the kids that participate in the camp actually end up trying out for the team once they get into high school.”

With the cheer team bringing in the community through the love of cheer, the results on the happy campers’ faces are unforgettable.