WRITING


Top 5 Views of San Francisco



Winter 2016. COMMS 239.

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San Francisco is one of America’s greatest cities, combining the vibrancy of city life with the beauty of natural landscapes. The entire city can be experienced from different vantage points, allowing visitors to drink in the Bay Area at any point during their trip. With these views, any visitor is sure to leave their heart in San Francisco. Here are the top five views of the Golden State’s most famous city.

  1. 343 Sansome Street Rooftop Deck

343 Sansome Street serves as one of S.F.’s hidden gems within the city. This spot is a privately owned public open space, also known as P.O.P.O.S., in San Francisco’s Financial District and is free to the public. The rooftop deck on the 15th floor offers a beautiful view of the city while being in the city. Surrounded by tall skyscrapers, including the city’s prominent Transamerica Pyramid, this hidden spot immerses visitors in the city’s hustle and bustle while simultaneously providing tranquility and seclusion. Overall, 343 Sansome offers an escape to those who visit with one of the greatest views of San Francisco.

  1. The View Cocktail Lounge

The View lounge is on top of the Mariott Marquis hotel in downtown San Francisco, right outside the city’s famous Union Square. While the lounge does offer a variety of drinks, appetizers, and desserts for purchase, the view that can be seen here is the focal point of this location. With glass windows on all sides, the View offers a nearly 360 degree perspective of San Francisco. Although its views are beautiful during the day, this location offers a spectacular view of the city’s nighttime lights. The View Cocktail Lounge offers guests an experience of the city’s skyline that they won’t forget.

  1. Grizzly Peak

Grizzly Peak off of Fish Ranch Road in the Berkeley hills is an excellent hiking spot with a magnificent view of San Francisco and the surrounding landscape. From the city to the mountains, one can have an all in one experience at Grizzly Peak whether they hike the trails or drive up to the viewpoints. This location offers visitors a view from “on top of the world” as its higher elevation looks upon the entire Bay Area. But it is most famous for its inspiring view of the sunset over the bay and into the nighttime, no matter what season. Year round, Grizzly Peak provides a view of the Bay Area unlike any other and should not left out on your next trip!

  1. Vista Point

Vista Point in Sausalito is one of the best spots to visit for the iconic view of San Francisco that is almost like in the movies. Located on the opposing end of the Golden Gate Bridge, Vista Point offers an intimate view of the city without being too distant. Its relative closeness allows for visitors to take in the views and then walk along the Golden Gate Bridge, ending up on the San Francisco side. Also, Vista Point offers a ground-level perspective of the city instead of being up above, adding to the feeling of nearness. Ultimately, Vista Point is a great stop for a photo-op with its traditional view of the city and its personal experience with the Golden Gate Bridge.

  1. Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks are the second highest points in the entire city of San Francisco, making it an ideal lookout for experiencing the city in full. One truly will have a 360 degree view of S.F. here that just can’t compare with any other location. Because of its elevation, it’s often quite cold and windy. But this should not detract potential visitors. The view is so magnificent that you won’t want to leave anyway. One can see both the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridge in a visit, as well as all the other important landmarks within the city. Day or night, Twin Peaks provides the most majestic view San Francisco has to offer.


#OscarsSoWhite



Winter 2016. COMMS 239.

The conversation is louder than ever before – the lack of diversity in Hollywood needs to be addressed. The topic is once again being discussed due to the recent announcement of the 2016 Oscar nominations, in which no minorities were represented in the major categories for the second year in a row. This imbalance in Hollywood has existed since the industry’s establishment, yet finally in 2016, more people are finally taking notice of it. With social movements such as Black Lives Matter and gender equality becoming more prevalent in mainstream media, it was no surprise that #OscarsSoWhite was trending the day the nominations were announced. But with all of this in mind, what is going to be done about it?

Ultimately, this controversy is bigger than just the Oscars awards show and shouldn’t be reduced to a popular hashtag. Those who want change must demand it, and that demand must start now. Powerful actors, directors, and producers of all different ethnicities have to use their influence to assist those with diverse voices and perspectives in creating content. Industry and studio heads consist of mostly older, white men. Consequently, media content is being limited to their perspectives and what they consider to be quality. This can all change if the acclaimed stars and creators band together to demand diversified content.

Change must be demanded, but only in the proper way. Several prominent African American actors have come out in support of boycotting the Academy Awards. But this action will not continue the conversation, it will just end it. Film industry participants and celebrities of all backgrounds should attend the Oscars in support of movie-making and what it should be. If those of color abandon the awards show, they will not be taking action in anyway.

Instead of boycotting the Oscars, celebrities and standard movie-goers alike should boycott films that don’t represent the reality of America. In 2013, minorities made up more than 40% of the U.S. population. Yet a recent study by USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism states that “just over three-quarters of all speaking characters [in films] are White (76.3 percent).” The media’s perspective of life in modern America is skewed and must be balanced.

In a recent speech to British Parliament, Afro-British actor Idris Elba stated, “Diversity in the modern world is more than just skin colour – it’s gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, social background, and – most important of all, as far as I’m concerned – diversity of thought.” For social justice to be served pertaining to all of these issues, action must be taken. All those who desire change, no matter what social labels have been placed upon them, must be unified in their desire for justice.


Just B



Fall 2015. COMMS 101 blog post.

beyonce vogue

Since her days with the R&B group Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé Knowles Carter has been a driving force in music and popular culture. Her career has consisted of a series of never-ending hit songs and ultimately, becoming an icon in the recording industry. On top of her musical success, Beyoncé has been a part of an extremely high profile relationship with rapper Jay-Z for many years now. Combining all the major aspects of her fame, “Queen B” is not just a nickname for the superstar, but an actual title. According to numerous celebrity news outlets, adoring fans, and much of the music industry, Beyoncé is today’s Queen of Pop.

In September 2015, Beyoncé graced the cover of notable fashion magazine, Vogue. Upon first glance, the cover photo seems somewhat underwhelming. The pop star is dressed in muted colors and is not wearing any overly scandalous garments. The background and text of the photo also contribute to the muted color scheme. The graphic scheme of the cover alludes to a more sophisticated tone, in comparison to something more colorful or clouded with text. Overall, the cover itself is not overbearing. But that simplicity sets the stage for the enormous fame that is exuded by the one and only, Queen B. There’s nothing about the photo that explicitly grabs hold of the viewer’s attention, but just knowing that Beyoncé is on the magazine draws consumers in.

Aside from the magazine’s title, there are only three captions featured on the cover, and only one of which pertains to Beyoncé herself. “Just B: Beyoncé and the Art of Global Domination” has several connotations. “Just B” implies that the “global domination” that Beyoncé has achieved is not because of hard work, but just from being herself. She is the Queen after all. She is just living a queenly life and taking the world by storm, it’s not like she’s actually putting effort into her career. Referring to “global domination” as an art form implies that her success is possibly teachable and can be achieved by someone else, despite the extreme unlikelihood of that happening. But everyone does want to be like the Queen after all. And “global domination”? Well, Vogue is basically saying here that Beyoncé has become a supreme authority in all things music, fashion, and even, the individual’s private life. She has it all, creating the illusion that Beyoncé is the ultimate woman.

Moving past the magazine’s cover, there’s not much else, which caused a lot of confusion among Beyoncé’s fans upon the issue’s release. Within the pages of Vogue’s September 2015 issue, there is no interview with Beyoncé whatsoever. There is only a short write-up by a Vogue staff writer, which is totally off-kilter with traditional magazine structure. Usually the issue features an in-depth interview with the cover star, but Beyoncé has made it clear that she is not “usual” in any way.

As her career has evolved, Beyoncé has fully accepted her title as Queen B and has become more accustomed to manipulating her image to the way that she sees fit. After Vogue’s launch of the September 2015 issue, an article was published in the New York Times disclosing the fact that there is no record of Beyoncé participating in an interview over the last two years – since her record breaking album, Beyoncé, came out in 2013. She’s controlled her image in every way possible. This past summer, the Queen was featured in a segment on ABC’s Good Morning America to talk about her vegan diet. But it was soon discovered after its airing that the video segment was not live and that it was edited by Beyoncé’s team.

beyonce vogue 2

The September 2015 issue of Vogue depicts an entirely different version of Beyoncé compared to the songstress’s Vogue cover back in March of 2013. This cover is significantly brighter than the 2015 edition with the photo’s lighting as well as the use of the white text. Beyoncé looks softer and more feminine. She was a new mother when the magazine was released. Overall, she had a different message to send two and a half years ago. She was a different Beyoncé then. She hadn’t shattered world records with a hot-selling new album that would change her image and the pathway of her career.

However, one thing was still the same. On the 2013 Vogue cover, once again, only one caption pertains to the cover star: “Queen B! Beyoncé Rules the World”. This caption is extremely similar to the one featured on the 2015 edition. Both revolve around Beyoncé’s utter power concerning all things in the modern world.  She’s an icon and deserves to be declared as one.

While the magazine covers are stylized differently, they still have the same unintended message that Beyoncé is the only woman of such acclaimed celebrity stature and that all women should feel insufficient in comparison to her. The two captions essentially say that she has total authority in the entire world, and there’s no such place for any other woman. These ideals were not necessarily intended by Vogue, but that essentially seems to be the world we live in these days. People seem more unaware of the implications behind their words as they’ve become accustomed to a daily onslaught of words through all forms of digital interaction.

Though Beyoncé is not a stick-thin model, her body and her beauty still contribute to the means of her “global domination” – she is the only one that could possibly be that gorgeous. Once again, while most likely unintentional, both Vogue covers still contribute to an unattainable standard of female beauty, and overall success, by using those explicit captions. This is ultimately dangerous as that message is not intentional, but it’s still there. Viewers may not immediately recognize the association, but there’s a subtly implied connection between the cover star’s success and her overall being versus her work ethic.

Elder Adrian Ochoa explained that “media can create powerful images and thoughts in people’s minds”, and that statement couldn’t be anymore applicable to magazines in general, not just those featuring Queen B. Magazine covers are created with an intended purpose, but can also have underlying meanings, just like any other forms of media.  The most important thing going forward in this technological age is obtaining media literacy in order to detect those underlying meanings and how they affect us. Understanding that Beyoncé doesn’t actually “rule the world” and that “Queen B” is not more than a nickname can increase that literacy and can decrease the value that has been put upon standardized beauty and success.


Pure Intentions



Fall 2015. COMMS 101 blog post.

Unilever’s Pure It campaign recently expanded with the release of two new advertisements which bring the brand’s motto to life. “Purifies any water” is the theme of the company’s clean water initiative as well as the catchphrase for their water purifier and other cleansing products. The two ads, created by advertising agency LOWE Indonesia, have received attention in the media due to their recent acknowledgments at the Spikes Asia award ceremonies. The print advertisements, titled “Urban” and “Rural”, are dynamically designed to show the viewer that clean water could potentially be accessible around the globe.

The designer immediately creates the viewer’s perspective by developing the angle as if one is underwater. By such an angle, the viewer can see two different, busy and life-filled environments in which the people most likely depend on the depicted water source. However, the body of water is pictured as being clear in order to show the potential of Unilever’s product, not because it is actually that clean. The print advertisements seem framed to have both moral and commercial purposes. Upon first glance, viewers may believe that the ads are intended to be public service announcements. Then, as one examines the ads more, they will realize that there is a product to be sold. Unilever’s manipulation of such a balance, leaning more towards the awareness of the water crisis than a water purifier itself, inherently brings more attention to the advertisements compared to an ad that solely features the product.

The utilization of the “Urban” and “Rural” environments makes the print commercials relatable and universal to citizens around the world, not just a targeted location. While the people featured in the advertisements appear to be of Asian descent, the ideas of city and country surroundings can be found in many places, including the United States. The featured people are also participating in physical labor, creating both a sense of compassion and of familiarity within the viewer, depending on their background. In addition, people of all cultures and nationalities have a reliance on water, but not all of them have the access to clean water that first world countries do.

Another symbolic feature of this visual campaign is the ultimately clear view of surrounding life and the sky. Such vibrancy and precision provides a sense of hope and awe in the viewer; with clean water, life is sustainable and anything is possible. Therefore, the consumer not only wants that for others but for themselves as well, and that’s how Unilever is able to create sales. Unilever is a global brand and has customers all over the world, some who need access to purified water more than others. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t sell their product to people from all different walks of life.

It seems that Unilever’s brand message is that their products are of such high quality, that they can ultimately provide a solution to the global water crisis. That message implies that their products are perfect and incomparable to the company’s competitors. Even on Unilever’s website, the company claims that their products provide “complete protection” from fatal diseases. This type of marketing has built up a reputation that portrays Unilever’s products as the only ones that could, basically, save lives.

In my opinion, Unilever’s two advertisements utilize the third person effect to their advantage. Viewers may look at the designs and state that they have no effect on them. However, Unilever’s intended message is fairly subtle. While the viewer may not realize it as they look at the advertisement, there is a subconscious understanding that there is a correlation between clear water and Unilever’s water purifier. Now that doesn’t mean that the viewer will immediately go out and purchase the product, but the thought is there and that’s all that matters to companies. Brands want their merchandise to be acknowledged and remembered by the public because there is always opportunity for a potential purchase in the future.

Overall, I do believe that Unilever’s advertisements are incredible and absolutely deserving of the awards they have won. They’re visually impactful, which in many cases can be more profound than printed words or audio. The designs barely look computer-generated, but rather extremely realistic, which also contributes to Unilever’s positive effects on the consumer. I believe that the ads do a great job at capturing the idea of what could be in association with their product; everyone could have clean water. The global water crisis is an extremely relevant social issue that is not going to just disappear, and if Unilever keeps producing ads like these, their company won’t be disappearing either. As long as their brand is associated with creatively and innovatively developed messages like these, their products will most likely always have an appeal to someone, somewhere.


Journalist of the Year Self-Analytical Essay



Spring 2015. Submission for Contra Costa County Journalist of the Year contest. 

I remember the exact moment I first fell in love with writing. I was in second grade and my teacher took me aside. She gave me an assignment that no other student had to accomplish; I had to write a story. That’s exactly what I did, and even as a young girl I was able to recognize how writing made me feel. My creativity flourished and I experienced pure joy as I wrote. I was proud of my work and couldn’t stop reading it.

Since then, a lot has changed about me and my writing. I’m not a little girl anymore, dreaming of making a reality of her passion. As a senior in high school, I have realized that I am at a point in my life when my dreams are transitioning to becoming my reality. I am a writer capable of making a career out of my talents, and that is not going to change any time soon.

While writing has been a large part of my life through some form or another, I wasn’t able to properly pursue it until I reached high school. Entering my freshman year, I hoped to be enrolled in the journalism and creative writing courses offered by my school. But I ended up being a student in neither class. Instead, I was placed in photography.

The pursuit of my passion was delayed for the time being. But, I gained vital skills which, upon reflection, I have realized support everything I have learned journalistically. A photo can tell a viewer just as much as a story can tell a reader. Photography is a crucial part of the fast paced, modern world we live in, and I am proud to say I am capable of taking an informative photo as a journalist.

My junior year was when I began to receive serious opportunities to cultivate journalistic knowledge and experience. In the spring of 2013, I took two initiatives: I applied to become a Teen Reporter for the Bay Area News Group and I enrolled in the journalism course at my school. These two moments combined to make my junior year one of the most important in my life.

As a Teen Reporter and a member of the LIP (Life in Perspective) Board, I had the chance to work with other passionate student journalists through the Contra Costa Times. At our monthly meetings led by a features editor and veteran writer, we discussed topics in the news as well as journalism techniques. I sat at each meeting with an open mind and absorbed everything like a sponge. My time as a teen reporter was one of many firsts. However, my favorite part of this experience was each time I got to walk into the Contra Costa Times offices. For the first several meetings, we met in the original offices before moving to new ones. As I entered the building, the history within its walls was tangible. I only dreamed of experiencing that every day.

As a staff writer for Clayton Valley Charter’s The Talon, I truly developed my passion. My experience in Journalism I served as my first opportunity to write for a publication, and I couldn’t get enough of it. The work I did for that class perpetuated my desires; I would be a journalist no matter what it took. I learned about the balanced structure of journalistic writing and its firm rules. I interviewed students, teachers, and administrative employees about everything from summer vacation to the school’s bell schedule. But most importantly, I made so many memories within our small community of a classroom and I realize now that is what the art of journalism is all about. As journalists, we want to make lasting impressions on readers that touch their minds and their hearts.

My work as a staff writer led to my opportunity to serve as Editor in Chief of The Talon during my senior year. While I still have several months until graduation, my senior year has been overwhelmed with all things journalism and I could not be happier. After my junior came to a close, I was afraid my last year in high school would not live up to its potential. But in terms of personal growth and happiness, I have reached an all time high. As Editor in Chief, I have maintained my journalism skills while developing my patience and persistence. I work in the position to share my knowledge with other while learning so much from the experience. It’s an extremely balanced and gratifying opportunity. I am the happiest I have been, the joy I feel only motivates me more.

Every day I get to share my passion with my peers and immerse myself in a world of journalism. It’s a special chance that I am making the most of while in high school. The relationship I share with writing is a solid foundation which I proudly stand on; it’s what I love and it pushes me to do more in all aspects of my life.

I am a writer capable of making a career out of my talents, and that is not going to change any time soon.


Feature: #SeniorYearIn5Words



Published: The Talon TALONMay2015, see page 3. May 2015. seniortwitter

As the school year has come to an end, seniors around the world have utilized social media as a platform to share their thoughts on senior year. The hashtag #SeniorYearIn5Words quickly became a trending topic on Twitter as students took the challenge to summarize their senior year in just five words.

While some students chose to share sentimental thoughts, a majority of tweets were considered humorous. Opinions of class work, tests, attendance, and teachers quickly became relatable messages to the Class of 2015.

The trending topic resulted in the creation of major accounts sharing tweets using the popular hashtag as well as sharing other senior year thoughts. There was also a reaction from high school underclassmen, who chose to create their own hashtags in response such as #FreshmanYearIn5Words and #SophomoreYearIn5Words.

Students from Clayton Valley’s graduating class also took to twitter to share some thoughts. Below are tweets using the hashtag #SeniorYearIn5Words from Twitter account @2015Seniors and CV seniors. Congratulations Ugly Eagles on another successful year!


News: Letters of Intent



Published: The Talon TALONFebruary2015, see page 1. February 2015. lettersofintent

Clayton Valley Charter High School has once again had some of its very own Ugly Eagles sign Letters of Intent with prestigious universities. Seniors Kahlil McKenzie and Hailey Pascoe were honored in a national signing day ceremony on February 4th, 2015, committing to University of Tennessee and Lehigh University, respectfully. In signing Letters of Intent, the two student-athletes made binding agreements to attend academic institutions and play for their sports teams.

Kahlil committed to play football with University of Tennessee, where his father also attended and played. Despite his ineligibility to participate in Clayton Valley’s football program his senior year, Kahlil’s athletic career at De La Salle High School as well as his participation in the 2014 Army All-American game were enough to prove his talent. He received offers from countless schools, including University of Alabama, University of Southern California, and University of Oklahoma.

But when it comes down to it, Kahlil’s decision to attend Tennessee seems to be based on a feeling of tradition and family.

“I have a lot of family in Knoxville, so that helped my decision, and I really like the campus,” he says.

As a representative of the Lady Eagles, Hailey committed to play basketball with Lehigh University on a Full Basketball Scholarship. Lehigh, located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is home of the Mountain Hawks and its women’s basketball team has done particularly well this season so far with a 16-6 overall record.

“I’m really excited. They have been doing really well this year, and they’re very young so it should be a good next few years,” says Hailey. As she’s been on Clayton Valley’s Varsity team all four years of her high school career, Hailey has pushed herself to achieve a certain level of excellence beyond that of other students.

Her hard work has earned her many honors, including being ranked in Cal Hi Sports’ Top 5 for Basketball Guard. While she received offers from University of Hawaii and Midwestern State University, Hailey chose Lehigh mostly because of her future teammates. “They were really friendly, they made me feel really welcome, so that’s why I picked to go there,” she says.

As both Kahlil and Hailey move forward in their athletic careers, they leave inspirational legacies behind at CVCHS. While Kahlil did not have the opportunity to play football with Clayton Valley, he was instrumental in motivating his teammates as well as coaching them. For Hailey, she leaves behind an inspirational athletic career over four years at CV as well as a record for the most free-throws in a single season.

The Ugly Eagle family supports them in all their endeavors and is excited to see what happens next for these two athletes.


 Feature: Attitude of gratitude



 

Published: The Talon TALONNovember2014, see page 1gratitude story. November 2014.

About: This story was written for our publication before Thanksgiving. We wanted to have a story dedicated to charity work during the holiday season, so my angle was  continuing that kind of service after the holidays.


In the United States, Americans celebrate the traditional holiday of Thanksgiving in order to “give thanks” and show gratitude for the privileges they have received in the past year. Yet with the hustle and bustle of today’s modern world, does anyone actually sit down and take the time to realize all of the things they have to be grateful for?

With the distractions of work, technology, and expectations constantly surrounding the average person, it seems as if the definition of “Thanksgiving” has lost its meaning. Subsequently, now is the time to remember the importance of being thankful, not only to recognize the holiday season, but to instill an attitude of gratitude within our society.

As students prepare to take a weeklong vacation from school, they should consider the different options they have in order to give back this ThanksgivingThere are opportunities all around the Bay Area for people to serve others and they should be taken advantage of.

Food banks, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters are always deserving of volunteers and donations. But they tend to be overwhelmed with help during the holiday season. Here are some other ways to serve in appreciation.

Students along with the assistance of their families, friends, or group organizations can adopt a family in need. By doing this, they can provide a Thanksgiving dinner to someone who may not be able to afford it as well as other items such as clothes and gifts.

Another opportunity is through the U.S. Military. Students can recognize not only troops who are currently stationed away from home, but also veterans in the local area. Care packages are always needed overseas and those in veterans’ hospitals will always appreciate a visit. Service can be done in small ways as well.

CVCHS seniors Ana Chena Dávila and Naame Kelete are running a book drive through “Books for Barrios” from December 1st to the 12th. All students are encouraged to donate books in good condition so they can be sent to children in the Phillipines.

With Thanksgiving vastly approaching, students will have the opportunity to serve others in honor of their individual appreciation. However, everyone should take the time to realize that gratitude is more than just doing service during the holiday season.

Thankfulness can be, and should be, exhibited year round, not just during a particular time. Remember that the recognition of appreciation is not just for Thanksgiving, but should be a daily occurrence.


Editorial: college costs



 

Published: The Talon TALONOctober2014, see page 7. Octobecollege editorialr 2014.

About: As a senior this year, the cost of college quickly because a major concern for me. I did some research and wrote an editorial about the affordability of college and how its inaccessible to so many American teens.


Since the beginning of your high school career, you’ve probably never stopped dreaming of the day you would graduate. With all the hard work you have accomplished, you deserve all of the freedoms you get as you approach young adulthood. As one chapter ends, another one must begin, right?

Like 65.9% of American teens according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you might decide to go to college and receive a secondary education. But before you can make that decision, can
you even really afford it?

A record from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education says that over the past 30 years, the cost of college tuition in the United States has increased by more than 400%.
So if all young people are encouraged to attend college by parents, teachers, and other adult leaders, how do they pay for it?

The simple answer is that they can’t. But the federal government can, at least for the time being. In America, the amount of student debt has surpassed that of all credit card debt at $829 billion.
Essentially, college is not affordable because of student loans, and one of the only sufficient ways young Americans can pay for college is student loans. Although financial aid assists students, it will follow them throughout their lives until it is paid off.

So the sensible thing for colleges to do would be to consider the student and lower tuition costs. But colleges and universities across the United States are only thinking about the same thing that you are, and that’s the money. While they are businesses that look to maintain their practices and provide students with an education, they are also interested in making a profit off of their attendees.

The future of the world relies in the hands of the young people, but the young people don’t have access to what they need in order to handle such a responsibility.


Feature: Summer Traveling



Published: The Talon TALONMay2014, see page 3. Maysummer story.JPG 2014.

About: This was a story I had written as the school year was coming to a close. I took the time to interview a large group of students, and then report on their unusual vacations they would be taking in the summer. Unfortunately, there was an editing mistake and the story was not published under my name.


Summer is the season that gives students of all ages their freedom. Friends to see, beaches to visit, roller coasters to ride; kids across the country will be seeking their own summer time adventures, leaving school and stress behind.

Traveling is a huge part of many summer plans. Whether it is a local trip or an international journey, students will take the summer as an opportunity to experience life outside of their hometown. Many students at Clayton Valley are planning to travel overseas to visit family and experience cultures firsthand.

Senior Jordan Tate will be spending three weeks in Spain this summer, visiting family and hitting all of the tourist hot spots. “I am looking forward to spending time with my family and taking in the Spanish culture,” he says, along with visiting the beach and watching the World Cup games.

Sana Nawid, a junior, will also be taking an international trip after school finishes. She is visiting Paris, France and Rome, Italy for two weeks with her family. Sana is looking forward to visiting cultural monuments and learning the histories of the two European countries.

Sophomore Alina Weigelt is headed to Mexico this coming June and plans to snorkel and surf during her vacation. “I am excited to take a break from school and just relax,” said Weigelt. Alina says she is also excited for her trip because she has not left the Bay Area in almost two years.

Another interesting vacation is being taken by Matthew Mullins, a junior, who boards the Disney Dream Cruise ship in June. The cruise liner will takes its passengers from Florida to the Mediterranean. “I am most excited to experience new cultures and new foods,” says Matthew. He describes the cruise trip as a good way for his family to bond.

As the school year comes to a close, long awaited vacations have students eager for summer break to start. Although not everyone is traveling, summertime will give CV students a much need break. So plan something fun for your summer vacation whether you are here, or on the other side of the world. Who knows what adventures may await you!


News: AP/EVERY 15 MINUTES CONFLICT



 

Published: The Talon TALONApril2014, see page 3. April every 15 minutes story2014.

About: This was a story that I pursued because it affected me directly. I was planning to take the AP Spanish test and when I realized the conflict with the Every 15 Minutes demonstration, I immediately knew I wanted to write about it.



On May 6th, two significant events will be occurring on the Clayton Valley campus – as long as circumstances remain the same. One of those events is the Every 15 Minutes simulation, which takes place every two years and involves juniors and seniors. The presentation demonstrates the severe consequences of being under the influence and driving.

Also on this date will be the AP testing of several subjects including Spanish Language, Computer Science, and Art History. Other subjects will be doing their testing up until May 16th. Both events are set to take place on campus, which has caused contention between students and the administration.

Students taking the AP test are now put in somewhat of a predicament as they are experiencing several disadvantages in the situation. AP students will not be able to participate in the large demonstration of the Every 15 Minutes program and will miss their only opportunity to do so in high school. And because the event occurs on campus, students who are testing will have to work through the chaotic program. It’s also a regular school day, so AP test takers will be impacted by the sounds of sirens, heartbeat recordings, and lockers slamming.

Samantha Dumalig, a junior at Clayton Valley, said, “Personally, I have a hard time focusing on tests and I think being at school would be disruptive.”

For obvious reasons, students who have paid $100 for the AP test do not want to risk any possible chance of not passing the test. Many students have the hopes of there being a change in the circumstances, but as of right now, the administration has not announced any adjustment to the schedule.

The other problem in the situation is that students will be missing out on Every 15 Minutes. “I’m really disappointed that I won’t be able to see something that I’ve waited to see,” says Samantha, as the demonstration only occurs every other year. Samantha, along with many other AP students, believes that while she understands the complications of the scheduling conflict, it is not fair that hardworking students are losing out on this special opportunity and reward.

Hopefully, students will be able to pass their tests and not feel bad about missing the Every 15 Minutes program.


News: Common Core



 

Published: The Talon TALONFebruaryr2014see page 1. February 2014.

common core story About: The new common core testing was about to be initiated at the time I wrote this story. As a junior, the only ones who must participate in the testing, I was interested in discovering more about the curriculum. Also, I interviewed our school’s executive director Dave Linzey and it was my first of a more professional nature.


Common Core testing is not only happening here at CVCHS, but all across the nation for the first time in history. The 2013-2014 school year is being nicknamed the “pilot year” for this new version of in depth standardized testing which will be replacing the annual STAR testing in California. So what is Common Core?

According to the mission statement of corestandards.org, “The Common Core state standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.” These tests are based upon the new state standards in which California implemented back in 2010.
Mr. David Linzey, Clayton Valley’s executive director, says that “for the past 15 years, every state has had its own state standards. [But now] all states will have the same curriculum”. This will make it easier on students who move throughout the school year as all states will be teaching the same material at the same time.

As the STAR test is phased out for grades K through 12, high school juniors will continue to take the standardized test as a placement test for all state colleges.
The Common Core test will be completely based on critical thinking versus the standard multiple choice questions comprised of statistics and dates. This critical thinking may seem intimidating to students who haven’t participated in it yet, but it is expected to be easier for many students. It will allow students to explain their answers and display the skills that were not recognized by the STAR test.

Even though the change of curriculum and testing is supposed to make the information learned in schools more applicable to students’ lives, some are still indifferent over the switch. Matthew Mullins, a junior, says, “I prefer the STAR test because it’s what I’ve done my whole life and I’m used to it…I don’t want to change my way of testing.”

Despite the drastic change in curriculum around the nation, Linzey believes that “it is the single most important change in public education in over two decades. This is a move to make us [as a country] more competitive at an international level”.

Common Core still has some time to be fully initiated over the next few years, making this year’s “pilot year” truly experimental. Only time will tell how schools across America, including Clayton Valley, will be impacted.


Editorial: Gun Control



Published: The Talon TALONDecemberr2013, see page 7. December  2013. gun control editorial

About: In December of 2013, our class final was to write an editorial on gun control in California. Our adviser announced that the best editorial would then be chosen to be put into the newspaper. My editorial was selected and published.


With an estimated 283 million guns in civilian hands, the United States experiences over ten thousand gun homicides annually, leaving the country ranked fairly high in this category worldwide. However, California has some of the strictest gun laws amongst the states and has experienced a 56% decrease in gunfire killings since 1993. The current gun laws that are in place in the state of California have proven to be successful, so why not continue with the regulations and continue to lower the statistic?

Many gun owners stand in the way of dropping such rates as gun control laws are quite frequently equated to stripping away American citizens’ 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. But gun owners are still treated equally as citizens and they can still own their guns as long as they meet the proper requirements to do so.

As a result of many mass shootings in the past year, namely the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, legislators have taken action more than ever before in the state of California to regulate gun laws. Subsequently, three key issues that were brought up by American citizens after the shooting were the improvement of background checks, limiting the sales of military-style weaponry, and the ability to confiscate guns from criminals or the mentally-ill. These topics have been discussed more than ever before, and the precautions that are being taken towards initiating them have created controversy amongst gun rights advocates.

One of the biggest worries that gun owners have is concerning background checks and required information to obtain a gun. Starting January 1st, 2014, “the California Department of Justice will retain information on long-gun purchases, data it had formerly been compelled to destroy within five days”. One might think that this shouldn’t be too much of an issue for law abiding gun owners. However, Nancy Stewart, a 55 year-old from Grass Valley, says otherwise,
stating, “My ultimate concern is if someone knocks on my door and says you’ve got three guns, we need two of them.” Many gun owners find the retention of such personal information by the government to be invasive, but it can be very helpful in order to ensure the safety of others in the future.

Steve Lindley, director of the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Firearms, says, “If you do become prohibited, we are going to come confiscate your firearms. But only people who have done something in their life – committed a felony, committed a violent misdemeanor, they are a fugitive from justice or they have been deemed mentally ill and a danger to themselves or others.” As this information will prevent people deemed unlawful to own a gun from owning one, it will also help police officers to understand and prepare for the suspects they are investigating.

Gun control advocates are not asking all citizens to merely give up their firearms as it is obvious that gunfire is not the only cause of death that burdens people around the world. But they are campaigning for legislations that will push gun owners to question if owning multiple guns is necessary. About eighty eight out of every one hundred people in America own a gun of some sort. And death by gunfire rates would most likely be lower if firearms were not so easily accessible.

I completely understand a person’s desire to be able to defend themselves if ever put into such a situation. But what I don’t understand is why there were no established requirements for gun ownership in the past and why it has taken tragic events for legislators and citizens alike to make the realizations that are necessary. The idea that puzzles me the most however, is why gun owners are so opposed to making communities a safer place for themselves and those who do not own fire arms by providing in depth background information. I agree that all American citizens should be able to maintain their 2nd Amendment rights, but I cannot see how taking precautions against life threatening devices strips away the rights of the American people.

California’s gun control regulations have produced extremely successful results by cutting gunfire killings by nearly half over the past two decades. Yet there are still thousands of gunfire homicides in the state of California every year. Gun control laws are necessary no matter how much responsibility gun owners vow to take. Moreover, extreme measures must continue to be considered in order to prevent senseless deaths in the United States.


 Feature: Holiday Gift Guide for Teens



Published: contracostatimes.com (link here) November 20, 2013.
gift guide screenshot

What: PopRock MiniBoom Portable Bluetooth Speaker ($19.96, QVC.com)

Why it’s a must-have: This nifty wireless speaker comes in eight colors and can fit in the gift guide screenshot 2palm of your hand. You can hook up your blue-tooth enabled device to play music and accept phone calls from up to 30 feet away. And it’s waterproof. With its strong suction cup, it can easily be placed in your shower! For the price,                                                                                    its sound quality is exceptional and the color choices                                                                   make for a fun personal touch.

— Jillian Argento


Editorial: Bell Schedule



Published: The Talon TALONNovember2013, see                                                                                           pbell schedule editorialage 7. November 2013.

Imagine an exhausted student who spent the whole night doing his homework. He arrives to school with only minutes before the bell rings. At his locker, he grabs his books and walks to his first class. He takes his seat as the bell rings and suddenly realizes it’s a block day; the class periods are out of order at Clayton Valley Charter High School.

The bell schedule on block days leaves the students in confusion. The Wednesday
schedule contains classes 2, 3, and 1 leaving Thursday with classes 5, 4, and 6. One would think it would be easier to have those class periods in numerical order. Matthew Mullins, a junior at CV, admits that the current block day schedules are “confusing to understand” and that it has taken him some time to get used to them.

So why do we even have block days? Block days are deemed necessary by some
teachers, as they do not agree with a six period day, five days a week. Some teachers like to have a block period so students can accomplish more work during the class while others enjoy teaching in long periods to make sure students fully understand the curriculum.

Erika Morales, a senior at CV, supports the block day schedule because she likes “the order of [her] classes” on those days and that the school has an earlier release time.
Another important aspect of the current block day schedule is its order. The 2, 3, 1, schedule allows students with an open first to go home at the end of the day similarly to students with an open sixth on 5, 4, 6 days. Child psychology students also have the schedule tailored to their needs as they must have their class in the middle of the day on both Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Despite these reasons, the school week at CVCHS would be much easier with
six period days throughout the week. Students would most likely have all the proper class materials as they would be bringing them every day. This schedule would work for all students who have an open first or sixth period as well as those participating in the child psychology courses. Mrs. Dana Tarantino, a math teacher at Clayton Valley, adds that many things were changed in the past year to improve test scores. She believes that “the change from the previous block schedule [to having more six period days in the school week] had a big part in increasing our test scores.”

The idea of a six period day schedule five days a week at CVCHS has many potential benefits and should be considered by the administration. A consistent schedule would eliminate the confusion on block days for incoming students as well as returning students who have not gotten used to it.


Reaction: ‘Glee’ Tribute Episode



Published: contracostatimes.com (link here), mercurynews.com (link here) October 10, 2013.glee screenshot 2

On a summer night some months ago, I mourned the death of actor Cory Monteith, a young man who was part of something very important in my life, as well as in the lives of other young people for several years: The TV show “Glee.”

But Thursday night, I mourned the death of Finn Hudson, The Quarterback — the cool high school football player who matured into a gentleman before our eyes. Teen fans sat in front of the television for hours to be uplifted by the music and the relatable stories that were shared by the characters they adored.I chose to watch this tribute episode with no expectations so I wouldn’t be disappointed. But I was impressed. Monteith’s death was the result of a serious problem: addiction. And I was afraid that the show would deliver a softened, fluffy story line. Lots of singing and no grieving.

 

But “Glee” did what it does best, which is confronting the difficult issues that people face every day.

The soulful memorial was handled with grace, yet gave viewers a certain sense of closure that they desired. The show was balanced. For every heavy, somber moment, there was one of lightheartedness. It was also good to see that the William McKinley High School grads who grew up alongside Finn had their sentiments spotlighted — just as they should have been.
The scenes in which Puck, Finn’s best friend, and Rachel, Finn’s love, expressed their sorrow were as heart wrenching as they were relatable. But the most saddening aspect of the episode was when I realized that the raw emotion that we saw through these actors was real. They lost a person they loved just as much as the glee club lost Finn Hudson.
As the episode came to a close, I became sentimental: I thought of all that “Glee” has done for me, always making me happy, despite the changes the show has gone through in recent times. The show is still one of my favorites and this commemorative episode was done so well, leaving viewers with a feeling of relief that Finn’s character will always be remembered.

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