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Athletes look for ways to juggle sports, school

Jones punts the soccer ball back into play at a quarterfinal game in Davis, California for Pacific Northwest Soccer Club
Photo Courtesy of Bernie Jones

In addition to the normal responsibilities of an RAHS student, student athletes who are serious about their sport must find stability between their school work, schedule, and their commitment to their sport.

Sophomore Andy Pham is a swimmer for Tyee High School and the Central Area Aquatics Team (CAAT). Pham has swam most of the breaststroke events throughout his swimming career and has broken many records on his previous team, WhiteWater Aquatics.

“I started swimming on a club team at the age of 12; I loved swimming from the start,” said Pham. “After competing at many state and regional championships, I’ve gained lots of confidence in who I am. I will continue to swim in order to compete at ahigher level and gain more confidence in myself.”

Throughout the high school swimming season, Pham swims 4-5 hours during weekdays.

“Typically, my daily schedule looks like me going to school for periods 1-5. Then, I head over to my high school practice where I swim approximately 2 hours,” said Pham. “Once high school practice is finished, I drive to my club practice to swim another 2-3 hours. Every other weekend, I compete at swim meets for my club team.”

As a committed athlete, Pham plans to continue swimming into college, preferably in Division 1.

“Once I’m finished with my college career, I would like to go into a sports related job,” said Pham.

Sophomore Bernie Jones is a goalkeeper for the Pacific Northwest Soccer Club and Highline High School’s varsity soccer team.

“My whole family is connected to [soccer], like we all play it; it’s just something I was phased into,” said Jones. “My dad would coach and he would carry me around while he coached so since I could walk I’ve played soccer.”

Jones hopes to continue playing soccer in college and possibly beyond.

“Hopefully [I] would be going pro at one point, but I could at least use it to get into a good college,” said Jones.

As a result of Pham’s schedule, he drops his sixth period class just to be able to do high school swimming.

“Students that aren’t athletes often go home and have lots of time to work on homework or even hang out with friends,” said Pham. “That’s not the case with student athletes, because I swim for roughly 4 hours a day, I don’t have those opportunities to start homework early or hang out with my friends on weekdays.”

Pham has to decide carefully which courses he will be taking because he is limited to five per semester.

“In order to graduate with the minimum required credits, I must not fail any classes at all from now till the end of senior year,” said Pham. “I sometimes also have to go over my schedule with Ms. Carper in order to plan out which courses I need to take in order to get the credit I need. Also, losing 6th period as a student athlete means losing opportunities to take new courses that I’m interested in.”

Yet, Pham doesn’t regret his decision to come to RAHS as he acknowledged the repercussions of being a student athlete at RAHS.

“I wanted to pursue better education and more challenging courses,” said Pham. “I understood the consequences of doing high school sports with all of the classes and school work. With that being said, I have to now prioritize my schedule in order to balance my time at RAHS and in the pool.”

Jones, however, only finds difficulty with his schedule during the high school season.

“I don’t think I really have any [time challenges] other than when the high school season comes and I have to leave school early to go play my sport,” said Jones. “It’s kind of stressful then because you don’t have transportation so you have to figure it out on your own.”

Scheduling issues aside, Jones believes that soccer has driven him to work harder in school.

“I’d say [soccer] actually drives you to want to do even better academically because the thing they stress in athletics, especially if you want to get into college and play at a high level, is you need academics first for coaches to look at you,” said Jones.

While sports have their plethora of benefits, academics ultimately come first. In the title ‘student athlete’, student comes before athlete.

“I’d say just understand that sometimes you’re going to have a busy schedule but look towards the greater goal,” said Jones. “I’d say understanding that academics do come first; make sure that’s finished and if there is a day where you’re going to miss practice it’s not going to kill you, you just need to work even harder the next day.”

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Students expanding their horizons at international event

Cole Graham (left) and Harrison Jerome sit in one of Team Canada’s bobsleds before the start of the day’s races.
Photo Courtesy of: Cole Graham

Many students travel to learn about different communities, and some students are lucky enough to travel to different cities or states, but seniors Harrison Jerome and Cole Graham are traveling out of the country to visit an international event.

Graham and Jerome are visiting the 2018 Winter Olympics in mid February to watch the events and be a part of the cultural mix.

“We are seeing the bobsled two-man final, the women’s gold medal hockey game, curling round robin, speedskating long track, and freestyle skiing aerial,” said Graham. “We might try to see more events if we have the time. We chose to see these events because we have the most interest in these.”

Graham got the ability to take one friend to Korea as a Christmas present from his father. Although it was mainly a present for his son, the trip also has special meaning for Graham’s father.

“My dad was a bobsledder,” said Graham, “and since he is paying for the trip, we are going to see that too.”

Graham’s dad has a history of bobsledding and a special tie to the Olympics.

“He was a 2 time bobsledder in 1988 in Calgary and 1992 in Albertville, France,” said Graham, “and 1 time track in the Olympics. He competed in the Seoul Summer Olympics in 1988. We are going to watch his event, although he will not be competing this time.”

Visiting a new country is an opportunity for Graham and Jerome to expand their cultural horizons.

“We are planning on trying exotic food, and visiting a lot of tourist attractions,” said Graham. “We are very excited to expand our horizons by visiting and learning as much about a different culture as we can. We are going to try to not be cold, and not be shot by the North Koreans.”

Taking part in this entirely new culture can seem a little daunting, at first, but Jerome is not too worried about the big change.

“I am a little bit nervous because of the culture shock,” said Jerome, “but it is something people get over really quickly.”

Since visiting South Korea is somewhat inherently dangerous due to its closeness to North Korea, the students and their families are both a little bit nervous.

“No, I am not worried,” said Graham. “My grandmother is freaking out and calling me every day, telling me to not go into the crowds, which is kind of hard to do, because it’s the Olympics. ”

Although Graham isn’t as worried, Jerome’s only worry is soothed by his belief that it is actually safer to visit Korea during the Olympics.

“Going to the Korean peninsula is inherently dangerous,” said Jerome, “but it is, in my opinion, worth the risk because it seems like this is the last time in a long time where it would be safe to go to South Korea.”

Jerome brings up a good point, being South Korea will most likely be more safe, and even the potential danger of North Korea will be diminished during the events.

“In my opinion, this is one of the safest times to go to South Korea,” said Jerome, “because not only is North Korea sending some of its athletes, and also China is sending its athletes. They would be putting themselves in a very unstrategic position if they attack South Korea. No one would take their side if they attack during the Olympics.”

Regardless of the safety concerns in South Korea, Jerome and Graham intend to push their luck even further, by getting as close to visiting North Korea as possible.

“We are going to visit the DMZ if it is open,” said Graham. “I would like to go into the UN negotiation rooms, which are legally in the Democratic Republic of North Korea.”

“We will look at the DMZ and see the guards,” said Jerome, “but we will remain on the South side of the border.”

Ground Control Illuminati Confrimed

Dear Ground Control,

Truth or dare?




Dear curious,

Interesting question you pose. Okay, if you really think about it, truth is 5 letters, or is 2 letters, dare is 4 letters. 5 + 2 + 4 = 11. There are eleven players on a football team. If you turn the question mark upside down ¿, it looks like a tear. People cry when they are hurt. Well, according to Wikipedia, there are an average of 7.23 catastrophic head injuries a year in highschool and college football. 7 + 2 = 9. 9 / 3 = 3. There are three sides to a triangle.

WELL… triangles often symbolize the Holy Trinity in Christianity — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Christianity is a religion. There are approximately 4,200 religions in the world. The world is covered in oceans. There are 5 oceans in the world. 4,200 / 5 = 840. 8 + 4 = 12. 12 / 0 is impossible, thank you, Joshi. Mr. Joshi likes space. Space includes our galaxy, which, in turn, contains about 200 billion stars while our solar system, located in our galaxy, contains 9 planets. Wait. Pluto isn’t a planet anymore. 8 planets. 8 / (2 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0) = 4. 4 – 1 pluto = 3. There are three sides to a triangle.

Illuminati confirmed.

Thank you,

Ground Control


Dear Ground Control,

Three weeks ago, I was hanging out with my friends. We were playing a game where we had to answer questions about the other people playing. They all asked “Why are you still in your emo phase?” How do I respond to that?


A child in their emo phase


Dear emo child,

I understand your soul must be drowning in a deep, black, empty, eternal abyss. First off, every single person, no matter who they are, has gone through an emo phase in their life, believing that they are dark and mysterious, which they totally are, and that no one really understands them, which they totally don’t. That being said, everyone who is past their emo life is embarrassed about it.

As I see it, you have two options for what to tell your friends:

  1. Embrace it. Tell them you are the way you are and you’re proud of it. Then proceed to dye your hair twenty different bright colors. Wear all black, every day, even during your cousin’s wedding. Hate everyone and everything with a fiery, burning passion. Be proud of your emo phase, and make everyone around you cower in fear.
  2. Escape it. Tell them you’ll soon change everything about yourself to appease them and society. Following that you must grow out your hair and chop off any colored bits. Do not, I repeat, do not dye it. Wear bright colors to display the pizzazz and joy in your rebirthed soul. Fall in love with everyone, everything, trust everyone without a second thought. Run from your past.

No matter which option you choose, always remember that you’ll never escape the pit where your heart used to be!

Best of luck in your “phase,”

Ground Control

Snark Attack Lunch Line

It’s so simple, but everyone always does it incorrectly: microwave courtesy. I mean, why are all the microwaves at RAHS REALLY ALWAYS SO STUPIDLY MESSY! It’s not that hard to put yourself in a line WITHOUT CUTTING!. Wait. Put your lunch in the microwave for A RESPECTABLE AMOUNT OF MINUTES.  Wait. Then, take yours out so the next person can go. I mean honestly, how difficult can it be? For a school of supposed geniuses we are not the brightest when it comes to household appliances.

Even with those problems, there’s still the problem of why the lines are so freaking long? It makes no sense. We have several microwaves in this school but somehow the lines are always so long. And don’t even get me started about the mess that’s always in the microwave. Not only is it absolutely disgusting inside of the stupid microwave but WAVE goodbye to the flavor in your lunch because someone decided it is a FANTASTIC IDEA to fry their fish and put it back in the microwave. First of all why would you do that? Where is the logic in your smelly lunch going in the microwave, consequently forcing RAHS students to live in the pungent dead fish fumes for the next 2 hours?

It’s gotten so bad that I want to put into effect some rules. For instance, this shark has decided 5 to 6 minutes is the maximum that should be allowed. Putting all of your lunch in the microwave for 10 minutes is SO RUDE.

I mean, I don’t mean to be a killer shark or anything but let’s do the math. I don’t think it should be explained at all, but let’s say there are 6 people in line. The appropriate amount of lunches in the microwave are 3 MAYBE 4 lunches, because stacking them one on top of another is not polite at all. If the lunches are microwaved for only 5 minutes at a time, the first 3 people will have their lunch in 5 minutes and the last 3 people will have their lunch in 10 minutes. Done. Boom. It’s so painfully simple that it really calls into question how anyone could screw it up, and I can just hear all the jaws dropping because I’m spitting nothing but facts.


The Shark

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Contemporary dance represents students’ emotions

Dory Mwangi (left) and fellow ballet dancer Alli Meyer (right), a student at Western Washington University, prepare for their upcoming recital.
Photo Courtesy of: Dory Mwangi

Passion, or graduation requirements, often push RAHS students to embrace new extracurriculars. Contemporary dance, alongside other forms, has currently taken the interest of a few underclassmen.

Sophomore Dory Mwangi has been interested in dance since childhood, always aspiring to learn the art in some form.

“I was always mesmerized by dance as a kid, and from a very young age I was interested in doing ballet, but my parents never really had the time to take me to or from [ballet] or the money for it either so it was just a fantasy that I had to forget about.” said Mwangi. “As I got older I forgot about it, but when I came to RAHS and found out dance could be used as PE credit, I joined ballet and, after a while, contemporary/jazz.”

Distinct differences separate the more relaxed contemporary and the high-standard ballet.

“I feel like the rules of ballet are a lot more uptight than in contemporary” said Mwangi. “So far there’s a lot of floor work involved [in contemporary], whereas in ballet I’m just improving my technique and trying to look as elegant as possible.”

Mwangi’s dancing experience has earned her a new appreciation for the art.

“I’ve definitely gained a lot of appreciation for all dancers,” said Mwangi. “I feel like nowadays dancers are really underrated, but it takes a lot of work to make yourself look pretty, flawless, and weightless when you’re also going through a lot of pain.”

Lately she has invested more in contemporary, with lessons ramping up she prepares for a performance.

“We’ve been focusing on showing our emotion a lot lately and really being in sync with our bodies, so I can’t wait to see how it’ll look on stage,” said Mwangi. “We’ve just started practicing for our recital in June which will be held at the PAC in Burien. The choreography is really great and I love how it’s coming together. Ms. Micheala [the dance choreographer] is so down to earth and energetic and you can really see that through her choreography.”

While Mwangi doesn’t see herself pursuing a lucrative dance career, her love for dance will keep her invested in it as only a hobby.

“I don’t want to pursue dance as a career or anywhere along those lines, it’s just something I like to do in my free time because I get to express the way I feel, talk with my friends while building trust between each other, and improve my body at the same time,” said Mwangi. “I see myself taking a few classes in college, nothing too serious — just pop in to some open ballet classes here and there.”

Another sophomore, Tija Marie, does dance for fun and has just recently been able to get more involved.

“I always liked the thought of joining contemporary but had too many extracurricular activities, which made my schedule full at the time, until now,” said Marie. “Dance is something I do for fun.”

Original starting as a ballet dancer, Marie is excited at the prospect of contemporary.

“When I was younger I did ballet and tap [dancing] for most of my childhood but grew out of it in my teen years,” said Marie. “Contemporary dance involves a lot of improv dancing whereas ballet includes a lot of technique. I enjoy contemporary a lot more than ballet and tap because of this.”

Marie is able to channel her feelings uniquely through dancing, expressing herself in ways that words cannot.  

“I hope to gain more confidence in myself over the years,” said Marie. “Sometimes I find it hard to express how I feel with words. But when I’m dancing I can show I feel without having to say anything.”

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Teachers working to open robotics space to creative students

The robotics space sits empty during the day, when it could be used to teach hands-on skills.
Photo By: Zak Sleeth

Teachers Nikhil Joshi, Michael Gudor, and Scott McComb are working with seniors James Mitchell and Erik Harang on the development of a Makerspace, a place for students and classes to not only design creations, but to have a hands-on experience in creating them. The makerspace will consist of the Large and Small Project Lab and the CAD Lab.

“Mr. Gudor and I have been talking about it along with Mr. McComb, to maybe convert the shop from being more of a robotics space, that was used primarily by the robotics team, into a more open and welcoming space for the rest of the school, and other classes, and teachers, and students,” said Joshi.

This Makerspace is meant to be a resource for the students, a place for them to do more hands-on work on projects, and for them to become more acquainted with industry-oriented skills.

“All of these tools and skills are being used out in industry, to degrees of depth and breadth,” said Joshi, ”and I think a student might not really know what it means to be an electrical engineer until they’ve sat down and figured out how a microprocessor works and how I hook it up to things and read data from sensors and make decisions with software and build a working component.”

A Makerspace gives students a chance to do something more with their hands.

“For me I try to put myself in a student’s position, like if I were at this school and a student. I know for me, I like to design things, but I really want to see them actually made and built,” said Gudor. “I don’t like to just design them in the computer and be happy, I want to actually physically touch them and use them.”

This concept of a more hands-on workspace is really important to Gudor.

“The Makerspace would fulfill that need of actually producing what I thought might work for something and see if it works. That would give me motivation to do more, versus just building it in the computer and theoretically it works, but I really don’t know,” said Gudor. “I like to see and touch my creations, so I put myself in my student’s position, and I’m like ‘that would excite me to try something new and see if it works.’”

The Makerspace also gives students an opportunity to learn something about what they’re really interested in.

“Look at it this way, a kid might think they want to be an electrical engineer, then they do a project that involves it and they discover ‘well, that wasn’t as much fun as getting all the mechanical stuff hooked up,’” said Joshi. “Now they can say, ‘okay maybe mechanical engineering is something I’m more interested in’, because they actually did a project that required all of these things to be put together, the software engineering, the mechanical engineering, the electrical engineering, the manufacturing technologies put together.”

In a project-based school like RAHS, using the tools sitting in the robotics lab to expose students to a real project workspace can be extremely beneficial.

“Those are tools that are here and right now sitting idle most of the time that could be readily used making projects to help students learn. And nothing engages the brain more than getting the hands engaged also, and building real world projects,” said Joshi. “I think it’s a huge asset that we’ve underutilized, but finding out efficient ways of using assets requires time and energy and thinking.”

Of course, it’s not as easy as opening the robotics lab up to any student who wants to cut wood and grind metal.

“A lot of the equipment down there is dangerous, there’s saws, table saws, band saws, there’s machines that could crush your hand,” said Joshi. “Certainly we have to take into account student safety. In general, policies are that students need to be supervised by teachers pretty much all the time when they’re using building resources, so there are these policies we have to figure out.”

In order to make sure the lab is a safe environment, there needs to be someone present anytime there is a student in the room.

“The main problem right now in between having a student space for that [a makerspace] specifically is just the fact that we need mentors, or we need an interesting insurance plan,” said Mitchell. “Why this hasn’t happened before, and why it’s being so slow now, is because of that room being so hard to access. We might even need to hire somebody to overlook that for a couple hours in the week.”

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Proposed levy promises support for school programs

The brand new proposed levy for Highline voters will be decided upon on 13 Feb. 2018. This new levy will be replacing one destined to expire at the end of 2018 and will also pay for more specific necessities that the District requires to function properly.

Tove Tupper, the Assistant Director of Communications for the District, has played a key part in making sure the levy is put out to the general public as well as understood by all.

“Highline voters will be asked to renew an educational programs and operations levy in February to replace an expiring levy,” said Tupper. “There is currently a gap between what the state funds and the education Highline provides to students. Levy funds make up the difference.”

The current gap is not nearly small enough to be funded by the District themselves, but reaching out to families to vote on state funds is a way to patch that gaping hole.

“If passed, students should not notice a [difference] because Highline will be able to maintain the current program and staff level,” said Tupper.

While there are not an abundant amount of sports teams at RAHS, the levy will help support the more specialized programs that are offered, such as extended learning opportunities.

“The levy funds a number of programs and staff positions,” said Tupper. “This includes athletic programs and additional safety and security officers, as well as a number of items that directly support RAHS.”

State funding just does not meet the necessities of Highline School District (HSD) as outdated systems on the state level are falling behind as other school districts forge ahead. Items the levy will provide for are not seen as essentials to the state, yet are fundamental to certain students’ educations.

“The proposed levy provides items such as teachers, school nurses, safety & security officer, counselors & social workers, special education, Camp Waskowitz, athletic programs, and teacher training days,” said Tupper.

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RAHS student juggles 2 lives

Chase Barton practices his juggling skills for an upcoming event.
Photo Courtesy of Chase Barton

RAHS sophomore Chase Barton has served his community through his work as a juggler and as a Boy Scout through his love of nature.

An activity Barton has interest in is juggling, his interest for juggling was sparked when he was a child and he has been juggling ever since.

“I got into juggling when I was five years old at the Northwest WA Fair in Lynden WA,” said Barton. “I first got interested when I saw a performer juggling a diabolo (Chinese yoyo). My parents saw that I was interested and they bought me one.”

Juggling is so much more than a hobby for Barton, and he uses his talent to make others feel jubilant.

“I then started practicing learning more tricks from other jugglers that I met at fairs over the summer. I decided that I wanted to start a show for kids,” said Barton. “We pitched the idea to a couple of fairs then I started. I like juggling to make other people happy.”

Chase is able to show his talent of juggling by performing around the country in fairs.

“My first show was at the Northwest WA Fair, then I went and juggled at a theme park in New York, a fair in California, and recently I have been juggling for kids and special needs adults at a fair in Albany, Georgia,” said Barton. “I enjoy the experience greatly. I get to perform for large groups of people and I get to travel to new states on the way.”

Other than juggling at fairs, Barton enjoys helping out his community by leading projects he planned for his Eagle Scout Project.  

I constructed a 16×16 open wall structure with a concrete slab, 2 ADA wheelchair accessible potting tables, and refurbished a road sign, all for a special needs community named L’Arche Farms,” said Barton. “My job was to plan, schedule, and execute this project with the help of volunteers and donations within the community. It was experience that I really enjoyed and it helped expand my leadership capabilities.”

Barton’s neighbor was a troop leader, which gave him the motivation to join Boy Scouts as early as he could.

“I decided to become a boy scout when I was around 6 years old,” said Barton. “I wasn’t old enough to be a Boy Scout at the time but I joined Cub Scouts as early as I could and I began my journey towards Eagle Scout.”

Boy Scouts helped Barton transition into becoming a leader in his community.

“Boy Scouts has impacted me in many ways. When I first started, I was pretty shy but through the course of scouting I overcame my shyness and learned about becoming a leader,” said Barton. “I then started running for leadership positions in my troop and taking leadership training courses.”

Boy Scouts is a way to develop new skill sets. Each new accomplishment comes with a badge. Currently, Barton has earned 35 badges.

“My favorite badge I earned would probably be Lifesaving,” said Barton. “I would pick Lifesaving because it was a challenge and not all of the scouts that participated in this merit badge finished it.”

Even through Barton’s interests in nature he seeks to find a career in different areas of interest.

“I’m not too sure what career I would like to enter, as of currently I am looking to pursue a career in Aerospace Engineering or a Surgeon.” said Barton.

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Beware junior year!

Junior Felix Bosques studies for a Calculus test in the morning before class starts. Though Calculus isn’t an AP course, it is still one of the harder classes of junior year.
Photo Credit: Ryan Lipour

At RAHS, it isn’t uncommon to see a junior student with their hair on fire because of some deadline in their classes. The transition to being an upperclassman brings many stressors such as harder Advanced Placement (AP) classes and preparation for the SAT as well as the ACT. This is all while students must keep up with their extracurriculars and while college applications loom in the distance. But do all of these stressors really make junior year the hardest year at RAHS?

RAHS junior Felix Bosques feels that junior year is certainly not a walk in the park.

Junior year is definitely an intense year,” said Bosques. “There’s definitely a lot more responsibility and more stress as a result of that.”

Aside from his required courses as a junior, Bosques partakes in other opportunities at RAHS as most students do.

“I’m an ASB officer and a member of RAHS’ Ultimate Frisbee team,” said Bosques, “so juggling around the different responsibilities I have with those [duties] is sometimes challenging to deal with.”

In addition to his extracurriculars, Bosques also has to balance the homework load from his AP classes and a job.

“I’m in AP Lang and APUSH, and the homework in those classes is pretty consistent, along with the workloads from other classes,” said Bosques. “To add onto that, I have a part time job some days after

school that ends pretty late, which leaves little to no time to study or do homework.”

All of these factors add up to a strenuous but manageable experience for Bosques.

“It is hard, but it’s hard enough for me to get used to being able to deal with it,” said Bosques. “Junior year is like one of the eternal pits of Hades, in which you burn in it every day, but it’s just another day.”

RAHS APUSH and Big History teacher Michelle Juarez believes junior year can be the hardest year because of the abrupt change between underclassman years to upperclassman years. As students go into sophomore year, Juarez feels as if most students are accustomed to the RAHS environment.

“My understanding from what students say is [sophomore year] is a breeze,” said Juarez. “Spanish or whatever language they’re taking tends to be difficult because it’s just a lot of content, but they have English and social studies down, in math they know what to expect, so they know what to expect of their teachers. Some students don’t do [their work], but it’s not hard in that way.”

However once sophomores become juniors, the difficulty of school completely changes.

“At the junior level, most students take at least one AP class and it’s just a lot more work and the expectations are that you come prepared and ready to do that work in class, every day,” said Juarez.

Without the cushion of teacher support systems, juniors without their own organizational systems can suffer as a result.

“There’s not a lot of the support systems,” said Juarez. “If they don’t have the organizational tools ready, I’m not spending time telling them to take out their planner, or write down their homework. It’s college level work and they might have two or three or four AP classes, and even if it’s not an AP class, chemistry is really hard, calculus is really hard.”

In addition to the rigorous classwork of junior year, the looming future of college and career adds to Bosques’ stressors.

I really want to be a famous musician, but my path to college and the future beyond is still blurry to me,” said Bosques. “I’m at the point where I’m at the fork in the road trying decide which side I should take.

Although junior year can take its toll, Bosques manages the year’s troubles through sacrifice.

“I’ve pretty much discarded my social life at this point in order to focus more on the things that make me happy,” said Bosques. “It’s important to keep a good mental state when facing a lot of stress, and if it means putting aside some personal time, then it’s definitely worth it.”

RAHS Counselor Katie Carper believes that junior year can certainly be the hardest.

“It depends on what classes you choose to take and you’re approach and threshold for work and all that stuff,” said Carper. “I think it can be [the hardest year], definitely.”

Carper advises students who aren’t ready for extreme schedules to avoid taking the most strenuous classes available.

There is a reality of college admissions; you want to take a challenging schedule,” said Carper. “I think 90% of the staff is on the same page of ‘don’t over do it just to look good on paper’. That’s not worth it. You’re going to pay a high, high price if you take 5 AP classes and you’re not ready for that.”

For Carper, learning how to ask for help is a useful skill for juniors, especially those struggling in a class.

“I tell students that I go with them if I need to to approach their teacher and they always end up feeling better after they do that, even if it’s hard, even if you’re ashamed at your grade because you’ve never gotten anything besides a B,” said Carper. “Once you’ve had that conversation you feel a million times better because all your teachers here have struggled. We’ve all had struggles in our lives that we’ve had to ask for help with and if you haven’t learned how to do that junior year is a great time because you’ll eventually ask for help.”

RAHS junior Kayla Hoang believes that junior year is harder than underclassman years.

“Junior year is definitely more challenging, especially with the pressure to take more AP classes and to score a good score on the SAT,” said Hoang, “like my good friend Oliver Low (another RAHS junior), who scored a 1580, and made a YouTube video called “Deciphering the SAT.”

Hoang agrees with Juarez on the lack of teacher assistance making junior year harder.

“Teachers also seem to expect more from you as well, you don’t really have the micromanaging or Lanschool threats anymore,” said Hoang. “Instead, if you waste your time, it reflects in your grade or amount of sleep you get. However, there do seem to be less formal presentations, which always stressed me out in my underclassmen years.”

Hoang is enrolled in several AP classes and is also a member of Satellite Team and the International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC) team.

“I am currently taking 3 AP classes: APUSH, AP Calculus AB, and AP Language. I am part of Space Launch Team, which was formerly known as Satellite Team, and informally known as Joshi’s Propulsion Lab (JPL), where I am currently trying to learn new skills needed to help build a payload for a launch,” said Hoang. “I am also a member of the ISSDC team, and my grade for Flight by Design is dependant on the work that I do in this club-class team.”

Although her class choices and extracurriculars add some stress to her life, Hoang enjoys the work she gets to do.

“These things definitely take up a significant portion of my time, but I truly enjoy doing all of these things,” said Hoang. “Sometimes it makes life a bit more stressful, but keeping an eye on the future and remembering what this is all for makes it more bearable in the worst moments. I also have a lot of friends that participate in the same things, and there’s just a bond you have with someone after you struggle with so much stress.”

Though AP classes are demanding, capable students shouldn’t be too worried.

“I would tell myself that I should not stress too much at the beginning of the year with AP classes, because grades tend to fluctuate frequently, and I gave myself a lot of grief being very worried about those classes, and now I’m pretty content with my grades. I would also start SAT prep around Thanksgiving instead.”  

Whether junior year crushes a student or a student crushes it, junior year is ultimately a learning experience.

“Well, going through a challenging Junior year probably makes it easier for you to go through Senior year, and colleges tend to focus on what we do this year,” said Hoang. “There’s also a rush of adrenaline or stress that seems to be oddly satisfying to me, especially when I finish a test feeling that I good about it. Taking challenging AP classes also sets you up better for college, and helps you learn how to cope with high levels of stress.”

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Competitors face annual Poetry Out Loud competition

Kayla Tran, winner of this year’s and last year’s POL competition, performing “Ways of Talking” by Ha Jin.
Photo Credit: Ryan Lipour

Poetry Out Loud (POL) competitions took place in three different classes this year: AP Literature and Composition, Sophomore English, and Aviation Theater. RAHS English teacher Wayne Storer ran the competitions in Aviation Theater and AP Literature and Composition, while Sarah Fitzpatrick and Mr. Storer ran the competitions for Sophomore English.

POL is a national poetry competition where students pick a couple of poems, memorize them, then recite them in different competitions. The goal of POL is to get students involved with poetry.

“POL helps students learn about poetry in a different way,” said Storer, “other than the scary, oh poetry is so hard and I have to analyze it and I don’t understand and it has so much depth and meaning. It is a different relationship and understanding of poetry, and for many kids, it is a different introduction to poetry.”

Going into the school wide competition, Storer believes that all the competitors are fully prepared, yet can’t emphasize enough the importance of practice outside of class.

“Like most things in school, the more you work at it, the better you get,” said Storer. “If they are preparing, if they are working on their recitation at home, if they are reciting to other people, they will be better.”

In the competitions, students stand in front of an audience and judges, and recites their poem from memory. The objective is to present the poem in such a way that shows a deeper understanding of the already complex piece of work. Storer believes that with a little bit more practice, the students will do very well during the school competition.

“They couldn’t possibly just prepare from the time in class, and win. Period.” said Storer. “They have to work outside of class. From the class competition, it looked like the winners are as prepared as they ever have been in my class.”

Senior Cole Graham won the in class competition for AP Literature third period. Heeding Storer’s advice, Graham prepared his recitation in a variety of different ways.

“I practiced in class in both my Aviation Theater class and my AP Literature class,” said Graham, “but I did most of my preparation in my first period TA class, with my friends. Whenever I would mess up, they would laugh, so I learned how to perform with adversary and distraction.”

Presenting in front of a large group, regardless of how much you prepare and practice, can still be a daunting task. Going in to the competition, especially when you don’t like speaking in front of a group, can be a nerve wracking experience.

“Yes, I was nervous,” said Graham, “because I don’t really like speaking in front of people, but I was excited at the same time. I was nervous that my friends would hold up posters and make me laugh in the middle of my performance, so I was nervous.”

Battling through the nerves, and coming out the other side successful, can lead to a sense of accomplishment and desire to compete further. However, in some cases, the nerves of a larger scale competition can deter students, such as Graham, and take away any interest in advancing further.

“For me, poetry is a private thing,” said Graham. “I write it and I share it with those who matter to me the most, and I don’t want to share my poetic musings with people who may not know me, like the general public.”

With the in-class and school competitions over, the POL recitation winners are looking to expand outwards and compete in larger venues.

“National finals are in the spring,” said Storer. “Students that win their schools go to either regional or state finals, and the winners of the state finals go to the national finals.”

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