Cross Country sprints to CCS


RUN LIKE YOU MEAN IT! Freshman Sophia Xiao dashes her way through miles of terrain

By Jacqueline Nguyen

Both Girls Varsity and Boys Varsity teams will run at CCS (Central Coast Section) Championships, taking place tomorrow at Crystal Springs Cross Country Course in Belmont, Calif.   JV and Varsity Cross Country teams raced against other schools at League Championships at the same cross country course last Monday for the chance to compete at championships.

To prepare for League Championships and CCS, runners have been disciplining themselves, doing many tasks to keep their health up and their game strong.  According to Varsity runner Eric Wei, runners have been training since a month before the school year started.

“We put in a lot of energy and time because practice is six days a week for Varsity,” he comments.  “We (wanted) to do well enough to make CCS again.”

JV runner Mabel Orais has been doing what she can to get herself through the rigor of practices.

“I’ve been pushing myself hard during practice and trying to eat healthy,” she explains.  “Usually, after we run, our muscles are really sore so we roll each other out.  That usually helps us out with our injuries.”

A big challenge faced by runners is the fatigue in legs caused by strenuous and continuous running, according to Varsity member Iris Wu.

“In general, as the season goes on, our legs get really fatigued,” she elaborates.  “It takes a lot of upkeep.  We need to take care of our legs.  We need to make sure we’re stretching, and I think it’s just a lot of wear on our legs as the season goes on.”

Although they’ve made it to championships, members of the Varsity teams who will compete in championships remain humble, hoping for everyone to try their best.

“We’re mostly racing against our personal best,” expounds Wu.  “We’re trying to do the best that we can to represent our school.  We’re not particularly out there to beat a particular school or anything like that.  We’re just out there to do our best.”

Runners mainly attribute their successes in League Finals to the support of coaches, friends and family.

“The thing that contributed to our success is probably our coaches that have supported us throughout the whole season,” comments Varsity member Bryan Chu.  They put us through the right training.  They put us through all the miles we ran.”

League Championships marked a bittersweet end to the season for many runners, especially for the seniors, since this is the last year they get to run with the team before heading off on their own paths.

“This season we were all really tired,” remembers Wu.  “It’s a lot of hard work, but I have a lot of good memories with Cross Country.  The people I hang out with are the people I’ve met from Cross Country, so it’s kind of bittersweet knowing the season’s ending because (Cross Country) is something that really impacted my life in a positive way.”

Orais will miss the friendships she has made through cross country.

“It’s really sad because you get really attached to them and it’s like you’re family now,” she reminisces.

Pretty little jealousy: the Britneys and the Felicias

By Jacqueline Nguyen

It’s spring.  The blossoming flowers spray their perfume and joy across the campus, the sun is no longer already setting by the time Homework Center closes up and friendships are breaking.  It’s the most wonderful season, filled with lots of laughter and excitement for the nearing end of the school year.  This is especially the case for the seniors.

“OMG guys I got into MIT,” enthuses Britney as she whips out her phone to show the pristine e-mail to all her friends.

“I totally don’t hate your guts right now for getting into my dream school,” exclaims Christina, her head turned down with burning emotions because of Britney’s joy.

Oh but it gets even merrier!

“She only got in because she’s famous,” Felicia assumes.

“OMG!  Bye Felicia,” Dana dismisses Felicia.

Don’t believe me?  Ask Natalie Portman.  This is exactly what Natalie Portman felt was going on when she started attending classes at Harvard University.  She thought she wasn’t smart or serious enough to be amongst America’s finest and more, and after tiring herself out with serious Hebrew literature and other super serious courses, she eventually rekindled her love for acting during her four years anyway.  It’s that little voice in her head that told her she wasn’t insert adjective enough for insert top school name that perfectly illustrates what’s wrong with our society.  We, moreso teenagers and parents at Senior Honor Night who clap only for the kids who are heading to prestigious and—wait for it—top schools, weigh far too heavily some ranking based on random factors (graduation rates, selectivity, purpose, etc.) to “objectively” quantify the quality of education.  Most people don’t even know how companies such as US News and Forbes rank universities.  There’s no reason to use rankings as something more than an aid in the college search, like the popular determinant of one’s worth.  These companies will tell anyone the same thing.

However, it’s when the Felicias come and spoil the fun for whoever got into insert school name that really irks me.  Why can’t we all be happy for Britney for the fact that she got accepted into a school that she wanted to get into?  What happens if Britney decides to go to a state college or some school nobody’s really heard of?  Is Felicia going to just patronizingly say “oh you poor thing” as she looks away in absolute disgust?  I have witnessed all of these situations with friends and acquaintances before and they all prove one thing: we care more about where other people go to more than where we’re going ourselves, and all it does is bring out the ugly in us.

I think it’s unfair to blame ourselves for instigating this type of behavior.  I think it’s mainly nurture, some nature.  We grow up in a world where our parents tell us to work hard to get straight A’s and the perfect SAT score in order to go pre-med at Stanford, at least for most of us.  That kind of rubs off on us subconsciously.  It’s still completely unfair to compare the girl who got into Harvard to the girl who got into San Jose State.  The girl who Harvard accepted isn’t a god and will tell you such random worshipping is bogus.  The girl who got into San Jose State isn’t a mere plebeian among the inferior masses.  They’re just people.

Why is it so extraordinary and rare that someone got into one of the top three schools in the nation?  It doesn’t mean anything besides the fact that insert school name sees his or her awesomeness.  And even then, not getting accepting into US News’s top ten schools does not mean one isn’t awesome, just like how the fact that Chris Evans’s abdominal muscles have never achieved People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” title does not mean they aren’t the sexiest man alive.  Although the students are notorious for having the class make time to give the girl who got into insert top school name a standing ovation, sometimes even the teachers and adults subconsciously get a little too excited about their students.  I realize that it’s all in good intentions.  However, it does more harm than good when the teacher or adult takes time out to congratulate the one senior who got into insert top school name, but doesn’t for all the other seniors.  For the many other students in the class, it doesn’t promote a healthy image of going to college.  The action is effectively reinforcing the notion that us students have to get accepted by these schools in order to somehow impress society.  Either congratulate them all or leave it up to the students to announce their acceptances to whoever they choose.

The way top schools pick their students is more random than it is some arithmetic formula for quantifying the perfect student.  Of course there are the test scores, GPA, essays and all that jazz.  But what happens after an applicant makes it through the door?  Ex-interviewer for and alumnus of Yale University Ben Orlin explains, “With so many uber-qualified students lining up, top colleges don’t—as you might expect—look for the ‘very best.’  They don’t even operate on a single, well-defined notion of what ‘best’ means.  Instead, they pick and choose.  They go for balance.  They’re just trying to fill their campus with a dynamic, diverse cohort of freshmen.  Consistency and ‘fairness’—whatever that would mean—have nothing to do with it.”  Ex-University California at Berkeley application reader Ruth Starkman quit his position because of how hair-rippingly confusing the arbitrary process of admissions really is.  It all boils down to a rapidly increasing population reaching for a set number of spots.  They’re just looking out for own interests.

I know it’s hard to not be a Felicia and be a good person.  Most people just don’t have the kindness in their hearts to feel good about someone else when they’re not doing as well as they’d like.  College acceptances can be a horrible experience for most.  I know.  I get it.  By the time this is published, I probably am going to be in the middle of inputting my name and address for all the UCs I’m applying to.  I’m not asking everyone to fundamentally change who they are.  I just expect everyone to have the decency of at the very least applauding, even if one has to force it, and congratulating the girl who got into Harvard AND the girl who got into San Jose State at Senior Honor Night.  We don’t need to start wars over something that has such a trivial impact on our lives.  No one really wants to end high school, or the school year, on a negative note.  Save your energy for the next four or ten years of your lives.

All students, repeat after me: The college I go to does not define my mental ability, my future jobs (well, for the most part) and most importantly—my worth.  It does not elevate me above others.  It doesn’t mean I’m not smart enough or whatever enough.  Now’s the time to focus my energy on the future.

And to the seniors: It’s our last year.  Let’s not make it a bad one.


Author’s Note: Britney and her friend group are all fictional characters and do not represent specific individuals.

Annual MLK Jr. contest returns

By Angel Palomino

As the yearly Martin Luther King contest comes around again, students are surprised at what they are capable of.

“(Science teacher Matthew) Trask had his science class do the contest last year and they got first place for the school,” expresses English teacher Nancy Kennett.

Every year the contest will accept an essay, poem, drawing or a short performance (stills, animation, live action music).  Last year Mr. Trask made his science class participate in the contest by having the students write essays that related to science.

“I wanted to inspire my students to be better science writers, and better communicators, and they were very positive…they know how to write an essay and worked hard, and they also spent a lot of time in the computer labs,” jokes Mr. Trask towards his participation last year.  Last year’s winner for Piedmont Hills was senior Jade Tran from Mr. Trask’s third period.

“I’m grateful I was able to share my appreciation for Martin Luther King, meet talented people from other schools at the awarding ceremony and see their amazing work,” states Jade Tran.

“Even though this year is more challenging, I’m still going to do it,” replies Mr. Trask

“It’s been a tradition in the district for over 30 years,” exclaims art teacher Noreen Rubay.  “It’s nice to have some applications from students who aren’t in your art class, and that most students act anxious when they turn it in, but they are surprised when they win.”

“Most students act anxious, happy when they win,” states art teacher Van Nguyen.  “The Art Department receives somewhere around 12 through 15 applications (every year).”

This contest will have a district prize of $250 and a school prize of $100 for first place and $75 for second place.  The submission due date is next Monday and first place winners will be submitted to the District’s Office Mon., Nov. 23.

Red Cross to host biannual blood drive

By Kyle Nathan Sumida

Red Cross is hosting its biannual blood drive next Friday in the school library from 9am to 2pm.

Donors will be donating blood, which will then be distributed out to local medical services around the Bay Area.  During this time of the year, accidents are more prone to occur, meaning that more patients are in need of blood transfusions.

“On average, just to maintain the blood supply for each day in San Jose, you need about 450 pints.  Our blood drive tends to raise about over 60 pints per drive,” informs Co-president Grace Chit.  One donation can save up to three lives.  “While we are one of the larger high school blood drives in the district and in the Bay Area, it’s still not enough.”

Members of the club will be distributing appointment cards to students that are interested in participating.  Walk-ins are permitted, but Co-president Neil Brahmbhatt advises to plan ahead and be aware of the requirements.

“It’s good to look over the requirements to see if you’re eligible, so you do not waste class time,” informs Neil.

In order to become a blood donor, you have to be at least 16 years of age with a signed waiver from a legal guardian, which is needed by next Monday.  Those that are 17 and older are not required to turn in said waiver, but there are still height and weight requirements regardless of age.  Male students are required to be at least 5’1” in height and weigh 110 pounds; the requirements for female students vary upon each added inch.

Female students who weigh at least 110 pounds but are shorter than 5’6” must be at a minimum weight to qualify: 4’10’’ and 146 pounds; 4’11” and 142 pounds; 5” and 138 pounds; 5’1” and 133 pounds; 5’2” and 129 pounds; 5’3” and 124 pounds; 5’4” and 120 pounds; and 5’5” and 115 pounds.

Those that are seeking to become a blood donor should start consuming more iron-rich foods, such as seafood, poultry, red meat, beans, dried fruit, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables.  A lack of iron in one’s blood system may postpone their donation.  To encourage healthier eating habits, the Red Cross Club will be hosting a feast today.

A blood drive representative from the Blood Centers of the Pacific will be assisting the officers and members of the club during the event.  Other Red Cross clubs in our district will also be having their own blood drives, but not through the Blood Centers of the Pacific.  During the event, free refreshments and complimentary T-shirts will be provided for the participants.

Answer the prompt—and other essay tips

By Kylie Cheung

“The spaghetti burbled and slushed around the pan, and as I stirred it, the noises it gave off began to sound increasingly like bodily functions.”

This was the opening line of a Stanford Admission Essay.  The student got in.  Perhaps stirring pasta by itself doesn’t impress the way a prestigious summer program does, but here the student writes a banal action in a manner that engenders intrigue.  Only a rare individual could think up this sort of analogy and assert it as a personal introduction.

The college admission essay is not the sole determinant of acceptance, yet it plays the vital role of a medium through which you can prove yourself as more than letter grades and test scores and logged extracurricular hours; it communicates the essence of who you are.  Challenging? Yes—so here is some advice on how to craft your essay:

Analyze the prompt.  Break it down and identify the parts it asks you to write about.  Your essay must address all parts.  The second UC personal statement prompt, for example, asks for three things: something you’re proud of, why it makes you proud and how it relates to the person you are.  Many students begin by agonizing over choosing what they’re proud of.  However, the last part of the prompt is just as or even more important.  Sometimes starting there and working backwards is easier.

Analyze yourself.  The essay isn’t really about your talent, club, inspirational role model, etc.  Whatever your topic, it has to reveal who you are, your personality and dreams.  Think of words that might describe you, what your passions are, what motivates you to get up in the morning.  One thing may grab you by the heart and refuse to let go.  Write about that.

Reflect.  Sift through the memories that have stuck to you through the years.  Try to pinpoint whatever helps kindle you awake with the determination to live each day.  The events that have happened to you, the people you’ve met and the choices you’ve made have all molded you into the person you are now.  If any of them mark pivotal periods in your life, you can write about them.

Tell the truth.  Admissions officers can detect lies.  Resist the temptation to glamorize or invent in the hopes of a better chance of being accepted.  Stay honest.  Stay open.  Stay yourself.

Focus your topic.  You are not cramming a comprehensive portfolio of all of your good points into your essay.  Within a small word limit, you can’t afford to ramble about generalities.  Paint a small but detailed self-portrait as if you had a one-inch picture frame.  Trying too hard to seem well-rounded will lead to failure—a circle is made of infinite points and none of them have substance.  Avoid tangents and dig deeper, not wider.

Be specific.  When you consider something important to you, you’ll likely know it in detail.  Add in those details.  Gushing about what you love proves how much you love it.  The advice “show, don’t tell” applies here.  Anyone can claim a life-changing experience, but not everyone can corroborate that claim with evidence.

Tell a story.  Narratives tend to enrapture more than exposition does.  Most good stories leave the character changed by the end, developed into a stronger and better person from facing obstacles and not giving up.  You want admission officers to root for you in the same way you root for your favorite characters.

Stay humble.  Your essay is not for bragging about your achievements.  Instead of being cocky, credit other people in your life for what they taught you.  Admit faults and insecurities; displayed vulnerability indicates more confidence than a perfectly polished ego.  Readers want to see if you can overcome failures and learn from mistakes.

Be confident.  At the same time, don’t put yourself down.  Even if you want the readers to pity you, build your essay to uplift by the ending.  You may have difficultly liking yourself where you are now, but don’t minimize your progress from where you used to be.  You’ve had tough times, but you’ve made it through them and that is worth celebrating.  Keep writing and rewriting.  You can do this.

Get feedback.  Ask your English teacher, an older sibling, a grammar-obsessed friend or anyone else who can offer constructive criticism.  In the end, though, it is still your essay.  If you absolutely want to write something, don’t let others hold you back.

Remember your self-worth.  College application essays, when done well, can help you in self-discovery.  You will grow and discover more about yourself later in life, but in your current stage you are still a unique person.  No one else has your same exact experiences, talents and passions.  Learn to believe you carry a special mix of traits you alone can contribute to a college campus and to the world.


Which AP classes should I take?

By Walt Leung

With the early admission deadline for most schools having passed and the UC application deadline looming closer, there are tall tales of students applying with 12 AP classes while others are applying with none.  For seniors, the dilemma of choosing classes is over; for freshmen, sophomores and juniors, it has just begun.  How many AP classes should you take?  Which subjects should you take?

First off, the quantity.  For many, we load our schedules with AP classes to get accepted into college.  However, it is never advisable to do so at the expense of grades.  Any college will value a high GPA over an overworked student.  Applying to Harvard University with twelve AP classes and a 2.0 GPA doesn’t help your chances as much as eight AP classes and a 4.0 GPA. Grades first, classes second.

With that being said, colleges will also want to see that you actively challenge yourself.  It’s up to each student to navigate the fine line between keeping grades up and taking more AP classes.  Also, applying with eight AP classes won’t make too significant of a difference from applying with nine, but that extra class senior year may take away valuable time from college applications.

Even more important than the number of AP classes to take is which subjects to take.  This question is a little more straightforward; most of it depends on intended major.  A computer-related future?  Invest heavily into mathematics and physical sciences.  A medical-related future?  Invest heavily into biological and physiological sciences.

For those wishing to seek college credit, check in advance.  Many universities are highly selective with which AP courses exempt classes.  Do not be the student stuck with great scores on AP exams that won’t net any credit.  For example, Stanford University doesn’t award AP credit to a “5” on History exams, while the UC system will award credit for scores “3” or higher.

With that in mind, there are a few classes that are arguably more important than others.  For example, AP Language and Composition for juniors and seniors.  Regardless of your future profession, socializing and networking is an inevitable part of any occupation.  It may not be important to know how viruses infect cells when programming Javascript, but communication is inevitable on any job, and there is no better practice than learning how language itself is used.

On the other hand, many admission offices over the country place emphasis on specific AP classes: Calculus A/B, Calculus B/C, Chemistry, Biology, English Language and Composition, in that order.  Doing well on these classes can determine whether you get the thick acceptance envelope or the thin rejection one.

Ultimately, this doesn’t even factor in the sports we play, the clubs we immerse ourselves in, the relationships we build.  But two guidelines will never change: do not take more AP classes at the expense of grades and keep your future in mind.  And perhaps most important of all, please do not compare yourself to somebody else based on the number of AP classes you take.  As big of a fuss as we make about classes now, in the grand scope of life, the number of AP courses you take in high school really is trivial.

Artery beautifies science halls

F.02.Artery paints Science Halls.Michelle Fong

ART! Senior Iris Chiang evolves her painting of Charles Darwin.

Photo: Michelle Fong

By Michelle Fong

Artery has been painting the science hallways since last month, decorating the blank walls with the faces of famous scientists.  The project began when AP Biology and Forensics teacher Jason Dries commissioned Artery to beautify the halls.

“We’ve had really boring halls for 50 years.  The time is done,” Mr. Dries declares.  “It was also a way to showcase student artists (and) have them do something that everyone can see.”

To start off the project, Mr. Dries presented Artery with a list of ideas for the mural, ranging from pictures of scientists to random chemistry and physics equations.  Then, the time-consuming process of sketching and painting began.

“We mostly spend time during art class or Wednesday afternoons to work on the mural,” notes Treasurer Sharon Lee.

The first part of the mural, which can be seen on the wall outside of chemistry teacher Lope Macasaet’s classroom, is a portrait of Charles Darwin, who is known for his theory of natural selection.  Other possible portraits include Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  Artery has decided to take it one step at a time and focus on one part of the mural before starting another.

Many students and staff appreciate the ongoing mural project.

“It’s neat that we’re giving some artistic expression to science,” physics teacher Lance Aberle remarks.

Others are excited to view the final product.

“I really can’t wait for it to be finished,” exclaims junior Evan Sum.  “Hopefully there are some physics puns so that when I feel down and I go through the physics halls, it can cheer me up!”

The length of the project depends on how much funding Artery will receive from the Science Department.

“We hope that the mural can be finished by the end of the school year,” expresses Sharon.

PHHS swimming pool to undergo renovations

By Michelle Lin

Scheduled to begin this winter, the PHHS swimming pool will undergo renovations costing approximately $3 million, according to Principal Traci Williams.

For years, the school has had several problems with its swimming pool.  Such issues range from chipped tiles on the floor to the shallowness of the swimming pool.

“I think the pool renovation is a much-needed project,” claims Ms. Williams.  “The pool area will be converted from having two individual pools to one large supersize pool that will have a deep end and a shallow end.”

According to the district website, the East Side Union High School District currently has plans to renovate the pools of seven schools in the district.  For all seven schools, the cost to remodel is about $21.6 million, which is approximately $3 million for each of the schools.

“It’s a lot of money because (they have) to do some extra constructions to make the area the right size for the renovation.  It’s going to be very, very expensive, and it’s going to take a little over a year.  It’s scheduled to start in December,” asserts PHHS sports director Peter Simos.

Because the renovation will take such a long time to complete, it will conflict with not only the swim team’s season this year, but also with the swimming units for the freshmen PE classes.

“We won’t have a swimming as a (PE) course until probably spring of 2017.  Where it’s really going to affect is our swim team this year, and we’re going to be practicing at Independence (High School),” states Mr. Simos.

“Practicing at Independence will affect practice schedules, and it’s just really hectic,” anticipates swimmer Maxine Gutierrez.  “But pool renovations are definitely worth it, since comparing to the other schools where we have meets, they all have better pools than us.”

Despite the several unfortunate events, the swimming pool’s renovation does carry many positive aspects that will help improve the school.

“(The swimming pool) will be able to accommodate diving and all the PE classrooms, so it’s just going to be a new and exciting addition to the school,” mentions Ms. Williams.

“Once we have the pool, we’re going to have a safer facility,” acknowledges Mr. Simos.  “It’s just going to be a better facility for both PE and athletics.”

ACS to host movie night

By Valerie Nguyen

Tonight, ACS (American Cancer Society) is hosting a movie night from 7:30pm to 9pm at the Senior Glen to fundraise for cancer research.  In honor of cancer awareness, the club is presenting The Fault in Our Stars, which follows two teenagers coping with the disease.

“We chose to play The Fault in Our Stars because it tells the story of how cancer can change someone’s life dramatically whether they are suffering with it or they know someone who has it,” comments Vice President of Activities Martin Ruiz.

The goal of the movie night is to raise money for the club’s Relay for Life team.  The club will participate in Relay for Life this summer.  This year, their target is to earn $2,500 to donate to the American Cancer Society organization.

Relay for Life is a 24-hour event, where not only ACS comes to support, but also other clubs and people of the community.  Participants are asked to walk for bids and awareness of cancer research.  The event provides activities such as zumba, karaoke and lantern-making in memory and admiration of those who have dealt and passed away due to cancer.

“Relay for Life is utterly amazing.  It’s an event where you really realize how many people are actually affected by cancer and how many different experiences everyone has,” expresses President Eden Conghuyen.  “I’ve met some of the most genuine people here and it’s my favorite day of the entire year.  Every time I bring someone new, they are amazed by the community network that is created and always want to come back next year.”

ACS invites everyone to embark on their journey to fight cancer and strive for more cancer-less birthdays for those suffering.  The club is involved in cancer walks, card making for cancer patients and hospice visits to give back to the community.  It is always accepting new members throughout the year and encourages everyone to join to promote cancer awareness.

Study smarter, not harder

By Elaine Zhang

In a little over a month, finals shall descend upon the school.  In order to survive with your grade intact, incorporate the following tips into your studying regime.

Start reviewing at least two weeks before finals week.  Start studying early enough to ensure that you can cover everything in all your subjects.  This also will prevent you from staying up until 4am the day of the final frantically cramming.

When you are studying, turn off and put away all electronic devices.  If you wish to study with music in the background, find music without words.  Study in 25 minute sections, taking a five minute break between each study session.  After three sessions, take a longer 15 minute break.  Set up a reward system for your studying.  For example, you can give yourself a small snack every time you finish a page.  This studying style is known as the pomodoro method and there are various apps that can be used to enforce it.

See if you can find out what type of test your final will be.  Studying for an essay will be different than studying for a multiple choice test.  This can also ensure that you will not be surprised on the day of the test.

Take the notes you took during the semester and condense each chapter to half a page long. This helps ensure you understand the main ideas, while letting you review all your notes.  Study from the condensed notes.

If a teacher offers a study guide, be sure to study the questions carefully; the teacher would know what’s going to be on the test.  Understand all the topics mentioned in the study guide.

Find the old tests and quizzes you took throughout the semester, if your teacher returned them.  Teachers often use similar questions and cover similar topics on their finals, so they are great review guides.  Make sure you review the questions you got wrong and understand why you missed them.

When the day before the test comes around, make sure you get a good night sleep, at least eight hours.  If you started studying earlier, this will be doable.  Otherwise, you might end up falling asleep during a test, or blanking out

The day of your finals, eat a good breakfast.  As the old saying goes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Eating breakfast can help your thinking ability and jumpstart your day.  Also, it can help prevent you from starving during a test and distracting yourself.  Make sure the foods you consume is healthy.

Finally, and most importantly, read the question.  You will never get points if you don’t answer the question.