Monthly Archives: February 2018

Wellness and Movement helps Summit Tahoma stay healthy

By Will Butler

Staff Writer

Now, more than ever, students of all ages are eating unhealthy diets, and that has caused an obesity epidemic in America.  A new course at Summit Tahoma, which was introduced during the second round of Expeditions, is Wellness and Movement, taught by Danielle Redlin. The course is focused on teaching good eating habits, learning about certain food health benefits and doing daily exercise.


Wellness and Movement students practice yoga. 

On the second day, students watched a Netflix documentary called “Forks Over Knives” about the food industry, how it pollutes the earth and how much it affects animals.

In addition to learning about healthy eating, students also completed yoga practices.


Danielle Redlin leads the students through yoga. 

Ms. Redlin said, “We usually start out the class with either starting or working on a unit – health-related – and then we do movement, whether it is yoga, Pilates, or a cardio workout.”

She said her goal by the end of Expeditions is that students “have a better perspective and understanding of how to be a healthy human being.”

As the obesity epidemic in America continues, Ms. Redlin feels it is important to teach students to eat healthy and to learn about what they are eating. She explained, “There needs to be an overall heavy focus on health and movement in all high schools, especially since kids at this age are starting to get more responsibilities for cooking and eating on their own; but, a lot of times, I don’t feel like they have enough support in making the best decisions for their health because they haven’t been taught a lot of times what is healthy and what is not healthy.”


Tahoma sophomore Derick Ibarra

Tahoma sophomore Derick Ibarra said the most important thing he has learned from the class was “E-coli, because it was a very bad disease, and a lot of kids were affected by it from eating a lot of hamburgers and a lot of processed products.”


Tahoma sophomore Jasdeep Sing said his favorite part of class is yoga. “[It] helps me get energized for the rest of the day,” Sing explained. He added that the most important thing he has learned is that “to lose weight you don’t have to eat pills or do all of the other extra stuff – just eat whole foods, plain and simple.”



Wellness and Movement students continue their yoga practice.



Sing said Summit Tahoma should add some sort of healthy eating information to the curriculum because there is currently an obesity epidemic in America. “People eat a lot of junk food and don’t know the outcome of them eating it,” he said. “So they need to be informed and change all [these] bad eating habits.”

The Wellness and Movement course has a lot more to offer than just simple eating tips and exercises. While it can help students learn about foods and teach them what is healthy and not healthy to eat, it can also help them live a healthier, happier life.


Davis speaks on the community

By Alejandra Gomez and Jasmeet Kaur 

Staff Writers

The definition of community runs far deeper than simply a group of people who live in the same place. Community is a feeling that gives the members a sense of belonging, united through a particular interest and having greater strength together than as an individual. These are all aspects of a strong community which can be found represented by the students and staff at Caroline Davis Middle School.

Davis’ community is very diverse and brings all types of students together. The students more often than not come from middle-class or low-income families, and that aspect brings all the children together, eliminating the social class discrimination found in lots of schools. Staff reported that there is a great diversity in ethnic backgrounds between students, and that seeing them all get along and have cross-racial friends warms their hearts.

Davis is a very supportive, caring, welcoming and extremely “tight-knit” community, treating each other like family. Many students, and even teachers, attending Davis have had parents or even grandparents who have gone to this school, and the teachers often are able to recognize siblings, or even children, of their previous students.


Davis eighth graders Patrick Opilla and Jordan Cooper 

One student in particular described his family’s history at Davis. Patrick Opilla, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Davis, talked about how when he was merely a 3-year-old infant his father coached the boys soccer team and his mother coached the girls team. Following their parents’ path, Opilla’s siblings all went to Davis, and now he attends the school that has been in his family since the day he was born.

This concept of history at Davis transfers to the teachers too. Samuel Barocio, now a history teacher at Davis for three years, talked about how he graduated from Davis, and his previous eighth grade history teacher is now his colleague. Brett McCleary, Mr. Barocio’s previous history teacher, described how when he became a teacher at Davis there were a handful of teachers still there who had taught him when he was a student at Davis, and now he was teaching alongside them as their colleague.

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Samuel Barocio, seventh grade history teacher

When Mr. Barocio became a teacher at Davis, Mr. McCleary, along with his brother Greg McCleary, who teaches eighth grade science, described how it felt being on the flip side of that situation. He said, “We’re the old guys now. For me, the big turn around is just seeing that time really has passed.”

Even though more than 15 years have passed for both brothers, day after day the McCleary brothers are drawn back to Davis because of one sole purpose: the kids. They said, “The kids give us energy. The eighth grade organism is a special age. There’s still a little bit of kid left in them, and there’s a lot of trying to grow up and being an adult and they’re all trying to figure stuff out – really fun group of kids to work with.”

From a history perspective, Brett McCleary explained how recent political landscapes, such as the presidential election, have transferred over to his classroom. He said, “I feel a reinvigorated charge into bringing purpose into why I teach kids civics, Constitution, government, and trying to encourage political involvement, and concern about what’s going on in this country to become a better citizen. Getting up and getting to work is easy now when I realize I gotta roll up the sleeves; I got a lot of work to do. I have to get these kids to understand their roles, their responsibilities and their contributions they’re going to make some day, and that fires me up.”

Greg McCleary, eighth grade science teacher; Brett McCleary, eighth grade history teacher

Mr. McCleary went on to talk about the results of their hard work as teachers. He said, “It’s always cool to see as you get older into teaching you run into ex-students teaching at school with you, or other ones that are researchers for Stanford or they’re working as an engineer, whatever it might be, the whole spectrum. It reminds you that the work we do now, we don’t see the benefits until much later down the road, but, when you see them, it’s like – that’s why we do the job we do.”

The staff at Davis is very caring; they love their students and the vibrant, “family” vibe they feel going to work every day. Many teachers at Davis, although for different reasons, have been at Davis for a very long time. Mike Coleman, a P.E. teacher for eighth graders, has been at Davis for 34 years.

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Mike Coleman, eighth grade P.E. teacher

He said what brings him back every day is the challenge and atmosphere of being a P.E. teacher. Mr. Coleman explained that being a PE teacher isn’t as easy as some would believe. He said, “I have to figure out, just like everyone else, ways to engage students, to motivate students, and I have a game plan every day. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and I usually will try to do a self-evaluation to see what worked and what didn’t. I just try to bring my A-game every single day.”

Mr. Coleman went on to explain that having a Physical Education class is very important for students because, besides all the health benefits and healthy habits they take with them, P.E. teaches kids skills they won’t learn in a classroom such as teamwork, leadership, perseverance and real-life problem-solving skills. It also helps children at this age of 12 or 13 to develop camaraderie, which is vital in building strong relationships as they move into high school.

His views on P.E. are shared with his colleague, Nicole Benson, who is also an eighth grade P.E. teacher. When asked what brings her to work every day, Ms. Benson replied, “It’s one of those jobs that doesn’t feel like work. It’s a part of what you do every day.” She said that the kids at Davis are very compassionate and respectful toward all the P.E. teachers, and, along with them, the community, her colleagues, and sports drive her to come back every day to instill healthy fitness habits in all of her students.


Nicole Benson, eighth grade P.E. teacher

She also believes that P.E. should “100 percent” be offered in all schools, not only because of health benefits, but because of the fact that many kids don’t know much about sports, and the exposure to sports at this age teaches them about the accountability that comes with being on a team, which transfers into real life when they will have to work with a team and know how to take responsibility for their actions.


Angela White, seventh grade P.E. teacher

Along with helping develop skills needed to move forward into their lives, teachers try to develop a healthy student-teacher relationship that they hope will last a lifetime. Angela White, a seventh grade P.E. teacher, described her relationships with the students. She believes that at the middle-school level, kids are wanting adult interaction from people other than their parents because of the fact that in elementary school they are always around adults, so in middle school they want to get to know the adults and establish a friendship.

Davis employs some teachers that are very young, and the students have a chance to get to know them on a more friendly level instead of just the “you’re my student; I’m your teacher” relationship. Mrs. White explained that she likes to keep in touch with her students even after graduation because she really gets to know them and she becomes their friend, not just the woman who made them run a mile every week.

Along with healthy student-teacher relationships, student bonds at Davis seem to be decent as well. Davis’s “team system” brings together many students who might not have ever spoken to each other before.

The team system at Davis started four years ago, and students are randomly put into groups — accounting for IEPs (Individualized Education Programs), English Language Learners and GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) students — for a balanced team. Each team has a group of four teachers for the core classes of math, English, science and history, and all students in the team have the same four teachers. Teachers reported that this was a great step in a positive direction because it allowed them to get to know their students better and offer more support to kids who need that extra push.

Students love the team system because they get to spend more time with the friends they make in these teams, and there are competitions between teams to see who has the most spirit, bringing the students closer through teamwork and the desire to achieve a common goal: to be the best team.

In addition to the team system, student bonds and the community are strengthened through school spirit days and rallies. Davis has many fun and engaging spirit days, including Pajama Day, Disney Day and Crazy Hair Day, that help connect the students in an entertaining way. When asked about rallies, eighth grader Jordan Cooper shared, “Rallies are the things that get you hyped up – once you’re done with your class and you’re tired, and you wanna get hyped up, go to a rally and it’s really fun. You can just go see some of your friends.”

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Green Team at the rally

Along with school spirit, Davis provides students with many opportunities. Some programs offered at Davis are art, foreign language and also the chance for eighth graders to be a teacher assistant, teaching them about responsibility and working with people outside their age group.

Students say that the art program is really fun and engaging, and I, being a previous student enrolled in the art program at Davis, believe that art class is very fun and gives you confidence in your own skills because of the way it’s broken down to help students get more advanced over time. Davis offers kids the option of Spanish or French for foreign language, which gives the kids more variety as to which language they’d like to learn.


Art work from art class

Some more programs offered at Davis are band, GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) and CJSF (California Junior Scholarship Federation). Davis has a very advanced band program, which has won many first place trophies all around the world. They travel far, to places such as Disneyland, to perform and compete. The GATE and CJSF programs allow students who excel the opportunities for scholarships in college.

On the flip side, Davis teachers also offer students who need extra help the support they need, by staying after school or during lunch to help anyone who asks for it. The McCleary brothers talked about how Davis’ partnership with the Boys and Girls Club also helps the students and them in providing the students more help.

Brett McCleary said, “There’s a Boys and Girls Club next door that has an actual homework center, and most of the kids get the help they need there.” Greg McCleary said that this lightens the load on teachers and described their partnership with the Boys and Girls Club as a “luxury,” and stated, “I appreciate that, and I’m sure the kids do too.”

Davis also offers a variety of sports to their students such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, track and field and cross country, for both boys and girls. They also have a softball team, which is offered to only girls. Students talked about how much they love the sports teams at Davis. Many kids are very committed to the sports they play, and they said being a student athlete puts a lot more pressure on their school life.

“Being a student athlete is more difficult than being an average student,” Kahary Redmond stated. “Basketball affects me because it makes me want to work harder as a student and an athlete. You have to focus on your grades because, if you don’t focus on your grades, that means you can get cut from the team, and you don’t want that.”


Eighth grade basketball team, 2016-17

Cooper also talked about how being a student athlete affects his school life. “You gotta do your best just to stay on the team. As a student you gotta focus on your grades, and as an athlete, you gotta focus on your skills. You have to find a good balance.”

Dominic Price, a seventh grader, said he comes to school every day because of basketball, and it makes him want to do better in school to stay on the team.

A lot of changes have taken place in the 50+ years that Davis has been around, especially to the campus. Kim Kianidehkian, the principal at Davis, talked about the “Beautification Process” that took place. She said when she arrived at Davis, she started meeting with the superintendent and creating a plan for what was needed at Davis in order to create an “equitable, safe, clean and attractive” environment.

She continued, “Because of the budget crisis that’s been going on in California for a long time, the exterior of our building was neglected. Our district was able to pass a bond that allowed us to bring an influx of money into school beautification, so we created a plan with the superintendent.” She also explained how the original plan was supposed to take only a year but has turned into a four-year process for transforming the exterior of Davis. There have been changes in landscaping, restoring covered walkways for rainy days, and a fresh coat of paint for the school, along with decorative fencing around the school that also helps in lock downs, if needed.

The art students at Davis also contributed to make the campus pop. They have given ideas for some of the walls and murals that have been painted.

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In addition to campus, the community and spirit at Davis have also changed a lot. Mr. Barocio talked about his experience from when he was a student at Davis to now being a teacher. He said, “The amount of spirit here has been greatly increased from the time I was here. Things like teams have really helped to improve the spirit, and rallies – we didn’t have that when I was here. Just seeing the kids wearing their different team colors, it’s definitely a cool thing to see. The campus spirit has increased drastically, and I believe it’s for the better.”

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Rally Games (SOURCE:

Overall, many changes have come upon Davis, but the one thing that stayed the same is the community. The vibe at Davis has always been welcoming and bright. The community is very supportive, caring and hardworking. They are determined to make the experience the best they can for the students, and, if someone slips, someone else is always there to pick up the slack and fix it. Greg McCleary explained that this is his favorite aspect about Davis. “You gotta make do with what you got. You don’t hear people here complain. They just roll up their sleeves and fix it, and that’s what I love about this community.”

Here are some additional photos of the Davis community as it undergoes restoration:

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Psychology class is a quality new addition to the Tahoma community

By Troy Pansoy and Trevor Wilson

Staff Writers

In January 2018, during the second session of Expeditions, Summit Public School: Tahoma offered a new psychology option for students who were willing to change their focus mid-year.

We went to the new psychology class to learn more about what was being taught and why students were willing to switch to the new class halfway through the year. We were also interested in how the students were engaging in the class and whether they thought they would be able to apply what they were learning to their own lives. We interviewed Vaughan Wilkins, the psychology teacher, and some students; we also sat in on the class.

When we first got to the classroom to observe the class, we entered into complete silence as the students worked independently on their computers. It was so quiet that I was afraid to open the foil covering my sandwich.  The silence continued for the rest of the work period.


Tahoma senior J.J. Desalvio (right) works on psychology projects.

We asked Mr. Wilkins what his greatest interests are for this class. He said the area that he is most focused on is “eco-psychology” or “being part of a healthy ecosystem.”

The kind of community that Mr. Wilkinson wants to build is a “supportive” one. He elaborated on this by saying, “I don’t want anybody to feel scared to share their ideas.”

On the first day I watched the class they did an activity where Mr. Wilkins made statements and students stood up if they agreed and remained sitting if they disagreed. This activity helped build community by creating a safe, non-verbal way to express your personal opinion.

The class includes times when Mr. Wilkins talks and teaches the whole class, times when the whole class participates in activities and times when the students work independently on their projects.


Mr. Wilkins delivers a whole-class psychology lecture. 

As I sat in and observed, I noted that the class was more than just reading about psychological experiments. Mr. Wilkins talked about interesting events and experiments that involve psychology. He grabbed the students’ attention with a story of a person who got a steel pipe through the top of his mouth and into his brain and survived, but his personality changed from the injury.

I learned that psychology is not just the study of how people behave in certain situations but also the study of biological implications of how our brains work. The students’ projects also focused more on those biological implications, specifically the effects of certain drugs on the brain.

What they did first is choose a drug that affects the brain, such as LSD or Methamphetamine. Next they researched the drug. They researched topics like its beginning, its effects on the brain and behavior and its medical uses.


Students in Tahoma’s psychology course complete independent projects. 

The presentation about LSD was quite interesting. There was a part where they talked about how it causes mood changes and how a naturally occurring form of the chemical might have caused the witch hunts. After they talked about the witch hunts, they talked about the actual physical reactions humans have to LSD.

Mr. Wilkins has norms in his class; specifically, he wants his student to be “respectful.” How do his student feel about that? Do these norms leads to a healthy eco-psychology? Many of the student responses were quite positive.


Psychology students prepare for their class presentations. 

Noah Rouleau, a Tahoma junior, said the class is “challenging and quiet, but I have friends.” He considers it to be a positive environment.

When we asked Rouleau whether the class was stressful he said “yes,” but he also said it is “stressful but I am learning a lot.” The fact that he enjoys the content enough to list it as a positive should speak for itself.

His actions reflect this positive environment. Rouleau worked diligently. At the end of the week, his hard work paid off when he made a good presentation.


Psychology students research how drugs affect the brain. 

We also interviewed Isaac Lemus, a Tahoma junior who had a similar response. When we asked if the class was stressful for him he said, “Not as much as I thought.”

When asked if he thought he’d be able to apply what he learned in this class to real life, Lemus responded, “If people asked me about the brain, I could easily tell them what I know.”

Tahoma freshman Amanda Ahn was still new to the class when we first interviewed her, so she had not done any activities yet. She was hopeful that this class would teach her a lot that she could apply to real-life situations.

When asked why she changed classes mid-year, she said, “I changed because my last class was chaotic and was really loud, therefore I couldn’t concentrate.”

When Ahn was doing her group project, she thought it was very easy. She really likes the class because it’s not stressful.

When I asked what her favorite thing about psychology was, I was shocked because her answer was, “What I like about psychology is the fact I can actually learn something.”

Like the other students, Ahn was doing her project about drugs. When asked what she was taking away from her project, she responded, “I’m going to be careful and be more cautious around drugs.”

After our interviews and shadowing in the new psychology Expeditions course, we feel that Mr. Wilkins has created a healthy eco-psychology, a community where the students are not overly stressed and are able to share their opinions and what they have learned in their projects.


Psychology students finalize their class presentations. 

Expeditions classes work together to make a community

By Gabriel Benyamin, Noel Cintron and Vaibhav Gopal 

Staff Writers 

Video Production is an Expeditions class that works on filming and acting. Vince Nelson teaches the students how to use cameras, how to work the lights and how to act. Students also learn how to record on camera.

Video Production class involves directors to run the skit, filmmakers to film what is going on in the skit and the editor to edit different scenes of the skit. Also, in Video Production Mr. Nelson invites visitors to come and talk about their experience acting and the art of filming.

In the class, Tahoma junior David Provazek wants to learn “what kind of things go into the production and how this profession looks like.” In addition, Provazek added that they “get to watch shows and create a film to be a actor.”

As the rest of the students were watching a movie in Video Production class, three student directors were taking notes on what the movie is about. The scripts were given by the teacher.

Mr. Nelson allows students to pick what job really fits them, such as the boom operator who makes sure that the microphone is not in the frame when filming starts.

The director is in charge of everything such as guiding the filmmakers, actors and the student directors. He is the one who makes sure that they have the right actors for the film. He is also in charge of making the scripts for the performers.

The sound mixer is the one who makes sure the audio is very good quality. The script supervisor is in charge of making sure the actors know what they are saying and making sure that they memorize their lines.

The cameraman has a good job in filming. He is in charge of recording, angling the camera and making sure the lighting is good. Then there’s the editor. The editor is in charge of fixing all of the takes and making all of the scenes good for when the films are shown to our parents and teachers.

The Assistant Director, also known as the AD, is in charge of making sure the camera, sound and lights are rolling. Finally, the art director is in charge of making all the clothes for the actors so when they perform they have the right clothes on.

Students had audition in order to be selected to become actors. The director is the main person who brings the whole team together. This round, students from the drama class were also given a chance to audition.

Mr. Nelson said that he is really creative in film, and he wants to express his art. According to Mr. Nelson, community means helping others learn the craft and coming together as a whole community. His goal for his class this year is to enlighten his students about the art of film and to allow his students to use modern equipment, while teaching them through his experience.

Mr. Nelson’s strategies to help his students succeed during the next three rounds of Expeditions are to allow the students to teach themselves when he gives them instructions.

Provazek said he chose the class because he “thought it might be interesting.” He added that he wants to learn what goes into production and “how this profession looks like.” Provazek thinks that “he does not have much experience” in video production so he does not want to be an editor or a cameraman.

Tahoma sophomore Ricardo Robles said he enjoys the class. “I like cameras, taking pictures and making videos,” he explained. Robles added, “Making videos because I like taking videos of actors.”

Tahoma senior Alan Hill said, “I enjoyed the class because I saw an opportunity to develop my leadership skills by becoming a TA.” He said he likes “helping others learn the craft and coming together as a community.”

Before students go on stage, a lot of practice and memorization is involved, and the actors take it very seriously. Mr. Nelson explained that he wants to make students  “improve their knowledge of editing, directing, acting and lighting because it is important to know all of those things in film” before presenting them to the class.

During everyday Expeditions classes, Mr. Nelson makes the students practice presenting in front of the class with the cameras.

In conclusion, the Video Production class involves a lot of work inside and outside of class in terms of actors memorizing their roles. Students frequently get to watch movies to learn techniques they can apply to their own films.

Here are some additional photos of the Video Production class in action:


Classes work together to make a community

Students and faculty appreciate Helen Farkas

By Kristian Bekele and Micah Tam

Staff Editors



Ms. Farkas, along with Expeditions teacher Lissa Thiele and her son Skylar, takes a selfie. 

Helen Farkas, a beloved member of the community and an honorable Holocaust survivor, recently passed away. Ms. Farkas was a grandmother figure to one of the Expeditions teachers, Lissa Thiele, who encouraged her to share her story with a number of Summit Public Schools as part of the History of the Holocaust course.

Summit Prep freshman Dariana Pacheco Rodriguez shared, “[Ms. Farkas] was strong enough to survive and share her story, and that just really inspired me.”


Summit Prep freshman Dariana Pacheco Rodriguez 

Ms. Farkas is a renowned author and Holocaust survivor who wrote Remember the Holocaust: A Memoir of Survival, a memoir recounting her personal experiences in the most infamous concentration camp, Auschwitz. Ms. Farkas inspired many by sharing her story in local high schools and by establishing the Helen and Joe Farkas Center at Mercy High School in San Francisco.

Ms. Farkas was born in Romania and grew up in Hungary before she was forcefully moved to ghettos and later shipped to the concentration camp Auschwitz. She had to endure a long and torturous death march until she and her sister successfully escaped.

At Summit Preparatory Charter High School, many students remember the lasting impact hearing Ms. Farkas’s story had on them.


Evelyn Aguilar poses with Ms. Farkas.

Summit Prep junior Evelyn Aguilar explained that it helped her realize the privilege of living in the United States. She went on to recall something that Ms. Farkas said to students: “It’s beautiful that you guys get to grow up in a place where you don’t have to worry about going through something I went through.”

Through Ms. Farkas’ efforts to spread knowledge about the importance of the Holocaust, both Rodriguez and Aguilar agreed that they gained a much more vivid understanding of the historical event and a greater appreciation of the circumstances they grew up in.


Below is a video of Helen Farkas sharing her story for the Burlingame Public Library:

Featured Image (at the top of this post): Ms. Farkas and Ms. Thiele attend “A Night To Remember,” an event meant to show the atrocities that the Roth family suffered through during the Holocaust.