Monthly Archives: March 2018

Summit Tahoma and Rainer participate in action-packed Senior Night

By Will Butler

Tahoma Sports Editor

On March 23, the basketball team held Senior Night at Summit Tahoma. The event was pushed back due to complications, as it was originally scheduled to take place during the Summit Tahoma basketball season. An audience of teachers, students and parents attended the the event. There was a three-point contest between the students who chose to participate, plus two games, which were mixed with Summit and Rainier students.

Below is a slideshow of pictures taken at the event:


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Everest, and other Summit students, join nationwide walkout

By Ale Navarro, Rylee Storms and Jennifer Valencia

Staff Writers

Students from Everest Public High School joined the nationwide walkout on March 14, from 10 to 10:17, to pay respect to the 17 victims from the Parkland shooting. Students gathered in the front lot, stepping up to speak out about why they are passionate about having gun control. When each student finished sharing, their fellow students roared applause and yells of approval and motivation. (Click here to see a video of the protest.)

A group of students then set out for downtown. The footsteps of students could be heard along the busy roads of Redwood City. As workers took a look at the students, a few thumbs up were given. A sign reading “Honk for better gun control” was held tall against the wind. As people in cars read the signs, the honking sounds of agreement rang out and student cheers followed suit.

After marching into downtown Redwood City, Everest students were met by students from other schools: Sequoia High School, Woodside High School, Summit Preparatory Charter High School and Menlo-Atherton High School. The quintet of schools gathered in the open cement square in front of the San Mateo County History Museum. Among the crowd, leaders from each school stood tall and yelled out cheers.

The group then moved to City Hall to meet with Redwood City Vice Mayor Diane Howard. Ms. Howard gave a speech to the students, expressing support for their commitment to peaceful protest and encouraging them to seek respectful dialogue. Once the speech was over, the students headed to the courthouse.

At the courthouse, many speeches were made; yells mixed with chants were made to grab pedestrians’ attention. After about an hour more of protest, students dispersed to get lunch and head home.

The March 14 walkout was approved and was able to go forward with the support of the faculty. Everest junior Isabella Gutierrez decided to join the walkout. “I feel that our school has not discussed the issue of school shootings enough, and I feel that with our current administration and the political status of the U.S. this is a very important topic to talk about, considering the difference between Republicans and Democrats and the possibility of our president arming teachers. I also feel that it’s important to find the solution since 7,000 kids have died due to gun violence,” she said.


Everest junior Isabella Gutierrez

Everest Assistant Director Drew Moriates said, “I think it’s really important for students to be able to express their voice in a meaningful way; one of the parts of our mission at Summit and Everest is for us to develop contributing members of society, and I think this is a perfect example of that.”

He added, “I think that the experience is one which people are going to remember for a long time so as a school our job is to do that and to keep our students safe, and I think yesterday we achieved that.”


Everest Assistant Director Drew Moriates

There was a lot of confusion about the communications that were sent to parents and students regarding how Everest was going to approach the walkout. Several emails were sent, the first of which (a note in the school newsletter, excerpted below) stated that parents only had to call the front desk to give permission to their child to participate in the walkout.

Screenshot 2018-03-15 at 11.39.00 AM

The next day, another email was sent, saying that a parent or guardian had to be physically present to sign their child out.

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The day after the walkout, Mr. Moriates addressed the confusion in an interview, saying: “Our procedure to be a part of the walkout did not change; the communication, as always, is if a student is going to leave campus they need to have a parent come physically here to sign them out and allow them to leave. There was some miscommunication in relationship to an email that went out from our Expeditions team and an email that was sent out from our Everest team, so I think that is were there was a gap; but in the end of the day, I think we did a good job communicating with families as to what we needed to have happen for our students leave campus, and that is moving forward any event whether it’s a doctors appointment or a walkout a parent will have to be able to come physically sign a student out and take them off campus because our job is to again keep students safe and in order to do that we needed to make sure that students are in the care of an adult whether the adult is an administrator or whether the adult is there parents or guardian that is on their legal documents.”

Here’s the email the Expeditions director sent out the Sunday before the walkout:

Witte Walkout email

The Expeditions team encouraged teachers to let student leaders present a slideshow they had prepared explaining their plans to march to City Hall following the rally. Here’s the information from the slideshow (which was also published on our site on Tuesday) about how students should engage with the protest:

Walkout slide

The Everest administration attempted to clear up confusion the morning of the walkout by sending a final email:

Screenshot 2018-03-15 at 11.37.48 AM

With all of the confusing and misleading emails sent out, some students, such as Everest freshman Raul Hernandez, said they were unable to participate in the walkout. Hernandez said, “Mr. Lewine told me that if I were to leave they were going to call my parents and tell them that I ditched.”  He added that not being able to march downtown upset him, “but at least I could participate outside.”

The evening of the walkout, Everest administration sent one more email, reiterating their commitment to student expression.

Screenshot 2018-03-15 at 12.10.18 PM

Expeditions Director Lucretia Witte shared similar sentiments in an email statement the day after the walkout:

Witte walkout statement


During the walkout, there was also a group of students who staged a counter protest in favor of gun rights. Everest sophomore Jacob Press spoke of the need to also have their voices heard. “The reason that I voiced my opinion with my other peers is that we felt kinda silenced in some way because all of these other people were having their opinion; we thought maybe we wanted to hear, have our opinion heard, being more pro-gun than other people.”

This group of four to five counter protesters went to speak to the vice mayor about their views on gun control, arriving and leaving before the main group of protesters got to City Hall. “Our goal: maybe just to have our voice heard by the vice mayor, which we did have, and, yeah, that was probably our goal, just to have our voice heard,” Press said.

Here are some additional images from the protest:

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Students from Summit Public School: Tahoma in San Jose also rallied against gun violence, joining with students from their sister campus, Oak Grove High School, to honor the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting.

The images above were captured by Tahoma freshman Kent Williams. Tahoma senior Jasmin Mendoza captured live video on her Twitter feed:

Students from Summit Public School: Denali also participated in a rally. The images below are courtesy of Expeditions teacher Aaron Calvert.

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Everest students march against gun violence

By Anna Scherer

Staff Writer

It all started with a few students who worried about their safety. I, Anna Scherer, and my fellow Everest students have grown up in a culture where there have been shootings – so many that the shootings have become sort of normal, just a part of our world. But, as we saw more people lose their lives to the guns of others, we decided that, along with the rest of the country, we have had enough of guns. So we all gathered to plan a walkout to protest guns and inspire change.

We originally planned to do a 17-minute walkout like the rest of the country, but we extended the walkout to all day so we can stand up for all lives lost in the face of guns, not just the lives lost in Parkland. We want stricter gun controls and for our teachers not to be forced to carry guns, because we believe more guns isn’t a solution. We are marching for our safety and for our lives, so there will never be another shooting.

My fellow planner Tali Beres created a slideshow with the information all students need to know about the walkout.

Tali Beres, an Everest freshman, and Samantha Suchite, an Everest junior, are two of the organizers of Everest’s student-led walkout. They explained their plans, their personal ideas and their influences. 

1. How was the issue of gun control brought to your attention?

“It was brought to my attention because [of] the news of the shooting, and it made me sad that students my age were being killed because someone else had a weapon; and, if you think about it, we could have also been in that position,” Suchite said. 

“It first came to my attention when I heard what school shooting was, when I heard, I heard about Sandy Hook and that the gun was bought legally and it killed so many people and that a lot of stuff is easier to buy than a gun,” Beres said. 

2. Who influenced your passion for this subject?

“A teacher named Ms. Thiele from last year. She brought in my interest about human rights and law,” Suchite said. 

“I would say the media and watching all these other teens stand up for your rights,” Beres said. 

3. What do you believe needs to changed in America?

 “I believe that the mindset of Americans needs to change. By changing their mindset they will be open to new ideas and be able to come up with more, better resolutions that will benefit all parties (lower class, middle class, the rich class, minority communities, etc.),” Suchite said. 


Everest junior Samantha Suchite


 “There needs to be stricter laws on guns to prevent gun violence. There needs to be more respect in our country for students – their voices and their safety. Besides gun control, I believe all people need to be seen as equals. We need a new president,” Beres said. 

4. How do you think you can change these things?

“I think that by putting my ideas, or part of an idea, into motion [that] will start the revolution of a possible new change,” Suchite said. 

 “Standing up and using our voice. Nothing will be done if we are silent,” Beres said. 

5. What outcome do you expect to see from these changes?

“I expect to see an outcome that is similar to what I thought it would turn out or a completely new idea that is heading towards the area of growth and a positive change. I expect to see communities uniting,” Suchite said. 

 “I want to see us get the justice we deserve,” Beres said. 

6. How are you standing up for this cause and how can others join you?

 “I am participating in a walkout that will verbally speak and physically show how much we (youth) would like to have a voice and choice of how to lead our lives. This topic, of guns, is rather very sensitive to the adults, but to the many teens [it] is rather not because many of us see the effects that guns have when handed to people. They are not for protection when they are brought to schools by children themselves. Teens can help by posting on media (after all our generation dominated the social networks) or join us in walkout / marches so our words can actually make an effect,” Suchite said. 

 “I am participating in my school walkout against guns to fight for gun control. Other students are joining as well,” Beres said. 

7. Tell me more about the walkout: when is it and who can participate?

“The walkout is a connection to the 17, TEEN lives lost in a shooting all because a certain student was upset AND at that time had a gun at hand. The walkout is on March 14, 2018 at 9:15 it is either for 17 minutes (for the 17 lives) and the other where they go to City Hall to protect and try to get out voices heard to make an actual change,” Suchite said. 

“The walkout is on March 14 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Anyone from the Sequoia Union High School District (teacher or student) is encouraged to participate,” Beres said. 

8. Why was this walkout organized this way?

“The walkout was organized this way because we thought that 17 minutes of our time would not speak as loud as ditching and making ourselves heard by walking all the way to city hall to speak about this issue. We also thought that by joining together with other schools it would: one, bring more students; two, see that private, charter, and public high school really care and are on the same boat of interest,” Suchite said. 


Everest freshman Tali Beres


“This walk out was designed this way so we all have a voice,” Beres said.

9. What will students do during this walkout?

“We will chant and raise our posters to the public and our (small connection to the) government to show that we want to be involved and take part in choices that meddle with our lives,” Suchite said.

“We will protest for peace and justice. We will use our voices for what we believe in,” Beres said. 

10. Anything else people need to know about in order to participate?

“You have the right to speak and protest and the right to media as long as it is peaceful and mindful then all is good and no violence should be inflicted. Teens should actually fight their way in making their voices heard by the higher-ups in order to get our voice heard and action taken into account, but, more importantly, our solutions to these problems,” Suchite said. 

“There will be a 17-minute protest in Everest’s parking lot, and in order to go to City Hall we recommend you have your parents call and excuse you after 10 a.m. Also please don’t come just to ditch or smoke; that’s not cool or permitted,” Beres said. 


Everest students join nationwide walkout


Everest students join nationwide walkout

By Katherine Enriquez, Ale Navarro, Esmeralda Pacheco and Rylee Storms

Staff Writers

A planned student-led walkout on Wednesday is the latest step in the #NeverAgain movement, a nationwide call for action in response to a deadly school shooting.

On Feb. 14, 2018 in Parkland, Fla., 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz

Cruz made disturbing posts on Instagram and YouTube, posting pictures of guns and writing about his plans to become a school shooter. Despite these clear warning signs, he was able to legally obtain over 10 rifles, one of which he used in the shooting.

Parkland was far from the first school shooting; however, it was one of the most lethal, taking a spot in the top 10 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. So far, four countries have enacted very strict gun laws that have proven effective; the United States has not.

Now, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and many other schools, including Everest Public High School in Redwood City, are protesting in support of stricter gun control.

Nationwide walkouts will take place on March 14. Everest students will be participating, along with other local schools, by hosting a 17-minute rally at 10 a.m. The rally, meant to honor the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting, will be followed by a march to City Hall. 

While most schools are planning a rally, Everest students decided to add a march downtown to emphasize their commitment.

“The walkout was organized this way because we thought that 17 minutes of our time would not speak as loud as ditching and making ourselves heard by walking all the way to City Hall to speak about this issue. We also thought that by joining together with other schools it would: one, bring more students; two, see that private, charter and public high school really care and are on the same boat of interest,” Everest junior Samantha Suchite explained. You can find more information about the planned protest here

The Women’s March movement is supporting the March 14 protests, keeping track of where student-led walkouts are happening and endorsing them.

Following the March 14 protests, students across the nation are planning further action. The March For Our Lives will happen on March 24. The D.C. event will include students who survived the Parkland shooting. There is also a National School Walkout planned for April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine school shooting. 

Here’s a selection of posts from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas student advocates:

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As students advocate for changes to our national gun control policies, it’s worth taking a look at the status quo. Here’s a list of Frequently Asked Questions to help you understand the debate:

1. How do background checks work?

One modern day gun control policy is to have background checks on the buyers. Buyers have to go through a process that includes filling out a form that makes them answer questions about their background and criminal record. The dealer then contacts the National Instant Criminal Background Check System with the buyer’s filled-out form and Social Security number. Private sellers currently are not required to perform background checks on their customers.

2. How extensive are background checks?

At least 90 percent of cases are approved in short periods of times (almost immediately). In some cases a buyer might face a longer process because of a number of reasons, such as having a criminal background, incomplete records or legal cases related to mental health. The FBI then has three extra days to do further research. If the seller does not receive a denial or an approval, the seller can then sell the gun to the buyer.

3. What exactly is an assault weapon?

Although there are many opinions of what an assault weapon is or what weapons fall into that category, one thing is for sure – they all create serious damage. An example of an automatic weapon is a machine gun, which will continue to fire as long as the trigger is held down and the gun still has ammunition. Examples of semi- automatic weapons are rifles, pistols and shotguns, more specifically AK-47 and AR-15 rifles. The difference between an automatic gun and a semi-automatic gun is that a semi-automatic gun requires that the shooter pull the trigger in order to fire another round.

The AR-15, which stands for ArmaLite Rifle, was developed in the 1950s. The gun can cause a tremendous amount of damage to its target while firing up to 45 bullets per round per minute, as stated in its manual. It is able to fire as soon as it feels the smallest touch on its trigger. An AR-15-style gun was used in the Parkland shooting, and some have suggesting banning sales on this type of weapon.

4. How influential are bump stocks?

Bump stocks are specially designed to make firing easier, and they are currently legal in the United States. Bump stocks are dangerous because they can make they gun fire faster than it normally would. As the trigger undergoes compression, the front of the gun recoils against the bump stock. This equipment was used in the Las Vegas shooting, and some (including Trump administration officials) have called for banning any further sales. 

5. Where can I get more information about gun control policies?

The Council on Foreign Relations put together this resource sheet detailing how U.S. gun control policies compare to those of other countries. A German broadcaster put together this list of facts about U.S. gun control policy. Vox compiled this collection of maps and charts to show why the United States has such a unique relationship to gun violence.


Everest students march against gun violence

Local artist speaks about his craft

By Carlos Cortez

Staff Writer

San Jose, a city which has birthed numerous world-changing technological marvels, is not only home to future technological innovators. Rather than crafting consumer electronics, some wish to craft in a different form: visual arts. Enter 15-year-old Summit Tahoma sophomore Ethan Matthew Farro, an aspiring filmmaker and illustrator with a YouTube channel by the name of EMF FILMS. With a subscriber base of 44, his channel is an outlet for his filmmaking projects.

Along with his films, Farro is also a illustrator-in-training, often drawing some of his favorite fictional characters on Post-It notes to maintain his sharp artistic abilities.

Tahoma sophomore Ethan Farro

  • 1. As an artist, what exactly is it that you do and why is that?

“As an artist, I find myself crafting short films and drawing drawings during my free time. I usually draw superheroes from comic books. I find myself drawing Nightwing and The Flash most frequently: Wally West, not Barry Allen – so you guys know. I have a set of characters that I work with for my own films and so, every now and then, I’ll write a script; hopefully, either way I have some sort of narrative, and then I use my video camera and my dad’s tripod and I shoot it. I play all the parts, because, why not? So I put the files onto my computer, I edit them; I upload them onto YouTube so if anyone wants to see them, they can.”

2. What was the motivation for pursuing these art forms? How did you find your beginnings and how long have you practiced these art forms?

“So when I was in, I think, first grade, that is when I started getting into movies. Just watching them, watching them a lot more frequently, and I enjoyed them a lot. I felt like I wanted to be in movies. So a couple of years later I joined a professional acting class and that helped me get an agent. I had a couple of roles in student films, television shows, web series, etc. After awhile I stopped getting professional work less frequently, but I didn’t just want to stop doing film. As I gained some experience on film and TV sets, I realized that I had an interest in the behind the scenes process as well. So eventually I decided, hey, I can just come up with my own characters and write my own scripts and shoot them and edit them – because I have the resources to do so because anyone has those resources.

And for drawing, I’ve always drawn. A lot of times just doodles. A year ago now, I started reading comics. So that got me more interested in drawing superheroes with more realistic proportions. And so, during my free time I find myself drawing very frequently. Now that I have the human body more fleshed out, I try to work on poses and expressions.”

3. Do you believe that these are a viable, financially speaking of course, future for yourself?

“I think that if you can find yourself, if you know how to work your way into the art industry and you think you have the necessary skill, I do think that it’s a financially feasible field to go into. Especially film – if you can get into that film industry and have consistent work, then that would be a great source of money. Because films,especially for actors, pay a lot of money. It’s a matter of getting consistent work; one movie isn’t going to last you your entire lifetime. With art, like drawings, etc., you probably have more consistent work, especially if you’re working in comics; but the paycheck isn’t that great, so you’d probably have to do, like, two or three different titles or do other jobs as well in order to financially support yourself consistently.”

4. Do you believe you have made improvements to your art and what would those be?

“I definitely believe I have made improvements to my art; as I’ve said, the more I draw in my free time, the more realistic my body proportions have gotten, and the more specific I’ve been able to be with expressions, hair, costumes, etc. And with film, I think that I’ve improved. But just not as noticeably, just because I don’t find myself working on my films as frequently. So, I think that just with the experience I’ve had, I’ve been able to make, uh, I’ve had better control over the workings of my films. I think, over time, the more experienced acting I’ve had – I’ve definitely become a better actor. I’ve been able to work out my character’s motivation and goals and sort of become that character when I’m performing.”  

A screen from Farro’s film “Jitterbug”

5. What are some of the common day-to-day struggles you’ve faced while creating a work of art?“Procrastination is my biggest problem. This especially applies to my films and when I try to do something I want to do. I have to put a lot more time and effort into those things, so I get bogged down with the steps, and I don’t want to work. Make sure you’re doing something you’ll maintain passion for.”

6. For positive or negative, how has creating art impacted your personal life?

“Creating art has impacted my life both positively and negatively. It gives me some incentive, and people seem to enjoy my work. However, my procrastination and lack of progress have made me constantly beat myself about it. For a period of at least four months now, I’ve been in a constant self-loathing state because of it; it’s been the worst state of my life. This totally has nothing to do with the fact that I have a gut, totally not at all.”

7. Do you believe that formal training (i.e. art schools and classes) are an effective method of learning to craft art and, for better or worse, why?

“I definitely think art, acting, and film schools are definitely useful. They’re a great place to get experience in those fields and insider tips on getting into and staying in the industry.”

8. What influences from other artist have you taken?

“Mark Hamill has been an icon for me for pretty much my entire life. I think it’s great that he’s been able to find a variety of work in a variety of movies and TV. I’d like to do work in all sorts of movies and TV shows instead of being confined to one type of role, genre or medium. Recently, I’ve also taken inspiration from that while Max Landis is primarily a screenwriter, he’s also been able to write comics and make YouTube videos. Right now, I put my films on YouTube, but I also draw comic characters, and I still want to be in feature films that see theatrical releases, so I admire that Max has seemingly been able to do all of those.”

9. For those aspiring like yourself, what advice could you give to aid in their pursuits?

“I’d probably just say to keep practicing your art, whatever medium that may be in, and don’t just wait to get into the industry. You don’t need a huge budget to make a movie. If you have a smartphone, that means you have a camera (for the love of god, shoot in landscape), and you and your [friends] can be actors and crew members. Most computers come with movie editing software already; you don’t need to start with anything super advanced, just what gets the job done. When the film is complete, uploading it to somewhere like YouTube can definitely be a way to get it seen, but don’t expect it to blow up. The best way to get it noticed on a wider scale is probably submitting it to a film festival. As far as drawing does, anyone with a pencil and paper can draw. Don’t say ‘I can’t draw’ – that’s not true, and I don’t wanna hear it. If you have basic human motor function, you are physically able to draw. Just think of things you want to draw and keep practicing. If you’re trying to become a comic artist, my advice would be to assemble a portfolio of your best art and find a way to show it to a publisher. The best place to do this is probably comic conventions, as there are artists, editors, etc., who you can show your art to. They might want you to work for them. Overall, again, mainly keeping practicing to improve, and make sure you’re still passionate about what you’re doing.”

You can find Farro’s films on YouTube at EMF FILMS. Not all of his art is public, as he does not publish all of his illustrations; however, some of his visual art can be found in his films. 

Featured image (at the top of this post): This screenshot, from Farro’s film “Night of Bonjour,” shows Farro contemplating the meaning of life (as a way to satirize the more pretentious nature of French cinema). 


Student and teachers offer opinions on the LGBTQ community at Tahoma

By Kaitlyn Kelley

Staff Writer

Words are a very powerful tool, especially in a school setting where derogatory words can hurt the most. As kids struggle with self-confidence issues already, we really should reconsider our choice of language toward others. Words and phrases like “that’s gay” shouldn’t be allowed at any school, as they are derogatory and don’t make people in the LGBTQ community feel safe and respected. No matter what their background is, everyone should feel safe at school.

When asked, teachers and students at Summit Public School: Tahoma had strong opinions about the treatment of LGBTQ students at school. A snapshot of their thoughts and answers are included below.  

  1. What are your thoughts on how society treats the LGBTQ community?
Oniris cropped

Tahoma junior Oniris Ramos

Tahoma junior Oniris Ramos and co-leader of the LGBTQ Club said, “The LGBTQ community is very sexualized in society; a lot of media portrays us as very sexually hyperactive people – very like fashionable or butch; lesbians don’t like to wear skirts or gay men can help women fashion problems.”

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Tahoma history teacher Eileen Kim


Tahoma history teacher Eileen Kim responded, “Well, I think there are two different societies: I think the societies on the coasts, the East Coast and the West Coast, are a lot more liberal, understanding and accepting. To be LGBTQ is viewed as more normal, not weird or wrong. But I definitely think there are parts of the country in those societies where it’s a lot different.”


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Tahoma science teacher Alexis Lorenz

Tahoma science teacher Alexis Lorenz had this to say: “I think it’s moving forward, but it’s most definitely not as inclusive as it should be. Currently, [gay] marriage is still frowned upon, and that’s ridiculous; it’s not like current marriage systems are working anyway, with an over 50 percent divorce rate in heterosexual couples. Society is also starting to realize the fluidity of gender; it’s not as binary as we believed it to be. I believe that that’s something that’s going to be difficult moving forward for people who struggle to understand that and be tolerant to that.”

2. Do you feel this school is accepting to the LGBTQ community? Why or why not?

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Tahoma Teacher Resident Kevin Franey

Tahoma Teacher Resident Kevin Franey replied, “I do – I think Tahoma, compared to our larger society, is a very accepting place of people of all backgrounds. We’ve definitely found a pretty good space here for the LGBTQ community. But again, that’s still not to say it’s perfect.”

Ms. Lorenz said, “As teachers, we do our very best to be as inclusive and understand[ing] as possible, but when you work with human beings people make mistakes. I know as a faculty we discuss it often to make sure we are being as understanding and helpful as we can be while keeping all our students thoughts, concerns and feelings in mind.”

3. Have you ever heard someone use discriminatory words to another student? If so what did they say and how did you feel?

Mr. Franey said, “I definitely have heard students use slurs in reference to other students; I’ve heard students call other students ‘gay’ – I’ve heard the word ‘fag’ before. I don’t think I’ve ever heard, like the student involved in this identify as LGBTQ, so I’ve never seen an instance where it was specifically targeted to a student for that reason – but it doesn’t make it any more OK. I know it definitely has hurt students that it was targeted at, and I was not pleased to hear it. I’ll pull aside the student and have a conversation about why it’s an inappropriate word to use at least in that context in that way and make a plan for how we can move forward without using slurs like that.”

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Tahoma freshman Vainey Gonzaga

Tahoma freshman Vainey Gonzaga answered, “At my old school the guys would usually tell each other ‘you’re hella gay dude’ or ‘that’s hecka gay’ to each other; I didn’t like it, but I wouldn’t say anything because they were both kidding around, so they both didn’t care – but, I mean, if I was a part of that community I wouldn’t like it if they said it that much because it’s like shaming them, even though the term ‘gay’ shouldn’t be used with a negative connotation.”

Ramos said, “No, not really – I haven’t heard anything; I’ve heard things you would normally hear at a normal high school like ‘that’s so gay’ and things like that, but nothing hateful, not at this school – a lot of students have friends that are LGBTQ; they wouldn’t say that because they are friends with those people.”

4. In your opinion is calling something “gay” disrespectful or should it not be taken seriously?

Ramos said, “I mean the way people use it, to me, it’s distrustful because it’s used as an insult; if you don’t like something you say ‘that’s gay’ with a bad connotation and it’s not; it should not be used with a bad connotation because being gay is not a bad thing.”

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Tahoma English teacher Merica McNeil

Tahoma English teacher Merica McNeil said, “I think it’s definitely disrespectful, and people often do it thinking they’re joking, but it’s just perpetuating a negative stereotype by using ‘gay’ as a way to insult someone. I think it’s not appropriate and needs to be dealt with, and I try my best to deal with it.”

5. Do you think there should be action taken against these students who use derogatory terms? If so, what do you think should be done? If no, why?

Dr. McNeil said, “I think that the main thing is creating a respectful, safe and supportive environment, and I want everyone to feel that way in school and outside, but I can only control in my classroom. I don’t think it’s acceptable; and, if I hear that, I say something about it. I think it’s important to have students reflect on it; I might pull a student aside and talk to them to ask them questions to reflect on it because that can help the learn and ask questions like ‘How do you think that makes them feel?’ and ‘Is that respectful?’ so they can learn that that’s not okay.”

Ganzaga said, “I definitely do agree that there should be consequences to those who are saying those words or phrases; they should get a warning first time, but if they’re really offending someone it should be taken to the office. The first time should be a warning because maybe they didn’t mean it in that way, but if it becomes a problem it should lead to parent and principal meeting or suspension. If a student is feeling very emotionally offended by the terms that the other student is saying, then maybe other matters should be taken if they’re intentionally trying to hurt someone.”  

6. Why do you think students use “gay” as an insult or negative descriptive term?  Do you think it’s out of ignorance or homophobia?

Ms. Kim said, “Again that depends – as an adult we would have to be a little bit of digging, and that begins with having that conversation. In my existence, it’s important to approach the person in question not from a place of judgement because then they’ll get really defensive and their walls will come up and they won’t be able to listen.”

Ms. Lorenz said, “For most students it’s a little bit of both. I would say they don’t understand the power of their language. Just like you see with the language directed toward women, the language directed towards the LGBTQ community has a very similar effect as it affects how they feel about themselves, and the people who do use it towards women and LGBT community have a bit of a phobia or fear involved in using that language and the best thing is to have a conversation with them.”    

7. If it’s out of ignorance, how should these students be informed that it’s offensive? If you think it’s homophobia, how can we educate them that it’s not acceptable?

Dr. McNeil said, “Addressing it and talking about it helps; however, it affects everyone in the class, and so I think we could bring it up in class. That’s a really good question – it’s something I’ve been thinking about actually; like, for example, using gender pronouns and how to deal with that. I attended at class when I was in Arizona about how to have some of these discussions, and it’s really complicated; you can talk to the student or the class, and it’s something as a teacher I want to talk with other teachers about so we can address every class about it so everyone feels safe, supported and respected.”

Ramos said, “If it’s ignorance, they should just be sat down and talked to. If it’s homophobia, same thing – but with homophobia it stems from things like religion, so there’s not much we can really change with homophobia; we just gotta help them understand.”  

8. Do you think this school is more accepting of the LGBTQ community than others in the area? Why or why not?

Ramos said, “Yes, I do feel like they’re more accepting. When I decided to come to Tahoma (because it was my choice I could either go to Oak Grove or here I chose to go here) because there was no P.E. but I didn’t know there was such a large LGBT community when I got here, I felt very welcomed. I felt like I was able to come out to people a lot easier than I was before at a nonpublic school or non-charter or even non-Summit school. Some schools they say they accept it, but you can tell there’s a lot of negative connotation around it, so yeah.”  

Ms. Kim said, “I don’t know if I can answer that question; I don’t really know what other schools might be like. I have a couple of friends that work at other schools, but those schools are so big I think it’s hard to attribute a judgement to what it’s like at such a big school. So I don’t feel comfortable being able to answer that question.”

9. Have you ever used “gay” negatively in the past, and when did you learn the impact that it has?

Gonzaga said, “I always heard those kids, like I said before, say ‘that’s so gay’ – but we had a teacher that heard them and got really mad and said ‘stop it; be quiet; don’t use that term,’ and they were so confused; and she said that she had said that when she was younger in high school; and everyone went silent; and she explained that she had a good friend that was gay and committed suicide; and this one time they made comments saying ‘that’s so gay,’ and he told them to stop and came out to them; and then a month later he committed suicide.”

Ms. Kim said, “Yeah, I think I did when I was in high school, which was a long time ago -from 1999- 2003 – so early 2000s being gay started being more of an issue, more visible, but people we’re still unsure. I had a friend that I played basketball with and was really good friends with – she came out as gay and immediately people in the school were either on her side and other people in the school were either really hateful or would say ‘you need to come to my church for this conversion therapy.’ Honestly, knowing these people, they were coming from a good place but very misinformed, and I think I said something was gay out of habit in her presence, and I immediately said “I’m so sorry” and ever since then I haven’t said it.”

10. Has society impacted the way we think of these terms?

Ms. Kim said, “I can still remember when Ellen had her show and came out on her show and that was a big deal, and I can still remember it started popping up a lot in T.V. and movies, and it was super controversial back then. Think that was when society started to thaw a little bit on the idea and people’s minds started to be more open.”  

Ramos said, “Society had impacted the way we think of those terms; some people think gay is very negative; some people don’t even want to classify themselves as gay because they’re afraid they get hurt because a lot of people who identify as get hurt or murdered or things like that, and we have to educate people that it’s not a horrible thing to be gay.”

With that final quote from Ramos, if you are wondering, the LGBTQ Club meets every Tuesday at lunch in PF10. The club is open to any and everyone! You don’t have to identify as gay, you just have to be supportive. If talking about these issues is something you’re interested in, don’t hesitate to show up!


High school performer discusses her dancing

By Sophia Nguyen

Staff Writer

April Chen, a freshman at Summit Tahoma, has been dancing for eight years. Earlier this year, she performed a cha-cha routine at the school talent show. Now, she discusses her background and history in dance.

  1. What type of dancing do you do? 

“I do all Latin dances, including cha-cha and many different other dances,” Chen said. “I do Chinese traditional dance and a little bit of ballet. I do mainly solo and partner dance for Latin dance and group dance for Chinese traditional dance.”

 2. Why did you choose this genre of dance? 


Tahoma freshman April Chen

Chen said her mother sent her to the dance studio at first, but she found her dance classes interesting. As for her dance genre, Chen said, “I’m already good at it, so I didn’t want to change.”

3. What made you want to become a dancer? 

“My parents decided to send me to a dance studio because I got sick really easily when I was younger. They want[ed] me to exercise more. But after I have learned many dances and went to many competitions, I like the feel of being on the stage, the feeling that everyone is looking at you,” Chen said. “I like to perform. So, I decided to keep dancing, and I love it.”

3. What external forces (i.e. media, family, role models) influenced your dancing?

“My grandma was a dancer too. My mom had great drawing skills, so I was born in a family with artistic genes. Also, I was weak when I was younger – dancing lets me exercise,” Chen said. “I did Chinese traditional dance first because many other students chose this dance too. For Latin dance, it’s because my dance teachers – they’re really good at it. I liked how they danced.”

4. How does dancing affect your everyday life? 

“I am more flexible. I can accept new things. I have an open mind. I have an appreciation of art. Dance gives me more chances, and I get people’s respect too,” Chen said.

5. What have you learned from dancing? 

“I am not afraid of performing and public speaking. I know many teachers that are great and can give me a lot of opportunities,” Chen said, adding that dancing has made her confident and willing to try new things.

6. How much do you practice in a day? A year?

“I practice three times a week, but I stretch daily,” Chen said. Chen included that practice times might change, but her stretching is consistent. “We learn many dance works, routines and we get used to costumes, music and partners.”

7. What do you hope to achieve as a dancer? 

“I want to perform on the stage. I want to go to competitions. Maybe I will become a dance teacher in the future,” Chen shared.

8. Who are your role models? Why are they your role models? 

Chen said she respects everyone because she could learn from anyone who is more skilled than her in certain areas. “I could learn knowledge from an educated person. I could learn more about how people will act in different environments and situations … so, in some ways, everyone is my role model.”

9. How do you feel about dancing now?   

“When I first started dancing, it was a pain to me. I need[ed] to stretch a lot, and I didn’t like it,” Chen said, adding that she now understands “dancing is good for me both physically and mentally, and it can bring me many chances. I love dance, and I am going to continue dancing.”