Author Archives: Kristian Bekele

Students share about the impact Sociology of Law left on them

By Kristian Bekele 

Staff Editor 

Sociology of Law offers students an opportunity to explore an in-depth analysis of American society through the laws and legislation that have been passed and the overall societal implications those laws have. The main emphasis of Sociology of Law is for students to be able to see how legislation can affect not just a specific group of people, but, in the end, the overall society.  

Summit Prep junior Vanessa Conteras found that being a part of the class has inspired her to become an active member of her community. She said, “It shows everything that we need to do as the youth.”

To see more, watch the video linked below: 

Featured Image (at the top of this post): Students lead a discussion during the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.  

How the future of journalism is changing in the internet era

By Kristian Bekele

Staff Writer 

As the intersection of news and social media is merging at a faster rate, there are various questions that come up with the use of the Internet as a tool for informing the masses. How does the monetization of news websites and “click money” affect the quality of reporting? How does the Political Correctness culture — mixed in with multiculturalism — affect the honest issues that people need to talk about?

Two teachers at Summit Preparatory Charter High School in Redwood City gave their perspectives on how the journalism industry is affected by the internet and by the new political and social movements that have occurred within the last couple of years.

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Chris Kelly, history teacher at Summit Prep

Chris Kelly is the eleventh grade AP U.S. History teacher at Summit Prep. David Tellez is also a history teacher, but he instructs students in Modern World 1 and 2.

Both of them have had experience working in the journalism industry, with Mr. Kelly working for various publications, most notably as an editor on The Dolphin Log, a quarterly publication on the history and culture of the San Francisco Bay, from 1993 to 2005. Mr. Tellez was a part of Univision as an intern for Community Communications in Los Angeles before becoming a teacher.

With both of them having experience in the journalism world and as history teachers, they have the ability to analyze the historic and local impact of news and how it affects the lives of people.

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David Tellez, history teacher at Summit Prep

One of the things that greatly influenced the rise of interest in the news is the terrorist attacks that occurred during 9/11. During that time, Mr. Tellez himself was in high school, and he said that the way that he and his classmates were often informed was through the lens of satire. He remembers watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and being informed through him.

Compare that to now, where people are now informed through various news publications such as HuffPost and Breitbart, to name a few. Mr. Tellez sees this trend of people mainly focusing on what they want to hear instead of diversifying their input from news media, and he said that most people now are “more polarizing.”

Mr. Kelly was an editor at the time, and he said that he has seen the expansion of news media since he was younger (mentioning the dominance of news stations such as CBS and NBC) and that in general people should look at different news sites such as Buzzfeed, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He sees that people (especially his students) need to be able to check the credibility of the media that they watch, and that “a part of teaching is teaching how to do this.”

But then the question comes up about how people should deal with PC (political correctness) culture. It’s a rather hot topic in general, with both sides having solid arguments as to the definition and the implications that can come with implementing these “social norms”. Both teachers agreed that PC culture can be used as a positive tool to allow for communities to further understand people, but at what cost?

Mr. Tellez said, “I do think that to the extreme Political Correctness is harming. It is negating conversations that need to take place.”

Mr. Kelly also said, “The proliferation of all these people that have something to say is something positive. It is a reflection of the First Amendment.”

Both of them agree that the use of people that need to have their voice heard is high, but there should be a point where people should also be respectful of the questions that come as a result.

Mr. Tellez gives an example with his mentor group having questions about theology, culture and race in the group.

He said, “If we were trying to create a safe space, my white students would not be able to ask the questions that they wanted to.”

For instance, if someone posed the question about the differences between Hispanic, Latino, and Chicano, they would not be able to ask this question under the norms of political correctness.

Mr. Kelly also agrees with Mr. Tellez’s statement. He said, “It can shut down the conversation.”

Mr. Tellez also adds that when a person is offended, they need to fully talk it out. Otherwise, their grievances will not be fully addressed, which makes a more divided community.

With the 2016 elections and the comments that have been made by President Trump about fake news, the news media is slowly starting to change. Mr. Tellez said, “I’ve seen news organizations focusing on informing the public on the presidency. There is a shift back to Edward Murrow style of reporting.”

Edward Murrow is an iconic news reporter from the beginning of World War II who was known for putting his life in danger for finding the truth.  was famous for his reports during the McCarthy scandal in the mid 50’s. With the reporting and the investigation that Mr. Murrow did, he was able to clear the name of Mr. Radulovich through his television show See It Now on CBS.

This is where Philip DeFranco comes in. Philip DeFranco, or sxephil, is a YouTuber who specializes in news reporting, even though he doesn’t call himself a reporter. An article in the LA Times described him as the “Walter Cronkite of the YouTube generation.”

I have been watching him since 2013-14, and I constantly go to his news analysis and commentary because of how honest and factual he is.

Mr. DeFranco has a method of introducing a story. He first gives the facts of what has occurred and then gives his opinions (no matter how polarizing), and that is why I appreciate him. In an interview with Forbes, Mr. DeFranco said that “even now, every time I open my mouth, I’m potentially alienating someone. But I think that’s the only way to have the conversation. That’s why I’ve formed it the way I have.”

The intersection between honest reporting and wanting to make profit from advertisement revenue is a rather wide gap and sometimes, content creators can be (for a lack of another word) singled out due to the content that they have created. This mostly means that they would be blacklisted on many advertisers.

With Mr. DeFranco, it was due to the controversial videos that he makes; for instance, in this video he informs the audience about the protests against Milo Yianoppolus and Martin Shrkeli’s speech at the University of California-Davis. Mr. DeFranco puts forth the argument that those against Yianoppolus and Shkreli should not be quick to shut down their voices, even if the speakers’ ideas are against what the protesters believe in.

Such arguments about free speech are a rather touchy subject to talk about during our political moment. Mr. DeFranco’s argument also ties back to what Mr. Tellez and Mr. Kelly said in regards to PC culture and the negative effects that can have in creating a dialogue.

Philip DeFranco is able to step out of the boundaries of both sensationalism and political correctness to bring about news reporting in a clear and honest way.  This makes him “not advertiser-friendly.” In August 2016, YouTube made public that if there was any content that was deemed “not advertiser friendly” (one of the categories was any talk about political conflicts, natural disasters, tragedies and war even if the images are not shown), it would be demonetized.

This means that people who use YouTube as their main income source will basically be censored if they talk about the political, social and economic issues occurring within the world due to their inability to get money from the advertisements that run on their videos. YouTube has the legal right to do this (since they are a private company), but it’s more of an ethical issue. By demonetizing the new generation of news analysis and commentators, then their opinions and voices will not be heard.

The scary part is that this announcement is not anything new. According to Ethan and Hila Klein of the popular h3h3Productions channel, they have been having this problem at least two years before due to the tags that they used.

At this point, it’s just whether journalism and journalists will be able to coincide with the advertisement driven companies and (to a greater extent) us, the people as consumers of media? In order for the truth to come out and the people involved to make a living, there needs to be some sort of way that they can get money. The one possible way that this can happen is through the purchase of subscriptions to news sites. Otherwise, there would be advertisements on every web page and that can easily be remedied using ad-block. As John Oliver said in his observation of the journalism world on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, there is a balance that needs to be obtained with the consumer and the producer.

Otherwise, the truth will be buried under clickbait.

Featured Image (at the top of this post): Journalism students Eliza Insley and Cici Logan pose for the Summit News website banner. PHOTO CREDIT: Kai Lock

Summit Prep students show their families what they have learned in Expeditions

By Kristian Bekele 

Staff Writer  

On May 25, Summit Prep students demonstrated all that they have learned to peers and parents in what is known as the Celebration of Learning showcase. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., students from the Expeditions classes Education Pathways, College Readiness and Sociology of Law showed off what they learned in the eight weeks of Expeditions.

Education Pathways 

In Education Pathways, students learn about the educational system and its flaws from an educator’s perspective. Students went to schools and shadowed teachers as they learned about the achievements and problems of educational systems.

For their final product, students got to choose between modeling their career pathways and how they would achieve their goals or highlighting a specific flaw in the educational system.

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Summit Prep freshman Armando Sanchez and sophomore Brandon Kerney look over Kerney’s final product.

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Summit Prep junior Angela Chung shows her plans to attend Cornell University and Harvard in order to achieve a career as an architect. She said that the reason why she wants to be an architect is because she likes how architecture combines various elements such as math, drawing and design to make structures.

 

College Readiness 

College Readiness is a mandatory course where juniors learn about college and the application process. Summit Prep juniors showcased their college applications to fellow classmates, teachers and parents. As part of their final product, students made a slideshow demonstrating what colleges they wanted to go to, the necessary qualifications and their reasoning for choosing those schools.

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Summit Prep junior Paola Godoy presents her college plan to her mentor Bree Hawkins.

 

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Summit Prep Dean Mary Beth Thompson talks to her mentees, Juan Reyes and Jesus Pichardo, about their college choices.

 

Sociology of Law 

“There is no such thing as a good person or a bad person, only good and bad choices.” S. Dawson’s quote is something the Sociology of Law class learns from the moment they step inside the classroom commanded by Expeditions teacher Lissa Thiele, who also serves as a Juvenile Justice Commissioner.

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Sociology of Law teacher and Juvenile Justice Commissioner Lissa Thiele

During Celebration of Learning, the class had a Socratic Seminar involving parents and students debating whether armed guards were allowed in schools. The topic was thus because the class had been studying the Second Amendment and mass shootings. They had watched a documentary on Columbine earlier in the round, and the documentary was still fresh in their minds.

During the Socratic, the group discussed mental health because a majority of school shooters have been shown to have mental issues. The topic of damaged masculinity was also brought up early in the conversation.

Damaged masculinity is when a man’s masculine qualities are destroyed by someone finding and exposing their weakness and ridiculing them for it. Because most mass shooters are men, this damaged masculinity plays a huge role in the number of youth dying per year from mass shootings.

At the start of the Socratic, parents and students who participated seemed to agree on one thing: In different situations, people feel safer with armed guards, but they don’t feel safe with an armed guard in the school.

Staff Writers Micah Tam, Tyler McGuire and Darya Worsell contributed to this report. 

Students learn to appreciate their culture in the Bay Area

By Kristian Bekele and Micah Tam

Staff Writers

Being in the Bay Area means that there is a vibrant enough mix of cultures within our small sphere, at least in the means of ethnic and cultural diversity. But within the great mix of different kinds of cultures, how can one learn to appreciate their culture?  

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Student journalist and junior at Summit Preparatory Charter High School, Kristian Bekele

I, Kristian Bekele, was born in Ethiopia. I arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare airport on July 17, 2007. But it took me several years to fully appreciate the culture and the people that I came from.

Before we dive into anything else, yes, there are cultural differences between Americans who identify as African and those who identify as Black, which is why the term African American can be misleading. It can end up being rather complicated as to who is who, but the difference, in my mind, can be summed up to this: those who identify as African have parents/grandparents who came straight from the continent and still have some connection to the culture; those who identify as Black have ancestors who lost contact with African culture due to the deliberate separation of families and communities during slavery.

This was something I greatly experienced when I moved from Ethiopia to the United States. I went from a place where everyone had the same values, culture and beliefs to a place where I became a minority. This led me to be confused about how to identify myself.

On one hand, I was African. I came from the continent and became a resident in the United States. On the other hand, I was seen as Black, but I did not have the same experiences as many Americans who identify as Black because my ancestors were not subjected to slavery and segregation in the United States.

It was within the last five years or so of being a citizen of the United States that I have started to identify myself as Black and to check the “Black/African American” box when I’m filling out forms that ask for racial identification.

Living in Menlo Park, I also was in an area where there aren’t that many Black people, let alone those who are African. It also didn’t help that my features are “racially ambiguous.”

This led me to have a large disconnect with my culture. On the one hand, I am racially identified as Black, but I primarily identify with my Ethiopian heritage.

It wasn’t until I was in the seventh or eighth grade where I started to once again connect back to my culture like speaking Amharic. Also, the creation of the Habesha community famous Twitter page Buna Time (I discovered this page last year) allowed me to connect back to my culture in a way that was never available before.

One of the ways I have furthered my understanding of the cultures that make up Ethiopia is reading about its history and talking about that with my parents. As a child, what I had heard about Ethiopia’s history was mainly about the communist government, led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, Haile Selassie, Tewodros II and King Menelik II.

My parents didn’t participate in all of the cultural aspects of the typical Ethiopian culture. For instance, we were not Ethiopian Orthodox, but instead Pente (non-denominational).

I also wasn’t exposed to much about the different dialects and languages throughout Ethiopia since I moved at such a  young age. As I look back at my experiences in exploring and understanding who I am, I see that both my faith and my culture greatly influenced me.
 In both areas, there is the idea of freedom being a human right. Freedom is something that is emphasized within the Ethiopian culture because of the independence that Ethiopia had throughout the Scramble for Africa. With Christianity, it’s the belief that Jesus Christ came down and saved all, and that the freedom that is found with Him is accessible to all.

I’ve been able to not only discover myself and what my identity is, but also to understand the large role my cultural experiences play in the world view that I have.

As Lissa Thiele, who teaches courses on the Holocaust and Sociology of Law for the Expeditions team, said, “People think race and culture are the same, but it’s not.”

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Student journalist and junior at Summit Preparatory Charter High School, Micah Tam

I, Micah Tam, was born in San Francisco, California. I am half Chinese and half Taiwanese. Amidst the whole China and Taiwan political drama, it’s kind of a weird position to be in.

Growing up in the Bay Area, I feel that I have been in a pretty protected bubble when it comes to racism or cultural ignorance. Living here, it seems that I am surrounded by people of my race or at least similar race, which led me to the false pretense that there are a lot of Asians in America. Little did I know, that coastal cities are where many Asians live, whereas many states in the middle of America have few Asian citizens.

I also attended a Chinese immersion preschool in San Francisco then moved to Burlingame for primary school at Franklin Elementary School. There, the majority of the students were either White or Asian.

It wasn’t really until middle school that I experienced some mild racism. Nothing really major such as physical or emotional bullying, but some incidents still stuck out. Some of my classmates would throw around phrases like “ching chong” and ask me what it meant, or they’d make comments about how small my eyes are.

Like Kristian, I consider myself to be pretty “racially ambiguous.” Maybe that’s because my skin is a bit darker than the stereotype of how East Asian people have perfect, smooth, pale skin, but people usually are surprised when I tell them I’m Chinese. They usually go on to guess every single major East Asian race before they finally give up.

Because of the mild racism and racial ambiguity, I felt stuck with my identity. I was uninspired to have pride for my culture.

Also, like Kristian, it wasn’t until I found different social media accounts like @asians4thewin and @asiangirlsunite on Instagram, that really encouraged me to have pride in being who I am.

The accounts that focus on Asian American pride and cultural awareness brought up the injustice and problems that Asians face, just as many other minorities in America face prejudice. I learned about acts such as yellow face and yellow fever, which was people of other races trying to look stereotypically East Asian. I also learned about White actors depriving Asian actors of roles that are written to be Asian, such as how Emma Stone played a half-Chinese, half-Hawaiian woman in the film “Aloha” or how Scarlett Johansson is playing a Japanese woman in the upcoming film “Ghost in the Shell”.

Connecting my ethnicity, my culture and my identity to real-world problems made me realize that there is too little recognition of the misappropriation of Asian culture and too much injustice for me to feel ashamed of who I am. I started getting sick of laughing off racist jokes and seeing blatant “whitewashing” all around me.

We, Kristian and Micah, encourage you to learn more about your culture and identity and take pride in who you are. Spread cultural awareness so that everyone can be understood and accepted. All in all, don’t forget to love yourself, and don’t be afraid to be unconditionally you. 

 Related: 

Cultural awareness builds understanding between Americans

Experts offer strategies to be more culturally aware

Cultural awareness builds understanding between Americans

By Kristian Bekele 

Staff Writer 

Cultural identity is something that we all have either encountered or will encounter later on. It is a confusing mess of terms, cultures and ethnicities. Even through those basic identifiers, there is something more complex to a person besides the environments that they have been raised in that influence them greatly.

We had two members of the Summit community share with us their opinions of culture and how their identity shapes them.

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Rasmia Shuman, a junior at Summit Prepatory Charter High School

Rasmia Shuman (Mia to her friends), is a bright, fun-loving and outgoing person. She is a junior at Summit Preparatory Charter High School in Redwood City.

Shuman explained that her devout faith in Islam is a large part of her identity. Shuman is a young woman who is not afraid of showing and teaching others about her belief in the Qur’an and about how she follows its teachings. In an interview with her, she told us about how her culture of being a Muslim American has affected her.

She stated that culture was “not me, but it forms who I am.”  

Shuman also talked about how Arabs are often negatively portrayed in the media. She said that, often times, the media portrays Arabs as “not completely peaceful” and also said that her culture is “not the way people see on the news.” The media assumes “every Arab is angry, not peaceful, and wishes hate on everyone.”

She also shared how being a Muslim American has been for her and how she is able to balance the various aspects of her life.

Shuman said, “Being Muslim is a part of my culture.”

She also said, “Basically, I have been raised that not everyone knows what’s going on. Keep a smile on your face and not take anything offensive.”  This is in reference to whenever people tend to ask her a rude question concerning her identity as a Muslim, especially those around the hijab and women’s roles in society. For Shuman, the hijab is not something that inhibits her. Rather, she sees it as a way to be modest.

Shuman also shared about the conflict that can often time come with being a Muslim American. One of the struggles that she had was with her daily prayers. Specifically, she was talking about the Salah (the five daily prayers that Muslims perform every day according to the Quran) and juggling that with attending school. “I do keep up with my prayers, but there’s school and other things. But I don’t want to clash with being American and Muslim.” Shuman instead prays at home, scheduling her time to fit in her school work with her religious duties.

But overall, she is immensely grateful for living in the United States. “Being in America is probably the best place to be,” Shuman noted. She cited the incidents in Germany and France, with the recent ruling of Angela Merkel to ban burqas and  France’s ban on the burkini.

In the end, she sees herself as a representation of what it means to be Muslim. Shuman said, “I want people to have a good portrayal.”

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Lissa Thiele, Holocaust and Sociology of Law Expeditions teacher at Summit Public Schools

Lissa Thiele, an Expeditions teacher who specializes in Holocaust and Sociology of Law, also focuses on how to teach others tolerance toward other people’s identities.

Ms. Thiele achieves this goal by having lessons that are both exciting and informative. She highlights for her students that schools don’t always take an in-depth look into different cultures, even though that is an important part of what shapes our country.

“I think that culture is a set of human traditions that can have a relationship to race, ethnicity, gender, religion that is passed down from generation to generation.”

One of the things that Ms. Thiele mentioned was that, for her, a lot of people tend to forget that she also has Puerto Rican roots alongside with her Jewish heritage. “People think that the culture equals race, but it doesn’t.”

Ms. Thiele also told us about the differences that she tends to encounter within the understanding of the practice of Judaism as a religion versus the beliefs that are a part of the Jewish culture. She added that, for outsiders, this difference is hard to see, especially in the United States.

She explained that the Jewish experience in Israel can be very different than the Jewish experience in America: “Judaism is both a religion and a culture. There, it’s either you’re religious Jewish or cultural Jewish. In America, those lines are totally blurred, but in other parts it’s not as blurred.”

One of the things that Ms. Thiele emphasizes is that she believes in the things that she teaches. She said “what I teach is what I live.”

Of course, she has some concerns about how to pass her mix of customs and cultures to her four-year-old son, Skyler. Since he is half Jewish, she is concerned over how he will be able to understand the different aspects of his ancestry and not be ashamed about itsince her husband has German roots. Ms. Thiele said, “My son, I have a bit of concern over…One-half of him wanted the other half of him dead.”

At the culmination of everything, she wants the world to know that she is also human and that, while she might not practice the same things that others do, she can still feel pain.

Ms.Thiele said, “I always want to be for real with it, but I don’t want people to see me as less than human … If you punch me, I’m going to hurt just like you.” 

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Expeditions teacher Lissa Thiele and Summit Prep junior Rasmia Shuman share a moment.

Related:

Students learn to appreciate their culture in the Bay Area

Experts offer strategies to be more culturally aware

Summit Preparatory Charter High School celebrates International Women’s Day

By Kristian Bekele and Micah Tam

Staff Writers 

On March 8, 2017, Summit Preparatory Charter High School honored the women who have changed our lives as a way to join the conversation sparked by the observance of International Women’s Day. This day is meant to celebrate all the accomplishments that women have brought toward the advancement of the world.

Teachers from Summit’s Expeditions team coordinated different workshops to highlight women’s rights and to show appreciation for women by having students learn about feminism and discuss the struggles that women still face in our society.

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A poster in Room 16 shows appreciation to the “superwomen” in students’ everyday lives.
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During one workshop, students were asked to write down male and female stereotypes on sticky notes in order to identify existing social constructs.
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Summit Prep juniors Talia Herzberg, Anna Becker, Rasmia Shuman and Sophia Demarais show their pride by wearing red.
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In Room 1, students watched a video showcasing sexism in Hollywood.
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Outside of Room 11, posters placed on the wall inform the community about International Women’s Day, the #DayWithoutAWoman movement and the Women’s March.

Aaron Calvert, who teaches Entrepreneurship for the Expeditions team, shares his views on gender equality and shows appreciation to the strong women in his life.

Lissa Thiele, who teaches a course on the Holocaust and genocide and a Sociology of Law course for the Expeditions Team, shares her knowledge about female partisans during the Holocaust.

Ms. Thiele continues her discussion of female resistance figures during the Holocaust.

Brooke Hein, who teaches a course called Food for Thought for the Expeditions Team, shares a personal anecdote about how she realized her privilege when she stayed in Mozambique during her time in the Peace Corps.

Featured Image (at the top of this post): Summit Prep seniors Stephany Flores, Alexandra Garcia, and Giselle Canseco dress in red to show their pride on International Women’s Day. 

Related:

Summit Prep students seek to define feminism