Author Archives: micahctam

Holocaust and Genocide Expeditions students share their experiences

By Micah Tam

Staff Editor

In honor of Celebration of Learning, Summit Prep senior Milo Kemper and Summit Prep sophomore Adam Graziani imparted their personal views of the impact their Holocaust and Genocide class has had on them.

In the Holocaust and Genocide class, students learn in-depth about different aspects of the Holocaust and about genocides that occur around the world. Throughout the year, students get the chance to hear first-hand the experiences of Holocaust and genocide survivors. For example, this year Deng Jongkuch, a Darfur survivor, as well as a survivor of the Cambodian genocide, came to Summit Preparatory Charter High School to talk to students.

Holocaust and Genocide Expeditions teacher Lissa Thiele explained why she teaches her course: “I knew that I was going to be working in the field of Holocaust and genocide in some sort of way – to ensure that these things never happen again and to find out that they continue to happen right this second. Not on my watch. And, as a Jewish person, you cannot just stand up for one person and not stand up for all.”

To see more about the course, watch the video below:

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. 

Teen Advisory Board gives local teens a voice in their community

By Kenneth John Catimbang, Kristian Bekele and Micah Tam

Staff Writers

In media and society, teenagers are often portrayed as lazy, defiant or disruptive (the list goes on.) However, there’s a group of teenagers in Redwood City who challenge that exact idea.

Once a month, the Teen Advisory Board meets up at the Red Morton Community Center. Teenagers from all over the Redwood City area come together to talk about community problems and methods to help better the local area.

Students from various high schools throughout Redwood City are a part of this organization. In these meetings, a broad theme is applied, such as community service, which in the past has meant helping out at parades and other events happening around the city.

At the Nov. 1 meeting, the main focus was on the environment. The students brainstormed ideas ranging from neighborhood trash pickups to raising money to donate to a nonprofit charity that sends water to developing countries.

After sharing ideas, the board agreed on plans to help the local elementary and middle schools grow gardens on site. In executing this project, the local youth will be educated about healthy living and maintaining a home-grown diet.


Co-director of the Teen Advisory Board Emma Hernandez

The Teen Advisory Board was created with the purpose of building a bridge between Redwood City officials and local teenagers. According to Emma Hernandez, co-director of the board, “When you see teens … there’s a negative aspect to them. When you bridge that gap, it helps any city see that teens care. You guys are the voice of the city [and] make a very big impact.”

When asked about the main goal of the board Ms. Hernandez said, “[To] build the teens with the community. Hear the teens’ voices. Listening to the teens and what they want as opposed to just guessing.”

The Teen Advisory Board does just that. Teen participants have voiced that it builds their own character while giving them the opportunity to volunteer and voice their opinions.


President of TAB and Sequoia High School senior Sara Osorio

President of the Teen Advisory Board and senior at Sequoia High School Sara Osorio described how being a part of TAB changed her when she said, “I’ve always been very shy. Because I’ve been president it’s given me the opportunity to branch out and be a leader. I want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable with sharing their ideas.”

Osorio went on to explain how TAB defines and actively participates in her community. “Being the voice for our community. Because I don’t think everyone is represented. What better people to ask but teens because we’re the future.”


Summit Prep senior Tyler Sheppy

Summit Prep senior and TAB participant Tyler Sheppy summarized his view on Teen Advisory Board by saying, “It really shows teenagers in our community because it shows we want to make the environment and community a better place.”

If you’re interested in joining the Teen Advisory Board, visit this website to start your application today.

Below is a slideshow of pictures from the Nov. 1 meeting of the Teen Advisory Board:



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Students attend a Black Lives Matter symposium

By Kristian Bekele and Micah Tam

Staff Editors

On Aug. 30, students from the Sociology of Law class at Summit Prep attended a symposium that included guest speakers such as Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant, Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner and Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice. The event also included a town hall discussion, a film screening and discussion panels.  

This event was a part of the Expedition course’s curriculum concerning the understanding of the justice system and its shortcomings.

The topic of institutionalized racism is something that Expeditions teacher Lissa Thiele has taught several times within both her Holocaust and Genocide class and her Sociology of Law class.  

Her focus has been on multiple aspects of institutionalized racism such as the school-to-prison pipeline, the higher incarceration rates of African Americans versus other races and how slavery and Jim Crow laws in American history have affected modern day society.

Starting off the event, filmmaker Kristina Williams screened her film Black Lives, Gray Matter. In it, scenes of BLM protests, an interview with the San Francisco police chief William Scott and the criticism of the #AllLivesMatter movement were shown. After the screening, Williams explained the purpose of this event when she said, “Today is about planting seeds so we can all grow and blossom.” 


Flimmaker Kristina Williams films Summit Prep students. 

Following the screening, a mediated discussion with the guest panel of mothers whose children died from police brutality took place.


Panel moderator David “Davey D” Cooks addresses the audience. 

The panel covered topics such as the media’s portrayal of their sons, gathering strength to tell their sons’ stories and the unfairness of losing a child.


From left to right: Samaria Rice, Gwenn Carr and Wanda Johnson speak about how their sons’ death affected their lives. 

Explaining how much she missed her son, Johnson said, “I miss him at the table at Thanksgiving. I miss him at my birthday celebrations.”

Rice said, “I don’t know how they can demonize a 12-year-old,” when talking about how the media twisted the image of her son.

Carr said, “No matter what the color of your skin is, what religion you are, wrong is wrong and right is right,” and, “Another mother shouldn’t cry as we have,” when voicing her frustration over the society’s current treatment of how black children and black people are treated. 

The students who attended this symposium saw this as a trip that was necessary to be a part of.


Sociology of Law students and Expeditions teacher Lissa Thiele take a group picture. 

Vanessa Contreras, a Summit Prep junior, said that it was necessary for students to attend this symposium because hearing the mothers that were involved allowed for students to “get to take away how they went through the pain.”

Other students reiterated the same point as Contreras.

Kurumi Babe, a junior at Summit Prep, spoke about how it was essential for students to attend this symposium because students are the future. She said, “You get to know other people’s stories. You want to help other people like them so it doesn’t happen again.”

Kayla Payan, a senior at Summit Prep, said, “Empathy was a big reason why we should have gone.”

Liliana Gomez, a senior at Summit Prep, put it in perspective by saying, “It could be your son that gets shot.”

Sometimes, finding empathy might be overshadowed by the shame that comes with talking about sensitive topics like race.

James Howe, a junior at Summit Prep, believes that sometimes parents are uncomfortable with a heavy topic such as race.  He elaborated more by saying,  “A lot of parents feel that their kid shouldn’t be exposed to it in certain ways; they’ll feel paranoid.”

Two seniors, Anna Axiaq and Jane Abrams, expanded on his points by pointing out the various ways in which parents and the society can stifle the much-needed dialogue.

Abrams brought in the history of America and how institutionalized racism has yet to resolve. She said we have to acknowledge “so many problems in our society” such as institutionalized racism in American society.

Axiaq brought in her own experiences as a person who had a different experience due to her upbringing in a White household, explaining that her parents were protective and she hadn’t heard about Oscar Grant “until I was in a class that a teacher exposed and explained why these things happen.”

Students saw this missed opportunity for education as an issue, and they said it was only through unity and education that progress can be made.


Filmmaker Kristina Williams converses with Summit Prep students. 

Summit Prep senior Isabella Weiss articulated on the issue of social unity by saying, “This world, no matter who you are, will have problems because not everyone is fully accepting of everyone. It won’t be easy, but if everyone has an open mind, stuff can be achieved.”

Victor Aguilar, a sophomore at Summit Prep, said that topics like this are “not black and white” and that each situation is going to be different due to the people involved in the case.

There were students who disagreed with this stance, saying that police should have more training in how to de-escalate in intense situations.

Summit Prep senior Jose Gutierrez-Hernandez believes that police “can’t handle certain situations” and that they “act on their own”. He further voiced his stance by saying, “Some cops, they don’t think about other situations. They don’t see the best option. They’d rather just shoot the person than injure them.”

Other students also agreed with what Gutierrez-Hernandez said concerning police conduct with communities.

Summit Prep junior Connor Pierce said something similar: “They need to be better on recognizing situations before they pull out their weapon.”

Axiaq repeated a point that Samaria Rice said during the symposium about how officers receive 56 hours of firearm training and only 10 hours of community training.

Kayla Payan also backed up her reasoning by pointing out that for police officers to do their job they “have to know about the community.”

Payan concluded with how essential community training is to interacting with community members. She intoned, “As much as I love the idea of a cop seeing a gun and saying ‘Hey, please stop’, and de-escalate, it’s not going to happen.”


Mother of Oscar Grant the Third, Wanda Johnson, and Expeditions teacher Lissa Thiele took a selfie during Intermission. 

Ms. Thiele also sees teaching students about social justice issues such as criminal justice and incarceration rates as something that is unavoidable. “The same topics that were current four years ago are still current now,” she explained.

She believes that “people have not learned from the past” and therefore sees “an immediate and urgent need to teach my students how to survive in American society.”


A flyer advertises the event at Skyline College. 

She has seen pushback about teaching such a topic with student’s parents.

Ms. Thiele has had a wide range of concerns from parents seeing the class as necessary for their college credentials to: “Does this add value for my child?” or even parents assuming that students are attending a protest.

Some parents are concerned on whether all sides are being equally presented in her teaching. Ms. Thiele said that she does represent the sides that are “insane stances” such as Holocaust denial.

Ms. Thiele instead mentions the class subjects are about “educational awareness” and are quintessential to the next generation of parents. “I’m talking about when they are parents.”

Featured Image (top of this post): Mother of Eric Garner, Gwen Carr, speaks to Summit Prep students. 

Faculty and students observe the solar eclipse

By Eliza Insley and Micah Tam

Staff Editors

On Aug. 21, Summit Prep students took 20 minutes from their morning class to watch the first total solar eclipse in America that was seen coast to coast in the past 38 years.

The solar eclipse occurred across the nation, reaching totality in 14 states, including Oregon. In Redwood City, California, the eclipse reached 75 percent totality.

Some students made pinhole cameras using index cards to view the eclipse; others brought their own eclipse glasses from home. Since California was not in the path of totality, there was still an adequate amount of sunshine and many found the watching experience to be quite underwhelming. However, the effects of the eclipse were evident due to the day appearing to be darker than usual.

Summit Prep sophomore Lauren Louie said, “I wanted to see a total eclipse because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Getting to see this eclipse was more a more substantial event to some than it was to others. Summit Prep senior Anna Becker said, “It made me feel connected with the universe and Mother Nature.”

Top: Summit Prep freshman Alexis Pereznegron looks up at the solar eclipse.

Bottom (left to right): Summit Prep sophomores Lauren Louie, Tara Dubridge and Daniel Garcia view the solar eclipse through glasses specifically made to safely view the eclipse.



Prep students showcase the real-world skills they’ve learned during Expeditions

By Micah Tam

Staff Writer 

On May 25, Summit Preparatory Charter High School had a Celebration of Learning in which students got the chance to exhibit the life skills they acquired during Expeditions. Among the selection of Expedition courses that offer different learning opportunities from content knowledge to the arts, there are also courses that teach life skills that benefit students outside of school.


For the last two rounds of Expeditions, students had the chance to go to the Riekes Center in Redwood City where they were able to workout, play basketball, learn yoga, play instruments and explore unknown talents. While learning these different skills and hobbies, they were taught by specialized coaches who work at the Riekes Center to help and support the students. Two lead Riekes Center coaches attended the Celebration of Learning hosted at Summit Prep.


Lead coaches Gabriel Risk Martin and Alex Booher show a video explaining what they did at the Riekes Center. 


Melissa Bernstein, who teaches the Wilderness Expeditions course, said she wants students to learn “how to take care of yourself and how to be healthy, so if any of the kids have an interest in going backpacking, they’ll know how to take care of issues by themselves.” She said the course was a “good intro for them, but we could really use more time for them to really get comfortable with the system,” explaining “the only problem is that we were rushing. The class that I was teaching them is actually 80 hours of course material, and we didn’t have 80 hours, so in order to get a really complete practice it would take longer than the time that we have in Expeditions.”


Summit Prep freshman Tara DuBridge

For the Celebration of Learning, each group had to make a video on a certain wilderness injury. “Our group is doing wounds and cuts, like operations and stuff like that, so we have to make a video on how to treat it,” Summit Prep freshman Tara DuBridge said. “It’s important to know how to treat these kinds of injuries ‘cause it could happen anytime, and so it’s important to be prepared.” She added that the project was challenging. “It was pretty hard to remember the steps that you had to do because it’s a pretty long process, and so it was hard to memorize it and do the video.”


Summit Prep freshman Tara DuBridge worked with her group to make this video about treating wounds and cuts in the wilderness.



Summit Prep freshman Ethan Sheppy


Summit Prep freshman Ethan Sheppy and his group did their project on shoulder and finger dislocations. “This is a very helpful skill ‘cause if you’re out hiking and your friend injures himself really bad, you have to know how to help them,” he said, adding, “I liked this Expedition, it was very enjoyable.” To view his group’s video, click this link.





The audience watches wilderness first-aid videos during Celebration of Learning.

Food For Thought

Food for Thought is a new Expeditions class this school year, and it has gotten great responses from students enrolled. Shaan Johal, a freshman at Summit Prep, recommends that everyone take this class because it provides good information to benefit your health.

Summit Prep freshman Casper Lyback explained that their Celebration of Learning project was to film a video about a certain dish and how to make it. “This project is also about showing creativity,” he said, adding that the class allowed the students to express themselves through food. The final project was “quite interesting and the end product was quite delicious.”

Brooke Hein, who teaches Food for Thought, explained that food affects everyone. “Young people need to analyze what they put in their body, and we need to encourage them to think critically about what they eat.”

Each class voted for a winning video. Here is the link for the winner in the morning class. Here is the link for the winner in the afternoon class.

Food for Thought teacher Brooke Hein announces the winners of her class video contest. 


Students walk in to greet Ms. Hein as well as enjoy the videos made by Food for Thought students.


The audience enjoys the cooking videos made by Food for Thought students.

Staff Writers Kai Lock, Yesenia Lopez and Tyler McGuire contributed to this report.

San Francisco’s multiculturalism defines my community

By Micah Tam

Staff Writer

As a native of the Bay Area, I personally feel very lucky that I get to be surrounded by so many different cultures and ethnicities. That diversity helped me form my views on the world and become more open-minded. To exhibit what community means to me, I am presenting the different cultural influences in the Bay Area, specifically the multiculturalism in San Francisco.


Roasted ducks hang in the front window of a restaurant, which is a common sight on the streets of Chinatown.


Chinese street names in Chinatown are present on each street sign. Grant Avenue is one of the oldest streets in Chinatown. It was previously named Dupont Street, which explains why the Chinese characters translate phonetically to “Du Pon Gai” (“Gai” meaning street). 


Grant Street showcases different Chinese business signs and hanging lanterns.


An assortment of tea leaves are displayed on the tables of Vital Tea Leaf.


Above is a look into an herbal shop that sells Chinese herbs and medicine.


Above is a storefront of a jewelry store, showcasing different jade necklaces, rings and bracelets.

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The leaders of Saints Peter and Paul Church were “originally sent to San Francisco to minister specifically to the Italian immigrant population,” according to the Salesians of Don Bosco.


Columbus Café on Green Street has a beautifully painted mural above its storefront.


These are different Italian restaurants located down Green Street.

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Above is a glance inside the Italian deli and market, Alimento.


Father Junípero Serra founded the Mission San Francisco de Asís on Oct. 9, 1776.


Above is a mural in Clarion Alley between 17th Street and 18th Street in the Mission District.


This is the Cornerside Mexican Market that is located on Mission Street.

These photos were taken in Chinatown, North Beach and the Mission District, which are the main locations in San Francisco that I feel showcase the strongest sense of cultural diversity within the city.  In addition to these three areas of San Francisco, there are also other culturally-centered areas such as Little Russia and Japantown.

Growing up in such an accepting and diverse part of the world has helped me to develop a more open-minded mindset and also to have appreciation for the different ethnicities, cultural groups and people in this world. I am grateful my community has not only impacted me in defining where I come from but also in shaping who I am.

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