Tag Archives: Summit Rainier

Rainier community responds to termination of annual school camping trips

By Keith Dinh

Rainier Editor-in-Chief 

Prior to the 2019-20 school year, every Summit Public School brought as many students as possible to a camping trip early in the first semester. For Rainier, students were taken to the mountains into the woods to stay for two days and camp overnight, and, over the years, this has become a defining part of Rainier’s culture that many students would look forward to every year.

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The Rainier community gathers to hear the announcement of the winners of the annual 2018-19 Mentor Olympics. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

Students would be able to spend the first day setting up their tents that they shared with their friends and participating in a variety of activities that their mentors would lead. Many of these activities included hiking, board games, poetry writing, origami, talent show practice, and even learning how to dance. 

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Members of the Rainier community seat themselves for an evening meal at the 2018-19 annual school camping trip. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

The students would be able to eat together and watch a talent show which spotlighted their peers, teachers, and even parents who had come to volunteer. The next morning, students would be able to take part in the annual Mentor Group Olympics, which was a series of games that each mentor group would take part in to be able to best the others in a competitive environment. After the winner of the Mentor Group Olympics was announced, everyone cleaned up their areas and headed back home.

On June 3, at the end of the 2018-19 school year, Rainier administrators sent an email to students announcing the termination of Summit’s annual school camping trips. This announcement brought mixed reactions from the students and faculty members of Rainier. 

Rainier sophomore Aidan Franco-Lee expressed that the termination of the camping trip is something that negatively impacted the community. Being able to participate in the event during the previous school year, Franco-Lee recalled his memories as being very positive, transformative experiences that allowed him to be a more integrated member of the Rainier community.

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Rainier students wait in line to get their meals at the 2018-19 annual school camping trip. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

In regards to the recent termination of the camping trip, Franco-Lee said, “I was really upset about it. Personally, coming to school here, where I didn’t really know anyone, the camping trip was really definitely something that got me to know my mentor group — It got me a lot more comfortable, and it really helps me and everyone, so it was fun, too.

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Rainier science teacher Edward Lin stands with his mentor group to give their mentor chant at the 2019-20 Community Day. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

In an effort to fill the absence of the camping trip with another event, Rainier’s faculty members planned a Community Day where students would walk to Lake Cunningham State Park and partake in the Mentor Olympics for the day. This year, students played games and had a barbecue in the afternoon after two of the games were completed. The final game was cancelled due to the extreme heat that day. Students were then directed to walk back to campus to be picked up after dismissal.

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Rainier sophomore Aidan Franco-Lee PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

Franco-Lee expressed his opinion of the Community Day as an unfulfilling event in comparison to the camping trip, saying, “This year, I didn’t really enjoy Community Day because I felt that it was too short. Especially coming in and seeing all the incoming freshmen — knowing that they didn’t get that experience of the nice, long, overnight stay and really bonding with everyone — It was kind of like, ‘Oh, no, I’m sorry for you guys. You didn’t get the really fun experience,’ and obviously, I wanted it, too: I only came for one year, which was also like, ‘oof’.” 

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Rainier science teacher Shaila Ramachandran PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

Rainier science teacher Shaila Ramachandran explained that she feels the pressure from the termination of the camping trip as a teacher. Ms. Ramachandran feels that her mentees, with the lack of the camping trip this year, have been looking for chances to find camaraderie and strengthen their bond as a mentor group, which puts pressure on her to find things to do with her mentees. In addition, Ms. Ramachandran believes that the camping trip is a major attraction for students thinking about coming to Summit Public Schools. 

Ms. Ramachandran said, “I don’t think it was the best decision for students. I think it was an activity that really sets our school — our schools —  apart from others, and it is a big selling point for students coming to us. And so I feel, for that reason, that they should have gotten more voices involved in the input stage at that.”

Believing that teachers and students should have been able to have a chance to give their insights and opinions toward the topic, Ms. Ramachandran explained that she believes the decision made in regards to the camping trip is a decision that should have had more input before the final decision was made. 

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The Rainier community cheers each other on during the announcements of the winners of the 2018-19 Annual Mentor Olympics. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

“I was just reflecting on how I have a couple of new mentees this school year, and we didn’t have the benefit of them having a camping trip where they could really bond and immerse themselves in the mentorship group, and, so, instead, we kind of just had to hit the ground running with them, getting them accustomed to the work, and not really feeling, as a result, supported by that … Now, I feel like more of the pressure is on me to form more of those activities during the school year, like through mentor outings and things which we would do before. I feel like my students are really craving that and requesting that more throughout the school year,” Ms. Ramachandran said.

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Rainier students converse during the 2019-20 Community Day. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

There are some students and faculty at Rainier who believe that the decision to remove the camping trip had more negative effects on the community than positive ones. Although, there are some in the community who have found neutrality in their position in regards to the camping trip decision. 

Rainier Dean of Operations Lupe Trujillo has found some positive outcomes from the decision to terminate the camping trips. Mrs. Trujillo expressed that there is a lot to do logistically to allow the camping trip to occur, ranging from student paperwork to volunteer driver forms.

Apart from the logistical difficulties that she has encountered in trying to execute camping trips in the past, Mrs. Trujillo did say she feels some sadness from the decision to terminate the trips. She explained that she will no longer be able to see the talents that the students were allowed to showcase to a school-wide audience and see the bonds that are built between students during this time. 

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Rainier Dean of Operations Lupe Trujillo PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

In response to these new changes in culture, Mrs. Trujillo hopes to be able to keep the tradition of the Mentor Olympics every year in the form of Community Day. She hopes to be able to improve the planning and agenda every year to be able to fill the void that students feel from the termination of the camping trip. 

Mrs. Trujillo said, “We are going to try to do what we can to ensure that we keep these things intact. I think it has more to do with whatever we put in place. I think what I am more interested in is continuing the memories and the feelings that the camping trip provided, the teamwork aspect, all of that; but, I think if we can do that well in our Community Day, I think it can take the place of, and I think we can continue to build that community. This was the first year — we kind of went at it blindly — so I feel like it was not thoughtfully well-done. I think we could do a much better job, and I do think that there is a possibility for us to do just that to create those memories and all of that the camping trip inspired.”

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Rainier students converse during the 2019-20 Community Day. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

Students and faculty at Rainier have varying opinions on the termination of the school camping trips, ranging from sadness to happiness and from frustration to neutrality. 

A survey was conducted, asking Rainier’s community members what their opinions and feelings are about the termination of the annual school camping trips, and 86.4% of community members who submitted responses believe that the termination of the event was an unfavorable decision: 94% of the total responses attributed the termination to having a negative impact on the community, while 5% found the decision beneficial.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

Here is a selection of the responses received:

Rainier sophomore Amanda Brand: It really isn’t good that the camping trips were terminated, and as a sophomore who only experienced the camping trips as a freshman, I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as other people, and that’s why I feel so bad for the new freshman class of 2023, because instead of an unforgettable bonding experience, they got a poor substitute. The camping trips get better with age, and it’s really unfortunate a lot of people don’t get to experience the prime experience of the camping trips, or at all.

Rainier junior Joana Padilla: The camping trip was a time for my mentor group and I to regroup after the summer. It was a time to get to know others and just have fun. I was disappointed and mad because the students had no say in the decision of the termination of the annual school camping trips. We could have been warned. Summit is known for its camping trip, and the fact that they terminated kind of made others really disappointed.

Rainier senior Rigoberto Estrada: Well, to begin with, I’m a senior now, and this was my last year at Summit Rainier and at first when I found out about the camping trip being terminated on my last year, it kind of got me by surprise, this camp trip meant a lot to Summit. It was a time where us peers all came together and kicked off the beginning of the school year with great energy/memories and a chance for all of us to get along and actually come together as one school. What I´m really going to miss about the camping trips were the talent shows. The talent shows were a way for us students to show and express our talents to one another and believe me the past camping trips were amazing. It made me realize how many super talented kids we have at our school. But even though I’m not gonna experience the camping trip with Summit anymore, since I’m a senior and I’m leaving next year, I hope you all reconsider bringing it back for future students and for my brother, also, who will be a junior next year.

A Rainier teacher (who asked to remain anonymous): I believe it was done as a response to teachers unionizing and have heard it was actually not the wish of Summit Leaders but rather legal advice from their lawyer, with teacher sustainability/work hour expectations in mind. What would have been better about the process in my opinion is actually polling teachers, students, and parents about the effectiveness of the camping trip and whether they believe it’s something that should be kept and/or made “optional”/allow each school site to decide whether to keep camping trip themselves. There are some Summit teachers (at other sites) who strongly believe camping trip was unsustainable/too much to ask of teachers and was not a positive start to their school year due to student discipline issues that always came up. I feel that teachers staying overnight at a camping trip could be made optional/up to sites to decide how to handle if they want.

To see more pictures from both Community Day and the Camping Trip of the 2018-19 school year, see the slideshow below:

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BREAKING NEWS: Rainier students protest in response to new restricted blacktop usage during lunch break

By Keith Dinh and Judy Ly

Rainier Editor-in-Chiefs

Rainier students gather to listen to new announcements for the school year in the Mount Pleasant multipurpose room. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

During the lunch break today, Rainier students protested peacefully off-campus on the courts of their co-located school, Mt. Pleasant High School, in hopes of bringing change to restrictions that have been placed on blacktop access.

During lunch breaks, students are now restricted from being on Mt. Pleasant’s blacktops and are limited to Rainier’s outdoor hallways and quad. 

Summit Rainier is a charter school that is part of the Summit Public Schools network; it is currently co-located with Mt. Pleasant on that school’s campus in Eastside San Jose.

Rainier senior Joe Pinkney explained that not having the blacktop as an outlet to release energy for himself and his peers causes personal effects.

Rainier senior Joe Pinkney participates in the protest during lunch. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

“It’s causing me to not be able to focus in class as much. And it’s just all around making me not as excited to come to school here,” he said.  

Rainier Dean of Operations Lupe Trujillo confirmed that police officers were called to the scene by Mt. Pleasant High School because of the presence of Rainier students on their campus courts. It is confirmed Mt. Pleasant had prior knowledge of the protest and called police officers to the scene before the scheduled event. 

In addition, Mt. Pleasant faculty was also present on the blacktop during the protest.  In an interview with Mt. Pleasant’s principal Martha Guerrero, she said the protest disrupted Mt. Pleasant students’ lunch. 

Mount Pleasant High School principal Martha Guerrero talks to Rainier students. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

“We have a contract in place with — between Summit and the Eastside Union High School District — and this is my students’ lunchtime and they are not having access to the blacktop.”   

Principal Guerrero explained, “Because Summit Rainier and Mt. Pleasant are two different schools, students need to be separated.” 

Anwar Darkazanli, the physics teacher at Rainier, was surprised at students coming together to hold a protest.  

Physics teacher Anwar Darkazanli shares his thoughts about today’s protest. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

Mr. Darkazanli said, “ I understand where they’re coming from — a lot of frustration around schedule changes — I do hope that it leads to some change, but I don’t think that it will at this point. I think it’s a little too late.” 

Since the announcement of blacktop restrictions, Rainier faculty has attempted to provide outlets for students to release their energy during break.  

Pinkney expressed safety concerns with a basketball hoop Rainier faculty put up in front of a wall.  

“I already saw kids banging themselves into the wall — and not on purpose — on accident, trying to go for a layup,” he said.  

He added, “The students need to be able to run around, and just as I’m seeing right now, just they’re running around; just laughing; having a good time, and I thought that got stripped away from them without really any thought at all.”

See below for photos of the Rainier protest in favor of blacktop access:

Featured image above: Rainier students gather outside of Rainier’s campus to protest new restrictions during their lunch break. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

Related:

Uniform schedule impacts students lives across Bay Area campuses this school year

Newly implemented schedule troubles Rainier teachers

Schedule change at Summit Shasta affects students

Summit Rainier now offers Ethnic Studies as a course

By Judy Ly

Staff Writer 

Summit Public Schools has been open for 15 years, and this is the first time the course Ethnic Studies has ever been offered at the Summit Public School: Rainier campus in Eastside San Jose.  Ethnic Studies is an interdisciplinary curriculum that teaches about other ethnicities’ significant social impact on U.S. history.  Here at Summit Rainier, we welcome the curriculum with open arms; however, in places like Arizona, politicians did not only dislike the idea of this class, they fought to ban it and succeeded in doing so.  

In class, Rainier students watched the Independent Lens documentary Precious Knowledge.  The film takes place in Arizona and shows how a group of students, most of whom are of Latinx descent, become empowered through the curriculum once they start learning about the history of themselves.  Even with the positive effects the program had on the students, conflict soon arose between politicians and the students.

In an excerpt of the documentary, Tom Horne, former politician and Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction at the time, critiques the Ethnic Studies curriculum by saying, “There are better ways to get students to perform academically and want to go into college then to try to infuse them with racial ideas.” When asked if he thought Ethnic Studies was doing anything right, he added, “I really don’t, no. I think they should be abolished.”

House Bill 2281, the ban on Ethnic Studies in Arizona that got passed in 2010, claims the course teaches pupils to “resent or hate other other races of people.” In the ban, it also says it prohibits any class or program that seeks to “promote the overthrow of the United States government.”

Despite what the ban claims, students within the documentary say the class had only helped them understand themselves better and unify.  Students at Summit Rainier joined the class with the same objective.

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Rainier junior Alan Do

When asked why he joined Ethnic Studies, Rainier junior Alan Do said, “I wanted to learn more about the history of marginalized people, and I also want to explore my own identity.”  He continued, “I think going to a class that teaches everyone about each other’s history and each other’s people really allows me to understand people’s backgrounds a lot more.”

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Rainier senior Michelle Thai

Rainier senior Michelle Thai said, “It’s important because you’re learning about your own identity, and that’s really empowering because I feel like people these days, especially minorities, don’t feel as empowered in America.”

The Ethnic Studies instructor at Summit Rainier, Angel Barragan, is hoping for students to not only feel empowered but also to have the academic benefits that come alongside with being enrolled in an Ethnic Studies course. In a study of 1,405 ninth graders, conducted by Stanford and San Francisco Unified School District, students who had eighth grade GPAs below 2.0 were automatically enrolled in Ethnic Studies, while the students who had eighth grade GPAs above 2.0 were able to choose whether or not to enroll in that specific class.  Stanford News states, “The researchers found that attendance for those encouraged to enroll in the class increased by 21 percentage points, GPA by 1.4 grade points and credits earned by 23.”

When the students in Arizona heard that local politicians, including Mr. Horne, were advocating to ban the course by law, they began protesting. They even caught wind of the local politicians having a meeting to discuss the ban and went into the building to protest for their right to the education that made a difference in their lives.

Rainier senior Edwin Escobar said, “I’m not a big protester, however, I think that what really inspired me the most was the people who were low-income, who are minorities.” He added that many minorities are going through a financial struggle, are immigrants, or come from a single-parent household, “so these students are already struggling to just

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Rainier senior Edwin Escobar

work well towards the system, to have a working system for them … when they find the Ethnic Studies class, these kids got engaged, and they sort of left behind all the problems they had, and they focused on what matters to them. They developed a recognition to the importance of studying about their history, and they fought for it and that’s what really inspired me.”

Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed HB-2881, banning classes for a specific ethnic group, which basically shut down Ethnic Studies. This resulted in the Tucson Unified School District shutting down their Mexican American Studies program. In addition, politicians also ruled to ban certain books.  In 2017, there was an article published by NBC News saying Judge Wallace A. Tashima claimed that these bans on books and Ethnic Studies courses were “unconstitutional.”  

When asked why he thought the Ethnic Studies curriculum is so controversial and why politicians might feel the need to ban it, Mr. Barragan answered, “[The politicians] say that the classes are the ones in fact racist, that they were teaching students to overthrow the government, about being with your own race and not mixing with others, but all those things are false.  All these classes are about becoming good 

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Ethnic Studies teacher Angel Barragan

Americans and what it means to be united through our different struggles. I think that’s why; I think they’re afraid of students being able to find their strength and power.”

When asked why Ethnic Studies was important, Escobar said, “What builds America is diversity; and, if you have diversity, there’s history behind diversity.” Escobar explained how if the United States was just a white country, then its history would mainly be about white history. In most schools, the curriculum is still mainly about the dominant culture’s history. For the people of color who crucially influenced American history, their stories weren’t told because they aren’t as powerful as the dominant culture. Ethnic people were totally disregarded from U.S. history, and Ethnic Studies curriculum seeks to address that imbalance. 

Escobar concluded, “If history is such an important concept in America, then why is it that we only have to learn one type of history and it’s the only type of  history permitted in America?”

The Summit News team will be following this class throughout the year.  

Featured image (at the top of this post):  The Ethnic Studies teacher, Angel Barragan, hosted an event called Why Ethnic Studies Matter when he was president of the Ethnic Studies Student Organization at San Francisco State University.  PHOTO CREDIT: Angel Barragan.