VAN NUYS HIGH SCHOOL
VAN NUYS, CALIFORNIA
CURRENT EVENTS 3
GETTING VACCINATED? Here’s
everything you need to know
about LAUSD’s requirement
NOT JUST FOR BLEMISHES
Students share their passion
for makeup as an art form
UNDER PRESSURE Seniors
feel anxious as deadlines for
college application draw nearer
LACK OF SLEEP
Teenagers are struggling to keep up with school as they face the aftermath of more than a year in quarantine
with limited social interactions and a surplus of procrastination. Now, they are forced to adjust to pre-pandemic
education while still amidst a pandemic. School is not the only thing to be stressed about. Students are
also dealing with complicated friendships, drama-filled relationships and overdemanding parents. Teens are
anxious, stressed and depressed. PAGE 10
ILLUSTRATION FOR THE MIRROR | DIEGO AGUIRRE
THE MIRROR | ISABELLA THOMAS
Back in-person but barely staying afloat
While I was excited to return to in-person learning, I failed to anticipate just how
overwhelming it would be. So much so that I had to drop my AP class.
MATTERS Senior Angela
Proca switched out of AP
Psychology to prioritize
her mental health while
trying to readjust to prepandemic
By ANGELA PROCA
PHOTO EDITOR | THE MIRROR
Making my schedule was the easy part, actually
doing well in the classes I chose — well
that’s another story.
I had gotten so used to the simplicity
and informality of online learning that returning to inperson
learning proved to be far more challenging than I
Originally, I had signed up for AP Psychology along
with two electives and three honors classes seeking to
push myself a bit in my last year of high school.
AP Psychology felt like the right fit at the time, it’s even
known for being one of the easiest Advanced Placement
classes. For whatever reason, I didn’t consider that taking
this course along with the transition into in-person learning
would be a difficult task.
The first few weeks of school I was over the moon to be
back in person, but I quickly realized how overwhelming
and stressful it would be, especially with AP Psychology.
My days were filled with seemingly endless notetaking,
anxiously awaiting a pop quiz and studying for chapter
tests every week. Then I’d move on to stressing about
how I can pay for my groceries and rent with only $1000
a month for an economics assignment and reading one
hundred pages of “East of Eden.”
It was all beginning to be too much and my grades
showed for it. I was failing AP Psychology with a 47
percent and my other classes and my participation in
extracurricular activities were also negatively impacted.
We went from five-hour school days with hour-long
lunches to seven-hour long days with all six periods.
There was no transitory period back to in-person learning
for students or teachers which definitely took a toll on
my mental health.
Living in a pandemic has been draining enough and
expecting students to immediately go back to pre-pandemic
life is unrealistic.
We got so comfortable with how lax school had
become with the past year of online learning that being
back was a shock to our system.
I began to feel overwhelmed, not only was I already
failing psychology with a 47 percent but it began to take a
toll on my other classes as well. There simply isn’t enough
time in one day to do work for my other classes and be
active in my extracurriculars.
After one too many emotional breakdowns I decided
I needed to switch out of AP Psychology to prioritize my
While I was worried my counselor wouldn’t switch me
out since we were five weeks into the semester, she was
Dropping out of my AP class was one of the best decisions
I’ve made. While all the stress of school has not
been resolved, I feel much less burdened and have more
time to be active in activities that I enjoy.
I’m not the only one that feels this way. After I had
switched out, half of the students in my class did as well.
It was weird to see so many students in the same boat
that I was but not surprising.
FOCUS MENTAL HEALTH
The transition back to in-person learning
after more than a year of online school has
been a difficult one for students to make
as they try to readjust to pre-pandemic life
while balancing classes and extracurriculars.
The Mirror surveyed students to learn whether
they’ve taken on a less stressful workload
this year to combat the challenges they’ve
faced returning to school. 535 answered.
Dropped or took
fewer AP or
Did not alter
I dropped AP Environmental
because I felt overwhelmed
workload. It was too
much for me at this
time and I felt like I
needed more time
to do college applications as well, which I was
not getting with the amount of APs I was doing.
The switch is overwhelming because we
are still in the middle of the pandemic, and
we now have much more problems that have
arisen from the stresses of it.”
I dropped out of
that’s because I
recently gained a
younger sibling so
I literally have no
time to use on my
work. Switching from online to in-person
also made it difficult managing my classes. I
feel as though I have no time to actually get
assignments done and I have a harder time
focusing in a full classroom compared to at
home some at my desk.”
I dropped AP
because once my
going over the
lessons I knew I
couldn’t keep up
due to the switch from online to in-person
school. When it was online I hardly learned
anything and I knew that it would be way
too stressful and overwhelming to learn
everything again just so I could keep up.
COURTESY | ISABELLA RIVERA, KASSANDRA SOLORZANO & KYLA VILLANUEVA
By ALLISON ANTONIO
THE MIRROR STAFF
The Los Angeles Unified School
District announced in early
September that all students
12 years of age or older who
are eligible for the covid-19 vaccine are
required to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 10,
2022, the start of second semester, or they
will be unenrolled from school and have
the option of joining LAUSD’s independent
study program City of Angels.
Athletes and students participating
in extracurricular activities that require
after-school attendance are required to
receive their first dose by Oct. 31 and their
second dose by Nov. 15.
Students 18 and older can get the
single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to
comply with the directive.
Failing to obtain proof of vaccination
by this date will result in the student not
being allowed on school campuses. This
includes students who provide a medical
or religious exemption.
Individuals who choose to enroll in
City of Angels will be unenrolled from Van
Nuys High School meaning they will not
be able to participate in any athletics or
extracurriculars on campus. Seniors will
not be allowed to attend prom or walk the
stage since they are no longer a part of the
City of Angels is fully accredited by the
Western Association of Schools (WASC)
which means students’ coursework is accepted
for credit within the University of
California (UC) and California State (CSU)
The curriculum fulfills LAUSD’s A-G
requirements and California Department
of Education’s standards. The
school also offers a variety of AP courses
Students who choose to attend must
complete at least 30 hours of schoolwork
per week to earn the 30 credits expected
each semester. Instruction will be a mix of
distance-learning classes via Zoom taught
by credentialed teachers and independent
study to complete assignments.
As of late October, 61.9 percent of
eligible Californians are vaccinated while
68.3 percent have received at least one
dose, about 26.7 million people.
The Mirror conducted an online survey
through Schoology asking what students
think about the vaccine requirement. Of
the 93 students who completed the survey,
66.7 percent of students are in support
of the mandate, while 33.3 percent
are against it.
“Having this deadline might encourage
students who haven’t been vaccinated yet
to do so and the more vaccinated people,
the better,” sophomore Nancy Alvarado
This opinion is shared by the majority
“I would not have to worry about the
instilled fear from the recent pandemic,”
senior Magen Mozeh said. “Standing close
to my peers in a crowded area, I could just
forget about worrying to social distance
myself. Every desk, door or rail I touch
would not have to petrify me into thinking
that I would get infected from covid-19.”
Many students don’t abide by the
school’s safety protocols.
“People still pull their masks down
sometimes around campus, so at least if
we know everyone is vaccinated, the risk
for spreading covid-19 is less likely,” senior
DEADLINE APPROACHES Students required
to be fully vaccinated to attend in-person classes
GRAPHIC & PHOTO ILLUSTRATION | ANTONY NEPEYVODA
L.A. vs. NYC: COVID-19 PROTOCOLS
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the New York City Department of Education
(NYCDOE), two of the largest districts in the nation, both have strict covid-19 protocols in place to
prevent the spread of the virus among their heavily-populated campuses. Here are some of the
similar and unique ways each district is handling the virus. —Diana Zalmanov
• All students who are eligible for
the vaccine are required to get
• All classrooms contain MERV-13
• Although physical distancing is
recommended, it is not required
• Students must complete a daily
health check before entering the
• Schools are using classrooms for
• People visiting the school must
answer the daily health check
screening questions before
entering the campus
• Masks must be worn all day un
less eating or drinking
• Provides testing for all students
once a week, regardless of
• Athletes must be fully
vaccinated by Nov. 15
• All students must be fully
vaccinated by Jan. 9, 2022 to
remain in school
• All teachers must be fully
vaccinated by Nov. 15
• Air conditioning must be on at all
times to keep air circulating
• Isolation instructions for
someone with a positive test
result are to stay home for at
least 10 days, after they have
tested positive and monitor their
temperature for at least 24 hours
L.A.: CREATIVE COMMONS | SALEWSKIA; NYC: CREATIVE COMMONS | PETR KRATOCHVIL
Aksel Ortiz said.
Being a student athlete, junior Brianna
Carrillo believes that the mandate will
keep her and her teammates safe from
becoming infected with the virus.
“I think it’s a good idea, especially for
athletes because we’re going to be in
contact with students not just from our
school but from different schools as well,”
Carrillo said. “It’s ensuring our health and
our overall protection.”
While a majority of students are in
favor of the LAUSD policy, some believe
that getting vaccinated should be an individual’s
decision, not an ultimatum.
“I believe it should be a personal choice,”
senior David Kupelian said. “Whoever
would like to protect themselves from
the virus should get the vaccine. Whoever
does not want to, shouldn’t.”
Skeptical of the vaccine’s safety and
effectiveness, freshman Anait Atkozyan
suggests that a more reasonable plan of
action would be to continue with current
covid-19 safety regulations while waiting
for more testing and data on the vaccines.
“I don’t think it should be mandatory at
• Vaccines are strongly
encouraged for eligible students
• Cafeterias contain window
exhaust fans for extra circulation
• Students must maintain at least
three feet of physical distance
from each other
• Students must complete a daily
health check before entering the
• Most schools are using the
Outdoor Learning Initiative to
expand the classrooms by using
school yards and street space as
additional spaces for learning
• School visitors must show proof
of at least one dose of the
vaccine before entering
• Masks must be worn all day
unless eating or drinking
• Provides testing for all students
once a week for students who
have not been vaccinated
•Students in high-risk sports must
get vaccinated before their first
day of competitive play
• No districtwide vaccination
• All teachers must be fully
• Electrostatic systems are used
to clean classrooms daily
• Isolation instructions for
someone with a positive test
include staying at home for at
least 10 days and learning
the moment,” she said. “While continuing
to do our covid-19 safety procedures, we
could at least wait a couple more years
for a safer and more improved vaccine
rather than injecting a rushed one into
Sophomore Sheyla Vasquez thinks that
forcing eligible students to get the shot is
harsh. She empathizes with those who are
“Some students could be scared to
get the vaccination,” Vasquez said. “I was
scared too, and I thought for a moment I
was going to pass out during the process
of receiving the vaccine. I feel like it should
be mandated but in a way where students
feel like they want to or feel safe in doing
so without having a due date.”
According to The Mirror’s survey, 73.1
percent of students polled have been fully
vaccinated whereas 26.9 percent have yet
to be. Of those who have not been vaccinated,
40.6 percent of students plan to
get vaccinated while 59.4 percent wish to
abstain from receiving the vaccine.
Kupelian does not plan on getting
OCTOBER 2021 | 3
“I believe in human-medical freedoms
and that it should be a personal choice,” he
said. “I do not believe it is selfish to not get
Religion is another factor that has
seemingly influenced many individuals’
decision to remain unvaccinated.
“This epidemic is in God’s hands, not
humans,” junior Frank Garcia said, basing
his commitment to remain unimmunized
primarily on his religious ideals. “Let nature
take its course.”
While some students believe that
there should be other options, many will
grudgingly comply. Sophomore Diana
Akopian now plans to be vaccinated, but
feels like her personal freedoms are being
“I feel like I don’t have a choice anymore
since my two options would be to either
only go to high school for one semester
and call it my high school experience, or
get a vaccine when I still don’t feel the
need to,” she said.
Yet another factor which impacts a student’s
vaccination statuses is the opinion
of their parents.
“I’ve seen parents who have been very
excited about it and I’ve seen some who
were protesting,” social science teacher Mr.
Jacob Ferrin said. “Like anything, it’s very
politically contentious for pretty much no
For the majority of students who are
minors and under the age in which they
can consent to receiving a vaccination, the
decision of whether or not they will be immunized
by Jan. 10 is up to their parents.
With a considerable number of students
disagreeing with the opinions of their parents,
this is posing a significant issue.
“I want to get it so I can have a good
working environment and be with my
friends but my parents don’t think the
vaccine is safe,” freshman Nicole Villanueva
said. “I might be one of the students
that might have to transfer to the City of
Angels online course, even though I work
better with in-person school.”
Senior Fatiah Lawal feels sympathetic
towards students whose parents will not
let them get vaccinated despite them
“I feel bad for kids who aren’t able to
get vaccinated because their parents are
anti-vaxx,” she said. “I think they will lose a
major part of their education or the social
skills they mostly get from school.”
For athletes involved in school sports,
this concern has been prevalent throughout
“I have heard rumors that kids have
even gone to the extent to forge their
parents’ signature in order to keep going
to practice,” senior Marc Ruiz said.
Sophomore Lindsay Cardoza believes
the vaccine is a necessary step in returning
to pre-pandemic life.
“As a community coming from about
a year and a half of lockdown we need to
move forward with getting back to normal
and I say making vaccinations mandatory
is the right step,” she said.
Mozeh too is confident in the positive
impact the mandate will have on the
District, and is optimistic that it will be
“I feel it is necessary to get back to
normalcy,” Mozeh said. “Without it, we will
not hear the end of masks being worn in
classrooms, school events getting cancelled
or there being safety restrictions.”
4 | OCTOBER 2021
FRESH FACES A new leader takes the helm
By ANI TUTUNJYAN
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF | THE MIRROR
While students are still
snoozing their alarms early
in the morning, new principal
Lourdes De Santiago is already
on campus setting up conferences,
the District and making calls to
ensure everything is running
smoothly for students’ and
This isn’t her first rodeo
either. Principal De Santiago
has held the same title for five
years prior to joining Van Nuys
High School. She worked at
East Valley High School, a small
high school on Vineland Ave. in
Despite her connection with
East Valley students, Principal
De Santiago sought to teach at
a big, comprehensive school
like Van Nuys High School because
it’s where her roots lie.
She began her academic
career as a paraprofessional
at Polytechnic High School,
a large LAUSD school in Sun
Valley, where she supported
English learners in math and
science classes while finishing
Math was always the subject
she loved most in school.
“I remember as a young
child playing as if I was a
teacher so when the time came
to go to college, I went into the
field that I felt most comfortable
with in terms of learning
and sharing what I knew, and
that was math,” Principal De
After about a year and a
half, she earned her credentials
and became a math teacher at
James Monroe High School in
1998 where she taught math in
Spanish for English learners.
She loved teaching to
students who were not only
trying to solve math problems
but also trying to decode the
“When you’re going to school
you’re usually learning a subject
in your primary language,
so I loved being able to transfer
what I learned in English to
Spanish to teach students in
a language they understood,”
Principal De Santiago said. “I
saw that I was making a difference
in them understanding
the concept and that was
important to me.”
She took what she learned
from her time at her first
teaching job back to Polytechnic
High School where she
returned to teach higher level
math such as Algebra I and II,
Geometry and AP Calculus AB
It was at Polytechnic where
she then began her administrative
career, becoming Dean of
Discipline for three years.
As a dean, De Santiago
was responsible for helping
at-risk students improve their
academics, behavior and attendance.
“I enjoyed that aspect of my
work because I really got to see
the students and learn from
them on a different level,” she
said. “I was pleased to be able to
support their learning by supporting
After that, she became a
Title I coordinator and worked
closely with the administration
to enforce district policy. Title I
schools receive financial assistance
from the federal government
since at least 40 percent
of enrolled students come from
De Santiago’s job was to
manage and monitor budgets
to keep track of how Title I
money was being spent, which
she did by working closely with
other school staff.
“I enjoyed being able to support
not only the students but
the teachers too,” she said.
For a decade, Principal De
Santiago became a master of
all trades as an administrator.
She was responsible for discipline
“I took my opportunity as an
administrator as a great learning
experience to learn the
ins-and-outs of almost every
aspect of running a school.”
And now, Principal De
Santiago is running this school
during unprecedented circumstances
as students readjust
to pre-pandemic education
amidst a pandemic. But she
is glad to be back and see students
and staff alike in person.
“I feel happy to be back in
school because being at home
was different in that we never
got to see everyone’s faces or
experience athletics, clubs and
She feels honored to be a
part of the school’s diverse academic
and athletic programs.
“The other day we [administrators]
were looking at the different
plays that were already
scheduled and we’re all signing
up to support with supervision
and I look forward to seeing
them,” Principal De Santiago
said. “It’s amazing getting to see
all the talent that our school
While she is primarily focusing
on learning the school and
its people and continuing to
support the work her predecessors
have done, she looks
forward to creating even more
programs to support students’
needs and get them college and
“Whether it’s a new club,
whether it’s a new program,
I’m always open to hear what
our school community wants
to engage in and how it will
benefit our students because
my job is to ensure every single
student is college and career
ready upon graduation,” she
said. “If you [students] want to
start a new club, my door is always
open to hear your ideas.”
Principal De Santiago
strongly believes hard work
and a growth mindset pays off.
“I feel that difficult moments
have made me stronger and
made me a better educator,”
she said. “It’s what you do with
those moments. Are you going
to learn from them or are you
going to stumble on the same
She encourages students
to seek the various resources
available at school to achieve
“If you put your mind to
something, anything is possible.”
After working in education
for almost a quarter century,
Principal De Santiago is thrilled
to continue her journey here.
“It just feels like home,” she
said. “This is me, this is where
NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN
After working as an administrator
for a decade and
principal for five years, Principal
De Santiago is excited
to extend her knowledge and
experience to the lead a new
student body and staff.
THE MIRROR | ISABELLA THOMAS
OCTOBER 2021 | 5
FRESH FACES Four teachers join the faculty
MR. RADYUK MS. DOSHI
MR. WASSERMAN MS. BARRIOS
Mr. David Radyuk
World History Teacher
Teaching inspiration? My 11th grade teacher was
awesome and made me enjoy school. This is why
I decided to pursue a career in education so I can
inspire students as well.
Five adjectives that describe you? Ambitious,
responsible, funny, understanding and calm.
Interests and hobbies? I like to travel and am
saddened that the pandemic has put a halt to
most of my plans. I was lucky that I got to visit Japan
right before the world shut down. I also enjoy
cooking new recipes and foods. Another hobby of
mine is video games.
Most rewarding aspect of your profession?
Connecting with students and learning about their
lives. Everyone has a unique journey and it gives
me a perspective into the youth of our generation.
It also keeps me connected and in the loop of what
Most challenging? Trying to get certain students
who don’t care to see the value in education.
Teaching philosophy? I personally feel that the
most important aspect of teaching is connecting
with the student. Once a student feels that they
have some common interest or share a bond
of sorts, everything else comes easy. This is the
reason I try to learn about every student and play
into their interests as it makes teaching easier and
Ms. Aditi Doshi
World and US History Teacher
Teaching inspiration? I became a teacher to
address educational inequity in American public
schools. Every young person in America deserves
a high quality, rigorous public school education. In
fact, our democracy depends on it. But so many
factors prevent this - your zip code, your family
background and whether your community can fill
funding gaps. Throughout my career I have sought
out schools that are committed to this goal of
equal, excellent education for all. I am grateful to
be part of such communities like Van Nuys High
Five adjectives that describe you? Lifelong
learner, reader, kind, Indian-American and tired.
Interests and hobbies? I am in a graduate
program for American history, and love studying
the history of Los Angeles through the lens of
communities of color. I have three kids ages 5 to
12 and enjoy spending time at our local beaches,
museums and hiking trails with them. I enjoy
running and jogging on the Orange Line bike path
Most rewarding aspect of your profession? My
students allow me to explore history with new
eyes every year. They also challenge me to question
my own assumptions about race, gender,
sexuality, culture and more as our society continues
to evolve. I am grateful for their kindness,
patience and inquisitiveness.
Most challenging? Public schools are ground zero
for so many politically-charged conversations in
America. I struggle with knowing my colleagues
and I work very hard to create the best learning
opportunities for our students but are often
scapegoats for bigger social issues. I also struggle
to balance my commitment to my students and
my life outside of school.
Teaching philosophy? I try to create a classroom
where all students are honored and respected. We
approach the study of history as historians do, by
asking interesting questions and digging into historical
sources to reconstruct narratives. My role
is to guide students through this inquiry process
and provide opportunities to showcase student
work through projects like documentary films,
museum exhibits, debates and more.
Mr. Dan Wasserman
Learning Lab Teacher
Teaching inspiration? My high school coaches
hired me to work in their summer youth sports
camp when I was a high school senior. That experience
of positively impacting the lives of young
people inspired me to want to pursue a career in
education where I could strive to help others on a
Five adjectives that describe you? Talkative, enthusiastic,
persistent, friendly and adventurous.
Interests and hobbies? I enjoy outdoor activities,
such as mountain and road biking, trail running
and snowboarding. I also enjoy cooking and photography;
however, I am still a beginner with my
Most rewarding aspect of your profession?
Without a doubt playing a small part in helping
to instill in my students a confidence and belief
in themselves and their abilities to be successful
students; as well as kind, thoughtful, and responsible
citizens; and then being able to observe or
hear about my students applying this knowledge
to help improve their academic and personal lives.
Most challenging? Successfully getting all your
work complete on time to have enough free time
to focus on your own interests and hobbies - having
a good work-life balance.
Teaching philosophy? First and foremost, I
believe in creating a welcoming and inclusive
learning environment where all students feel
welcome and know that their voices are heard,
respected and valued within the class community.
I believe that students learn best through
active and engaging exploration of ideas and
concepts and then collaboratively sharing,
discussing and debating the many diverse perspectives,
viewpoints and ideas of their peers. I
believe social interaction enriches the learning
experience for all involved. I view my role as a
guide and mentor advising and supporting my
students through the learning process and providing
opportunities for creativity and critical
Ms. Victoria Barrios
Teaching inspiration? No one really. I have
always wanted to be of service. To me, teaching
is a way of doing that while making a big impact
Five adjectives that describe you? Strong, hardworking,
woman, immigrant and dedicated.
Interests and hobbies? I love to travel, read,
support social justice causes through protesting
or volunteering, spend time with my family, go to
concerts and watch movies.
Most rewarding aspect of your profession?
Influencing people to do better for themselves and
Most challenging? This year and the overwhelming
responsibilities put on teachers.
Teaching philosophy? I want students to be more
informed, tolerant and educated about other
people’s cultures. Actively engaging in supporting
and helping others is also something I believe in
and want my students to learn.
DOSHI: THE MIRROR | BEVERLEY REGINO; WASSERMAN: THE MIRROR | ANGELA PROCA; BARRIOS AND RADYUK : THE MIRROR | ISABELLA THOMAS
6 | OCTOBER 2021
PHOTOGRAPHS by ISABELLA THOMAS
DRIVING HIS WAY TO THE TOP Chad Agruso uses a digital multimeter to test an electric component.
Autoshop speeds in with new projects
By ANGELICA VENTURINA
CURRENT EVENTS/LIFESTYLE EDITOR | THE MIRROR
student peers into a classroom,
Scanning the room, they
notice several students listening
to a teacher intently. Their eyes
land on an array of electrical circuit
boards, safely situated on a table. Out
of the corner of their eye, they can see
desktop computers stationed on one
side of the room, while the other is occupied
As the teacher drones on, their ears
perk up at the mention of disassembling
parts of a vehicle. Students nod their
heads, scribbling down notes.
For Automotive Academy students taking
the automotive course with automotive
teacher Mr. Joseph Agruso, this may
be what a regular day in the classroom
looks like. Other days, students may be taking
vehicular parts apart themselves.
The Automotive Academy at school is
associated with SkillsUSA, a nonprofit national
education association that prepares
high school, college and middle school students
for career and technical education.
They’ve had a long-time relationship with
Galpin Ford, being hired upon completion
of Ford training. They’re an ACE certified
school, which is an accredited school with
ACCELERATING THE FUTURE Student teacher
Donna Salazar assists students with building
their sample circuits on electrical training boards.
ENGINEERED TO LAST NASA plans a return mission
to Earth’s natural satellite, Luna, as early as
the MIRROR OCTOBER 2021 | 7
TIP TOP AUTOSHOP
Mr. Agruso assists Nate
Reiwtavee with his electrical
the Ford Motor Company.
Students enrolled in the Automotive
Academy are provided with
competition events, educational programs
and community service hours.
In addition, they gain the opportunity
to learn useful college, career and industry
skills in high demand careers,
such as engineering.
“We’re working on setting up
electrical boards and diving into some
stuff on cars, such as brake inspection,
changing tires on rims and balancing
wheels,” a member of autoshop at
SkillsUSA, Nate Reiwtavee, said.
Students taking the automotive
class with Mr. Agruso are currently
learning the fundamentals of electrical
engineering, using OHM’s law
trainer electrical circuit boards to assist
them in better understanding the
basics. Along with insight into such
topics, students have been looking
into automotive systems, a study on
the various components of vehicles.
Joining Mr. Agruso’s class will also
provide students access to free Ford
training in assembly and fixing.
Regarding plans for the future, Mr.
Agruso is beginning to prepare students
for the regional competitions in
January, offered at SkillsUSA.
Along with this, Mr. Agruso has two
California State Officers for “SkillsU-
SA” flying all over California, working
with the capitol office in Sacramento.
Outside enjoying all the technical
aspects of automotive engineering,
individuals within the Automotive
Academy value the joy it brings them.
“Working on cars is a passion of
mine,” Reiwtavee said. “When I am
working on them, I feel calm. It gives
me a sense of comfort.”
THE ULTIMATE DRIVING
MACHINE Auto shop students
gather in the workshop
awaiting advisor Chad
ALL ABOUT THE DRIVE SkillsUSA students look over a previous
repair to see what is causing the golf cart engine to misfire.
SkillsUSA provides future
job opportunities for
students through handson
8 | OCTOBER 2021
Last-minute hacks for Halloween procrastinators
Being short on time won’t be a hindrance to dressing up this Halloween. Here are some
easy costumes anyone can make in less than a day | ANGELICA VENTURINA
PEXELS | DAISY ANDERSON SOURCE | AMAZON THE MIRROR | BEVERLY REGINO
Scary spirit of Halloween
If you left your costume until the morning of, just
grab your bed sheet — the whiter the better — and
some scissors. Cut eye and breathing holes. Throw
the sheet over your head to achieve a simple and
067 anyone? Want to be a character from
the popular Netflix show “Squid Game?” Get a green
zip-up sweater, scissors, green fabric and paper.
Take several blank pieces of paper and cut out the
numbers of your favorite character. Use pins, glue
or tape to attach each individual number to a green,
rectangular-shaped fabric. Glue the numbered patch
onto the sweater. Or order next-day from Amazon.
Throw a white T-shirt under and you’re all set.
Camouflage in the classroom
Another creative look that will leave people wondering
what you are is a bulletin board. All you need to
do is dig into your pencil bag and grab sticky notes
and a permanent marker. Pull on a brown T-shirt
and stick some post-it notes all over it. Scribble
some writing on each note using the marker and
you’re good to go.
PEXELS | COTTONBRO
SCREEN CAPTURE | NBC NEWS
SOURCE | PARTY CITY
Take the floor
Want to stand out in a crowd of ghosts? Be a
movie theater floor. All you need is a couple
pieces of candy along with a black shirt paired
with black pants. Tape empty candy wrappers
and movie tickets all over the black shirt and
Relive Inauguration Day
For a comedic costume inspired by the Bernie
Sanders inauguration meme, grab a puffy jacket,
a pair of glasses, knitted mittens and a mask.
This cozy look will steal laughs from anyone
who passes by.
Explore the islands from home
Looking like a tourist on vacation is a low-effort task,
and it only requires a couple things: khaki shorts, a
floral top, a straw hat, white socks and open-toe sandals.
You can even throw in a camera or sunglasses,
or you can stop by the nearest Party City.
Two days of honoring the dead
THE MIRROR | ANGELA PROCA
Día de los Muertos is unlike any other holiday.
It’s a day of remembrance for both the dead
and the living.
The two-day celebration, originating in
Mexico, takes place from Nov. 1 to 2. It celebrates deceased
loved ones. Usually, family and friends come together to set
up and decorate ofrendas, or altars.
“I celebrate Dia de los Muertos by lighting candles for my
loved ones and friends who passed away,” senior Isabella
Rivera said. “We light candles for them and place them in
front of their pictures. We also visit the cemetery, leaving
flowers for our other dead loved ones that have passed on.”
This year, Rivera, a member of the Spanish Club, is
helping to decorate an altar with other club members to
Senior Antonio Hermenegildo celebrates with his family
by visiting the San Fernando Park to host arts and crafts
“We provide sugar skulls for kids to decorate with frosting,”
Hermenegildo said. “We also share knowledge about
the history of Día de los Muertos, such as its origin and how
it is celebrated.”
On Día de los Muertos, sugar skulls represent death
through sweetness and nostalgia.
But in modern-day celebrations, people paint their faces
to look like skulls, decorating it to represent a deceased
loved one or an expression of themselves.
Senior Alice Alcantar looks forward to spending the holiday
with her family, making altars for loved ones who have
“To prepare, my family and I purchased cempasúchil
flowers and candles to decorate the altars,” Alcantar said.
“On the altar itself, we put pictures of our loved ones who
have passed, and objects they liked. Once the day arrives,
we place food and drink items that they enjoyed since it’s
believed that they come to visit us and eat what we leave
out for them.”
• ANGELICA VENTURINA
ALTARS AND SKULLS AP Spanish Club President Isabella Rivera decorates
Spanish teacher Ms. Maricela Garcia’s room in honor of Día de los Muertos.
the MIRROR OCTOBER 2021 | 9
All glammed up
A passion for makeup
By ANGELINA KANNO
THE MIRROR STAFF
Makeup isn’t just
for covering up
blemishes on a
For a lot of people, it’s an
outlet for creativity and a way
of boosting confidence.
Most teenagers today are
self-taught makeup artists and
create their own techniques
along the way to form their
Some, like junior Michael
Zamarippa, take inspiration
from celebrities and pop culture
Zamarippa found his
passion for makeup through
He learned that makeup
shouldn’t be seen as a way to
hide imperfections but rather
a mode of expression and
“Lady Gaga was my first
inspiration to start doing
makeup,” he said. “She’s very
talented and unique. I have
always wanted to recreate her
creative and unusual makeup
looks. During her ‘Born This
Way’ era, she had incredible
visuals and spread a powerful
message, which gave me the
confidence to start getting into
makeup and not care about
what others say.”
Zamarippa’s current influence
is American singer Ashnikko
with her vibrant graphic
eyeliner looks and punk-esque
He disagrees with the
notion that makeup is only
meant for women.
“Makeup is not limited to a
specific gender,” he said. “It is a
form of artistic expression.”
There are different kinds of
looks people usually go for. A
few popular examples would
be smokey, natural, shimmery
and cat eye styles. Zamarippa
would describe his base
makeup as soft and natural
looking, whereas his eye
makeup is a mix of alternative
and editorial styles.
“A great artist named Bob
Ross once said, ‘We don’t
make mistakes, just happy
little accidents,’” Zamarippa
said. “The best part about
makeup is that there are no
mistakes, and you can always
fix something that you are
not satisfied with. There are
no right or wrong techniques
when it comes to makeup.
Each person has their own
preferences and shouldn’t be
limited to any one technique.”
makeup is very different from
his “no makeup” look. In his
“no makeup” look, he applies
Fenty Beauty tinted moisturizer,
and tops it off with a
Fenty Beauty matte powder
to ensure his look lasts all
day. He finishes off his look
with cream blush and tinted
For more vibrant looks, he
likes to incorporate accessories
such as self-adhesive
rhinestones and pearls.
A goal he hopes to accomplish
this year is to show
up at school with a different
makeup look everyday.
“From my own personal
experience, I started out practicing
makeup by following
what was popular at the time,
such as basic smokey eye and
makeup,” he said. “There were
certain makeup techniques
that I felt were very useful and
that I still incorporate into my
Junior Merari Hernandes
started out using makeup to
cover up blemishes and correct
the redness of her skin.
She believes creating symmetric
makeup looks is essential
when first learning how to do
makeup. Knowing what facial
structure type she had helped
Hernandes improve in that
“To me, the most important
thing in makeup is symmetry,”
she said. “For example,
although it may be easy to do
a design on one eye, trying to
recreate the same thing on
the other side of your face is
As Hernandes continued
to experiment over time, she
pushed herself to work with
different colors and shapes to
come up with different looks.
Before Hernandes found what
her style was, she tried every
single one to determine what
suited her best.
“I would describe my makeup
as creative,” Hernandes
said. “I love to experiment with
styles out of my comfort zone.
Your face is like a canvas, so be
creative when creating a look.
Even if it means you need
to get out of your comfort
zone, play with new colors or
Junior Sage Carpenter Rihs
is also a self-taught artist.
Despite not having an exact
style, her go-to look is black
mascara paired with liquid
eyeliner. Rihs believes simplicity
is a great form of expression.
Like Hernandes, Rihs also
found that understanding
one’s facial structure is the
most crucial part to makeup.
“I kind of started out with
just eyeliner, and went with it,”
Rihs said. “Figure out the proportion
of your face and eye
shape, especially when doing
Junior Ashley Sarai Valle’s
favorite product is eyeliner as
well, and her usual look ordinarily
includes e-girl aesthetics.
Rather than being swayed by
internet trends or superstars,
Valle’s biggest influence in
makeup was her sister.
“Before you’re going to
learn makeup, just know
you’re beautiful with or without
it,” Valle said.
THE MIRROR | BEVERLY REGINO
BEJEWELED Michael Zamarippa flaunts his intricate
eyeshadow look complete with rhinestones and pearls.
10/11 | OCTOBER 2021
Teenagers are struggling to stay afloat in school as they deal with s
By Ani Tutunjyan, Editor-in-Chief
Do math homework. Read
for English. Write history
essay. Prep for club meeting.
Clean the house. Get your life
This is what most high
school students’ daily checklists
look like, and most items
fail to get crossed off.
Whether it’s academic
responsibilities or strained
relationships, teens are
More than one in three high school students
had experienced persistent feelings
of sadness or hopelessness in 2019 according
to the Centers for Disease Control and
Various adolescent studies have found
that the pandemic has worsened these
conditions, leaving teenagers more stressed
and more anxious than before.
Physical distancing restrictions put in
place to contain covid-19 led to widespread
social isolation which has permanently
changed social relations today.
Many students struggled with returning
to lively social situations present at school
after being away from classmates and
“Being in quarantine really messed me
up and destroyed most of my social skills,”
freshman Kevin Rodriguez said.
Some people have developed social anxiety
from being away from others for so long.
New psychiatric social worker Kat Stockly,
who specializes in adolescent well being
and previously worked for the Pasadena
Unified School District to provide mental
health services to students, is not surprised
to see mental health issues arising from
“I think a lot that I’m seeing as of right
now are high anxiety being around a lot of
people which makes a lot of sense because
we spent a lot of time in isolation,” Stockly
said. “So coming back to school and being
around a lot of people expecting to
participate has been difficult for students,
especially if you are a little introverted. It’s
kind of a shock to the system and it takes a
lot of adjusting.”
Students who may have had anxiety
prior to quarantine, have witnessed their
mental health worsen.
“During the pandemic I was diagnosed
with social anxiety, major depressive disorder,
Severe anxiety, post traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD), panic disorder,and dissociative
identity disorder (DID),” sophomore
Winter Rivers. “Being back in school just
makes me very easy to trigger.”
Mental health issues arising from the
pandemic have made returning to in-person
learning challenging for many students.
“Although returning in person has helped
me actually learn and get my grades up, it
has been stressful,” freshman Alexis Martinez
said. “Over the
ethic and could b
I felt so stressed a
affects me even n
still have trouble c
and finding the m
Majority of stu
struggles while tr
90 percent of s
return to campus
ing according to a
“It’s odd going b
with the added st
mental health has
it all depends on t
tress, anxiety and other mental health struggles prevailing from quarantine
ILLUSTRATED BY Diego Aguirre
pandemic, I lost my work
arely do any work because
nd overwhelmed. That still
ow that we’re in-person. I
ompleting my homework
otivation to actually do it.”
dents are facing the same
ying to adjust to preional
life in the midst of an
tudents have found the
stressful and overwhelmsurvey
conducted by The
ack to old ways and now
ress of a pandemic. My
been a roller coaster and
he week,” senior Jennifer
Online learning was seemingly more
informal than in person. Students often
joined from bed while in pajamas. Classes
became unengaging after staring at a screen
for hours with little opportunity to collaborate
or do tactile projects. Consequently,
students struggle with staying motivated
and keeping up their work ethic.
“Online learning was much less stressful
than in-person learning,” sophomore Isabell
Marroquin said. “In-person classes provide
teachers the chance to assign students
more work than necessary. It’s a lot to deal
with and makes it difficult to keep motivation
for school, and in general.”
The lack of motivation and focus has
made students stressed.
“I have been behind by a lot, I can’t focus
much and I tend to cry at least once a day,”
sophomore Shadie Galdamez said.
Covid-19 and its effects on learning aren’t
the only things to be stressed about.
Other factors of stress include homelife,
relationships, sexuality and peer pressure.
65 percent of survey respondents cited
parents as a stress factor.
“My home life with my parents is often
pretty stressful, even as an only child, just
to reach my parents standards,” Marroquin
Friendships are no small trek either. 55
percent of students are overwhelmed by
juggling platonic and romantic relationships.
“Just having to deal with school and
juggling friendships is very hard,” freshman
Despite the challenges, students are finding
ways to cope with the stress of being a
teenager in extraordinary times..
“I play a lot of videos and listen to music
and just doodle sometimes to help me
forget all the pressure I have on myself for a
little bit,” senior Lilly Magee said.
A majority of students use music as an
outlet for emotions.
“I tend to take a break. I distance myself
for a moment and listen to music and just
enjoy my own presence,” Llanos said.
Some students look to nature to ground
“I try to watch the clouds just so I can
focus on something that still moves but
doesn’t put me into a place where I want to
feel out of reality,” Serrano said.
Stockly recommends being present in
the moment and talking things out when
dealing with anxiety or stress.
“I think there is a mental aspect and
a physical aspect showing in your body,”
Stockly said. “ I Think sometimes when you
have a lot of anxious thoughts and you’re
kind of keeping it inside and internalizing
it, it’s a little bit harder to process. Talking
about your feelings and what you’re going
through can really help you process and
deal with the anxiety better.”
12 | OCTOBER 2021
MY BODY, MY CHOICE?
A seven-week-old human
embryo, above, has more
rights in Texas than the
person who carries it
according to the state’s
new abortion law.
FLICKR | LUNAR CAUSTIC
VOLUME 108 | ISSUE 1
Punishing the living in defense of the unborn
There’s more than one virus
spreading in America and
one of them isn’t coronavirus.
It’s the attack on
A draconian six-week abortion ban —
based on when a fetus’s heartbeat is first
detectable — already has pregnant Texans
scrambling to states as far as California to
get an abortion.
A period typically comes every four
weeks, which means banning abortion at
six weeks gives people just two weeks to
realize they are pregnant and make the
decision of getting an abortion. Additionally,
about one in 475 pregnancies are not
revealed until around 20 weeks because
they are hidden.
Texans seeking to get an abortion after
six weeks can be fined up to $10,000 in
“statutory damages” by civil lawsuits that
can be brought to court by any person.
These fines would also apply to abortion
providers or any person who “aided or
abetted” such as Uber drivers that drove
them to their appointment.
There are no exemptions for rape or incest.
Cisgender male politicians who have absolutely
no clue how a menstruating body
works are creating laws that only seek to
police women’s bodies.
These are the same people who say the
government should not be allowed to mandate
masks because “my body, my choice,”
right? Where is that same conviction in
regards to women’s rights?
Why is it okay for the government to tell
women, transgender men and nonbinary
people what they can do with their bodies?
The abortion ban is a calculated attack
on these groups.
It’s not about preserving life. If that were
the case, politicians would also push for
free health care and child care, healthy
“My body, my choice.”
What’s the first issue you thought of
when you heard that: abortion or vaccinations?
It should be abortions but that unfortunately is not what the
phrase is being used for anymore.
The expression is now popular among a new wave of anti-vaxxers
against the covid-19 vaccine.
From unmasked protests downtown to misinforming social
media posts, anti-vaxxers are relentless.
They believe they’re the lions among a herd of sheep, too wise
to fall for the lies of the government.
Well, there are some “lions” among our staff, or at least there
used to be.
Teachers and staff were required to receive their first dose of
the covid-19 vaccine by Oct. 15, and while 97 percent of LAUSD
staff did, 796 chose not to.
And now students across the second-largest school district
in the U.S. are left to their own devices, forced to face the conse-
lunches in schools and covid-19 vaccines.
They would help the nearly 35,000 children
in Texas’s foster care system.
But that’s not happening. Calling themselves
pro-life is just a convenient facade.
Lawmakers and other pro-life individuals
care more about an unborn fetus than
a living person in need of an abortion
whether it’s because they were raped or are
simply not ready to raise a child.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Texas
would work aggressively to “eliminate
all rapists” but in 2019, of 14,656 rapes
reported, around only 15 percent of
perpetrators were arrested. This number
doesn’t include rape and incest victims
who are too scared to report their assault
or have no faith in the system.
Texas is yet to make any policy change
to keep its promise.
Regardless of whether a person seeking
to get an abortion is raped or simply
does not want the child, they have the
right to safe, legal abortion without having
to explain themselves to anyone.
As seen throughout history and in countries
that have criminalized abortion, banning
abortions does not change abortion
rates. It just makes people seek out dangerous
alternatives, even taking matters into
their own hands by using a clothes hanger.
In a state that swears by the Constitution,
the Establishment Clause that separates
church and state seems to be ignored.
Religious and personal beliefs should
have no ties to the legality of abortions, and
if politicians cannot make that separation
when on the clock, then they are not qualified
for the job.
A blob of cells without a functioning
brain isn’t a baby.
To pro-life individuals and cisgender
men: no one asked you to get an abortion
so sit down and shut up.
You lost your job, now what? Teachers and staff would
rather lose their jobs than get a vaccine to protect the
students they claim to love to teach.
quences of teachers who were meant to educate them and shape
them into functioning members of society.
They stand outside their teacherless classrooms waiting for
substitutes to arrive. English teachers are covering math classes
and science teachers covering history.
What are students learning? Not much.
Because how can an English teacher be expected to teach
Algebra 2, a subject they last visited when they were in high school
In a time when the nation is already facing a teacher shortage
because of low wages and deplorable working conditions, the administration
is left scrambling to find people to temporarily cover
classrooms and teachers to employ long-term.
In the meantime, students aren’t learning subjects required by
the district and state and elective classes they may have joined
this school specifically for.
So we ask these former teachers, now what?
How do you feel leaving behind students who once looked
up to you?
CURRENT EVENTS/LIFESTYLE EDITORS
PODCAST/SOCIAL MEDIA EDITOR
Mr. Ron Goins
ABOUT US The Mirror is the student
newspaper of Van Nuys Senior High
School in Van Nuys, California, a district
of Los Angeles, published six times per
year. Opinions expressed in bylined commentary
articles and columns represent
the views of the individual writer and do
not necessarily reflect the views of The
Mirror or the Editorial Board.
DISTRIBUTION Copies are free
to students, faculty and staff and are
available in Room 112, Second Floor,
Main Building. Digital issues are available
READER PARTICIPATION Unsigned
editorials represent the majority
opinion of the Editorial Board. Letters
to the Editor may be delivered to Room
112 or mailed to The Mirror, 6535 Cedros
Ave, Van Nuys, CA 91411. Letters must be
signed and may be edited for space to
conform to The Mirror style and format.
ADVERTISING Advertising questions
may be directed to Makayla Enciso at
by telephoning (818) 788-6800. Publication
of an advertisement does not imply
endorsement of the product or service
by the newspaper or the school.
MEMBERSHIPS National Scholastic
Press Association (NSPA), Columbia
Scholastic Press Association (CSPA),
Southern California Journalism Educators
Association (SCJEA) and Los
Angeles Press Club.
AWARDS 2021-22 NSPA Pacemaker
Finalist; 2020-21 NSPA Pacemaker
Award winner; 2020-21 CSPA Silver
Crown winner; 2020-21 SCJEA First
Place All-Star; 2020-21 LA Press Club
First Place High School Newspaper.
the MIRROR OCTOBER 2021 | 13
THE MIRROR | ANI TUTUNJYAN
College application season is in full force and I’m stressed out
It’s that time of the year when “work
on college apps!” is on my to-do list
every day but never gets checked off.
College application season is in full
force and I am stressed out.
There’s so much to do from applying to
FAFSA to writing over a dozen essays, not
to mention the many parts of the application
itself that are confusing to fill out.
I need to pick one pivotal moment that
encompasses my entire personality and
reflect on it in 650 words or less. That’s too
much pressure and not enough words.
Writing isn’t the only thing to be overwhelmed
about when applying to college.
College costs hundreds of thousands
of dollars. And each application alone can
cost anywhere between $60 to $80.
Some people even take a gap year to
work to afford college, while others work
all summer before college instead of
having fun with their friends to pay for
textbooks the next semester.
Your worry is still not over if you manage
to write good essays, find money for
your applications and scholarships for your
tuition. Because for the next three months,
you’ll be sitting at the edge of your seat
wondering if the admission officers reading
essays think you’re interesting enough, if
your grades are good enough, if your extracurriculars
are unique enough and if you’re
an overall good fit for their college.
There’s a constant pressure of trying
to be the perfect person and make all the
right choices in high school when you’re
not even old enough to vote. And college
applications are a test of how close to that
person you have become, all based on a
High school competitiveness is at an all
time high while college acceptances are at
an all time low. Students are competing
for the highest grades, the most extracurriculars,
and the best recognitions.
College acceptances have created a
toxic culture in high schools that likely will
not dissolve was college acceptance rates
continue to drop.
While I’d be happy to get into any UC or
CSU school, I’ve also fallen victim to college
elitism, seeking to receive acceptance
from the school with the most pristine
name and the lowest acceptance rate
even if the campus or student life might
not be for me.
It’s a dilemma almost every high school
student faces. All we can hope for is that
we make the best choice for our individual
needs when the time for decisions
The intricacies of college are likely
something I won’t really understand even
after I apply to college and get accepted.
Teaching the Holocaust: Sometimes there aren’t two sides to an issue
The Holocaust was a horrific genocide. Six million
Jews were murdered.
That’s a fact everyone agrees on. Well, everyone
except neo-Nazis and other Holocaust deniers.
Southlake, Texas school administrator Gina Peddy
seems to concur with neo-Nazis that the Holocaust is
want to rewrite
history. The only
on the Holocaust is
a topic up for debate
in schools. That it’s a
topic with “opposing
views.” Southlake is a
suburb in the Dallas/
Ft. Worth area.
Peddy informed a
group of Southlake elementary school teachers that
if their classrooms include books and discussions on
the Holocaust, then students should also be exposed
to “opposing views.”
After her directive was secretly recorded and posted
by one of the training
session attendees, Peddy
explained that she was
just trying to keep teachers
in compliance with
Texas House Bill 3979.
Signed into law on
Sept. 1 by Governor Greg
Abbott, the new law prohibits educators from discussing
controversial historical, social or political issues.
When these subjects do arise, the law mandates
that teachers “explore such issues from diverse and
contending perspectives without giving deference to
any one perspective.”
The only “diverse perspective” on the Holocaust is
denial. Hitler didn’t kill six million Jewish people and
hundreds of thousands of people who didn’t fit in his
picture of a perfect specimen with blonde hair and
blue eyes such as homosexuals.
Texas politicians want to rewrite
Their goal is to erase America’s
real history which itself is muddled
with genocide and colonization.
This both-sides-ism can also be
used to justify teaching teaching
slave owners’ perspectives on slavery or even denying
the existence of slavery as a whole.
Lively debates in classrooms are an important part
of the learning process but the Holocaust is not up for
debate. Slavery is not up for debate. LGBTQ+ rights are
not up for debate. Human rights are not up for debate.
Educators should be the ones shaping the education
curriculum, not legislators who are out of touch
with the reality of their people.
Not teaching history risks repeating it.
14 | OCTOBER 2021 E
THE MIRROR | ISABELLA THOMAS
PUTTING IN THE HOURS (Top L to R) Dante Damiano,
Breeana Gerdes, Jude Struble, Michelle Levi, Dakota Threats,
April Cho, (Bottom L to R) Rushmia Hussain, Sebastian
Estrada and Gover Olivares practice five to six times a week
in preparation for the fall play.
By GABRIEL CASTILLO &
THE MIRROR STAFF
The drama department
will make a debut after
a year-long hiatus with
their fall production of
“PUFFS, or Seven Increasingly Eventful
Years at a Certain School of Magic and
Magic” from Nov. 18 to 20.
The story of PUFFS follows Wayne
Hopkins, a nerdy boy from New Mexico
who finds out that he is a wizard and goes
to Hogwarts where he spends his years
making friends and learning magic.
Hopkins will be played by senior Jude
Though he has worked as part of the
backstage crew in other productions,
this is Struble’s second time being in the
spotlight, the last time being “Peter and the
Starcatcher” as Ted, an orphan boy, in 2019.
“I haven’t done in-person acting in a
year-and-a-half,” Struble said. “It’s weird
having to be in front of people and speak
out loud and physically interacting with
THE MIRROR | ISABELLA THOMAS
Alongside Struble, seniors Edgar Muñoz,
playing Oliver Rivers, and Michelle
Levi, assuming the role of Megan Jones,
are excited to make their return to the
stage playing best friends and sidekicks to
Hopkins as he embarks on his journey to
“Going on stage brings me more joy
than nerves,” Muñoz said. “I expect the
performance to spark joy and laughter
among the audience as much as it has to
Alongside the trio, many actors make
their return to stage like junior Dante
Damiano with the role of Ernie Mac and
senior Gover Olivares, who plays both the
charming Cedric and the nefarious Mr.
“It felt like second nature when the
moment came back,” Olivares said. “The
moment I walked onto the stage under
the light and faced the audience, a wave of
nostalgia and happiness washed over me
knowing I belonged there after so long.”
Along with the returning actors comes
some new faces in the ensemble.
• Kevin “Eli” Tessier
Sebastian Estrada J. Finch Fletchley
Adrianna Bean, Emily Chavez,
Addison Cudd, Sophia Hillestad,
Maddie KC Jordan, Lilit Aprahamian,
Jimmy Martinez, Ella Robinson,
Ethan Rodda, Jake Ruckman, Angel
LIGHTS, CURTAIN, ACTION! “Puffs, or Seven
Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of
Magic and Magic” premiers on Thursday, Nov. 18 in
the MIRROR E
OCTOBER 2021 | 15
THE MIRROR | ISABELLA THOMAS
THE MIRROR | ISABELLA THOMAS
Theater director Mollie
Lief gives students
stage directions while
rehearsing for the play.
IN THE LIMELIGHT (L to R) Michelle
Levi, Jude Struble, Edgar Munoz rehearse
with their scripts as they begin
to block the play.
Sophomore Sebastian Estrada, junior
Breeana Gerdes and freshman April
Cho are all making their acting debuts in
“Being in a production feels scary but
exciting at the same time,” Cho said. “I was
so surprised when I saw I got a role, so I’m
super happy to be a part of this fun play.”
Taking part in the first production back
at school since distance learning began in
March 2019, the cast is excited to finally
hit the stage and put on a long-awaited
show in person.
As the show is brought to life in front
of a live audience by the cast of “PUFFS,”
an unforeseen production is happening
behind the curtains.
The backstage crew is essential to provide
the support needed to help ensure a musical
or theater production comes to fruition.
Stage managers serve as the right hand
to the director and organize various aspects
involved in the day-to-day happenings
of a theater production.
Senior Dakota Threats, one of the leading
stage managers, and Madison Thacker,
freshman and assistant stage manager,
will join the backstage crew for the first
Thacker explains that there is a stronger
sense of dedication and professionalism
in this theater program compared to
that of her middle school.
“Everybody seems more committed,”
Thacker said. “In middle school, everyone
did it for fun and now everyone seems so
down to earth and serious about it.”
Threats, an experienced cast member a
step back from the spotlight and stepping
into her new role as stage manager for the
“I love the stage and acting,” Threats
said. “But there’s something so exhilarating
about helping with the process and
seeing the play come together in front of
Also behind the scenes, junior Rushmia
Hussain controls background sounds,
music and effects as sound board operator.
The cast and crew will begin dress
rehearsals Nov. 6.
THE MIRROR | ISABELLA THOMAS
BREAK A LEG Gover Olivares and Jude Struble
listen to stage directions given by Ms. Lief.
16 | OCTOBER 2021 E
COURTESY | DIANE HULA
shows off in her
“to hell with it”
COURTESY | PARLOPHONE
NIMBLE MOVEMENTS (L to R) Damady Verganza, Tanaj Kinchen, Fatiah Lawal, Antonella
Podesta, Ava Boris and Ariana Mariscal warm up at the barre by holding a tendu.
Back on Pointe
The Dance Company gets in the rhythm again
By JADEN HANTMAN
THE MIRROR STAFF
And five, six, seven, eight!
The dance department
is bringing movement and
flow back to campus.
Due to distance learning, Dance
Company — the school’s advanced
dance team — could only host virtual
performances last year which lacked a
Now, the dance department is preparing
for it’s annual winter show in
which students display dances ranging
from jazz to hip-hop to ballet.
This year’s theme is “Howling at
the Moon.’’ The show is expected to
be performed outside throughout the
quad to maintain social distancing
guidelines and keep in touch with the
theme. It will take place after school
from Dec. 9 to 11.
“The audience will be treated to
something different, and acquire a renewed
connection with the performers
and with our beautiful campus,”
dance teacher Ms. Diane Hula said.
One piece the team is currently
working on for the show is a jazz
dance called “Let’s Live it Up” which
was also performed during this year’s
“I’m really excited for the show,”
dancer Abigail Lee said. “Dance showcases
were my favorite part of dance
before distance learning. Staying after
school, getting ready with everyone
else, dancing together, the feeling is
incomparable to anything else. I can’t
wait to do that again this year.”
Although it took nearly two months
to finish, it was the first collaboration
with all of the company members since
the return to campus.
“Being back together meant we
could finally work on more projects
and dance pieces,” Dance Board President
and company member Fatiah
The team practices every day during
sixth period and every Wednesday
“Being able to dance in person has
been one of the best things about returning
to in person school,” Lee said.
“There is something different about
dancing in a room with people who
are just as dedicated and passionate
about dancing as you are, and it’s honestly
just a lot less lonely after a year of
dancing alone in my room.”
While the return to campus has
opened the door to new opportunities,
distance learning was a unique experience
that took some getting used to.
For students and teachers alike, it
was an uphill battle lacking the faceto-face
connections and interactions
necessary to teach and learn dance.
Ms. Hula recalls teaching dance as a
challenge as it was hard to give details
required for technique through Zoom.
For students, it was difficult to learn
how to dance on a computer screen
and rehearse being restricted to their
bedrooms. It was also hard to communicate
when practicing dance pieces
due to technical issues.
“Last year was the first time I was
in Dance Company and it was very
difficult to learn how to dance on
a computer screen,” Lawal said. “It
was hard to bond and communicate
with each other to get our dance
Despite these difficulties, the program
“Even though the setting wasn’t
perfect, I really connected with many
students over the school year through
the screen,” Ms. Hula said.
Students were able to still learn
many dance genres, combinations
and all of the classes were involved in
Prior to the school year starting, the
Dance Company performed for a live
“The dancers rehearsed in the
summer and performed an uplifting
piece called ‘Born to Be Brave.’ It was
televised on KLCS,” Hula said.
After her surge in popularity on
TikTok, Pinkpantheress finally
releases her first mixtape
By GABRIEL CASTILLO
THE MIRROR STAFF
In the midst of her booming popularity,
internet sensation Pinkpantheress
released her debut mixtape “to hell with it”
Her short, but sweet songs have taken
social media platform TikTok by storm,
resulting in her overnight growth in popularity.
Her music went trending and has
garnered hundreds of millions of streams.
With all this hype and the constant anticipation
of new material, a project was surely
in the works. Now that it’s here, how is it?
The project is filled with luscious vocals,
gorgeous beats and heartfelt lyrics.
Nearly all of the beats are made from
samples of songs, from Adam F’s “Circles” on
the beat of “Break It Off” and Sweet Female
Attitude’s “Flowers” on “Pain.” The most
interesting sample is on “Last Valentines”
where the beat is that from “Forgotten” by
Linkin Park, pitched down and sped up.
The song lengths, while short, work in
An issue I did have with the mixtape
was the lack of new material it brings to
the table. The album consists mainly of
singles that have already been released.
While it’s nice to see some of it brought
to streaming services, I and many others
were hoping for more. The whole project
seems like it was wrapped up by her
record label rather quickly.
Nevertheless, the mixtape is a clear club
classic. There really isn’t a dull moment. I
can’t wait to see what else she has in store,
as she has enough talent to make a real
career for herself. I’m hoping that she isn’t
just having her 15 minutes of fame.
Happier Than Ever
Lil Nas X
Album of your year
As life stirs once again on campus and things inch slowly
back to normal, music inevitably follows as students
are seen listening between classes, during lunch and at
home to wind down from a stressful day at school.
The Mirror decided to take a deep dive into what
students’ favorite albums were as of Sept. 17. A survey
was administered on the social media platform Instagram
where students were given the opportunity
to share their opinions and favorites. Reigning at the
top, the current queen of pop Olivia Rodrigo wins with
her album “SOUR” released on May 21. • VANNESA
A FRESH BEAT
GRAPHIC | THE MIRROR
SCREEN CAPTURE | TO HELL WITH IT
the MIRROR E
OCTOBER 2021 | 17
The campus is alive again with
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
The Music Department
no longer has to worry
about being out of sync
because of lagging
internet connection as
they make their return
to campus, bringing
music with them.
THEMIRROR | PHOTOS BY BEVERLY REGINO
BY ISABELA DIAZ
THE MIRROR STAFF
With quarantine and distance
learning, last year
was an atypical time for
everyone. In terms of
music, it was lonely. The return to campus
has finally broken the silence that filled the
Being restricted to their screens and
bedrooms last school year, it was almost
impossible for scholastic musicians to
group together to perform and rehearse in
“For students deeply invested in the
language of music, going a year-and-a-half
without sharing a conversation through
their instruments was quite numbing,”
Program Director Robert Eisenhart said.
Mr. Eisenhart teaches Advanced Band, AP
Music Theory, Rhythm Lab and Orchestra.
Digital restrictions resulted in students
being unable to share their craft and passion
with the school nor one another.
“We gave ourselves permission to not
be perfect and not conquer covid-19 by
turning our art into a product to ‘prove we
were alive,’” Eisenhart said. “We survived
by making music.”
While the program did not win any
awards because competitions had
stopped, a small orchestra of 30 students
came together to perform live at graduation
“It wasn’t a trophy, but it was a great affirmation
of the strength of our students,”
Musicians are now able to compose
and satisfy their hunger for creative expression
through music in person.
“It’s great to be back in person again.
Playing together as a group has allowed us
to further develop our skills,” drum major
David Ross said.
But, the return has been far from
“The biggest challenge we have faced is
the current protocol not allowing wind instruments
to play indoors,” Eisenhart said.
Wind instruments are any instrument
that requires a musician to blow into the
instrument in order to create sound, including
trumpets and saxophones. These
pose the biggest threat to student health
and are not allowed to be played indoors
because of the increased risk of transmitting
covid-19 through the air since masks
must be off to play.
The absence of wind instruments have
the Jazz and Winds classes in disarray.
“It is definitely affecting us very negatively,”
Eisenhart said. The protocol has left
BANDING TOGETHER Anthony Sanchez and
Mary Dermenjyan wait to play the National
Anthem during practice
the program unprepared for competition
season and stumped the program participation
in football games and pep rallies.
The Marching Band and Drill Team are
currently in season but by the end of the
semester, Orchestra and Jazz classes will
begin preparing to step onto the stage for
school concerts and performances including
the Symphonic Concert.
However, the current program-wide
focus is to build a foundation that will
ultimately result in stunningly cultivated
music that is uniquely personal to the
students. They are currently learning the
fundamentals of marching and physical
training. However, most of their time
is concentrated on playing their instruments.
As of now, this semester is primarily
about getting performers’ feet on the
ground and adjusting to the new reality.
“We’re just looking forward to getting
through it as soon as we can and making
sure that Van Nuys High School has a
band, an orchestra and everything stepping
into the future,” Eisenhart said.
DRUMMING IT AWAY Anddy Melendez, Luke Chey and
Rachel Sang split off into their own drumline sectionals.
B NATURAL Clarinet
and drumline positions
themselves to play the
18 | OCTOBER 2021 E
THE MIRROR | PHOTOS BY BEVERLY REGINO
QUIET ON SET Angel Hernandez’s student film “The Enfreakening” sets a scene on the quad.
storytelling back after
By GABRIEL CASTILLO
THE MIRROR STAFF
Film students are back on set.
Students needed to get creative
with film productions during distance
learning due to covid-19 regulations.
Without access to the campus and equipment
due to distance learning, resources to create
films were scarce.
“We were limited to working mostly without
any of our gear and without being able to work in
crews or pods with other students,” film production
teacher Thomas McCluskey said. “We had
to redesign our entire workflow from scratch to
accommodate all the changes.”
Despite the challenges, film production persevered.
“Last year we had around 50 finished films
including an award-winning personal reflection,
a music video, several horror shorts and
trailers, a professional-caliber documentary
and a stop-motion Transformers animation.”
Now, filmmakers are back in a classroom
full of professional equipment with face-to-face
collaborations and real time guidance from
HOWLING OUT Emma
Salehi and Anya Shayani
host the morning
the film room which
is broadcasted live
on the Van Nuys High
School YouTube page.
“Part of me is so relieved just to have the
familiarity of everything back on campus,” senior
film student Jane Luitweiler said. “A lot of it feels
foreign in a lot of ways at the same time, but I
definitely work so much better in the classroom.
Being able to build those personal connections
and have those intimate conversations that are
so meaningful to working in the entertainment
industry as a whole.”
While the school year is still relatively young,
big moves are being made for video production.
As the classes start to begin creating films, student
projects will soon come into fruition.
“We’re looking forward to a lot of filming at
school events and many great shows ahead,”
Executive Producer Andrea Parada said.
Students are currently transitioning from
working on films as assignments to writing
scripts and pitches and filming concepts. Eventually,
these will become films that will be shown
at the school’s annual Film Showcase in which all
projects are shown to students who attend and
a select few sent to local student film festivals.
Some students are already in the production
process. Senior Andrew Choto is working on his
“It’s probably going to be about me or my
brother and his girlfriend,” Choto said.
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows like
in movies. Students have some adjusting to do.
Many students have not even stepped foot on
campus or have seen a high school classroom.
“I felt excited that I got to finally experience
working in a classroom with new people,” sophomore
Damien Flores said.
Van Nuys Live, the school news production,
for example, is dealing with many big changes.
Other than being back on campus, the production
has a new crew, new hosts and new
The live YouTube broadcast has four shows
a week: Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and
an extended broadcast on Fridays, in which film
students’ videos are shown.
One of the biggest additions to the news is a
teleprompter. A lot of effort has been put into
integrating it into the production.
Along with the teleprompter, the school has
acquired other equipment including an Arri
Alexa Mini Camera, a state-of-the-art video
camera used in many professional productions.
Production crews are currently learning
how to use it.
While students still have to deal with certain
covid-19 regulations when dealing with projects,
it’s much less restrictive than last year,
and hopefully that will lead to better projects
“We will see what we are capable of when we
get to the advanced projects next semester,” Mc-
Cluskey said. “I am hopeful that if we start with a
solid plan, we can achieve great results.”
I felt excited that
I got to finally
ing in a classroom
with new people”
BEHIND THE SCENES Film advisor Thomas McCluskey
teaches students how to work around a set.
the MIRROR OCTOBER 2021 | 19
The track team has had a successful season record for multiple years.
They deserve more respect.
When someone says high school
sports, what’s the first sport that
usually pops into people’s heads?
Most students initially picture
football or basketball. Some may even think of soccer,
volleyball or baseball.
I believe that two sports in particular are often
overlooked: cross country and track and field.
In simplest terms, I would classify them as the
Cross country focuses on longer distance runs
and three mile races, while track and field is more
orientated towards short sprints or and long
These sports differ a lot from other
team sports such as football and soccer.
The biggest difference is that running
sports aren’t necessarily based on
teams all the time.
The team’s overall ranking may
be based on the average of the entire
team’s speed and races, but there are
many ways that players can win victories
Runners that come in first out of both of the competing
teams or set records get rewards and earn
higher recognition in college resumes.
Our school team has had a consistently strong
record over the past
years. In 2019, they
even contested to
become city champions.
Cross country and
track aren’t as popular
as football. They
never will be, but I
believe that these sports require a lot of skill too and
deserve much more recognition than they receive.
The cross country team had their first official race
on Sept. 30 at Pierce College and will continue hosting
home games there for this season.
Coach in search of wrestlers
By EMI KIM & ANI TUTUNJYAN
THE MIRROR STAFF
It doesn’t take much to bench press 310 pounds
and set a California bench press record. Just a preworkout
protein shake and some determination.
It also doesn’t take much to deadlift over 400
pounds and then finish off a workout with rope climbing.
It takes even less to do all this before the sun is even up.
This has been wrestling coach Ramon Tovar’s routine
for decades as he moved through life as a high school
wrestler to now an English teacher and coach.
Coach Tovar started the wrestling team in 2007 with
the hopes of passing down the athletic and life skills he
learned in his time as a high school wrestler.
Now, after a nonexistent athletic year due to the pandemic,
Coach Tovar is attempting to rebuild the wrestling
So far, he has nine male wrestlers but
he is hoping to get more male and
Wrestling played a valuable role in Coach Tovar’s developmental
years and he wants the sport to be the same for
“Wrestling makes you a better and tougher person,” he
said. “No kid has ever come into my wrestling room and
wrestled a season or two and not walked out a stronger
person on the inside. It teaches you how to be tough.”
Wrestling practice takes place after
school from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. four to five
days a week.
Wrestlers practice in the wrestling
room located behind the cafeteria which
is decked out in new playmats and
weights thanks to Principal Yolanda
Gardea who made the purchase
before retiring last year.
A typical practice begins with warm-ups to increase
athletes’ heart rates. Coach Tovar then reviews moves
learned at the previous practice then teaches any new
moves for the day.
Then comes the exciting part: sparring. Wrestlers practice
the new moves they learned on each other.
Their practice finishes off with 20-minute
conditioning which can include pushups,
sit-ups and sprints.
While tournament dates have
not all been officially planned,
the wrestling team will have
their first competition against
San Clemente High School on
“Wrestling is a very physical
sport but a very rewarding
WE WANT YOU Wrestling coach
Ramon Tovar is looking for new
students to join the wrestling
No kid has ever come
into my wrestling room
and wrestled a season
or two and not walked
out a stronger person
on the inside. It teaches
you how to be tough.”
SOURCE | NASA
20 | OCTOBER 2021
THE MIRROR | ISABELLA THOMAS
THE MIRROR | ISABELLA THOMAS
PITCHING A HOME RUN JV player
Amin Zoghlami winds up for a pitch.
STAYING ALERT Varsity player Dominick Ramos is in position to catch a strike from a teammate.
By SAMANTHA RAMOS
THE MIRROR STAFF
ready to start
the day’s baseball practice.
Coach Sepulveda is the new head
coach for the JV and Varsity Baseball
teams which will begin their new
season in March.
It’s not his first time on campus. In
fact, he was hitting home runs on the
same baseball field just a decade prior.
When he was notified of the opening
by Athletic Director Danny Levy,
he jumped at the opportunity and
was hired within a week.
Coach Sepulveda is hoping to
establish a solid foundation for the future
of the school’s baseball program.
Last season which began in late
April, a later start than usual, was an
overall successful year for baseball.
The varsity team won six out of
the 10 games they played, winning
their Division II playoffs against Monroe
High School 9-6 but losing their
playoffs against Maywood Center for
Enriched Studies 8-4 under Coach
Alfredo Avila’s leadership.
Now, Coach Sepulveda is looking to
prepare players to win a championship
which they last earned in 2013.
“It’s going to be a big step this year
and take a big effort,” Coach Sepulveda
So far, he has been preparing the
teams through basic baseball conditioning
drills like running bases and
pitching, hitting and catching balls.
The teams have also been running
through practice games.
Coach Sepulveda has been working
with the JV and Varsity teams
together to create a mentorship
“Learning from the older boys will
make them [JV players] feel like they
have a brother and they have someone
to go to,” he said.
Since both teams are working
together, there are no official team
captains as of now but seniors Bryan
Cruz, Anthony Ramos, Dominick Ramos,
Marc Ruiz and Adan Vega have
been taking the lead and working
with newer members.
“It feels great to be back in person.
I can finally achieve the goal of scouts
watching me perform,” unofficial
team captain Ruiz said.
He’s looking forward to a new
season under Coach Sepulveda’s
“He is a nice guy and well organized
in all things he does not only
in baseball but in his outside life too,”
Ruiz said. “I feel like he will change the
Van Nuys baseball program for the
better and will definitely shine a new
light on the team.”
The love for Coach Sepulveda
seems to be a shared sentiment
“Coach Sepulveda in his short
time here has already made major
beneficial changes to our program,”
varsity player Steven Tostado said.
“It’s definitely a step in the right
“He is a great coach. I can tell everyone
on the team loves him,” unofficial
team captain Dominick Ramos
said. “He takes the time with everyone
and you can tell he’s here for us.”
Part of the reason Coach Sepulveda
is so favored among members
is his emphasis on the importance of
student athletes being students first
He plans to do this by conducting
professional development classes to
teach athletes how to write resumes
and cover letters and prepare for
“I know that professional development
hasn’t been done before in
the past but I’m a firm believer in
developing our student athletes as
students first and as people because
that is going to carry over into the
classroom as well as on the field
and even once their baseball
career is over here at Van
Nuys,” he said. “They can
take those life skills up
to the real world.”
himself started playing
baseball at his local Little League
when he was five.
His love for baseball came from
“When my mom and grandmother
were working, my grandfather
would teach me baseball. He eventually
convinced them to put me in
He continued to pursue his passion
for baseball until his last year
of high school at Van Nuys when he
injured himself while trying out for
Mission College’s baseball team.
He went to rehabilitation for his
injury but was no longer able to play.
Coach Sepulveda reached out
to the other baseball coach, Coach
Christopher Tuhan, who used to be
Sepulveda’s high school coach, and
began helping out the team last year.
He found himself falling in love
with a completely different aspect of
baseball he had never envisioned for
“I was able to mentor players and
show them the smaller things the
coaches couldn’t show them because
they were focusing on other aspects
of the game,” Coach Sepulveda said.
While the season
is set to begin in
March, there is
date for the
BACK TO HIS
A former graduate and player, the new baseball
coach looks to build a championship team
Coach Andres Sepulveda
joins the staff
as the new baseball
THEMIRROR | BEVERLY REGINO