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California High School

The nationwide

teacher shortage

is affecting Cal

High. Read more

in Features on

pages B4-B5.

Volume XXXIII, Issue I 9870 Broadmoor Dr. San Ramon, CA 94583 Thursday, October 5, 2023

Parade marches on despite racist graffiti

Photo by Anvi Kataria

Freshmen cheer from the Class of 2027 float. Volunteers

covered graffiti on the float so it could run in the parade.

Murals add

flair to campus

New club was

inspired by a

global studies

class project

Srikar Thippavajjula

Staff Writer

The large mural adorning

the third floor of Cal High’s

main building is a striking new

addition to the hallway walls.

But it was not just another

group of paid contractors or

volunteer team who brought

to life the striking painting of

a woman’s face with flowing

hair highlighted by the word

together in dozens of different


The mural was a passion

project from a few enthusiastic

student artists, including juniors

Naman Rudrakshi and Graciella

Barco, that initially started out

as a class assignment last year.

Now, this one idea for a large

wall mural ballooned into a new

nonprofit organizaiton known as

the Mural Club, which is starting

to pique the interests of everyone

who wants to grow their

art skills and work on similar

art projects on a grander scale.

The final for the English global

studies class was a project

that required students to use a

medium of change, such as vid-

See MURAL, page A3

Spray-painted swastikas, slurs

on floats removed hours before

Cal’s homecoming celebration

Ylin Zhu and Andrew Ma

Californian Editors

Three class floats were

found vandalized with racially

charged graffiti last Friday

morning, just hours before Cal

High’s annual homecoming parade

that was part of the school’s

50th anniversary celebration.

Leadership students, who had

spent a month working on the

floats, discovered around 9 a.m.

swastikas, the n-word and other

hateful phrases spray painted on

the freshman, sophomore and

senior floats that were parked

behind the football field.

Parent volunteers quickly

stepped in to help students cover

up the vandalism so the parade

could continue by painting over

it and obscuring it under posters

and balloons. Cal’s custodial

team also helped remove the

graffiti from the float trailers

before they were transported

to Athan Downs Park.

“Our students and parents

came together and made it happen

in such a short amount of

time,” Principal Demetrius Ball

said. “I would like to celebrate

that perseverance, that Grizzly

spirit, like, hey, [the parade] is

something that we are passionate

about and we’re not going

to let this vandal take away our


Because of their efforts, the

parade proceeded as normal,

with students cheering and

throwing candy from all four

class floats as they marched

through San Ramon streets.

Administrators and the San

Ramon Police Department are

investigating the vandalism,

Ball said. If caught, Ball said

the perpetrators will face disciplinary

and legal action.

See GRAFFITI, page A5

Photo by Olivia Soares

Author Raina Telgemeier, right, and Cal English teacher Theresa Pacheco have a friendship dating back to high school.

Raina Telgemeier shares

Admin enforces new safety measures more strictly

Some students not on board with all of the changes

Andrew Chen, Sophia Liu

and Vedant Desikamani

Assistant News Editors

Photo by Somak Das

The Mural Club members stand in front of an incomplete

project that they are taking over and finishing with a mural.

School administrators have

implemented new policies and

started enforcing some old ones

more strictly this year to keep

Cal High students safer.

Some of the new policies include

hallway/bathroom passes,

a restricted back parking lot, and

new locking gates to enforce the

closed campus.

smiles with Cal teacher

Theresa Pacheco has a long-lasting

friendship with author of “Smile”

Saya Kubo

and Benjamin Barba

Staff Writers

Renowned graphic novelist

Raina Telgemeier and Cal

High English teacher Theresa

Pacheco first met at Lowell

Such policies are the result

of parent backlash following

the violent incident last May,

when three Dublin High students

came on campus and

physically assaulted a student

in a classroom.

¨I think it was scary for everybody

right?” assistant principal

Rhonda Taft said. “We don’t

ever want any parent, student,

teacher, substitute teacher to

ever have to go through something

like that.”

Following the incident, a

group of parents, concerned


Torrey is king of

the parking lot

Chris Torrey manages the

back lot like his own territory

Flag football

team pulls flags

Cal dominates the league in

its first year of the sport



High School in San Francisco,

where they forged a friendship

spanning three decades.

When the two met in freshman

year in 1991, Pacheco

said she knew right away that

she wanted to be Telgemeier’s

friend after seeing her homemade

Bart Simpson Halloween


From that point on, they were

inseparable, and their friendship

blossomed. Telgemeier and

Pacheco would call for hours

every day, ride the bus together,

make scrapbooks, and always

dress for spirit days.

They have kept in touch ever

since, even as their careers

pushed them in different direc-

about the level of security on

campus, started a petition on

change.org to raise awareness

about student safety on campus

and bring the matter to the administration’s


“This is a big campus with a

ton of students and teachers, and

they’ve got wide open gates, so

tions and Telgemeier became a

celebrated author.

“I’ve gone to her talks and I

was starstruck by the thousands

of people that went, but when

I talk to her, she’s just my best

friend, just Raina,” Pacheco

said. “I am so proud.”

In Telgemeier’s 2010 bestseller

autobiographical graphic

novel “Smile”, she included

See SMILE, page A4

any member of the public could

just walk on into the campus,”

said a Cal parent who wished to

remain anonymous to keep their

child’s identity secret. “When I

started discussing it with some

other parent friends, they were

concerned also. So I took it upon

See SAFETY, page A4

Cal actress shines

on Apple TV

Elysia Oliquiano makes it big,

acts alongside Jennifer Garner



Senior creates machine learning startup

Dennis Zax realizes his dream

with the start of his company

Gabrielle Huie and

Sabrina Jackson Kimball

Staff Writers

Senior Dennis Zax accomplished

his childhood dream

this summer with the launch of

ezML.io, a machine learning

tech startup he started that has

already garnered more than

10,000 users.

EzML.io, which stands for

easy machine learning, or ML

for short, provides a platform

to provide accessible code for

companies without ML experience

and resources.

Companies can use ezML.

io’s platform without any ML

knowledge and are able to incorporate

their app with ezML.

io easily, Zax said.

EzML.io’s structure allows it

to overcome the barrier of labor

capacity. With Zax’s small team

of eight people, they provide

an autonomous service to their


Zax and his team rewrote the

codebase five times and each

time taught them how to improve

their code. This trial and

error process proved no problem

for Zax because he loves code


Two weeks prior to the launch

period, Zax and his team worked

20 hours per day. This period

of time was challenging for his

team, but was very rewarding

when seeing the progress, Zax

Cal welcomes assistant principals

Three new staff

members join

admin team


Zax became interested in

computer science when he

joined a computer science

course and created a basic copy

of Facebook. Simple programming

showed Zax how to do

this, and he’s been programming

ever since.

Zax started machine learning

when he created a function in

his friend’s app. This allowed

his friend to create an app that

could extract information from

a photo, like the location. Zax

realized the process was very


“What if I [made] a creative

platform for it?” Zax said. “And

that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Zax has dedicated his class

time and free time working for

his company, especially after his

company grew to eight people

since he launched it.

During Sean Raser’s AP

Computer Science Principles

class last year, Zax would

work on his own projects after

completing class work quickly.

“He definitely was one of

the brightest students I had,”

Raser said.

Zax’s knowledge of computer

science was far more advanced

than the curriculum, Raser said.

“He comes in sometimes and

works on [ezML.io] sometimes

with other friends,” Raser


Besides Raser, other teachers

Photo by Somak Das

Senior Dennis Zax works on a computer in class. Zax launched a machine learning start-up

company this summer called ezML.io and now has eight employees working for him.

have been very supportive of

Zax’s startup.

“They’re really excited for

me,” Zax said.

Teachers and students say

Zax is a hardworking person

and will always go above and


“He is always striving to

do more and to make a better

product overall,” Zax’s friend,

Kevin Hippe, said.

AP Government and Politics

teacher Brandon Andrews said

Zax is a very confident student.

“Dennis understands the

material quickly and is able to

communicate it,” Andrews said.

Aside from working on his

company, Zax has an internship

at Luxor, a crypto mining

company. Zax said he looks up

to his boss, the CEO of Luxor,

and is inspired by how he built

his company.

Zax said he wants a similar

position in the future and plans

to continue running his tech

company with the hopes of

being successful. His back up

plan is to become a software

engineer at a big company.

Zax’s main advice to starting

a company is to just try it.

EzML.io started as a passion

project and with the skills

acquired through this process,

Zax turned it into a real

company with a bright future.

News in


SAT next week

Just a reminder to all seniors

and juniors that Cal will host

the SAT next Wednesday,

Oct. 11.

AP Exam registration


The deadline to purchase

AP exams are Friday. A $50

late fee will be required for

students who purchase tests

after Friday.

Fright Fest

Cal’s annual Fright Fest will

be on campus Oct. 24 in the

quad during the evening.


The Californian strives to

cover the news accurately, fairly

and honestly. It is our policy to

correct all significant errors.

Corrections should be emailed

to californianpaper@gmail.

com or bbarr@srvusd.net.


with The



Advay Aggarwal

and Taij Singh

Staff Writers

Cal High has welcomed this

year three new assistant principals

who bring a wide variety

of experience from their unique

and diverse backgrounds.

Kristine Sexton, Oriana

Yanes and Tiffany Zammit join

Cal’s administrative team with

a strong commitment to the

school’s mission and believe

they will be valuable assets

on campus.

Principal Demetrius Ball and

assistant principal Rhonda Taft

are the only returners from last

year’s administrative team.

Yanes, a graduate of Monte

Vista High School and a product

of the San Ramon Valley Unified

School District, is deeply

rooted in the local community.

Her passion for education

was honed through years as

a former Spanish teacher and

leadership instructor at Diablo

Vista Middle School in

Danville. Her experience with

leadership will help her as she

oversees the ASB program, as

well as the Class of 2027.

Yanes stresses the importance

of leadership on school culture.

“I think school culture is

really important and so leadership

leads away a lot with that,”

Yanes said.

ASB president Ronak

Adhikari, who has worked

with Yanes since she was

Photo by Alexander Gomes

Cal High’s three new assistant principals are, from left to right, Oriana Yanes, Kristine Sexton, and Tiffany Zammit.

hired this summer, consistently

praises their positive working


“I’ve had a great experience

with her and love discussing

new ideas together,” Adhikari


Sexton came to Cal from

outside the district. Part of her

responsibilities include supporting

juniors in the upcoming

steps in their lives. Building up

culture is her goal, especially

now that students are more

used to being back on campus

and seeing each other after the

COVID-19 pandemic.

Sexton wants to support the

students and staff in the best

way she can.

Sexton said she wants Cal’s

campus to be supportive, allowing

students to “make things

happen” and “achieve their


“I have a good impression

of Cal High as the student and

staff are friendly and genuine,”

Sexton said.

For her, one of Cal’s strengths

is making a large school of

nearly 3,000 students feel small

because of inclusivity and the

time people take to care and get

to know each other. She thinks

Cal is similar to a community

and said she believes any human

institute has ways to get better.

Zammit oversees the departments

of math and P.E., as well

as school technology. In addition,

her involvement with the

Grizzly Ambassador program

and Visual and Performing Arts

(VAPA) program demonstrates

her commitment to enriching

Cal’s school community.

Zammit is enthusiastic about

Cal’s size and the eagerness of

its students to learn. She is a

strong advocate for student involvement

in policy decisions.

With her background as a

former high school math teacher

and a director at a community

college, Zammit is equally

passionate about supporting students

through their high school

journey and beyond.

All three assistant principals

serve as points of contact for

the various departments they

manage. They love engaging

with students, often stepping

outside their offices to connect

with them during lunch.

Loving Cal’s campus and the

vibrant community, Sexton, Yanes,

and Zammit said they want

to work together with the rest of

the staff to make the school the

best it can be.

X (formerly









Thursday, October 5, 2023


News | A3

Mural club adds color to campus


From page A1

eos, art or text, that tied together

elements of social justice and

contemporary issues. Rushing

to come up with an idea for the

final art project, Rudrakshi, now

president of the Mural Club,

began to think outside the box.

“We decided we [didn’t] want

to do just a normal assignment,”

Rudrakshi said. “I had a delusion

in the middle of class, like

‘Hey, what if we just made a

mural?’ Then we made a mural.”

He thought he could create a

large, grand mural on one of the

hallway walls. His plan to tie together

social norms and cultures

was to have the word “together”

painted across the mural in all

the different languages that

represented Cal students.

This was no easy task. Fortunately,

Rudrakshi found six

other passionate people, who

happened to be in his global

studies class. The trio teamed

up and resolved to make this

project happen no matter the

obstacles they encountered.

And the obstacles came.

First, they had to get approval

from administrators to even

begin such a large project.

Rudrakshi and Barco dreaded

the thought of a back and forth

with administrators and feared

it would take up their already

limited time. But the approval

came surprisingly quickly and

the pair got started on the tedious

task of receiving funding from

Photo by Somak Das

The mural on the third floor of the main building was painted by members of the newly formed mural club. The mural was

a product of a Global Studies final project last school year and was what initially brought the mural club together.

the school’s Parent Teacher

Student Association (PTSA).

After some convincing, juniors

Jawad Chazbek and Jason

Damonte secured the funding

from the PTSA for an $800 and

used the money to purchase the

necessary art supplies.

But the team of students had

yet to run into their biggest obstacle:

learning what languages

are spoken by every person at

Cal. To do that they surveyed

every student they could find

and reviewed all of the data.

“We had to do a lot of Google

translating and looking at word

dictionaries to make sure all

of the words were accurate,”

Rudrakshi said.

After coming up with the

initial design for the mural

on paper, the team spent four

hours one day just putting 10

plywood panels on the wall so

the painting isn’t directly on

it. Another 18 hours over two

days during the Memorial Day

weekend were spent painting

the mural.

Before this school year

began, the team added a small

plaque and covered the painting

with a protective spray.

“Considering the scale of the

project, I am surprised we even

finished it,” Barco said.

The team passed their assignment,

succeeded in bringing

their idea to life and reflected

on how much they enjoyed

working together.

“The situations we put ourselves

in were really funny

and crazy, and we worked

well together and were able to

overcome many challenges,”

Chazbek said.

After the project, Rudrakshi

realized that he wanted to delve

into art more and help others

do the same, prompting him to

create the Mural Club this year.

This club has already attracted

new members that are

passionate about art.

“Almost all of the original

team from the mural project is

now in the club,” Barco said.

“The purpose of the club is to

motivate others to engage more

with art and develop even bigger

and bolder murals.”

This promising outlook has

attracted many new members to

the club to join members of the

original team such as Damonte,

who is thrilled to be involved in

large scale art projects like the

hallway mural.

“I am very excited about this

club,” Damonte said. “I think it

is special because of how big

the projects are and how much

we can do. It made me realize

that art can have big effects on

so many different places and


Chazbek, now secretary of

the Mural Club, shares the same

optimistic hopes for the future

outreach and impact of the club.

“I want the club to have a

really big legacy,” Chazbek

said. “I hope it will continue

into future years, and hopefully

by the time we are seniors we

will have many more interested

people to carry on this legacy.”

The group is already working

on another mural project next

to the Fine Arts building, but

Rudrakshi said they will be

working with volunteer and art

clubs to expand their endeavor.

“We want people to help give

us ideas and help our purpose

of making our school more representative

of the community,”

Rudrakshi said.

Fewer Dougherty transfers come to Cal

Numbers drop this year, but

many students still leaving the

other San Ramon high school

Melissa Nguyen

and Andrew Ma

Staff Writers

Over the past two years,

more than 200 students have

transferred from Dougherty

Valley High School to Cal High,

according to school records.

Transfers from Dougherty

were down more than 21

percent this year, according to

figures provided by Cal registrar

Vinita Battu. But the number

of students tranferring from

Dougherty to Cal is still more

than double of those going from

Cal to Dougherty.

In the 2022-23 school year,

118 students transferred to

Cal from Dougherty, while

only 38 students transferred to

Dougherty from Cal. That trend

has slightly declined this year,

but it is still prevalent, with

93 students transferring to Cal

from Dougherty. The number

of students leaving Cal for

Dougherty has remained steady

with 40 this year, records show.

Dougherty, the district’s

newest, largest and highest

ranked high school, has long

had a reputation for competitive

academics and exceptional test


In fact, Dougherty was

recently ranked No. 3 in the

San Francisco Bay Area, No.

19 in California and No. 153

nationally, according to US

News and World Report’s top

high school rankings.

Conversely, Cal was ranked

No. 37 in the Bay Area, No.

205 in the state and No. 1,311


Junior Phillip Chellakan,

who transferred to Cal this year

from Dougherty, said his former

school’s culture heavily prioritizes

academic performance.

“Whether it’s academics

or competitiveness between

students, everything is just

high level [at Dougherty],”

Chellakan said.

A few other recent Dougherty

transfer students, including

junior Sanjit Bommadevara

and senior Jordan Obinyan,

commented about their former

school’s academics as well,

saying it as the reason they

transferred to Cal this year.

“I think Dougherty was really

competitive last year and that

put a lot of stress on people,”

Bommadevara said.

In the 2021-22 school year,

91 percent of Dougherty students

met or exceeded the ELA

standard and 82 percent met or

exceeded the math standard

for the California Assessment

of Student Performance and

Progress (CAASPP) testing,

according to GreatSchools.

These figures are far above

the national average and higher

than all other high schools in

the district.

Photo by Vihaan Tigadikar

Freshman Neha Gaddam works on her geometry homework

during class. Gaddam decided to enroll at Cal High this

year despite living closer to Dougherty Valley High School.

U.S.News and World Reprt’s

scorecard indicates Dougherty

has a 98 percent graduation rate,

compared to 96 percent for Cal.

Dougherty’s proficiency rate

also shows the following: 96

percent in reading, 88 percent in

math, and 74 percent in science.

Nearly 75 percent of Dougherty

students passed at least one AP

exam last year.

Cal’s proficiency rates are:

77 percent in reading, 61 percent

in math and 50 percent

in science. Nearly 50 percent

of Cal students passed at least

one AP exam, according to the


Many students who transferred

to Cal from Dougherty

attribute Dougherty’s academic

success to a competitive environment

with high pressure

from peers, parents and teachers

to perform. Chellakan said that

pressure was what eventually

led him to leave for Cal this year.

“[After coming to Cal,] it’s

just a lot easier to get in the

shower, come to school every

single day, and be motivated,”

Chellakan said.

Cal Principal Demetrius Ball

sees many students transferring

from Dougherty each year and

believes it is because of Cal’s

friendly environment.

“I think our community in

general values balance so that’s

why folks want to come here,”

Ball said. “Academics is super

important to us, obviously. But

also [our other] programs are

really important.”

Ball cited Cal’s strong music,

drama and sports programs as

factors of why many students

may find Cal more welcoming.

“We’re better than Dougherty,”

Ball joked.

Many middle schoolers who

live closer to Dougherty end up

enrolling at Cal freshman year

for similar reasons. Sophomore

Rahul Misra made this decision

at the end of eighth grade.

Misra said his brother had

transferred from Dougherty to

Cal in the middle of his high

school career and enjoyed Cal

more, so Misra enrolled in Cal

as well. Even though he has to

travel farther to school, he is

glad he is at Cal because he feels

the teachers are easier.

“I don’t regret starting at Cal,

because I knew I would like [it]

better,” Rahul said.

Not all students transferring

from Dougherty chose to do so

because of academics. Junior

Saesha Ray recently transferred

from Dougherty because of her

extracurricular activities.

“With block schedule [at

Cal], it’s easier to balance extracurriculars

and school at the

same time,” Ray said.

Ray mainly transferred because

Cal is closer to the dance

studio she attends after school.

Ray also said that most

Dougherty students are smart

because of their work ethic and

not just because of the school.

“[Your success] completely

depends on the person you are

in academics,” Ray said.

Dougherty students also have

conflicting perspectives on social

life there. Chellakan, who

left Dougherty, said Cal’s social

life is better and more friendly as

people tend to gravitate toward

each other.

“A lot of people describe

DV as a bit soul crushing,”

Chellakan said.

But Dougherty senior Kaitlyn

Huang thinks differently about

Dougherty’s social scene.

“Dougherty tends to be

labeled as an academic[ly] focused

school but I believe many

people still find balance within

their social lives especially

with the open community on

campus,” Huang said. “I don’t

mind the environment because

it helps me stay productive.”

Huang said she actually loves

Dougherty because she thrives

under pressure and believes the

school is better than how people

portray it.

“I thought about transferring

[to Cal] before I entered high

school since I was scared of

what everyone said, but I am

very glad I decided not to,”

Huang said.

Although one student declined

to be interviewed because

they did not want others to

know that they had transferred

from Dougherty, Chellakan

finds it amusing to see Cal

students’ reactions when they

find out he was at Dougherty.

“I like to see people’s reactions

when I say that I’m already

transferred,” Chellakan said.

“It’s super funny because everybody

understands how it is.”


Thursday, October 5, 2023

School focuses on campus safety


From page A1

myself to bring this up as an

issue,” the parent said.

Eventually, the petition

gained enough momentum for

the parent to meet with Principal

Demetrius Ball, who worked to

collaborate with parents on the

security issue. The result was

greater gate security around


“The district started paying

attention to this, and we’re

slowly making progress on

some of that [gate security],”

the parent said. “The gates are

now auto-closing and staying

closed, as long as the monitors

are watching them.”

This year, Cal has continued

to build on what the parent petition

and Ball started last year.

Ball said the safety measures

last year during his first year

as principal were not very well

planned out and needed to be


With the pandemic ending

and life returning to normal,

Author, teacher have strong bond


From page A1

Pacheco as the character Theresa

and wrote about how

Pacheco respected her and

became her first friend in high

school. “Smile” went on to sell

more than a million copies and

won the Eisner Award for Best

Publication for Teens.

Pacheco said she and Telgemeier

didn’t really fit in during

high school, so they had to stick


“As weirdos we kinda stuck

out a little bit more,” Pacheco


Pacheco said Telgemeier’s

passion for art was obvious in

the elaborate posters she created

for school and wacky costumes

she designed.

“She was like the artist,”

Pacheco said.

administrators have shifted their

focus from getting students back

After high school, Telgemeier

followed her dream of

becoming an illustrator, not

yet realizing she wanted to be

a writer.

“I didn’t know I wanted to

write, but I knew I wanted to

draw,” Telgemeier said.

But this dream distanced

Telgemeier from Pacheco.

Telgemeier lived in New York

during college and found a job

illustrating there, while Pacheco

stayed in the Bay Area to

achieve her dream of teaching.

During this time they barely

talked, but they would reconnect

every once in a while.

“We would be back in the

same room and it would be like

time never passed,” Pacheco


When Telgemeier finally

moved back to San Francisco to

be with her family and friends,

Photo by Nidhi Sudheendra

Cal High students leave campus through the newly installed

gate on a path that leads to the Iron Horse Trail.

to school to keeping students

safely on campus and in the

both reconnected and realized

how proud they were of each

other for achieving their dreams.

Pacheco invited Telgemeier

to one of her English classes

at Cal, where she watched the

flow of a discussion she led for

her students.

“You were a star, you were

shining that day. It was so

cool watching you be in your

element,” Telgemeier said to

Pacheco. “You achieved your

goal and passion really quickly.”

They both loved art in high

school, and share a passion for it.

“It’s important for anyone

to do what you love, not what

someone tells them to do,”

Telgemeier said.

Telgemeier said high school

is a tough time with a lot of

self discovery, but she said

there’ll always be people who

are accepting.


“When we came back from

COVID, we had like what was

called a soft opening,” said

Taft, who had a hand in the

implementation of the revised

safety guidelines. “We were just

encouraging students to come

back to school.”

The new and more stringent

rules are evident in daily life

at Cal. One change is every

class now has bright orange

hall passes that students must

take when leaving a classroom.

In previous years, hall passes

weren’t heavily enforced and

were often random objects

selected by teachers.

This measure is designed to

keep students from wandering

around and even off campus.

“Cal High has always been

a closed campus, but this year

we have additional admin, and

an admin TSA,” Taft said. “It

might seem like it is much more

enforced this year, but we’re

really just fully staffed.”

All staff members are making

sure they enforce these rules.

Telgemeier’s success comes

from writing books about her

relatable struggles, noting that

no one is perfect and everyone

faces problems.

She’s written the graphic

novels “Drama”, “Sisters”,

“Ghosts”, and “Guts”, all New

York Times No. 1 bestsellers.

She’s also adapted and illustrated

four Baby-sitters Club

graphic novels

“ [‘Smile’] gives somebody

who is starting out on their

journey a chance to see, oh,

maybe it won’t be bad for that

long,” Telgemeier said.

Cal students also have found

“Smile” to be relatable.

“[‘Smile’] validated the

struggles I would face in

school,” sophomore Julia

Aguas, one of Pacheco’s student,

said. “She deals with

struggles as a teenager, and

“You got to start off very tight,

very rigid, very explicit,” Ball

said. “And if we see folks doing

the right thing, then we don’t

have to harp on them as much.”

Ball said the policies are

very specific and school staff is

enforcing them tightly.

“The policies have always

been the same,” campus monitor

Chris Torrey said. “I just think

that we’ve done a really good

job this year just forcing those

policies that were already in


Students around campus have

been discussing the rumor that

they will be required to wear

lanyards with their identification

when on campus.

Ball confirmed this rumor

during a press conference with

The Californian, explaining that

such a policy will most likely be

implemented next school year.

Many students don’t seem

to mind the extra security


“I really appreciate the whole

safety thing because safety’s

pretty important, especially

seeing that gave me strength.”

Sophomore Andrea Rebiskie,

who also has Pacheco for English,

said everything about the

book was relatable and has read

it more than 15 times.

Pacheco and Telgemeier’s

friendship came as no surprise

to Pacheco’s students as the

subject of their friendship comes

in these days with everything

that’s been happening

at schools,” junior Sadhana

Bala said.

But not all students are on

board with the new policies.

¨I understand why admin

thinks we need to wear our IDs

around due to the events that

happened last year,” sophomore

Benjamin McCaffery said. “But

I think it’s a little extra and the

new security features should be

the extent for our safety.”

Although some students feel

like these changes are over the

top, administrators said they

are doing it for the safety and

well-being of everyone.

“I know it feels really hard

for the students and that they

feel like it’s not fair,” Taft said.

“But, we are really just trying

to keep them safe.”

Administrators hope the new

policies and safety gates keep

students safe, even if it takes

students time to adjust.

¨Our number one job is to

make sure that students are

safe,” Taft said.

Photo by Olivia Soares

English teacher Theresa Pacheco, left, and “Smile” author

Raina Telgemeier have been friends since high school.

up in their class sometimes.

Pacheco and Telgemeier

reflected on their relationship

and how important they’ve

been to each other throughout

their journey.

“When I look back at my life,

and [I] think who were my top

five, I can’t leave Theresa off

my list,” Telgemeier said.

What should Chris

Torrey dress up as

for Halloween as

the guardian of the

parking lot?

“Imma say a princess.”

Parwaan Virk


“Chewbacca. It’s a joke

because he is too short to be


Tim Ford

Campus Monitor

“He should go as a troll.”

Kunaal Gautam


“Incredible Hulk because he

is Bruce Banner but if you mess

with him he turns into the Hulk.”

Kim Terry

Campus Monitor

“He should be the guy from

‘Monsters Inc.’, Mike Wazowski.”

Noah Jemo


“A police officer because he

is a campus monitor.”

Alex Khokhlov


Thursday, October 5, 2023


News | A5

Photo by Alex Gomes

Cal Dreamin’ of Homecoming

Photo by Alex Gomes

Photoby Anvi Kataria

Cal High celebrated its

annual homecoming

last week as part of the

school’s 50th anniversary

celebration with the theme

of California Dreamin’.

Clockwise from the top, the

varsity football runs onto

field before its 41-17 win

over Granada on Friday;

Samantha Contreras, left,

and Cole Fokas are crowned

senior homecoming royalty

at halftime; teacher band

Partial Credit performs

on a float during Friday’s

parade, which also

featured the Class of 2024’s

winning float representing

Hollywood; and Saturday

night’s dance featured a

disco ball that illuminated

the dance floor in the quad.

Volunteers clean racist graffiti from floats


from page A1

“It’s disappointing that someone,

potentially a student or

adult, whoever it was, tried to

divide and tried to hurt us,”

Ball said.

Several leadership students

and leadership adviser, Troy

Bristol, declined to comment

about damage done to the

homecoming floats.

But many other students were

disgusted by the graffiti and

condemned the vandals.

“It’s just really immature,”

sophomore Sreesha Muthukumar

said. “If you know it’s

not right, then why would you

do it?”

Junior Caleb Jones could

only describe the incident with

profanity, and sophomore Kuber

Uppal said he hopes there

is retribution for the culprits.

“I don’t think what they did

was right,” Uppal said. “I feel

bad for the people that worked

hard on [the floats] and I hope

[the vandals] get caught.”

Cal parent Karen Stapley volunteered

to use balloons from

her balloon company to cover

the graffiti on the freshman

float, which had its signs and

Barbie-themed boxes ripped

Photo by Anvi Kataria

and vandalized. Stapley said

that despite the awful graffiti,

she was glad to see the community

come together to make the

parade work in the end.

“It’s unfortunate that someone’s

actions can affect such a

positive experience,” Stapley

said. “But in the end we have a

great community that’s always

willing to step in and help.”

Administrators are considering

ways to prevent vandalism

from happening again in the

future. There’s talk of moving

the floats to a more secure location

or investing in overnight

security measures, which were

used in some previous years

during homecoming.

“It’s sad to think that we’re

going to have to invest people

power or money to protect floats

that shouldn’t have to be guarded,

because we’re doing [the

parade] to bring the school and

community together,” Ball said.

This year, the floats were

kept on the north side of the

football stadium next to the

varsity softball field. Ball said

anyone could have had access

to the floats if they just hopped

the fence from the Iron Horse

Trail or came on campus from

Broadmoor Drive.

Coincidentally, this week is

Restorative Justice Week, which

consists of four presentations

administered by teachers during

student support. The focus of the

Photo by Alex Gomes

Photo by Anvi Kataria

The sophomore float representing the Bay Area was able to

be part of the homecoming parade despite being vandalized.

week is to address microaggressions

and how to repair harm

through restorative justice.



The Voice of California High School

Lunches lack

a-peeling fruit

On a desolate island in a bustling

lunchroom, overflowing

with slightly old pears, lies the

share cart.

The share cart’s purpose is for

any student to be able to grab

fruits without waiting in line.

Raw fruits that are still left in

the cart at the end of lunch are

washed and served again while

still in good condition, which is

typically two to three days. This

sounds efficient and economical,

except on most days, the

height of the pile of remaining

fruits could compete with that

of Mount Diablo.

This problem exists in tandem

with the nutrition program

having to transport fruits from

its inventory based on a prediction

of how many students

will want them. And no one can

foresee how popular anything,

let alone a fruit, will be with high

schoolers, hence the surplus.

But removing raw fruits

from the menu isn’t an option,

according to district guidelines.

Students are required to take

at least three items on the lunch

menu for a complete meal,

and one item must be a fruit

or vegetable. This is based on

the federal nutrition standard

of five cups of fruits and five

cups of vegetables per week.

The San Ramon Valley Unified

School District’s nutrition team

rigorously adheres to these


All food is served with certain

proportions in mind, district

culinary supervisor Shamin

Cassiere said.

But the share cart proves that

these efforts to get students the

food they need aren’t entirely

successful. One way to reduce

the number of fruit biding

Digitization fixes

attendance system

Since their introduction to

classrooms, scanners used by

students for attendance have

been on the fritz, incorrectly

marking many students as

absent. Consequently, pink

attendance slips to correct

these errors made more of an

appearance on campus than

ever before.

Scanners were added last year

to expedite taking attendance.

But the Chromebooks the

scanners are connected to are

prone to displaying errors, leaving

teachers to manually take

attendance and eliminating the

supposed efficiency advantage.

Previously, the school encouraged

the use of pink attendance

slips from the office.

Students had to pick up a slip,

get it signed by the teacher of the

class where they were wrongly

marked absent, and then return

the signed slip to the office.

Many corrections later, the

attendance office has made the

brilliant decision of making the

system completely digital.

Everything is done through

a link in the attendance office

page on CalHigh.Net. It sends

students to a page called “In-

time in the cart fruitlessly is to

incorporate them as an appetizer.

Then, they feel like a more

cohesive part of the meal rather

than a last-minute add-on.

Examples of such appetizers

include fruit salad, mini-kebabs,

or bruschetta. All of these don’t

need much preparation and

are much more appealing for

students to eat, compared to

whole, uncut fruit.

Appearance is shown to make

a difference. According to CBS

News, baby carrots comprise 70

percent of all carrots sold in the

U.S. because they’re more convenient

snacks than their bigger,

more imperfect counterparts.

Federal nutrition standards

also state that one quarter cup

of dried fruit counts as one

half cup of fruit. This invites

the opportunity to also add

more dried fruit snacks, such

as raisin-based products, to the

breakfast menu. Raisins can be

added to lunch meals like fried

rice and salads as well.

Cal’s fall menu is already

planning to focus more on

improving how fruits and vegetables

are included in meals,

Cassiere said. This menu started

on Sept. 18.

Now the lunch program

needs to continue to actually

incorporate fruits year-round,

not only in the fall, to minimize

preserving leftover fruits. Raw

fruit can still be provided but in

lesser quantities.

What matters is that meals are

easy for those making them and

those eating them. Presenting

fruits in a more appealing and

approachable way will achieve

this, leaving fewer two-day-old

pears in the share cart and more

to be actually shared.

formed K12,” where they can fill

out a short form that is emailed

to their teacher. The teacher then

digitally signs the slip, and off

it goes to the attendance office.

The attendance office has

made it clear on its page that

absences not cleared within two

days after a student’s return to

school will be recorded as unexcused.

If that window is missed,

the error in their attendance is


Students should also only

submit an absent check if a

mistake is still present. Often,

the attendance secretaries have

already corrected the error

before any action is taken on

students’ parts.

The former pink slips

were very inconvenient and

time-consuming. Instead of

fixing technical errors, they

placed unnecessary responsibility

on students and wasted

valuable time.

The change to a digital

system was necessary for students,

teachers and attendance

secretaries, alike. Now that this

burden has been lifted, the next

step is to finally remove the root

of the problem: the scanners.

News Editors

Asiyah Ally

Ylin Zhu

Assistant News Editors

Andrew Chen

Vedant Desikamani

Sophia Liu

Advay Aggarwal

Trevor Allen

Benjamin Barba Zuniga

Raiey Bekele

Eva Brooks

Suhas Chalasani

Mahita Chava

Somak Das

Keerthi Eraniyan

Keliimaikai Demello

Gina Germano

Social Media Editor

Abhinav Purohit

Social Media Team

Celine Leung

Alyssa Reyrao

Shivani Phadnis

Vihaan Tigadikar


Opinion page policies: Opinions expressed in The Californian are

those of the respective authors. Unsigned editorials reflect the majority

view of the editorial board.

Letters to the editor: The Californian encourages letters to the editor.

Letters must be signed and should not exceed 150 words. Letters may be

dropped off in Room 321 or emailed to californianpaper@gmail.com.

The Californian reserves the right to edit letters or not publish any letters

deemed inappropriate.


Editor in Chief

Andrew Ma

Opinions Editor

Shravya Salem Sathish

Sports Editors

Vishwas Balla

Carson Pfotenhauer

Assistant Sports Editor

Marcus Chalasani

Staff Writers

Audrey Goddard

Ren Guo

Sherlyn Hernandez

Gabrielle Huie

Zaki Humayun

Sabrina Jackson Kimball

Johanna Jayakumar

Saya Kubo

Camille Miller

Melissa Nguyen

Landon Olberg

Graphics Editor

Erin Kim


Raiey Bekele

Brooke Hirsch

Samika Karode

Susanne Soroushian

Online & Podcast Editors

Hallie Chong

Anika Choudhary

Adviser: Brian Barr

Principal: Demetrius Ball

Printer: Folger Graphics

The Californian mission statement

Managing Editors

Samantha Contreras

Trisha Sarkar

Features Editors

Mansi Swaminathan

Yining Xie

A&E Editors

Addison Jing

Daniela Noubleau

Shelly Parekh

Mishti Ramachandra

Shubhang Rathore

Riya Reddy

Jani Rodrigo

Taij Singh

Nidhi Sudheendra

Zakiruddin Syed

Srikar Thippavajjula

Caleb Yi

Noah Young

Photo Editor

Anvi Kataria


Alexander Gomes

Bekah Gracer

Sophia Santiago

Olivia Soares

The Californian is dedicated to printing the truth. The Californian strives to cover the news accurately, fairly, and

honestly, refraining from libel and obscenity, and abiding by the journalistic code of ethics.

It is our policy to correct significant errors of fact. All corrections should

be emailed to californianpaper@gmail.com

Advertising: Advertising material is printed herein for informational

purposes and is not to be construed as an expression of endorsement or

verification of such commercial ventures by the staff, school or district.

Distribution: Papers are distributed for free to the student body the

day the issue comes out. They are sent to subscribers via the mail in the

days following distribution to the student body.

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X: @_TheCalifornian

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Illustration by Susanne Soroushian

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Shivani Phadnis

Staff Writer


Opinions| A7

Trader Joe’s food is not cultural appropriation

Ethnic foods are

sold to be shared

Since 1977, Trader Joe’s has

sold a variety of frozen meals

with roots all over the world.

From Indian butter chicken to

Italian gnocchi, ethnic food has

become a staple of the grocery

chain’s freezer section. But in

recent years, there has been

some controversy about whether

Trader Joe’s is committing

cultural appropriation by selling

international cuisine.

Let’s get one thing straight:

selling frozen ethnic food itself

is not cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is

generally defined as the inappropriate

adoption of a culture

that is not one’s own, or when

people try to pass off an aspect

of another culture as their own.

Arguments that Trader Joe’s

is committing cultural appropriation

point to the latter.

Trader Joe’s has been accused

of rebranding ethnic foods as

its own creations and erasing

the rich history that surrounds

many of these dishes.

But reading the descriptions

for their frozen items paints a

different picture. Trader Joe’s

attributes the origin of these

dishes and makes it clear that

it’s simply serving a Trader Joe’s

version of that dish.

For example, the description

of their vegetable biryani states,

“Trader Joe’s vegetable biryani

is based on a traditional South

Asian recipe.” It isn’t claiming

to have invented vegetable

biryani, only that it’s made

its own version based on the

original recipe.

TikToker Pragadish Kalaivanan

brought up another

argument against Trader Joe’s

in his viral video posted on

May 25, 2022. He argues that

Trader Joe’s ethnic foods are

watered-down versions of the

dishes that inspire the national

grocery chain. Specifically, he

was referring to Trader Joe’s

garlic achaar.

Sure, there is some truth

to that. The Trader Joe’s mini

chicken tikka samosas were

indeed rather bland and dry.

But the taste of the samosas is

the only offensive thing about

them. Selling bland food isn’t

cultural appropriation. Rather,

this sad excuse for a samosa has

made me appreciate the culture

behind and flavors of the real

deal even more.

All this isn’t to say that Trader

Joe’s is perfect. In 2020, the

brand faced major backlash for

labeling its ethnic foods with

stereotypical names such as

“Trader Jose” for Mexican-inspired

food or “Trader Ming”

for Chinese-inspired food.

The controversy made headlines

when Bay Area resident

Briones Bedell, 17 at the time,

started a petition calling for

Trader Joe’s to remove these

labels from their foods.

The petition briefly prompted

Trader Joe’s to consider removing

the alternative branding.

They later backtracked and decided

to keep it, defending their

decision by stating the labels

were not racist and the company

doesn’t make decisions based

on petitions, according to an

official statement on Trader

Joe’s website.

There’s no doubt that this

decision is inexcusable. It isn’t

up to Trader Joe’s to decide

what is and isn’t offensive,

especially when it’s the ones

doing the offending. The backlash

the company received was


In this instance, however, the

problem lies with the branding,

not the food itself.

Despite the controversy,

one thing is clear: whether it

comes from a five-star kitchen

or a grocery store’s frozen food

section, food is definitely meant

to be shared. Between people,

between countries, and between

cultures, ethnic food is a uniting


Are Cal’s new phone policies too restrictive?

Suhas Chalasani

Staff Writer

Cal High is no stranger to an

influx of new policies each year.

This year, admin has asked

teachers to require students

to leave their phones in the

classroom when they use a hall

pass. Some teachers are also

using phone cubbies so students

aren’t distracted by their phones

during class.

The new policy involving

the hall pass was implemented

because of an incident that

happened last year.

“We had a situation where

students were using their phones

inappropriately in the restroom

and not respecting each other’s

privacy,” Principal Demetrius

Ball said.

This measure was enacted to

minimize improper phone use,

but it is too strict and shouldn’t

have to exist.

For example, if students are

facing an emergency or some

other issue when using the bathroom,

they are unable to contact

anyone for help because their

phones are in the classroom.

It is understandable that the

school may be concerned that

students will spend long periods

of time out of class with

their phone, possibly missing

important parts of a lesson and

instructional time.

To solve this, teachers can

establish a time limit for being


out of class with a pass. They can

set a timer for, say, 10 minutes,

and require students to return to

class before the timer runs out.

If students have not returned

when the timer runs out, they

will not be able to take their

phone to the bathroom in the

future and will have to revert

to the original school policies.

This amendment to the policy

shouldn’t take teachers too

much time because, at most,

they just have to set a timer

and make sure that the student

returns to the classroom.

Both the bathroom policy and

the one keeping phones in cubbies

also prevent students from

receiving important phone calls

from their parents. Although

parents are supposed to call the

school if there is an emergency,

many still try to reach out to

students during the school day.

One counter argument may

be that to many students, a

phone is a drug that they just

can’t seem to stay away from.

By installing phone cubbies,

students remain focused and

efficient while working in class.

While this holds reason, it

only considers a students’ shortterm


Phone cubbies and other such

policies are only present in high

school and are not used in college.

If students are constantly

having their phones taken away

in high school, they are more

likely to use them during class

in college.

They won’t learn responsibility

and accountability when

it comes to their device, and this

Trader Joe’s is harshly criticized for their branding with “ethnic” names, but the food itself is not cultural appropriation.

sets them up for possible failure

later in life.

Instead, schools should allow

students to use their phones

during class, but only under

strict supervision. For example,

a teacher may permit students

to go on their phones after

classwork is finished or if it is

a study period.

This way, phones are treated

as an incentive rather than a

craving that teachers have to

ceaselessly keep under control.

Likewise, students learn how

to manage their time on their

phone, instead of relying on

others to do it.

So, these changes keep

students safe on campus while

providing them the opportunity

to develop the skills and

responsibility necessary for

their futures.

Abhinav Purohit

Social Media Editor

Ladies and gentlemen, students

are addicted. To what?

That’s right, their phones.

What originally was intended

for our convenience has now

become an inescapable distraction.

And with the advent

of social media platforms such

as Instagram and TikTok, it is

clearly evident that students’ attention

spans have diminished.

To regain control and learn

effectively, students need to

embrace Cal High’s new phone


policies, which means surrendering

our beloved iPhones to

the phone cubby.

According to a study done

by Rutgers University-New

Brunswick, students who used

phones, tablets or other devices

during class for non-academic

purposes performed worse in

end-of-term exams.

The result is not surprising.

If students are focused on

texting their friends or scrolling

social media during class, then

they most likely won’t learn

what is being taught.

So what is the solution?

Students simply need to give

up their phones at the start of

class. Many Cal teachers now

require students to put their

Illustration by Brooke Hirsch

New phone policies ban students from using phones in class or taking them to bathrooms.

Illustration by Samika Karode

phones in small phone cubbies,

or as I like to call them,

phone jail.

Though it might be painful

for students to have to relinquish

phones at the start of class, by

doing so, they can ensure their

focus is where it needs to be.

When I first placed my phone

in phone jail, I was devastated.

But as I was forced to actually

pay attention in class without

any possibility of getting distracted,

I could see the rationale

behind the new policy.

There were many times I

would catch myself reaching

for my pockets only to realize

that my phone was in jail, and

I could only get it back when

class came to an end.

Now some might argue that

putting phones in cubbies might

be too extreme or uncomfortable.

But given that ideally,

students shouldn’t be on their

phones in the first place, is it

too much to ask them to follow

these new regulations?

In addition to phone jail, a

new policy is in place that requires

students to not take their

phones with them when they

sign out to go to the restroom.

The same logic applies here

as well. If students don’t have

their drug, sorry I mean phone,

then they are less likely to get

distracted by the digital world

when embarking on their expedition

to the restroom.

Phones aren’t inherently

bad, but when we allow them

to distract ourselves from our

classes and studies, they might

as well be. So, embracing the

new phone policies ensures that

we can effectively fulfill our role

as students: to learn.


Reliable equipment is a distant dream



plagues classes

Zaki Humayun

Staff Writer

If there’s one thing students

can always rely on at this school,

it’s that the equipment will never

work as intended.

As a senior who’s seen almost

everything go wrong in a classroom,

I can promise you that the

only thing that stays consistent

is that school technology and

other equipment never seem to

get their job done.

For instance, let’s say you

recently came home from school

and can’t wait to procrastinate

on your homework for the next

six hours. Unfortunately for

you, your mom barges into your

room demanding why you’ve

been marked absent in all of

your classes that day.

As you struggle to prove your

innocence to your mom, it hits

you. That dastardly scanner

didn’t sign you in! AGAIN!

The scanners which students

use to manually sign themselves

in to class every period seem to

have a lower success rate than

the Oakland A’s.

One would assume that for

a school-mandated policy that

has been in effect for an entire

school year, all the kinks and

bugs would have been ironed

out by now. Well, I hate to break

it to you, my fellow peers, but

it seems as if the scanners have

merely gotten worse with age,

kind of like curdled milk.

With the attendance system

as faulty as this, my senior government

class has chosen to go

back to the old-fashioned way of

taking attendance, eliminating

the need for scanners entirely.

Another piece of terrible

technology students may have

noticed in some of their classrooms

are the overhead projectors.

Consider yourself lucky if

you’ve never had the displeasure

of sitting in a classroom

when the projector happens to

burn out. Especially when it’s

during a crucial review period

before an upcoming test.

Coupled with the fact that

projectors can take days to

repair, it can become quite

daunting for some teachers to

cover material. Oftentimes,

teachers without a working

projector have to lug around a

trolley with a portable projector

on top of it, complete with many

plugged-in wires to get the job

done. Welcome back to the

1990s, my friend.

Although this dysfunctional

equipment does have this potential

workaround, one piece

of equipment that defies easy

resolution when it malfunctions

is the classroom thermostat.

I can’t be the only one who

notices that in the morning,

when it’s the coldest it can

possibly be, classrooms blast

their AC as if trying to bring on

the next ice age. But the very

second lunch passes and the

quad becomes a glorified desert,

heaters inside all classrooms,

especially those in the main

building, happen to turn on.

It’s almost as if the thermostat

turns classrooms into a real-life

icy-hot, with students enduring

the worst of each extreme at the

worst possible times.

So the next time the scanner

decides to take an unauthorized

vacation or the projector

decides it’s time to become

a pyrotechnic sensation, just

accept the chaos. After all, who

needs perfect attendance when

the alternative is freezing like

a popsicle in class?

The King of the back parking lot reigns supreme

Chris Torrey

stands up to

students trying

to enter the

forbidden zone

Sabrina Jackson Kimball

Staff Writer


These are the words students

fear when entering Cal High’s

back parking lot.

Why? Because they fear the

wrath of the menacing Christopher

Torrey, one of the many

campus supervisors tasked with

catching students who may

innocently wander to a place

they shouldn’t.

Torrey immerses himself in

his profession, catching sneaky

teenagers with an advanced


“He is brutal,” junior Sophia

Bonifacio said.

Bonifacio and junior Anne

Yamada both helped coach the

men’s volleyball team with

Torrey,who also works as the

head coach of the men’s volleyball


“He said I was mediocre,”

Yamada said.

Bonifacio can attest to Torrey’s

demeanor as well.

“[Torrey] is strict when he

wants to be,” Bonifacio said.

And Torrey certainly wants

to be strict when it comes to the

Illustration by Brooke Hirsch

An average Cal High classroom’s dead scanner and broken AC unit leaves students struggling to survive, with some already left dead and bone-dry.

Photo by Nidhi Sudheendra

Campus monitor Chris Torrey stands with his arms crossed in the back lot, on the lookout for students who don’t belong.

closed-campus policy, which

does not allow students access

to their vehicles unless they’re

leaving campus.

But that doesn’t mean that

students don’t still try.

“There’s been a lot of crazy

things that have happened [in

the back lot],” Torrey said.

As a senior, Gabriel Quezada

hangs out near the back parking

lot. He recalls how students used

to wait in the quad, but it was

too hectic.

“Nothing really goes on back

here [in the back lot] anymore”

Quezada said.

And Torrey definitely makes

sure it stays that way with the

way he reigns supreme in the

back lot.

These days, some might say

Torrey “rules” the back parking

lot, making sure the closed campus

rule is being implemented.

“Truth be told, this has always

been a closed campus,”

Torrey said.

Torrey said the most common

assumption people make about

him at Cal High is that he is

“super, super mean”.

“I’m just a regular guy,”

Torrey said. “I come to work

with a smile on my face.”

For adults working on a

school campus, there’s a good

chance that part of their job is

to be able to tolerate kids, if not

enjoy being able to make them

bend to their will. At least that’s

what we students think.

Torrey’s never-ending crusade

against letting people

access their cars requires him

to be on the lookout at all times.

“You just have to be vigilant,”

Torrey said. “I mean, it’s super

tedious because you’re talking

to teenage kids.”

But he followed up his campaign

of being a ripoff Batman

of the back lot with noting that

not all students are terrible. Even

though he may act like they are.

“Ninety five percent of [students]

are super, super good.”

Torrey said.

That couldn’t be the end of

the story–not with the infamous

tales of the back parking lot.

“You kind of see everything,

to be honest with you,” Torrey

said. “Things that you guys

don’t see at all. You guys would

be shocked. I don’t necessarily

want to share some of the craziness,

but it would shock you

guys, even as teenagers.”

With our imaginations running

wild now, anything could

be going on back there. Aliens

could be landing back there.

A portal to another dimension

could exist. There could be

talking ferrets, or a lemonade

stand. Who knows?

Whatever it is, students can

all trust that Torrey is keeping

order back there at all times.

Sprinting to Success

Photo by Bekah Gracer

Senior Nadia Sherman races toward the end zone as Cal High starts its first girls’

flag football season. Read more about it in Sports on page B2.


Flag football kicks off first season

Cal goes 9-1 so far in their first

season for new girls’ sport

Vishwas Balla

And Jani Rodrigo

Staff Writers

Flag football was sanctioned

by the California Interscholastic

Federation earlier this year,

bringing the newest girls’ sport

to Cal High this season.

And the Grizzlies appear to be

adapting very well after racing

to a 9-1 overall record, 7-0 in

EBAL play, halfway through

the season.

“The NFL has been talking

about [professional women’s

flag football] for a while and

[high school athletic federations]

do it in other states, but

they now expanded to EBAL,”

sports med teacher and assistant

coach Brad Bretzing said. “It’s

been a pretty fast transition.”

Head coach Frank Grgurina

said every school in the EBAL

except for Dougherty Valley

and Carondolet are fielding

teams this season. Eight of the

league’s ten schools put together

new programs in less than six

months after the CIF authorized

flag football to be part of the fall

season in March.

The girls play a 10-week season

with games every Tuesday.

What’s unique about this sport

is that schools play multiple

games on the same day when

scheduled against league opponents.

So at the Grizzlies home

opener on Sept. 12, Cal beat

San Ramon Valley 7-0, had

a 90-minute break while the

Wolves played Dublin, and then

hit the gridiron again to whoop

the Gaels 24-0.

“We are really glad we have

28 capable players so that we

can work them in,” Grgurina


After their first game, players

cooled down and made sure to

refuel for their next game. They

were careful in making sure

that they were still going to be

warmed up and ready by their

next game as well.

Despite being a new sport

there was a solid turnout for the

first home game with about 70

percent of the home stands filled

with cheering fans. The school

even had the varsity cheer squad

out there throughout both games

that day.

While a noticable portion of

the crowd was parents, there

were also quite a lot of students

there to support the Grizzlies.

The varsity boys football team

also stayed out after their practice

to cheer on the girls.

The sport itself is very similar

to seven on seven football,

which is a sanctioned as a high

school sport in other states.

Each team has seven players

on the field at a time. On offense

there are five designated

receivers, the quarterback and

the center. Once the center snaps

the ball, they all become eligible

to catch a pass.

There is no blocking on

offense, which means once the

ball is put in play players have

to be very agile to avoid getting

their flags pulled.

One important rule is that

when a team is within five yards

of the next down marker or a

touchdown, they can’t run the

ball. These spaces are called no

run zones.

“In close contact like that

where girls are running super

fast you are gonna create a

collision,” Grgurina said.

On defense, all seven players

are meant to defend the receivers

and attempt to intercept the

ball when possible. Once the

ball is caught, defenders then

have to pull the players flag to

end the play.

The defense can also rush the

quarterback and pull her flag as

long as she has the ball.

The field is also only 80

yards long, 20-yards smaller

than a regular football field, and

slightly narrower.

After scoring a touchdown,

which is still worth six points,

the scoring team will attempt

an extra point. But instead of

kicking the ball, the team has

to choose whether they want to

go for one point or two points.

If they decide on just one

point then they must make a

passing play five yards from

the end zone.

For two points, the offense

start from the 10 yard line and

can either pass or run.

“[Flag football] is new to a

lot of them,” Bretzing said of

his team. “We have cross sport

athletes, we have basketball

players, we have soccer players,

we have lacrosse players

out here.”

Bretzing said skills from

these other sports have translated

very well to field awareness

among other skills.

“It’s a lot of footwork and

anticipating passes and being

a team player and everything

it all comes into flag football,”

freshman Mikayla Nielsen said.

Despite being a new sport,

flag football spread quickly.

Tryouts were during the first

week of school with around 45

girls showing up and 28 making

the final team.

A lot of players became

interested after participating

in open field practices during

late summer, which led to them

joining the team.

“I went to the open fields and

I liked it a lot, so then I thought I

might as well go to the tryouts,”

freshman Ashley Reynolds said.

Reynolds said she is sure to

continue playing in the coming

years and is very excited to

see how the team will do in

the future.

This season, the EBAL will

Photo by Bekah Gracer

Sophomore Olivia Horton, far right, pulls a Dublin player by her jersey as teammate senior Lauren Grgurina, left, tries to

pull the flag during the Grizzlies 24-0 victory on Sept. 12. Cal is 9-1 overall and 7-0 in EBAL play so far this season.

crown a champion but there

won’t be NCS playoffs. Grgurina

said this is because not

enough school have instituted

a flag football team yet.

He hopes that by next season

there will a NCS championship.

Despite being a new team

many of the players see this as

a great opportunity to advance

girls sports.

“You see the boys football

team and when you, as a girl,

can actually play it,” junior

Mary Dilling said. “I think it is

a fun experience.”

Senior Mia Larson said the

new flag football program

gives girls an opportunity to

learn more about hardships and

tough sports.

Freshman tennis star nets wins for Cal

Photo by Olivia Soares

Freshman Sachika Kamath gets ready to serve during a

match for Cal this season. Kamath is 3-0 for the Grizzlies.

Sachika Kamath

is Cal’s best

player, ranked 13

in the state for

girls under 14

Shubhang Rathore

and Landon Olberg

Staff Writers

Cal High’s women’s tennis

team has a new star.

Freshman Sachika Kamath

has brought her nationally

ranked talent to the courts

this year and emerged as Cal

women’s varsity team’s No. 1

singles player.

Kamath is ranked No. 31 in

Northern California for girls 16

and under and No. 13 for girls

under 14, according to the U.S.

Tennis Association.

As a freshman, Kamath

plays, and generally wins,

against players up to three years

older than her. Her record this

season is 3-0 as of Sept, 28,

helping lead the team to a 3-1


The Grizzlies traveled to

Dublin on Tuesday before The

Californian went to press.

She feels that despite being so

young the team is very welcoming

of her and are supporting her

in getting better.

Kamath said everyone on the

team is really nice and she is

optimistic about the Grizzlies

chances this year, saying she

expects the team to do well.

Kamath practices up to three

hours every day with the hopes

of eventually playing Division

1 in college.

Dedicating 21 hours a week

to tennis is a huge time commitment,

but Kamath is able to

juggle both school and her sport

by managing her time well.In

addition to her rigorous practice

schedule, she also attends the

Lafayette tennis academy.

Kamath started playing tennis

with her dad, Shashi Kamath,

when she was seven.

He was her first coach and she

continues to train with him.

Both of Kamath’s parents

encourage her pursuit of tennis.

“My parents are really supportive

of me because they want

me to do really well,” Kamath

said. “We travel a lot because

of tennis, to tournaments every


In addition to playing tennis,

Kamath loves watching professional

tennis tournaments. In

fact, Kamath’s favorite memory

playing tennis was a college-style

tournament called the

USTA zone team championship

in San Diego in August 2022.

College-style tournaments

are unique because of their formatting.

They have two rounds:

round one consists of three

doubles matches and round two

consists of six singles matches.

Kamath said that her biggest

achievement was winning the

2021 Little Mo Nationals in

Austin, Texas.

In the final match, Kamath

won two out of three sets, winning

6-2, 4-6, and 6-3.

Kamath’s teammates believe

she has the potential to play for

a D-1 college because she’s

already shining as the team’s

best player.

Senior co-captain Tomoka

Teh said one of Kamath’s

qualities is having good sportsmanship

on and off the court.

“She’s always putting work

into what she’s doing and we

definitely think she will make

D-1,” Teh said

Cal Varsity tennis coach

Manuel Vasquez believes Kamath

has a bright future ahead

of her. He described one of

Kamath’s sportsmanship highlights

after she beat a player

from Ryan Campbell team 6-0.

Instead of gloating, she motivated

and showed kindness to

the player after the game.

With such passion for tennis

Kamath is sure to continue

playing through high school.

“I’m still going to [be on] the

team for every year because I really

like how it is,” Kamath said.

Vasquez agreed that Kamath’s

sportsmanship is one

of her strongest points and that

she knows how to handle wins

and losses.

“[She’s] a real pro at the

game,” Vasquez said.

A common sentiment that Kamath’s

teammates share is that

they admire her sportsmanship.

Junior Alexa Hoss said “I

would define [Kamath] as very

empathetic because she’s had

lots of opponents that she’s lost

to yet she’s always has good

sportsmanship toward them,”

Vasquez said that Kamath is a

4-star recruit and has three more

years of high school experience

to get the one last star required

for her to go D-1.

“Even as a freshman, Kamath

is already the star of the team,”

Vasquez said.

Thursday, October 5, 2023


Sports | B3

Senior outlifts the competition

Dihini Withana

inspires female


Nidhi Sudheendra

And Audrey Goddard

Staff Writers

Meet Cal High senior, Dihini

Withana, a national weightlifter

who has lifted her home country

Sri Lanka to new heights.

Withana began weightlifting

in August 2018, after her dad,

Eran Withana, discovered a

program for youth weightlifting

at his gym.

Drawn to the solo nature of

the sport, as well as the opportunity

to build muscle, Withana

decided to give it a try.

Since then, she has participated

in countless weightlifting

competitions, including five

national competitions.

Her current best lifts are a

snatch of 101 pounds and a clean

and jerk of 121 pounds.

As a female weightlifter,

Withana said that she had to

learn to deal with prejudice in

a male-dominated sport.

In 2019, Withana attended

her first national competition

and saw that she was one of the

only girls to compete.

Nowadays, Withana said

there is better representation

between men and women in the

sport. She said that she is really

pleased to see how the gender

gap has diminished over her

weightlifting career.

“It’s really cool to see [women]

breaking that boundary,”

Local little league team shines


Canyon Little

League squad

reaches Western

Regionals during

historic season

Landon Olberg

Staff Writer

The Bollinger Canyon Little

League (BCLL) 12U team from

San Ramon was one win away

from one of the biggest sporting

events for kids in the world.

This great group of young

athletes was one win away from

qualifying for the Little League

World Series in Williamsport,

Pa., August before seeing their

historic season come to an

unfortunate end.

BCLL formed in 2022 when

San Ramon and Canyon Creek

little leagues merged. Former

Canyon Creek player and Cal

junior Ryan Giffins said he has

mixed feelings about the merge.

“I have a couple opinions

about it, but I’m not against any

direction,” Griffins said. “If it

helps the kids continue playing

baseball, I’m all for it.”

The team has won the state

title the last three years as 10U,

11U and 12U teams, and this

season was one of their most

exciting opportunities after

winning state and moving on

to face other top squads from

around the country.

Withana said. “I think we’ve

come a long way but there’s still

so much more to go.”

But Withana feels that representation

for people-of-color

has been very slow to the game.

When competing, she noted

that national competitions felt

less diverse compared to the

competitions in San Ramon.

“In general, living in San

Ramon, our teams are more

diverse,” Withana said. “But

when we go to the national competitions,

it’s a lot less diverse.”

This wasn’t just Withana’s

observation. Nearly 84 percent

of Olympic weightlifters are

caucasian, according to the

National Library of Medicine.

Withana’s coach, Micheal

Jenkins, said that when he first

started lifting there were few

women who competed.

“This idea that somehow men

can’t learn how to get strong

from women who are stronger

than them is weird to me and I’d

love the opportunity to change

that,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said Withana not only

gives other [weightlifters] her

respect, but demands it herself.

Back in March, Withana

attended the week-long Youth

World Weightlifting competition

in Albania. It was her first

time competing internationally

and she had the opportunity to

demonstrate her skills alongside

weightlifters from all over the


“It meant a lot to me because

I represented Sri Lanka which

is [my] home country,” Withana

said, “It meant a lot to me for

my identity.”

Eran Withana said he loved

After Bollinger Canyon won

its state championship game this

season, the team moved on to

the Western Regionals in the

Southern California city of San


“It shows how competative it

is at a young age in the area,”

Griffins said.

The four teams in this tournament

are Northern California,

seeing his daughter representing

his home country.

“I’m very proud as a dad,”

he said.

Inspired by her achievements,

Withana’s sister, Thevini

Withana, took up the

sport during the COVID-19

pandemic. Both sisters spent

the year in lockdown training

in a home gym.

Withana said her coach was

very resourceful and accommodating

by continuing to train

her on Zoom with personalized

workout videos.

Withana said her dad took

two years to fully curate their

home gym, which is complete

with a weightlifting platform,

squat rack, set of dumbbells,

rowers, and a pull up bar.

Withana said that it was a

way for her and her sister to

pass the time.

Withana is competing at the

Southern California, Hawaii,

and Arizona, which all compete

for the US Western Region

title. The winner goes to Williamsport

where the top little

league teams from around the

world play for the coveted


This year, BCLL proudly represented

Northern California.

Phil Wong, the team’s manager

said the team’s game plan

coming into this tournament

was not to go into the consolation

bracket right away and

to keep winning and stay alive

in the two-game elimination


He told the team, “You’re

going to only face better teams

when moving up.”

But the team lost 4-3 in the

Photo courtesy of Dihini Withana

Senior Dihini Withana preforms a split-stance snatch at the Youth World Weight Lifting

competition in Albania in March 2023. This was Withana’s first international competition.

Photo courtesy of Phil Wong

The 2023 Bollinger Canyon Little League 12U team poses for a picture in the stadium.

2023 USA Weightlifting North

American Open Series II at the

Alameda County Fairgrounds

in Pleasanton later this month.

This will be her first time competing

in the junior division,

rather than the youth division.

Withana said she now trains

twice a week in order to prepare.

She hopes to continue weight

lifting in college and plans on

choosing a college based on

their weightlifting facilities.

first game to their rivals, Southern


They dominated the next

game against Arizona in a winor-go-home

situation, winning

5-1 with a fantastic pitching

performance from Mikey Wong.

Before going into this tournament,

Mikey Wong said he

prepared himself by trusting his

pitching, hitting and catching

abilities all season long.

After they beat Arizona,

they played a strong Hawaii

team and won 3-0, advancing

them to the Western Regional

championship game.

Although they lost the championship

game, their success

didn’t go unnoticed.

“[The team’s success] was

great for the community and

for the youth playing baseball,”

Griffin said.

Sammy Alikian, one of top

players for the Bollinger Canyon

team, said the tournament

was electric.

By beating Arizona and

Hawaii, Bollinger Canyon set

up a rematch with Southern

California with a trip to the Little

League World Series on the line.

The game didn’t start well as

the local boys fell behind 3-0

in the first inning. But in the

fourth inning, superstar shortstop

Brandon Manivong, hit a

home run to bring the Bollinger

Canyon team to life.

Unfortunately, Bollinger

Canyon lost the championship

game 3-1, but BCLL made a

real name for itself.

Carson Pfotenhauer

Sports Columnist

Bay Area draft

busts abound

When John Lynch and the

San Francisco 49ers ownership

traded three first round and one

third round pick to select a quarterback

to put them over the top

after the average play of Jimmy

Garoppolo, they thought they

were getting an elite college

quarterback in the 2021 draft.

It was rumored that head

coach Kyle Shanahan wanted

Alabama quarterback Mac

Jones, while Lynch wanted

Trey Lance from North Dakota

State. They ended up going with

Lance, seemingly due to his

potential to change the tide of

the game at any given moment

with his strong arm and build,

with good mobility.

In 2021, Lance sat behind

Garoppolo and learned the

nuisances of being a quarterback

and prepared to take over

in 2022. Two weeks in against

the Seahawks, he fractured his

ankle. Shanahan was heavily

criticized for this play, which

put Lance down and put Garoppolo

back in the spotlight.

Lance isn’t the only young

Bay Area sports bust.

On the other side of the bay

in San Francisco, the Giants

missed on their Buster Posey

replacement. In 2018, the Giants

selected the unanimous No. 1

overall catching prospect, Joey

Bart, out of Georgia Tech.

With Posey’s career in its

twilight, they needed a replacement.

Out of college, Bart was

a great hitter with incredible

power and solid defense with

a strong arm. The Giants gave

Bart the largest up front bonus

for a position player at the time

at more than $7 million.

Bart displayed his excellent

hitting in the minors. But in the

COVID-19 season when Posey

opted out, Bart took over as

catcher and was a disappointment,

hitting .233 with no home

runs in 103 at bats.

When Posey retired after

the 2021 playoff run, Bart was

looking to become the starting

catcher. But he hit .211 with 11

home runs.

Bart seemed to struggle

adjusting to major league pitching,

especially a good fastball.

Going into the 2023 season,

Bart’s role was unclear for the

team. In 87 at bats this season,

Bart has 18 hits, none of which

left the park, not showing any

of the power that he was known

for on his journey to the majors.

The Giants were in trade talks

for Bart near the deadline, but

decided to hang on to him. With

the breakout of superstar catcher

Patrick Bailey this season, the

Giants should follow the 49ers

lead and explore trading their

once coveted player.

The 49ers unloaded Lance

to the Cowboys because they

have Brock Purdy running

the show now, and the Giants

should follow suit. While the

Niners missed on their big shot,

they’re still finding ways to

win. Hopefully the Giants can

do the same.


Teachers priced out of the area

Nearly half

of those who

work at Cal

don’t live in

the district

Mansi Swaminathan

and Ren Guo

Staff Writers

The high cost of living in the

Bay Area has made it difficult

for teachers to afford to live in

the area where they work.

In fact, with the median home

price running at least $1.5 million

in the San Ramon Valley,

many teachers are forced to

live quite a distance from Cal

High and endure a brutal daily

commute to campus.

Statistics teacher Bob Allen

lives 33 miles from Cal in Tracy

and averages a 45- to 60-minute

commute to and from school

each day.

Allen and his partner chose to

buy a new house which made it

impossible for him to live in San

Ramon Valley Unified School

District (SRVUSD) attendance

boundaries, which includes San

Ramon, Danville and Alamo.

They chose Tracy because of

factors such the salary verses

the price of housing difference

and housing options.

“If you’re [a teacher], especially

a new teacher, it’s impossible

to live in San Ramon,”

Allen said.

This concern is viewed by

many as one of the contributing

factors of the state’s teacher

shortage, especially in expensive

areas such as the Bay Area.

In California, there are more

than 10,000 teacher vacancies,

including positions filled by

people who do not hold credentials,

for the current school

year, according to the State’s

Department of Education

Cal Principal Demetrius Ball

believes that teachers aren’t

compensated properly for their


“The time teachers have to

invest is real,” Ball said. “I’ve

got friends that are in the private

sector and they don’t work half

as hard as educators do, but they

make three times as much.”

The Californian conducted

a survey of teachers and staff

How far do teachers

live from Cal?


10.6 miles


asking how far they live from

campus. In the survey, 39 out

of the 85 teachers and staff

who responded, or 45.9 percent,

indicated they live outside the

district. Of these 39 teachers and

staff, 23, or nearly 60 percent,

indicated it was because of the

cost of housing in the area.

“I was not able to afford to

buy a house with my husband

within the district,” chemistry

teacher Debbie Smith said. “We

bought [a house] in 2013, when

I had been in the district eight

years. Even now, after 20 years

in the district, I could not afford

to buy a home here.”

Smith believes the starting

teacher salaries in the district

are nowhere nearly enough to

purchase a house close to campus.

She added that there might

be cheaper houses in the Bay

Area but they usually require a

long commute from the school.

A teacher’s salary can range

from $61,257 to $116,462

depending on course credits,

degrees, and their years of

experience, according to the

SRVUSD credentialed teachers’

salary schedule published on the

district’s website.

With the cost of living in

San Ramon being 90 percent

of teachers live outside of

school district boundaries.

is the average distance

teachers live from Cal.

is the average salary for

district teachers.

75 minutes

is the longest commute

out of teachers surveyed.

Figures provided by survey conducted by The Californian

with 85 responses.

higher than the national average,

the median home price is $1.5

million, while the median cost to

rent in the city is $4,400 a month.

These current real estate prices

can prove to be a difficult match

with most teachers’ salaries.

History teacher Alexander

Geller, who lives 3.3 miles

from Cal, believes that the

salaries teachers receive are

not sufficient enough to live

comfortably in the Bay Area.

“The average rent for a house

with three bedrooms is upwards

of $4,500 to rent and over a

million to buy,” Geller said.

“So I am actually looking to

move to Livermore, Pleasanton

or Dublin where rent is more


But he noted that by doing

this, he will have a much longer


The average commute length

for Cal teachers is approximately

10.6 miles and 19 minutes,

according to The Californian’s


Cal’s equity liaison Trisha

Gonzales-Waters, who is responsible

for analyzing and

interpreting equity data, lives 40

miles from campus in Antioch.

But Waters still chose to work at

Cal because she said the school

district considers all of her years

of experience on the pay scale,

meaning she earns a higher salary

here than she might elsewhere

if she transferred schools.

“This is the only district that

honors my total years of service

and offers full medical benefits,”

Waters said.

In the last year, there have

been major improvements

regarding teachers’ salaries

to attract more people to the

district. Last year’s contract

between teachers and the district

made sure of that.

Teachers with more than five

years experience in another

school district now are finally

allowed to have all of their years

of service transfer on the new

salary schedule when they are

hired in the district.

Previously, if a teacher

moved districts, SRVUSD

would only honor seven years

of teaching experience on the

pay scale. Now, the gap has been

removed and teachers’ salary

schedules will reflect their years

of experience.

“Our union fought to bring

more veteran teachers by paying

them for their years. I think it has

helped with attracting teachers,”

theater teacher Laura Woods

What percent of teachers live within

SRVUSD attendance boundaries?

said. “For example, [before the

change] if I wanted to leave SR-

VUSD and move to Dublin, my

salary would be significantly

less because they’d pay me for

seven years even though I’ve

been teaching for 27.”

For some like English teacher

Eghosa Obaizamomwan

Hamilton, there are multiple

reasons to live outside San

Ramon. Hamilton lives 30

miles from the campus in West


“I live out there, one, because

that’s where I first had housing,

so I just kind of stuck with that,”

said Hamilton, who has lived

in Oakland since 2012. “Two,

I find, as a person of color,

[I’m] more comfortable in that

space. Three, San Ramon is

well beyond my income range

if I wanted to own a house.”

Hamilton also believes there

is a lack of support for new

teachers, especially teachers

with children.

AP Computer Science Principles

teacher Sean Raser moved

closer to Cal from Castro Valley

because he wanted his son to

be in the same school district.

“The cost of living in the Bay

Area and trying to survive off

of just a teacher’s salary would

not be possible,” Raser said. “It

would barely be enough to cover

rent or mortgage, and wouldn’t

even cover other essential expenses.

My wife has to work full

time in order for us to be able to

live here with me as a teacher.”

Raser believes lower salaries

make it hard to attract new

teachers, especially ones coming

straight out of college with

high debt and student loans.

Many people acknowledge

that newer teachers are unable

to be financially independent

because of the low starting

salaries compared to the cost

of living in the area.

English teacher Alexis Fernando,

who has worked as a

teacher for three years, said

she is in a relatively privileged

living situation because she

lives with roommates, which

allows her to be less concerned

about rent. But she still aspires

to move out.

“I’ve been looking at my

finances, and it’s quite unrealistic

for me [to move out] at the

moment,” Fernando said. “Because

Dublin is also up there in

terms of price, I was looking at

[houses to rent in] Castro Valley

and Livermore. I want to stay in

the surrounding cities.”

More students on

Photo courtsey of Sandy Plechaty

Students request schedule changes in front of the counseling office during school hours.

Zak Syed

and Marcus Chalasani

Staff Writers

It’s possibly harder than making

the varsity football team,

getting a driver’s license or even

finding a date for homecoming.

The challenge: finding a spot

in Cal High’s honors chemistry,

AP Computer Science A (CSA),

or accelerated algebra classes.

AP and honors classes are in

such high demand that students

are being waitlisted or denied a

desk despite jumping through

many hoops. Waitlisted students

have to wait for a spot to open

in order to join a class.

“I feel like there has to be

enough space for all students to

get in their preferred classes,”

junior Zach Kuruvilla said.

“Having five or more periods

of a class and not getting into

that class is absurd.”

Some students, such as sophomore

Logan Ramey, believe

there is a pretty simple solution

to this problem.

“I think maybe a solution

could be to add more periods or

classes to these higher demand

classes so students can get in

with or without experience,”

Ramey said.

Although this sounds reasonable,

California’s teacher

shortage is making it much more

difficult for school districts to

fill jobs, especially in certain

subject areas.

A Learning Policy Institute

study of more than 200 California

school districts this school

year found that 75 percent of

schools reported a shortage of

qualified teachers, particularly

in the areas of math, science,

art, and special and bilingual


Cal has been affected by this

issue the past two years. This

year, an Algebra 2 class went

without a teacher the first month

of the school year. The school

also lost its AP Physics program

last year because a qualified

teacher was never hired.

Another problem Cal has

experienced when it comes

to high-demand classes is an

increased number of student

applications to transfer classes,

many of which are into accelerated


“We had 2,200 schedule

request forms this year and we


Features | B5

Teacher shortage worsens

Cal’s issues part

of a larger state,

national problem

Mishti Ramachandra

Staff Writer

When an Algebra 2 class and

the band program started the

school year without teachers,

many Cal High students must

have been thinking, “Here we

go again.”

Last year, the AP Literature

classes didn’t have a teacher

until mid-September, and the

school didn’t have an AP Physics

program because a teacher

was never hired.

Although Cal’s AP Physics

program is back this year, what

has happened with students

starting the year without permanent

teachers is part of the

nationwide teacher shortage

that continues to plague public


“The teacher shortage isn’t

just happening here,” Cal counselor

Rebecca Bellini said. “It’s


There were 567,000 fewer

educators in America’s public

schools in April than before

the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine

that started in March

2020, according to the Bureau

of Labor statistics.

In California alone, more

than 200 school districts reported

that 75 percent of schools are

starting this school year with a

shortage of qualified teachers,

according to a Learning Policy

Institute study.

This forces many schools to

hire under-trained teachers and

substitutes to help out in the long

run, particularly in subjects that

are challenging to fill such as

math, science, art, and special

and bilingual education.

To start this school year, there

are more than 10,000 teacher

vacancies in California. This

includes positions filled by

people who do not hold credentials,

according to the State’s

Department of Education

The situation is even worse

outside of California. Two thirds

of Tennessee schools started the

2022-23 school year with nearly

39,000 positions either vacant

or held by someone with an

emergency teaching credential,

according to the Tennessee Department

of Education.

Virginia had more than 3,500

full-time teachers vacancies

for the 2022-23 school year,

which means nearly 4 percent

of all teaching positions were

not filled, according to the

Virginia Department of Education.

Statistics showed that

vacancies increased from the

previous year.

Because this ongoing national

problem has affected schools

locally, an Algebra 2 class didn’t

have a teacher for the first month

of school until Haoyu Chen returned

to Cal and stepped back

into the classroom on Sept. 18.

“I temporarily stepped away

from this position due to family

reasons,” Chen said. “So I’m basically

returning to the position

I had last year.¨

But before Chen returned,

students struggled in the class

and often felt like they were

behind compared to the other

Algebra 2 students who started

the school year with a teacher.

“It doesn’t really feel like

a class,” sophomore Tabitha

Israel said before Chen returned.

Israel said it was difficult

for her and other students to

understand concepts without a

teacher present.

“It definitely feels a bit

strange to not have a teacher,”

sophomore Yasasri Chintapalli

said. “It worries me because

it is a core subject and not an


Chintapalli said the substitute

teachers didn’t really know how

to teach math, and students often

argued over answers.

The time it took to hire an

Algebra 2 teacher made many

students and parents question

the hiring process. Principal

Demetrius Ball said the process

of hiring a new teacher involves

numerous steps.

First, the position is posted

online for a few weeks, typically

during the springtime. After

screening applications, interviewees

are selected based on

their resume, reference letters

and experience.

During the interview process,

a panel of teachers and administrators

interview candidates.

Teacher who are offered jobs

have one to two days to accept

the offer. Ball believes numerous

factors play into the teacher

shortage, including the pay and

cost of living in the Bay Area.

“Money is a motivator,” Ball

said. “It’s really difficult to make

[teaching] appealing.”

Bellini agrees.

“The average teacher salary

just isn’t enough to live here for

a lot of people,” Bellini said.

Bellini also believes politics

contributes to teacher shortages.

“A lot of times, schools and

teachers are often villainized in

the media for things that are outside

their control,” Bellini said.

Teacher shortages have been

a persistent issue for the last

decade, but this problem has

been worsened by the pandemic

and recent increase in school

shootings. According to the

publication Education Week,

teachers also have expressed

frustration with their jobs’ low

starting pay and a lack of respect

from their students.

“Sometimes I wonder if

teachers don’t view their job as

potentially dangerous with the

gun violence issue that we have

in this country,” Bellini said.

English teacher Ginger Clark

said state colleges and universities

are working to make it

easier for candidates to get their

Photo by Olivia Soares

An Algebra 2 class that was without a teacher for a month finally welcomed returning teacher Haoyu Chen, who previously left Cal due to family reasons.

teaching credentials while earning

their bachelor’s degrees.

“If there’s a way to make it

easier for [teacher candidates]

to actually get into those schools

so that they can benefit from

those programs, then maybe

we’ll see more people come

into progression,” Clark said.

The teacher shortage, specifically

in the math department,

may affect other teachers.

Bellini said because algebra

and geometry are graduation

requirements, many upper

level classes may no longer be

offered so the required classes

have teacher coverage.

“Most of our math teachers

were working more than full

time [last year] to cover what

should have been another person

and a half,” Bellini said. “Teachers

need to be compensated and

feel respected for people who

want to do this work.”

the waitlists for popular classes

have to prioritize the upperclassmen

as they have less time

to complete their classes,” Cal

counselor Kelly Falcone said.

Many people believe college

interest is the reason for

increased applications to AP

and honors classes.

“I think that AP and honors

classes are sort of needed to get

into a good UC or a good college

in general, since the SAT isn’t

as important now,” Ramey said.

But Principal Demetrius

Ball said the belief that taking

higher-level courses to get into

a good college is false.

“There is no magic formula,”

Ball said. “You don’t have to

take the whole biomed pathway

in order to go to your dream

school and major in pre-med.”

Although students may believe

transferring into their

preferred and waitlisted class

will only benefit them, those

who are switched later in the

year may need to catch up to

the academic pace of that class.

“It’s quite a challenge if a

student were to join late because

we start from day one and most

classes are very fast-paced, so

we would have to catch the

students up,” chemistry teacher

Jack Sarkany said.

But some students believe

it is worth it to join late and

do extra work to catch up in

their preferred class rather than

staying in a class they do not

enjoy as much.

“I don’t care how hard it is,

I’ll do the work and put the

effort in to catch up if I join a

class late,” Ramey said.

Some students think that it’s

unfair that they have to wait until

their senior year of highschool

to get their preferred classes.

Senior Arman Martin did not

get into AP Biology or AP CSA

until his senior year. He thinks

it’s more stressful to take the

harder classes during his last

year of high school than before

because of college applications.

“I honestly would rather have

my AP classes before senior

year,” Martin said. “I also feel

like your last year of high school

is to enjoy it, but instead now I

have to work extra hard to pass

these AP classes.”

Kuruvilla did not get into AP

Computer Science Principles

(CSP) last year or AP Psychology

this year. He thinks that it’s

also unfair that students who

have a passion for these classes

have to wait a whole year to try

to get in the class and sometimes

still don’t get them.

“I was excited for the class but

when I found out that I have to

wait another year, [it] was pretty

disappointing,” Kuruvilla said.

The issue of waitlists affects

teachers as well because waitlisted

classes mean the class is

filled with a maximum number

of students.

And like most teachers,

honors physics teacher Fredrick

Wafula prefers having fewer


“As a teacher, I need to be

able to reach every student,”

Wafula said. “So if I have too

many students in my classroom,

I wouldn’t be able to be an

effective teacher.”

Ball said not getting into

preferred classes is not the end

of the world.

“I think one of the most

important life lessons is that

you don’t always get what you

want,” Ball said.

Sarkany suggests that different

criteria should be used

to determine who gets priority

for these classes.

“We have many students

who advanced over the summer

through online programs

who want to get into these APs

and honors classes,” Sarkany

said. “They’re most of the

time unready for it. So I think

sometimes we need to look at

what experiences they have.”

For students stressing about

not getting into their preferred

classes, Falcone said they

should not let their anxiety control

them from doing their best.

“Colleges know that not

every student can get every

class they want,” Falcone said.

“This will never be held against

the student.”

Cal counselor Rebecca Bellini

also had some advice to

students when completing their

class selections in the spring.

“Students think that they

don’t need to worry about their

alternative classes because it’s

not their first choice.” Bellini

said. “It doesn’t matter, sometimes

you get your second or

third choice, so it’s important

to make your alternative choice

be a satisfying class that you

would like, so you don’t feel

disappointed if you did not get

into the class you wanted.”


Artist tunes up across campus

Anushna Sapatnekar releases the title track for

their debut album ‘Summer’s End’

Johanna Jayakumar

and Keerthi Eraniyan

Staff Writers

From just beginning to

indulge in the art of music to

successfully releasing an indie

rock song, Cal High senior

Anushna Sapatnekar is on their

way to stardom.

On Sep. 22, Sapatnekar released

their title track single for

their debut album, “Summer’s

End”, under their stage name,

Raine Arcas.

The indie rock album set to

release in 2024 will feature 10

songs written by Sapatnekar,

who sings and plays guitar.

Last year, they told The

Californian in an interview that

work on the album began during

their freshman year, when they

wrote 150 songs.

“[The songs] all started out

super bare with me just singing

with a guitar,” Sapatnekar said.

Their album is a nostalgic,

melancholy expression of their

own life. Sapatnekar’s friend,

senior Jaiden Eva, describes the

album as a “love letter to their

past experiences.”

“It’s got a kind of dreamy

sound to it,” Sapatnekar said.

Their success is fueled by

their passion for music.

“One of Anushna’s favorite

things was to come up [to the

studio] and collaborate,” Sapatnekar’s

producer David Lipps

said. “When they came up to

my studio, their guitar teacher

was playing some guitar and I

sat down on the drums, they just

lit up immediately.”

Sapatnekar’s dream band

nearly came to life when they

met other musicians. Eva was

Sapatnekar’s first best friend at

school. He went on to become

their musical companion as


Creating a strong bond

through art, Sapatnekar and Eva

almost formed a band together

with two other students. However,

this ambition of theirs didn’t

end up working out.

“We did have a musical

project, it never really came

to fruition,” Eva said. “It was

really funny because we all got

so busy with junior year but

there’s really good chemistry

that I have whenever I play

with them.”

Sapatnekar says they used

to be “so painfully socially

awkward” and found it hard

to put themself out there when

they were younger.

Through the bonds they’ve

made, Sapatnekar became more

confident with their music, even

playing live on two different


Even if they didn’t end up

going through with their band

idea, Eva and Sapatnekar remain

a dynamic duo.

Eva was commissioned to

create the cover art for Sapatnekar’s

single, “Infinite”, which

was released on Spotify July

of 2023. This was Eva’s first


Eva expressed his pride and

gratitude that he could be a part

of their first album release.

“[Sapatnekar’s] art doesn’t

feel like an amalgamation of

everything they’re inspired

by, it feels like it’s theirs,” Eva

said. “ And I could go on and on

about their lyrics. I’d probably

start crying.”

Sapatnekar plans on pursuing

a musical career after high

school and hopes to expand their

musical knowledge in college.

They want to get better at

marketing, collaborate with new

musicians and hopefully create

a band with them too.

“They have the ability to

take criticism well, which is

crucial for making good music,”

said Monte Vista senior

Samay Dhanker, a friend since


This attribute can prove

useful, as their climb through

the music industry will be a

difficult journey.

“I really need to work on

the business side of music,”

Sapatnekar states. “College is

basically going to enable me

to better my brand.”

Those who know Sapatnekar

believe that music is going to be

a significant part of their life.

Lipps said musicians never

really know if they’re going to

break into the industry, but he

does know that music will be

a big part of Sapatnekar’s life.

“I have to do music,” Sapatnekar

said. “I’m not going to

be happy otherwise.”

Eva said Sapatnekar has both

the talent and drive to achieve

fame. Despite how cutthroat the

competition can be, they could

be successful anywhere, even if

they don’t sign with a big label.

Just like Dhanker believes

that Sapatnekar will succeed

in the music industry, he has

always known that Sapatnekar

would become a musician. In

his eyes, Sapatnekar has the

potential to be one of the best.

“I think they have a lot of

musical talent,” Lipps said.

Anushna Sapatnekar tunes their guitar while preparing for a live performance.

“And I feel like they can go far

if that’s what they want.”

The three of them collectively

agree that Sapatnekar could do

tours and live concerts in 10

years if they got their heart set

on it. No one can imagine Sapatnekar

doing anything else.

“It sounds corny, but sometimes

I feel [music] in my veins,

Photo by Sophia Santiago

it’s honestly such a beautiful

experience,” Sapatnekar says.

“I’m so grateful to have it. I

genuinely don’t know what I

would do without music.”

‘GUTS’ is nauseatingly impressive

Illustration by Raiey Bekele

Pop star Olivia Rodrigo uses vampires to represent betrayal

and manipulation in her new hit song released on June 30.

Olivia Rodrigo makes headlines

once again with new album

Riya Reddy

Staff Writer

After depriving fans of new

releases for the past two years,

Olivia Rodrigo has finally back

with her new album “GUTS”.

Rodrigo started her career

as a child actor starring in

Disney shows “Bizaardvark”

and “High School Musical: The

Musical the Series”. Despite the

fame she gained from acting, it

was her debut album “Sour” in

2021, that solidified her spot in

the music industry.

Her debut single, “drivers

license” hit No. 1 on Billboard

within a week of its release and

currently has more than 1.9

billion streams on Spotify. It

also won “Best Pop Solo Performance”

at the 2022 Grammy


Her success didn’t end

there. Three other songs from

the same album, “good 4 u”,

“traitor”, and “deja vu” gained

more than one billion streams

on Spotify. “Sour” won three

Grammys, an insane amount of

fame for a teen’s debut album.

She didn’t earn this fame

from just pure luck. Rodrigo’s

youth allows her to connect with

her teen audience in ways older

songwriters can’t.

Her songs about heartache

appealed to teenagers so much

that a trend was started on

TikTok where girls would ask

their significant others to break

up with them for an hour just so

they could listen to Rodigo’s

“Sour” album with a new sense

of appreciation.

Her relatability is part of the

reason why fans were ecstatic

to hear about her next release.

Rodrigo announced her

second album in an Instagram

post on June 26 with the caption

reading, “My sophomore album

GUTS comes out September

8th.” Her post immediately

attracted a lot of attention, with

millions of likes and thousands

of comments expressing how

excited they were for her album.

Four days after the announcement

of her album, her

song “vampire” was officially

released as a lead single. This

powerful song about manipulation

and being used instantly

claimed the top spot on the US

Billboard Top 100. Personally,

I connected with the song a lot,

and even shed a few tears.

She won a well deserved

VMA this year for “vampire”

in the category “Best Editing”.

The line “Cause girls your

age know better” represents

how naive and trusting she was

toward someone who hurt her.

Rodrigo also uses this line to

hint at a big age gap between her

and her ex, as she was just 19

while writing this song. After

all, “GUTS” wouldn’t be a true

Olivia Rodrigo album without

some trashtalking about exes.

The last two songs in the

tracklist “pretty isn’t pretty”

and “teenage dream” are some

of the most relatable on her

whole album. The two songs

deeply connect with beauty

standards toward young girls,

emphasizing how society’s

standards ruin girls’ self image.

The song “pretty isn’t pretty”

dives into how everywhere she

looks, she always finds someone

better looking, no matter how

hard she tries to make herself

prettier. She highlights this in

the lines “But I’d always feel

the same, ‘cause pretty isn’t

pretty enough”.

In the beginning of Rodrigo’s

song “teenage dream” she

explains how she understands

that reaching adulthood means

she has to step out of the shelter

of being a teenager. The lines,

“Yeah they all say that it gets

better, it gets better but what if

I don’t?” represents that she still

views the future with caution

despite others’ reassurements.

“I made the bulk of this album

during my 19th year on this

earth. A year that, for me, was

filled with lots of confusion,

mistakes, awkwardness &

good old fashioned teen angst,”

Rodrigo wrote on Instagram.

Five days after the album’s

release, Rodrigo announced

her Guts World Tour. This isn’t

her first tour, as her world tour

announcement for “Sour” attracted

lots of attention as well.

She made standard ticket

prices for her debut album

very low compared to other

artists’ concert tickets, ranging

from $50 to $200 because she

wanted tickets to be affordable

for her fans.

But a problem surfaced

when people who weren’t fans

bought tickets early and then put

them on secondary markets for

thousands of dollars. Many fans

also shared their disappointment

when they found out Rodrigo

is touring in only America and


Rodrigo reassured fans, saying

there will be more concert

dates to be released soon.

The Grammy winner impressed

fans yet again, completely

spilling her guts out in

her new album.

Thursday, October 5, 2023


Music icon joins Cal staff



David Ellis

teaches band

A&E | B7

Illustration by Judy Luo

Shelly Parekh

Staff Writer

Photo by Bekah Gracer

New band director David Ellis is playing the tenor saxaphone, his signature instrument.

After the long process of

recruitment California High

School faced while getting a

new band director, the school

welcomed band teacher and

director David Ellis on Monday


The school has gone through

many band directors over the

past few years. The previous

band teacher Javier Cerna, announced

his forced resignation

effective at the end of the year.

From there, the search for a

new director began early in the

2022-23 year.

Following careful consideration

of many applicants by a

panel of students, teachers and

Principal Demetrius Ball, Cal

agreed to hire a new director,

who ultimately did not complete

the hiring process required for


This caused the band program

to have a relatively late start

due to the complications of

finding a new director before

Ellis was hired.

“We didn’t have a teacher for

around two weeks, so that was

a little weird,” freshman Ethan

Surya said.

Two weeks into the school

year, a new band director was

finally hired.

Ellis specializes in tenor and

soprano saxophone. He also

plays other saxophones, bass,

R&B guitar, drums, piano, and

singing. He has been playing

the saxophone ever since he

was nine years old.

He began teaching after graduating

from Berklee College of

Music in 1992. He began with

contract work for schools and

various summer programs, such

as the Stanford Jazz Workshop,

Jazz Camp West and Cazadero

Music Camp.

This year, Ellis is teaching

symphonic band, wind ensemble,

jazz band, and jazz

ensemble, with the exeption of

marching band, which is being

taught by Pine Valley middle

school music director Daniel


Ellis hopes to eventually

teach a digital production and

recording class as it’s becoming

a prominent part of today’s

music industry.

“I think band this year is

going to be great,” said junior

Siddharth Arora. Arora is a

three-year member of the music

program. “I’m excited to

see how we grow with a new


Hiring Ellis as the new teacher

was a very long process, as the

position was posted in February

and applicants began rolling in.

“The panel went through

probably four rounds of interviews,”

principal Demtrius

Ball said. “It was maybe around

six [applicants] to five, then to

Mr. Ellis.”

Ellis has high hopes for the

music program, and is excited

to watch the band become a

team and foster young talent

on campus.

“If everyone actually keeps

their part, you can do some

really cool things, so I like to

watch the progress,” Ellis said.

In 2021, Ellis took a break

from teaching after spending

seven years at Oakland School

of the Arts. This year, Ellis

decided he wanted to get back

into teaching because he said

he wanted to be somewhere he

could build something rather

than just appear for a year and

then quit.

After receiving multiple calls

from friends, he decided to apply

for the open band director

position at Cal.

“I’m sort of a reluctant

teacher because I’m good at it.

It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s

my life’s passion,” Ellis said.

“What I like about it, particularly

with young people, is that

[the students] don’t know how

good [they] can be. So if I set a

high bar, generally people don’t

know enough to not hit it.”

Ellis brings with him plenty

of professional experience. He

has been in bands since he was

in high school.

One of his exceptionally

successful ventures was his

time spent in the Ska band, The

Uptones. The band, which featured

Jamaican and Caribbean

rhythms combined with punk

rock energy and horn sections,

was a success and even opened

for Billy Idol and The Go-Go’s.

Ellis also played tenor saxophone

for the Charlie Hunter

Trio, a popular band signed to

Blue Note Records. The group

produced several albums successful

albums for the label.

They soon went live and started

touring the world in 1995.

Apart from this, Ellis also has

three records of his own under

a famous jazz producer, as well

as many other records such as

those with The Uptones and the

Charlie Hunter Trio. He worked

at the label company Fantasy

Records and collaborated with

famous rock band The Black

Crowes and American singer

Donny Osmond.

He looks forward to bringing

his experience to the band


Ellis also looks forward to

the huge music library and the

giant office in his room and is

excited to work in the positive

environment students and parents

have created within the

band program.

“I’m really excited about the

amount of parental support [for

the program] and they appear to

be nice to each other as well,

not just the parents, but the

students,” Ellis explained.

Regardless of the complications

in finding band directors,

Ellis is excited to start

fresh in the new year, taking

the program to new heights.

Comic by Samika Karode

Actors act

up in SAG

KK Demello

Staff Writer

When Hollywood writers and

actors started their strike back

in May, they had no idea how

long this would last.

But what they did know was

they would never go back to

working long hours with little

pay, receiving little to no residuals

for syndicated shows, and

accepting any more unfairness

in this industry.

Now, five months later only

some elements have changed.

The Writers Guild of America

(WGA) reached an agreement

on Sept. 27 to increased wages,

residuals and payments based

on successful streaming, accoridng

to today.com.

But the question remains:

Can the rest of Hollywood’s

writers and its actors continue

to hold their ground and make a

change for the better or will they

be washed away by Artificial

Intelligence and the glitz and

glamor that Hollywood brings?

The Screen Actors Guild–

American Federation of

Television and Radio Artists

(SAG-AFTRA) is an actor and

writer’s based union that went

on strike May 2 for better pay

and working conditions for

actors and writers.

SAG-AFTRA’s continued

strike seems necessary because

its movie and TV show writers

don’t make enough for a livable

salary in California, especially

compared to actors who speak

their words and perform the

stories they create.

The strike has sparked good

conversations about reasonable

pay while opening doors that

are very dystopian looking with

the involvement of A.I. in the


The WGA agreement said

A.I can still be used but it

can’t replace writing jobs, and

companies can’t require writers

to us A.I.

Disney’s CEO Bob Iger has

said the union is not being “realistic”

and that the strike is “very

disturbing” to him, according to

Variety magazine.

But what others find disturbing

is that Disney is using

artificial actors in some of their

TV shows already. For example,

in one of their recent movies

“Prom Pact”, Disney seemingly

used computer generated extras.

which raises a lot of ethical

questions, such as can a nonliving

thing express emotions

and show them on film like

real actors?

This move by Disney also

puts actors out of jobs.Not only

does this strike keep actors and

writers from working, it also

delays the release of movies that

were already finished.

This is a problem for everyone

now because studios are

losing money, actors and writers

are not working while holding

out for livable wages, and public

is experiencing a content dry

spell with no new shows and

films to watch.

Movies such as “Spider-Man:

Beyond the Spider-Verse”,

“Dune Part Two”, “Deadpool

3”, and “Gladiator 2” are on

hold for now because actors are

not promoting their films while

on strike.

The strike has now become

more than just a Hollywood

issue. It is now an economic

problem. But The SAG-AFTRA

strike also affects movie theaters

and the revenue they generate.

In basic terms, the more new

movies that are released, the

more money theaters make.

All of a sudden, the strike has

become a real life nightmare for

almost everyone involved in the

movie industry.

“I think it’s really good what

they are doing because a lot of

the actors and screenwriters

aren’t getting fair payment,” Cal

High junior Aaron Mccord said.

Personally as a self proclaimed

writer, this strike

hits close to home. I feel that

union members are justified

in wanting better pay. They

should get everything and need

to stand their ground and fight

for what’s right.

The way they do this is by

staying on strike and fighting

for their rights.

But there is a light at the end

of the tunnel with the WGA

agreement. Plus, independent

studios such as A24 and NEON

are immune to the strike since

these studios are not affiliated

with the union. What’s super

exciting about this is that most

of their movies will be seen in

theaters in the coming months.

So you can watch movies

such as “Priscilla”, a movie

about Elvis,from his wife’s

point of view. Movie fans can

also watch “Ferrari”, a biopic

about Enzo Ferrari who is portrayed

by Adam Driver.

The point is movie fans can

watch these great movies in the

meantime while also supporting

the entire movie crews in the

process and maybe get some

popcorn on the way.

Thursday, October 5, 2023


A&E | B8

‘Boy Wonder’ inspires next generation

Cal High alumnus Kellen Torrey

shares his story in documentary

Caleb Yi and Noah Young

Staff Writers

Cal High 2023 graduate

Kellen Torrey has created a new

basketball documentary, sharing

the story of his hardworking

lifestyle and basketball career.

His documentary, “Boy Wonder”,

was created when an old

friend, Jacob Yadao, who works

for Simply Basketball, reached

out, offering a collaboration.

Simply Basketball is a social

media team focused on supporting

Northern California basketball

players and giving them a

platform to display their skills.

Torrey’s goals for this documentary,

which was released on

YouTube in July, were to inspire

the next generation of basketball

players and give people insight

into his life.

Torrey said he wants to inspire

the community and be a

role model for young players

to look up to. His 28-minute

documentary highlights his

success and achievements as

Cal’s varsity point guard, on

and off the court.

“What separates me is my

ability to be coachable and a

good teammate,” Kellen Torrey

said. “I was able to lead my team

Photo courtesy of Kellen Torrey

Kellen Torrey goes up for a layup while warming up for the

2023 “Simply Basketball: Battle of the Bay” game.

and always work hard.”

Being a great player as well as

a great listener was what made

him a star on the court.

“He was a great basketball

player on the court and off the

court,” said Cal sophomore

Logan Ramey, who has seen

the documentary.

Ramey said his brother was

a friend of Torrey’s.

“He was just a really great

dude,” Ramey said. “It really

showed who he is and his hardworking


Hard work was a staple in his

career at Cal, as Torrey claimed

the position of starting point

guard on varsity during his

sophomore year.

“I remember 6 a.m.shots

and workouts,” Torrey said.

“Midday workouts and 8 p.m.

workouts too.”

This work ethic helped him

be a leader especially during his

senior year as he guided Cal to

the NCS Division 1 semifinals

and the NorCal D2 quarterfinals,

which is the team’s deepest

postseason run.

The documentary shows Torrey

working out with his trainer,

Stevie Johnson, an example of

the work he puts in day to day.

“To his credit he changed his

body and worked on the skills

of the game, and is one of the

hardest workers I’ve ever been

around,” head basketball coach

Steve Ohlymeyer said.

“He loves being in the gym,”

added his biggest fan, father

and assistant coach at Cal,

Chris Torrey. “Shooting the ball

around and going to the weight

room. He’s a workaholic and it

transitions to his game.”

Nothing was more important

to Torrey than making sure that

he was always putting in extra

work, early in the morning and

late at night. This work ethic

led to great moments with the


Photo courtesy of Kellen Torrey

Kellen Torrey celebrates his senior night last season with his mother, Victoria Torrey, and

his father, Chris Torrey, who is an assistant varsity basketball coach.

“There is nothing like it,” Torrey

said. “The adrenaline and

the crowd. The student section

is going crazy. It’s special to

represent your school.”

The documentary also captures

toward the end of Torrey’s

high school career when he

was offered a chance to play at

Simpson University, a Division

III school in Woodland, just

north of Sacramento.

“I’ve been waiting so long

for this moment,” Torrey said

in the documentary.

Going to college and playing

basketball was a dream of his

since he was a kid. In college

he hopes to create a legacy for

himself. But he emphasizes the

importance of getting a degree

and focusing on academics.

“I’m serious about getting

a good GPA and awards for

academics,” Torrey said.

Torrey acknowledged that

he had a lot of help throughout

his journey.

“He continued to grow each

year, and a lot of that had to do

with the people he’s surrounded

with,” Chris Torrey said.

“Coach Ohlmeyer had a big

influence on him, no question.

His mom pushes him as well

and his trainer, Steve Johnson,

was a big piece of this.”

In his documentary he said,

“My parents have been there

every step of the way.”

“Boy Wonder” has helped

Torrey document his journey

and work ethic to those hoping

to follow his footsteps in the

realm of basketball.

“Always bet on yourself, trust

yourself, and be a student of the

game,” Torrey said.

Elysia Oliquiano’s next big step in acting

Sophomore lands a role in major

Apple TV show with Jennifer Garner

Camille Miller

and Eva Brooks

Staff Writers

Working on big movie sets

with celebrities such as Jennifer

Garner was the next big step

for Elysia Oliquiano’s acting


By landing a role in a major

Apple TV show, “The Last

Thing He Told Me”, the Cal

High sophomore made her

grand Hollywood debut, setting

herself up for the job of her


“I was so excited because

it is such an incredible opportunity

to do what I love and

work with amazing people,”

Oliquiano said.

Oliquiano’s interest in acting

began when she was seven years

old watching the Disney show

“Liv and Maddie”. Watching

actress Dove Cameron portray

two different characters inspired

Oliquiano to become an actress


“It made me realize that I can

express myself in different ways

through acting,” she said.

Oliquiano initially started by

acting at her local community

theater, Bay Area Children’s

Theatre in San Ramon. Over

time, her career went on to

include modeling for clothing

brands such as Old Navy, The

Gap and Walmart.

Her first major acting job was

in a national United Airlines

commercial at age 10.

Her most recent role was as

The Girl in “The Last Thing He

Told Me”, an Apple TV show

that was released in April. In

the first episode, Oliquiano’s

character gave a mysterious note

to the main character played

by Garner.

When auditioning for this

role, Oliquiano had to go

through a multi-step process.

First, her agency submitted

her for the show. The role of an

agent is to find jobs for an actor

and negotiate contracts.

Then, Oliquiano filmed and

submitted a self-tape audition,

which earned her a call-back

months later. She performed for

the director over a Zoom call,

and was offered the part.

“You’re going to get a lot

of no’s before you get a single

yes,” Oliquiano said. “You need

to have confidence in your own

Elysia Oliquiano practices lines for Cal High’s Theater 3

class. The sophomore has a role in a new Apple TV show.

ability and never give up.”

Once on set, she became

acquainted with Garner. Oliquiano

expressed how being in the

presence of famous actors and

real film directors encouraged

her aspirations of becoming a

successful actress when she’s


“[It’s memorable] seeing

someone that you see all the

time on the screen, in person,”

Oliquiano said. “[Garner] made

me feel very comfortable [on

Photo by

Photo by Anvi Kataria,

set]. She was always reassuring

me. She would talk to me

about her life and then ask me

questions about mine.”

Allen Oliquiano, Elysia’s dad

and biggest supporter, agreed

that working alongside professional

actors such as Garner was

a great experience for Elysia.

“[It’s a great] opportunity to

work with an actress like Jen

Garner,” Allen Oliquiano said.

“She’s down to Earth. She’s the

perfect role model.”

Photo courtesy of Elysia Oliquiano

Elysia Oliquiano, right,

poses for a selfie with actress

Jennifer Garner.

In order for her acting skills

to continue evolving, Oliquiano

takes Cal’s Theatre 3 class

taught by Laura Woods. This

is a convenient practice opportunity

for her, as the majority

of in-person acting classes are

located in Los Angeles.

“There’s just something

about her,” Woods said. “She’s

very natural, she’s very believable.

She’s 100 percent committed.

She’s always conveying the


Woods said one quality that

sets Oliquiano apart from other

drama students and actors is

that she is quiet and describes

herself as soft-spoken. Woods

said that most of the aspiring

actors she teaches are normally

on the louder side.

But when she comes out of

her shell, Oliquiano can be as

outgoing as any other classmate.

In class, Oliquiano is described

as talented by her friend,

sophomore Liv Alvey. Outside

of class, Alvey said Oliquiano

is a good singer, collaborative

and fun to be around.

A lot of what happens behind

the scenes goes into upholding a

successful acting career.

“We drive her wherever she

needs to go or if it’s a self tape,

we set the self tape up at home,”

Allen Oliquiano said.

He and the rest of Oliquiano’s

family are very proactive in

helping her further her career.

Both Oliquiano’s family and

friends have expressed their

ongoing support for her and her

career as she continues to grow

as an actor.

Her main goal is to be successful.

“The reason I want this career

is because it’s something I have

fun with and enjoy doing,”

Oliqiuano said.

She said she has come to

prefer acting on screen more

than on stage because it feels

more natural to her, making her

want to focus her career on roles

in movies or TV shows.

“I expect great things from

her,” Woods said.

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