I am a staff writer on my high school newspaper;
several of these articles were originally written for The Epic.
When Brett Kavanaugh was nominated for the Supreme Court in July 2018, media attention was relatively minimal. This changed, however, when Senator Dianne Feinstein revealed that she had received a letter detailing claims of sexual assault against Kavanaugh from a victim who preferred to remain anonymous. While the decades-old accusation left spectators across the country speechless, it provided a unique lesson for students: mistakes from high school and college can impose unprecedented implications on their futures.
Days after Feinstein’s revelation, the victim disclosed her identity and made her accusations public. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford shared her experiences via The Washington Post, claiming that Kavanaugh had assaulted her at a high school party in the early 1980s. Two of Kavanaugh’s classmates from Yale University, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, also came forward with similar accusations. The routine confirmation hearing took place in September, allowing senators to interview nominees for the Supreme Court, and in this case, Kavanaugh. After the hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee requested that President Trump order an FBI investigation, which he opened on Sept. 28. During the investigation, proof that Kavanaugh had been a heavy drinker in high school and college surfaced.
“You hear your parents and teachers saying it all the time: don’t do anything you’ll regret in the future,” said sophomore Ibraheem Qureshi. “Now, it suddenly feels real; they may have a point. And now, with the addition of social media, everything you do is online. A lot of people are deleting their social media pages. They don’t want what they posted online in high school to be used against them.”
It may never be clear whether Dr. Ford’s allegations are true or not, but they have nonetheless left an ugly smear on Kavanaugh’s reputation. Even if the accusations of sexual assault are false, the investigation has exposed Kavanaugh’s rowdy behavior in high school and college, revealing that he may have been downplaying his alcoholism. Former classmates came forward with claims that Kavanaugh had been intentionally misleading with his testimony, referring to a 1985 bar brawl that ended with police intervention. Kavanaugh’s actions during high school may not be representative of who he is today, but he is still responsible for their consequences. Many claim that his heavy drinking in school proved that he was not qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice, while others argue that he was unqualified because he lied under oath about the extent of his drinking problems.
For many students, partying is an irreplaceable part of the high school experience. However, teenagers’ ideas of having fun can often border on unsafe or downright dangerous.
“A lot of people think that having a good time is just doing what their friends are doing,” said senior Alicia Wu. “If there is something you enjoy that may come back to hurt you, you should work to change yourself. It’s not just about your record. Rather than something tangible, it’s more about your character; the decisions you make when you’re younger will shape who you become in the future.”
High school and college students often still make mistakes; it’s a part of the learning process. Since they are young and inexperienced, it is almost inevitable that they will make bad decisions. However, there is distinction between careless errors and serious crimes, and the latter may never be forgiven.
“There’s a line between kids being kids and being a bad person,” said Qureshi. “Most of the time when you make a mistake, people are going to hold it against you. You can ask for forgiveness, but you won’t always receive it. Sometimes, people realize that they were wrong, and they are trying to change for the better, but in some cases it’s not possible.”
Throughout the ordeal, witnesses and investigators across the country stepped in to unearth every piece of evidence about Kavanaugh’s student life. His actions during school posed a serious threat to his career nearly 35 years later. The same could potentially happen to any student, years from today. One seemingly insignificant mishap can have resounding consequences, and high schoolers should be careful to protect themselves from these unintended ramifications. This incident may lead students to monitor their own behavior more closely. On the other hand, it may simply convince students to put up a facade for the people around them.
“I don’t think that the Kavanaugh case is going to force anyone to change,” said World History teacher Nhat Nguyen. “Students might be really good at putting up a front for other people to see, but in private, they are still who they are.”
Adding on to the case’s complications, many have wondered whether evidence from so long ago can be considered an accurate representation of a person today. After all, people can change over the course of several years.
“High school is a really strange period of time for everyone,” Nguyen said. “It’s hard to see if it really reflects who a person is years later. We need to see if there is anything consistent, if there are any constants. One point in time doesn’t really give you any progression, you need more data to see if they’ve changed over time.”
Whether or not a person changes, it is irrefutable that incidents from high school and college are now acceptable reasons for attacking public figures. High schoolers have been quick to realize that anything they say or do can be used against them. Students may refrain from going down the wrong path if they realize that bad decisions can have severe consequences on their aspirations and keep them from accomplishing their long-term goals.
“We don’t just live for the moment; we live for our futures and what we will become,” Wu said. “We all have hopes and ambitions and we have to keep ourselves in check with that, and use our goals as motivation to stay away from trouble.”
Despite the scandal, Kavanaugh was sworn in to the Supreme Court on Oct. 6. While we may never know whether or not Kavanaugh is guilty, his public ordeal battling ghosts of his past has brought high schoolers around the country a sobering lesson: the past never stays buried.
“Practice is cancelled again today! How will I race next weekend?” My sister bursts through the door, her voice laced with concern. We launch into a discussion, trying to decide the best workaround. Three hours later, we’re swimming indoors at our local YMCA, relieved to be able to continue practicing. Similar scenes played out across California as the Air Quality Index (AQI) crept higher and higher and athletes scrambled to find indoor training options.
While many in California were hit hard by the smoky skies, athletes faced a unique struggle. Swimmers, for instance, put in months and months of training to build up to championship performances. Even a few days without practice could keep us from reaching our goals, especially when the difference between success and failure comes down to milliseconds.
We didn’t have an uninterrupted practice between Nov. 8 and Nov. 21, and the meets that we had spent weeks preparing for were cancelled. Most local clubs cancelled practice or meets on the days that the AQI went above 150, and many parents have opted to keep their children home as well. These precautions are absolutely reasonable, of course. Athletes, especially swimmers, are already short of breath after physical exertion. This, combined with a lack of oxygen, could have dangerous effects. Athletes are extremely in-tune with their bodies, and they respect and care for their bodies meticulously. This begs the question: is it better to play it safe, or put in the extra work to beat the competition?
For someone like my little sister, who is asthmatic, the decision is crystal clear. She can’t afford to risk the possible repercussions of inhaling too much smoke. Because of her, my family knows first-hand the struggles of having breathing difficulties. So, we turned to indoor options when the smoke appeared, choosing to keep ourselves safe while still trying to put together some semblance of a workout. Unsurprisingly, when we turned up at the YMCA pool, we were surrounded by familiar faces: teammates who were looking to stay in shape as well. They narrated stories of practices being cut short and exhausted swimmers running out of the pool in search of “fresh air.” We concluded that it was impossible to keep up regular practice routines in these difficult conditions. We dove into our workouts with the goal of being ready for our upcoming meets.
Are we being insensitive to the victims of the fire by looking for ways to work around these inconveniences and keep up our strength? I would beg to differ. We can hardly be expected to sit around in fear of the smoke for days on end. We spend hours training daily; two weeks can undo a lot. When it was just one day, we treated it as a short break. Practices were reduced due to poor air quality for almost two weeks; it reached a point where it would seriously impact our upcoming races if we didn’t take action. We are still expected to be on top of our game now that the skies have cleared, which is not easy to do if we spent 10 days out of the water. In fact, there’s a popular saying around the pool deck: “For every day out of the water, it takes two to get back.” As the fall swim season draws to a close and the last meet of the year approaches, we’re running out of time.
Of course, the workouts we create ourselves are hardly comparable to practicing with our coaches. Still, it is better than nothing. As we slip into the pool, the girl next to me is lost in thought. “Next time,” she says, “I’ll ask coach to send us the sets.”
To me, the words are hard-hitting. Our inexperience with the smoke gives away the fact that we have never had to deal with this before. As far as we can remember, California has never had a fire that made outdoor activity virtually impossible for half the state; California was sorely unprepared for these wildfires. But if disasters like these become more common, our workarounds will only become more efficient. “Next time,” we’ll ask coach to send us sets. “Next time,” we won’t miss a single day of practice in the confusion. Slowly but surely, battling the smoke may become as commonplace to us as choking on water while swimming butterfly. If left unchecked, these sensational fires might become recurring news. It’s a rather grim view of the future, but athletes aren’t the type to give up, no matter the stakes.
Mar 22, 2018
A quick recap of this inspiring event!
The plethora of Young Adult (YA) books that were released in 2017 are definitely worth celebrating. These wonderful books bring new characters and stories to life, but most notably, raise awareness about racial diversity. One such novel, “The Hate U Give” (THUG) by Angie Thomas, follows an African-American teenager named Starr Carter, as she witnesses a policeman shoot, and ultimately kill, her childhood best friend. The media quickly labels him as a mere drug dealer; thus, Starr is thrown into a media circus, unsure what to do with her newfound rage and fear. The reader is thrust into high-stakes emotional turmoil, waiting on the edge of their seat to find out what happens next.
One may consider “The Hate U Give” a modern “To Kill A Mockingbird;” it encompasses topics such as deep-rooted racism, activism, grief and family. THUG, however, was written for the young adults of today, as it is full of cultural references and issues that plague today’s teenagers. For example, Starr is in awe of a classmate who complains about visiting Harry Potter world every year, is an avid Tumblr user, bonds with her boyfriend over “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and is afraid of Khalil becoming a hashtag and nothing more. Teenage readers will find similarities between their lives and events in the book, making Starr seem more like a friend than a faraway fictional character.
While THUG is classified as a realistic fiction novel, the story can be enjoyed by all teenagers, no matter which genre they prefer. THUG gives the reader insight into a harsh reality that may be completely different from theirs. Starr’s day-to-day life differs greatly than one of a standard Lynbrook student. It is nearly impossible to fully understand Starr’s experiences without knowing the entire story. Thomas shows the whole truth about Khalil, and how he loved Harry Potter and fought with his mom, not just how he sold drugs to make ends meet.
The plot itself is full of twists and turns, keeping readers hooked. With heavy subjects such as police brutality and systemic racism, a happy ending is out of the question, but Thomas does give the reader closure. While Starr’s struggle to achieve justice for Khalil is the main highlight, Thomas manages to weave in several side plots that draw in other characters as well.
The characters in the story are realistic and three dimensional. They are complicated, lovable and pull readers into the storyline. The story features a realistic crew that affects Starr and her decisions. Key players include Starr’s step-siblings, neighbors and complicated private school friends.
The fact that Starr goes to a fancy suburban private school also sets her apart from other teenagers in her impoverished neighborhood of Garden Heights. She looks at the world from two different perspectives, giving her a deeper understanding of her environment and racism in particular. She finds herself interacting with people from all different backgrounds, allowing her to be more empathetic to the people around her.
After finishing this thought-provoking novel, don’t forget to watch the movie adaptation starring Amanda Stenberg, Regina Hall, Anthony Mackie and Sabrina Carpenter that is yet to be released.
While many noteworthy books were released last year, The Hate U Give stands out as a book that not only features a woman of color, but also makes the reader think and hope for a better world. If stories like this reached more people, perhaps we would be all be more understanding and empathetic, and have fewer problems with hate, anger and devastating violence. THUG is a moving story about today’s young adults, and those who pick up this book will surely be inspired to create change in their own way.
Vice President Mike Pence turned heads on Oct. 8 when he walked out of a football game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers after members of the 49ers team knelt for the National Anthem. Pence later voiced his frustrations on Twitter, tweeting that he “will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” later adding that Americans “should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us.”
I found his reasoning strange, considering that Americans are united by the belief that all men are created equal, and that all people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our unity is much more than a flag or a song — it’s our values that hold us together. If there are people in our country who fear for their lives everyday, they’re clearly not feeling welcomed in America. This is an obvious sign of division in our country. If the administration wants people to stop protesting, they need to make sure that all of America’s citizens feel equally valued and protected. Otherwise, it shouldn’t come as a shock that these sidelined citizens would be upset and be looking for a way to express their opinions. Kneeling during the national anthem is how these players choose to bring attention to the oppression of minorities and police brutality.
Despite his severely misled intentions, Pence had the support of President Donald Trump, who had asked Pence to leave the football game “if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country.” Anyone who has heard the debates raging over the national anthem protest has surely run into the argument that the protest is disrespectful to our country. Here’s a novel idea: rather than spending such an obnoxious amount of energy debating whether the protest is “respectful” or not, the Trump administration should be actively trying to find solutions to issues that are being protested such as police brutality. There are obvious problems that still exist in America, and it’s their job to fix it instead of making excessively dramatic exits and arguing about morality. Whether or not they agree with the protest, they should acknowledge the police brutality and racial segregation in America, and do something about it. These football players have broken no law, nor have they harmed anyone. Rather, they have been courageous, taking action even in the face of racial threats and unemployment.
Some argue that athletes should be “grateful” for living in America, where they are able to make millions of dollars playing sports. Yet, the true reason that Americans should be grateful is because they have certain unalienable rights. The wonder of being an American is that when something goes awry in the country, citizens have the right to point it out. In fact, they are expected to fight against injustice. It’s not about being grateful — whether these players are grateful or not is unrelated to the fact that there is injustice in America. They are using their platform to bring attention to an issue, and Pence walking out shows his and the Trump administration’s lack of support.
There are two important things to note about this protest. One: it’s legal. Two: police brutality and racial segregation exist in America. So why do we keep returning to the insignificant issues? Maybe we should stop turning this protest into reality TV and instead focus on the actual problems that our country is facing. Pence, as a major leader in America, should be spearheading these efforts, not turning his back on them.
Pence attending a football game only to leave moments after the national anthem was an unnecessary display of what America already knows: the Trump administration is opposed to the national anthem protest. What they have yet to show is their commitment to the cause that these players are fighting for