Team feature: Pie bake-off

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 2. Friday, Oct. 23, 2015.

Category: Leadership and Team Building

Reason for publication: I brainstormed with my friend and fellow Gazette writer Blake Panter a pie bake-off in the spirit of the holidays. Blake and I both baked pies at our separate households using the same recipe and ingredients supplied by myself and allowed our friends to judge the pies. Both of us wrote about the experience post-bake-off. 


Hannah Holzer: 

   Our first issue of The Gazette comes out, and Blake and I begin to brainstorm new story ideas when we find ourselves laughing, and then seriously considering the idea of a bake-off. This bake-off manifested into a real story, and this is the story of how this bake-off almost ruined our friendship.

  Pie is definitely my least favorite dessert. However, I do bake around three to four pies a year – two or three for Thanksgiving, and one on my own time when I think I may actually like pie, but am assured I do not.

  I learned to bake pie in culinary class freshman year. Since then, I have picked up tips from many cooking shows, mostly from the British Baking Show (my favorite of all baking shows), but also from the pros (aka bakers from my Temple).

  Through these efforts, I have decided that the key aspect to baking a good pie is baking a good crust. And not one of those Pinterest-y two-ingredient ones (and don’t even mention frozen or prebaked crust), but a real, butter, water, flour and salt crust.

  To make a good crust, the word that will determine if you fail or succeed is: cold. If your water isn’t ice cold and if your butter hasn’t just been taken out of the fridge you will fail. Heck, throw your dry ingredients in the fridge if you want.

    After you sculpt your crust, throw it back in the fridge and bake with pie weights (or dry beans or rice). Once it’s done baking, don’t let it sit too long, like my friend Blake, the runner-up.

  Blake’s pie looked beautiful, his professionally intertwined lattice topping looked even better than mine, but his ultimate failure became evident after we retraced his baking steps.

  I knew his future was doomed when his knife hesitated to cut into his rock-like crust, and this is how he failed: after Blake (a non-experienced pie baker) created a beautiful crust, he removed it in the oven and let it sit while he made his filling, then he poured his filling back into the crust and re-baked it, creating a sort of biscotti-like crunch.

  I achieved success because I knew very well that to succeed in the kitchen, one must be a multitasker. Blake, the inexperienced baker he is, sealed his defeat before he even thought about what he was doing.

  From the beginning I knew I had to win this competition, but strictly on the basis of the sole finished product. For one horrifying moment during the bake, I burned my cherry filling while focusing on the crust, but I managed to redeem the taste by adding extra almond extract and lemon juice to cancel out any hints of burnt flavor.

  I’ll admit, when Blake revealed his pie I felt tinges of anger and jealousy – Blake may be an academic wizard, but I’m the wizard in the kitchen. I felt relief when we couldn’t cut through his pie, but I feel I won because I proved my abilities.

 The moral of the story is: your crust should be cold pre-rolled and warm in the pan. If your crust feels cold in the tin/pan before you’ve placed your filling in, you may as well start over. If you can’t seem to make your pie crust-oven relationship work, you may try no-bake pies – but that’s a whole different ex-pie-rience.   

cherry pie Here is a photo of my finished pie.


Blake Panter:

  At last, the pie baking competition of the century approaches. In one corner, weighing in with 0 pies experience, is me. In the other corner, weighing in with countless years of expertise and a couple of handy tricks up her sleeve, is Hannah. The mission was simple: bake a pie using the same recipe to win over the judges’ hearts. The actual execution, however, was far from easy as pie.

  If I were forced to describe this competition in one word, it would have to be “sabotage.” Hannah, sweet and unsuspecting as she may seem, makes a fierce and unforgiving pie baking competitor. She caught me right in my naïveté, and exploited me where I was weakest.

  Here’s the evidence to my cons-pie-racy:

Proof #1: Incomplete recipe

Hannah approaches me, wide eyed and happy as ever with a bag of ingredients and a so-called complete recipe on how to bake the pie. I feel thankful, content and rather ready to bake. I get home, lay out the ingredients and begin to bake. About halfway through making the filling, I notice something strange. The recipe cut off mid sentence: “bring the mixture to a boil for…” Then nothing. Flabbergasted, I immediately text Hannah in urgency asking what the recipe said to do next. At this point, I still think it was just an accident. “Hey Hannah, what do I do now cuz I think the recipe cuts off.” Silence. Not even a murmur. With my adversary for time encroaching like death, I am forced to improvise. Of course, Hannah replies about 15 minutes later with a well thought out excuse, and by that time, my filling was just about an enormous disaster. Coincidence? I think not.

Proof #2: Lemon Juice

So we are taste-testing our pies, and Hannah, wincing as she tries my filling, asks me if I added lemon juice to the filling. Rather confused, I ask what she’s talking about. She just assumed that I would know that lemon juice would magically make the filling not taste like complete crap. Again, she pleads innocence, but I think otherwise.

  Now, as flawless as my baking may have seemed, I did make few mistakes. Apparently, I forgot to use an egg (I still don’t know where that thing was supposed to end up). I also baked the pie for way too long, and, all in all, the judges’ plates revealed a unanimous decision. My pie was hardly touched, while Hannah’s was gobbled up with ferocity. None except Caro said she liked mine, mostly because she just likes any pie she can get her hands on.

  Hannah may have been number one in the pie baking competition, but I was number one in everyone’s hearts. The underdog always wins. Hannah and I plan on doing this same thing again with a different dessert, so until next time, when I will win.




Collecting data: Technology’s effect on communication, studies and expertise

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 2. Friday, Oct. 23, 2015 (can be seen here).

Category: News Gathering

Reason for publication: To give my hypothetical idea that modern technology was having a significant influence on communication I used a variety of published sources and a top expert. Quoted pieces of the published story are followed below by the publication or expert with which they were used from.


  •   “According to research published by the Pew Research Center, 89 percent of cellphone users report using their phones during a recent social interaction. Cellphones “are always present and rarely turned off,” according to the Center, which claims that they are directly responsible for new social and communicational difficulties.”

This group of findings published by the Pew Research Center in 2014 surveyed a relatively high number of 3,042 cellphone users for their findings.


  •    “A new phenomenon describes the instance of using one’s phone to snub someone else – appropriately dubbed “phubbing.” Researchers at Baylor University have found that increased levels of unhappiness occur as an effect of phubbing.”

Baylor University published this study which found that “phubbing” – phone snubbing – can have detrimental effects on relationships, but also lead to higher levels of depression. Two experts in their field conducted a study which involved 453 U.S. adults and two individual surveys.

  •   “Technology could be the culprit of an even bigger emotional revolution, which has caused a 40 percent decrease in empathy amongst college students. Psychologist Sara Konrath collaborated with a University of Michigan research team to combine the findings of over 70 studies from 1979 to 2009 to conclude the shocking decrease in empathy. In an interview which took place via email, Konrath proposed technology’s plausible influence.”

This publication detailed the finding of over 30 years by psychologist Sara Konrath and her research team at the University of Michigan which concluded that college students have experienced a lack of empathy, speculating it might have to do with increased communication via online sources.



Collecting data: Effects of sitting equal to effects of smoking, studies and expertise

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 7. Friday, April 17, 2015 (can be read here).

Category: News Gathering

Reason for publication: To give proof to the statement that the effects of sitting are equal to those of smoking, I used online statistics and a doctor for verification. Below are quoted statements from the published story alongside the publication/expert I found it through.



  • “‘Sitting is the new smoking’ is the new health-fueled, anti-sedentary behaviors slogan that has linked sitting, among other common sedentary conduct, as a major catalyst that heightens health risks such as cancers, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and increased risk of death. The American College of Cardiology has found that sitting can be just as detrimental as smoking to one’s health because sitting for prolonged hours of the day increases a person’s risk for such diseases previously mentioned.”

The evidence for the heightened risk for such diseases mentioned was found through the American College of Cardiology’s website, which can be seen here.

  • “Additionally, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found sitting for long periods of time increases risk for colon, endometrial and possibly lung cancer, and a 2008 Vanderbilt study concluded Americans spend an average of 55 percent (or 7.7 hours) of their conscience day sitting, or in other sedentary positions.”

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published this finding about increased risk for possible types of cancer through research conducted by two experts, alongside an entire department for disease control.

I found the Vanderbilt study concerning the number of hours average Americans spend sitting through this infographic published by

  • “‘High school students do spend a lot of time sitting,’ Dr. Arshia Islam a rheumatologist with UC Davis said. ‘However, whether they are at increased risk of … (having or suffering from) obesity, diabetes, or neck and shoulder pain depends on what they are doing to counteract the risks associated with prolonged sitting.’ Dr. Islam also said the factors contributing to the health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle include a decreased metabolism – resulting in a decrease of calories burned – potentially leading to obesity and diabetes, as well as poor posture which can lead to musculoskeletal problems.”

Doctor Islam provided her expertise to this story concerning the effects of sitting and the possible solutions for the health risks/damages it causes.


  • “One study from Indiana University found five minute walking breaks may reverse sitting-related consequences, however this may not be a practical solution.”

This proposed solution posed by the Indiana University was published online here.

New year, new you

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 5. Friday, Feb. 13, 2015.

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: I wrote this opinion piece to comment on the unnecessary pressure to transform for the new year.


  “New Year, New You” – but not for me. The traditional New Year’s saying may be catchy but isn’t necessarily healthy or helpful.

  The phrase implies a complete and total transformation in ourselves – a constant, annual revamping that is not imperative. Nor is it healthy to constantly feel the need to change, each year slightly putting your self-esteem aside to conform and make yourself more appealing for society’s taste.

   For example, in the January 2015 issue of Oprah Magazine, the title ‘Brave New You’ was used to kick off the new year. It would have been understandable if seen on any of the numerous cheap gossip magazines available, but not on a magazine named for the woman so many people look to as a role model.  

  It was my understanding that the famous icon’s magazine was catered towards middle-aged women – to reaffirm their confidence in themselves and embrace their personalities despite society’s rules. Titles of reinvention insinuate impossible results.

   The fact remains that you don’t need to use the new year as an excuse to reinvent yourself or even feel the need to. You can improve qualities about yourself anytime throughout the year, but too often people get caught up in the notion you must upgrade to fit society’s newest expectations.

  Look at the bigger picture – it is too often we get caught up in the notion of “fitting in” by arranging our lives around unachievable rules dictated by society. This ‘society’ is made up of fashion magazines, ads and media with images rarely untouched or un-Photoshopped.

  But our society in particular  has romanticized the idea of resolutions to the point where people who don’t achieve their goal end up mad at themselves; thus, a goal meant to help ends up counterproductive. A society promoting difficult resolutions, such as weight loss for a new image, gives false hope to those who really do want to find in themselves a better person, which can often not be achieved in a year’s span. The majority of the time, resolutions end up as unrealistic promises that are simply not reasonable.

  In fact, basing your resolution around a goal so far out of reach is akin to setting yourself up for failure. The University of Scranton conducted a study that concluded only eight percent of people achieve their resolutions, only further proving we too often reach for the unreachable, and fall on our faces or get discouraged when we realize the amount of work necessary.

    This new year should revolve around your own wishes and desires; it should also include the knowledge that you may not finish in just one year. If you’ve been meaning to start a new hobby, try a different sport or improve your oratory skills, setting reachable goals will make you more likely to succeed.

   Instead of a complete transformation, a better idea is to find a simple goal. Adding on a simple goal to a hectic life is doable while a complex goal is simply not.

  Also, working hard to achieve a small goal, which will have lasting effects, will do you better in the long run then, say, resolving to join a gym and trying to cut your size in half. Wanting to be a happier, healthier you in small ways that may start with joining a gym may get a goal a lot farther, therefore making it less easily disposable.     

    This year, don’t get caught up in society’s unfulfillable and unattainable expectations. Junior Kylie Shimada summed up a new and more healthy mantra to live by in a single tweet: “Not being a new me, but a better me this year.”


Speech and Debate team profile

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 4. Friday, Dec. 12, 2014.

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: This story served as a profile of the Speech and Debate team.


  While surprisingly not one of the more audibly spoken about teams on the Granite Bay campus, GBHS’ Speech and Debate team proves their worth in each and every one of their competitions. Well into their 2015 season, the Speech and Debate team has already displayed their excellency and craftsmanship with novice members already claiming trophies for first place.

    The Speech and Debate season is unique in that it does not have a specific start and end date. Their season starts in September and ends around April. During the first semester, the students mainly focus on preparation and learning the ropes of both the Speech and Debate aspects.

  “After December we focus on the qualifying tournaments,” third year Speech and Debate and CP English 12 teacher Bob Prichard said. “Everything up to that point has been preliminarily, its been practice. In February we have our first qualifying tournaments and that goes through March and April, and in April we have the State tournament and National tournament.”

  This year the Speech and Debate team has acquired more novice members than usually join. This also means that the team is growing.

   “We have over 20 first-year competitors, our team is about 44 competitors so almost half of our team is very new.” Prichard said. “We’re having a really good year where we’re teaching a lot of new people a lot of new stuff.”

   One of such novice members is Rishi Somanchi, a freshman at Granite Bay High School. Somanchi participates in Lincoln-Douglas debate, a form of debate which focuses on a central topic. This year the topic is organ procurement, or organ donation.

 “For Lincoln Douglas we continue the same topic (for the whole) Speech and Debate year, and we get really knowledgeable about the topic.” Somanchi said.  “I, so far in the three tournaments I’ve gone to, have won first place.”

 While Somanchi is new to the Speech and Debate team, his brother, Vinny Somanchi, is one of four captains who help coach the team. All four are seniors who include Sumana Kaluvai, Maadhav Shah, Ashna Shah and Vinny Somanchi.

  “They are all phenomenal in their own ways,” junior and member of the Speech and Debate team Sonia Garcha said. “They all have their own strengths and when you put them together they are like a dream team.”

  Prichard also said that each captain inhibits talents in their own right and are so far doing a fantastic job of running the team.

  “I honestly feel so fortunate to be the captain,” senior and Speech and Debate captain Vinny Somanchi said. “Reaching the level of captainship … symbolizes the culmination of a lot of work and it feels good to be behind the scenes of work when our team and my friends are succeeding.”

  This is the third year teaching the Speech and Debate class for Mr. Prichard, who took over the position from his mother, Mrs. Prichard, after her retirement. What made the change a smooth transition was Prichard’s level of commitment equal to his predecessor’s.

  “What really helped is that I was willing to keep the same schedule (and) have the same level of commitment.” Prichard said. “It’s really challenging, it’s probably the hardest class I teach and I enjoy it very much but it takes a certain amount of temperament and a certain amount of commitment.”

  Although Mr. Prichard is still a fairly new teacher, his students have taken a liking to him and his teaching style. According to Vinny Somanchi, Mr. Prichard is a great help to their success because of his combined previous and his own previous debate experience.

  Because the fall semester is meant solely for practice, competitors who engage in Speech and Debate year-round  are able to compete for trophies and titles during their spring semester and have the ability to qualify for both the State and National tournament. Granite Bay High School’s biggest competition is Woodcreek and Mira Loma, Prichard said.

  “The one thing I’m looking forward to is improving a lot of my speech and debate,” Sonia Garcha said. “I’m … looking forward to this season because we’ve seen a lot of people who’ve done really well. I’m (also) looking forward to getting more trophies and becoming more intelligent.”


The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Unabridged) play wrap-up

Published:  Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 4. Friday, Dec. 12, 2014.

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: This story served as a synopsis of a play that was performed and Granite Bay High School at its entire production – from casting to finale.


 For the typical high school student, the mere mention of Shakespeare brings flashbacks of monotonous English classes reading such works as “Romeo and Juliet.” These memories, however, do not correspond with the Granite Bay High School Drama department’s fall production of the comedy “The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (Abridged.)”

  The play was directed by Kyle Holmes, GBHS’ Drama teacher, and included senior Kelli McTague as assistant director, junior Kylee Riddle as stage manager and a crew of 12 students.

   The plot follows four narrators, played by juniors Mira Pexa and Erica Lucia and seniors Jack Fish and Daniel Eitzman, who attempt to produce the entirety of Shakespeare’s oeuvre with only the help of 10 student actors.

   While the play includes traditionally theater aspects, the fourth wall, which separates the actors from the audience, is broken early on in the play.

   “In other shows I’ve been (in), we’re not really supposed to look at the audience or acknowledge that they’re there,” Fish said. “But (in) this show we count on acknowledging them. There’s not a lot of shows like this … where you just interact with the crowd this much.”

   Audience participation affects the way the actors perform the play; thus, the rendition differs slightly from night to night depending on the general response.

  “I do believe that things can change in a second,” Lucia said. “We have this responsibility … (that) we must keep the show on track, but also have the freedom – due to the nature of the show – to respond to audience members as they come.”

   Another less conventional aspect of the play is the manipulation of the narrators’ roles. The two male narrators, Fish and Eitzman, essentially play themselves; Pexa and Lucia emulate their real-life personalities, albeit with slight alterations.

   I’m basically playing myself, in a way,” Fish said. “I’m not putting on a different persona, which is different from what I’ve done previously.”

   According to Fish, the play enjoys popularity with a diverse audience due to its variety of humor. Some jokes appeal to teenagers, while others are targeted towards the adult crowd.

   Since the script was initially written for a cast of just three men, much of the initial humor came from the seemingly impossible nature of producing all of Shakespeare’s works in a limited amount of time.

  The central challenge became translating the play to fit a cast of 14 while still retaining the comedic aspect.

   “Mr. Holmes began with addressing the challenge of translating a show with an original cast of only three, to reconstructing it to fit our needs,” Lucia said. “By having ten actors that could be split up to tackle different plays, we still had the quickness and frantic nature that the original cast of three had.”

   According to junior Bailey Bradford, the cast was extremely tight-knit and in addition to creating new friendships, he was doing what he loved.

   “(My) favorite aspect of the show is probably performing it,” Bradford said, who acted alongside his sister, junior Bailey Bradford. “It’s great, you’re pumped up and exhilarated because you’ve

got audiences cheering you on as you’re saying your lines and everyone laughs, it’s pretty cool.”

   However, the production experienced one drawback because of the name ‘Shakespeare’ in the title.

  Since works by Shakespeare are so prevalent in academic curriculums, many high school students have developed preconceived notions that they are dry and tedious, Lucia said.

   “Our biggest challenge was definitely combating the judgment associated with the name ‘Shakespeare,’” Lucia said. “William Shakespeare did not create 1,122 characters and 37 different stories for you to be forced to read and annotate in English class. No, he dreamt up and constructed real people and plots that became a spectacle meant to be performed and enjoyed.”


Collecting data: Great gun debate, statistics and polls


Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 5. Friday, Feb. 5, 2016 (full post here).

Category: News Gathering

Reason for publication: In order to give solid standing to points made in a story I wrote about gun culture in Granite Bay, California and America, I used various credible sources which I will detail below.


Below are excerpts from my Great Gun Debate story followed by the sources with which I received the information.


  •    “In terms of guns used with a malicious intent, the degree with which gun violence occurs in the U.S. is higher than rates in other developed nations. According to Professor of Sociology Tom Kando, who is an expert in crime statistics and popular culture, firearms are used in approximately three fourths of all criminal homicides and suicides.”

Professor Tom Kando is a retired sociology professor and has a range of expertise which can be viewed here.

  •    “It is also true that while the U.S.’ gun death rate has decreased by 31 percent since 1993 – according to the Pew Research Center – a Harvard study found that the number of mass shootings since 2011 has tripled.”

The Pew Research study was compiled from information published by the CDC, the DOJ and the Research center’s own surveys. It can be seen here. The Harvard study was compiled from independent research from Harvard and Northeastern students and data published by Mother Jones. It can be seen here.

  •   “While a portion of U.S. residents favor an increase in gun restrictions – approximately 55 percent according to a Gallup poll – others stand strong beside the right to bear arms, guaranteed by the second amendment.”

This Gallup poll surveyed approximately 1,000 Americans over the phone with a sampling error of +/-4. Although the sampling error is larger than I wished for, the confidence level reported among those survey was significantly high – at 95 percent. It can be seen here. It is also important to note that this survey shows that U.S. residents’ desire for increased gun control is not at an all-time peak, which is why I specifically said that only a portion of residents favored increased gun control, although it is a slim majority.

  •    “As reported in a 2012 Congressional Research Service report, in 2013 the number of guns in the U.S. was expected to exceed the total population – 357 million guns compared to 317 million people.”



I found this article published by the Washington Post in which they use the Congressional Report that I also used. The article explains that it is hard to pinpoint exactly how many guns are in the U.S. at any given time, and it is only assumed that the number of guns exceeds the population. I could have cited their assumption, but chose to instead cite an older source which seemed more credible.

  •  “However, those who stand against gun control remain strongly opposed. These adversaries include Congressman Tom McClintock, who represents California’s fourth district which includes parts of Placer County.

 “‘The best defense against an armed terrorist is an armed American,” read McClintock’s official statement on gun control, sent electronically by his Press Secretary. “That’s what the second amendment is all about.  It is an absolutely essential pillar of our security.'”

This statement from Congressman Tom McClintock can be found here on his website, but it was sent to me in an e-mail by his Press Secretary.

  •  “This opposition to gun control is not shared by all elected officials, including President Barack Obama, who recently committed to reduce gun violence by using a series of Executive Orders. These Executive Orders plan to prevent gun crime by requiring those who sell firearms – whether in person or online – to have a license to do so and conduct background checks. Also, by funding personnel from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to enforce the new gun laws, by increasing investments in mental health care and by asking specific departments, such as the Department of Justice, to conduct investigations into gun safety technology.”


I found these facts about President Obama’s newest Executive Order concerning increased gun control through the White House website, in this link.

  •   “The President’s Executive Action will affect other states more than it will California –which is known for having stricter gun laws than most other states. Among other restrictions, California bans certain assault weapons, restricts gun shows, requires a ten day waiting period before individuals can receive the gun they bought and requires that gun sellers have a license and issue background checks – a requirement also seen in the Executive Action. In some cases, in terms of the banning of assault weapons, California’s currently implemented restrictions exceed the level of restrictions in the President’s Executive Order. Because of this, the restrictions may not affect Californians to a great extent.”

I found a list of California’s gun laws and restrictions here, through a post from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, published in 2015.

  •    “Granite Bay itself may have an attitude towards guns different than most cities in California, and even the state of California itself. Placer County is one of the more Republican-dominant counties in all of California, with 45.95 percent of registered Republican residents. Because Republicans are generally more opposed to gun regulations, some speculate that Granite Bay is more open to guns and resistant of restrictions.”

  Finding a list of recent voter partisanship for Placer County was a bit difficult. I ended up finding it on Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s website in a list published for 2015, which can be seen here.

Seniors choosing college alternatives

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 8. Friday, May 22, 2015.

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: For the senior section (a section devoted to only seniors in the last issue of the Gazette), I thought it would be a good idea to include a story detailing the various routes other than college seniors would be taking after graduation.


  Granite Bay High School places a heavy importance on grades and test scores. As a senior, it is expected – if not assumed – one will attend a four year academic college, and most graduates do end up continuing their education.

  But out of Granite Bay’s relatively middle-sized community, the options for life after high school are rather infinite. Joining the military, enrolling in culinary or arts schools or even taking a year to travel abroad are just a few of these opportunities.

  Senior Emma Costigan chose to graduate early this year because of her readiness to leave high school and travel before attending college. Costigan will be attending Boise State in the fall but used her extra time after graduating early to her advantage.

  “I went on a lot of college visits and other trips,” Costigan said. “I also worked and volunteered a lot.”

  While graduating early wasn’t a college alternative for Costigan, it did give her extra time to relax and embark on adventures she might not have had if she hadn’t graduated early and instead gone straight into college.

  Costigan also said she had limited regrets from graduating early because she didn’t miss too many significant events and said she recommends graduating early to those who are ready to leave high school.

  A few GBHS students from  the class of 2015 have chosen such alternative paths as art school, but many others have chosen to either enroll in a section of the US defense forces or help serve and protect the US in other ways.

  Seniors Jude Battaglia and Logan Hartridge are graduating with their fellow classmates in May, but have found an interest in the US defense force. Both were drawn to the option after having witnessed the experiences of family members.

  “I had one of my cousins go into the Marines and after I saw him come out he had changed so much for the better,” Hartridge said. “I wanted to be part of something more and try to challenge myself as much as I could possibly go.  I pretty much had the Marines in mind, (however) I also looked into the Navy and the Air Force – but I knew from the get-go I wanted to be a Marine.”

  Senior Jude Battaglia has also planned to join the US defense force, but, unlike Hartridge, he plans to go into the Air Force. Battaglia was heavily influenced by his family’s experiences in the military to join.

  “ I think the reason that I chose to go the military as opposed to go to college … was mainly because I’m following the traditions of my family,” Battaglia said. “ Because my stepfather, my brother and several other people in my family have pursued careers in the military and that’s always been a … solid option for (both) a stable future and financial future.”

  Battaglia has already chosen his job – a fusion analyst – and said after basic training (or boot camp) he hopes to go to a tech school in either Hawaii, Japan, Australia or anywhere in Europe.

  An avid member of the GBHS theater program, Battaglia said he plans on continuing to pursue his passion.

  “ I actually do plan on continuing my theater career,” Battaglia said. “There are community theaters and I can do that on the side. It will be a little difficult, but I love theater so I’m willing to make sacrifices.”

  Another GBHS student, senior Jarred Caines, plans to attend the United States Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island and, from there, to attend the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

  “I am not enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces,” Caines said. “I will be graduating in 2020 from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science and I will be commissioned as a Naval Officer, specifically an Ensign in the U.S. Navy. The reason I am attending this (preparatory) school is because I wasn’t accepted into the United States Naval Academy, but was given the opportunity to go here for a year.”

  Caines also said he aspires to be a Naval Aviator and pursue a career in Aviation. Because he has developed an enthusiastic passion for aviation, Caines said he wants to use it to help serve his nation.

  Although the majority of Granite Bay High School seniors will, at one point or another, further their education post-high school, it is not the only route available after graduation. Furthermore, the opportunities to educate oneself is not limited to a traditional, four year, academic college, but whatever path one chooses must be one’s own decision.

  “ I would say that even though (going against the ‘norm’) is difficult, it is your life,” Battaglia said. “It’s not your parents’ or your godparents’ or whomever it may be who’s pressuring you – it’s your life and you can do with it as you please.”

News: Mormon church comes out in support of anti-discriminatory legislation for LGBTQ community

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 6. Friday, March 13, 2015.

Category: News Literacy

Reason for publication: There was confusion about the Mormon church’s stance on the LGBT community after the gave their support for anti-discriminatory legislation. In this story, I attempted to inform readers of the significance of their support and their current stances.


 On Jan. 27, Church officials representing The Mormon Church announced their support for anti-discriminatory legislation for members of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community.

  This legislation represents aspects of anti-discrimination such as housing and employment. It also notes that discrimination, specifically involving violence, against the LGBT community is wrong. The Church’s statement comes as a result of trying to balance the rights of those in the LGBT community whilst not sacrificing or taking away the same rights of others.

  However, this does not mean the Mormon Church, officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, supports the lifestyles of those in the LGBT community, same-sex marriage or acts of intimacy between two people of the same sex. It simply means they will not discriminate.

  “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that sexual relations – other than between a man and a woman who are married – are contrary to the laws of God,” Sister Neill F. Marriott, a member of the Young Women general presidency, said as a representative of the church, according to the Newsroom for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “God is loving and merciful. His heart reaches out to all his children equally and he expects us to treat one another with love and fairness.”

  The Mormon Church has asserted that the announcement is not a change of stance or change in belief – accepting others has always been a prominent aspect in the Mormon belief. This legislature comes as the result of a news conference held between official Church leaders to find a middle ground between the gap, and even “tension” that has manifested between LGBT activists and religious rights activists.

  Granite Bay High School junior and senior CP English teacher, identifying Mormon and local Bishop’s counselor Jason Sitterud said the Mormon Church has always accepted LGBT people but does not agree with their lifestyles and these beliefs have not changed with the announcement.

  “I think the purpose (of the announcement) was to educate people,” Sitterud said. “I don’t think we’re always educated on what people believe in and so we hear stories and we hear rumors and … sometimes we base our opinion on those rumors without finding out what the reality is. I think the purpose of the announcement was to clarify what the Church’s stance is, and really always has been, with people who have alternative lifestyles.”

  GBHS senior, ASB president and identifying Mormon Kristen Hilburn also said the announcement serves to clear up any misconceptions others may have previously held concerning The Mormon Church or their beliefs.

  “Its significance is mostly for the public,” Hilburn said. “To (announce this) isn’t a new thing for us. It’s not new knowledge or information – it’s just letting the public … understand what we believe. Acceptance has never been something we didn’t practice.”

  Similarly, senior Miriam Flinders said the announcement and its purpose was directed toward the public in order to clarify the beliefs they have, and have always had, to propound that the Church is not “anti-LGBT.”

  While beliefs inside the Mormon community have not changed with this announcement, GBHS senior and member of the Gay-Straight Alliance club Amanda Ramos said she sees this announcement as progress and a step in the right direction towards change and acceptance.

  “I’m glad that this LGBT progress has to do with a religious group,” Ramos said. “Because it can (serve as) a wake-up call for other religious groups – showing what religion should really be about and that religion doesn’t mean denying people of their rights and the way that they love.  I don’t just see it as a step forward in politics, but a step forward in understanding and human compassion.”

  Therefore, Ramos said the announcement  may serve a bigger purpose that encourages acceptance of others – no matter their differentiating lifestyles.

  “I think that in a school community like ours – where many people are very grounded in religion – this news can show  people how possible it is for (those) who are firm believers in their faith (can) also be accepting towards those who are different from them and/or who don’t share the same views,” Ramos said. “Awareness is always very good in improving a community.”

  Finally, the question remains of whether or not this announcement, or the effects of this announcement, will, in any way, touch Granite Bay or GBHS. Both Hilburn and Flinders said they do not think the announcement will bring any noticeable changes – as both said they believe the GBHS student body has a sound knowledge of Mormon belief – however, Sitterud said the announcement’s impact will be its significance.

  “I don’t think it’s going to impact Granite Bay (in a drastic way),” Sitterud said. “But I think it supports the various clubs we have on campus and I think … it supports the ripple effect. I think it’s just another caveat that will help bring awareness that people need to be good to each other – no matter what (their) lifestyle choices (are) or what your economic background is – (because) we’re all the same so let’s just get along. When we get along we can do great things.”



Emerald Brigade wins first and fourth place

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 4. Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015 (online here).

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: After Granite Bay High School’s Emerald Brigade marching band broke their previous record at the WBA championship, I decided to do a feature story on their win and the marching band itself.


   The Emerald Brigade, one of the most highly decorated organizations on the Granite Bay High School campus, has finished off their marching season on a high note –  on Nov. 21 at the Western Band Association Class Championship, after competing alongside 20 other similarly-sized bands, they took first place. The group then went on to a second day of competition, where their score improved at the WBA Grand Championship. On Nov. 22, the Emerald Brigade finished in fifth out of the 16 top-scoring bands from the previous day’s competition, the highest placement ever achieved by GBHS.

   The roughly 130 membered band competed at the Fresno State Bulldog Stadium that Saturday in the 4A Class Championship, where divisions are determined according to a band’s population – in 4A band size ranges from 90 to 140 members. Sunday, at the Grand Championship, the 16 highest-scoring bands from all five divisions competed again – regardless of size – where scores were recalculated in the chance that the performance improves, and, in the Emerald Brigade’s case, it did.

  “Sunday, we rehearsed … in the morning (and) performed again so (that) they can reevaluate and see if maybe you did better, and we did even better the second day score-wise and beat the bands we wanted to (beat),” senior, tuba player, freshmen representative, unofficial tuba section leader and four year Emerald Brigade member Sara Fassler said. “We took fifth, which Granite Bay (High School) has never done. Getting first (on Saturday) is just a shock to us, I still can’t believe it. Every single year I’ve marched, we go and we get like fourth, third maybe, if we’re lucky, one time we got second, but we’ve never come out (being) the best band in a division.”

  The admirable win and rank was accomplished at the end of a nearly four month marching season. The road to victory is time-consuming and strenuous, but according to Fassler, the commitment is “so worth it” having finished so successfully.

  Starting not at the beginning of the school year, but during the last few weeks of summer, freshmen and new members are taught about commands, starting with the left foot while marching, pointing their toes up when moving forward and other tips and tricks necessary for marching cohesively. The last week of summer is All-Member Band Camp, where the entire Emerald Brigade begins their marching season.

  Freshman trumpet player Sam Roberts said it was a little stressful to learn how to march because marching is the opposite of how your body has been trained to move, so it feels unnatural. After the camps, before the start of school, however, he said he felt “a lot better” about his marching abilities.

    Taking time from their summer breaks is just one of many time commitments required as a member of the Emerald Brigade.

  “Every day except Wednesdays, we have zero period rehearsal, where we have to be ready for practice on the field at 6:45 in the morning, and we practice until school starts,” said senior and Head Drum Major Emalyn Atkins. “Monday nights we start at 6:30 p.m. and practice until 9:00 p.m. and we also practice every day during second period. The percussion and color guard have additional practices on Wednesday night and Thursday night, respectively. Overall, (starting) from band camp, the wind members practiced 16,775 minutes, not including individual practices or sectionals, and percussion and guard practiced 18,395.”

  Band members have ‘Super Saturdays’ every Saturday that is not a competition day. On those days, practice starts at 9:00 a.m. and ends at either 9:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m.. On Saturdays where the band has a competition, rehearsals beforehand can take as long as four hours, followed by a transportation to the school and then a two hour warm up, finished, finally, by the band’s actual performance.

  During first period, the color guard and percussion members practice on the field, and during second period the rest of the instrumental sections practice.

  The three groups which make up the Emerald Brigade are the winds, the color guard and the percussion. In the winds, there are around ten instrumental groups, which include the flute, clarinet, double reeds – oboe and bassoon – saxophone, trumpet, french horn, trombone, baritone, tuba and percussion. Percussion is split into two sections: the drumline, which marches, and the pit, which remains standing throughout the performance at the front. Additionally, peasants which were used in this year’s performance, were volunteers from around the school who offered their time to attend practices and perform in competitions.

  Furthermore, different versions of instruments are used depending on the season. For example, during the marching season, the sousaphone is played, which wraps around the player’s waist, while during concert season, the tuba – which is technically the same instrument – is played instead.

  While the student’s time investment is large, there are many behind-the-scene activities that sometimes go unrecognized. Lynn Lewis, GBHS’ Band Director, works with other staff members to select the composer, theme, music, choreography and set design of the performance.

  “We have a really great staff that helps out a lot,” Lewis said. “We have a staff that writes the drum music, we have a staff that writes the (color guard choreography, so) it’s a big, big, big process. We listen to the music. Soft, pretty music (will) change what we write – we’re not going to (choreograph) harsh lines or angles for something that’s soft and pretty, we’ll write something that’s really flowy so that it adds to the music. It’s one of the only art forms that has visual and audio at the same time.”

  This year’s performance was based on the Russian Revolution of 1905, or ‘Bloody Sunday.’ Parents constructed a 35 foot replica of the historic Alexander Column, which stood above the square in St. Petersburg where the massacre occurred.

  “I don’t know too much about the design or creation of our shows because the process is largely kept a secret,” Atkins said. “From what I understand, Mrs. Lewis starts planning in the spring semester with the rest of our staff and they brainstorm on how to make us look our best the next year. Generally, they have a sort of storyline behind them. This year, our show was about the Russian Revolution of 1905, and the music was by Russian composer Shostakovich, with a few pieces from the movie Anastasia and another by Eric Whitacre.”

  In addition to the band’s supervision under Lewis and its help from many other staff members, the Emerald Brigade receives guidance from students in Leadership. As President, senior trombone player Trey Armstrong said his responsibilities range from leading the class on days when Lewis is absent to leading the Leadership meetings.

  “(Leadership is) the driving force in keeping things (and) the atmosphere positive in the program,” Lewis said. “They set the example, so how hard they work sets the example for how hard everybody else works. If we don’t do as well, then they help people deal with that, (and decide) how to approach (a situation). They’re leading the other kids, and it’s a really, really important group of kids and they’ve done a great job this year so far.”

  One competition, a new one which the Emerald Brigade had not ever performed at, the Emerald Brigade didn’t place. Fassler said that competition served as a wake-up call and reality check, which motivated them to practice even harder.

  Perhaps it was this competition which instilled a determination in the group, reflecting their future victory.

  “From where they started in August, with a lot of freshmen coming in and … not being able to do anything, to being as good as they were on that weekend …  is incredible,” Lewis said. “They peaked at exactly the right time and everybody was in sync together. I think I am more proud of these kids than any other year because of where they started. Everybody worked really hard.”

  “These kids really did work hard, and it probably (is noteworthy) that their experience was different because a lot of the other bands go and stay in a motel, (but) we stayed on a gym floor. The school we were at didn’t have hot water and it was really cold at night (because) the heater didn’t work in the gym. (But) they didn’t complain, we just (said) ‘okay, this is something else we have to overcome.’ They had a really good weekend and it paid off.”

 The weekend of the WBA Championships was unique for both Fassler and Roberts, the former who had a torn ACL and the latter who had a torn ACL and MCL.

  Fassler was able to perform in the majority of the show, sitting out only for a small part which she could not do, with her injury. Roberts acted as a peasant in the show, and said the experience was an enjoyable one.   

  “I want to see, in the years that I’m here, if we can place higher,” Roberts said. “I want to work a lot harder at the shows we’re doing. That’s one of my goals, to place better or just as well as we did (again).”

  The collaborative dedication, determination and commitment of the entire Emerald Brigade truly paid off.

  “I loved championships,” freshman color guard member Kristina Rodriguez said. “It was super fun and exciting, but there was also a sense of melancholy in the air. This was our last weekend in the season, our last performance of this show (and) the seniors very last show.”

  “When we won first in our division, everything was chaotic. People were crying or screaming or cheering. Nobody calmed down for a while. What we had done was big, and after a season of many ups and downs, we were proud to be able to say that we won first. The medals were just made of material, but the best part was being able to say that WE did it, by OURSELVES.”