Utilize college as a self-discovery period

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 6. Friday, March 4, 2016.


 

 When most driven students or college alums are questioned about the reasoning for their desire to continue their education, undoubtedly most will give responses which relate to job opportunities, money-driven aspirations and parental requirements or personal gain. What many overlook, however, is the sheer value of gaining perspective.

   Prior to the summer of 2015, California seemed – to me – to be the most progressive state, the most liberal, open-minded, advanced and certainly the least crime-laden. I have always lived in Granite Bay, and since realized that my mindset was simply based upon my own hometown, in addition to my experiences in the more affluent but open-minded cities in which my relatives live, which include Santa Monica, San Luis Obispo and the wealthier parts of Los Angeles.

   When I was chosen to attend Girls State, a week-long mock-government program in the summer, I expected a heavy amount of challenging work, campfire songs and hot weather, but the most significant thing I received from that week was the gaining of new perspective.

   The second day of Girls State was Picture Day, where each girl was required to wear either a solid red or blue shirt. As we walked over to the designated picture area, I noticed one girl who was wearing a shirt more orange than red.

  I assumed she either did not care or did not own a red shirt – how silly, I thought, not to own even one red or blue shirt. However, I quickly discovered the girl I had noticed was one of at least a dozen California residents whom I would hear of that did not own any solid blue or red clothing for their own safety.

  Several girls remarked how weird it was to not only wear solid reds and blues, but to be around these colors and not feel endangered. This is because in their hometowns the colors of red and blue are gang-affiliated.

  One girl I befriended who lived in Stockton semi-jokingly remarked on a personal social media platform that it would be hard for her to tell the difference between Fourth of July fireworks and gunshots. Another girl described an instance where she had bought blue shoelaces which were quickly banned by her school because of worries for gang-affiliation.

  I know that when the graduating class of 2016 embarks on life after high school – whether that be at a college or otherwise – we will all be in for a huge culture shock. And that is what I am most looking forward to.

  It’s not that I dislike the area I grew up in, because I understand and recognize how lucky I am to have grown up in such a secure town. But although I am looking forward to college for academic reasons – sharpening my abilities and actively learning – I also cannot belittle the opportunity to grow personally, in maturity and experience.

  What gets often overlooked when college is advertised to students is the change that college has on individuals – often serving as an almost necessary period of self-discovery. I have watched my family members and friends go to college and return as almost a new person.

  Life after high school needs to be about self-reflection, or else what experiences and standards does one have to understand the world around them but their youth? Examine and explore the experiences of others, thus maturing the soul.

  

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.”

 

Lack of art and creativity in the classroom

Published:  Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 3. Friday, Nov. 7, 2014.

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: After a discussion about the decreasing level of emphasized artistic creativity in the classroom in a drama class I was taking at the time, I decided to write a voices about the lack of it and reasoning for its reinstatement.


 

   A process that knows no boundaries, no rules or restrictions but yet is shunned and sharply turned away as a career. The arts cannot be singularly described; but when mentioned as a career are generally followed by a “no.”

  During my 11 years witnessing and being a student in the public education system, rarely have I heard a teacher encourage their students to pursue a career in the arts.

   A career in the arts can range from any visual arts, such as a painter or sculptor, to performing arts, such as a singer, musician or actor. Many of these classes are available as electives at GBHS, so why does it seem like these aren’t plausible future careers?

   On one hand, a career in the arts can be unstable at times. For example, painters are commonly self-employed and therefore their wages are determined by the number of paintings they sell. For this reason, the general presumption is that most people who pursue a career in the arts end up a “struggling artist.”

   But as supporters of future generations, I believe our schooling system should encourage us to follow our passions over materialistic goals, like choosing our career for the amount of money it makes.

   Instead of encouraging the creative minds of our generation to take the “safe” route and stick to the subjects promoted by school academics, why not pursue the arts? Instead of praising those who do choose a path in prominent subjects such as mathematics and science, why don’t we stop shaming those who choose subjects that are considered electives, making them feel “less than” those who don’t?

  Oftentimes these flaws in our education system can be traced to what society has claimed as what’s “in” or “out.” Since I can remember, factors ranging from teachers, to commercials on TV to even my fellow peers have somehow determined business, law and medicine to be the epitome of all careers, and painting not even a career but a hobby.    

   This also raises an insidious question: is your worth measured on the quality of the work you produce, or the amount of money you make? It can’t just be a coincidence that the previously mentioned “top” careers generally make the most money, while a painter’s income constantly fluctuates.

  Societal influence can also be seen in the common but less audible judgement that people pursuing these “top” careers are more intelligent, and people who pursue arts are less intelligent. When, in reality, striving for professionalism through either of these paths takes equal amounts of emotional and mental capability.

   As a high school student of three years, I can’t even count the number of times I have witnessed the admiring response to seniors who plan on majoring in the sciences or mathematics and, in contrast, the look of judgment followed by those who plan on attending an art school.

  Also, the arts are one of the only aspects of society that have generally maintained the same eminence and presence throughout human history. But yet, when it comes to school funding, it is the arts that are cut back, if not entirely removed.

   It is the arts that express history and emotion while universally relating to any human being. And, after the infinite respect that is given to pieces of art each and every day, it is still not given equal importance to mathematics and science.

  The school system should be geared toward encouraging current and future generations to sample all possibilities when deciding on possible careers, and to pick a career for passion, not for money.

   For some students who have the desire to pursue a career in the arts, the problem might not be the schooling system but their parents.

  In my beginning Drama class, teacher Kyle Holmes asked us what our parents would think if we told them we wanted to pursue acting. The sad part is, the majority of the class said their parents would never let them even consider acting as an option.

   I consider myself fortunate for having parents who would stand behind me in any career decision I make. It perplexes me that parents still believe it is their right and their prerogative to impose critical choices that will directly affect their children’s lives.

    To me, it makes the most sense for parents to want their children to be happy, even it means that their children don’t turn out to be millionaires.

  After all, if Van Gogh hadn’t given up his life as a minister to take up painting, we might not have the beautiful and critically acclaimed artwork we delight in. And America’s newest sweetheart, Jennifer Lawrence, might have turned out to be a children’s camp counselor or construction worker, instead of an Academy Award winner for Best Actress.

Culinary program should be reinstated

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 3. Friday, March 13, 2014.

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: During my freshman year, I took a beginning culinary class through GBHS’ culinary program. It was one of the best classes I ever took throughout high school, and I was extremely frustrated when I discovered they were canceling the program. I decided to write an opinion piece about the effects of the cancellation.


 

   Granite Bay High School – a school well-financed enough to fund fantastic academic programs, a great staff and an IB science classes with as few as six kids – can evidently not afford a culinary program.

  The culinary program at GBHS still existed when I entered high school and, as a freshman, beginning culinary was my very first high school class. That class turned out to be one of my very favorites and gave me skills and recipes I still use and friends I still have today.

  At the time, the eight kitchens in the room were fully functioning with sinks, stoves, various cooking utensils and two refrigerators for the room. The room also had eight Cuisinart mixers – mixers that are prominent in the culinary world and approximately $300-$400 each.

  With such state-of-the-art equipment and perfectly workable kitchen fixtures, it was hard for me to accept the vague excuse that the reason for the discontinuation of the program was simply because of the

lack of a replacement teacher. Although this is an adequate short-term problem, the permanent discontinuation of a popular GBHS program doesn’t make sense – and whatever the real explanation is, it definitely was not conveyed to the student population.

  As someone who is passionate about both cooking and baking, and who thoroughly enjoyed the culinary program, culinary class was incredibly important for me to learn and grow as a chef. From a broader viewpoint, as many of my peers, including myself, will soon be enrolled at various colleges, culinary also taught vital information for everyday life – especially necessary for living away from home.

  In college it won’t be necessary to know the difference between eggs whites whipped to a soft peak versus a stiff peak, but learning how to boil pasta, cook an egg or prevent food-related illnesses might be. Starting college only knowing how to make a bowl of cereal will prove frustrating. A single culinary elective could provide the difference between eating cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner and being able to cook for yourself and teach others.

  But unfortunately, I will not be able to take the Advanced Culinary class I planned to take before I graduate, nor will any other students who attend GBHS. Now, students who haven’t taken a culinary class – the majority of the student body – have lost the opportunity to learn any of the provided skills and potentially be at a greater risk for foodborne illnesses.

  What other class provided at GBHS teaches the maximum time for foods containing ingredients liable to spoiling to be left in room temperatures? Or about how to thoroughly cook foods with eggs to prevent salmonella? Or how about preventing food poisoning by knowing which foods need proper refrigeration?  Not any class we have currently available.

   Because GBHS lacks any course catered towards a student wanting to pursue a career in the food industry, it seems as if the school almost discourages such career paths. Currently, the school has three business classes, but apparently is not able to provide even a single culinary arts class.

  For a student such as myself who is debating between a career path in the food industry or a career provided in a typical academic college, a culinary program available in high school can strongly influence the decision. It can also be a vital source for those students who have not yet uncovered their culinary passion.

  It seems highly unlikely the culinary program will make a reappearance before I graduate, but I deeply feel it is of the highest importance that future students learn how to cook for themselves and lookout for their own well-being.

  And I’m also fairly certain the world would be a happier place if everyone knew how to make their own homemade cookies.

Lack of mental health talk is detrimental

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 3. Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: When I was responsible for writing the column for A1, I decided to use the opportunity to discuss a subject which doesn’t often get talked about. I wrote about mental health, inspired by my Rabbi to do so, and I received very positive reviews.


 

   On Yom Kippur – a Jewish observance that falls directly after the welcoming of the new year in which we reflect upon our past wrongdoings in order to better ourselves – my Rabbi gave a sermon about how and why we don’t talk about mental health.

  He asked everyone in the room to stand if they or someone they knew had cancer – about half of the room stood. He then asked the audience to stand if they or someone they knew closely had battled with a mental disorder – only about twenty people stood. In the US there are about the same number of people living with cancer as there are battling mental disorder, meaning there were certainly more people in our Temple affected by them that remained seated.

  There are a few reasons to explain why people feel more comfortable talking about a physical life-threatening illness for which the effects can be visible, versus a mental disorder which can also be life-threatening, but in which the effects can’t usually be seen.

  One line from the sermon that stuck with me talked about our society’s obsession and love of happiness – leaving little to no room to talk about sadness and other emotions that can make us uncomfortable or put us in a bad mood.

  Pixar’s newest film “Inside Out” reminded children that happiness is good, but sadness, joy, fear and anger aren’t ‘bad’ emotions. This is a great message, but I think it’s somewhat sad we have to remind ourselves that constant happiness isn’t healthy and other feelings are also OK.

  Everyday we get constant stimulation – from our school, peers, social media and family – and most of it remains positive. But to create a more accepting environment in which those affected by mental disorders can talk about the issues that face them everyday, we have to open our conversation to include topics that aren’t always lighthearted.

  Mental disorders should not be discussed only in rooms with closed doors, in hushed whispers or in health classes when parental permission is granted. It affects millions of people each and every day, and should be talked about like such – openly, and without criticism towards those that live with them. After all, you would never tell a cancer survivor to get over their disorder, minimize their problems or talk about their struggles as trivial.

  So why have mental disorders become such a taboo topic to talk about? It may be because we are sensitive to the subject, especially if directly affected by it, but perhaps it mostly has to do with our dislike of talking about things that make us uncomfortable.

  In my everyday conversations, I rarely discuss topics that are sad. Sad things don’t make us feel good. But maybe we’re doing ourselves a huge discourtesy by keeping mum.

  What if someone who has struggled with depression never heard it discussed, someone with a personality disorder thought they were alone or someone with anxiety thought themselves abnormal because of their condition – perhaps only worsening their struggle.

  The fastest way to deal with a problem is to ignore it. But it’s horribly detrimental to normalize a problem or even tell someone it’s OK to deal with issues of any kind by ignoring them.

  Psychologists tell us that ignoring problems or believing they don’t exist is denial, which can’t actually solve anything. Talking about our emotions and our feelings can only be constructive.

  It’s time we reevaluate how we treat those with mental disorders, and how we talk about mental disorders. Feel free to talk about the subject so as to educate others. Talk openly about it to make those struggling or affected feel less criticized, isolated or forgotten. Mental disorders are prevalent, and it’s time we talk give them the attention they deserve.

21st century feminism increasingly online

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

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: I strongly identify as a feminist and wanted to write an opinion piece about the movement and political ideal. However, it needed to be entertainment/media based because it would be published in the entertainment section, so I focused more on its existence on social media sites.


 

   What was protests and activism in the 60s and 70s in regards to the feminist movement is the 21st century’s Twitter and Facebook post. This is in no way a bad thing. In fact, it could just be that social media websites are keeping the centuries-old struggle alive.

  Over time, the goal of feminism has stayed the same – a call for equalizing the sexes in all societal aspects – but specific goals of the movement have adapted over time. Especially with the rise in popularity and prevalence  of social media outlets, feminism has become less of a sit-outs and speak-outs kind of movement and more of an online effort.

  My grandmother took part in the 60s and 70s feminist wave, and the same values and passions have been instilled from her unto my mother, and from my own mother unto my brother and I. However, while my brother and I show our support for the ongoing movement by still talking about it, we also address it through social media platforms.

  Just on Twitter, the feminist movement can be found through the search of a word or hashtag. Following certain accounts, such as @WeNeedFeminism, conveys and proves why, simply, feminism is still necessary.

  The account @WeNeedFeminism posts quotes from many well respected celebrities, such as Anne Hathaway, Emma Watson and even First Lady Michelle Obama, encouraging young girls to follow whatever dreams they have and shunning inequality. They have also posted photos of girls in other countries who are survivors of beatings and spousal abuse and women who have been burned with acid to encourage followers to seek change not only in their own country, but also in those in which equality is farther from reach.

  Current day feminism has evolved to fit the needs of present day society, and with that, it has evolved in the way it is shown to the public. We have come far as a society in terms of equalizing the sexes – heck, we have a female candidate for president who has identified as a feminist and has a twitter account with over three million followers – but the ideas are still needed.

  Feminists now find it easier to connect with others who share the same passions for social change online, liking Facebook and twitter accounts such as Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls will supply a plethora of empowering girls from around the world. Through the touch of a button, one can find a community they connect with.

 In this way, feminism as a movement has become much less like a group to join and more like a community one can connect to, thus making it more accessible to the public.

  One might think pledging support for movements online isn’t effect – a like isn’t the same as a protest – but it can create a ripple effect. Educating oneself through these social media websites about what change is still needed may catalyze one to make a difference.

  Knowing the ideals of feminism and being willing to stand up for them can cause a young teen to influence a peer’s otherwise sexist and misogynistic attitude into being one with respect. Social media websites can prove to be more than a connecting or time-wasting tool if used in a certain manner; it can prove to be an empowering source.

Exclusion during holiday season

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

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: Being Jewish, I’m used to the feeling of being excluded during the holidays. But I wanted to know how others could be more mindful during a the season of love.


 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but not for everyone. For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, because of religious or personal choices, the winter season can feel exclusive and even annoying.

  Growing up in a community where 99.99 percent of people celebrate Christmas as a Jew celebrating only Hanukkah, I know the feeling of exclusion. During the holiday season it’s impossible to walk into a store, even our neighborhood grocery store, without being bombarded by Christmas ornaments, decor and music.

   This feeling of isolation fostered by Christmas popularity should seemingly create a resentment towards the holiday, but in fact the issue is a lot more problematic. Being the only person in the Hanukkah section surrounded by sparkling and glittering ornaments is like being a kid in a candy store given vegetables instead.

  And believe me, I don’t dislike celebrating Hanukkah. In fact, I love celebrating for eight days, the story behind the holiday, the food and being one of the only ones that does in our school.

  However,  it’s not always fun to scavenge the entire Target superstore and find only a small aisle endcap of leftover items for your holiday while the Christmas decorations have an entire section of the store reserved. In fact, it makes me feel less than those who do celebrate Christmas.

   By shoving the Christmas holiday down the throats of all Americans, it’s not surprising the people on the outskirts of the season feel compelled to celebrate and sing along with carols. Any fad popularized by the media will eventually cause those on the outskirts to feel left out and unaccepted.

   Exclusion isn’t the only problem during the holidays, ignorance seems to be in abundance during the winter season as well. It seems to have become the popular idea that Christmas is the only holiday worth mentioning, therefore any holiday greeting must only consist of “Merry Christmas.”

  For those of us who don’t celebrate the seemingly worldwide phenomenon, we resent being an afterthought. A “Happy Hanukkah” or “Kwanzaa” or “Happy  Holidays” after the all-important “Merry Christmas.”

  These thoughtless and automatic remarks may be careless but are in fact exclusive. I understand it is an arduous task to audibly change your go-to remark from the two-word “Merry Christmas” to the more inclusive two-word statement “Happy Holidays” but it is doable.

   From an early age I have learned that the holiday I celebrate is not as worthy or special as Christmas. In first grade, a crossword puzzle we were given asked about our whereabouts on Christmas Eve with the correct answer being “church.”

  Early on I have also learned that the general assumption is that everyone, in some way or another, must celebrate Christmas. While some Jews have parents that do celebrate Christmas, my family solely celebrates Hanukkah, but everyone I encountered simply assumed I “had” to celebrate both. Or at least incorporate Christmas in some way, shape or form into my winter celebrations.

  It doesn’t distress or bother me that the majority of people living in the Granite Bay community have no idea about the reasoning or story of Hanukkah. All I’m asking is just more consideration for people who don’t celebrate Christmas.

   The holiday season should feel the most welcoming, the most warm and the most loving. It’s a time for us to reflect on the good things in our lives and especially a time to keep friends and family near. Exclusion and ignorance shouldn’t be characteristics involved in the holiday season, so this winter, remember to be inclusive in both your state of mind and comments.