Community gathers to discuss teacher retention and recruitment

Assemblymember Rich Gordon holds panel for local educators, citizens

The lack of affordable housing in Silicon Valley is driving teachers out of our school, out of our district and out of our state. On May 7, at 10 a.m., local teachers and school board and community members gathered at FUHSD District Office to discuss teacher recruitment and retention in California. The event was hosted by assemblymember Rich Gordon.

Video interview with former Stanford dean Julie Lythcott-Haims

Video interview with former Stanford dean Julie Lythcott-Haims
Guest speaker Julie
Lythcott-Haims is the author of “How to Raise an Adult,” a former Dean of freshmen at Stanford University, and a mother of two. Students and teachers filled the auditorium during 7th period on March 7 to hear her talk about the important lessons she has learned from working closely with college students and criticize the role of  “helicopter parenting.”

“We [parents] are treating you like bonsai trees,” Lythcott-Haims says to the crowd. “But, you are not bonsai trees; you are wildflowers.

How did you come to speak to students, teachers and parents at MVHS?

Have you ever presented to faculty and teachers before?

How different is it for you to do an assembly at a place so close to home?

What is about this generation that compelled you to write a book?

Have you ever received criticism that Stanford, the school you were a dean for, often perpetuates students to strive for that perfect resume you advocate against?

Are the students wrong or is the system broken?


Should schools be taking further steps to regulate student stress? If so, how?

If you could give a message to the students and parents of MVHS, what would it be?

Reporting and photography by Alina Abidi, Itay Barylka and Avni Prasad 

Melting pot

Melting pot

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s spaghetti and meatballs, almost.

The pasta part is typical: a navy blue cardboard box emptied into a boiling pot of water. But the meat is something different, something special. It’s Singaporean ground beef, cooked with thick slices of ginger and a heavy helping of secret sauce. Jean Lim, piano teacher and mother of senior Sarah Lim and Class of 2013 alumnus Daniel Lim, has cooked this part-American, part-Singaporean, part-Chinese dish at least twenty times, but each experience feels new.

“There’s no recipe,” she said. “It’s all kind of put together. I never know how something’s going to taste until it’s all done.”

Jean’s blended palette and mixed meals are constantly evolving as she discovers a new grocery store or makes an accidentally delicious substitution.

“There’s no recipe,” she said. “It’s all kind of put together. I never know how something’s going to taste until it’s all done.”

Jean vividly remembers the first dish she ever cooked. She was newly married and needed to eat, so she decided to whip something up. She took corned beef from a can and heated it up, adding some rice noodles and vegetables before sitting down with her husband to eat.

“He said, ‘Do you think this tastes like dog food?’” she said. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, it does.’”

Back then, Jean didn’t know that you had to fry vegetables or cook noodles before throwing them into the pan. Back in Singapore, her mother was a great cook, but Jean hadn’t wanted to learn. So she scoured bookstores to find ideas, and because she lived in Canada at the time, she created Shepherd’s Pies and lasagnas. Older women from her church would come over and teach her how to properly make salad. And as the internet became more popular, she turned to cooking websites and Martha Stewart. But she’s never been one to just stick to the recipe — she trusts her nose and her tongue over a list of instructions.

“He said, ‘Do you think this tastes like dog food?’” she said. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, it does.’”

Sauces sizzle, water runs and soft piano music plays in the background. She samples a spoon of her beef sauce and nods.

“As I’m cooking, I remember the tastes of something from my childhood,” she said. “When that happens, I’ll try and doctor it. Put more sugar, put more salt, how I remembered it tasted when my mom cooked it.”

She pauses.

“Although, my mother would not eat my food. She says it’s too Western.”

But one generation down, it’s not Western enough. Jean didn’t grow up eating pancakes, but her kids would want them at sleepovers. Though she sometimes wants to recreate the meals she enjoyed as a child, her children don’t necessarily like the same cumin or coriander flavors she grew up with. So once again, she figures things out. She adapts.

“I made the worst pancakes,” she said. “They were flat. I would sometimes buy that box of pancake mix, but I wanted to able to do it from scratch, on my own.”

She tried, but her pancakes just weren’t fluffy like her kids wanted, like the kind you’d get at IHOP. Then a week ago, when she had extra sour cream, she threw that in the mix instead of milk, and her pancakes were finally “super fluffy.”

“That’s the fun part about cooking, you just discover what you can do,” she said. “When you cook from a recipe, you’re cooking other people’s discoveries.”

Jean attributes the inherent fusion quality of her food to where she grew up in Singapore. She’d eat Indian parathas and curry for breakfast, maybe have Chinese noodles for lunch and have steak dinner. Her palette was all over the place, and it made her more open. She believes that kids growing in Cupertino will have that openness as well.

“Growing up, my classmates were Indian, Chinese, Eurasian, Malay, English,” she said. “It’s kind of like growing up here. It’s a place of immigrants. Because of that, you have a different sense of the world. It’s easy for you to live elsewhere, because you’re used to seeing people of all kinds, to not being of just one race.”


[dropcap]S[/dropcap]enior Yuhan He’s friends love her mother’s traditional Southern Chinese beef rice noodles. But He’s family had never made the dish back in China. They didn’t need to — it was available at every restaurant. But when her family came to America, she tried a few types of rice noodles, and they didn’t cut it.

“I think it tastes not so good,” she said. “I prefer spicy food, so I told my mom and she said, I can try to make it. Basically we just add everything we want.”

She didn’t have trouble finding similar ingredients for the soup, like the chili powder or sauce or the noodle-shaped rice itself, but she has been surprised by the kinds of vegetables she’s found in California.

“That tiny, tiny cabbage,” she said, referring to brussel sprouts. “I think it tastes so weird.”

She first tried the tiny, tiny cabbage at a Thanksgiving dinner at her mother’s friend’s house. She didn’t love the traditional American food, but she did like the cornbread. Since coming to America, the senior has found a connection to home in making her noodles, and a way to experience American culture through trying other foods.


[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ophomore Nathaniel Kearny could decipher half the menu from looking at the names of dishes. He could figure out another quarter from looking at pictures.

“The other part,” he said, “we just had no idea.”

When Kearny and classmates traveled to Japan in February for a language immersion field trip, he was most excited for the food. After studying the language for two years, he has developed a passion for Japanese cuisine and the trip offered him a weeklong opportunity to try authentic dishes.

The week before the trip, Kearny and his class reviewed restaurant and ordering terminology, but he was still surprised by a few customs.

First, one family restaurant he visited had a little button you could press to call over the server. He used it once, for dessert. Second, the food was definitely cheaper than the Japanese food he eats in America, and of pretty good quality. Third, the meals were small but filling, and each dish included rice.

“They always serve you rice,” he said. “If they don’t give you rice during the meal, it’s after the meal.”

Because Kearny, his classmates and his teachers made up a large group, most of their meals were already cooked by the time they got to each restaurant. But Kearny still had the chance to be adventurous, to have a taste of sesame ice cream, to order a dish based on its intricate calligraphy description hanging on the wall. And though he wasn’t crazy about every dish, he was excited to try something new

“I’m willing to try foods once,” he said. “If I don’t like it, never again. But I’ll at least try everything once.”

Breaking news: Missing student

The story of a missing student prompted my then-editor and I to find out more information by talking to search parties, staking out the Sheriff’s Office and staying updated on Twitter. The objective of this story was to state information clearly and plainly and to do more good than harm. Breaking news often deals with extremely sensitive topics, and I’ve learned to speak with people respectfully and maturely. 

Missing student returns home


Gallery walk

Enjoy the full story on Atavist.

This package, one of my favorites ever, was created on a cool spring night, one of my favorites ever. During a spare night of a Journo convention, my group of six wandered the streets looking for fun, and we found a handful of stories. We all squeezed into one hotel room and stayed up until 4:00 a.m. (a recurring theme of my work) to write our stories, edit each others’ and figure out how to use this newfangled app. I never include myself in my work, but this was a slightly personal piece.

Gallery walk: Forging connections in a Denver art studio

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On our two mile walk to the Santa Fe Art District, we saw two pedestrians, three walls covered in graffiti and one too many bail bond shops.

Just as we began to lose hope on this seemingly promising Arts District, we decided to stop by a small, quaint gallery. When we stepped in, a middle aged man welcomed us in. Executive director Damon McLeese showcases artwork created by people with disabilities. He directs the studio with the mission of giving artists with disabilities economic opportunities. As we walked around the gallery, each art piece brought a story of the creator.

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In the back of the gallery, past the threaded dragons and colorful mural spanning the entire wall, sits a machine. The machine is red and yellow with smoky swirls up the side and across the middle. There are two rows of golden knobs begging to be pulled directly under clear sleeves with photo squares identifying the objects you could get, reminiscent of the Lisa Frank stickers and Pokemon capsules you could buy at Chuck-E-Cheese for a few quarters.

When Sophie first mentioned that we could get a piece of the gallery to take home, we were intrigued — especially because this souvenir would only cost us $5, a good price for a bunch of high schoolers. Although, our age was apparently unapparent — at the next gallery, a curator offered us wine and at both locations, people assumed we were in college and that our adviser was our slightly older colleague.

Sophie pointed across the room at the Art-O-Matic, a clearly repurposed machine, painted and stuffed with mysterious packages. I couldn’t tell what the original purpose of the machine was — it vaguely resembled a jukebox and I had few other experiences with old-timey machines to draw from.

We walked up to the machine, Lincolns in hand. A helpful guy walked up to us, ready to explain the Art-O-Matic.

“This used to be a cigarette machine,” he said. Ah. “But then those became illegal.” He explained that the top row of mini artworks were created by people in the studio, and the bottom row was created by other people.

He jabbed his finger at a few of the displays, pointing out which ones were filled boxes and which were just painted blocks.

“What about the bottom row?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t know anything about those,” he said. We fell to the floor to examine the row of painted treasures. A felt cat pin caught my eye. So did a rainbow loom bracelet. I jumped back up to normal height.

“Are any of these yours?” someone asked. He nodded modestly before quickly flicking his finger toward a top-row block. Artist: Jareth, it read.

Jareth hurriedly pointed at another artifact, a gray Batman-looking figure.

“You should get this one,” he said. “This guy makes these out of duct tape!”

Still undecided, I handed Jareth my five dollar bill and he handed me a golden token. I dropped it into the former cigarette machine.

“You have to yank really hard,” he said. I scanned the boxes, before finally spotting the very last one, the bottom right corner of the machine. Mystery box, it said.

I pulled hard and out tumbled my very own piece of art. A wooden block with a blue base topped with a pink and gold swirly coat and tiny basil leaves was now mine.

I’m a sucker for surprises. There are lot of strategies in the nerdy board game Settlers of Catan, but mine is definitely not one of them — I save up enough sheep, wheat and ore to buy a ton of “surprise” Development cards because I can’t wait to find out what mystery awaits (even though it’s usually a lame card, like Knight).

Someone else picked up a block. The executive director, Damon, walked up. He explained that the artist of her block was an advocate of immigration reform and that the painted lines criss-crossing the block represented barbed wire and the unnecessarily cruel boundaries immigrants face. I held out my block.

“I have no idea,” Damon said. Another mystery.

We packed up our blocks and headed out of the mysterious studio as we stumbled into on the cold, Colorado night.

Outside land

I created this spread to highlight the idea of going off-the-grid, or outside the map. The simple, transparent background of a map of our city with a few basic photos and clean quotes and captions showcased the story.

Outside land


It seems like every month, you get a Facebook invitation to the grand opening of a new store in Cupertino. Something shiny and sleek, with a short, catchy name: The Melt, CREAM, The Counter. But on the other side of Stelling Rd., there’s an area that doesn’t really exist on social media.

There’s an area that’s been here for 25 years, an area that’s seen all of Cupertino modernize around it — an area that’s getting left behind. And yet, in The Oaks Shopping Center on Stevens Creek Boulevard, a few businesses have found success in unique ways and grown their roots.

As you walk up to the Hobee’s front door, there’s usually someone rushing to the entrance to open it for you. Sometimes that person is manager Rekha Mayavan. On a cold Friday evening, she held the door open as a disabled patron left the store after warmly wishing her a good night. She casually confided that she gave the customer a 50 percent discount on the meal.

This scene isn’t uncommon at Hobee’s. The management knows a lot of their customers well, and some of them extremely well. Since the store’s opening in 1986, it’s had regulars coming in every week or even every day, often ordering “the usual.”

Though Sid Quezada, a student at De Anza College across the street, has only worked at Hobee’s for a month, she already has a regular to whom she serves iced tea every night.

“Just having a couple of regular customers isn’t enough to generate the sort of constant revenue you need to keep this place open,” she said, “but the fact is, [Hobee’s] is reliable [in the community]. It’s got more of a vibe — old fashioned, I guess.”

Quezada’s mom worked at another, now defunct Hobee’s a decade ago, while studying and raising Quezada. This Hobee’s is the only franchise location left — all the other ones have gone corporate or shut down.

Aside from the family connection, the main reason Quezada went to Hobee’s and eventually applied for the job was because of its convenient location.

“[Before or after] a long day of classes, you can run in and grab something,” Quezada said. “It’s not full, except during breakfast. It seems like one of those places where if you heard about it going under, you’d think, ‘Oh no! I loved their coffee cake.’”

Hobee’s doesn’t advertise, but according to Mayavan, it’s not going out of business anytime soon. After an event at De Anza or the Flint Center, they see a surge of customers and groups. As part of its efforts to be a strong part of the community, the restaurant also donates its famous coffee cake to local events, like Memorial Park’s Veterans Day ceremony. However, that’s the extent of their high school connection. The store’s average customer is older and more traditional, someone who prefers coffee cake and iced tea to ice cream sandwiches and pearl milk tea.

According to Coffee Society barista Caleb Seaton, when he grew up in Cupertino, people went to three places: work, home and Coffee Society. It was the place where he met up with his friends before deciding what to do that day.

Now, a decade later, it’s a convenient location with competitive prices, but it’s by no means a community hub.

“There’s no real pull to this place,” he said.

However, Seaton noted that Coffee Society goes through cycles of popularity with high schoolers. For awhile, it won’t be cool. Then one student will “discover” it, their friends will start trickling in and it’ll eventually reach where it is now: most school nights, the restaurant is full of MVHS students sipping on iced cappuccinos, typing on their Macbooks.

Though the coolness cycle currently brings in customers, the business also has daily visitors due to its proximity to De Anza. Despite the steady flow of customers, there’s a sense that the establishment is taken for granted. According to the baristas, they check the prices of all nearby coffee shops to keep theirs low, but people still complain. They also agreed that they have “the most used bathroom in Cupertino,” with people ranting on Yelp if there’s ever a line.

But not everyone is unappreciative — Harlan Graves, a De Anza student who hangs out outside Coffee Society five times a week, loves the area for its people. Graves thinks that most of his classmates come for the WiFi, but he comes for its bitter but friendly employees and his group of friends, who mock each other’s facial hair between cigarette puffs.

Other Oaks Center restaurants lack the personal connections Hobee’s and even Coffee Society have built. While these establishments have had over two decades to develop them, newer restaurants at the center have had less than two years — or even less than two months. Older restaurants can depend on a steady stream of customers to keep them afloat while newer and cooler places pop up, but their neighboring shops are not as lucky.

Thai Square and Chaat House have similar tales of turning over a new leaf. Both struggled under previous owners, with understaffing and customer service issues, until the owner gave up and sold the restaurant to a friend. Now under new management, the current owners are learning from previous mistakes.
“I hired one of the best Thai chefs from San Francisco, and now many Thai people invite their friends for lunch for authentic Thai food,” Thai Square owner and manager Boyd Sooknetr said.

The two businesses attract customers through high quality food and service, and let word of mouth do its job. Whether it’s people happy to have authentic food close to home or people eager to test out flavors, these new restaurants are rapidly growing and working hard to succeed where others have failed before.

Located next to businesses fighting to make a name for themselves, there are two big chains in the Oaks Center for whom that isn’t exactly a concern: Jamba Juice and Quickly. The restaurants draw in customers from De Anza College and nearby high schools throughout the day. Other places in the center, like Swurlz Frozen Yogurt, have to rely on advertising such as discounts and loyalty cards to gain customers, but the well known brands of Jamba Juice and Quickly are enough to keep customers coming back.

“We get all kinds of people coming in, but definitely a lot of De Anza students because it’s so close,” said Alana Harris, freshman at DeAnza and Jamba Juice employee.

For most students who spend time at the Oaks Center, its proximity trumps the wider variety of shops available at other centers in Cupertino.

“I live by Target so we go to the TJ Maxx complex,” junior Oeshi Banerjee said. “I think it’s the options that are available that makes it better [than the Oaks Center].”

Banerjee spent her Friday afternoon on Nov. 6 on a Jamba Juice run with her field hockey team, and probably wouldn’t have thought to visit the Oaks Center otherwise. For her, unless she has a reason to be there, it’s just not a place she would choose to hang out.

As Cupertino gravitates toward change, hurting parts of the Oaks in the process, the restaurants with loyal followings know that people will keep coming back for a daily latte before class, or a nightly piece of coffee cake to wrap up the day.


Back cover design

I designed this back cover, creating the template for all future back covers. The theme was “More from this issue”, emphasizing the convergence content we host on our website and featuring some of our best online stories.

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