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While visiting 10 cities in five central European countries both with her family last month, sophomore Anna McClellan said the sense of history–spanning from medieval to World War II-era, from Communist control to the present–was so overwhelming that being there made her understand “just how young the U.S. is.”

“It was crazy to see how American history was so ‘modern’ compared to the deep and rich history of Europe,” McClellan said.

Anna McClellan
Theresienstadt, located in the town of Terezín, Czechia, was a transitional camp and ghetto, so those who came there did not stay very long, and, assuming they survived their time there, were eventually shipped off to extermination camps.

The summer travel adventure mostly along the Danube River was first imagined by McClellan’s maternal grandmother, and it began in Prague and ended in Budapest.

Hearing of all the people who were separated and seeing how the propaganda made it look like something it wasn’t made me thankful that I don’t have to be separated from my family.”

— sophomore Anna McClellan

Visiting Prague, McClellan said was at times like travelling back to the Cold War Communist bloc controlled by the old Soviet Union.

“There are several streets in Prague where you can still see the buildings that were built, with a grey, concrete outside and small windows, and none of them had any color,” McClellan said. “Back in the communist era, nothing could be of color.”

Imagine buying a car and not being able to choose the color. That was life in Communist Prague.

“One of our tour guides also said how they had to be put on a list to get a car, and it took them three years to get it,” McClellan said. “They got this ugly orange car but it was still the fact that they even had a car that made them so excited.”

Today, the streets for Prague include brightly colored homes, which offer a vibrant rebuke of the city’s monochromatic Communist past.

While powerful, the remnants of Communism paled in comparison to the valuable lesson McClellan learned in Terezín, the site of Theresienstadt, a World War II ghetto.

We saw a few structures that had been around since the year 900.”

— sophomore Anna McClellan

“It was hard to imagine how one or two hundred people could be crowded into a room meant for 50,” McClellan said. “It really makes you thankful for the space you have in your home.”

But McClellan said the lessons of the visit were about more than about elbow room. Thinking about the families that were separated during World War II made her connect present-day family separations in the U.S. and around the world with the separations that happened in Terezín during the 1940s.

“A lot of people take for granted being around their family, but hearing of all the people who were separated and seeing how the propaganda made it look like something it wasn’t made me thankful that I don’t have to be separated from my family. And it’s crazy how even today we still hear of and see things similar to what happened then. It’s just something that we need to move on from.”

Anna McClellan
Salzburg, Austria, is a popular location for non-European tourists who have seen “The Sound of Music.” Here are the gardens that the Von Trapps and Maria run through while singing “Do Re Me.” Most natives do not understand why Americans love the movie so much, and are often annoyed with its unrealistic aspects.

McClellan said in Austria the layers of history were unlike anything she has experienced in the States.

all the history from more medieval and older towns really gave me perspective on just how young the U.S. is. ”

— sophomore Anna McClellan

“We went by several places in Austria where famous musicians like Mozart and Johann Strauss were born and performed, and we learned a lot about the Habsburg Empire, which started before the ‘New World’ had even been discovered. We also walked through castles and saw a few structures that had been around since the year 900.”

But the experience wasn’t all about living in the past.

While she said she missed the beautiful architecture, she also missed the food she ate there: the variety of other local meats and vegetables, the Weiner Schnitzel and, perhaps most of all Trdelník, a common street treat in Prague, a rolled and baked pastry  filled with fruit, sauces and ice cream.

Before and after her European trip, her family stayed in Atlanta, where she visited Centennial Olympic Park and kicked a field goal at the College Football Hall of Fame.

#MacSummerKnights2019

The Shield: What took you guys to Czechia (am I right that’s where you went?)?

Anna McClellan: My grandmother really wanted to take my sister and I on a vacation to Europe, and so decided to take us on a river cruise on the Danube River. We started in Prague for about 3 days, and the took a bus down to Vilshofen, Germany where we embarked on our cruise. On the way we stopped in Regensburg for lunch, and learned about the history of the medieval town. Once we were in the cruise, we stopped in Passau, where two other rivers converge with the Danube, Linz, where we took a bus to Salzburg, Weßenkirchen, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. My grandmother chose this because we were able to see five different countries, and it was really the heart of Europe and we learned so much about the Autro-Hungarian empire and Habsburgs Dynasty. 

Anna McClellan
Anna and Audrey McClellan on the Liberty Bridge in Budapest. Every Saturday in July Liberty Bridge is closed to vehicles, and open to pedestrians, with some performances and activities throughout the day.

TS: This would the grandmother who was featured in The Shield? Czechia. Germany. Austria. Hungary. Slovakia. Is that right? This might be the most complete answer we have ever gotten to one interview question.

AM: No this is my moms mom. And yes, that’s right. Also lol 😂 

TS: OK. What was your absolute most favorite experience of the whole trip?

AM: Oh gosh, that’s a hard question. I absolutely loved all of it to be honest, but if I had to choose one thing, it would be when we went to Terazín, which was a concentration camp/ghetto in World War II. It was really an eye-opening experience. This wasn’t really an extermination camp though, like Auschwitz was. It was more of a transition camp where people might come for a few months or more, and then get shipped off somewhere. It was hard to imagine how one or two hundred people could be crowded into a room meant for 50. It really makes you thankful for the space you have in your home, even if it’s not that much. Other than that I loved Vienna and Salzburg, as the environment  and performances reminded me of downtown Austin. 

TS: Wow. This might be a repeat but what surprised you the most during your visit?

AM: Hmm, definitely what I said before, and also how the cities are still slightly recovering from the communism they faced in the 20th century, especially certain parts of Prague. And all the history from more medieval and older towns really gave me perspective on just how young the U.S. is. 

TS: Can you give an example of something you saw that showed the remnants of communism? 

AM: Yes, there are several streets in Prague where you can still see the buildings that were built, with a grey, concrete outside and small windows, and none of them had any color. At this point they have all been turned into shopping centers or banks. And the reason for all of the colorful houses is because back in the communist era, nothing could be of color. One of our tour guides also said how they had to be put on a list to get a car, and it took them three years to get it, and they didn’t even get to choose the color. They got this ugly orange car but it was still the fact that they even had a car that made them so excited. 

TS: What do Commies have against color?

AM: I’m not 100 percent sure, but it was something with wanting everything to look the same and not really have any variety. Similar to how there might have only been one brand of car, or chocolate, instead of the hundreds of types there are now. 

TS: Same with Model T’s. You can get black, black or black. OK. Nerd alert question. What made you realize there was more of a sense of history in Europe. A particular place or experience come to mind?  In London, there are places were the Beatles, Oscar Wilde and some King Henry all did something famous. When you visit there, you are like, ‘Wow, there is more history here than in the U.S.’ just like you said. What adjacent history discoveries did you make on your trip? 

AM: We went by several places in Austria where famous musicians like Mozart and Johann Strauss were born and performed, and we learned a lot about the Habsburg Empire, which started before the “new world” had even been discovered. We also walked through castles and saw a few structures that had been around since the year 900. And it was crazy to see how American history was so “modern” compared to the deep and rich history of Europe. 

in Prague street vendors would sell Trdelník, which is like rolled and baked pastry, filled with varieties of fruit, sauces, and ice cream. ”

— sophomore Anna McClellan

TS: What do you miss most about central Europe now that you’re back?

AM: Probably all the different architecture and cultures, and definitely the food. I enjoyed the Weiner Schnitzel we had as well as the variety of other local meats and vegetables, and then in Prague street vendors would sell Trdelník, which is like rolled and baked pastry, filled with varieties of fruit, sauces, and ice cream. 

TS: Sounds great. Anything else you appreciate more know about home other than colors and elbow room?

AM: Well, a lot of people take for granted being around their family, but hearing of all the people who were separated and seeing how the propaganda made it look like something it wasn’t made me thankful that I don’t have to be separated from my family. And it’s crazy how even today we still hear of and see things similar to what happened then. It’s just something that we need to move on from. 

TS: Are you talking about family separations at the Texas-Mexico border specifically?

AM: Yeah, and it also happens in other countries due to civil wars and stuff. 

TS: Wow. We could probably write a good story based on your trip and this interview. Who went? Your parents. Your mom’s mom and your sister? 

AM: That’s right! Me, my mom, my dad, my sister and my moms mom all went. 

TS: And the Atlanta leg was part of the trip or no?

AM: Yes it was, we where there for 4 1/2 days prior to Europe and then after for about two days. 

TS: Anything cool happen in the ATL? We hear you are trying out for placekicker.

AM: We mostly just visited friends and family, although my dad and I went to the College Football Hall of Fame/Centennial Park. And yes, I kicked a field goal and would love to be a kicker (lol) but my mom probably wouldn’t let me play due to football being “dangerous.”




Hoping her number was up (in a good way)

It was 4:30 p.m. on April 7, and Blue Brigade senior lieutenant Sophia Salo had spent the entire day inside the Jower Gym on the Texas State University campus in San Marcos. She had begun her tryout for the dance team at Texas State at 9:30 a.m. that morning.  Seven hours later Salo still didn’t know whether or not she had made the squad.

I saw girls turning around and crying, and so I had prepared myself by the time I could actually get up to see the list.”

— Sophia Salo

The other aspiring dancers who were her competition crowded around the list of numbers assigned to the dancers who had become Texas State Strutters. Some saw their number on the list; others didn’t. 

“I saw girls turning around and crying, and so I had prepared myself by the time I could actually get up to see the list.”

No Blue Brigade graduate had made a college drill team since 2011, and the Strutters aren’t just any dance team. They are the first four-year university American Precision Dance Team ever formed, and they will celebrate their 60th year starting in September.

“Strutters is a world-renowned dance team that has performed for the queen of England [1997], [three] presidential inaugurations [1961, 1965 and 2017] and has also been asked to open the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade this upcoming year,” Salo said.  

Along with fellow Blue Brigade seniors Jane Addison lle and Chanyn James, Sophia Salo proudly displayed her college intentions during a special seniors performance at the spring dance show on Aug. 13.

The Strutters performed at the famed November spectacle in Manhattan twice before in 2000 and in 2012. In 2008, the Strutters were a semifinalist on the NBC television show, America’s Got Talent, Season 3.

Sophia was a senior lieutenant this past year and brought her enthusiasm, love of dance and hard work ethic to the team.”

— Blue Brigade director Nancy Honeycutt-Searle

So the stakes were high, but Salo believed she had what it took to make the squad. But despite her confidence, the sheer math of the situation had to be intimidating for her and for all of the women who were trying out. 

There were 103 women in the gym trying out for 31 spots. For every dancer who made it, there would be two who didn’t. Salo wore No. 28.  When she got to the list, that was the number she hoped to see staring back at her.

Salo’s desire to be on a competitive college dance team had been a dream throughout her childhood.

“I grew up hearing about my mom’s high school drill team and how they had an entire competition season, went on trips, and were all serious, dedicated dancers, and I have always wanted that experience,” Salo said.

Dave Winter
Senior Sophia Salo sings “One day my prince will come” from “Snow White”. She was one of the several seniors who got a solo in the choir cabaret performance, which is the showcase for the program’s seniors.

As a Strutter, Salo would be able to compete more and travel more than she was able to do in high school, and it was an opportunity she coveted.

To earn it, however, she would have to make the cut.

On the day of the tryout, the dancers were separated into groups of three or four. The girls in each group went before the judges, introduced themselves and then they performed a jazz dance, a kick combination and a split.

“During the kick combination, I had to keep telling myself that I was almost done,” said Salo, who admitted the tryout tired her out.

She may have been done with her audition, but the tryout was nowhere near over. 

Several of the girls received callbacks and had to face the judges for another round of auditions. Salo did not receive a callback, which meant for better or for worse, the judges had already made a determination about her, so while the dancers who were called back fought for their spot the squad, Salo had to wait to find out her fate.

After all of the dancing for the day was over, the judges deliberated for 15 more minutes and posted the list around the corner from where the anxious dancers waited. They all approached the list together, but when the group got close to it, Salo hesitated and let her fellow dancers approach the list ahead of her. 

Dave Winter
Fine Arts Academy ambassadors Jon Forbes and Sophia Salo conduct a tour of the school for the Austin Board of Realtors visit to McCallum on Nov. 28.

While girls streamed around her crying, happy or sad tears, Salo mentally steeled herself for whatever the outcome would be. She approached the list, scanning it to find her number. 

And then there it was … No. 28. She had made the team.

“As soon as I saw my number, I turned around and found my dad who had come with me to the tryout and nodded my head and then starting crying with happiness,” Salo said.

As soon as I saw my number, I turned around and found my dad who had come with me to the tryout and nodded my head and then starting crying with happiness.”

— Sophia Salo

She wasn’t the only source of tears in the moment.

“I went over and hugged my dad who was also crying.”

The moment was one she will remember the rest of her life, but she couldn’t linger in it because immediately, she had to go back inside the gym for her first meeting as a Strutter.

The doors to the gym opened, and all of the current Strutters were lined up in formation for the newly chosen Strutters to walk through. As they walked this literal and figurative rite of passage, the veteran Strutters serenaded the rookies with the Strutter song and started jumping up and down in celebration. 

“There was a lot of hugging amongst the new members and the vets, and you could feel the excitement and happiness in the room,” Salo said. “None of us [new members] had a clue what was going on. We were too happy.”

Paul Salo
Salo poses outside the gym at Texas State next to the posted list of dancers’ numbers who had made the Strutters. Her number 28 was among the numbers on the list.

Salo had accomplished something that no Blue Brigade member had achieved in eight years.

In 2011, Blue Brigade captain Kristin Page attended Kilgore and danced as a Kilgore Rangerette; the year before, Camille Howells went to Tyler and danced as an Apache Belle. 

It is an honor to be selected as a part of this team. To be a member of such a supportive and talented sisterhood is an amazing way to begin my college experience.”

— Sophia Salo

Blue Brigade director Nancy Honeycutt Searle said that those are the only Blue Brigade dancers that she could remember trying out for and making a college dance team.

Searle also said Salo had shown that she had what it takes to be a Strutter throughout her senior year.

“Sophia was a senior lieutenant this past year and brought her enthusiasm, love of dance and hard work ethic to the team,” Searle said. “We are excited to see her as a Texas State Stutter next year.”

That goes double for Salo.

“It is an honor to be selected as a part of this team,” she said. “To be a member of such a supportive and talented sisterhood is an amazing way to begin my college experience.”

Salo starts that experience in about a month when she heads to San Marcos well before most Bobcats will arrive on campus.

“We move into our dorms two weeks before everyone else when we start our training camp,” Salo said. “While at training camp, we will learn some of our dances for football season along with the fight song and other stand routines.”

Even for someone as accomplished in high school as Salo, who excelled as a Fine Arts Academy choir major and ambassador, as a Blue Brigade dancer and senior officers and even (little known fact) as a black-belt karate student, making the Texas Strutters was a big deal and the start of a grand college adventure.

Ravyn Nakia, Texas State Strutters head captain
The 31 new members of the 2019-2020 Texas State Strutters, including Mac’s Sophia Salo, pose for a picture moments after they found out they had made the squad.




Seniors cut to the core of the matter

High school can be a confusing time. You have to decide what extracurriculars you want to participate in, if you want to play any sports and worry about your grades all at the same time. The biggest choice of all, however, comes when you fill out your first choice sheet, deciding what classes you will take during the upcoming school year. Deciding between Advanced Placement courses or regular, on-level courses can be very stressful. Most people will tell you that AP classes are the right move, because they are more challenging and will better prepare you well for college, along with allowing you to leave the class at the end of the year with a potential college credit. On the other hand, some people feel that taking all AP courses when you already know that you want to go into a field like art, film or music, doesn’t make very much sense, and can be a source of unnecessary stress.

For many years at Mac and elsewhere, the choice of course level was binary: AP or regular, but with the introduction of dual credit classes from ACC and UT, the choice has become a lot more complicated.

THE CASE FOR AP CLASSES

One person who has seen the advantages of taking AP course is senior Skel Gracie, who feels that AP classes have opened doors for her in the future.

“I took mostly APs in high school,” Gracie said. “I’m glad I did because I think it will make college a lot easier financially. I’ll also be able to take more interesting classes, instead of something like U.S. history. I honestly wish I had taken more college-credit classes, because taking all of those classes in college gets really expensive.”

I’m glad I [took mostly AP classes] because I think it will make college a lot easier financially. I’ll also be able to take more interesting classes.”

— Skel Gracie

AP classes can be difficult because many students are also involved in some sort of extracurricular, either on campus or off. For Gracie, it’s technical theatre.

“For me, tech theatre has taken up a lot of time,” Gracie said. “But that’s just because I do every single show. Tech theatre is good, because you don’t have that many in-school requirements. You only have to take Art l, Theatre l, and Tech Theatre all four years.”

While students may place a higher priority on extracurriculars, colleges will pay attention to what sort of classes you take in high school.

“For me, it was really helpful to be able to say that I had taken lots of college-level courses,” Gracie said, “especially in things like interviews for scholarships; it was good to have some added clout.”

Gracie feels high school is all about finding where your priorities lay.

“I would suggest to any underclassmen that they try at least one AP class and see how they like it,” Gracie said. “But pay attention to your stress levels and figure out what you personally prioritize. For me being in a bunch of extracurriculars wasn’t super important to me, but being in high level classes was.”

THE CASE FOR ON-RAMPS

When it comes to college credit in high school, ACC isn’t the only option. Last year, the University of Texas rolled out a new program at McCallum called OnRamps. It currently is limited to only a few classes, but some students have already found some success within the program. In addition to her AP classes, senior Skel Gracie took OnRamps English her junior year.

With OnRamps, you have a little bit more freedom to write about what you find interesting.”

— Skel Gracie

“I was also looking for a break from the conventional AP-style way of approaching books” Gracie said. “I always felt like our interpretation of the book, or whatever we were reading, was kind of forced on us, and didn’t leave much room for other interpretation. I feel like with OnRamps you have a little bit more freedom to write about what you find interesting.”

The core of the OnRamps class offered at McCallum is writing, and, as Gracie explains, that can really come in handy later. “It definitely made me a much better writer, and that has helped a lot with things like college essays, or the writing portion of the SAT,” Gracie said. While there are some benefits to taking an OnRamps class at McCallum, it is not without its challenges. “One thing that I really struggled with was reading stuff online, because so much of the class is on the computer. Honestly, if you don’t thrive in online classes, I wouldn’t recommend it.”

THE CASE FOR ACC DUAL CREDIT

ACC dual-credit classes allow McCallum students to take a class at ACC, or with an ACC professor, and get college credit for the course, while also getting credit for the class at McCallum. For example, someone could take United States history at ACC, get college credit for the class, and also get high school credit. ACC classes are ideal for people like Liv Arden, who have a busy schedule and need their classes to be flexible.

A lot of my ACC classes were online. There was a test once a week, and you were just expected to complete the notes on your own.”

— Liv Arden

“A lot of my ACC classes were online,” Arden said. “It was honestly pretty laid-back; there was a test once a week, and you were just expected to complete the notes on your own. I really liked it because if I was traveling I could just log onto my computer and do my classwork, even though I’m out of the country.”

One thing that appeals to many students about taking ACC classes during the school year or over the summer is the possibility of an off period your senior year.

“I was friends with a lot of seniors when I was a junior, and it was really nice for them to be able to sleep in or leave a period early,” Arden said.

Of course, ACC courses come with their own set of challenges.

“It can be difficult to stay focused,” Arden said, “especially if it’s over the summer, just because it’s kind of unstructured, and you have to really motivate yourself to do well. If you are someone who needs the school setting to really focus, then it might be a challenge.”

THE CASE FOR REGS

Of course, taking all AP classes isn’t the only route you can take. For example, senior Liv Arden decided that instead of plunging headfirst into AP classes, she would take a mix of both APs and regs.

“I think it’s really important to have your own time in high school,” Arden said. “I think people get way too wrapped up in schoolwork when they take all APs. Generally, I think it’s a good idea to take at least one regs class to give yourself a break.”

People get way too wrapped up in schoolwork when they take all APs. Generally, I think it’s a good idea to take at least one regs class to give yourself a break.”

— Liv Arden

Arden, however, is in a situation that necessitates less homework.

“I work two jobs, so I don’t really have time after school to get my homework done after school,so regs is a better choice for me,” Arden said.

Arden recognizes, however, that there are some drawbacks to this approach.

For a long time I thought that colleges caring about what sort of classes you took in high school was a myth, but now I know that it definitely isn’t. I got rejected from Santa Clara University, and they said it was because I didn’t take enough AP classes, and even though I had good grades, it didn’t seem like I was challenging myself, so that’s definitely something I regret.”
Arden also regretted not being as involved beyond the classroom.

“Another one of my big regrets in high school is not getting really involved in an extracurricular,” Arden said. “I feel like, in high school, it’s important to do some things just because you like them, not because of the grade, and colleges really like to see that too. Exploring your interests in high school is really the only chance you get, because by the time you get to college, everyone has already settled into their hobby or sport, and has been doing it for a few years, so you’ll be behind.”




Anything but VASE-ic

The face of an old woman, a bust painted to look like marble, a vase with a face, a teapot full of eyes and a woman fighting a dragon.

What do all of these things have in common? They all placed in the district VASE competition, and they were all created by McCallum students.

VASE stands for Visual Arts Scholastic Event, which takes place across the state of Texas at the high school, middle school and elementary school levels. The middle school level is called junior VASE, while the elementary level is just called TEAMS. Texas is divided into 20 districts; Austin is located in District 13.

Entering VASE isn’t as hard as it might seem to those who are new to the subject. For some students, VASE is voluntary, but for others, like freshman Ruby Borden, it is required to attend for their fine arts major.

“I’m a major, so I had to, but I also decided because I entered VASE as a middle schooler and I really enjoyed it, and I like seeing all the artwork at the end and walking around,” Borden said. “That’s also why I stayed later, to see all the art.”

Despite being a freshman, Borden brought two complex pieces to VASE. “[For] my painting, I used just acrylic paint on canvas, and then [for] my sculpture, I did mixed media. So I did epoxy, wire, paper mache and cardboard.”

Borden’s painting was called “The Little Moments,” and her sculpture was called “The Antagonist Within.” Each has a unique, carefully designated purpose.

“So [for] the painting that I did, I wanted to do something lighthearted and joyful, because teenagers have this stigma where it’s depressing and deep art, and I want to do the opposite of that,” Borden said. “The sculpture I did was about fighting with our inner demons and overcoming things.”

Sophomore Vanessa Lee, who entered VASE for the first time this year, explains the VASE process.

“The teacher suggests if you would like to go or not, unless you’re an art major, then, the teacher gives you some paperwork asking different questions on your piece and why you decided to join VASE,” she said.

The art teachers who sponsor their students assist them with the entry process, the preparation of their pieces and everything in between.

Freshman Ruby Borden’s piece “The Antagonist Within” features a battle between a woman with fiery red hair and an equally fiery monster, representing her struggle with her inner demons. Both two-dimensional and three-dimensional pieces can be submitted for VASE in a variety of media. Photo by Olivia Watts.

“I think it starts with encouraging them,” McCallum ceramics and sculpture teacher Carey West said. “[We help] them find a piece that they think is suitable, then we sign them up digitally and help them through that process, check their UIL qualifications, and then, when it gets closer to the event, we start helping them prepare the pieces. Up to the point where they get interviewed, we’re there to fix any problems, or get them on the right track or make sure they’re in the right place. After that, it’s all up to them in the interviewing and judging.”

This year, the high school level VASE for Austin ISD took place on March 2 at San Marcos High School. State VASE will take place on April 26 and 27 at the same location, lasting a majority of the afternoon and involving a good amount of patience from the artists.

“You go on a bus to a high school,” Lee said, “and you wait outside until the judge lets you inside, and then they grade you on your piece and they ask you a few questions. After you finish being judged, you wait in the cafeteria of the school. Then the bus will take you back to your school; then you can go home.”

According to the artists involved, sometimes the waiting around can actually be more fun than the contest.

“I got to see a few of my friends from my old school, and I miss talking to them,” Lee said. “I actually reconnected with my friend. We took drawing class together back in middle school.”

A variety of 3D pieces can be entered in VASE along with 2D pieces. This includes ceramics, sculptures, fibers and many other media. Junior Graham Protzmann took advantage of the 3D categories by entering his ceramic piece, which will be advancing to state.

“I did [VASE] last year when I was in Ceramics 1, and it was pretty fun. My friends who are art majors did it, and it just seemed like fun,” Protzmann said.

Protzmann is actually a tech major, which only added to his surprise over his state advancement news.

[My piece] was a prismacolor portrait of my two best friends. I was just thinking about who I wanted to draw next, and I hadn’t drawn my friends yet. It was my way of showing them how much they mean to me.”

“It was cool because I wasn’t really expecting it at all,” Protzmann said. “[My piece] was a set of three ceramic things. There was a bowl, a plate and a jar, and they were all glazed in the same way. It was a couple of pieces from different projects, and then I glazed them all the same way to make them a set. [The technique] was a kind of glazing thing that I’d never tried. I asked the teacher how it would turn out, and she didn’t know either. I just wanted to see what would happen.”

Freshman Gage Sanchez is another one of many artists from McCallum who had a piece or two make it to state. Both of his pieces, he said, captured the essence of everyday life by romanticizing the constants in his life.

“I had a painting in acrylic, with my dog, and a clay sculpture of my friend’s head with a city on top,” Sanchez said. “I used regular clay, polymer clay, epoxy, acrylic paint.”

For Sanchez’s pieces “Urbanization” and “Just a Bit of Contrast,” he explained that the pieces held an additional meaning for him.

“My sculpture was more about global change, how it’s affecting kids and how kids could learn to change just slightly in their day to help our world,” he said.

Another McCallum student advancing to state VASE is sophomore Bridget Russo.

“I did an embroidery piece where I just sewed on a canvas of my sister, and I did a mosaic-style piece where I cut pieces of paper out that were different colors and glued them to look like this photo I took in Spain of some fountain,” Russo said. “You get scored one through four, and both [of my pieces] got fours. From the fours, [the judges] pick which ones go to state. Both of them got a silver seal, which means they’ll both advance to state.”

Of course, art’s purpose and importance varies from artist to artist and from piece to piece. Lee said her art was a way of communicating her appreciation of loved ones.

“[My piece] was a prismacolor portrait of my two best friends,” Vanessa Lee said about her piece entitled “My Sisters.” “I was just thinking about who I wanted to draw next, and I hadn’t drawn my friends yet. It was my way of showing them how much they mean to me.”

Students said they appreciated the experience of having their personal art analyzed, celebrated and appreciated. After all, the face of an old woman, a bust looking like marble, a vase with a face, a teapot full of eyes and a woman fighting a dragon all have more in common than they seem.




Happy Father’s Day to all the Mac daddies out there

Happy Father’s Day to all the Mac daddies in Knight nation from all of us at MacJournalism.

We hope you all have a terrific day.




Hosack makes debut as Mac principal

May 28. The day the teachers and students had been waiting for since the moment principal Mike Garrison announced on April 11 his plans to retire at the end of the summer.

There was chatter among the group of about 25 or 30 parents catching up on their brief tastes of summer vacation, talking about future plans and whispering about the big new change. The speech began, and McCallum’s new principal dove right in, addressing topics from the daunting challenge of filling Garrison’s shoes to her main philosophies in leadership to her love and admiration for McCallum students even though she hasn’t met them yet.

Please know that I am coming in respecting the work that [Mike Garrison] has done. I’m not here to rock your world and turn you on your ear.”

— interim principal Brandi Hosack

And then, without hesitation, she answered the huge, long-awaited, most anticipated question of the evening. The audience members leaned forward, on the edge of their seats.

“It’s pronounced ho-zik. It’s a good strong Czech name, which means you say it nothing like it’s spelled. Just pretend it says z-i-kat the end, and you’ll get it right.”

With nine years of administrative experience and 10 years in public-school teaching, Brandi Hosack is joining the McCallum community with much prior experience. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M in kinesiology and biology and in educational administration from the University of Texas, marking her journey as an Aggie, a Longhorn and now, a proud Knight.

For most of her professional life, 14 years, she worked at Akins High School, moving from student teacher, to softball coach, to full-time teacher for several years. She then taught briefly at Samuel Clemens High School in Schertz near San Antonio, and returned a year later to Akins as science department chairwoman, assistant principal, academy director, interim principal and eventually principal.

Many Akins students and teachers recognized her positive impact on the school.

Dave Winter
Hosack joked that her three young sons, ages 5, 6 and 7, might on occasion be seen tearing through the Mac hallways and that they thought their mom’s job was pretty lame. But then she added that her perspective as a parent who wants the best for her children made her a better principal.

“She created a campus community that was very open and communicative and productive and also career-oriented, and those were all very positive.” said Akins Class of 2019 graduate Bethany Bissell, a news editor for the Akins newspaper, The Eagle’s Eye, who will be attending LSU in the fall. Bissell added that Hosack stressed the positive aspects of the school and mirrored those qualities in her leadership at the school.

“She really valued transparency and compassion, and it was very refreshing,” Bissell said. “I remember she shook hands with students a lot; she made it a priority. Whenever I would see her around campus, [she would] stop students and speak to them and interact with them positively. It was very nice.”

Something that was really great about Hosack was that she cared a lot about forms of student expression. And she really saw the value in student press and the vitality of our service and because of that we got to operate more or less freely. That was really great. ”

— Bethany Bissell, Eagle's Eye editor, Akins Class of 2019

Bissell also addressed some of the positive changes that Hosack she made to the school during her time as Akins principal, including the Restorative Justice Program, a disciplinary system that Hosack installed. “That was something that Hosack cared a lot about,” Bissell said.

According to Stephanie Valle’s November 2015 story posted to the Eagle’s Eye Online, the purpose of the restorative justice program was to deal with discipline issues in a way that helped the student solve the problems that caused the misbehavior to occur rather than focusing on the punishment for the misbehavior. A key strategy in the program was the listening circle where all affected parties would sit in a circle, and each person, including the student who committed the infraction, could propose ways to make right what had gone wrong.

The program’s key purpose–to provide avenues to improve communications between stakeholders at the school–was a major theme that Hosick stressed in her initial conversations with the faculty and the community. Her success in doing just that led Bissell to offer this assessment.

“I don’t want to sing too many praises, but I think that you [McCallum kids] really lucked out in terms of your new principal.”

The faculty at Akins also recognized her strong leadership of the school. Journalism teacher and newspaper adviser David Doerr agreed that Hosack was an excellent communicator.

“She’s really good at listening to people,” Doerr said. “She makes decisions with how it will impact everyone in mind, not just, you know, immediate repercussions.”

Dave Winter
New interim principal Brandi Hosack, right, chats with retiring science teacher Richard Whisennand after Hosack met with the faculty on the morning of May 28. Whisennand told the Shield on multiple occasions over the years that students need to know that their teachers care about them before they will work hard for them. It is a theme that Hosack stressed in both meetings on May 28 and in her interview with The Shield‘s Elisha Scott.

Doerr also said that she was approachable and available to her teachers.

“I never felt afraid to go to her with anything, like a question,” he said. “It really was an open door policy. Sometimes you hear that, and it’s just a saying, but in her office, her door was open and you could just go in and talk to her quickly. It wasn’t like she was hiding behind a secretary or anything.”

Doerr said that Hosack also valued pride in the school, both from herself and the students.

“She wasn’t shy about her love for the campus and sharing that with the community, and making sure the students felt that way too,” Doerr said, adding that the signature hashtag on her Twitter account during her days as Akins principal was #besthighschoolontheplanet. “She really seemed to care and wanted students to be proud of their school. … She was out there, she was always going to events, she had a really good presence, walking around campus she would be happy to interact with students. I remember being at an assembly, or a pep rally, and students just shouting “We love you Ms. Hosack!”

She was always going to events. She had a really good presence. Walking around campus, she would be happy to interact with students. She came across well, I remember being at an assembly, or a pep rally, and students just shouting, ‘We love you Ms. Hosack!’ ”

— Akins journalism teacher David Doerr

Doerr also brought up another unique system put into action by Hosack called the “Academy Cup.” He described it as a sort of competition between different faculty members in different academies within the school. It would occur on a holiday where the students had off, but the teachers still attended the school day.

“It was kind of late in the year to do a lot of professional development, so instead of having us cooped up in classrooms we were out doing like american ninja warrior type physical challenges, or other types of fun competitions like karaoke or something else.”

But Doerr said that Hosack’s time at Akins was not all fun and games. She dealt with several school security concerns during her time at principal, experience that might serve her well at McCallum given the social media-driven school security concerns that Garrison had to deal with in 2018.

“She had to deal with a lot of [safety concerns] around our campus in those three years,” Doerr said. “You know, we had a lockdown last year and she had to deal with that, she had a way of making people feel safe in those kinds of turbulent situations.”

According to the Eagle’s Eye Online, Akins was put on lockdown on Feb. 22, 2018, after a former student made a terroristic threat on the campus. Students stayed in their classrooms for about three hours until the suspect was apprehended and arrested at a shopping center near the Akins campus.

Dave Winter
Hosack is interviewed by rising sophomore people editor Elisha Scott. While Hosack has a track record of supporting student expression and using her Twitter account to promote the school’s image, she also said that parents and faculty must work together to teach students how to be responsible about using social media.

Prior to that incident, according to the Eagle’s Eye, in October 2016, Hosack dealt with a social media-fueled threat to the Akins campus when an Akins student was arrested after posing as a clown and posting messages that threatened violence against Akins students.

“I will always go to the side of caution,” Hosack told Brenda Amaya-Rangel and Stephanie Valle of the Eagle’s Eye Online. “I don’t think we could have possibly taken it more seriously and if anything continues to occur we will take that seriously, too.”

She was always willing to talk, like if you didn’t want to talk to a counselor, she’d be fine with talking to you. She would put down whatever she was doing so y’all could have a conversation.”

— Tillery Larson, North Forney Class of 2019

Hosack final comment in the interview suggests the governing philosophy she will bring to a similiar situation should it occur at McCallum in the future.

“My No. 1 job is to keep kids safe before we can do anything else,” Hosack told the Eagle’s Eye Online. “Kids have to be safe on campus. Very close behind that is to make sure that they are receiving the best education possible, but I can’t do one without the other. As much as social media is ruling the world I need parents to know that I am going to do whatever it takes to make sure the kids are safe on this campus 100 percent of the time so if that means I have to send out a letter and be really honest and say this is what’s going on then that is what I will do. If that means that I have to lock us down to make sure we are in a safe place that’s what I am going to do. If I have a decision that I have to make, I’m going to go with what is the best thing to keep kids safe. I’m going to take whatever precautions are necessary to make sure (the kids) are safe so that (parents) don’t have to worry about anything when (their kids) come to school.”

Hosack left Akins after the 2017-2018 school year and moved to suburban Dallas in order to deal with some family matters. During the 2018-2019 school year, she served as the principal at North Forney High School, about 30 miles east of Dallas. One North Forney student, Class of 2019 graduate Tiffany Larson posted to her Twitter account that despite only being principal for one year, Hosack had been “by far … the best principal North Forney has ever had.”

Larson said that Hosack immediately improved the climate at North Forney by making it a friendly environment. Larson said that Hosack tried to create an open campus, to eliminate school uniforms and she starting putting up posters all over the school to promote respect of individual students. Two of the posters, Larson remembered read “No doesn’t mean convince me” and “It’s OK to not be OK.”

“She was very mental health aware of her students,” Larson said.

Hosack’s greatest asset, Larson said, was her own character and personality.

“She’s very fun to be around,” Larson said. “She makes every place that you’re with her fun, whether she’s … at a football game and [trying to] make sure everybody’s OK, or she’s just in the cafeteria. … She was always willing to talk, like if you didn’t want to talk to a counselor, she’d be fine with talking to you. She would put down whatever she was doing so y’all could have a conversation.”

When asked how long she intends to stay at McCallum, Hosack answered simply forever.’”

According to Doerr, Hosack was the same way at Akins.

“She would make herself available,” he said. “She had an open-door policy, I never felt afraid to go to her with anything, like a question, it really was an open door policy, like sometimes you hear that and it’s just a saying but in her office her door was open and you could just go in and talk to her quickly.”

The respect that Hosack showed to individual students and teachers, Larson said, Hosack also extended to each school organization.

“The band [at North Forney] doesn’t usually get recognized,” Larson said, “and she actually did. She would recognize the band, she would talk up about them. It wasn’t so football-team driven. It was like, ‘We have other extracurricular things like theater; we have band; we have dance, and she’d keep us all updated on what those groups are doing. It wasn’t just about the sports teams.”

While Hosack made an impact at North Forney, she made it clear that she longed to be back in Austin.

“Once you’re in Austin, you can’t really go to Dallas. You can go Dallas to Austin, but you can’t really go the other way around,” she said jokingly during her speech to the community. “They referred to me as the Austin hippie the entire year there, and they are absolutely right. I am, and I’m proud to be so. … I’m glad to be back home.”

Madelynn Niles
When asked about specific concerns at the community meeting, Hosack mentioned that the faculty needed to work with parents to protect students from social media and substance abuse and that she wanted to make sure that all classroom activities were focused on teaching core objectives not just encouraging class participation.

When asked how long she intends to stay at McCallum, she answered simply “forever.”

She continued by saying, “I plan to stay forever. I don’t take on the job of interim to be a short-term event. My intention is to become the principal of McCallum and to keep pushing forward for a long time. For a long time do I plan to be a McCallum Knight.”

Perhaps in part because hopes to be McCallum principal for the long haul, she made it very clear in both sessions that her first priority is to observe the school as it is.

I was surprised that her language was as social and warm regarding the students, and I thought that was really delightful.”

— Parent Lisa Alverson

“I think that for me to be a good leader, I first need to listen,” she told The Shield. “There is a lot to learn from Mr. Garrison. I am good friends with him, and I’m telling you what, I think he’s top notch. Please know that I am coming in respecting the work that he has done. I’m not here to rock your world and turn you on your ear — I am here to make sure that I take the time to get to know you, to build a relationship with you… and to make sure that the success continues.”

“I certainly can’t fill his shoes, but I will try to do my best to do his work justice and make sure that I do him proud.”

Hosack also made it clear that relationships with the students and faculty are a priority of hers.

“My goal is to have a relationship with every person in this building,” she told The Shield. “There’s a lot of people in this building; that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to know each other by name right off the bat. But to have the relationship, for students to know that they can come to me for any reason that they need to, my door is literally open to them, and for the staff to know what I’m about. I have no surprises, I have no hidden agenda, I have very positive intentions for this place.”

Larson predicted that those intentions will become clear to the McCallum community soon enough.

“[Hosack] will come in with a very driven attitude,” Larson said. “She will start to change things as soon as she can, but they’re never bad changes. She will just try to make everything to the best of her ability, and she always tries to get student input. She’ll send out little surveys like, ‘What would you guys think about this?’ or ‘Was this OK what I did?’ She would do stuff like that.”

For their part, the parents who attended Hosack’s initial meeting seemed to appreciate her warm welcome. “She is high energy, she seems enthusiastic, she seems very aware of the fact that she’s got some big shoes to fill at McCallum, and she seems up to the job,” MAC mother Bergan Casey stated. “In many ways, she is [the] opposite [of] Garrison, not just in gender but in philosophy.”

I don’t have to know you yet to love and care about you. I don’t have to know you on a personal level. I love who you are and I love what you’re about and I love that we’re going to get to go on this journey together.”

— Interim principal Brandi Hosack's message to Mac students

Another parent, Lisa Alverson, agreed with these positive initial reactions. “I was surprised that her language was as social and warm regarding the students, and I thought that was really delightful,” she said. “I love Mr. Garrison, and it will be hard, but fortunately, like they were careful to say, she will be respecting the leadership that he used at the school, and not try to not overstep what he did, but polish it in her own special way.”

At the conclusion of her interview, she was asked what she wants the McCallum kids to know.

“I’m going to say something to them that’s probably going to be a little strange,” she said smiling. “ I’m going to tell them that I love them, because I don’t have to know you yet to love and care about you. I don’t have to know you on a personal level. I love who you are and I love what you’re about and I love that we’re going to get to go on this journey together.”

She spoke in extreme detail of how much she admires McCallum and how honored she feels to begin this new adventure. Her speech to the community had an emphasis on this gratitude: “I know how special this place is. I absolutely do know that, and I am blessed beyond measuring to be a part of it. I had quite a few phone calls the other day when the news came out that it was going to be me, and everyone single person said, ‘you are lucky,’ and I said “yes, I know.”

In some ways that assessment makes her challenge even an even greater one. How do you improve upon something that is already pretty great? It’s a challenge she seems ready to embrace.

“You are all already rock stars. Now — how do we possibly put polish on that?”

–with reporting by Anna McClellan and Elisha Scott, transcription by Ellen Fox and Anna McClellan




The story of a scout

“On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.”

If the Scout Oath expresses the guidelines for being an ideal Scout, it also seems a good place to start to describe the character of one Scout: senior Beatrix Jackman. She’s strong, both physically and emotionally; resilient and committed to paving the way for those who might come after her. Despite her interest and commitment to scouting, until recently, she was forbidden from earning the highest rank in the scouting program, the Eagle Scout rank, due to her gender identity as a transgender woman.

As a woman, Jackman was not eligible to continue as a Boy scout until Feb. 1 of this year when the organization formerly known at Boys Scouts of America changed its name and allowed girls to join the Boy Scouts. Allowing girls ages 11 to 17 to join BSA completed a transition for the organization that was first announced in 2017. Girl members have been able to join Cub Scouts since 2018. According to an Feb. 1 article published in The Hill, more than 77,000 girls have joined the Cub Scouts since girls were eligible to join.

For Jackman, the new gender admissions policy solved what had been, to that point, an unsolvable dilemma: to be true to herself and remain a Scout, she could either hide her gender identity or practice lone scouting. Neither solution was acceptable to her.

“I stopped for a while,” Jackman said. “I wasn’t going to hide who I was anymore, and [doing it alone] isn’t what [scouting] is about.”

[I came back] to partially lead the way for other girls like me, but also because I was almost done, and I want this closure.”

— senior Beatrix Jackman

Jackman became involved with the Boy Scout program in elementary school, joining the troop stationed at her school, Highland Park Elementary. She joined because she wanted to make a difference in her community and heard that Boy Scouts was the best place to do so. As she got older, and began to realize who she was, Jackman’s participation in Boy Scouts was compromised. She left the organization for many years, only becoming affiliated this year after the change to Scouts BSA.

“[I came back] to partially lead the way for other girls like me, but also because I was almost done, and I want this closure,” she said.

The new inclusive policy of the Boy Scouts of America, now Scouts BSA, came as a surprise to the public. The Boy Scouts have been iconic in American culture for more than 108 years. Boys ages 11 to 17 join in order to learn lifelong skills of leadership, wilderness survival and adaptability. The highest achievement for the committed scout is becoming an Eagle Scout. To earn Eagle status, the scout must earn 21 badges and complete a unique, personalized Eagle Project that positively affects a community and involves at least two scout-chosen and scout-led volunteers.

Though the Boys Scouts of America has been recognized for the skills learned by its participants and the lifelong friendships that are made between scouts, the organization, like most its age, has faced controversy in the past for restricting its membership. The organization allowed troops to be segregated until 1974, despite public school segregation being declared unconstitutional in 1954.

Jackman is choosing to work with an organization called PFLAG or Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, an organization with over 400 chapters that supports families and friends of the LGBTQ community through counseling, education and policy change.”

Until 2014, the organization banned all atheists and those not willing to subscribe to their Declaration of Religious Principles. In 2012, the Boy Scouts of America were under fire for upholding a 1980 policy that echoed the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, excluding openly gay scouts but allowing those who were closeted about their sexuality. At the time, the organization claimed that homosexuality went against it code of conduct. On May 23, 2013, the organization’s national governing body voted to allow boy members regardless of their sexual orientation.

While change is always difficult, the change to admit girls into the Boy Scouts has been particularly contested both inside and outside the organization. The Girl Scouts of America has criticized the move, extolling the merits of single-gender environments for girls. The Girls Scouts even sued the Boys Scouts when the organization changed its name.

The external debate was mirrored by an internal one within the organization. A former Eagle Scout, who wishes to remain anonymous to preserve current relationships, described his initial opposition to allowing girls into the organization: “When I first heard the name change, it was in the news. My mom and I were really against it. We aren’t really happy because I had worked through this and earned my Eagle Scout under the name Boy Scouts of America. I really wanted to represent that.”

Another former Eagle Scout, who also asked to remain anonymous, echoed these concerns. “I was a little skeptical at first because it’s called Boy Scouts. And there’s also The Girl Scouts. I agree that there are flaws, and I think it should teach the same things as the Boy Scouts teach, but the whole point of Boy Scouts was centered around being led by boys.”

Both Eagle Scouts specifically mentioned the Girls Scouts as an already existing alternative scouting option for girls and said that their objection was held by many Boy Scouts. Despite these objections, however, the national leadership of Scouts BSA pressed ahead with the policy change.

“I could not be more excited for what this means for the next generation of leaders in our nation,” said Michael B. Surbaugh, the chief scout executive of Scouts BSA said in a Feb. 1 press release. “Through Scouts BSA, more young people than ever before—young women and men—will get to experience the benefits of camaraderie, confidence, resilience, trustworthiness, courage and kindness through a time-tested program that has been proven to build character and leadership.”

In 2018, the newly named Scouts BSA agreed to let all genders in their organization starting in February. On Jan. 31, an 18-year-old Jackman received an extension to complete her Eagle Project. Scouts age out of the organization when they turn 18, but an extension allows the scout six extra months in the program.

“It let me work on my stuff for six more months,” she said. “It started in February, and it is officially April. The clock is ticking.”

Since Eagle Projects require so much time, coordination and effort, many scouts choose a cause that impacts them personally. For her project, Jackman is doing the same, making what she calls “self soothing kits” for struggling LGBTQ youth. She is choosing to work with an organization called PFLAG or Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, an organization with more than 400 chapters that supports families and friends of the LGBTQ community through counseling, education and policy change.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX: The donation box , located to the right of the front office doors, is accepting donations for PFLAG to benefit Jackman’s Eagle project. The preferred items are new, unopened and unexpired. Ideas for donations are listed on the donation box. Photo by Ellen Fox.

She chose to work with them because of their large reach and resulting impact. Jackman’s inspiration for her self-soothing kits comes from personal experience. “I have depression,” she said candidly. “I went to DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), where self soothing kits were taught.”

Knowing firsthand the struggles of a transgender kid, Jackman aims to use her project to give struggling people, who were in a place where she’d previously been, the support she found helpful.

Jackman’s biggest obstacle currently is a lack of donations, which she relies on to create the kits. She asks that students bring donations to help her complete her project and benefit a marginalized population in Austin at the same time. Jackman would like items for self-soothing kits to put in a donation box located in front of the main office. Jackman suggests, “bath bombs. Soothing stuff. Self-soothing not necessarily self care. Self-soothing is like chocolate.”

Jackman is thankful for the Scouts BSA name and policy change, as it gave her a chance to get the closure she needs.

I wasn’t going to hide who I was anymore, and [doing it alone] isn’t what [scouting] is about.”

— senior Beatrix Jackman

She supports the inclusive stance of the new Scouts, saying that being a part of a close-knit troop is the most important benefit of scouting. For Jackman, the strong group connection comes with good and bad.

“I think that the group mentality is important, but it also causes change to be slower because the people in charge don’t see what’s happening unless someone says something,” she said. “There’s a pressure, I feel, in large groups to not say that something’s bothering you because of social pressures.”

She added that there are smaller indicators that the group’s change is still a work in progress. “They haven’t updated everything,” Jackman said. “Their calls systems and a lot of stuff still say the Boy Scouts of America.”

Jackman remains hopeful that Scouts BSA keep moving toward full integration for all troops under the Scouts BSA umbrella. While she’s optimistic for the group’s long-term future, she also acknowledged “it’s a process.”




Sometimes it helps to just breathe

The Social Emotional Learning Committee, led by Tamara Stone, launched a new activity in the library called Wind Down Wednesday that was created to help both the students and the faculty find new ways to de-stress and release any negative energy they might have.

“The adults here know how to de-stress, and we wanted to help teach students, as well as other adults, how to de-stress and take things down a level,” Stone said. “We figured that Wednesday would be the best day to do it because it’s in the middle of the week and that’s when things usually get stressful.”

Doing something as simple as taking a deep breath or even just standing up and stretching can really help de-stress you and make you not feel so tense about things.”

— senior Liliette Rodriguez

Wind Down Wednesday held its first session Feb. 6 at 8:40 a.m. in the library. Dance teacher Natalie Uehara, who is also on the SEL Committee, was the first person who helped lead the meeting.

“I decided to do a morning stretch and focus because it is something that I usually do in my dance classes on a regular basis anyway,” Uehara said. “It is something that I do for myself for my routine of mindfulness, so it was kind of just natural for me to do that.”

According to the union’s 2017 Educator Quality of Work Life Survey, a poll administered to 5,000 teachers and staff across the country, 61% of teachers are stressed on a daily basis or for the majority of the time.

“Stress is a big thing that everyone deals with,” Uehara said. “Students deal with different kind of stress than teachers. Teachers are pulled in a lot of different directions, they have deadlines, lots of compliance things we have to do that are district-wide, and they have a lot of concerts and shows to put on. We just have a lot of things on our plate. Students also have a lot on their plate, when they are trying to manage personal life, social and emotional development, which is a huge thing in a teenager’s brain, as well as keeping their grades up and graduating.”

Based on NYU’s study on Top High School Student’s stress, it has been discovered that 49% of all students deal with stress on a daily basis and nearly 31% of students have felt somewhat stressed on a daily basis.

Students … have a lot on their plate, when they are trying to manage personal life, social and emotional development … as well as keeping their grades up and graduating.”

— dance teacher Natalie Uehara

Wind Down Wednesday is also accessible to students. Multiple students have joined in at least one or more Wind Down Wednesday session and many have felt that this activity and the exercises led have helped them relax and de-stress. It has been especially beneficial for seniors, as they are feeling pressure and stress from college applications and graduation.

Senior Liliette Rodriguez has been to some Wind Down Wednesday sessions and believes that they have helped her relax and minimize any negative energy she may be experiencing.

“I can say that I definitely feel more relaxed and not so tense,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes it helped me calm down my nerves in the morning if I’m worrying about a test that’s coming up later on in the day. I really enjoyed the exercise where we followed a path and breath at certain points. I enjoyed these the most because I think we sometimes forget to breath when we are stressed, and I believe that doing something as simple as taking a deep breath or even just standing up and stretching can really help de-stress you and make you not feel so tense about things or whatever is bothering you.”

A survey that students took back in October found that both students and staff feel overwhelmed and that there wasn’t much self-care, so a change needed to happen. Wind Down Wednesday was created to fight the stress multiple people were dealing with.

“After we had analyzed the surveys that everyone took back in October last year,” Uehara said. “We found out that self-care for both students and teachers was a big need on the campus, and so we wanted to provide an opportunity for students and staff to come and do mindfulness activities once a week to help combat stress and negative energy.”

Wind Down Wednesday allows both students and faculty to get a sample of many different ways there are to help a person de-stress and relax. It is just a small opening into a huge opportunity for everyone to find something that fits them and to help people realizes that they are not alone dealing with stress in their life.

“Wind Down Wednesday is just a little taste of what can be done to help a person de-stress,” Stone said. “There is a sense of community in realizing we are all having these issues and that we all get stressed out on occasion.”




In Selena we trust

11 p.m. Selena De Jesus sits down at the computer; her older brother and mother are sound asleep in the other room. The house is silent. Selena has just gotten back from her volleyball games. She begins sorting through the hundreds of photos she took.

11:30 p.m. She selects seven photos at a time and uploads them onto an email to send to Mr. Winter, the photojournalism teacher at McCallum. The mouse is clicking in the silence of the house. Each second feels like a minute. Selena has not yet figured out how to use Flickr.com, a website that stores photos. As Selena stares at the clock, willing it to stop, she regrets not learning how to do it.

 

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GLAZED AND PRAISED: Fifth-period photojournalism students Selena De Jesus, Dashel Beckett, Viv Osterweil, Izzy Wolf and Gracie Jones enjoyed thank-you doughnuts for the 111 photo credits the class earned on Macjournalism’s online platforms during the first six-week grading period. Fifth-period had a huge lead in the photoj class contest against the third- and fourth-periods, but the A-Day classes caught up after a slow start. “At first we all thought we were going to win,” De Jesus said, “but fourth period pulled off the impossible and beat us by one credit.” Fourth-period will enjoy a Chick-Fil-A lunch in appreciation for their 112 photo credits tomorrow. Third-period earned a respectable 90 during the first six weeks. Photos by Maeve McGeady and Olivia Capochiano. #dayinthelifeatmac #MACphotoj #photoj #macjournalism

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11:45 p.m. The Internet begins to slow. The loading sign seems to mock her as she waits for the attachments to load. Today is the last day of the first six weeks grading period of her freshman year. Her class trails fourth period but only by a few photo credits that she could earn if she can just send the emails in time. In order to win a breakfast party for her fifth period photojournalism class, she must send these photos.

12:07 a.m. Done! Selena glances at the clock, and her heart drops. Too late. She feels disappointed in herself. Only seven minutes too slow. The final score of the winner of the photojournalism competition was only one credit away, but it was too late to catch them.

Anna Bausman
Freshman Selena De Jesus on a assignment as the varsity volleyball topples the Reagan Raiders for a road victory on Oct. 12.

At most of the volleyball games, basketball games and other school events, it is very common to see Selena De Jesus standing on the side of the court, camera in her hands. She is always a comforting sight to many of the players.

“The teams get used to her taking pictures because she takes them so often,” Mr. Winter said. She gets better pictures because the players are just so relaxed. “They see Selena with the camera and they’re like ‘Oh! Of course.’”

Although she seems so comfortable taking pictures now, it wasn’t always that way.

“When I started, my pictures weren’t as good as they are now,” Selena says. “I used to take pictures of everything and everyone, but now I am more focused and get clearer pictures.”

As a photojournalist, taking pictures is not all Selena had to do. She also has to write captions, create stories and collect interviews from the people in her photos.

Selena De Jesus
Freshman Selena De Jesus earned an Interscholastic League Press Conference Individual Award in the print newspaper sports reaction category for this picture of the varsity girls celebrating their road victory over LBJ. Photo by Selena De Jesus.

According to Mr. Winter, “Selena’s biggest area of improvement has to be her caption writing.

“We used to have to work to get her captions up to speed with her photos,” Winter said but now, Selena goes the extra mile to help Mr. Winter out. “It’s super helpful. She just does it all. She knows how to get a really good quote from the players and collect all of the details from the game in order to write a good caption.”

Selena has only just started taking pictures this year. This hobby was never her first priority. Sports were. Playing volleyball, basketball, and track is already creating a busy schedule.

But Selena goes above and beyond! She stays after her games just to take pictures to support the Macjournalism Instagram and staff.

This isn’t even all that she does, she still has school! She is first and foremost a student who has to finish her homework, complete projects and study for quizzes and tests. In addition to being success on the court as a player and on the sideline as photographer, she has also excelled in the classroom.

 

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FIFTH TAKES THE THIRD: Fifth-period photojournalism students enjoyed the fruits of their photojournalistic labor today as they received a complimentary @chickfila breakfast for earning the most #macjournalism Insta credits for the previous grading period. It was a particularly close contest. Fourth period pulled to within one photo credit at 164-163 after school on Dec. 14, the last day of the third grading period. Photoj rock star Selena De Jesus covered the girls varsity basketball game against Lockhart and earned the credits that clinched the win for fifth. MVPs Anna Bausman and Kennedy Weatherby led the scoring effort racking up boys basketball credits throughout the grading period. Third and fourth period will try to supplant fifth period for #photoj supremacy in the fourth six weeks. Fourth period leads for the year with two wins to fifth period’s one. Photos by Dave Winter. #dayinthelifeatmac

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Selena led her class effort in the second six weeks grading period, but it wasn’t enough as her class again fell to fourth period. In the third six week grading period, her class held a narrow lead but fourth period was gaining on them. Late on Dec. 14, the last day of the grading period, fourth period pulled within to within one credit at 164-163.

Selena shut the door on the contest by covering the girls varsity basketball game against Lockhart, and no faulty computer problems were going to stop her this time.

Since then, she’s photographed track and field, the AVID cording ceremony and the fourth annual Ballet Folklorico quinceañera.

“She is just a dream student,” Winter said. “She goes so far beyond what the class requirements are. It makes you feel good about being a teacher when you have a student like that.”

We are posting this story today, the first day of spring semester finals for all students at McCallum, because it is also Selena’s birthday. Happy birthday, Selena, and thanks for being such a photoj rock star!




Proust Questionnaire: Mr. Mangum

The Shield: What’s your idea of perfect happiness?

Charles Mangum: When I was growing up in the ’40s and ’50s, I had a really great family life, so my current relationship with my family makes me really happy. Also, when I was growing up, we always went to church, and that always made me feel really secure, so that was really important to me, and [it] still is. Lastly, I really love being able to witness students come into their own and mature through high school, and of course, being able to give back to my community through substitute teaching, even in my retirement. That’s what really makes me happy.

TS: What is your greatest fear?

CM: I don’t think I really have any phobias, at least that I’ve discovered. I think that everyone is scared of failure at least a little bit. I’ve had plenty of failures in my life, and I understand why people are afraid of it, but once you start to view failure as a tool for improvement and motivation, you can overcome that fear.

TS: What is the most overrated virtue?

CM: I would have to say vanity. I am definitely guilty of thinking too highly of myself sometimes, but I think that can just be a natural human instinct. It can be good to have a positive image of yourself, but you just have to find a balance between feeling good about yourself and coming off as vain.

TS: What is your current state of mind?

CM: Right now, I am really positive. I am 78 years old, which can be depressing to some people, but luckily for me, with that age, I still have good health. I have a couple aches and pains, but really nothing major, and I really feel lucky for that. Also, I feel like this job helps me a lot. I feel relevant, like I’m making a difference, and just contributing to society. I think if you have the opportunities that I was graced with then it’s pretty easy to have a good state of mind. Another thing that I always tell students is that life has its ups, and it has its downs, but it’s important to just remain steady throughout everything life throws at you, good or bad.

TS: On what occasion do you lie?

CM: I don’t think I’m a purposeful liar, but like all of us, I probably embellish things from time to time. I try to avoid it whenever I can. I won’t act like I never do, but I think if it gets to the point where it becomes a pattern, that’s when it’s something to worry about.

TS: What person do you most despise?

CM: I grew up when the USSR was still prominent, and I never liked how communism was branded as this thing that was great for everyone, but in reality it’s just a few people who benefit from it. So, I would probably have a hard time getting along with someone like Stalin. Really, any dictator throughout history.

TS: What quality do you most admire in another person?

CM: In students, I really like it when students are aware of their abilities and talents, as well as their potential for greatness. I love it when students are able to set goals, and put in the work to achieve them.

TS: Are there any words or phrases that you overuse?

CM: There are probably are, and I don’t even know it. I know I go off on tangents about leadership or responsibility a lot, so I would have to say that.

TS: If you were to die and come back any thing or animal, what would it be?

CM: I’d probably want to be a human being again, honestly. I’m lucky enough to have had a really great experience as a human, so I wouldn’t want it any other way. Some people are super creative, and could imagine themselves being something other than human, but that’s just not me, so I think I’d just want to be a human.

TS: If you could have one talent what would it be?

CM: Well, to be honest, I’ve never really been the type to think, “Oh, I wish I could do this, or I wish I could do that.” I’ve always been pretty happy with the skills I had. I don’t want to use the word “satisfied” because that makes it seem like I can stop working and stop trying to improve myself, but I am pretty happy with what I’ve already got.

TS: Where would you most like to live?

CM: I’ve lived in Texas my entire life, and I love it. I grew up here, going to Austin for UT football games and eating barbecue with my Boy Scout troop as a young man.
I went to college at Texas State, and met my wife of 55 years there. [She and I] have traveled to some amazing places, but I like the idea of being a Texan. There’s a certain spirit and attitude that comes with being a Texan that I think is really special.

TS: Where and when were you most happy?

CM: I have to say, I’ve been happy most everywhere. Of course I’ve had some ups and downs, some disappointments, just like everyone else, but for the most part I’ve been happy.
I don’t dwell on the failures and life, I just always look at the positive side, because almost always there’s more good than bad.

TS: What is your most treasured possession?

CM: When my wife and I were younger, and we were looking for things for our home, we got into antiques, and around that same time we were traveling around the world, so we collected a lot of really interesting pieces of art that are still really important to me. I’m also really interested in clocks, and I bought some really amazing clocks in England when I was overseas there back in the ’60s, which I still have and take care of.

TS: What is your greatest achievement?

CM: The biggest thing for me is when I signed a professional baseball contract. In 1961, when I was a junior in college, I signed a contract to go to Houston for spring training and try out for the team, and they paid me a considerable amount of money to do so. Unfortunately, one of the biggest achievements of my life also turned out to be one my greatest disappointments also because just before I was about to go to California and play in the minors for a year, I was cut from the team.

It was really disheartening, but in the end it turned out for the better because it forced me to go back to school, which is where I met my wife.




Band hall a second home for longtime director

Just as I’m approaching the door to the band hall, it swings open in front of me.

“Follow me,” Ms. Nelson says and, without hesitation, continues a rapid pace in the direction of the main building. I glance down at my phone, scramble to turn on my voice memo recorder, and ask my first question of the big, spectacular, 40th year interview.

“Where are we going?”

Substituting for color guard, of course, she explains to me on the way to the cafeteria.

After arriving at school at to teach 7 a.m. morning sectionals, teaching two band classes back to back, and preparing for the musical rehearsal later that evening, Nelson was headed to the cafeteria during her off period to supervise the winter guard’s practice because of a teacher’s absence.

A standout Seguin High School band student, Nelson made the All-State band in her sophomore year as a trumpet player. Photo from The Seguin Gazette archive. Nelson returned to her alma mater with the Mac band when the Knights played the Matadors on Sept. 9, 2016.

Juggling a lot of activities at once certainly isn’t something new for her; in her high school years at Seguin High School, she was president of the band, National Honor Society, Spanish Club, vice president of Future Teachers of America, on the track team, and in the church choir. On top of this, she was an all-state trumpet player three years in a row and was salutatorian of her class.

“People ask me all the time, ‘How do you do it all? You just do so much!’” She told me. “And the truth is, I don’t even think about it. I just do it.”

After only one year of teaching at McCallum, she was promoted to head band director in 1981, where she has remained ever since. Within her years, she has experienced many different aspects of the school — and being multitasker at heart, she has tackled everything presented to her. She was even the Blue Brigade director for one year.

If I threw a family reunion, I would invite her, because she is pretty much family at this point.”

— senior Townes Hobratschk on band director Carol Nelson

“It was… different.” She laughs. “Different than band, that’s for sure. They needed a drill team director, and I guess they looked at my résumé and saw the tap dancing experience and thought, ‘Well, OK, she can do it.’ So I did it.”

Despite the many activities that flood her daily life, Nelson still finds time to connect with each and every one of her students.

“She truly is one of the best band directors,” senior tuba player Townes Hobratschk said. “She always wants the best for and from the band students.”

In his freshman year at McCallum, Hobratschk was diagnosed with brain cancer. It also happened to be the year that the band was taking their quadrennial trip to perform at Carnegie Hall.

“Even though she was really busy with band stuff, getting everyone ready for the trip to New York and Carnegie, she still made time for me, and showed up at the hospital. Where some teachers would abandon their students right there, she even brought a tuba up to the hospital. It still amazes me today.”

A DAY FOR INDEPENDENCE: On the Fourth of July 2017, Townes Hobratschk and Carol Nelson celebrate Hobratschk’s last day of chemotherapy outside the hospital — a day of independence for both America and Townes. “She truly is one of the best band directors,” Townes said. “She always wants the best for and from the band students.” Photo courtesy of Nelson.

He went on to perform with the band that year in New York.

“It was all because of Ms. Nelson,” he explained. “She believed in me, and because of that, I had one of the best experiences of my life. I owe it all to her.”

Hobratshck said that Nelson is more like a favorite aunt than this teacher.

“Honestly, I think if I threw a family reunion, I would invite her, because she is pretty much family at this point.”

After so many years at the school, McCallum seems to have become a second home for Nelson.

“It doesn’t feel like a job to me. Most people get up in the morning and say ‘Oh, I’m going to go to work now’, but for me it’s not like that. It’s just what I do — it’s my life.”

From bright and early in the morning to the late afterhours of the school day, her teaching inspires and encourages students to try everything, to keep going, and to not think about it — to just do it.

As the interview with her comes to a close, I lean in and asked the big question. “So, are you going for 50?”

She raises her eyebrows and her lips curl into a smile as she lets out a little laugh.

“We’ll see.”

Scarlett Houser
At Wednesday’s spring band concert in the MAC, band director Carol Nelson recognizes saxophone player, French foreign exchange student and freshman Nelson Vilbert. Photo by Scarlett Houser.




Quince minutos de fama

To Spanish teacher Juana Gun, all girls deserve the chance to celebrate their 15th birthday. That was the basis on which the annual Ballet Folklorico Quinceañera was started four years ago: to give those that might not have been able to afford one the opportunity to experience the traditional celebration, no matter their age, financial circumstance or background. On Saturday, families and friends gathered at the Faith Lutheran Church to celebrate the fourth annual community quinceañera. Some of the girls that donned dresses were much older than 15. Some were benefiting from a Spanish extra credit incentive. To five out of the 15-something girls, however, their quince años celebration was real.

I lost my mom, but what brought me up this past weekend was walking in and seeing that all my teachers had taken over all the different parts and made sure the quinceañera went on whether I was there or not.”

— Juana Gun

“[The Quinceañera is] maintaining a tradition because for five of those little girls, for them and their families it was real,” said Gun, the head coordinator of the quinceañera. “When I spent time talking to each of the families, they were very very moved by it. It was something they couldn’t do on their own, but the community did it. Their child had to share it with other people, but in the end, it [was them], [they were] the princess for the day.”

The party started when each of the quinceañeras and chambelanes were introduced, parading out onto the dance floor in shiny ballroom dresses and tuxedos. Then, the guests watched as the students performed a group waltz, a traditional part of every quince modernized by Ed Sheran’s “Perfect.” Following the waltz, choreographed by senior Melissa Marquez and junior Mahali Domingo, the quinceañera-goers were treated to live mariachi music by McCallum alum Juan Diaz, food, drinks, and cake. After the mariachi, AVID senior Matt Velasquez’s DJ’ing kept the guests on the dance floor.

A party this size took a lot of work and a lot of money to put on, but was made possible through help from all over the McCallum community. Ballet Folklorico kids and Spanish students worked shifts at the Erwin Center to help raise funds, dresses were donated or rented for the occasion and food was donated by local restaurants and businesses. After three years of coordinating the event, Gun was somewhat of a seasoned veteran in making the party as smooth as possible; however, Gun spent the week before the party with her mother in hospice care. Through the help of teachers from all over McCallum, from the English to the athletic department, the party carried on and was still a smashing success.

When I spent time talking to each of the families, they were very very moved by it. It was something they couldn’t do on their own, but the community did it.”

— Juana Gun

“I had spent a whole week in hospice care with my mom, and in the end I lost my mom, but what brought me up this past weekend was walking in and seeing that all my teachers had taken over all the different parts and made sure the quinceañera went on whether I was there or not,” Gun said. “Imagine Coach Salazar going to a quinceañera store and picking up dresses because he wants to help me. Everybody helped one way or another. Seeing my co-workers make sure the quinceañera went on whether I was there or not, for the kids, that’s beautiful. That got me all teary eyed.”

Although it’s been less than a week since the quinceañera, Gun and the rest of the McCallum community are already looking ahead to next year’s celebration.

“I’ve already got little girls walking by saying ‘I’m gonna do it next year, Miss,’” Gun said. “[The quinceañera] brings out those girls who secretly want to be a princess for the day.”

Selena De Jesus

After their entrance and opening dance, all of the quinceneras and their chambelanes took pictures in front of a white Camaro. The car was rented by Gun just for the occasion, in place of a limo. Photo by Selena De Jesus.

Seniors Melissa Marquez and Alex Lopez dance with the rest of the quinceaneras after being introduced. This was Marquez’s second year taking part in the Quinceanera and her first year organizing the event and choreographing the group dance with the help of Malhali Domingo. “My favorite moment was the dance,” Marquez said. ” Everyone did an amazing job and at the end, it looked perfect. Some of them may have messed up but they kept going and they never seemed to hesitate.” Photo by Bella Russo.

Selena De Jesus

Freshman Tracy Atoo waits for the waltz to begin. Since there was an uneven number of chambelanes to quinceañeras, Atoo and Addie Secar-Martinez, both quinceañeras, were paired together during the waltz. “My favorite part from the quince was when Addie and I kept struggling [during the waltz],” Tracy Atoo said, “because both our dresses were really big and we were dance buddies.” Photo by Selena De Jesus.

Sophomores Olivia Capochiano and Nadine Del Gallo laugh while showing off their dancing skills during the mariachi performance. The students were the were first two people on the dance floor, but others soon followed. “I think most people were too shy [to dance first],” Capochiano said. “I wanted to break the tension.” Photo by Bella Russo.

Selena De Jesus

AVID teacher Zulmy Galindo and Spanish teacher/quinceanera organizer Juana Gun welcome family and friends to the celebration before introducing the quinceaneras and chambelanes. In keeping with baletfoklorico tradition, Galindo joined in on the festivities by donning a quince dress of her own. “Every year I find a teacher who’s willing to wear a quinceanera dress and that makes the kids smile,” Gun said. “Here we are in our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, or in my case 60’s, wearing a poofy dress and still looking like a princess. ” Photo by Selena De Jesus.

Seniors Elesia Zarzoza and Wesley Bryant enjoy live mariachi music after the group’s waltz. Photo by Bella Russo.

Selena De Jesus

Junior Bryn Lewis and sophomore Sipriana Alba pose in Gun’s convertible after the quinceanera. Photo by Selena De Jesus.

Freshmen Edwin Galindo and Andrea Vazquez spin during the waltz. Photo by Bella Russo.

Selena De Jesus

Julian Soliz dances with his little sister. Photo by Selena De Jesus.

Selena De Jesus

Junior Mahali Dominguez and senior Christopher Scott on the dance floor. Photo by Selena De Jesus.

Quinceañera 2019 (Selena De Jesus)

Photos by Selena De Jesus

Quinceanera 2019

Photos by Bella Russo