Save the planet and be on trend

A river in Taiwan runs the color of taro bubble tea. The water is an opaque purple, reminiscent of Crayola’s violet acrylic paint. Miles of the area’s freshwater supply directly adjacent to the Jiayang Factory is polluted. Around the world, it’s becoming dangerous just to touch the water let alone swim in it.

The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. The industry has created a disastrous strain on the environment, consuming huge amounts of water and creating loads of pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and solid waste.

Low prices and increased consumer demand multiply the environmental harms. As companies race to jump on current trends, they cut corners, resulting in massive and long-lasting environmental consequences. The demand for inexpensive and quickly produced clothes encourages companies to use cheap materials, most notably, toxic dyes. Unregulated textile dying releases toxic chemicals into clean water, poisoning animal life, everything from fish to household pets.

It’s also easy for corporations to cleverly “forget” to mention how they pollute rivers and underpay workers and instead make a point of noting how much they donated to charity, despite the contribution being less than 1 percent of their gross profits.”

More expensive brands are not necessarily more environmentally friendly. A 2011 study into hazardous materials in the fashion industry found that expensive brands don’t care any more about saving the environment than fast fashion. The study even ranked Armani as the worst offender. Armani, despite its high prices, was revealed to have NPEs, hormone disrupting nonylphenol ethoxylates, that often wash into rivers and lakes, more than half of its products.

I have good news for fashion fanatics everywhere, an increasingly popular eco-friendly alternative: sustainable fashion, which minimizes environmental impacts throughout a garment’s life cycle. But how do we shop sustainably? First, make an effort to research the brands you buy from. Websites like rankabrand and The Fashion Transparency Index can shed light on popular brands even though they unfortunately neglect teen favorites like Brandy Melville and Urban Outfitters.

Make sure you stay on alert for brands that manipulate concerned consumers into believing they care about the environment when their practices prove otherwise. It’s easy for a company to release a statement professing green business policies and sound sincere. It’s also easy for corporations to cleverly “forget” to mention how they pollute rivers and underpay workers and instead make a point of noting how much they donated to charity, despite the contribution being less than 1 percent of their gross profits.

For many consumers, shopping sustainably can be difficult. Sustainable clothing is typically pricey, and even shirts can be hard to afford. For many sustainable brands, a blouse can easily be more than $30 or could climb into the triple digits. This is because eco clothing is more expensive to produce, since companies use organic cotton and recycled textiles. Thankfully, the higher price also means higher quality.

Unfortunately, despite their high price tag, most sustainable brands aren’t exactly on-trend. They tend to market to an older audience, with more financial stability. Many sustainable brands primarily produce neutral toned boxy dresses and wide-legged capris. One brand’s lookbook even reminds you of a catalog of nurses’ scrubs. It’s not something that teens are willing to spend a fair amount of money on.

Shopping sustainably isn’t impossible, but it does require effort.”

One of the most popular environmentally friendly brands is Reformation. Reformation is known for its stylish dresses and carbon offsets. Alternative Apparel offers basic organic clothing like white tees in multiple styles. Girlfriend Collective is an active-wear brand that attempts to combat textile waste. H&M is leading the climate positive charge for trendy outfitters. Similarly, Zara and its parent company Inditex, vows to use only organic, recycled or sustainable fabrics by 2025. They’re one of the few brands accessible to teens that have made an effort to protect the environment.

H&M and Zara’s adoption of more environmentally friendly practices proves that companies are willing to adapt to their consumer’s demands. Forever 21’s recent bankruptcy further demonstrates that inability to move toward sustainable and high quality clothing will result in mass customer disinterest. Brands that can’t or won’t adapt to the surge of environmental awareness will pay the cost.

Thrifting is also a clever way to reduce fashion waste and reduce the harmful effects of producing new clothing. A large portion of McCallum students buy and donate secondhand clothes to brick-and-mortar stories and also to online markets like Depop and Poshmark. Some students even sell directly back into their communities by setting up Instagram accounts and marketing to their friends.

Shopping sustainably isn’t impossible, but it does require effort. By researching what you buy, by spending more for higher quality pieces and by thrifting, you can look great and do your part to help save the planet.

Austin’s Berlin Wall: A Look at I-35

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the interstate system in Austin has completely and utterly failed. Interstate Highway 35, known as I-35 or “the Berlin wall” locally, is a shining example of how a road can completely kill one’s Monday morning. Not only is this concrete abomination riddled with sections of poor road, aging infrastructure, and terrible traffic, it was used to racially divide the city in the 1920’s. It not only induces skin-crawling rage on its bad days, but stands for a time when the city was completely segregated even when traffic is more manageable. 

I have summarized my few years of driving and being driven on the highway into one word: agony.”

First, let’s discuss the traffic. Ask just about anyone who goes to McCallum, or really anyone who lives in Austin, about traffic on I-35 and you’ll get a response clear as day: it sucks. I live just East of the beast, and I have to drive on the access road or the highway itself nearly every day. I have summarized my few years of driving and being driven on the highway into one word: agony. From around 8-10 in the morning and 4-6 in the afternoon, I would recommend keeping a 100-yard radius of the highway unless absolutely necessary.

Traffic is backed up for miles at a time, and essentially turns into a parking lot. According to KVUE News, the stretch of highway that runs through Austin is the third most congested highway in Texas. Then there’s the matter of infrastructure, or should I say, lack thereof. Just last month in August, there were reports of pieces of the upper deck of I-35 falling down. It was literally raining concrete. APD officials later claimed that this was not the upper deck, but even if it wasn’t, where is the concrete coming from? The sky? I digress.

Stretches of the road vary from being decent to absolutely terrifying to drive on. The highway seemingly narrows near the Caesar Chavez exit, paired with a relatively sharp turn, creates a bottleneck right before the bridge. This is one of many ground zeroes, where the highway’s design flaws are abundantly apparent.  In addition to this, there are the driving habits of many people in Austin. Many people tend to not let anyone into their lane at all costs, perhaps a neanderthalic instinct left over from our ancestors. Not only will many not let you in, but I have also been almost rear-ended by drivers who are so focused on not “losing their spot” that they speed up as you change lanes to try and stop you. If you happen to be one of these drivers, I have a very basic question to ask: why would you want to not let others in if you’ve already allowed for enough space for one, two, or in some cases, three cars?

An old photo of East Avenue, the street that preceded I-35 taken in 1957. Image originally appeared in texashighways. The image appears in this post under fair use policy.

We have established that I-35 is a driving nightmare, but what about its history? Some would be surprised to learn it has a disturbing and divisive past. The highway, once called East Avenue, was at one point a very clear wall, separating the historically poorer black and brown communities from the wealthier and more affluent white ones. East Avenue, according to KVUE News, was designated by the city plan in 1928 to segregate these communities. Work on the highway began in the mid 1950’s, finishing in 1962.

As someone who lives just east of the highway, this dichotomy for the most part is true, although with skyrocketing housing prices and gentrification, it has become less of a home for these communities. It is increasingly the case now where long-standing Austinites must move to the suburbs in order to accommodate exorbitantly priced condominiums or modern houses, which could not stand out more from the area’s architecture. I contend that even though the city’s segregationist policies have long since been disbanded, I-35 still represents further disenfranchisement of an already deprived community.

It no longer, however, an explicit town policy or spelled out in any affidavit, but instead disguised in development companies’ contracts and the city’s laissez-faire approach to regulation. Although Austin has been a blue dot in a red sea politically and socially, the massive concrete structure serves as a reminder of the mistakes made by the generations before us. The highway should remind us to understand how much influence one structure can have on the community around it. In these ways, I-35 can be a positive thing, but only until you have to drive on it.

Want to avoid the SAT? ACT now.

Before you start panicking, seeing the words SAT and ACT in the title, know that this article is supposed to help you, not stress you out about the tests looming ominously on the horizon. For all students, the tests are inevitable, especially since AISD has (very kindly) started paying for all students to take an SAT Test during school. Test scores are a constant worry and cause of concern for all students, as we juggle schoolwork and extracurricular and getting enough sleep at night, on top of trying desperately to improve our test scores so we can get into college and move on with the rest of our lives. But, though you don’t really have an option not to take the test, you do have options about which test to take: ACT or SAT. Both of the tests claim to measure college readiness, and both are used to determine college admissions. Both of the tests have a reading, writing and math section and offer an additional essay along with the rest of the test, but after that, there are important differences. Both tests have their perks, and both tests have their downfalls. And though everyone has a preference, you have to find which test works best for you.

The SAT is the classic standardized test, and it’s almost 100 years old. It made its debut in 1926, though by a different name with different scoring, and has since been changed many times, adapting to the changes in the world. The SAT is run by The College Board, a major conglomerate, which runs a college search system, along with running both the AP and SAT tests. College Board is a non-profit organization but also is a major player in all standardized testing, which rakes in yearly revenue exceeding $750 million. The ACT tests, however, aren’t associated at all with The College Board, and therefore are a completely different entity. The ACT is run by a non-profit organization, and tests reading, writing, math and also, unlike the SAT, science.

“It feels like the SAT is trying to mess you up, trying to make you fail.””

I took my first SAT in December of last year. I did minimal prep, meaning all I did to prepare was work through a couple math sections in my SAT Test book. So, I went in with a mentality that I would just take the test to see how it worked, and to get a base score that I could work off of in the future. It went as well as expected, and I did OK, but it left me with a good idea of what I had to do to improve. I took my second SAT in April of this year, during the school-day SAT. This time I prepared, practicing for about eight hours on Khan Academy, practicing math concepts I hadn’t looked at for years. I felt pretty prepared, and went in with a good mindset. I managed to raise my score exactly 100 points; all the test prep ultimately paid off.

This summer, in a last-ditch attempt to get a better test score, I signed up for the ACT. One of my friends had taken both the SAT and ACT, and had done much, much better on the ACT, getting almost a perfect score, so I decided I might as well take it, seeing if I could do any better on a different test. I practiced a bit, answering a lot of English questions, so I could hopefully boost my reading and writing scores so that even if I didn’t do well on the math and science, I could still get a good score.

I did about 50 points better on my ACT (after the scores are converted) than my best SAT score. I even took my ACT over the summer, when I was out of practice with analytical thinking and hadn’t been using my brain very much. So personally, I think the ACT is a better test, and that it’s less difficult to get a higher score on it.

SAT vs ACT infographic by Sarah Slaten.

Whenever I took the SAT, I felt like they were trying to trip you up, trying to make you choose the wrong answer. Through the entire test I was second-guessing myself, going between two answers that both seemed equally correct. In part, that’s probably true. The College Board needs to make money off the SAT, and having people retake the tests to get a better score is a good way to increase profits. But I didn’t feel like that on the ACT; it felt so much more straightforward.

The ACT also tests more than just test-taking ability and its questions are pretty basic, though still challenging. The addition of science also allows students with different strengths to excel on the test. The ACT is a better way of measuring all-around knowledge, unlike the SAT, which mostly just measures if you know how to take a test.

The ACT also offers better testing accommodations to those who need them. I didn’t, but I know people who did, and the ACT was much more generous with the accommodations then the SAT was, and was also much more open in allowing people these accommodations. My friend had to fight tooth and nail to get any extra time on the SAT, while on the ACT they made sure to give her the extra time she needed.

Overall, it feels like the SAT is trying to mess you up, trying to make you fail. The ACT doesn’t feel like that, though it’s still a challenging test in its own right. This ultimately makes sense because of The College Board’s financial involvement, as they reinvest the money you pay into improving College Board, but it does not seem fair. Most colleges will accept the ACT test instead of the SAT, meaning most students have a choice in the matter.

I would recommend that everyone try both tests if they are able and work out which one is best for them. I have many friends who never even took the ACT, and excelled on the SAT despite the tricky question wording. But ultimately, it matters which one works for you, and it’s going to be different for everyone. For me, however, the ACT was the way to go.

Fad diets are bad diets

Fad diets. We have all heard of them. Ranging in extremity from diets we may think are good for us, like the paleo diet (where you eat no processed foods) or the keto diet (an extreme, 90 percent fat diet) to appetite suppressants popularized by companies like Flat Tummy Co., to downright destructive fads like swallowing tapeworms or eating cotton balls. These diets can be harmful to any person who decides to go on them, but they can be especially damaging to teens because of the mental, social and developmental ties that come with them.

Let’s talk about the psychological effects of dieting as a teenager. At a time in life where hormones are still regulating and everything seems like a crisis, a lot of teens are looking for a way to alleviate the stress of insecurity. Social media repeatedly shows us the perfect body, whether it be a broad, chiseled man or a flat ab-ed, fat bottomed woman. The level of exposure we have to these images make it is easy for many teens to draw the conclusion that losing weight to achieve these “slim thick” bodies is the path to their happiness. Companies use this image to their advantage. They advertise their programs as ways for people to lose pounds fast to sell their programs, appetite suppressants or operations. The problem with trying to lose weight quickly is that it’s frustrating when you can’t achieve the most often-times unrealistic results, which puts dieters at risk of developing incredibly dangerous eating disorders in order to get results faster. To learn a more about this, I talked to registered dietitian Zoe Halbert.

Research has shown us that 25 percent of people who go on diets develop eating disorders”

— Zoe Halbert

“There are many risks involved when we choose to go on diets.” Halbert said. “Research has shown us that 25 percent of people who go on diets develop eating disorders, and only 5 percent of diets are actually successful in terms of weight loss over more than 2-5 years. Dieting also has been shown to lead to weight cycling (gaining and losing significant amounts of weight), which can lead to poor cardiac health and puts a lot of stress on the body.”

Halbert also confirmed that teens are more at risk than adults for developing eating disorders.

“Other outcomes of diets include a slowed metabolism, disconnection from body signals such as hunger/fullness, [and] binge eating,” Halbert said. “On a societal scale, diets also perpetuate weight stigma and fat phobia, which is harmful to everyone. Teens going on diets are often at higher risk of developing disordered eating and an unhealthy relationship with food.”

On the physical side of things, extreme dieting can also be dangerous to your health. As a full-fledged adult but especially as a developing teen, it is necessary that our bodies be given the proper nutrients and the correct amounts of them. I’ll go through my five dieting examples and explain why they are unhealthy options for the average person.

The paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet, is centered around eating like our ancestors. It cuts out all processed foods and focuses on vegetables, fruits and lean meats. It limits many carbohydrates like bread, sugar, grain, beans and potatoes. The ketogenic diet is based on eating a high-fat diet, almost 90 percent, and also cuts out carbohydrates.

“Carbohydrates should make up 50-60 percent of our diet, so that’s a huge portion of nutrition we need that is being cut out on both of these diets,” Halbert said. “When we don’t eat carbohydrates, weight loss can occur, but it’s only temporary as a diet without carbs is not sustainable long term. Research also shows that fasting from carbohydrates results in increased craving and binging on carbohydrates later on,” Halbert said. “Our bodies rely on carbs as our main source of energy; in fact, our brain only uses glucose (sugar) for energy, so without enough carbs we can have reduced memory and fatigue. A high fat/low carb diet can also increase our risk of heart disease long term.”

Limiting carbohydrates on its own can cause unwanted, unexpected changes in dieter’s bodies. These diets have proven to be harmful and not worth the hunger, frustration and non-permanent weight loss that they create. The keto diet was first developed as an alternative medical treatment.

These diets have proven to be harmful and not worth the hunger, frustration and non-permanent weight loss that they create”

“The keto diet was originally used for children with epilepsy to stop seizures temporarily,” Halbert said, “it was never meant to be used by the average person.”

The high-fat diet was later popularized as a pill on the show Shark Tank, which has since been exposed as a scam and designed to take advantage of people looking to lose weight. Taking into account that this diet was not even meant for healthy adults in the first place, the reasons start to stack up to stop dieting just because media says that it works.

The next fad trend that I personally have been seeing a lot of is appetite suppressants. Highly influential celebrities, notably the Kardashian/ Jenner sisters, have promoted the company Flat Tummy Co. On its website, the company says that its mission is to “create a range of products that were super easy, super healthy and designed to help our babes get back on track, and stay on track. We’re all about helping women look and feel like the best versions of themselves.” While a respectable and understandable cause, “appetite suppressant lollipops” that come in fun flavors marketed to generally younger women is just not the right way to go about it.

“Appetite suppressants are anything or any substance that interferes with our bodies natural hunger signals. Some examples would be drinking water to try a suppress appetite, coffee or medications/supplements. Its very acceptable in our culture to try and suppress our bodies’ natural hunger signals, but I was always ask my clients, ‘Would you ever try and suppress any other of your other body’s signals such as thirst or needing to use the restroom?’ The answer is usually no,” Halbert said. “The purpose of hunger is to tell us when we need more energy from food; ignoring hunger can actually lead to binging and the potential for our hunger signals to become dysregulated. Its recommended to eat constant meals and snacks throughout the day when we feel hunger to support our health.”

The final two diets I will discuss are what I group as “foreign object diets.” Swallowing cotton balls is one of these extreme diets. Dieters will soak a cotton ball in something sweet, such as a juice, and swallow it whole with the idea that they are filling but virtually zero calories. This diet has some obvious consequences on what we have already covered in the malnutrition zone, but introduces a new danger of having foreign objects in your system. The other “foreign object” diet is the tapeworm diet. This involves swallowing live tapeworms in hopes that they will, in a sense, eat your food for you. After you have lost the amount you want, you just go get a pill that kills the worms and over time you rid yourself of them through stool. This extreme diet can also be extremely dangerous. Tapeworms are parasites, and people can die from having them in their bodies. It is not a good idea to put them in your body on purpose just in the hopes of losing weight. Both of these “foreign object diets” can have some pretty steep consequences.

“Our bodies can’t break down foreign objects as they aren’t composed of basic macronutrients (carbs, protein, or fat,) minerals or vitamins. So when we ingest foreign objects they can block our intestinal pathway or even cause tears in our intestinal walls resulting in impaction and/or infection that could require surgery. They can also cause a great deal of abdominal pain and discomfort,” Halbert said.

Ingesting foreign objects can not only be extremely harmful but also expensive to remove. Stomach pumps, which are sometimes required, can be anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000, not including the cost of possible hospital stays.

It’s important to remember, especially as a teen, that dieting can get extreme. If you are someone looking to diet, Halbert recommends talking to a dietitian to meet your specific.

“Health is not just based on diet. Other factors include our social connections, sleep, socioeconomic status, mental health, movement, genetics, community, access to health care, etc.,” Halbert said. “Eating healthy is not just about what foods we eat; it’s being in touch with what our bodies are telling us and having a healthy mentality around food. A healthy diet overall is flexible, varied and balanced, and it will not look the same between two people because we all have unique needs.”

“Health is not just based on diet. Other factors include our social connections, sleep, socioeconomic status, mental health, movement, genetics, community, access to health care, etc.,”

— Zoe Halbert

She also recommends using intuitive eating, a practice which you probably already use. It’s essentially listening to your body and your hunger levels, and eating when your body tells you that you need to eat.

“Our bodies actually give us a lot of guidance on what and how to eat: we just have listen and be in touch, which can take a little practice if we are not used to doing so,” she said.

If you are looking to diet, and are interested in seeing an expert, Halbert also cautions seeing people who market themselves as “nutritionists.”

“If anyone does have nutrition concerns or wants to develop a healthy relationship with food, I recommend visiting a dietitian. Be cautious with anyone titled as a nutritionist, as that is not a protected term, so anyone can be a nutritionist regardless of their knowledge or experience. Nutrition information that is available online or in popular diet books is often very conflicting and convoluted, so making sure you speak to a healthcare professional who is well-versed in scientific literature and well trained in their profession is important.”

Overall, a healthy relationship with food is all most people need. There is no necessity for creative and extreme diets, and it is more simple than that. Just listening to your body, and taking to heart a greater meaning of health- concerning all aspects, like mental health, social relationships and stress levels/emotional health.

Health really means finding the balance between all of the different aspects we all experience as humans, and extreme dieting can throw that balance off.

Free our college

As we near the end of the school year, college is foremost in everybody’s mind. Seniors are graduating, mere months away from attending college, and juniors and sophomores are beginning to stress about their impending college applications. But even after you’ve applied and been accepted to your choice school, there’s something else to stress about: student debts.

All students are asking for is a good college education. Why should they be the generation that has to give up on its dreams?”

Paying off student loans is a shadow that often follows graduates throughout their adult lives, sometimes even 20 years after they left college. If you want to go to a good college, even sometimes an in-state one, you will most likely have to apply for a student loan. And this vicious cycle often repeats itself, passing debt from generation to generation.

Throughout its history, America has been relatively unforgiving and critical of student debt. Students, voicing their grievances, have been met with responses varying from “Maybe you should’ve gone to a cheaper college,” to “Just get a job,” or even the occasional, “Stop complaining.” But the students already have jobs, and all they’re asking for is a good college education. Why should they be the generation that has to give up on its dreams?

Infograph by Sarah Slaten.

On April 22, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a 2020 presidential candidate, premiered a plan for reducing student debt. Though this plan has been met with vehement criticism and praise, it is one of the most liberal and progressive plans proposed in recent years, and it solves a major issue that has been hitherto unaddressed. Warren’s plan, though controversial, would drastically reduce student debts and make all higher education free for all citizens.

Warren’s plan would cancel $50,000 of student debt per family involved in higher education, and, even more controversially, would make all higher public education free for all. According to Business Insider, this plan would eliminate at least some debt for at least 95 percent of the 45 million Americans affected by debt. This plan has been praised by progressives, who agree with the idea of education for all, but it has also been met with opposition from conservatives, including some Democrats, who believe that this solution is too expensive, and ultimately won’t be effective enough.

For hundreds of years, America has emphasized college and university as the ultimate opportunity to succeed. But, realistically, this ideal is getting harder and harder to achieve.”

Warren’s proposal is based on her belief that education (even through college) is necessary and key to a successful life in the modern world. She believes that because it is essential, public education shouldn’t be a cost students have to pay, that it should be the responsibility of the federal government to pay for students’ public education, even at the college level. But conservatives believe that this plan would cost too much money, and especially oppose it because it would be paid for by a wealth tax on America’s 75,000 most wealthy families, totalling a reported $1.25 trillion, according to Business Insider.

Though some critics claim that this plan could lead to poor taxpayers funding wealthy kids college education, this plan would instead drastically decrease college costs, so taxpayers wouldn’t be paying near as much money as they pay now. This would also work to level the playing field, as children from economically disadvantaged families would have more of an equal opportunity to attend and pay for college, which could end the cycle of debt and level the playing field.

Even if less advantaged families had to pay more, it would be with the knowledge that their children would be getting part of their money, and that their children would be getting the same opportunity as more affluent students. Maybe it would hurt at first, but it would ultimately help in the long run. And it could turn America into the country of opportunity that it has always aspired to be.

Everyone I know has always been stressed about paying off college debts. My senior friends have been scrambling around, trying to get as many scholarships and as much money as they can, trying to afford their dream schools. Even my parents have made a point of not retiring until I leave college because they know how expensive it is going to be. I feel bad about it, and sometimes I wonder if I should just go to a less expensive college, but I don’t think that’s fair. Why should the cost of schools limit my education opportunity?


A majority of the major European countries offer reduced tuition at a fragment of the cost of traditional U.S. tuition.”

Though not all countries offer free college, CNN reports that a majority of the major European countries offer reduced tuition at a fragment of the cost of traditional U.S. tuition. A girl I know, who was planning on attending Columbia, is going to go to London for college, which is just as or less expensive than Columbia would’ve been. An international school is cheaper to go to than an American school.

Education isn’t a normality in many countries, but it is in America. For hundreds of years, America has emphasized college and university as the ultimate opportunity to succeed. But, realistically, this ideal is getting harder and harder to achieve. As college prices go up, students continue to attend, but these students, who are just trying to get an education, are plunged into debt.

If college wasn’t as normalized and accepted all throughout America, student debt wouldn’t be as much of a problem. But it is. For most students, college is the expectation, the final hoop they have to jump through before they begin their college lives. But now, this expectation is following them around, in the form of student debt. It trails students around for years and has the potential for ruining their lives.

Though Warren’s plan is admittedly very liberal and has the potential to harm poorer tax payers, ultimately, it has its roots in good intentions. This is a major problem for the American youth, and free college would make an extreme difference in their lives.

Realistically, this plan probably won’t make it very far, even if Warren gets elected. There are too many flaws, too many issues for both Democrats and Republicans. But we should continue trying to do something about it, to save both the future of America and our bank accounts.

Thank you, Mr. Garrison, for everything

On April 11, when Mr. Garrison announced his plan to retire after this semester, it took the school by surprise. The Macjournalism post that broke the news to students received 861 likes and 101 comments (both all-time records for our account), and the story of his retirement quickly made its way to into the top of The Shield Online trending list. The announcement reached students, parents and alums alike, all of whom were eager to express their surprise, sadness and admiration. Logically, we all knew that our beloved principal would retire one day, but many of us never considered that we would be there when it happened.

Though the news is still sad for current seniors, they will still be able to walk across the stage at graduation, receive their diplomas, and shake Mr. Garrison’s hand on their way out. As for the freshmen, many of them did not have enough time to really get to know the McCallum principal before his departure. For everyone stuck in the middle, however, it is hard to imagine a McCallum without him. It is difficult to realize that when next year’s students pull into the parking lot on Aug. 20 and make their way through the front doors, it will not be Mr. Garrison’s smile greeting them or his voice asking about their summer adventures.

Throughout his 16 years at McCallum, he has worked hard to ensure that we have been able to learn in a safe, open community without restricting our freedoms and opinions.”

Even though he is moving into retirement, the impact Mr. Garrison has had on the McCallum community will not fade any time soon. Throughout his 16 years at McCallum, he has worked hard to ensure that we have been able to learn in a safe, open community without restricting our freedoms and opinions, and he has done a very good job of making McCallum a second home for the students and the teachers he supports. His legacy continues with us, in the positive school experiences that he has helped provide for us and for our teachers.

The phrase “the principal’s office” oftentimes has negative connotations, but Mr. Garrison’s doors have always been open not just for those who got in trouble, but for those seeking help, advice or even just casual conversation.

Even though he always makes time to help any student who asks for it, his job has certainly not been easy. The job description includes (but is certainly not limited to) overseeing all day-to-day procedures, regulating the budget, hiring faculty, monitoring student accomplishments, helping direct safety procedures in the case of crisis and dealing with parent questions and concerns.
While these tasks are significant, Mr. Garrison made as much if not more of impact outside the school day. He has attended thousands of school functions from McCallum football games, to concerts, to shows. Over the past 16 years, Garrison has shown up to support his students.

A Garrison Gallery

some of our favorite Garrison moments from the past 16 years

Even though his last official days at McCallum are drawing nearer, he confirmed that he will still be with the McCallum community: “From afar, I’ll still be in.”

Garrison has done a very good job of making McCallum a second home for the students and the teachers he supports.”

While we do not know exactly what this will mean, we can certainly hope we have not seen the last of Mr. Garrison. Will he still be at the Battle of the Bell game against Travis to push the bell onto the field? Will he make another appearance at a Pink Week pep rally for pie time? Can he be a guest of honor at next year’s graduation? The year after?

Even for those of us who are not seniors, the last week of school this year will be sentimental. It will be the last week of school at the same McCallum we have known for the past one, two, three or four years.

We challenge everyone next week to share their appreciation for Mr. Garrison. The next time you stop by the office or see him in the hallways during passing periods, tell him what he has done to make your time at McCallum better. Share one of your favorite stories, talk about his impact on the McCallum community or share why you will miss him. Even though we are sorry he is leaving, let’s make his last few days at McCallum the best they can be.

He’s done it for us for a long time. Now it’s our turn.


Don’t lose sleep over admissions

“I’m only joining to make my college application look good.”

“This will be a great resume builder”.

“Colleges love when people are involved in groups like this.”

You may have heard these statements at some point at school, when people are telling their friends about the latest club, volunteer organization or other extracurricular activity that they’ve joined.
But this kind of thinking is a bad idea on multiple levels. Take it from me, someone who began the college admissions process not understanding at all how it works, but then read countless articles, questioned admissions officers and finished all of the applications, financial aid and scholarships while balancing classes, extracurriculars, family, social life and mental health.

First of all, if you’re simply doing something because you’re concerned about college admissions, here’s the thing: colleges don’t care if you were a member of a million extracurriculars. All this tells them is that you were overly concerned about the appearance of success, and that’s not an attractive candidate.

Ultimately, what admissions officers are really looking for are passionate, hard-working students who take the time and make the effort to get involved, and this is best conveyed with meaningful participation in a few choice activities, not entry-level membership in twenty unrelated clubs”

Much like as in dating, the harder someone works to impress someone, the less likely they are to be interested.

What admission officers want to see is that you were deeply involved in a few activities that you truly care about and continued to learn and develop that interest into something meaningful for you.

Do you care deeply about climate change? Then by all means go ahead and join Environmental Knights and fully participate as much as you can. Worried that you don’t have enough volunteer hours on your resume? Instead of jumping into something you don’t really care about, and as a result won’t make the most of, consider what interests you and plan accordingly.

Ultimately, what admissions officers are really looking for are passionate, hard-working students who take the time and make the effort to get involved, and this is best conveyed with meaningful participation in a few choice activities, not entry-level membership in twenty unrelated clubs.

Plus, when it comes to college admission, your biggest priority should be finding the best place for you. If you’re presenting a false version of yourself– someone who deeply cares about x sport, y club and z volunteer project, when in fact you only did those things just to say you did them– then they’re not admitting you for you as a fit for their school. And why would you want to go to school who doesn’t want you as you are?

There’s another thing to consider– if you don’t like it, why are you doing it? We only have four years in high school. There’s enough tedium between class, homework and standardized tests; why would you want to force yourself to devote precious hours of your free time to something you really don’t care about? It doesn’t make sense to overextend yourself for the sake of activities that don’t bring meaning or value to your life.

I quit several extracurricular activities over the course of my time in high school, due to illness, schedule conflicts and being overcommitted, and this often raised concern among the people who cared about me. They would often ask if I was worried about how this would look on college applications, but for me the truth was simple.

At the end of the day, resume-padding just isn’t worth it”

I figured that as long as I was still involved with many of the things that truly mattered to and interested me, admissions officers would see it for what it was: I had to prioritize and I chose those things that made me the most fulfilled so that I could fully invest myself in them.

I firmly believe that quitting can be a beautiful and necessary thing; no one should push themselves past their limit for something that is not deeply important to them. I was not accepted at every school I applied to, but for the ones I was, I felt excited and confident that I was a good fit for them, and vice-versa, as I had presented a truthful version of myself for them to judge.

By choosing carefully and only joining organizations whose missions and values you connect with, you will 1) be happier 2) work harder for that organization 3) make a real difference and 4) find real meaning in how you’re spending your time. And that is what will make an impression on an admission’s officer. More importantly, it will keep you happy and sane throughout the trials and tribulations you will inevitably encounter over the course of your high school career.

At the end of the day, resume-padding just isn’t worth it. You’ll make yourself miserable if you stretch yourself thin across extracurricular activities you aren’t actually invested in. Make yourself a better college candidate, and a happier high school student, and do what you want to do, not what you think you should do.

Let’s stop glorifying materialism

If you were to wake up tomorrow morning with your world in apocalyptic chaos—and you were posed with one question: what will you take when you escape? What are your “bare necessities?” Imagine those items, and imagine all that you would be leaving behind. So much of what we imagine as our everyday needs are really just nonsensical luxury camouflaged as something we cannot live without.

We all have materialistic dreams, no matter how hard we might try to suppress them in exchange for a grateful, minimalist lifestyle. You might believe that your life would be just that much better if you had the new iPhone, or how you would feel so much prettier with that expensive eyeshadow palette. But in reality, it does not matter how much money you have or the material things you have been showered in: you will always want more.

From the beginning of time, humans have had the tendency to require validation from others in exchange for their own happiness. The theory is, if you have other people looking up to you, than you will have achieved the ultimate appearance and “cool factor.” In reality, however, there will always be someone who appears more successful, richer or cooler than you, no matter what you have.

Graphic by Sophie Ryland.

Modern American teens are notorious for having an obscure view of their “needs.” Technology, clothing brands, cosmetic products and many other luxuries have transformed from delicacies to necessities. Society has continued to reform its standards to require a level of materialism in the lives of citizens, forcing people to be left out without the newest phone, or “cringy” if their appearance fails to match the current style. This consumerism obstructs the views of young people still trying to navigate and learn about the constantly changing world around them.

As the modern market enthralls its buyers, enticing them to keep up to speed with modern trends, it also sets up an unhealthy standard that says that people “need” these products, when in reality, once you attain that product, you will not be satisfied. You will once again be pulled into the miserable cycle of not having enough, and relying on having that next product or material good.

At McCallum in particular, students are less focused on popular mainstream influencers such as the Kardashians or Jenners. On an Macjournalism Instagram poll, 79 percent answered “no” when asked if celebrity endorsements influence their purchasing choices. When I see my peers, however, I cannot help but notice similar expensive brands endorsed by celebrities. Those celebrities may not be as prominent as the Kardashians; however alternative, influencers such as rap artist and designer Tyler the Creator inspire many teens to purchase those mainstream brands.

But in reality, it does not matter how much money you have or the material things you have been showered in: you will always want more”

But is it such a bad thing that teenagers are indulging in similar brands? Surely there will always be brands that dominate fashion and material culture, although I believe it is important to notice when those trends shift into becoming harmful.

“Supreme” is a very popular clothing company among teenagers. With its signature red logo on its products, it has quickly become an important symbol of wealth, and teens “flex” (or show off) their clothes, etc., to one another.

Aside from clothing, the company also produces expensive designs for items as simple as a shovel, or even a crowbar for as much as $400. It is believed that this company’s success is due to its product exclusivity and price, making many of their items not only expensive but scarce. These designs are worn by many artists and model influencers, thus becoming increasingly more appealing to teenagers and young adults alike.

A social influencer can be defined as a person with a significant amount of followers on a social media platform. These people can use their social media account to make revenue from ads, attracting followers, and, in some cases, even be paid by the platform to post consistently.

This idea that we must participate in the buying of items—including those of us who cannot afford to buy multi-hundred dollar clothing items—in order to belong with our peers is a perfect example of why materialism can be fatal to the unity of our community.

Materialism consequentially often ends in a feeling of isolation from your peers and the furthering division of social circles. If you root your identity in the materials you possess, soon you’ll find yourself without an identity and without a strong connection to those you hold close.

What’s in a name? In this case, a lot.

Recently, the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees voted to change the names of several AISD schools such as Reagan Early College High School (now Northeast Early College High School), Fulmore Middle School (now Sarah Lively Middle School), and Lanier High School (now Navarro High School), in an effort to cut ties from the Confederate leaders after which they were originally named.

If McCallum were to be renamed to something else, we would resist the change, but eventually, we would accept the new name especially if it honored someone who was deserving.”

Confederates soldiers like Zachary Taylor Fulmore and Sidney Lanier, all the way to the generals Albert S. Johnston and Robert E. Lee and the Postmaster-General John H. Reagan, have long had their names plastered across AISD campuses. These schools needed to be renamed, and the fact that action is finally being taken in 2019 is a promising step for the future.

These figures should be taught in history classes so students can fully understand the story of the Civil War and how the country was as fragmented and racially divided, but these figures should not be honored or immortalized with their name looming over the front entrance of AISD schools. The proposed and passed name changes look to honor innovators and educators that have shaped their communities and have left a positive mark on them.

Newly named Lively Middle School, named after teacher Sarah Lively, who taught at the school for 47 years, is one of the five schools that will be getting a name change for a combined cost of $70,000. This price tag is significant but worth it because the names are remnants of a bitter conflict in the nation’s history that should not be honored anymore—removing the connection between these remnants and our schools’ identities is worth a small bite out of the budget.

Minority students deserve positive role models, not ones who would have opposed their very presence at the schools they attend. ”

The schools also need to be renamed because they are generally outdated. They are all named after people who lived and died in the 1800s to early 1900s. Choosing more modern figures to serve as namesakes can better represent the diverse and contemporary populace that AISD serves.
Ultimately, to honor members of an army, and for a time, an independent country that supported slavery and was traitorous to the United States by naming a school after them, especially at schools that serve a significant minority population, is insensitive and unjust.

Supporters of keeping the names argue that the names represent the school’s history are a source of school pride. While this is no doubt true, it is also true that in time the new names will take on the same significance especially because they are honoring a more positive legacy. If McCallum were to be renamed to something else, we would resist the change, but eventually, we would accept the new name especially if it honored someone who was deserving.

Like all students, minority students deserve positive role models, not ones who would have opposed their very presence at the schools they attend. Lively was a teacher who had a profound impact on her students, while Navarro was an Army officer that was killed in 2012 in Afghanistan. These name changes seem to honor deserving figures who made a significant contribution to the campuses that now bear their name.

These schools needed to be renamed, and the fact that action is finally being taken in 2019 is a promising step for the future. ”

The only name change that does not make sense to us is the change from Reagan to Northeast High. Instead of paying tribute to someone deserving from the community, the district decided that the school should just be named after the literal location of the campus. Reagan students have a right to be upset about their school’s renaming; they should have had a say in their school’s new moniker. Besides this particular choice, the name changes are positive changes for the schools and the communities they serve.

These name changes for Fulmore and Lanier make sense and although Reagan’s name change is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction to update a name that has been long outdated.

The dirty truth about recycling

Picture yourself out for lunch at Central Market; you just finished drinking your coffee. There is a recycling bin across the outdoor patio, or there is a trash can a few feet away: which do you choose? What if you found out that both bins led to the same destructive result?

The Austin residential recycling department said that about 30 percent of plastic collected in “single stream” bins can’t be recycled. ”

Thousands of tons of materials left curbside for recycling in American towns and cities are going to landfills. Americans recycle millions of tons of trash per year, trusting that the items that we toss in the blue bin go somewhere other than the landfill. While many hope that their recycling is getting re-purposed or turned into something new, the truth is a lot of it isn’t getting recycled at all. In the past, paper, plastic and other materials were sorted and then shipped abroad to China, where they would be processed. Over a third of the recyclables around the world get shipped abroad and China is the biggest importer. About 45 percent of the world’s plastic set for recycling has been exported to China since 1992.

In 2018 China passed the National Sword policy, banning plastic waste from being imported for the protection of the environment and people’s health. China announced that it no longer wanted to import “foreign garbage.” While some waste managers who send recyclables to be processed domestically, or who ship to alternate countries continue to be successful, a majority of our country’s recycling supply is going directly to the landfill. We now have to ask the question how can we better negotiate among ourselves, among the world’s diverse peoples and cultures, so that we can resolve this issue and navigate toward a better future?

Many local officials are not telling residents about the decline due to a fear that residents will give up on recycling altogether.

While China has strictly banned 24 different materials, it also has demanded that the accepted materials (cardboard and metal) be only 0.5 percent impure. If you do not rinse the container or glass before recycling it, even a tiny amount of food or other trash can ruin a entire batch of recycling. Many waste companies say that the new contamination standards are impossible to meet, while others are attempting to clean up recycling streams by limiting accepted materials and educating people on what items can be recycled.

Long before China’s recycling wall, plenty of “recyclables” ended up in landfills due to “single stream” recycling. Single-stream recycling is where residents are able to put everything in the same bin. This method is a switch designed to encourage more recycling; however, it results in more stuff that can not be recycled because it becomes “contaminated.” The Austin residential recycling department said that about 30 percent of plastic collected in these “single stream” bins can’t be recycled. Scrap plastic, previously exported to China netted $300 million in 2015, but now is only worth about $7.6 million. Alternate countries have stepped in to accept more plastics but exports are still down by 40 percent. Countries such as Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam, have picked up some of what China is leaving behind; however, they do not waste management systems as well-developed as China’s.

While China has been widely vilified as the cause of the recycling uproar, industry watchers say that the blame should not be placed solely on China. China has announced public-health concerns, environmental concerns, and an aspiration for independence, as reasons for its policy change. So, who then should be held accountable for this mess? It turns out we are all to blame.

China’s waste-import restrictions have shown the flaws and problems of the American recycling industry and how bad American consumers are at recycling. One of the major reasons that China created these restrictions is due to the United States sending too much contaminated material that is not recyclable. Many Americans are “wishful recyclers.”

Rinse containers, glasses, and cartons before recycling them. This two-minute act can save a whole neighborhood’s worth of recycling from being contaminated and sent to the trash.”

When you take recycling to the blue bin, whether it be at home or at your job or school, it is considered curbside recycling. Typically, curbside recycling is taken by a private company to a sorting plant where then the marketable goods are separated out. The goods found are then sold by companies or local governments to overseas processors. These private companies used to get paid by selling off these recyclable materials; now, it is as if they are being paid simply to have someone take it away. These stricter requirements are also an indication that recycling is more likely to be deemed “contaminated” if they contain materials that are not recyclable. This situation can be referred to as wishful recycling, where people set aside various items for recycling just because they hope they are recyclable even when they may not be.

Most plastic bags, coffee cups, dirty takeout containers, Christmas lights and garden hoses are all not recyclable, yet many Americans toss their trash into the recycling bin without a second thought.

By 2030 it is predicted that about 111 million metric tons of plastic waste will be displaced because of China’s new law. This amount is equal to nearly half of all plastic waste imported since 1988. There are expectations that this turn in the recycling industry will continue for months or years, but there is also optimism that the industry will eventually emerge better and stronger. Already, new recycling markets have emerged with the potential to perform the role that China once did. Recently, recycling has flooded into other Asian nations.

In order to resolve this quickly escalating problem, Americans should take a few extra steps before depositing items in the blue bin. Rinse containers, glasses, and cartons before recycling them. This two-minute act can save a whole neighborhood’s worth of recycling from being contaminated and sent to the trash. We must act fast, as the amount of waste we create continues to expand. Check local guidelines to find out what can and what cannot be recycled. Get the peanut butter out of the jar, rise out your smoothie cup and never put plastic bags in the recycling. A sustained way of living is what society needs, and we can built one if we embrace beneficial changes to our everyday lives.

The dangers of anger


It’s created by people’s minds and bodies when they’re in danger, or when something was not needed but done anyway unfairly. Though throughout a person’s life they may need some agitation in order to be successful, they do not need too much, as it’s definitely toxic, and causes nothing but trouble.

For example, you’re more likely to experience a stroke(s), depression, heart attack, low self-esteem, a weakened immune system, when you are angry.  Though many people experience these ailments throughout their lives, it can be much more commonplace throughout high school.

With the mental-health presentation, a person(s) making threats on the school, and with finals and STAAR exams coming up, I feel that students should be aware of how being angry can negatively affect the lives of students.

People are more likely to experience strain because of feeling underappreciated, or threatened, or just intimidated by all of the school/homework they have to do. It can be very demanding in this rapid transition to adulthood.

     When people are angry, they are known for:

  • Anger Repression(Keeping unhealthy aggravated feelings to yourself and hiding it).
  • Having frequent “explosions” or strong, extended sessions of anger.
  • Becoming violent easier and at a higher rate than those who don’t have anger issues throughout their lives.
  • Having episodes of “Red-Vision”, meaning that people had gotten so angry that they saw red when almost primal anger took control of them.
  • Making rash everyday decisions that they don’t think about beforehand.

Fortunately, adults and students alike can treat their anger issues by talking with trusted friends and family, but there is also much you can do to help not just treat it but to also improve the lives of everyone around you. Some people need more encouragement than others, but in the long run, it will help them in many situations in their lives, and may even lower the risk of developing lifelong mental health issues that can affect them, such as anxiety, depression, I.E.D. (Intermittent Explosive Disorder), ADHD, and others. Though it is perfectly normal to have periods like this that aren’t continuous; people get better as long as they seek help or care from a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist. There are things you can do in order to calm down, though sometimes it may not be easy.

     Things You Can Do:

  • Speak to someone you trust. Try writing. Share your thoughts and opinions, instead of keeping them pent up inside. This benefits many people, including you.
  • Squeeze a ball, or go do something to get out your anger in a healthy manner, like jogging or a sport. Sometimes it is better to walk away before you have consequences to deal with.
  • Use positive self-talk such as, “I can handle this. Everything will be OK.”
  • Read something you enjoy. This can help the anger recede, and you will be able to think clearly.
  • Take a deep breath, count up to or down from 10, and/or take a few minutes to imagine going to a favorite place or doing a calming activity; this helps people put themselves in a calm state of mind.
  • Listen to the person you may be angry at. If you’re upset about something or with someone else, talking to people and listening to their perspective—even if it is the person you’re angry with—may help you understand exactly what caused the problem, so you can fix it or figure out what you can do in the future to prevent the situation.

I advocate every person who reads this to just take a step back, relax, count up-to or down from 10, and to ask themselves, “What am I mad about? How can this be helped?” Anger could be a major motivating factor in people’s lives, whereas to others, it is unneeded and could be removed. It can be hard to ask these questions in-the-moment, so I urge you to sit down with a close friend or counselor, and to take a good, long evaluation of your life, and to figure out what needs to be done to make life less of an angry mess to those who need it. Simply think about it, and use the tools and techniques of this article and others, in order to help keep the calm as you determine what the next best course of action may be.

Resources for those who need them:

Mental Health Crisis Information from AISD

It was the best of years; it was the worst of years