Library amends phone policy

By India Altchul ’20

The middle school library recently implemented a new policy prohibiting cell phone use between first and ninth period, unless a student has permission from a teacher or librarian. Prior to this, the rule was consistent with the rest of the Middle School: no cell phone use between first and eighth period. Elaine Levia, a middle school librarian, gave her thoughts on the new policy.

“The library faculty decided to extend the cell-phone-free rule by one period in order to maintain an environment that is conducive for work, studying and collaboration,” Levia said.

Levia said that she thinks the new policy will promote a more collaborative environment in which students talk with each other instead of staring at a cell phone screen. This will encourage students to interact with each other and focus on their work instead of social media, texts and other cell phone interactions.

“The response has been positive. It seems like it is a policy that makes sense. Making rules is not enjoyable, but being able to have constructive conversations around the boundaries that are set has been really awesome,” Levia said.

However, some of the students disagree with Levia, but still agree to follow the cell phone policy.

“I think that we should at least be able to use our phones ninth during period because we can everywhere else on campus,” Keira Jameson ’22 said.

The policy will be in effect until the end of the school year.

Teachers return to campus

By Ty Goodrich ’20

Science and Communications teacher Alex Ras returned to the Middle school on Feb. 27, five months after welcoming her first child, Calvin Ras on Oct. 18.  According to Ras, doing great.  Ras spoke on how she is managing with her first son.

“I was pretty prepared, but it is still very hard,” Ras said.

Ras also said that she has had a great experience with her son even though the first month was a struggle, as she could not go to sleep with Calvin either wanting to eat, cry or sleep.

She said that when she first saw her son smile, she knew whether he was happy or sad and that cleared things up. Ras spoke about her potential trip to Disneyland with Calvin.

“It is May 13, so it is coming up, he’ll only be seven months old, so I do not  think he will be able to ride Space Mountain yet,” Ras said jokingly.

Ras said she had a bit of a tough time returning to school as she had to keep track of a lot of different tasks.  She said that the support and friendliness of her peers helped her ease back into school.

“My colleagues have welcomed me back and have really kept me on track since I have returned,”  Ras Said.

Ras’s students were overjoyed to have her back.

“I am glad Ms. Ras is back because she always comes to class excited and very organized,” Gabe Glassman ‘22.

Math teacher Regan Galvan and English teacher Erin Creznic also returned to the Middle School on Mar. 27.


Spain trip held over break

By Sydney Hogan ’20

Ninth and tenth grade Spanish students will travel to Spain during Spring Break.

The trip will last for two and a half weeks, from Thursday to April 16. Even though it is preferable for students to be taking Spanish, complete beginners that want to learn through immersion can still attend the trip.

Two ninth graders and 24 sophomores will be on the trip. The students will in Madrid for the first week and will stay with host families. In Madrid they will attend five-hour classes in the mornings and extracurricular activities during the afternoons.

After Madrid, the students will travel to Sevilla, and then on to Cadiz for a week at a lingual institute. They will also visit Toledo and Cordova to experience Spain’s medieval architecture. On April 15, the students will visit Spain’s oldest university.

“The main goal is to develop the existing language skills and improve communication skills, “Upper School Spanish teacher Javier Zaragoza said.

Students will be exposed to Spain’s food, culture and artists like Picasso, Goya and Dali when they visit museums.

Both Zaragoza and the attending students said they are thrilled about the trip.

“I am excited to learn about new cultures in a new continent,” Josue Martin’20 said.


Annual Washington trip to take place

By Jordan Murray ’20

Seventh grade students will leave for their annual Washington trip on Saturday. The leader of the trip is history teacher George Gaskin, and he will be accompanied by five teacher chaperones.

“We thought when we made the seventh grade course, American History and Government, that there should be a trip to D.C. We wanted the kids to see the government in action,” Gaskin said.

The history department wanted students to have the opportunity to see national monuments and historic places that they would learn about in class.

“We want it to be an educational trip, but a fun trip as well”, Gaskin said.

Participants will visit places such as Mount Vernon, Arlington Cemetery and other monuments around the National Mall. Students on the trip will also have a tour through the Capitol Building and a private meeting with Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

This trip was offered to all seventh grade students. Students said that they are excited to attend and see the monuments that they have been studying in class.

“I am looking forward to going to all the different sites and learning more about them,” Olivia Sparks ’22 said.



Simon Says Girls Club hosts speakers

By Zoe Redlich ’20
Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts accepts her sweatshirt from the Girl’s Club. Credit: Zoe Redlich ’20/SPECTRUM

In celebration of Women’s Futures Month, the Simon Says Girls Club hosted inspirational speakers on Thursdays at break throughout March. In general, the club meets to discuss how both girls and women fit into modern day society.

The first speaker was Keren Johnson ’02 on March 2. Johnson now works in the Advancement Office. However, before returning to the Middle School, Johnson worked with both Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration.

“She came in to talk to the girls about what it was like to be in those positions and how the men treat the women differently and how you have to dress differently. So pretty much that is the whole theme of the whole month for women’s futures, to have women come in who are in positions that have typically been held by men,” Attendance and Health Coordinator Brenda Simon, head of the club, said.

Middle School Chaplain Rabbi Emily Feigenson spoke about her journey to becoming a rabbi on March 9. According to Simon, Feigenson knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a rabbi, but there were many obstacles in her way.

“She helped explain how she kept going after she realized that it’s not normal for a woman to be a rabbi. It was helpful for her to explain how she managed to make a living in that area,” club member Isa Sylbert ’22 said.

The next speaker was Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts, who came to speak on March 16. Huybrechts is retiring at the end of this year, and as a parting gift, the Girls Club gave her a sweatshirt.

Following Huybrechts, seventh grade dean Kate Benton visited the club on March 23 to speak about her struggles in the entertainment industry and how she overcame them.

The last speaker was Simon herself on Thursday.

“I have a couple of issues that I want to talk about, such as the things that came out about women with this past election,” Simon said a few weeks before she was scheduled to speak. According to the communications director of the club, Eunice Kiang ’20, students learned a lot from listening to the speakers.

“I think they’re learning a lot about other women’s experiences so that they can apply it to their own lives,” Kiang said.



Martinez Celaya speaks to students

By Lindsay Wu ’20
Martinez-Celaya lectures the students. Credit: Giselle Dalili ’20/SPECTRUM

Artist, author and trained physicist Enrique Martinez Celaya P ’20 spoke at a ninth grade class meeting on March 14.  Martinez Celaya’s presentation focused on individuality and life experiences relatable to students.

Martinez Celaya spoke about the progression of his career as an artist, starting with his decision to pursue art instead of physics in his high school years.  He discussed his previous artwork, including projects he created for the State Hermitage Museum in Russia, the Cathedral Church of St. John in New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  He also mentioned his works as an author and offered book recommendations to students.

To end his speech, Martinez Celaya emphasized the importance of pursuing interests true to each individual.

“The ultimate message I wanted to convey to everyone was to remain authentic.  You are who you really are, which I think a lot of people say but don’t truly follow.  It’s really a lot of work to remain authentic and who we truly are.  It’s a struggle, so I think it’s really important to emphasize, especially with these ninth graders.  Whether you’re a scientist or an artist, everything comes from being authentic,” Martinez Celaya said.

Students and faculty said that they were inspired by Martinez Celaya’s speech.

“I really enjoyed Mr. Martinez Celaya’s visit to our class meeting.  He had really insightful opinions that were kind of difficult to comprehend, yet very relatable as a teenager.  His ideas will definitely help guide me through life,” Scarlett Strasberg ’20 said.

Eighth, ninth grade students receive Humanitas Award

By Laura Kors ’21
Humanitas recipients accept their certificates and handshakes. Credit: Astor Wu ’20/SPECTRUM

Twenty-eight students will receive Humanitas awards during the second semester. Ninth graders recipients received them during class meetings on March 14, and eighth graders will receive them during a class meeting after spring break. The award encourages students to be active and service their community.

To qualify for the award, students must fill out an application involving an essay, perform 27 hours of community service and complete four hours of volunteer school service. Ninth graders must complete the community service requirement from last January to this January, but eighth graders are given from the beginning of seventh grade to this January.

According to Director of Student Affairs Keith Jordan, the award is meant to validate students for going beyond the school service requirement and taking more action as part of the larger community. It reminds other students who did not receive the awards about the value of service and encourages everyone to think about the world around them.

“I think it is just a good way to kind of reinforce to the students that won that the school takes service seriously, and we think it is important for [students] to have kind of a sense that you are part of a larger community…. It is a good way also as a reminder for other students at the school… you get to see your fellow classmates and friends and people you know be rewarded for having that mentality and think about others and how you can help,” Jordan said.

Students said that they enjoy the process of the awards as well and helping out the community.

“I really like the process of the awards because not only do you get to help out the community in ways that you choose, but you also got the chance to write a little bit about the work and your own personal reflection,” Humanitas award recipient Michael Lehrhoff ‘20 said.

National Scholastic awards announced

By Samantha Morris ’21

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards were recently presented to many Wolverine students. The competition was hosted by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, a non-profit organization that aims to celebrate creative students in grades seven through 12. This year, 330,000 pieces of writing and art were judged in the contest, which accepts submissions in 29 different categories. In total, 119 students from the school won either gold keys, silver keys or honorable mentions at the regional level of this competition. Specifically, 103 students received awards for their art or portfolios, while 16 were celebrated for their writing.

“I like the fact that Harvard-Westlake offers us the opportunity to participate in these kinds of competitions. It was really nice to see my friends and me recognized for our hard work,” Giulia Germano ’20 said.

Students who earned gold keys progressed into the national rounds of the competition. Fourteen of these students earned awards at the nationwide level, their various pieces categorized as either writing portfolios, personal essay and memoirs, critical essays, photography or paintings. Four of these students, Kaelyn Bowers ’19, Skylar Graham ’20, Haley Levin ’20 and Berry Nakash ’20, earned gold medals in their divisions. Nakash, Bowers and Levin earned gold medals for their paintings, entitled “The Hills Have Eyes,” “Self Portrait” and “Phrenology,” respectively. Graham’s photograph, “Self Portrait _ The Politics Of Hair,” earned not only a gold medal, but also a best-in-grade award. The National Ceremony celebrating the winning artwork is scheduled for June 8 at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Members of the Visual Arts Department have said that they are proud to acknowledge the hard work and success of these students, and have also spoken about the value of becoming involved in this competition.

“We participate because it’s good to get the students out of the framework of our specific environment, see the greater world and see that they can be contenders on a bigger stage than just the school,” Visual Arts Department Head Katherine Palmer ’98 said.


Math team places at State Contest

By Jeanine Kim ’20

Several members of the Math Club participated at the MathCounts State Competition on March 12. The team, comprised of Tyler Weigand ’21, Ryan Tsai ’21, Jacky Zhang ’21 and William Tao ‘21, and one individual, Lyon Chung ’21, represented the school at the Southern California state competition. The team placed seventh out of 32 teams. These members qualified for state by performing well at the Chapter Competition on Feb. 25. The team took first, Chung scored high enough to advance to the next round and Weigand was the top scorer of the entire tournament. The club is led by math teacher Karen Salerno and Esmeralda Muñoz.

“[I’m proud] that they broke into the top 10 teams, which hasn’t been done at our school,” Salerno said.

MathCounts is a national competition for middle school students who are interested in competitive math. There are two rounds for all competitors, team members and individuals alike, which are the sprint and targets rounds. The team round is an additional part for the team that consists of ten problems for the four students work on together. The countdown round is an extra round for the top 12 competitors, where students quickly solve math problems under a time limit against their opponent.

“MathCounts was fun because I got to solve math problems with my team,” Chung said.



Debaters succeed at national tournament

By Celine Park ’20
Debaters pose with the plaques they won and a flight attendant before their flight returning home. Credit: Uploaded with permission of Shania Hunt 

The school’s team of Lincoln Douglas debaters won the Novice National Debate Tournament that took place in Atlanta from March 16 to 19. The team competed against first-year debaters from schools all over the country. Students assessed whether public colleges and universities in the United States ought not restrict any constitutionally protected speech. Eight out of the 14 total cleared debaters who advanced to partial octa-finals were from Harvard-Westlake.

The students’ schedules for the three days in Atlanta consisted of practice debates and two official rounds on March 17.

The debaters participated in the four remaining rounds the next day, and students who advanced to the top 14 proceeded to compete on Sunday. On the same evening, the team flew back to Los Angeles.

“It was a really great experience. During the trip we all got to eat hamburgers and milkshakes, and that was super fun.  This was also a nice time to bond with the ninth graders on the team, who make debate more enjoyable. And they’re really good mentors,” semifinal qualifier Allie Landecker ’21 said.

Jonathan Cosgrove ‘21, who won first place at the tournament, explained how he prepared for his rounds.

“One of the positive things that arose during my rounds

was being well prepared.  It was like studying really hard for a test and then knowing everything on it. I would like to thank all of my teammates and coaches who made it possible for me to do debate this past year,” Cosgrove said.