The Official Student-Run Newspaper of California High School

The Californian

The Official Student-Run Newspaper of California High School

The Californian

The Official Student-Run Newspaper of California High School

The Californian

Closing the Door on 2024

The Californian seniors look back on our four wild years at Cal High
Illustration by Erin Kim

Four years after our depressing, virtual eighth grade promotion, we’ve almost managed to graduate Cal High still standing.
Yes, we have to stand because they bulldozed the bleachers just in time for graduation. What else would you expect?
The Class of 2024 weathered a global pandemic, torrential rain storms, and a debilitating outbreak of senioritis to get here. It’s been a fun four years.
Here’s a look back at the most unforgettable moments in our high school journey.


Freshman year: LOCKDOWN (2020-21)

Does this one even count?
Freshman year felt more like a year-long spring break than our first year of high school.
Instead of inaugurating our high school experience in Cal’s beige hallways, we kicked off high school from the comfort of our (quarantined) rooms.
Many of us set foot on Cal’s campus only for “orientation.” Freshman year became a hole in our lives – the blurry gap between middle school and high school. All because of that pesky virus that starts with a C and ends with a 19 that shut down the world.
At the time of our teenage years meant for finding ourselves and forging friendships, we instead found ourselves lost and isolated in our bedrooms/classrooms.
But as we lost opportunities to make new friends, join new clubs and try new things, we gained the ability to adapt and multitask.
From FlipGrid video assignments to Zoom discussions to online notebooks and even games of, students and teachers were able to use technology to their advantage and connect in new ways, some of which we still use today.
We also learned how to pay attention to our screens on one side while waking up, getting ready and eating breakfast on the other. We learned how to keep up with friends despite being unable to see them. We learned to face uncertainty and fear with acknowledgment and courage.
In 2020, we donned our masks and waited with uncertainty. We waited for a vaccine, breakout rooms to open, and everything to go back to normal. All the adults that were supposed to know what they were doing were clueless.
Wildfires then turned the skies orange, seemingly heralding the apocalypse. Black Lives Matters protests, anti-vaxxing movements and a Capitol insurrection made us question everything we thought we knew.
We threw away countless hours into the void of Zoom and Google Classroom assignments without learning anything. We saw more black boxes, foreheads and ceiling fans than we ever asked for. We faked all those jump roping exercise logs in online PE.
But we figured it out, we adjusted, and we survived. We learned how to meet each other and make connections despite the circumstances. We picked up new hobbies. And we learned to value the people in our lives who helped us stay sane.
“Among Us”, anyone?


Sophomore year: A NEW NORMAL (2021-22)

Our first real day of school felt unreal.
The sun smiled down upon us, the beautiful new world language building mural welcomed us, and sweaty teenagers swarmed around us for what felt like the first time in ages. Everything was back to normal . . . if we could forget about the masks and everyone’s sudden addiction to “Squid Game”.
But returning from the pandemic apparently triggered some repressed primal urge of destruction in us cooped-up teenagers. Maybe it was the slimy toilets. Or perhaps it was the free but nearly-as-slimy school lunch.
Either way, students were suddenly possessed to disembowel Cal’s bathrooms with a vengeance, swiping stall doors, ripping out soap dispensers, and even making off with a urinal.
Seriously, why would you want a urinal?
The ‘Devious Licks’ TikTok trend corrupted even the most pedestrian of souls, driving them to obliterate anything bathroom-related in an affirmation-seeking frenzy.
This surge in misbehavior wasn’t just in bathrooms, though. Senior chalk day was tarnished by vulgar graffiti. Burglars broke into French teacher Miranda Kershaw’s room. Students chanted “F**k you Antioch” at our first varsity football game since the pandemic.
It was a bit of a rough transition, to say the least.
We also received a lot of things we didn’t ask for. In an impressive show of the district’s intellect, might and prowess, it bestowed Schoology upon us. Portables nobody used appeared by the basketball courts. And a new infectious variant of COVID arrived.
Finally, everything crashed and burned in a dumpster fire. Literally.
An unknown individual set a garbage can on fire in the all-gender bathroom, forcing the entire school to evacuate as firefighters rushed to the scene. Lucky students had the opportunity to witness history teacher Daniel Sweetnam helping extinguish the flames.
Adapting to the post-pandemic ‘normal’ was (clearly) a struggle.
But it was also a blast. School spirit roared back to life with the first in-person rallies in more than a year. Clubs began to meet again after a year of inactivity. Sports increased in attendance and popularity.
We received individual Chromebooks, which became our begrudging sidekicks throughout our high school journey. (If you ever have the fortune of losing yours, the library will insist they cost $500. They feel more like they’re worth $50 whenever they try to load YouTube, though.)
Our Chromebooks gave us newfound ways to work. We used more online forums like Padlet and submitted more assignments on Google Docs rather than paper.
We found unblocked game sites and figured out how to hide our phones under our desks.
We rekindled old friendships and made new ones. We restarted real learning (because no one learned anything online). Sure, the lunch was slimy, but it was also free. (Free!)
For the first time, Cal started to feel like home.


Junior year: TECH TAKEOVER (2022-23)

All we remember about this year is new Principal Demetrius Ball’s gloriously bald head. Legend says it’s glossy depths can prophesize your future college decisions. ’Nuff said.
With the new administration came new technology. Ball commanded an army of sentient robots bent on conquering Cal: the scanner system. These beeping monstrosities marked countless students absent as they glitched or shut down.
It took the entire year for admin to finally scrap them.
But that wasn’t the only tech takeover. The advent of ChatGPT in 2022 probably heralded the AI apocalypse.
But more importantly, we could use it to cheat on work!
Unfortunately, at the time, the model wrote B-level essays, messed up even simple addition, and didn’t know of any events after January 2021.
On the other hand, it could tell us how to successfully take over the world, so perhaps it had some use after all.
Students seemed to care more about these new technologies than school spirit. By this point, we had seen enough rallies to last a lifetime. In the spirit of 10th grade’s “F**k you Antioch”, dissident upperclassmen chanted “F**k the freshmen” at rallies and jeered at leadership.
Leadership’s reputation further deteriorated after the mess of ColorFest. Staff found the rappers leadership contracted for $50,000 smoking in the theater and asked them to leave without performing. (If only Cal’s bathroom smokers got thousands of dollars for being under the influence).
Not to worry, though, because in place of school spirit, we had standardized testing in the form of AP exams, SATs, ACTs, and the ever-present CAASPP.
Some positives of junior year included continued free lunches, a new badminton team, and fewer lockdowns.But with a lockdown that ended with a mysterious roof figure and an unknown amount of bomb threats, no one could say junior year was
Despite all this commotion, junior year was a year of growth. We navigated new technology and figured ourselves out. The year’s chaos drove us closer together and strengthened our relationships. Junior year was our time to define ourselves and our talents. In our hectic third year at Cal, we grew not just as students but also as people.


Senior year: THE END (2023-24)

And now we arrive at our favorite year.
We began with a bang, writing our lives’ best essays for a chance to be spun in the College-Wheel-of-Fortune.
We embellished one-hour volunteer shifts into leadership positions and turned our clubs into cancer-curing organizations. We perfected our applications until the last minute (not at all because we started on the due date).
Despite college application stress, this is the best year.
The food has become significantly better after Cal’s new kitchen was constructed. Plus, many of us can check ourselves out of school by this time of year.
Our relationships with our teachers became more equal and respectful. We got more leeway from teachers and parents, from lighter class loads to assignments to more freedom talking in class.
Especially once January hit, most of us have been kicking back, relaxing and enjoying the show of juniors frantically stressing about nearly everything (including SATs, which are miraculously beginning to become required again).
Of course, not everything was sunshine-and-rainbows.
The administration’s new detention system is more than enough to make up for the fall of the scanners and admin has the nine-fold increase in detentions to prove it.
The college application process has become more confusing with the continuation of “test-optional” policies and the Supreme Court’s striking down of affirmative action programs. The admissions cycle, similarly, has proven to be historically competitive.
Back in November, we were faced with the prospect of yet another failed graduation ceremony. After the online mess that was eighth grade promotion, we were to have our 12th grade graduation ruined by the removal of the home bleachers and press box.
Instead of our friends and family cheering us on, we would graduate with limited seating and bulldozers lining the sides of the football field (or perhaps we might have had graduation at Dougherty. Who knows?)
Thankfully, administrators came to their senses and decided that we could indeed have a graduation ceremony on campus as normal (though the bulldozers remain, unfortunately).
At this crossroad in our lives, we have the opportunity to neatly wrap up our high school careers and leave a lasting impact on the impressionable young minds of the current freshmen, sophomores and juniors.
While senior pranks have been stamped out by administrators, perhaps we can slip one or two in. Perhaps we can change Cal High – or maybe even the world – for ages to come.

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About the Contributors
Andrew Ma
Andrew Ma, Editor-in-Chief
Senior Andrew Ma is Editor-in-Chief of The Californian Paper. Now that he is officially geriatric after writing for the paper since freshman year, he is eager to experiment with new forms of media, suggest more in-depth feedback, and report on bizarre stories. He also may unwittingly become a victim of a cruel and senseless senior identity theft scheme. In his free time, you’ll find Andrew baking desserts at high temperatures, playing Pokemon with his laptop at high temperatures, and running XC (also at high temperatures for some reason).
Aarav Manjunath
Aarav Manjunath, Staff Writer
Senior Aarav Manjunath is a first-year reporter for The Californian Paper. After three years of watching Editor-in-Chief Andrew Ma work his magic, Aarav is ready to join in (both to the paper and a certain identity theft scheme). In his free time, Aarav can be found reading and running.

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