When Tanaka Dunbar-Ngwara describes her high school experience, her passion and dedication to the arts is palpable. During her time at Berkeley High School (BHS), she has found a community through participating in theater and her small school, Berkeley International High School (BIHS). Dunbar-Ngwara has been a part of numerous BHS theater productions both behind the scenes and on stage, including A Raisin in the Sun, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Glass Menagerie, The Colored Museum, and Carrie. One of her favorite memories from her time at BHS is her experience co-directing The Glass Menagerie. “We didn’t really have a design team … and so we were three people trying to do the work of an entire design team, and so we were all just constantly running around. There was so much going on, and I thought that there was just no way that the show was going to go up. But it did!” Dunbar-Ngwara explained.
After attending middle school in Zimbabwe, Dunbar-Ngwara was struck by the open environment at BHS. “When I came into BHS I was really hoping that it would help me appreciate the things that were unique and special about me… and I really think that BHS has made me feel like those things about me are really valid and very much appreciated by our community and our part of the world,” she said.
After high school, Dunbar-Ngwara will be attending Princeton University to study musical theater and opera. Her long term goal is to become a musical theater performer and to write and compose musicals. Driven by her love for theater, Dunbar-Ngwara aims to “explore theater from all angles and work within different parts of the theater industry.”
Dunbar-Ngwara encourages newcomers to BHS to find a community, whether it be through small schools or through extracurriculars such as sports or theater. “Coming to BHS is really exciting because you meet such amazing people and you get to learn and talk about the world … So enjoy that and lean into it as much as you can,” she said.
Jack's friends consider him to be a passionate, smart, yet stubborn and overall funny person. He has demonstrated his leadership ability and passion as the Senior Class President of Berkeley High School (BHS) this year. In addition, throughout his time at BHS, Egawa has actively participated in Youth & Government, jazz band, and the lacrosse team, just to name a few. “I think being able to participate in these things helped me realize that there is a lot of value in extracurricular activities if you put in the time and effort.” Over the course of his time at BHS, Egawa has witnessed himself grow and mature as a student and as a person in society. Upon his first arrival as a freshman, Egawa recalls finding high school hard to enjoy. Nevertheless, over the years he has learned the true value of education as well as the incredible opportunity to study at a place like BHS. “Since then, I’ve been able to realize that there are so many ways that I can put in effort and get valuable experiences out of them. My freshman year I would never even think about running for Senior Class President, but by my junior year I had begun to realize that if I apply myself, I can get a lot done.” When all is said and done, Egawa’s hard work and determination paid off. He considers being accepted into his dream college as his favourite memory from BHS. For him, it was the definitive proof that he was able to accomplish great things if he put his mind to it.
After high school, Jack will be attending the University of Miami where he will be majoring in computer science. He currently does not have plans to continue playing lacrosse or get involved in leadership in college as he would prefer to focus on his studies and not have to juggle around too many activities. Regardless, he is certain that he will continue playing music at all stages of life since it is something he is truly passionate about he loves to do. As a final word, Jack said, “If I could offer any advice to future graduates, it would be to treat your peers with as much empathy and respect as possible.”
Ben Jacobson-Bell is an undeniably passionate and dedicated person. Throughout his years at Berkeley High School (BHS), he has devoted himself to his community, his academics, the orchestra, and the Orienteering Club, among other interests. Jacobson-Bell shares, “I’m a big fan of Berkeley High, I think it’s been a fantastic experience, these four years.” He explains that while it’s definitely had its ups and downs, “Berkeley High has allowed [him] to seek out challenges and grow as a student and a person in many ways.” One of Jacobson-Bell’s favorite parts of BHS has been the orchestra; he’s played cello for all four years, and has been a principal cellist for the past two years. Jacobson-Bell also feels deep appreciation for the wide range of academic challenges he’s been able to seek out. He shares that he’s grateful for “having had the opportunity to pursue chemistry and physics, but also fun, rigorous, and in-depth humanity courses, with many great teachers.” One of Jacobson-Bell’s favorite memories from BHS is of his post-AP Chemistry test project. His class got to do a “choose-your-own-adventure” final, and Jacobson-Bell decided to construct a spectrometer – a tool used to record and measure light spectra – with his friend. Although the functioning of their spectrometer was questionable, Jacobson-Bell explains that “it was mainly the experience of building that project, with a close friend of mine, in a supportive class, with a great teacher,” that made the experience so special and exemplary of his time at BHS.
Next year, Jacobson-Bell will attend Cornell University to study astrophysics. He knows that he will carry his time at Berkeley High with him throughout his life; his academic growth, his extracurricular passions, and especially, his people. Jacobson-Bell shared, “The connections I’ve made with people, I hope to retain these for the rest of my life.”
Natalie Couch has lived in Berkeley her whole life, she went to King Middle School and then came to Berkeley High School (BHS) after. Couch is a part of Berkeley International High School (BIHS) and believes she has learned just as much outside of the classroom as inside it during her time at BHS. She said, “[BHS] was definitely a time of development for me as a person.” Couch participated in many activities outside the classroom: she was a distance runner for track and field, played viola in the school orchestra, was a member of the STEMinists club, and is a girl scout. She did it all and loved it all. Couch made a lot of friends through the groups she was a part of and valued having role models from grades above her and getting exposure to people in different grades and small schools. Later in her time at BHS, Couch loved being a role model to students in lower grades through her extracurriculars — she enjoyed being able to give lower classmen advice. Couch’s favorite grade was freshman year, so it makes sense she cares about the younger grades. “I liked being a freshman. I’m excited to be a freshman again, I could do dumb stuff and not worry about setting a bad example,” said Couch.
Losing the last part of her senior year was hard for Couch as it has been for seniors everywhere, but the worst part for her was not being able to say a real goodbye.
“Now it’s just trying to say goodbye to people on video calls, it’s not the same. Some of these people I will never see again,” explained Couch.
Couch has changed a lot since her first days at BHS when she could be a “dumb freshman.” She learned a lot more about herself and the world, but especially about justice. “Sometimes you can stand by and let things happen and sometimes you can’t,” she explained. With a better understanding of her abilities, Couch is leaving BHS and moving onto Harvey Mudd College where she hopes to study physics or chemistry. Before she heads into her new world she wants to tell all BHS students to try new activities. “You are only in high school once so try things and it doesn’t need to be a lasting commitment,” she said before adding that getting enough sleep is most important.
Salaah Deen, a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), described his experience at Berkeley High School (BHS) as “a bit of a rollercoaster.” As a freshman, Deen was the awkward yet funny class clown who loved to make people laugh. BIHS had been his last choice of small school, and academics were not the first thing on his mind. However, over the next four years, Deen found that being immersed in his new environment transformed him into an articulate and mature person. “Most people around me were white and I couldn’t easily relate at first, but instead of isolating myself, I strived to put myself out there, grow, and learn from everyone around me,” Deen said.
Deen became actively involved at BHS, taking up a position as a leader in the community. In his junior year, he joined the BHS Entrepreneurship Club, where he brainstormed solutions to everyday problems. He was a part of the Muslim Student Association as well, participating in many of their events and meetings. Deen also found a home and a purpose as a member of the Multi-Cultural Student Association’s leadership team, working closely with the presidents to plan events bringing BHS closer together. This year, he co-organized a speaker series to highlight the experiences of culturally and racially mixed students.
Deen also participated in BIHS Leadership, serving on the Executive Team and the Advisory Council in his junior year. In his senior year, he became a CEO for BIHS Leadership, working to lead the Executive Team and make BIHS a better and more inclusive small school.
Deen’s hard work has evidently paid off. This fall, he will attend UC Berkeley. He plans to study political science, international affairs, and economics, fields which he believes are “all intertwined to tell us a lot about our world and the nations which govern it.”
As much as Deen has become a well-spoken and confident leader through his experiences at BHS, traces of his jokester freshman self still show through in his friendly and charismatic personality. According to Deen, one of the most memorable — and hilarious — moments that he will take away from his high school years was when he inadvertently exposed his entire class to his Bollywood music tastes by accidentally blaring the music through his computer speaker instead of his airpods.
Deen says that if he could go through high school all over again, he would reach out to more people. He advises freshmen to “explore while you have the time, and be yourself.”
Tacy Prins Woodlief, a graduating senior in Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA), is interested in the intersection between art, activism, and computer science. Next year she plans on studying design and media arts at UCLA, where she is excited to explore a new city and learn new things. Prins Woodlief is both an activist and an artist. The club she was most involved with at Berkeley High School (BHS) was the Alliance of Gender Expansive Students (AGES), which is a club she founded that focuses on the trans and nonbinary communities at BHS. “Tacy is one of the most hardworking and dedicated people I know,” said her friend and peer Nico Midgal. “She’s always learning something new or working on something incredible.”
Over the course of her time at BHS, Prins Woodlief has discovered how much she enjoys making activist art and working on interdisciplinary projects. “Even though we’re going through a difficult time right now, I know that over these four years, I have become a more confident and grounded person,” she said. “I look forward to changing and growing more in the future.” Prins Woodlief is most proud of all the interdisciplinary, creative, and art projects she’s been able to complete. She describes her projects as “hella extra and over the top,” and always puts lots of work in to achieve a fantastic final result.
One of Prins Woodlief’s favorite memories comes from Miriam Stahl’s art class, where the class got “into so many antics all while making really cool pieces and learning a ton.” Her advice to future BHS students is to try to find something that they are passionate about, and devote time and energy towards it. She said to try “to experience a broad range of perspectives and ideas so that you are prepared to go into the world as a grounded person.”
Matilda Hallowell is someone who works tirelessly to give back to her community. During her time at Berkeley High School (BHS), she was the president of the Best Buddies program, an organization that provides support to students with special needs. “Our goal,” she said, “is to just create more inclusion at Berkeley High.” Hallowell was also the president of Go Ahead Shred, which facilitates free ski trips to Tahoe for kids who qualify for free and reduced lunch. Throughout her four years, Hallowell has striven to make BHS a better place for everyone.
Additionally, Hallowell played Water Polo all four years of high school and was the captain of the women’s varsity team as a senior. She’s learned a lot from participating in so many activities. “It was a lot of responsibility, but it was a great way for me to figure out what works and what doesn’t,” she said. “I had to balance leadership and maintaining friendship with my peers.” Extracurriculars also allowed her to bond with many different people. “Even though BHS is a super diverse school it’s easy to just be in one group … I think being in all of those sports and clubs definitely made me interact and create friendships with people I might not have otherwise,” said Hallowell.
One of her favorite memories from BHS was working on college applications with David An and Mary Jacobs in the College and Career Center (CCC). “The CCC definitely made the biggest impression on me during high school, they just provided so much support to so many students,” Hallowell said. She will be taking a gap year after graduation and then attending University of California (UC) Davis where she will study Environmental Science. During her time here, she said, “I’ve become a better leader and I’ve also learned what I’m passionate about, what I value, and the kinds of people I want to be around.”
Despite his late arrival to Berkeley High School (BHS), Seth Nixon has contributed significantly to the class of 2020 and BHS as a whole. Nixon came into the Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS) in October of his junior year, and although it might have taken him “a little while to get out of [his] shell,” he certainly has become an active student leader at BHS. Through his activism, involvement in Band and Orchestra (BAO), and BHS leadership, Nixon has made many memories and bonds in this community. In leadership, Nixon holds the position of Commissioner of Equity and Student Rights. There, he gained many valuable skills regarding planning and being a behind the scenes organizer. “Leadership was where I started to learn to actually use my voice and push for what’s good in everything,” Nixon said. Along with being a leader in school, Nixon has also pushed for change in the Berkeley community. One of his favorite memories with activism was United Against Hate Week in November of 2019, when he and other BHS leaders spoke out against hate crimes in Berkeley. Nixon is also a very vocal representative for his graduating class. As an upperclassman on Red and Gold Day at BHS, you could count on him to be one of the first voices to scream “seniors!” or other competitive chants. “I hope people remember my voice,” said Nixon.
After high school he will attend San Diego State University (SDSU), where he plans to major in psychology. This won’t stop him from continuing his side-career as a violist. Nixon’s experience in BAO has defined his high school career. Through BAO, he was provided numerous opportunities to grow as a musician, and will keep those moments with him to San Diego.
If there’s anything Nixon has learned from his time at BHS that he will carry with him, it’s his self awareness and confidence, or in his words: “unapologetic-ness, doing whatever I want and feeling free to do whatever I want and not saying sorry for it.”
Liam “Satchi” Metaxas is renowned for his vast array of skills in numerous disciplines. As vice president of the Best Buddies club at Berkeley High School (BHS), he has displayed his caring and compassionate side for his peers and friends. Through his hard work and determination on the soccer field during all four years at BHS, he has proven his abilities time and time again, even going as far as winning the NCS Championship in his junior year which he describes as “the highlight of [his] experience with soccer at Berkeley High.” However, Metaxas’ favorite memory throughout all of his activities whilst being a part of the BHS community was when he travelled alongside the jazz band to Cuba a few weeks prior to the school being shut down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Each of those things shaped me into the person I am by having a unique community and I’ve made so many different friends through the different things I’ve been involved with,” Metaxas shared. He recalled his first thoughts as a “scared little freshman” and his astonishment at the fact that many fellow students had full on beards, as well as the feeling of being overwhelmed at events such as the infamous Red and Gold day.
Overall, Metaxas is very thankful to have attended BHS. “I love the spirit and the culture of this school as well as the opportunities it gives both academically, athletically, and through the wide range of clubs that are available,” said Metaxas.
Post-graduation, Metaxas has a number of exciting plans ahead of him. Initially, he hoped to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) over this summer, however this may have to be postponed until next summer as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He is planning to potentially take a gap year to travel before attending UCLA, where his major remains undecided. When it comes to his extracurriculars, Metaxas plans on trying out for the UCLA Men’s Club Soccer team in order to continue playing the sport he loves. As far as jazz goes, he is uncertain regarding whether or not he will join a band in college, however he definitely sees teaching trumpet lessons as an appealing way to make some money. Satchi’s final message is: “Per aspera ad ceti.”
Kindhearted, driven, and abundantly intelligent, Mario Gonzalez Ramirez is an inspiration to every Berkeley High School (BHS) student. A leader in his small school, Berkeley International High School (BIHS), he helped pioneer a series of workshops to ensure that students in BIHS were fully educated around the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma as well as being co-senior class president of BIHS leadership. From freshman until senior year, Gonzalez Ramirez has grown exponentially as a person, both socially and academically. Each year, he said, he began to branch out more and more, making deeper connections with his friends and community. One of his most memorable accomplishments, according to Gonzalez Ramirez, was managing to binge all eight seasons of Game of Thrones before watching the final episode with his friends and still managing to successfully study for his AP Biology exam, which he ended up acing. His friend Abril Fonseca testifies to his character, saying that Gonzalez Ramirez is one of the most “honest and straightforward but also caring” people she knows, and that his ability to care about not only his friends, but his community, is remarkable.
He participated in several competitive internships, including at Oakland Children’s Hospital and at University of California San Francisco, which he says “cemented his desire to work in medicine in the future.” He plans to go to Stanford next year, and study in the medical field, which he says he has always been drawn to. Gonzalez Ramirez’s care for his friends and peers extends throughout his community and is shown clearly in the career path he’s chosen; to use his skills to protect the health and wellbeing of people in need. Whatever his future holds, it is clear that Gonzalez Ramirez’s independence, kindness, and drive to succeed will take him far in life, and help many people along the way.
During her four years at Berkeley High School (BHS), Academic Choice (AC) senior Daphne Eleftheriadou has truly been an integral part of the community –– from writing and recording her own music, to participating in The Vagina Monologues for two years, to eventually revolutionizing the show and co-directing the first ever Our Monologues at BHS.
Starting in her freshman year, when she witnessed a protest following Donald Trump’s election, social justice has been integral to her experience. She has attended protests about gun violence, climate change, abortion, sexual harrassment, and more. But Eleftheriadou hasn’t just watched from the sidelines, she has participated and advocated for students over the past four years. “Young me would never have believed that I would be standing up for the rights of all different people and directing Our Monologues,” Eleftheriadou said.
Eleftheriadou and fellow senior Mara Halpern made the decision to change the annual BHS The Vagina Monologues production to Our Monologues in response to their, and many others’, feelings that it was “bioessentialist” –– focused only on the biological experience of being a woman –– and excluded the voices of more diverse women, especially trans women and women of color. Eleftheriadou said that “the purpose of [The Vagina Monologues] is to unite everyone and give women a voice, but it seemed unfair that the women who were given a voice had to be that traditional definition of a woman.” The new BHS tradition of Our Monologues will continue next year with new directors.
Eleftheriadou will continue to follow her artistic and musical passion next year as she attends Berklee College of Music in Boston. She plans to get a degree in professional music, which, according to Eleftheriadou, “studies the industry on the basis of songwriting, performance, business and production.” Eleftheriadou has known she wanted to be a musician since she was 6 — she participated in the BHS talent show for three years, and wrote her first song in second grade. Eleftheriadou has undoubtedly made a lasting impact on the BHS community, the effects of which will be seen for years to come.
Lexie Tesch, a graduating senior in Academic Choice (AC), has certainly made the most of her time at Berkeley High School (BHS). She has been involved in Associated Student Body (ASB) leadership since freshman year, eventually serving as ASB president her senior year. Her experience as ASB president has taught her many important lessons, including “how to listen to others and organize a project while making sure that everyone’s voice feels heard.” Her favorite memories from her time at BHS center around student activism; Tesch said, “Every time we have a protest, which is every single year, I just learn so much.” She remembers every protest that has taken place during her time at BHS and is continuously inspired by the activism of her peers. “I’m all about speaking your truth, but I’m also fearful of not being able to hear other people’s opinions,” Tesch stated. Tesch has also participated in Berkeley’s Youth and Government delegation, and ran for a statewide leadership position this year. In addition to her involvement with ASB leadership and Youth and Government, Tesch has been involved with a program called Generation Citizen which focuses on action civics and grassroots organization. She became involved in eighth grade, joined the National Student Leadership Board, and is currently the only high schooler serving on the National Board of Directors. Tesch is attending Sacramento State University next year and will be studying Political Science. She is “incredibly motivated” to continue her work in activism and politics, and plans to join clubs and leadership groups in college in addition to continuing her work with Generation Citizen. Tesch would like to shout out Mr. V, Mr. Angell, and Mr. Wolkenfeld for being supportive of her and helping her grow into the person she is today. She highly encourages every underclassman to get involved with something they care about and find a way to make an impact!
To anyone just meeting her, Kaja Arusha’s warmth and kindness is instantly apparent. From being co-captain of the swim team to playing viola for the orchestra, Arusha has been a supportive and active member of the Berkeley High School (BHS) community throughout her four years here. Reflecting on her time at BHS, Arusha shared that she has “loved going to a big school with so many different people and so many different activities.” She feels like the busy environment and large student body has helped her become much more outgoing, and has also helped her develop confidence in advocating for herself.
To Arusha, one of the most important parts of Berkeley is the passion; she explained, “When you talk to kids here, they love stuff and they have strong opinions and they aren’t afraid to voice them, and it’s inspiring.” Arusha remembers the moment she first experienced that passion at the opening assembly of her freshman year. She says, “we were terrified little freshman, but all the upperclassmen were going so hard, rushing the stage, and I just had a moment of ‘oh yeah,’ this is a good place to be.” Although there have been more twists and turns than she’d originally anticipated, BHS has definitely lived up to Arusha’s initial impression. Competing for the swim team, Arusha had lots of experience with BHS’s unstoppable school spirit. She said that “even though our sports teams aren’t always the most competitive, we still have all of our Jacket pride, and we always go all out for spirit week, activism and everything in between.”
Arusha will be attending Swarthmore College in the fall, which she’s committed to for swimming. She’s undecided on her major, explaining that she’s ready to experiment with different classes because “you’re never going to know if you love something until you try it.” To current BHS students, Arusha highlights the importance of staying on top of work, saying that “it’s easy to just get pulled through high school, but it’s going to make things so much easier and more fun if you get everything done when you need to.”
Throughout high school, Bianca Dal Bó has taken advantage of being part of the diverse and rich community at Berkeley High School (BHS). As one of the Berkeley International High School (BIHS) Senior Class Presidents, Dal Bó worked to improve the small school by raising money, planning events, providing resources, and practicing community-building with BIHS students. Dal Bó explained that the role of the leadership team is to “improve BIHS based on what students want.”
In her spare time, Dal Bó enjoys rock climbing, playing guitar, singing, and drawing. Although she isn’t able to rock climb while quarantined, Dal Bó would rock climb with friends frequently during the regular school year. Sha applied her interest in drawing as a part of Refugart, a club that helps raise awareness for refugees through art. She has also been part of other BHS groups, including the Holiday Meal Planning Committee, and Link Crew. She has a special appreciation for the Holiday Meal experience. “It was so amazing to feel like I was helping the community and making people happy,” she said.
During her time at BHS, Dal Bó grew her interest in teaching, which she hopes to make a living out of in the future. “Going to BHS has helped me establish that teaching is a career that is really important and has a big impact on people,” said Dal Bó. She was especially engaged in classes like IB Biology and her senior year history class. She hopes to teach biology or history in the future. Dal Bó plans to attend Occidental College in Los Angeles in the fall, but is not sure what to expect of the year during COVID-19. She will major in biology and minor in education, as she noted it is important to have a deep understanding of a subject before trying to teach it to others. “I want to develop myself in a field before I become a teacher,” said Dal Bó.
Dal Bó appreciates the activism and opportunities available at BHS. Taking part in protests and discussions has allowed Dal Bó to form her “own opinions about things that really matter.” Her time at BHS has led her to become an informed and passionate member of society. At BHS, she said that people should “use every opportunity that is given to them.”
Mia Stein radiates happiness and generosity. This enthusiasm is clear in the work she has done over her four years at Berkeley High School (BHS), from being BHS’s Chief of Service to being president of the philanthropic Beads for Good Deeds club. Stein has changed this school for the better, and the effect that she has had on BHS all stems from her passion for the school. According to Stein, the BHS community is to thank for her even running for Chief of Service in the first place. Despite her past community service and her constant care for those around her she “assumed that it was someone else’s dream, that it didn't have to be mine.” But after friends and classmates encouraged her to run, she won and went on to permanently change the annual BHS Holiday Meal by including remote shower and laundry service along with the usual food and clothing drive. What’s special about the Holiday Meal to Stein is “the ability for so many people to come together … students, the unsheltered community, teachers, parents as well. … It just showed [her] the capacity we all have to help people and to be kind and to do things just because it's the right thing to do, not because someone is forcing you or telling you that you have to.”
Another place Stein spread her positivity was on the BHS swim team. She swam for three years and as a junior made it her goal to not let any of the underclassmen feel left out. Through small actions like learning everyone’s names and saying “Hi!” to people in the hallways, Stein changed the culture of the team. Stein said, “By the end of the season I had met so many people and gotten to know so many people. I was just so grateful to look around in the locker room and on the deck and see so many people with friends and feeling happy and like they weren’t alone.”
Next year Stein will attend Vassar College, where she will undoubtedly continue to spread her unique positivity and care.
As Co-President of Vote-16 at Berkeley High School (BHS), Zo Pancoast has learned the importance of advocating for relevant issues and helping others use their voices. Among other activities, much of Pancoast’s time as a senior at BHS was spent helping juniors and seniors pre-register to vote. “We visited every junior and senior classroom at BHS,” said Pancoast. “It is really important that people turn out to vote and have access, even despite the pandemic.” Beside her involvement in Vote-16, Pancoast has also enjoyed being a part of the jazz band and tennis team. One of her favorite memories from BHS was traveling to Cuba with the jazz band to learn with students from the International School of Music. “We learned a lot about Cuban music and history and got to meet some really cool people,” said Pancoast.
Outside of school, Pancoast worked at the exploratorium and as a youth leader at the Mosaic Project, where elementary schoolers learn conflict resolution and cross-cultural empathy. Being a part of the Mosaic Project has given Pancoast many opportunities to meet new people and be part of a different community. These experiences have given Pancoast new knowledge about herself, others, and how to be an observant and active member of the community. Zo explained that she has learned better critical thinking skills, how to advocate for herself, collaborate with others, and “see issues in the world as more nuanced.” BHS has also grown Pancoast’s interest in interdisciplinary-learning, something she thinks is especially important in the modern world of communication and complexity.
Pancoast has plans to attend Scripps College in Claremont, California this fall. She is not yet sure what her major is, but is interested in psychology, neuroscience, and politics. “I’m interested in how people think, and why people think the way they do,” said Pancoast. Classes like Law and Social Justice grew Pancoast’s interest in learning about multiple viewpoints on important issues. This summer, she hopes to work on a campaign for democratic representatives, and possibly continue this work into the fall. In light of upcoming elections, Pancoast wants to remind BHS students to vote and encourage everyone around them to do the same!
Gabe Fantacone, a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), has demonstrated his leadership skills and passion for service throughout his years at Berkeley High School (BHS). As an active member of the Amnesty International Club and Co-President of the BHS National Honors Society (NHS), Fantacone helped organize a voter registration drive and held a college application information session for BHS juniors. Fantacone attributes his newfound leadership skills to his experiences with NHS and Amnesty International.
“Club leadership gave me a better idea of what it means to be in charge and to gain collaborative skills,” Fantacone said. Joining clubs at BHS helped Fantacone transition from a small middle school to a much larger high school. “I’ve enjoyed being able to challenge myself and experience a new kind of social dynamic. It helps to be in a small group with people you have a common interest with,” Fantacone said. Furthermore, being in BIHS specifically has helped Fantacone become more self-reflective and allow him to think critically about who he is, as well as what he is doing in his life and who he wants to be.
This fall, Fantacone will be attending Yale University where he’s planning to major in Political Science with a minor in either Economics or Statistics. Fantacone began volunteering at a legal aid center for undocumented immigrants during his sophomore year, which, in addition to a law class he took after freshman year, sparked his interest in the legal aspects of politics and immigration. Ross Parker, the former IB economics teacher for BIHS, helped spark Fantacone’s interest in Economics. “Mr. Parker taught me what I could use [economics] for and how to study it. The way the class was taught was really thought provoking and added to my interest in the subject,” Fantacone said.
Fantacone’s advice for rising BHS seniors is: “Don’t feel like you have to live up to someone else’s profile. Don’t compare yourself. How can you make yourself the strongest you can be?”
Daijah Conerly, a senior in the Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS), has made a huge mark on the lives of not only seniors, but all students at Berkeley High School (BHS). After winning the BHS 2019 election, she used her power as ASB vice-president to plan amazing activities, such as unity week, and make change throughout the school even though “it could be really hard when certain policies were already in place.” It's extremely apparent that she is passionate about bettering the lives of those around her. Yet Conerly didn’t stop there: her hard work was rewarded with an admission to the University of California Davis. “Getting into Davis and going to college as a first generation college student has probably been my really big accomplishment.” Looking back at her time at BHS, she appreciates how she got to learn about new people and new cultures, since “Berkeley is a really good place to find out about different types of people and the way they present themselves and represent themselves.”
One of Conerly’s favorite experiences at BHS was finding a community that she was comfortable with. In her small learning community, AMPS, she “really got close with a lot of the teachers.” Although this was an ongoing experience throughout her years at BHS, one of her favorite moments was planning Unity Week with the other members of BHS leadership. “Seeing everyone participate in things like Unity week and dressing up, it's a really fun experience and no other schools do those things like BHS does,” she explains. This year the senior class had to give up a lot of exciting opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing. Conerly reflected on how her grade has dealt with this unfortunate timing and how we “have committees that are trying to get a bench in our name or also trying to do something next year like a one year reunion. We are trying to make the best out of the situation that we were given even though it was unexpected, which is really nice to see.” Her advice to the other students still at BHS would be to “start thinking about your future” and “don't think that if someone tells you, you can't do something, that you shouldn't pursue the thing you really want to do.” Conerly’s passion and excitement towards bettering the BHS community will be missed, but it's obvious she will go on to do this during the next phase of her life.
If she was known for one thing at Berkeley High School (BHS), it would be her contagious laugh. By merely passing Ryan Nicholas in the hall, it’s obvious that she is a joyously goofy person: she is always laughing about something. As a dancer at BHS, she has found a strong, welcoming community in the African American Studies Department. For Nicholas, it is a safe space that goes far beyond the dancing. “It was space for us to just be ourselves. If we were having a rough day we could always talk to teachers,” Nicholas remembered. Many of her favorite memories at BHS took place in that class, from the sweaty and hot classes with Ms. Shorty, to the vulnerable sharing circles that were held during national or political crises, to the backstage buzz of the yearly performances.
BHS has shaped Nicholas into the confident person she is today. As a freshman coming into Academic Choice (AC), she said she was “definitely less vocal, definitely more shy and [she] cared more about what other people thought.” As she departs from BHS, she describes herself as, “both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.” Nicholas credits much of this growth to the activism that comes with being a student at BHS. The protests, walkouts, and sense of unity at BHS in general, were key moments that have influenced her as a person.
Nicholas will be attending Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where she will study psychology and criminal justice. If there’s anything she will carry with her into her college career, it’s the idea of always helping your community. “If I got a chance to do it all over again, I would choose to go to Berkeley High,” said Nicholas. “Berkeley High has taught me to stand up for what I believe in.”
Eliana Ives moved to Berkeley four years ago to go to Berkeley High School (BHS), leaving behind Canyon School. She joined Berkeley International High School (BIHS) and was glad to find BHS to be welcoming. Ives said she found the school to not be as difficult as she initially expected, but still challenging academically and all in all a great experience. Ives was very active both in out of classroom activities and especially devoted to volleyball; she played during all four years of highschool, getting on varsity in her sophomore year, and becoming co-captain of the team by senior year.
Throughout high school, Ives was also a part of Girls Garage, a building program for teen girls, and president of the interact club. Ives felt that all the extra curriculars she was involved in helped her to develop her confidence, communication and leadership skills. Of all her highschool years, Ives enjoyed her senior year the most, as her friend group became much stronger in her last year. “We really started clicking,” she explained.
One of Ives’ favorite highschool experiences was winning a volleyball tournament. “Our team actually won a tournament which was a goal for the year, we don’t win a lot, we have a really good team, but we don’t win a lot,” Ives said. Ives also loved playing games like hide-and-seek with her friends late at night in parks.
Not being able to finish her senior year in person has been as difficult as you would imagine for Ives but the community she has in her neighborhood has helped her get through this time. “We all go out in the street together and stay apart, but everyone’s talking and laughing,” said Ives. Her neighborhood put on a socially distanced graduation party for her and two other seniors in the neighborhood.
Ives believes she’s gained a lot more confidence since she started at BHS, “I've always hung back but I think I've come into my own and found my confidence,” she explained. She plans to head to California Polytechnic State University to study industrial engineering. Now that she knows where she’s going, here's what she wants to tell all the students that are coming up behind her: “A lot of times in school it can be really difficult with school work but it’s really good to have one or two people you can go to.”
Leah Freeman’s success at Berkeley High School (BHS) is a testament to the value of hard work and perseverance. While it hasn’t always been easy, throughout her high school years in Academic Choice (AC) she has been able to balance her commitments of playing club soccer, being co-captain of the BHS women's varsity soccer team, and playing on the under 16 women’s national soccer team for the United States. Freeman credits many coaches, teachers, and staff members at BHS for helping her improve her focus and time management skills over her four years at BHS. “I was the kind of person that took things seriously from teachers and would be like ‘this teacher doesn’t like me because of this.’ But then I realized that every single one of my teachers was thinking about my best interests and pushing me,” said Freeman. After her time at BHS, she feels prepared to begin playing Division I soccer at the University of Oregon next year.
According to Freeman, playing both club soccer and on the BHS women’s team has allowed her to have a very well rounded experience. “Playing for the BHS soccer team has always been kind of a light at the end of the tunnel. You get to a point with club soccer where you’re really tired, and BHS is like a break,” she said. Being on the national team was also an impactful experience for Freeman and gave her the opportunity to travel to Sweden and Germany and play against European teams. “When I was younger my dream has always been to play on the women’s national team, even for an age group (under 16) … That’s literally a dream come true for me, … and having those experiences of travelling has really shaped my view on soccer as a whole,” she added.
Freeman encourages those still in high school to focus on cultivating strong relationships during the short time they get to spend in high school. “Don’t take your family for granted and lean on them for support. Lean on your coaches and teachers and friends around you,” she said.
Cedar Sklar Luers is a graduating senior from the Berkeley International High School (BIHS). Cedar is a kind, driven student as well as a strong advocate for the environment. In his time at Berkeley High School (BHS) he’s been very involved in climate change advocacy groups and believes that the youth of today have the power to rise up and fight for the planet. Sklar Luers’ favorite BHS memory was the walkout and march for climate action that took place in September. “It was a great way to see what the Berkeley High community is all about,” he said. “Having the school being a part of it and getting everyone on board was really great.”
Sklar Luers is also an avid surfer and member of the BHS Surf Club. Coming to a new school in his senior year, this club gave him the opportunity to meet new people and form strong connections. “It was where I met basically all my friends, and it really helped me find the right community that I wanted to be a part of,” he said. Sklar Luers has changed a lot since he first started at BHS. He’d like to shout out Mrs. Campbell, Mr. Rogers, and Mr. Miller for opening up his mind to new ideas. “I have a different worldview now. They got me to question a lot of things about the way I look at the world and the way the world looks at me.”
Sklar Luers will be attending New York University (NYU) in the fall. When asked to give one piece of advice to current or incoming highschoolers, he says, “I don’t want to say ‘get involved’ because I feel like everyone says that, but get involved. Find what you like to do, and what you want to change in the world.”
Penina Biddle Gottesman’s experience at Berkeley High School (BHS) has been one of self discovery and empowerment. As a senior in Academic Choice (AC), the memories she will take with her have enabled her to grow with confidence and purpose. “When I came to BHS, there was a lot I didn't know about myself. Berkeley High allowed me to blossom within my identity as a queer woman. No matter how hard it was, there were always other people I could look up to and admire,” she said.
Biddle Gottesman said that one of her most critical experiences at BHS was taking part in the Our Monologues student production. After watching BHS’s staging of The Vagina Monologues every year, she decided to audition for this year’s remade version of the performance. Being a part of the production was a transformative process for Biddle Gottesman. “It gave me a beautiful community of artists, mostly women and queer people, and it was an amazing family,” she said.
Around the same time that she was rehearsing Our Monologues, Biddle Gottesman also helped organize and lead a series of walkouts protesting rape culture at BHS. The walkouts were both one of her favorite and hardest moments at BHS. While she said they taught her the consequences of allowing issues such as sexual harm to hide unsolved under Berkeley’s absolving reputation of progressiveness, the process also showed her the power of people coming together. While the many student leaders of the walkout had been speaking out separately for a long time, Biddle Gottesman described the way they found each other and united their efforts as “incredibly beautiful.”
This fall, Biddle Gottesman is set to attend her dream school: the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. She will major in Technology in Music, a program pioneered and uniquely offered by Oberlin. Since her freshman year, the intersection of music and technology in recording and composition has been both a form of self expression and a tool of change for Biddle Gottesman. “I see the bulk of my work and energy going into amplifying other people’s voices and abilities through my music and technology,” explained Biddle Gottesman.
Looking forward, Biddle Gottesman shared her vision for her art: “It’s really important to me to have our artistic abilities be used to create change in the world instead of it always being about me. I don't believe art should be a lonely thing — it should be a communal vision, and that’s how we create change.”
Well spoken, independent, and astoundingly resilient, Reemajah Pollard exudes positive energy and a hard working attitude. He has been a part of the Academy of Health and Public Service (AMPS) community since freshman year, and credits the AMPS teachers as one of his biggest inspirations and sources of encouragement throughout high school. Throughout his time here at Berkeley High School (BHS), although Pollard has faced many obstacles. His ability to grow and develop both as a student and as a person is truly inspirational. He discusses the marked difference from his personality freshman year to now, stating that although he “used to have a very negative mentality, once [he] started acting on his beliefs and learning how to stand up for himself,” he became a much happier and healthier person. During sophomore year, Pollard began to really find his drive to be the best form of himself, scoring a competitive internship in the OR of Alta Bates after ranking #4 in his college level course, as well as participating in a trip to the Dominican Republic to teach English and help repair the pipeline of a small village. Throughout high school, Pollard consistently displayed a marked sense of independence both academically and financially, beginning to work his sophomore year and continuing throughout high school without relying on parental support. His humor, kindheartedness, and inspirational drive towards success is something that touched many of the people around him and has resulted in many strong connections with friends and community members around him.
Next year, Pollard plans on attending UC Berkeley to major in integrated biology, saying that he has “always been interested in science,” once hoping to work in the neuroscience field. Although he is now less certain of what the future holds, Pollard knows he wants to use his skills to give back to his community and to those in need. Whatever he decides to do, there is no doubt that Pollard will touch the hearts of everyone around him, and continue to give back to his community.
“Berkeley High allowed me to harness my voice and helped me realize that I want a career path of activism and creating change in the world,” said Abby Sanchez, a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS). As Sanchez reflected on her time at Berkeley High School (BHS), she explained how her experience has been shaped by times when she used her voice and was an activist.
As a transfer student from Richmond, Sanchez said that the only constant in her life has been the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD). “I remember being in a ton of meetings with administration and being the youngest kid, and usually the only person of color in the room, and feeling so intimidated,” Sanchez said.
Rebecca Villagran, BIHS lead history teacher, was Sanchez’s first Latina teacher, and has had a big impact on her. Sanchez explained that Villagran is able to relate to her on a personal and cultural level and truly cares about her life. Together, Villagran and Sanchez started a Latina support group for BIHS.
Sanchez has worked on multiple projects to improve standardized test preparation for BHS students. “If you’re a different race, your standardized test scores will be disproportionately lower on average,” Sanchez said. “I did some research and saw that BHS received a ‘C’ grade for equity.” Sanchez joined BIHS leadership junior year and served as a co-CEO her senior year. Within BIHS leadership, Sanchez helped start a test-prep book drive and distributed books to BHS students. This year, Sanchez worked with BHS college counselor David An to start an SAT/ACT test-prep program for low-income students.
Sanchez was also an outspoken supporter and activist during BHS’s protests against sexual assault. In addition to speaking at the protest in front of hundreds of BHS students, Sanchez did a live interview on the KQED radio program “Forum.”
“It’s easy to get lost in such a big school,” Sanchez said. “But you should always be your own activist. If you want something in life you’ll have to fight for it, but don’t back down from that.” This summer, Sanchez will intern for a Bay Area nonprofit, and will attend Barnard College as a Political Economy major in the fall.
Amos Ancell, a graduating senior in Academic Choice (AC), is headed to UCLA in the fall where he intends to major in math and electrical engineering. However, he might defer enrollment for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which case he will intern at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab. This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows Ancell, who has been involved in Quiz Bowl, Mathletes, STEMinists, BHS Orienteering, and Computer Club during his time at Berkeley High School (BHS). By being involved in these clubs at BHS, Ancell has pursued his interest in areas such as math and computer science. In addition to his passion for math, Ancell is also interested in renewable energy, religious history, and foreign languages.
According to his classmate Kaja Arusha, Ancell is a very friendly person. “He’s so open and willing to talk to anyone about practically any and every topic,” she said. People describe him as someone who has a wide array of interests and never hesitates to share his knowledge and ideas with others.
Some of Ancell’s favorite memories from BHS include lip syncing in AP Language and literature with Ms. Rosen, solving Rubik’s cubes in Mr. Carton’s and Ms. Coppola’s, and learning about Taylor Series with Mr. Baird. “My advice for future BHS students is to find a place on campus where they can be alone,” he said. “BHS is a big school and while it’s nice to have all sorts of people to spend time with, sometimes you just need a moment alone.”
Ligaya Chinn, a graduating senior from Academic Choice, reflects on her time at Berkeley High School (BHS) as being full of personal and academic growth. When she started at BHS as a freshman, she was introverted and shy, but throughout her time at BHS, she’s become not only extroverted and social, but also a leader of her community. “Being part of such a big school forced me to grow and mature, and discover who I am on my own,” Chinn said. Part of this journey of discovery took place through the YMCA Youth and Government program, which Chinn joined in her sophomore year. She became president of the Berkeley group, which taught her vital communication and leadership skills. In addition to Youth and Government, Chinn has managed a band, made up of a group of her close friends, since middle school. The band’s growing popularity allowed it to join a music collective with other local artists. This experience helped Chinn shape her organizational skills, and gave her some of her favorite memories from her time at BHS. Chinn is deeply appreciative of BHS’s culture of political activism, and says that “BHS is a unique place,” because Chinn has been to student-led protests and other actions multiple times per year for her entire experience at BHS. Chinn will be attending UC Santa Barbara next year, and plans to major in Political Science, but beyond that, Chinn plans to “figure out what [her] wider career goals are.” She would like to shout out Kate Rosen, Sydney Aardal, and Glenn Wolkenfeld, teachers who helped her grow as a person and a student. Overall, Chinn would advise underclassmen to “spend time on yourself, your mental health and physical well being,” because “when you’re able to believe in yourself and count on yourself, you’ll find that you are going to do really big things.”
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