Class of 2017: Warriors until the end

Andy Xia

Sports Section Editor

Senior (adjective)– of a more advanced age. WHS’s 2017 senior class was one that helped advance the age of WHS’s storied history. With a class size of 653 students, WHS’s senior class has certainly left its mark on the school. 

WHS boasts 59 valedictorian candidates this year. In order to qualify for valedictorian candidacy, students must maintain an index GPA of 4.65 or higher throughout the entirety of their high school careers. 

But WHS’s class of 2017 was not only successful in terms of academics, but also in a wide range of areas, ranging from athletics to extracurricular clubs to music. The versatility and togetherness of WHS’s senior class makes it stand out from others.

“For a class of this size, it’s amazing that the students have still managed to keep that sense of camaraderie,” said Principal Jason Branham. “They’re still so competitive with one another while maintaining that family feel and cohesiveness.”

Outside of the classroom, WHS’s seniors have made their impact. 

Julian Berger ‘17 is a man of many talents. Berger is an actor, an author, a comedian, a director and an artist. Berger was interested in comedy early in high school, writing and publishing his first book at the age of 15 during  his freshman year. Life Between the Buns gives readers a unique, comedic perspective at life through the lens of Berger himself. 

“When I was young, I watched a lot of Seinfield because that was what my parents put on, and I fell in love with comedy then,” said Berger. “At first, I was exploring different mediums of expressing my comedy by writing, and eventually, acting and directing.”

Berger got into film and theater through his YouTube channel, where he started to write, direct and act in his own comedy skits with friends. He was quickly engrossed with everything about film, and went on to produce his own movie Rockin’ the Suburbs, which tells the story of Ben Richardson, a boy with no musical talent who strives to start a band. Berger will continue his education at University of Southern California, where he will study film. He hopes to go on to write screenplays for shows and movies. 

Just as talented as Berger, Katherine Ho ‘17 starred in the tenth season of the hit NBC TV show “The Voice.” Ho’s audition earned her a spot on Adam Levine’s team, where she made it past the battle rounds of the show, but was ultimately eliminated in the knockout rounds. 

“[The Voice] was a great experience,” said Ho. “I thought it was really cool being surrounded by all these talented people from around the nation and meet my celebrity icons. During that time span it was like a totally different world, an artistic bubble.”

The talented singer posts videos of her singing and playing piano on her YouTube Channel, singerkho. She has also been a part of WHS’s choir program for all four years of her high school career. Ho will continue her education at the USC, where she hopes to study at the Thornton School of Music and major in Music Technology and Production. 

Not only does Jason Kurohara ‘17 excel at music, but he also works on drones and robotics in his spare time. Kurohara designs and builds Vertical Takeoff and Land Planes for practical purposes. 

Together with his friends and family, he engineers remote controlled planes, in hopes that someday he can use them for simple tasks such as deliveries. 

“Even from a young age, robots and technology has always fascinated me,” said Kurohara, who will attend Stanford University this fall. “With science and engineering, the possibilities of what we can achieve are endless, and I hope to change the world with that.”

In addition, Kurohara founded the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle club to share his knowledge of aeronautics. He hosts build sessions and fly days with friends and members of the club to test the planes they design and build. 

On the field, Hannah Sharts ‘17, a center back for the girls WHS varsity soccer team, has taken her athletic ability to the next level in soccer. She helped lead WHS to the CIF finals in 2016, as well as the Marmonte League championship this year. Sharts has committed to continue playing soccer at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

“Soccer is in my blood,” said Sharts. “I’ve been playing since I could walk. It’s brought me so many great friendships, life lessons, and travels in my life, and I couldn’t imagine living without it.” 

Sharts started playing soccer when she was four, and she has never looked back since. She earned a spot on the United States Youth Soccer Cal South team in the Olympic Development Program. She helped the team win a national championship in 2015. 

However, just as important as the students themselves, the resources provided to the seniors have helped make the class of 2017 become what it is today. 

WHS’s Advanced Anatomy class, taught by Nancy Bowman, is one of the very few programs in the nation that allow high school students to dissect and analyze cadavers. 

“It’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience,” said current Advanced Anatomy student Cameron Johari ‘17. “We get a bunch of guest speakers and it really opens your eyes to the medical field. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

And not to be forgotten, are the teachers and administrators who have helped to shape WHS’s senior class. 

“There are students who are just natural leaders in the classroom during discussion,” said English teacher Lora Novak. “They’re going to take their talents and emerge as leaders at their colleges, at their jobs and in their lives.”

As we watch the class of 2017 follow their own paths, these unique individuals will leave their fingerprints all over the world. But we will know that it all started here at WHS. Once a Warrior, always a Warrior. 

School year in review

Megan King

Caelyn Pender

Feature Editor

Feature Section Editor

The 2016–2017 school year brought joys and sorrows, accomplishments and failures, spirit and hardship. As the last weeks approach and the school looks back on the events of the year, students can revel in their achievements and stand together in their losses. 


Because of the hard work of students, teachers and staff, WHS received the National Blue Ribbon Award earlier this year. The U.S. Department of Education chooses schools every year to recognize their academic excellence and dedication to improving learning. 

“Academically, getting the National Blue Ribbon Award was huge,” said Principal Jason Branham. “It puts us in the top one–half percent of all schools across the nation.  We’re only one of two [public high] schools in California to receive the award.”  

In addition to the National Blue Ribbon Award, WHS recently received the 2017 California Gold Ribbon Award, which is given to schools that have exhibited improvement on students’ standardized testing scores, grades and other factors. 

“[These awards are] a real testament to our students, our parents, our teachers, our staff [and] the community,” said Branham.  

Both the Blue Ribbon and the Gold Ribbon benefit teachers, students and staff alike, along with raising WHS’s standing in the community.

Washington Post recently released its list of America’s most challenging high schools, ranking WHS as 42nd in the state and 381st in the nation. Last year, Washington Post ranked WHS as 45th in the state and 392nd in the nation, showing the improvement that WHS has undergone over the course of the school year. 

In addition, three WHS teachers received the CVUSD Teacher of the Month Award this year: Jennifer Boyd and Tina Carlisle, along with another teacher who will be announced at the teacher meeting during CPT on May 24. The district presents the award to a teacher that demonstrates excellence in the classroom. 

Academic Achievements

While WHS has an amazing teaching staff, it also has a hardworking and competitive student body. Sparked by the success of the Math, Writing and Science Centers, the Language Center in 42P and the History Center in 12L both opened this year. The Language Center is open Wed. and the History Center is open Thurs. for students to make up tests as well as work with a student tutor.

“I see … a lot of sophomores especially come in for help, and I’ve seen them come back and ask for the same tutor again because they felt like they got something out of the previous tutoring experience,” said History Center adviser Kathryn Mallen. “It’s nice to see that they’re coming back and actually continuing to see improvement.”

With the start of the school year, WHS saw the introduction of many new classes. Honors Environmental Field Studies, Yoga PE, AP Computer Science Principles, Medical Chemistry and Medical Anatomy have all had successful beginnings this year.  

“Everybody loves yoga,” said Assistant Principal of Instruction Nicole Judd.  “The kids, mostly girls, [are] really, really enjoying that class with [Krystle Sundberg], and it’s totally exploding.”

In addition, the 2016–2017 school year included a new CPT schedule.  CPT is now every Wed. for 40 minutes, adding consistency for students, parents and teachers, along with providing extra time for students to complete work and meet with their teachers during school hours.

“I hope it’s made it easier on kids; I think it has,” said Branham.  “[Also,] we’ve been developing our [Western Association of Schools and Colleges] program. That allowed us to take the second Wed. of every month and really, as a staff with teachers, use that time to develop our WASC report.”

A WASC committee will visit WHS in the beginning of Oct. 2017, so teachers and staff have been preparing for their inspection over the course of the year. Essentially, WASC is how WHS is “graded.”

“It’s part of the students’ voice,” said Armita Azizi ‘19, a student member of WASC. “[WASC has] meetings of how students feel in the school and how we can make things better.”

The change in Thanksgiving break pushed the end of school year back three days to Wed., June 14. This prompted a shift in the finals schedule, with finals taking place on a Mon., Tues. and Wed.

Social Scene

Rallies, a popular aspect of WHS’s school spirit, have sparked some controversy this year, namely the Welcome Back Rally in which the seniors received second place because they booed the juniors, who consequently ended up winning. At the Talent Show Rally, the seniors lost yet again, this time to the sophomores. 

This year, ASG created the Rick Kelman Award, named after Rick Kelman, arguably the nicest man in the world. The award will be presented annually to a teacher or staff member who demonstrates kindness and has a consistent positive impact on students and the atmosphere of WHS. 

“He contributes so much to the school and every single person on campus loves him endlessly,” said Olivia Dinardo ‘19. “We thought that it was proper of us to recognize that and then make it a recurring event for [teachers and staff] to strive towards.”

Clubs and Organizations

WHS has also found success with its vast assortment of unique clubs and programs, the creation of new clubs on campus rounding out the class offerings. Some of these clubs explore topics not covered by WHS curriculum, while others expand on popular topics, provide hands–on experience in certain subjects or raise money for various charities. 

“[WHS’s] agricultural science class is no [longer] running,” said Shloka Homa ‘19, who started the Agricultural Care Team, a club focused on agricultural science. “I wanted to start our own club to interest kids and show that, yes, Westlake is also interested in the agricultural field and helping out farmers and the community.”

 This year, seven FBLA students qualified for the National Leadership Conference in Anaheim from June 29–July 2. Here, they will compete against the winning groups from every other state competition. In addition, Andy Jin ‘18 was elected as California State FBLA President. 

“My goals for this coming year are for California FBLA to join together, ignite passions and network,” said Jin. “I also hope to have more people ... realize all the opportunities FBLA offers and find their passion.”

Another noteworthy program at WHS is Junior Achievement. The group recently qualified for the Junior Achievement Student Entrepreneurship Challenge, a competition for which a team of six WHS students and two Thousand Oaks High School students worked to create Glamorocks, a company that sells personalized rocks.

“This competition is basically where a group of high school students create a company from scratch,” said vice president Jane Zhang ‘19. “Essentially, the team must prototype their product, sell it to customers and gain profit.” 

The team competed on April 21 in Burbank. Glamorocks won Company of the Year and Best Company Report, qualifying for nationals in Washington, D.C. from June 19–21.

Athletic Accomplishments

Athletically speaking, WHS has excelled this year. Over the course of the year, 27 athletes from WHS committed to colleges for their sports. 

During the fall season, boys varsity water polo made it to quarterfinals in CIF championships, a school record. Girls cross country won the league title. Girls varsity volleyball finished its season undefeated in Marmonte League, and girls varsity golf won both league and the CIF championships.

Winter brought the success of girls soccer; varsity won the league title.

In spring, both boys and girls swim won league, and boys varsity volleyball became the league champions. Both girls beach volleyball and girls track won league as well. 

In addition, Tim Kirksey, WHS’s new football coach, began coaching at WHS after the dismissal of  former coach Tony Henney. 

WHS also introduced girls field hockey and stunt cheer as new sports this year.  

“It was the first year [of field hockey], so obviously we didn’t win a lot, but it was a lot of fun,” said Naomi Sylvester ‘19.  “We had a lot of long bus rides, so we got to hang out and I got to meet a lot of people.”

The 2016–2017 school year had its ups and downs, but overall WHS has reached great heights in all areas of the school: academics, athletics, extra help for students, teacher achievements, clubs and more.

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