After years of fangirling over Verde, when I finally joined I felt a pressure to impress — to prove that I belonged here. But so caught up was I in misguided expectations that when I wrote my first piece, my focus ended up hazy, my language pretentious and my content cliche. Only through many, many revisions and a complete re-working of my article was I able to refine my angle and gradually let my own voice — not the tone I thought was “Verde-y” — shine through. My 10 issues since have been an ongoing process of honing and re-honing my writing style. From the glee of crafting a euphonious deck to the angst of hunting for a gripping hook, writing is one of the most arduous yet intoxicating aspects of journalism. Below you'll find the fruits of three years of my dogged reporting and fervent word-smithing in Verde magazine, the Stanford Daily, [proof] magazine and Veritas.
In the wake of a four-year Office of Civil Rights investigation into Palo Alto Unified School District's mishandlings of Title IX cases, my co-writers and I conducted an investigation of our own. To uncover the roots of Paly's historic "rape culture," the stigma around sexual assault that silences survivors and the district's coming measures to address them, I interviewed the principal, superintendent, various teachers, students and an assault survivor at my school. In the process, I discovered and portrayed the dilemma facing our principal when she was a vice principal pre-investigation — speak out against those in power or face retaliation at their hands.
National Women’s Press Association 2nd Place Feature
California Press Women 1st Place Feature
Journalism Education Association of Northern California 1st Place Feature
Though the events in Charlottesville sparked nationwide dialogue about discrimination and its tangible relics, that conversation didn’t seem to extend into Palo Alto, where a similar debate over the eugenicist namesakes of two middle schools was unfolding. After hours-long interviews with Paly students and historians alike, hardcore internet sleuthing and scouring the local Historical Association's archives, I wrote this introspective cover feature about Palo Alto's own tainted history. For weeks, I struggled to think of a zingy hook. Ultimately, I began the piece with a jarring blast from the past with vivid imagery of local neo-Nazi violence from the '60s — shattered glass storefronts, a blown-in Volkswagen bus, and once, a bloody chicken on a hatchet — before using quotes to connect the vitriolic actions from back then with those of today.
A Heritage of Hatred
Popping the Bubble
"'Get off my lawn!' has become 'Get off your phone!' In a world of Snapchat selfies and Facebook friends, our elders can’t help but look back with nostalgia on a time when children still played hopscotch on the street rather than Pokemon Go." In this humorous perspective, I use tongue-in-cheek quips to make the topic of news literacy more relatable, reflect on what a combination of echo chambers and fake news means for teenagers navigating the web and offer tips on news literacy.
California Press Women 2nd Place Opinion
The Power of Poetry
Slam poet and Paly student Jharna Sutaria is beloved at open mic nights; her spoken word stanzas offer candid glimpses into the raw, authentic details of her mental health journey. To convey Jharna's authentic voice, I weaved stanzas of her poetry directly into the body of the profile and mirrored the lyrical style of her prose even within my own writing. Sometimes, the most powerful thing you can do as a writer is to let your source speak for herself.
California Press Women Honorable Mention Profile
By Immigrants, For Immigrants
As a follow-up to "A Safe Haven for All," I sought a different vantage point on the immigration debate. After dozens of back-and-forth emails with the Stanford Immigrants' Rights Clinic, I met up with Tiffany Lieu, an immigration lawyer-in-training and a daughter of refugees herself. Initially, my co-writer and I intended to broadly profile the Clinic. However, after hearing Lieu's gripping story — how she intends to use the law to pass forward the kindness strangers showed to her parents — we decided to hone in on just her narrative.
I joined Verde to tell my community's untold stories. While this usually manifested in muckraking exposes or poignant profiles, "Keepers of the Campus" was a wholesome exception. Though frequently seen around campus, Palo Alto High School's custodians were rarely recognized in student media. To document their daily routines and share glimpses into their life stories, I shadowed the custodial team for weeks (and occasionally hitched a ride on their iconic golf cart).
Keepers of the Campus
On the Line
In pressure-cooker communities like Palo Alto, which have been wracked with teen suicide and tragedy, emergency hotline volunteers bear a heavy responsibility but wield the enormous power to redirect lives. In this profile of Paly students and alum who now serve as hotline operators, I explored community mental health through the lens of these listeners. By shedding light on hotline volunteers, I sought to help humanize the nameless voices on the phone and destigmatize the use of these services at Paly.
A Safe Haven for All?
"Rendezvousing in the library would be safer, we decided. Safer than her apartment, where two out-of-place teenagers knocking on her door in the middle of the day might attract unwanted attention, unanswerable questions and a visit from a customs official the next."
Amid recent travel bans and increasing immigration restrictions, I
interviewed a local undocumented mother, immigration lawyers and city officials about the local implications of shifting national policies. This feature was also my first foray into narrative journalism. Employing first-person storytelling, I more vividly characterized the tense undercurrents of my meeting with the undocumented mom.
Former Palo Alto High School student journalist and current broadcast journalist Wes Rapaport visited Paly to share what it was like reporting live from within Hurricane Harvey. Before they left, I caught up with Rapaport and his father, Paly history teacher David Rapaport, for an exclusive follow-up about Wes's journey from Paly student journalist to crisis reporter. Ultimately, my moxie secured me the ultimate kicker: a compelling quote tying Rapaport's past to his present, with advice for future journalists.
Eye of the Storm
When we wrote this feature, the growth of Palo Alto was at a crossroads: following a controversial city council election, the new council first passed then scrapped large swaths of the land-use guidebook. I interviewed community action committees on both sides, the newly elected council members and a sample of Palo Alto residents to gain an objective understanding of the debate and crystallize what it means for Verde's student audience.
To Grow or Not to Grow
Journalism in Times of Crisis
When the Neo-Nazi bombings wracked Palo Alto in the late ’60s, Jay Thorwaldson was just a young journalist looking for the next big scoop. Decades later, I interviewed the retired reporter about his role in breaking the news, as well as his continued contact with and profiles about the culprits after they were jailed. By connecting Thorwaldson's captivating adventures with Verde's "Heritage of Hatred" cover, I refreshed an old story using a new angle that would be compelling in the present.
With Paly prom around the corner, I examined its somewhat antiquated traditions in the context of #MeToo, women's marches and the Gender Studies elective running at Paly for the first time. Profiling queer couples, heterosexual students, a student drag queen and the Gender Studies teacher, I stitched their respective narratives into a broader inquiry about prom at Palo Alto High School and its reinforcement of gender expectations.
Behind the Glitz, Glamor and Gender Norms
Hidden behind what looks like a funky storefront in downtown Palo Alto is the Institute for the Future, a think tank scouting out "signals" or the newest innovations, from around the globe. Though their research is policy-based, IFTF houses public exhibits of possible future scenarios fraught with ethical dilemmas. In this quirky profile, I demystified the research and creative processes of this enigmatic organization and explored their programs for students at Paly.
Forecasting the Future
Bridging the Learning Gap with Pizzazz
If imagination were tangible, it would look like the inside of 826 Valencia, a San Francisco-based writing center for under-resourced students. Under a sky of paper lanterns, the watchful eyes of stuffed hog heads and the guidance of volunteer tutors, the achievement gap shrinks with every furious scribble of a pencil, every encouraging word and every student who learns to love writing. From the title and hook to the closing lines of the story, I kept my prose whimsical and my diction snappy to match the ambience of the organization.
Stanford researchers find discrimination in officers’ treatment of minority motorists
Analyzing data from over 130,000,000 traffic stops in 31 states, a multidisciplinary team of Stanford researchers and reporters released a report statistically confirming discrimination in police interactions with minority drivers. A week after the report dropped, I interviewed the team about how they constructed a new model in their mission of using big data to inform policy.
As one of Stanford campus’s main commercial hubs, Tresidder Memorial Union deals with throngs of summer patrons each day. Tresidder witnesses the annual exodus of undergraduate students and welcomes the homecoming of sweltering heat, sun-kissed skin, seasonal fireworks and inundation of campers, athletes, conference attendees and employees. I interviewed workers at Tressider to characterize the changes brought about by summer.
The Tresidder Exodus
Debunking the Wonder Drinks
Why in the world are teens chugging yeast, vinegar and fermented beans? Between kombucha, kefir, Soylent and more, the last several years have ushered in a revival of thousand-year-old wonder drinks. While these tantalizing tonics promise everything from detoxification to cancer prevention, the validity of these claims are still largely unclear. To distinguish fact from fiction, my piece for Paly's science magazine took a closer look at the science behind these brews.
In this guest contribution to Proof literary magazine (and my very first journalism article), I explore the behind-the-scenes machinations of Paly theater's rendering of Macbeth, the final play inside the Haymarket Theater, a historical relic and home to the theater program for almost a century.