Filling out the FAFSA with ease

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Christen Alqueza

FAFSA Night, an evening assembly put together by El Camino’s Counseling Department, was held on Tuesday, January 11 in the Little Theatre. Financial aid guru Paul Wrubel from Palo Alto guided college-bound seniors and their parents through each step of filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Despite the lack of publicity of FAFSA Night, the Little Theatre filled up quickly with a crowd of about 125 students and parents, while 30 Spanish-speaking families met in the library for the Spanish presentation by experts from Skyline.

All eager to learn how to cut today’s escalating college costs, families were told about the impact of the burden of tuition on the working class, briefed on how the federal government uses the information from FAFSA to determine how much to grant each family, then guided step-by-step on how to fill it out.

On stage, Dr. Paul Wrubel — a former high-school administrator and expert on college funding with a Stanford PhD — lightened the mood by relating to the audience’s disdain for the filing process as he went on about the relatively droll subject, jokingly calling it a “stupid process.”

Wrubel has been coming to El Camino annually for FAFSA Night on his mission to universalize access to post-secondary school. He’s written hundreds of articles on the subject and was even featured on talk shows to spread his wisdom.

His tips included avoiding scam sites like, which actually charges applicants, and to file the FAFSA as soon as possible, since grants are given on a first-come, first-served basis. He also revealed several common misconceptions about financial aid, such as the belief that one will save money by living off campus, which is not necessarily true: If one indicates on the FAFSA that he/she is planning to live on-campus, the government will recognize that as more need for aid, and they may bestow them with even more money. Another myth that families often accept as true is that a family’s income is too high to get anything out of filing the FAFSA.

Wrubel cleared the haze on the subject, clarifying that everyone who files for it will receive some offer from the government, even if it is in the form of a loan.

“He gave us useful information, like to just put the money you have left after paying all your bills away and how to get as much financial aid as possible,” senior Chloe Cruz said.

Families should go to, a site which Wrubel himself co-founded, to find more tips on paying for tuition.

Although it is already months into the 18-month filing period, potential applicants have nothing to lose.


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Students who shine: Outside Sports Edition

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Bisma Shahbaz

Why do students join sports? Some join to stay in shape or compete. Others join because they are inspired by their idols or family, find it relieves stress, and it’s a way to stand out from the crowd. But what if your sport isn’t offered at school?  What if you were a fencer, a mixed martial artist, bowler, or competitive cyclist? Four El Camino students share their stories behind why they joined their unique sport.

Kenneth Roque

Three to five times a week for about two hours, senior Kenneth Roque practices to compete against others in competitive cycling competitions.Roque’s uncle introduced him to cycling and he subsequently took a quick interest. Soon he wanted to take part in competitive cycling and race against other people. During his two- hour practices, he cycles between 15-50 miles, and sometimes on Saturdays he even cycles up to 200 miles. “I love the feeling of going really fast and racing to the finish line,” Roque said. He loves the fact the sport he chose is unique, and also a way for him to get around and most importantly stay fit. He finds it challenging to get into higher levels and race against really competitive people, but he keeps training, keeps practicing, and keeps a proper diet.When it comes to cycling, one can have any body type and still be good; for him, it’s all about endurance.

Ashley Jimenez

At the age of five, freshman Ashley Jimenez didn’t enroll in basketball, softball, or volleyball like her friends. Instead, Jimenez had her parents enroll her into a bowling league.Every Saturday, Jimenez practices at Serra Bowl for about two hours with her league to prepare for upcoming competitions. Even though competitions are tough, she enjoys them because she gets to make new friends and spend time with them. During competitions, she has a tendency to get frustrated easily when she’s not doing her best, and it throws her off. Her method of refocusing is to turn to her support, “My brother just talks to me and tells me to relax which helps a lot,” Jimenez said.Jimenez has won over $250 of scholarship money and countless trophies.

Allen J Obiniana

“Train hard, be humble, fight dirty,” is junior Allen J Obiniana’s motto.    Obiniana has been training in mixed martial arts since the age of six, after being inspired by the start of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).Two times a week, for about two hours, Obiniana goes to Pacifica to practice. “It’s become part of my lifestyle for 10-11 years now,” Obiniana said. Obiniana uses mixed martial arts as a way to relieve stress. “There’s nothing like the feeling of punching a guy in the face,” Obiniana said jokingly. He works hard to master new techniques, along with training to build his stamina. To him, the biggest challenge is doing push-ups, which he hates, but according to Obiniana, “What doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger.” Obiniana hopes to one day have kids, and get them involved because, “It builds character,” Obiniana said.

Charlie Balton

To junior Charlie Balton, fencing is about “the hand that obeys the intellect.” Balton is on her way to carry her grandpa’s legacy of being a professional World Series fencer. She became interested in fencing because it had been a family sport, and so she had her parents enrolled her into a fencing league. Mastering the skills and techniques takes practice.  The most common mistake to her is getting distracted. “It’s a constant mind game. You have to read your opponent’s mind, and before they act it you have to know what to do to stop it,” Balton said.After receiving her first fencing jacket, she is now able to compete in a legitimate competition against others. Next year will be her first competition, and due to her years of training for this event she would not be surprised if she walks out with a gold medal around her neck.

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Students share keys to high school success

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Marcus Ismael

For most students college is still just a few years away, but for some, college is tantalizingly within reach. Students like seniors Emily Sison, Matthew Tan, Nathan Huey and Sammie Mui, have started early reaching for success. They have involved themselves in community and school programs as well as maintaining good grades and have been rewarded with early acceptances into the colleges they wanted.


Art Christen Alqueza

For Emily Sison, being a successful student is being a person who is, “willing to learn, retain the information and apply it to their life.” Sison has made it through four years of high school with excellent grades in all her classes. She has also taken the time to balance out her academic life with athletics because to her, extracurricular activities are just as important as school. “I recommend students to start extracurriculars early and stick with it for a long period of time,” Sison said. She also recommends that students have some sort of idea of what major they may want to take in college and then research the colleges that cater to their needs. Then students should maintain their grades as well as involve themselves in many of the community service opportunities offered at school. Sison has been accepted into UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UC Merced, and UC Riverside. Her early acceptance is attributed to her ELC (Eligibility in the Local Context) which allows students in the top four percent or their class to be accepted early.

In Matthew Tan’s opinion, grades and extracurricular activities don’t mean anything if a student does not have the skills to back

Art Christen Alueza

those activities up. For him, being a member of ASB and Key Club, service is important, but it’s more of the traits of dedication and commitment that are more important. “You have to sacrifice your time outside of the classroom and commit yourself to extracurriculars and really make an impact,” Tan said. It’s true that colleges don’t just like to see that students are part of clubs and take an active part in their community, but also like to see long time commitment and dedication. Sticking to something over long periods doesn’t just make your applications and records look better, but also helps others.

Art Christen Alqueza

While maintaining grades is one thing Nathan Huey knows is important, he also agrees with Sison and stresses the significance of extracurricular activities. Huey has participated in many clubs at school such as Key Club and Interact Club where he volunteers for events like the Relay for Life fundraiser. “Service is important to me because it helps the part of the community that cannot help itself,” he said. Not only has Huey taken advantage of the many opportunities provided by clubs here at El Camino, he has also participated in sports like football, wrestling and track. For Huey, sports and volunteering are just as equal as grades. Admissions officers look to see that students are willing to reach out to their community.

One of the top students in her class, Sammie Mui has made her academic efforts stand out amongst her peers. She has been in yearbook since her sophomore year and is now the editor-in-chief. She is currently part of El Camino’s ASB, Key Club and Interact Club. While extracurricular activities are important to Mui, school takes center stage. This year alone, she is enrolled in three AP classes and is able to balance work in and out of school. For all students, doing the work is one thing, but when it comes to challlenges, students often struggle not in the homework itself, but rather asking for assistance. “If I’m confused with anything, I ask for help, whether it’s from friends or from the teacher,” Mui said. For Mui, success with homework, projects and extracurricular work is simple. “Every assignment counts, no matter how little points it’s worth,”Mui said.

Art Christen Alqueza

Successful students are successful for a reason. They put in the effort to make sure that they get and maintain good grades throughout high school. Successful students also utilize all volunteer and extracurricular activities whether it be through school clubs or sports and remain committed to these activities. Finally, the key to being successful isn’t just measured in grades and service but through commitment and dedication. Being a part of the school and community shows colleges and employers that one is prepared to do anything and everything.

EC basketball wins over Westmont

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Ray Concepcion

The El Camino’s Boys Varsity Basketball Team playoff game against Westmont high school Warriors February 24 proved to be exciting from beginning to end as the Colts won in a close game with a score of 48-45.

After losing the jump ball, junior Truman Lee managed to steal the ball only six seconds into the game. The Warriors quickly came back with a shot by Warrior Nick Wahl.

After a quick exchange of points, the Colts went on a streak with points by juniors Anthony Knight, Brandon Halal and senior Justin Eclavea. The first quarter ended with the Colts up with a score of 11-8.

Warriors Alex Kamara, Wahl, and Marlen went on a short lived hot streak bringing the score to 12-15. The Colts ended the first half with a score of 21-18.

Moments into the second half, Eclavea brought the score to 23-18, Kamara came back with a lay-up, leading to an exciting exchange of baskets. The Colts and Warriors fought for control of the game as Wahl had back to back to back baskets, tying the score at 26-26. Senior Allan Santos played a tremendous defensive game with a series of blocks and steals allowing the Colts to end the quarter five points ahead of the Warriors with a score of 34-29.

The Colts playoff game ended with the Colts on top at 48-45.

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ECHS cheerleading squad hosts successful cheer event

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Erin Lynch

The El Camino Cheerleading Team hosted the eighth annual Cheer Around The Bay Competition in the big gym at El Camino High School on Sunday, January 23rd. Cheer and dance teams from cities and schools around the Bay Area came to El Camino to compete and spread their pride.

Teams and schools that competed included All Souls, Balboa High school, The Baypoint All Stars, Deer Valley High School, El Camino Advanced Dance team,The Eclipse Elite All Stars, Jefferson High School, Mercy Burlingame, Premier, The Rebels Elite, Sequoia High School, and Woodside High School. Teams competed in four different categories – cheer divisions, mascot, and dance. El Camino Cheerleaders, as the hosts, were excluded from competing and performing to prevent from any accusations of bias from the judges. Mercy High School was one of the more victorious schools, winning multiple first and second place awards in cheer and dance.

For the past eight years, El Camino had hosted this event to fundraise for the Varsity Cheerleader’s trip to Nationals as well as other competitions. This year the cheerleaders put all proceeds towards paying off last year’s budget shortfall of $20,000.

The main duties of the El Camino Cheerleaders were to take and sell tickets, help with crowd control, and to bring spirit and school pride to all those in the audience. “I’m glad to help because it’s important for the Varsity Cheerleaders to pay off their debt”, JV cheerleader Candace Chappell said.

Cheer Around The Bay was a successful fundraiser, raising one thousand dollars at the snack bar alone, and is expected to have raised more funds to put towards paying off the teams’ debt.

Colts practice diverse traditions

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Christen Alqueza

As third quarter comes to a close, some students may have noticed how the spirit and festive feelings of the holidays have all but disappeared. Since we live in a dominantly Christian country, many Americans are ignorant of the celebrations of other cultures, such as those of China and India. Just as Christians experience Christmas spirit in the winter, the holiday spirit of some other cultural holidays can be experienced throughout the year.

One such holiday is Chinese New Year, which was celebrated just a month ago starting on February 3 and lasting fifteen days. Although it fell on a weekday, it is supposed to be a fortunate day devoid of negativity, so some students still made efforts to celebrate. Senior Janice Wong celebrated the first day of the lunar new year of the hare with excessive amounts of food at family gatherings, lighting fireworks, and the traditional exchange of red envelopes filled with money. Sophomore Jenny Tai commented, “I only got two envelopes this year, but that’s okay.”

Even some teachers joined in on the festivities; Ms. Vosberg handed out red envelopes to her Chinese students. Some of the more traditional observers have unique customs for Chinese New Year, such as not washing one’s hair that day so as not to wash away the good luck, or refraining from saying or writing the number four because it is similar to the word for death in Chinese. Following the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year comes several more days of symbolism. The seventh day of the New Year fell on February 9 and is called Yan Yat, which is everyone’s birthday, symbolizing the day man was created. Another holiday, Diwali, a Hindu festival that many Indian students celebrate here in the U.S. In the fall, celebrators of Diwali prepare lots of sweets weeks in advance. Then, during the actual five-day festival, families come together to pray in traditional Indian garb in order to thank the gods for bringing light into the world. “The sweets are gifts to god and they also symbolize the ‘sweet’ year we will have after the prayer,” senior Avasinita Kumar said.

El Camino students of different ethnicities observe Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, which occurs in different months every year. This year in May, observers will fast for 30 days, only consuming drinks and beverages before dawn and after dusk. They also devote more time for prayer during this month. After the arduous fasting period is over, Eid el Fitar is celebrated, a day during which observers eat loads of food to make up for all the fasting. “My family and family friends prepare the food buffet-style, then we get together at like eight different houses, expected to eat full meals!” senior Swaaliha Abdul-Rahman said.


Teenage depression… Things can be better

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Kayla Kholmeister

Art Christen Alqueza

Have you ever felt like there wasn’t anyone there for you? Like you will always be alone? For people who suffer from depression, they feel this way every day. Depression isn’t just a disease that adults get and isn’t reserved only for teenagers with “problems”. Many teenagers are depressed, ranging from middle school students to college age teens. Unfortunately, many have developed unhealthy ways to cope with these feelings including substance abuse, cutting themselves, eating disorders, and committing suicide.

In the year 2007, more than 42 million suicides were committed by teenagers ages 15 through 24. Many people believe that depression can only occur in people who live in abusive homes or have traumatic events happen to them. In actuality, people can become depressed from a chemical imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitters which balance your emotions.

There are many things depressed people do to try and “escape”. One of the more widely known methods would be “cutting”. Cutting is when a person purposely injures themselves by actually cutting skin, usually on the wrist but also on the legs and sometimes the stomach. Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia can also be found in depressed teens. People may also turn to drugs or alcohol.

An El Camino student who asked to remain anonymous shared her story of her depression that started in sixth grade. Her reasons for cutting herself varied. “I had family that always made me feel terrible. They would say really mean things that always made me feel like less of a person. Also, my friends were always hurting each other as well as me. And lastly I was depressed because of things my boyfriends would say and do to me.” She never really considered suicide but she may have done so had she continued down that path. Because of counseling, her life is much happier and she hasn’t cut herself in over a year.

If you know a friend is depressed and is harming themselves, going to a counselor (is the best thing to do) or urging them to ask for help. Depression isn’t as far away from you as you think and no one is immune, but help is out there for those who need it.