Below the surface

Coming to school two out of the five days of the week, some may perceive senior Aaron Chin as lazy, unmotivated, or just a senior with a bad case of Senioritis.

But that’s not the case.

Involved in a car crash in freshman year, Chin has been diagnosed with stress fractures on his lumbar spine that hinder him from attending school on a regular basis. With frequent doctor appointments, Chin finds it hard to focus on his academic studies.

“[My injury] makes it very difficult. I’ve had to constantly go to doctor appointments, sometimes they are farther away, which makes me miss school. In addition to the doctor visits, it’s very hard to stay put at school since I have to sit down for long periods of time, which really aggravates my back, making it hard to focus either on a lecture or during a test,” Chin said. “

Facing these physical limitations, Chin was forced to drop two AP classes because of his constant absences, and gave up his love for Track in order to make time for doctor appointments and therapy sessions. Having been in Track since freshman year, it was not easy for Chin to give that up. From running and training every day, Chin now is unable to do even the basic activities.

“The more and more doctor appointments I have, the harder it becomes to catch up, which frustrates the teachers [and] causes them to lash out at times,” Chin said. “The teachers know about it, but they don’t know what I actually go through. They just look at it through their perspective and think it’s not something that should be affecting me so much.”

Chin’s previous responsibilities in the household were to do most of the chores and to protect his mom and sister, but now, his back pain makes it difficult for him to do so.

“I have a single mom, so I’m usually the head of the family and a take care of them, but now it’s flipped and they have to take care of me,” Chin said. “Instead of being something to support them, I feel like a burden to them, and I feel like a disabled person at times.”

But his back problems did not hold him back from anything. Chin decided to take Sports Med in hopes of pursuing a career in Orthopedic field.

“I want to be a doctor that actually helps younger kids and help people instead of just telling them ‘your kid is going to heal,’” Chin said. “I actually want to go in-depth and help them. A lot of doctors don’t know sports injuries and they think [because] you’re young, you’re going to heal.“

However in the eyes of his peers and some teachers, Chin is considered a slacker and an unmotivated student who loves to skip school.

“Honestly, everyone judges by appearance instead of the truth and that’s why Aaron doesn’t care about what others think of him. [Chin] wasn’t here during the first week of school because that was when his injury was at the worst, but people just thought he was still having fun or on vacation,” senior Matthew Chang. “Even though many people think he’s lazy or unmotivated, I know that Aaron is actually really dedicated and tries his hardest to do the things he’s capable of.”

Playing the lead role in drama for the past three years of her high school career, senior Heidi Salas may be known to some as Oliver, as Alice in You Can’t Take It With You, or as Shrek.

But this year, Salas won’t be participating in the school play believe it or not. Not many people know it, but there’s a reason to why that is.

“I tried out for this year’s play but I couldn’t do it because I’m working at my job,” Salas said.

Coming to this decision was not easy, having been so involved with each play production for the past three years. But Salas knew having a job would benefit her more during senior year, to pay for college and her senior trip to Italy.

“A lot of people say they don’t have time to work, but I am living my life and still doing good in school, so I would say working benefits me by giving me more leverage and more possibilities in the world and in my future,” Salas said. “That’s what keeps me going.”

But giving up her passion for acting and singing this year was not easy, especially because she has pretty much grown up with singing, acting and performing since elementary school.

“I was sad and I wish I was in the drama, but on the other hand, I’m also working and saving my money for college,” Salas said. “I am paying for the senior trip on my own, so my friends understand why I would choose my work over this year’s play.”

Salas has been working part-time at McDonald’s since March 2017 to gain job experience and make money, to fund her senior trip to Italy. Her hours are flexible on the weekdays but she works full eight-hour shifts on the weekends, taking orders, managing the cash register and everything in between.

“Since it is fast food, you have to be on point and you can’t mess around because it’s super fast paced and tension will be high,” Salas said. “My job gives me a sense of independence because I’m working for my own money and for myself.”

Not only has Salas made money from her work, but she has also made unique and meaningful connections she would not have made if it weren’t for her sacrifice.

“At my work, I meet a lot of new people,” Salas said. “There are the regulars that come in every single day and when I see them, instead of them being just another random customer, [I’m] like ‘Oh, hey how are you doing?’”

“He who permits the slaughter of an animal, he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, must be considered as the lsayers of the animal.”

This quote is what senior Ary Trikala used to live by. Back in India, he was forbidden to eat beef because cows were the Gods of his religion. He also couldn’t get haircuts or even cut his nails on Saturdays.

At age 14, Trikala and his family moved to California because of his father’s new job location. Unaware of the drastic difference in culture, Trikala acted as he would in his home country but this time, his peers considered him strange and weird.

“When I first met Ary, he was very introverted and refrained from eating beef because of his religion. Socially, he was really strange and asked random questions,” senior George Pu said. “Honestly, I think he was reserved and didn’t want to try new things because he was still chained by his previous traditions.”

Trikala’s behavior led others to believe that he had a strict interpretation of Hinduism when in reality he only obeyed a single rule: to not eat beef. He always replaced beef with chicken, and if there was no substitute, he would toss the beef out.

“I think people thought I was really bound to my culture because I refused to eat beef. There are other rules, such as eating non-vegetarian foods on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, but I ignored those because it wasn’t really significant,” Trikala said. “My parents are really lenient about the rules of religion and they don’t really care if I obey the rules. Not eating beef was just to show my obedience to my tradition.”

However, Trikala decided to try beef for the first time when his friends invited him to Korean barbeque.

“I ate the beef not because my friends forced me to, but because I wanted to prove to others that I’m not bounded to my religion,” Trikala said. “It wasn’t even an ‘eye-opening’ moment. I was just a typical kid eating a typical category of meat.”

Trikala’s actions, according to him, was not defiance but the whole truth that he has adapted to the American traditions.

“I wholeheartedly respect my Hindu religion because I grew up following the ideals. But now, I’m living in America so it makes sense that I’m following the lifestyle here,” Trikala said.

By Olivia Chiang, Coverage Lead and Albert Law, Design Lead
Photo by Airi Gonzalez

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