Humans of Walnut
Behind every person is a story. Through Humans of Walnut, the Hoofprint staff is dedicated to telling the stories of students, aiming to capture the spirit and community of Walnut High School in the process. Inspired by Humans of New York, our writers randomly selected three students and spoke to them extensively about their passions and life experiences. These are their stories.
Freshman Calvin Chen strategically pulls the bow of his violin with his right hand, careful to keep it parallel to the bridge. With his left hand, he locates C, vibrating his fingers to create a rich sound, carefully blending in to the complete and harmonious sound of the orchestra.
Like many of Chen’s hobbies, playing in the orchestra reflects his passion for contributing to a greater whole. Chen, a first year member of the Walnut High School Concert Orchestra, has been playing the violin since sixth grade.
“Orchestra, to me, was extremely important because I was able to play with my friends. There’s just this feeling when you’re part of something bigger than yourself,” Chen said. “It’s just striving for success so that you play your part.”
In addition to the violin, Chen is an avid piano player; since the age of four, he practices the piano on a daily basis. But rather than viewing music as a mundane chore, he always manages to escape his hectic reality in its harmony.
“[Music] is an escape from all the stress, all the homework, all the tests. Of course, on occasion, my songs can be expressive, angry, sad — I guess that’s a way for me to occasionally vent my feelings,” Chen said.
Chen begins his day with school and orchestra, followed by piano practice, Chinese lessons, tutoring lessons, violin practice and homework, respectively.
“It’s like clockwork. Ever since I was small, I was always drilled into the sense of school, Chinese, homework [and] repeat,” Chen said. “Sometimes, it’s like being pushed off a cliff. I have to admit that I, at times, can be extremely lazy.”
Nonetheless, Chen derives comfort in reading at the end of each day.
“This world can sometimes be too much and the pressure can always be, again, too much,” Chen said. “Escaping into a world where you can imagine battles being fought and heroes triumphing over villains is something I found appealing, since I was small.”
Chen draws inspiration from his mother and grandmother, whom he believes have instilled in him a drive to constantly improve.
“[My mom] has been the source of everything good in my life. She can sometimes be a little bit pushy, but she always makes sure that I do my best on things that really count and it really helps,” Chen said.
Chinese culture is important to Chen, who takes lessons from his grandmother on a daily basis.
“I feel like I might be failing her, despite my attempts to learn the language,” Chen said. “I strive to be able to actually speak the language and to note the actual history of my heritage, and overall, make my grandmother proud.”
Ultimately, Chen believes his pride in his Chinese descent is characteristic of his academic prowess. Whether it be his personal strides in music, fascination for literature or unflinching work ethic, he assumes a prominent role within the greater whole: his heritage.
“It’s just a sense of knowing that your ancestors braved through many challenges, trials and tribulations,” Chen said. “The fact that you have their blood, and that you’re descended from them, that goes into the sense of pride that you have in your very existence.”
Distance learning has hindered our ability to experience the factors that define high school life. With social distancing policies prohibiting most social activities, forming a sense of community has become harder. However, in spite of these struggles, sophomore Maurice Dimurunan has strived to maintain a strong sense of community in his life by joining the cross country team.
Dimuranan and the cross country team currently meet at Suzanne Park at 5 p.m. to practice running different courses. If the practice happens to end early, he enjoys playing frisbee or basketball with his teammates. Dimuranan fulfills his need of social interaction and bonding by involving himself with the cross country team.
“The team’s camaraderie has helped motivate me into becoming a better runner every day, especially during a time like this,” Dimuranan said. “I’m looking forward to improving this sophomore year.”
Dimuranan’s relationship with the cross country team was strengthened when competing in league finals. With the support of the team’s coach, the team was able to secure five titles. His team’s success in the league finals continues to inspire Dimuranan to maintain the team camaraderie, in spite of social distancing policies.
“It was an honor just being there with the team and having that sense of camaraderie,” Dimuranan said. “To know each one of us has worked hard in order to get there is very rewarding. Motivating each other is essential for the sport and is something I’ll never forget.”
In seventh grade, Dimuranan sought a social outlet. After exploring his options, he decided to join the cross country team. He initially was skeptical about being involved in a new community, but after spending time on the team, he became more familiar with the team atmosphere. The support from his family and his teammates helped him to grow passionate about the sport as he participated in more events.
“I was very nervous since it would be the first actual sports team I would join but after a while I got used to it. I made more friends because of it and it was a very fun experience,” Dimurunan said. “Whenever I visit family and tell them about cross country, they’re always supportive of me and encourage me to perform well.”
After discovering a passion in both the sport and involvement in the community, Dimurunan decided that he would continue pursuing cross country throughout his time at school. His freshman year marked a transition between the middle school life into the world of high school, which presented him with new opportunities. One of these opportunities included pursuing cross country.
“Every race was incredibly intimidating as I had no prior experience running in a competition,” Dimuranan said. “I wanted to continue the sport because it was something I enjoyed. Freshman year was definitely a different, but positive environment for me.”
Alongside the competitive aspect of cross country, Dimuranan also challenges himself by playing video games. Primarily, he replicates the competitive thrill that he experiences from cross country when he plays Rocket league with his friends.
“I enjoy the game’s competitive nature and the ability to always improve, not to mention having fun with my friends,” Dimuranan said.
It is 105 degrees outside. The sun is blazing and junior Christian Morales’s shirt is soaking wet from the sweat of harvesting bell peppers. But none of that matters, what matters to him is to make sure the bell pepper is pulled off the vine. He has been waiting for this moment for almost eight months. Eight months of watching it grow.
Morales has spent hours in his family’s backyard and kitchen, perfecting how to plant the vegetables. After harvesting them, he cooks them in his special family style method which includes homemade spices, herbs and just the right amount of oil.
“Planting and cooking distracts me from all of the problems going on in life especially with school,” Morales said. “It helps me focus and really relax from everything that goes on.”
Over the years, Morales has planted over a dozen different types of fruits and vegetables in his backyard, including lemons, cucumbers, dragon fruits, papayas, avocados, bell peppers, tomatoes and rosemary. Out of all the plants that he has grown, his favorite to plant are the cucumbers and dragon fruits because of its personal meaning to him and his family.
“My personal favorites to plant [are] cucumbers and dragon fruits since they are one of the most difficult to plant. But the reward will always taste really good since my family really enjoys it and my family used to grow them in their old farm. They are difficult to plant [because] you have to make sure that there is enough water, sunlight and nutrients,” Morales said.
With each harvest, Morales cooks the vegetables into a meal for his family to enjoy. He often works with other members of his family to improve the quality and taste of the dishes. Morales has made pasta from homemade sauce in which he adds his own personal spices in his kitchen, such as rosemary and basil, to enhance the flavor with the different vegetables that he has grown in his backyard.
“I really like to cook. Sometimes, when I am with my family, I make great dishes that taste amazing, and other times I make dishes that taste horrible,” Morales said. “But no matter how well it tastes, my family always supports me and tells me that it tastes great.”
Morales developed a passion for planting various vegetables after spending time with his grandmother on their family farm during the summer. He learned different methods on how to plant vegetables, and more importantly, when to harvest the plants at the perfect moment.
Morales learned about cooking from his father, who works as a chef at various restaurants. He learned about what spices worked best on different dishes and how to cook each dish in his special homemade style.
“Both my grandma and my dad have been inspirations to me not only in cooking and planting, but also in other aspects of my life,” Morales said. “They have taught me to work hard and never give up. They showed me that anything is possible if I try my best.”
A pencil and paper. A paintbrush and canvas. Clay and some paint. Senior Lydia Wang expresses her creativity through various mediums of art such as drawing, painting and sculpting.
Wang draws most of her artwork in abstract, an art style that does not attempt to represent reality but uses shapes, colors and textures to achieve the effect. To decide what she wants to draw or paint, Wang thinks of ideas by looking up images online to find something that interests her. Then, she sketches an outline onto paper or a canvas and begins shading in or painting the picture.
“One of the artists I admire is [Pablo] Picasso because of his abstract art. There is a lot more freedom with drawing in abstract. I like how weird the style is because often in my works, I make features really exaggerated and funky,” Wang said.
Wang designs her own characters in which she creates the concept and style for them. Her first design was a mermaid character. Wang used green, blue and purple watercolors along with hints of pink, orange and yellow as part of the underwater color palette. She also added small details such as coral, bubbles and a school of fish.
“I gravitate to drawing more magical characters. It allows me to escape from reality sometimes because art soothes me and occupies my mind,” Wang said.
Wang not only paints on paper and canvas, but also on rocks. She painted a space-themed rock garden and several animals on rocks. One of these creations is an owl. Wang mainly used blue and brown tones to mimic the night sky and added crescent moon accents on the owl. Along with different line patterns, the owl painting includes pops of red, orange and yellow.
“I get to create beautiful works of art that I can relate to and remind me of parts of myself,” Wang said. “When I see the finished artwork, I think of how accomplished I feel because I’ve created something of my own.”
Wang was 6 years old when her mother enrolled her in her first art class. As a beginner, Wang sketched still life objects such as vases and fruits. As she grew older and became more advanced, her art teacher, Mrs. Phoebe, encouraged Wang to incorporate her imagination and emotions into her artwork. She has stopped attending weekly art classes because of COVID-19.
“When I first started [doing art], I found it interesting and something that was really fun for me. I incorporate more of my emotions into my pieces. For example, when I was doing a piece and felt energetic, I used bright colors and patterns to convey that,” Wang said. “At a young age, I knew I found something I was good at and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
However, in the beginning, Wang did struggle with drawing still life.
“I found it boring because I was just copying what was before me. I couldn’t use my imagination and felt like I didn’t have a true passion for art. My art teacher was the one who inspired me to be funky with my art and just do whatever I want with it,” Wang said.
Besides drawing and painting, Wang has tried other forms of art such as sculpting and digital art. She has made a jack-o’-lantern sculpture, an Olaf figurine from the Disney movie “Frozen” and a dragon keychain out of clay. Also, Wang’s first time using Photoshop for digital art is when she did a remake of Pablo Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist” for her Living Pictures project for Advanced Placement Art History.
“I liked how easy digital art was because with just one click, the photo would change. But personally, I still prefer drawing by hand because there’s more of a process with it. It’s much more satisfying and I feel more accomplished,” Wang said.
Wang started her Instagram art account @lydi.paints in 2019 and shares her finished artworks. She plans to pursue a career as an artist or animator.
“I’m incorporating more of myself into my art pieces. With art, I can express my creativity. It brings me happiness because I can express myself through what I draw,” Wang said. “I’ve learned that there is no right or wrong in art and that I should just be free to do what I want to do. It just makes me happy to do what I love.”
By Emily Cao, Andrew Kim, Samuel Au and Alison Ho, Feature editors, Copy and Coverage editor-in-chief and Media editor-in-chief
Photos by Kevin Lu, Sherlene Su and Katelyn Lu