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.
A state-of-the-art gym and cutting edge technology come to mind when one thinks of the intricacies of a typical day of fencing practice. However, for junior Giuliana Umali, her enthusiasm for the sport lies not where she trains, but the physical and emotional satisfaction that it gives her.
Umali got her start in fencing when she found that the Walnut Senior Center was offering classes at an affordable price. Since then, she has started attending multiple hours of practice a week in order to improve her skills.
“I thought that I might as well try it out. I didn’t have many expectations going into it, but I love trying new things, so I enrolled in classes,” Umali said. “To my surprise, I ended up really loving the sport and the rush of adrenaline that it gives me every time I score a touch, so I stuck with it.”
Umali’s weapon of choice is foil, one of the three used in the sport of fencing. Her first coach specialized in foil, thus allowing her to better understand the rules and skills of that specific discipline. After a few months of practice, Umali slowly began to develop her own style of fencing.
“When you’re fencing, it’s really important that you’re confident,” Umali said. “If you show the slightest bit of nervousness or think that the other person’s better, then it messes with your mindset. If you think that you’re on an even playing field, then you perform better, which is a really important lesson that I’ve learned from fencing.”
Currently, Umali views fencing as a hobby and does not participate in competitions. However, this does not detract from her dedication to the sport, as she continues to attend practices and open sessions in her free time.
“The best experience is when you score a point because I feel like I finally accomplished something,” Umali said. “But there are also experiences that aren’t as good. Sometimes, I’d accidentally move my arm out in front when I’m fencing, and that’s a yellow card. It’s super embarrassing because it looks like I’m cheating, but it’s actually a pretty common mistake. I’ve had my fair share of experiences like that, but the lessons that I’ve learned from fencing are worth it.”
Every tackle, every run, every shot. Eleven versus eleven for 90 minutes. By monitoring everything on the soccer field, senior Antonio Wall is able to fulfill his role as referee: to watch over the game and ensure fair play.
When Wall was 13 years old, he sought a way to make money but struggled to find available jobs. He researched various programs that offered him a job opportunity under the age of 16 and eventually found an online course that taught the basics of being a soccer referee.
“I’ve learned how to work as a team because there’s other referees — one in the center and two on the sides — and talking to them is important,” Wall said. “I’ve also learned how to be more disciplined because I have to follow different rules. Before every game, you make a certain checklist for yourself [in order to make sure you’re] prepared.”
Wall then attended a camp geared toward those pursuing a position as a referee. After learning the basics of the role, such as calling penalties and signaling fouls, Wall obtained his club-level license. By refereeing soccer games, he was able to fulfill his goal of getting a job.
“My happiest moment was probably when I got my first paycheck [because] it makes you feel like a more independent person, [since] you’re making your own money,” Wall said. “I’m proud of my work ethics because I feel like I get to get things done efficiently, and I give my all in everything I do.”
Since then, Wall occasionally attends games from both the Southern California Developmental Soccer League, as well as Coast Soccer League. Wall has attended over 50 games in his referee career.
“The hardest part is knowing how to assess situations quickly and manage people’s emotions,” Wall said. “Players can get a little frustrated with calls, but the most important thing is knowing how to assess the situation.”
He steps onto the ramp, skateboard in hand. He stalls for a second. He leans back, putting pressure on the rear of the skateboard. He pivots his body and immediately feels a sense of elation.He has just performed his first kickflip. I mean, what would you expect? After all, it runs in the family.
Freshman Michael Burlace, who grew up in a skateboarding family, was surrounded by skateboarders ever since he was a child.
Throughout his childhood, Burlace would watch his dad, uncle and cousins skateboard around him. At age 5, his dad taught him how to ride around. At age 11, Burlace started learning tricks.
“My favorite part is how much fun it can be and how exciting it is when you learn a new trick. You can connect with anyone else that skateboards by just talking about it,” Burlace said. “I really liked it, and I liked watching people skateboard and watching their tricks.”
Burlace has taught himself many different tricks including a fakie frontside flip, a kickflip and a varial flip by watching YouTube videos and getting help from family members when needed.
“It feels like a relief. Once you finally stick it, it feels like all your hard work has led up to that one land, and it’s exciting,” Burlace said.
Throughout his skateboarding career, Burlace has garnered sponsorships from three different companies: Fish and Bones, Great Original and Drive Skateboarding Company.
“I was excited because they would send me T-shirts and wheels for me to represent them, and I felt like I was doing something important,” Burlace said.
Burlace has skated both recreationally and competitively. Although he does not compete anymore, he still continues to skateboard daily. He skateboards daily on the streets, at home or at skate parks.
“I skateboard everyday. It doesn’t matter if it’s in my front yard or at a skatepark,” Burlace said. “It makes it more fun and interactive because I can do it with other people that I can connect with and not just by myself.”
By Andrew Kim, Flora Lei and Ashley Liang, Feature editors and Design and Media editor-in-chief
Photos by Tristan Gonzalez and Isaac Le
Illustrations by Tristan Gonzalez and Ian Lee