Pony Express Playlists

Week 1

Each week a member of the Pony Express staff will create a playlist for our readers to enjoy. They will cover a variety of genres and decades allowing readers to explore and discover new types of music and artists. This playlist is brought to you by Jack Manville, reporter.

Warning: Explicit Content may be present in some choices.

This playlist makes you want to get up and dance. When I listened to it for the first time I caught myself humming along and shimmying my shoulders to the fun beats that each song holds. All the songs seems so different but for some reason unbenounced to me they all flow so well together, and before I knew it I had listened to the entire playlist. Half of this playlist has been added to my liked songs; it is just that good. I recommend it for a long car drive, dance party with friends, or when you just need some good pick me up music. I promise this playlist will not disappoint.

(Description by Anna Kilgariff)

Students and staff share social distancing experiences

Faith Gomez-Molina, Sophomore

To ‘see’ our therapists we have to call or video chat, I have to call mine. And although I am talking to my therapist over the phone, it is difficult to do so because it is an added anxiety to account for.  I feel that in my home I do not have nearly close enough to the amount of privacy that I did when I would go visit personally.  Even though I enjoy my therapist and speaking to her, it is challenging because I feel that I have lost all progress that I have made with her and it has been extremely frustrating.  There are just so many stressors right now that have been increasingly difficult for me to deal with.  I have been struggling a lot with handling school as well as handling myself.  Regardless, I’m still very grateful that I can at least speak with my therapist because I know that there are many other people who are facing much more difficult circumstances.

Adriana Lopez, Teacher

I was aware of about 10 students who did not have WiFi at their house. Working with Xfinity and getting them into a program for more affordable prices has been key to getting these kids to be able to do their school work. Students were extremely worried about their grades, and navigating applications for WiFi, set up and payment can be very confusing.

I reached out to my San Marin Science Team to ask for ideas. The one thing that this pandemic has done is bring teachers from all departments together. I have never worked so much with English, Math and History to help our students succeed! Ms. Laabs  was kind enough to offer an old iPhone for a student. So this student could be more connected. Ms. LeMieux and I have talked a lot about getting ELD (English language development)  students their work and how to best help them with history. Additionally, Ms. Bedford, Mr. Spinrad, myself and the Student Equity club has been working to help ELD students with their work.

I know this has been a difficult time, but I am so proud that I have the Mustang Staff to help our kids in times of need.

Marie Fehring, Sophomore

With this crazy situation where everything just stopped I didn’t really know what to do with myself. At first I did what I think everyone did: slept until I couldn’t, made way too many cakes, and basically watched every show on Netflix. However, one morning my dad came back with a 3-D printer that he had gotten from the school and asked if anybody wanted to help. At first I said that I wasn’t really interested but after a few days of seeing how cool it was and how it actually makes a big impact I decided that it was time to actually do something. My dad did the programming, but he showed me how to use the printer and how to adjust all the settings and such. I think it’s really cool to be able to help people who are working so hard to keep our community safe and healthy and learn a new skill while I’m at it!

Melissa Havel, Teacher

I miss being in the classroom.  I enjoy interacting with students and teaching about science. This experience we are now going through shows us just how important science is and how important school is, not just for the learning that goes on but for the community that we create. I cannot wait until we can return to San Marin and I can teach students in person, but until then, know that we are still here for you and look forward to seeing you in Zoom or getting e-mails or comments in Google Classroom.

Madella Tai, Sophomore

Before the COVID-19 breakout, my Dad managed a primary care clinic in SF, but since, it has been turned into an Urgent Care facility for possible Coronavirus patients and testing. He goes into work like normal, but with shifted hours sometimes so he can stay late to help get the night shift started. I get reports of how the clinic is doing, and am always surprised to hear that for weeks, it has yet to be really busy. They have had some patients that tested positive, but some days he has so little to do that he works on his home projects from work.

Small businesses provide free food to those in need

As schools around the country are shut down due to Covid-19, many families who previously relied on free school lunches did not know how to feed their children. Country-wide, more than 20.2 million students receive free lunches from their schools, and 1.8 million receive reduced price lunches. 

With rising panic from parents around the country, small businesses have stepped up to help. In Novato, Tommy’s Salsa, Bacon and Pearl have distributed free food to students.

“We give out free little amigos burritos from around 11:00 am to 1:00 pm,” a Tommy’s Salsa employee said. 

Pearl has also stepped up amidst the chaos, preparing over 45 meals for the Novato healthcare personnel. They also welcome any donations. Many people have donated items including toilet paper, toothpaste, and shampoo for others to pick up at Pearl. 

These restaurants have been saving graces to many families, who have quickly shown their appreciation. Hand-drawn thank you cards and drawings cover a wall of Tommy’s Salsa, showing the sheer gratitude from both parents and kids. 

With Covid-19 spreading across the world, simply providing free food has been a service to the community. 

Managing mental health during quarantine

March 13th, 2020 will forever stand out to me as the strangest day of high school. Having Pi Day without students parading around in t shirts with 3.14 plastered across the front, or not seeing Ms. Laabs handing out slices of pie to the whole math department just felt wrong. We were waiting for something to creep upon us. It was looming over us and everyone knew what was coming. 

When quarantine began it didn’t sound too bad, right? It seemed like the perfect opportunity to create, pick up a new hobby, be with our families, and take care of ourselves. Although this period of social distancing may very well be all of those things, it is also an extremely trying time for our mental health. Running so dependently on a structured life gives us purpose and makes us feel productive. When your daily routine is suddenly put at a required halt, life can feel odd and surreal. 

As quarantine has progressed, I have struggled to find peace of mind amidst this still, yet overwhelming chaos. Facing realizations of seeing my best friends through a screen, not being able to hug my older brother and sister, or not being able to sit at my favorite restaurant hit me harder than I ever expected. Coming to terms with these small, yet meaningful gestures took a toll on my mental stability as well as my outlook on life. Why would I ever take a night out with my best friends or a trip to the grocery store for granted? Maybe it’s because I felt like those things would always be there. I think back to those moments and they now feel like activities of leisure. 

Amongst this madness, I have brainstormed a few ways for me to feel sane and in control of my life. I found that creating a daily schedule helped give my life structure and fuel my productivity. Being stuck inside all day for months can make you bounce off the walls, so I also discovered new ways to be creative and branch out with my art. All of this may be easier said than done, but nonetheless it has helped guide this new chapter in quarantine and allowed me to feel a sense of balance as well as happiness. 

NUSD continues to offer free meals to aid community

The above image was posted on the Novato Unified School District Facebook page and describes the locations and meal plans.

On Mar. 16, the NUSD Food and Nutritional Services (FANS) department started to distribute free meals to students 18 years of age or younger from either a drive-through or walking pick-up. 

Meals are available at Hill Education Center and Hamilton School Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

“I think we’ve had a great response to the meals,” Superintendent Kris Cosca said. “We started out serving about 350. That quickly climbed up to 850 where it stabilized. The response is so strong that we decided to continue serving meals over spring break at the same two locations.”

On April 10, Lynwood Elementary School and Loma Verde Elementary School were also stationed for meal pick-ups. Then on April 25, the Olive school area (not the school site)  also opened to distribute meals from walk-ups. For these three locations, meals are available from 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

“Our FANS department needed to file a USDA waiver with the state to operate our sites as a feeding site,” FANS director Cody Williams said. “The two new additions were based on needs and requests.”

NUSD FANS organized the assistance of community partners. They were originally partnered with the San Francisco Marin Food Bank. The organization has two locations: one in San Francisco and another in San Rafael.

“We actually currently are not working with the food banks directly,” Williams said. “We are providing a similar service to make sure the community have access to fresh meals during these times and the food bank is doing something similar with groceries. Currently due to the size of our FANS staff we are able to do our own self op.”

Due to COVID-19, more volunteering opportunities have opened to help distribute meals to people who don’t have access to food. The SF-Marin Food Bank reported that 19% of the population in Marin were at risk of food insecurity, meaning that 52 million meals would be needed to feed everyone three times a day for a whole year.

“I think there are so many challenges that families are facing through this difficult time that it is great that NUSD can reduce some of their worries about one basic human need for their children,” Cosca said. “Food insecurity is a challenge in Marin County when things are going well. It is even more compounded now. I would encourage someone interested in helping out in the community to reach out to the San Francisco Marin Food Bank or North Marin Community Services to see if they have volunteer options that they might be interested in.”

Students give back to the community during the pandemic

Under the current circumstances regarding COVID-19, many individuals have purchased N95 face masks. This specific mask filters out particulates within the air and is required by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for health care workers and first responders, according to the FDA. However, the urgency for the general public to take precautionary measures has led to a shortage of the N95 masks for medical professionals.

 With much more time at hand, many people have begun to make homemade masks, either for themselves to reserve the store bought ones for first-responders, or to donate to hospitals to compensate for the shortage. Seniors Morgan and Taylor Boothe have sewed 55 masks to donate to Marin General Hospital, for children and adults. 

“When we realized there was a shortage in N95 masks, we looked up how to make the masks to help people because we enjoy putting our sewing skills to good use,” Taylor Boothe said. 

Senior Nihal Nazeem and sophomore Marie Fehring have been creating masks as well, using the STEM program’s 3-D printers to work towards producing a total of over 150 facemasks to be donated to first responders, according to NUSD’s website. 

Nazeem recognized that he “was fortunate enough to only feel bored under self-quarantine”, thus he wanted to accomplish something productive. He plans to continue printing the masks. 

Junior Izagani Aquino had wanted to volunteer and contribute to his community as well, but with the social distancing order, he was unsure of what to do at first. Soon, he established a fundraising event called Maskathon that is connected with his pre-existing Polish Dogs 2020 campaign. 

“I thought that a Maskathon would be a cool way to encourage others to find ways that they could help, while also making even more masks to donate and raising money for the food bank,” Aquino said.

The Maskathon required Aquino to make as many masks as possible, and people were able donate to his fundraiser during this time as well. Ultimately, he was able to make 32 masks and raise $980 of the $1000 goal within this time frame.

In addition to the production of face masks, many individuals have made an effort to show appreciation for those that are working to maintain the community during the pandemic, including grocery workers, first responders and police officers, among others.

Junior Katie Kosta and freshman Elise Kosta began a campaign called Uplift Novato, where they post motivational signs throughout Novato and encourage locals “to stay safe and spread positivity”, as stated by their website.

Student Write-In: Netflix* recommendations

*All films on this list are included with a Netflix subscription or are available for rent on Amazon, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and iTunes.

By: Ethan Fonarev

One of the greatest challenges that we face in our modern world is choosing what to watch on Netflix. With the spread of coronavirus, this struggle has never been more prevalent in our lives. So to help you overcome that challenge, I’ve put together a list of some great movies currently on Netflix that I hope you’ll enjoy:

Good Time (2017)

 Amazon.com: Watch Good Time | Prime Video

A blood-pumping crime thriller with no stop.
Drenched in a flashy neon-colored palette, “Good Time” follows Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) through the underground of New York City as he struggles desperately to free his brother from prison after their failed bank robbery. The film rarely gives time for the viewer to breathe, as Connie bolts from one scheme to the next. If you’re looking for a fun crime movie, this is a great choice.

The Master (2012)

 The Master (2012) - IMDb

A careful deconstruction of character that is vast in scope.
From its sprawling setpieces, mood-setting score to its masterful cinematography, Director Paul Thomas Anderson presents a gripping story of a WWII veteran’s attempts to find meaning in the post-war world. Beyond the beautiful visuals, “The Master” demonstrates thematic depth by directly comparing veteran Freddy Quill (Joaquin Phoenix), an unhinged, foul-mouthed alcoholic, and Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a charismatic cult leader who works to cure Quill of his aforementioned vices through a series of psychological tests. I would highly recommend this film if you’re looking for a slow, character-focused drama.

Life of Brian (1979)

 Amazon.com: Movie Posters Monty Python's Life of Brian - 11 x 17 ...

A comedy of biblical scale.
“Life of Brian” is an absurdist satire centering around the life of the timid, titular protagonist in biblical Jerusalem. One of my biggest problems with “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is that its PG rating makes it feel like a kid’s movie. Although not radically different in the structure of its humor, “Life of Brian” is freer to touch on more mature subject matters such as religious fanaticism and stereotypes, and political inaction and corruption. Combining the writing talent of the Monty Python crew and the relatability of the aforementioned topics, the film garners harder-hitting punch-lines and thus, more laughs.  

The Hateful Eight (2015)

 The Hateful Eight" by Benedict Woodhead | Movie poster art, The ...

The quintessential quarantine film.
Often we connect to art because of its relatability. As of now, there’s no better time to connect with Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight”. Stranded in a remote haberdashery during a blizzard in the late 1800s, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) tries to expose a hidden enemy from a group of seven others. The claustrophobia of the characters’ stay and Tarantino’s witty dialogue escalate the tension. Despite generally taking place in and around the small haberdashery, the film is still engaging, interesting, and, as expected from Tarantino, violent and brutal.

Other recommendations: 

“The Lobster”, “Shawshank Redemption”, “Roma”, “The Witch”, “Train to Busan”, “The Florida Project”, “The Social Network”, “Bladerunner”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “The Good the Bad and the Ugly”, “Once Upon a Time in the West”

We will recover: A message to the class of 2020

By Vivian Bui & Elise Jonas-Delson

Dear class of 2020,

Who would have predicted that the world would crash into shambles during what many would argue is one of the most sentimental times of our lives? We were robbed of the limited time we had left with our friends, our much-anticipated prom, senior fashion show, final sports games and musical performances, and we also had the security blanket of feeling like any other normal teenager stripped away from us. A global pandemic has left us all helplessly sheltered inside our homes concerned about the health of our loved ones and longing for the moment everything will subside. As seniors who have been dreaming of dancing the night away at prom and throwing our graduation caps into the sunset, this is a reminder to the class of 2020 that we are in this together. 

We have learned that nothing is guaranteed, no matter how much it may seem within our grasp. But along with that, we have learned to appreciate the good moments we were given and will never take the seemingly mundane aspects of our lives for granted again. Conversations with our friends between classes, pushing through grueling sports practices, running through scripts for plays or Mock Trial, and even group study sessions before finals all belonged to a past that we were so lucky to have experienced with one another. 

The act of graduating high school is often synonymous with leaving a metaphorical safety net and venturing out into the unknown. We watched as seniors from years past proudly wore their college gear on May 1, finalized gap year itineraries, or prepared to enter the workforce. Stepping into adulthood is challenging enough without a pandemic in our midst. We are preparing ourselves for a future that we cannot yet envision. But, if anyone can handle this challenge, it is the class of 2020. 

We don’t know what the future will bring but we have the ability to move forward and fill that space with our compassion and resilience. This group of seniors are strong, hardworking individuals who will create positive change in a world that needs us more than ever. 

But even though we are telling you to be optimistic, it is still impossible to turn a blind eye to the suffering and chaos that is happening to the world around us. As teenagers, a pandemic is among one of the many firsts in our lives, and it is terrifying not knowing what will happen next. We believe that our thoughts and actions are more important than ever during times like these and that it is valuable to recognize the support we are receiving from our teachers, friends and family. The San Marin 2020 graduating seniors signs in front of our homes are a reminder of the love and effort San Marin staff members put in to hand deliver signs to our doors. The weekly emails from Principal Sims are a reminder that there are people thinking of us. Everyone is rooting for us to grow from this. We will recover. 

As the class of 2020 enters adulthood, we are in this together. Our futures are still vast and bright. We hope that when the day comes when we can finally stand closer than six feet apart, the class of 2020 will throw our caps into the air with even more meaning than we would have before. Stay healthy everyone.


 Elise Jonas-Delson and Vivian Bui

Colleges modify SAT/ACT policies due to coronavirus

On Mar. 31, the University of California schools decided to implement temporary measures which relax undergraduate admissions standardized testing requirements for students looking to enroll at UC for fall 2020 and future years as applicable. Many other colleges nationwide have also switched to a test-optional system for the current junior class, because of the inability for these students to take standardized tests. 

The March and June SAT and April and June ACT were postponed to August, which the College Board “will continue to assess its status with the health and safety of students and educators as it is our top priority.” However, the College Board predicts that these tests might be pushed back into later into the fall. 

If schools are unable to reopen in fall 2020, the College Board will provide a digital SAT that students can take at home. Similar to the AP tests in May, the College Board says that they will ensure it is “simple; secure and fair; accessible to all; and valid for use in college admissions.” 

Students applying in the fall of 2020 will have the option to submit test scores for most schools. Although some students see this as an advantage for their applications, others are fearful of how this will affect their acceptances. 

“I had to rely on my test scores a lot more to get in because I’m a really good test taker but don’t get phenomenal grades, so it was a chance to get a boost,” Junior Kyle Ramser said. “I really think the SAT/ACT should still be taken majorly into account because some students may rely on it more than ones who are doing plenty of AP classes and other things.” 

Although several high-ranked universities have made the announcement that they will move to a test-optional system for the class of 2021, schools will still accept scores from students who have the opportunity to take the tests and decide to submit their results. 

“Doing so can support their statewide UC eligibility, application for certain scholarships, and help them fulfill some University graduation requirements,” said UCLA Admissions Counselor Mike Drish. “Campuses will adjust their internal processes accordingly to ensure that no student is harmed in admissions selection should they not submit a test score.”

Other students including junior Kian Namiranian are pleased with the trend of colleges making test scores optional for the 2020 application year. 

“I feel relieved that many schools are changing to test optional since the college board/act inc has not really announced yet how they are going to deal with this issue,” said Namiranian.  “I know that I am going to find a way to take it and do relatively well, and this will be a great addition to make my college application stand out more.” 

Despite students’ gratitude towards the flexibility in many colleges application policies, junior Nico Hadiaris acknowledged that it is unfortunate for other grade levels that have not had this option.

“I would be a little unhappy because this is only happening because of extenuating circumstances,” Hadiaris said. “If I was a senior I would definitely be pretty angry that lower grades kind of get a pass on SAT and ACT tests.”