Writing

“OPINION: In the face of Trump, Davis needs to stay a sanctuary city”

Note: Undocumented immigrants at my school feared deportation after Executive Order 13769, so I wrote this opinion piece, explaining the need for Davis to keep its sanctuary status. I researched previous Supreme Court cases and cited an example of a state withholding funds due to sanctuary status to backup my claims.

(Published on BlueDevilHUB.com on Feb. 17, 2017)

By Meghan Bobrowsky,
BlueDevilHUB.com Multimedia and Social Media Editor-in-Chief–

After Texas Governor Greg Abbott canceled criminal justice grants to Travis County for its sanctuary status, it makes sense that Davisites would fear similar repercussions for the town’s sanctuary city policy. However, values of the Davis community indicate that remaining a safe haven for undocumented immigrants is more important than receiving money from the federal government.

Davis was established as a City of Sanctuary in 1986, then reaffirmed by the City Council in 2007 and 2014, according to City of Davis’ official website. The sanctuary status means that “police officers or other city officials, during the course of duty, do not take documented status into account when they encounter individuals in Davis.” The status also grants undocumented immigrants equal access to city facilities and services.

The city website declares that documented status is a federal issue—not a local issue. For 31 years, Davis’ decision to welcome undocumented immigrants has not yielded any problems.

But President Donald Trump decided to test the strength of Davis’ sanctuary status on Jan. 25, by signing Executive Order 13768, also known as “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.”

The order states that “sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.” As a result, cities who do not comply will lose federal funds.

Just how Trump plans to revoke federal funding is not clear; however, there is a history of the federal government withholding money from non-cooperative states.

In South Dakota v. Dole, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could legally cut South Dakota’s federal funds by five percent for refusing to abide by a 21-year-old minimum drinking age. Trump may use this precedent to justify retracting federal money from sanctuary cities.

More likely though, Trump’s focus will be on withholding federal funds from counties—which he can easily accomplish through law enforcement and criminal justice grants.

Another reason he may need to target counties is that “counties, not cities, are the most important policy-makers in terms of establishing sanctuary policies,” according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a national nonprofit organization that works with immigrants for equal rights. Counties can autonomously decide whether or not they want to to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement; however, ILRC describes transferring immigrants to ICE as being “an active accomplice to deportation.”

In addition, sanctuary city laws can be “undermined by county policy and practice,” making it all the more necessary to declare Yolo County a sanctuary county. Being a sanctuary city is still important, however, in sending a message to immigrants — telling them, “you are welcome in this town”.

On the state level, California has already restricted jails from holding people on ICE detainers, which have been found unconstitutional and not enforceable by warrants. On Sept. 28, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown also signed into law the Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds Act, which “further places procedural protections on ICE’s access to interrogate immigrants in California’s custody,” according to ILRC.

A slew of other states — Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Oregon, Alaska and Montana — have also taken action against local enforcement of immigration laws.

ILRC sums up the essence of sanctuary statuses on all tiers:

“Sanctuary is fundamentally about public safety: the need for everyone in the community to feel safe. […] Providing sanctuary runs through the very fabric of the United States.”

With these overlapping city, county and state policies, it is difficult to estimate how much federal money Trump could legally deduct from California altogether. In the case of Travis County, Abbott plans to withhold $1.5 million from the criminal justice division of his office.

If Trump were to follow Abbott’s precedent, California could consider enacting a statewide tax or increasing fees to collect the necessary operating funds not being provided by the federal government. 

Davis should not cower before Trump’s threats and drop the sanctuary title at the hint of trouble. Instead, the principled city must hold onto its status dearly, advocate for a similar county policy and spread the love statewide.


“Vernau finishes second at state to longtime rival”

Note: After driving three hours in the rain to Fresno to live tweet Vernau’s race, I spent another hour in a nearby Starbucks putting the cross-country race of the century into 700 action-packed words. I used colorful quotes from both Vernau and his coach to give the story more depth.

(Published in the Nov. 27, 2016 edition of The Davis Enterprise and online)

By Meghan Bobrowsky

CLOVIS — The grueling fight for the cross country Division I boys state title came down to the last 350 meters of the 5,000-meter race. A local rivalry between two Northern California athletes was finally put to rest after an exhaustive season.

The long-awaited battle between Armijo’s Luis Grijalva and Davis’ Michael Vernau yielded mixed disappointing and exciting results for the three-year DHS runner, who ran the second fastest time of the day (14:56.4) and qualified for Nike Cross Nationals in Portland next weekend. Vernau was ultimately defeated by Grijalva.

“I’ve been waiting for this race for a long time. I just had to get to the front and find Luis,” Vernau said. “I just tried to stay calm and be ready for Luis when he went. I knew he was going to make a move eventually, and I had to be ready for it.”

Head coach Bill Gregg explained the race strategy he and Vernau discussed.

“We talked about a couple of different things. One of them — because they ran side-by-side — was to be prepared to do that again. We talked a little bit about maybe on this downhill after two miles, Luis was going to push him there, and he had to be prepared for the moment that Luis tried to pull away. Michael really was prepared for that.”

The coach and athlete also talked about potentially kicking with 3-400 meters to go, instead of waiting until the usual 200 meters to go. However, Vernau was too exhausted by that point in the race to execute the plan properly.

“I knew it was going to come down to the last 2-300 meters. When they come by, side-by-side, you know what’s going through my head? So far, so good. But there’s still just no way to know how it’s going to turn out at the end.”

The crowded race of 200 boys made breaking away from the pack in the beginning harder than at previous smaller meets such as Sac-Joaquin Sections Championships and Delta League Championships. Regardless, Vernau weaved his way to the front to find his running buddy.

“I had a lot of energy investment. I went out faster than I wanted to, just to get to the front. But it was worth it in the end.”

The boys worked together, leading the race, until Grijalva started to pull away with 1,000 meters to the finish line, however, Vernau did not let his longtime competitor slip away easily. He said the last 800 meters was the most agonizing part of the race, yet did not let Grijalva take the win without a struggle.

“I made a move at 600 meters to go, and then he countered me at 350 meters. At 325 meters to the end, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to respond to him. My legs were just too tired at that point. I knew I was going to get second, so I just tried to run as fast as I could.”

Vernau admitted to mixed emotions after the race. While it would have been nice to win, placing second in the state is a pretty big achievement, he said. The boys have always left the rivalry on the course since first competing against each other during track season of their freshman year. Vernau recalls that first race.

“We ran the 1500 meters at Sac State, and he was within a second of me. I actually won that race. I won most of the races when we were sophomores and juniors. He’s won most of the races this year.”

Since the boys live fairly close — an hour apart — they sometimes see each other outside of early morning Saturday meets for workouts and the occasional long run. Gregg thinks Grijalva and Vernau’s friendship is a statement about the essence of cross country.

“People compete against each other in a competition, but before and after, they can be friends. They can be training partners. Last year, Armijo actually came and trained with us a few times. I know Michael and Luis have warmed down together after races. I think it’s great.”

“There’s no one really to be more competitive with than a best friend or a sibling. It’s a friendly rivalry,” Vernau said. “If I had to lose, I think losing to Luis, a good friend of mine and training partner, I don’t mind at all.”


“DHS runners are second at national meet; Vernau finishes 23rd”

Note: Every second of this race was intense. That’s why I used choppy sentences in my lede: to establish a rhythm that ended with the race results just as I had experienced it streaming from my computer. I was excited and honored to write the story concluding the team’s five-month journey.

(Published in the Dec. 4, 2016 edition of The Davis Enterprise and online)

By Meghan Bobrowsky

At the one-mile mark, the Davis High School girls cross country team was not in the top seven. At the two-mile mark, they were in fifth place. On the podium, the exhausted athletes were declared the second-best high school girls team in the country.

The Blue Devils ended their 2016 season Saturday on the Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland, Ore., after racing 3.1 muddy miles in the 13th annual Nike Cross National Girls Championships. The hard-working harriers scored 181 points to edge Great Oak of Temecula by just 4 points.

“It was a big surprise. With the way the race unfolded, we honestly thought ‘OK, they’re on the stage. So they must’ve gotten third because Temecula had a pretty big lead at two miles,’ ” head coach Bill Gregg after receiving the big news. “It’s an incredible accomplishment and actually quite difficult given the level of competition across the United States.”

Fayetteville-Manlius of New York won its 10th national title in 11 years, racking up only 41 points. However, there was no favorite for second place.

Davis and Great Oak went head-to-head at multiple invitationals this season and eventually the CIF California Championships, where Davis lost to Great Oak by a mere 20 points. But after Davis’ stunning second-place finish to Fayetteville-Manlius at the national meet last year, no one was quick to make assumptions.

A whopping 31 of the top 40 girls raced as individuals, making senior Sofia Castiglioni’s 38th-place finish in 18:31.1 an impressive feat. Only two team scorers broke the top 18 individual qualifiers’ firewall.

“I was running in ‘no man’s land’ around mile one so I was thinking about pushing harder to try to catch the group in front of me,” Castiglioni said. She caught the pack before the second mile.

Sophomore Sophie Lodigiani was Davis’ third scorer, sprinting through the Nike finishing chute to clinch 79th place in 19:11.0.

“It was a slow course today but I scored as little points as I could and it got us to where we wanted to be,” she said. “(Being a part of the team) makes me so motivated to do the best I can for them.”

In a race of 200 girls, every second counts; this idea was made clear by sophomore Annie Mitchell’s 117th-place finish as Davis’ fifth runner in 19:45.7. If she had run three seconds slower, Davis would have lost to Great Oak.

“For me, it sort of feels like we lived up to what we knew we can do,” said Mitchell, a first-year varsity runner. “Second in the nation feels pretty awesome, especially because the first-place team is just so good, so it feels like we won even though he got second. NXN was such an amazing experience.”

Her twin sister Ruthie Mitchell clocked in as Davis’ sixth runner in 20:07.3 (142nd place). Junior Sage Taylor came in seventh for Davis, in 190th place at 21:05.2.

Only 154 race participants were team scorers, which meant the girls did not have to keep up with the elite group in the front to win. A total of 55 combined boys and girls state champions and 26 team champions were among the runners who competed for the first-place trophy.

Senior Brie Oakley from Colorado won the race in 17:10.1, a mind-boggling 28 seconds ahead of the next finisher, sophomore Emma Stratton of Portland.

Two sophomores and an eighth-grader finished in the top six, showing the high caliber of talent for future years. Davis’ team is also fairly young, with three sophomores and two juniors, in contrast to Great Oak, who is saying goodbye to five seniors this year.

So what is the locals’ secret to victory?

The patient girls did not start out pushing the pace; they waited and struck hard in the last 1,000 meters, similar to the strategy that garnered them second place last year. When the splits at the mile mark were released, the favorite Fayetteville-Manlius was dominating the competition with 27 points, relatively close to a perfect score of 15 points. Great Oak ranked second with 169 points, and Southlake Carroll of Texas was third with 180 points.

Ahwatukee of Arizona was in fourth with 186 points, ahead of Carmel of Indiana with 199 points, Clifton Park of New York with 226 points and Broomfield of Colorado with 236 points.

“In some ways, it unfolded almost the same as last year. But last year, I don’t really think we could really tell it was going to work out that way,” Gregg said. “This year we had a plan. (We thought) if we execute that, it will work out to our advantage.”

As the runners neared the second mile mark, the Davis girls started to weave through the throngs of athletes. Junior Olivia O’Keeffe followed Castiglioni making a move, ultimately finishing in 18:57.0, good for 59th place.

 After stealing the Division I state title from Lauren Peurifoy of Riverside at the CIF state championships, O’Keeffe planned to have a similar race strategy.

“I wanted to go out more conservative and try to have strong second and third miles. I didn’t have a great race today — the mud kind of zapped my legs so that definitely made the race more challenging. I also felt pretty fatigued from last weekend as well as getting sick this week.”

Senior Abbey Fisk committed to an accelerated pace, ending her high school cross country career in 83rd place with a time of 19:14.8.

Vernau finishes 23rd

The course was chewed up for the boys championship, but DHS senior Michael Vernau took on the challenge as his last high school cross country race. He qualified for the national meet after placing second to Armijo’s Luis Grijalva at the CIF state championships last weekend, making him the first male Blue Devil in history to qualify as an individual.

Vernau flew across the finish line in 16:04.3 to claim 23rd place in a race of 198 boys, including the defending team champions, Great Oak. The boys race was heavily dominated by individual runners, similar to the girls championship. However, the elite leading pack was larger than in the girls race.

“The course was so soft this year, and when you mush through this softness, it can take a lot out of your legs,” Gregg said. “Michael’s a pretty big kid, too, in terms of height and weight compared to some of these other runners. On the other hand, he’s one of the best runners in the country, and he made it to the national championships.”

Vernau passed the first mile mark in 4:53.0 and the second mile mark in 10:06.0.

“I managed to get through the first mile well but my legs were more tired than they should have been,” he said. “I was fighting the urge to drop out after that point and I’m glad I managed to finish, but I’m pretty dissatisfied to be so far behind the guys I normally run with.”


“School resource officer brings experience, humor to the job”

Note: Most students at my school were terrified of the school resource officer, whose job is similar to a school police officer. So, I wrote this article displaying one of her least-known but best attributes, humor, hoping that my peers would see her as a helpful human rather than a threat.

(Published in the July 13, 2016 edition of The Davis Enterprise and online)

By Meghan Bobrowsky

Yolo County Gang Task Force member, patrol officer, detective: Those are just some of the positions that Keirith Briesenick has held over the past 16 years, ultimately leading her to current role as the Davis Police Department’s school resource officer.

However, the Orange County native and UC Davis graduate didn’t always know that police work was her passion.

“I was an anthropology major,” Briesenick said. “(It) was really fun to study, but it doesn’t have a lot of practical application.”

Only after the former UC Davis softball player picked up a job at Blue Shield answering phones and met several co-workers who were attending a nighttime police academy was her interest piqued.

Briesenick applied for a job in the records division at the Davis Police Department in 1998 and was offered the position.

But as a former student-athlete in both high school and college, Briesenick didn’t really want a job that entailed sitting behind a desk all the time. She wanted to be active.

“I wanted to see what police work was really like, not just what you see on TV,” she said.

In 2000, Briesenick was sent to the police academy where she gained a plethora of skills. But it’s her sense of humor that has proved particularly valuable on the job.

Briesenick, whose colleagues and friends call her “KB,” recounted a traffic incident where her humor came in handy.

“I was waiting for traffic (while at) an intersection over by Holmes Junior High, and there was a vehicle going in front of me at the intersection. As he passed in front of me, I could see him on his cell phone talking. It was a contractor with his phone number plastered on the back of the truck.

“So instead of pulling him over, I just called the number. He answered and I told him, ‘Hi this is the police officer behind you. You can’t be driving and talking on your phone.’ And I see the brake lights come on and he pulls over,” she said, laughing.

Briesenick didn’t give the driver a ticket, but she believes he learned his lesson.

School district safety coordinator Marc Hicks has known KB since the beginning of her career and agrees that humor is one of her best traits.

“You know you see a lot of police officers, they deal with a lot of bad stuff, and I think that her sense of humor allows her to be pretty much human and not take everything so seriously,” Hicks said.

Another positive quality is Briesenick’s ability to get along with almost anyone, which was crucial to her time spent on the gang task force.

The Yolo County Gang Task Force brings together peace officers, probation officers, parole officers and prosecutors with a common objective of providing targeted intelligence gathering, enforcement, investigation and prosecution of criminal street gangs.

Briesenick worked on the task force for four years.

“I worked with a really fun group of people, and sometimes that’s what matters the most. It matters who you’re doing it (with),” she said.

That was true during Briesenick’s time as a detective as well. Then she worked with Sgt. Ariel Pineda for three years, handling a variety of criminal cases.

Pineda, who has been with the Davis Police Department since 2006, described his fellow detective as “good with different demographics and ethnicities” and “always courteous and considerate.”

It didn’t come as a surprise to anyone when Briesenick was assigned the role of school resource officer.

“She’s very able to work with people, so she has (a lot of) different options,” Pineda said.

In this role, Briesenick’s day consists of going to meetings at Davis High School, cruising around the campus with supervisors as well as visiting other schools in the district and meeting individually with students. Although she loves the job, Briesenick acknowledges it’s not all fun and games.

“It’s hard because kids make mistakes and so having to arrest them or put them in a criminal justice system can be (kind of) harsh for a lot of kids,” she said. “I’m really glad that we do have a program at the Police Department that gives you one ‘freebie’ to get it off your record in case you mess up once.”

And after tackling every position in the department rotation, what’s next for the versatile officer?

“I’ll rotate back to patrol, and then I’ll probably promote to supervise other people,” she said.


“Reflecting on #MyGlobalStory”

Note: I started this piece with a question—how in the world am I going to find 13 culturally diverse teenagers in Cowtown, California, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farm fields—which was the first thought that popped into my head when I took on #MyGlobalStory.

(Published on Global Student Square on Jan. 1, 2017)

By Meghan Bobrowsky
GSS Video Editor

How in the world am I going to find 13 culturally diverse teenagers in Cowtown, California, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farm fields?

This question was the first thought that ran through my head when I agreed to take on the #MyGlobalStory project for Global Student Square back in September. The original idea, based on journalism adviser Don Goble’s Six Word Stories, was to tell a student’s unique cultural story through a short profile video highlighting six symbolic words, which would appear on the screen as the person said them.

I was excited about the project until Beatrice Motamedi, executive director of GSS, warned me that I would need to reach out to people I do not know, which terrified me since the one-minute videos were meant to be filmed in the interviewee’s own home in Davis, California, 75 miles northeast of San Francisco and a place we sometimes call “cowtown” for its agricultural surroundings. That fear prompted me to beg one of my best friends to let me use her a test subject. Being a journalist herself, she understood my discomfort and complied with my request.

A few days later, I sat on the carpet in Denna Changizi’s beach-themed bedroom while she recounted the fascinating story of her parents’ two-part journey — from Iran to Italy to America — during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. She explained Persian holidays, debunked stereotypes associated with Iranian immigrants and attempted to teach me how to write in Farsi.

After three years of friendship, I thought I knew everything about my friend Denna. She blended in with every other teenager at school, wearing high-top sneakers and ripped skinny jeans. But I was wrong; she had a whole different culture tucked away at home.

Iran. Italy. America. Culture. Celebrate. Journey. These words summarized the tale of two young adults wishing to escape a country in chaos to fulfill the American Dream. Denna’s video was the first of many intriguing stories, which I visually documented over the next three months.

Living within the greater Sacramento area my entire life had sheltered me from real world problems outside my tiny bubble, leaving me hungry for a taste of unfamiliar traditions and lifestyles.

A few weeks and new feelings of confidence later, I found myself sitting on a carpet floor once again. This time, I questioned Meseret Carver, who was born in Alonkome, Ethiopia, about why she left her home country after her eighth birthday. She candidly explained the differences between opportunities in the United States and Ethiopia, half-joking that she might have been married by now had she not journeyed to California nine years ago.

Ethiopia. So Much More. Surreal. Language Barrier. I strayed from the six-word structure and added a seventh word because Meseret’s narrative of leaving her birth mother and father behind for the promises of a foreign country was so compelling. Each word held powerful meaning and emphasized the sacrifices she made for her future.

In response to her story, I reevaluated my own life and the luxuries I take for granted: textbooks, clean water or waking up to the sound of my dad cooking breakfast in the kitchen. I plastered the video on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, hoping that our GSS audience — which hails from cities including Seoul, Barcelona and Paris — would have similar reactions.

I could not stop there. I was determined to find the most diverse students on campus and give them a voice. The next two videos were lighthearted; they showed clips of scrapbooks, traditional outfits for holidays in Nepal and students happily reminiscing about the past. However, as November and the presidential election approached, my next video took a different direction.

I sought out someone with strong opinions about either candidate, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. I stumbled upon Max Banuelos, whose grandfather emigrated from Mexico at the age of two. He began the interview with an anecdote about visiting his grandfather’s house, but later explained his fear about the possibility of Donald Trump keeping families apart by sending undocumented immigrants back to their respective countries.

Across The Border. Break Up Families. These phrases summed up Max’s passionate and clearly-articulated argument about the intricate subject of immigration. He spoke to the camera as if I was not there, growing more emotional and engaged by the minute.

After I turned off my camera, Max went back to being the bubbly, outgoing skateboarder on whom everyone could count for a laugh. I was surprised at the ease with which he flipped the switch on his political views, and more surprised with how he embraced his double identity as a Mexican and an American. Max was proud of the life his grandfather built from scratch and equally proud to be a part of “The Land of the Free.”

The remainder of my interviewees were Guatemalan, Finnish, Chinese, Greek, Nepalese, Turkish, South Korean, South Indian, French and Bengali. Each student offered a different perspective and brought up topics exotic to the United States such as mandatory military service — required in Turkey — and the typical school day in South Korea, which includes night school as well as class during the day.

Instead of being scared to reach out to people I did not know, I looked forward to knocking on a new door each week, setting up my tripod and spending hours at home editing the video, which meant condensing five-to-10-minute interviews down to 50 seconds. Ultimately, I ended up connecting with my subjects on a personal level as well as a professional level.

After producing 13 videos, I can say that sharing these colorful stories was a rewarding experience itself, but getting to know my peers on a deeper level proved to be the most meaningful part of #MyGlobalStory.

When I started the project, the world was a different place. At first, the videos were a good idea for a global student journalism network. But as the presidential election became increasingly important, so did students’ views on immigration, Hispanics, Muslims and even women. If I had done the project another year, the six words in each story would not have resonated with the audience in the same way.

My hope is that #MyGlobalStory does not end here but continues to grow as more people view the videos and share their own global experiences by sending in their own Six Word Stories to Global Student Square. I have created a workflow, which students can follow to create their own video. Once completed, students can send their videos to submissions@globalstudentsquare.org for review and feedback.

This is just the beginning.


“Citrus Circuits prepares for robotics competition season”

Note: I interviewed the head coach and two team captains to get a feel for the robotics team atmosphere. I also attended a team meeting to capture on-the-scene observations that livened up the story and hyperlinked the team website at the end for students who wanted more information.

(Published in the Oct. 21, 2016 edition of The Davis Enterprise and online)

By Meghan Bobrowsky

After losing in the semifinal round at the 2016 FIRST Robotics world championships last April in St. Louis, Mo., the Citrus Circuits robotics team is back in action and using the off-season to train new students.

Coach Steve Harvey said the team lost about 15 seniors but successfully recruited more than 80 new students with a plethora of skills, including app programming, wood shop and tool use, and business media.

“We’re generally gearing up for our new season, getting people ready for the onslaught,” he said. “When January comes, it’s crazy. We’re going to be working every weekend.”

Harvey said an estimated 100 Davis high school and junior high students have been attending the weekly meetings but he thinks the team eventually will dwindle to 70 to 75 students. Meetings are from 6:30 to 9 p.m. every Wednesday and Thursday in Room M-1 at Davis High, 315 W. 14th St., for anyone who still wants to join the team.

This year, students must sign a commitment letter agreeing to be present at 75 percent of team meetings to become an official member of the robotics team.

“We’re doing that because last year we had some students that would say they wanted to be on the team, but they wouldn’t commit,” Harvey said. “So they drifted in and out, and it’s hard to train kids when they are not here all the time. So this year we’re asking for that commitment.”

And with an expanding roster comes the expanding budget. Harvey said the operating budget last year was about $120,000, which is $60,000 less than this year’s budget.

So where does Citrus Circuits receive its funds?

DMG Mori, Nvidia and Schilling Robotics are all corporate sponsors for the robotics team, Harvey said, and UC Davis makes up one-fifth of the budget.

Parents provide an additional third, he added.

By increasing its budget, Citrus Circuits hopes to make it to the Einstein Field, which is the final field at the world championships.

For the first time, FIRST Robotics will be hosting two world championships — one in Houston and the other in St. Louis — due to overcrowding at the competition. If it qualifies, Citrus Circuits will be traveling to Houston with other teams from the West Coast while teams from the East Coast and Canada will compete in Missouri.

“We’ve proven ourselves as a team to be competitively successful, but we also know there is more to this whole program,” Harvey said. “There’s more to robotics than just being competitively successful.”

Until the new game is announced in January, one of Citrus Circuits’ main focuses is community outreach. The team mans a booth at the Farmers Market year-round where children can play with a small VEX robot. The team also will host the third annual Women in STEM seminar at the DMG Mori auditorium, 3805 Faraday Ave., from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5.

Vice captain Kelly Ostrom, a senior, thinks the gender gap in STEM education and STEM fields is large but fixable.

“While it is shrinking in recent years, it’s still something that is an issue that we can definitely address on our team just by reaching out to girls and encouraging them to join the team,” she said.

Another outreach project run by the team is the Davis Youth Robotics Summer Camp, which debuted this past summer. At the one-week camp, fourth- through eighth-graders got to design, program and create their own robots, according to Citrus Circuits’ official website.

The robots used at the summer camp are made of VEX, which is a snap-together system much smaller than the robots built at the high school, Harvey said. The robots also take a shorter amount of time to build — three hours versus six weeks.

“We ran two separate camps with almost 30 students in each camp for a total of 60 students, and … they loved it,” Harvey said. “That has inspired the growth of the Davis Youth Robotics Program as well.”

That program allows students who cannot participate on the high school team to pursue robotics at their own schools. Harvey said this year teams are starting at three elementary schools — Korematsu, Willett and Patwin — as well as at the Davis School for Independent Study.

Team captain Bryton Moeller, a senior, said that a couple of years ago, Citrus Circuits was mentoring only one youth team; now it is mentoring close to 30 teams.

Like Harvey, Moeller thinks there is more to the team than just winning, and lists three goals of the team: teach STEM skills and leadership, interact with community members through outreach projects and compete at the highest level.

“Mostly the reason we have that (competitive) goal is because that is what gives our team the recognition,” Moeller said. “It’s our way of motivating students and getting kids excited about STEM in the first place.”

In an attempt to interest more kids in STEM, Citrus Circuits is co-hosting the Capital City Classic at Cosumnes Oaks High School this weekend. The team will present its full workshop series during breaks in between the competition, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Cosumnes Oaks High School, 8350 Lotz Parkway in Elk Grove.

“It’s a pretty unique approach because most workshops are run at some other part of the season — not during the competition,” Harvey said. “But this has been really successful because you get a ton of teams coming to this competition, so you have this audience.”

Workshop topics include team building, team management, programming and robot design, Harvey said. The goal is to formalize the training process and come up with standards to build the educational process.

“Rather than just randomly taking workshops from people, we’re going to try to establish what standards we’re expecting our students to know in all the various subteams that they are on, and then develop a program of workshops that addresses those standards and gets those kids to be at that specific standard,” Harvey said.

The DHS teacher said he wants to start an intermediate robotics engineering class at the high school next year to solidify the standards for team members.

For more information about the Citrus Circuits and how to join the team, visit www.citruscircuits.org.


“DHS alumna attends Republican Convention”

Note: Even though I only talked to Lucy Brazil on the phone for 20 minutes, I was able to gain valuable insight about her experiences at the Republican National Convention. I used quotes along with inverted pyramid to tell the story in order of importance as it related to the readers.

(Published on BlueDevilHUB.com on July 24, 2016)

By Meghan Bobrowsky,
BlueDevilHUB.com Editor–

Davis High ‘13 graduate Lucy Brazil, 21, attended the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, last week with 21 classmates from College of Wooster to learn about the social media coverage of the 2016 presidential race.

Brazil – a rising senior at College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio – participated in the school’s brand-new political science class devoted to the 2016 election.

“Last semester we were learning all about the convention process [and] the primary process basically and how that all works,” she said. “[The class] was tied to this summer experiment where we come back to the Republican National Convention and then we’re on to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention.”

The class was split into five groups – all researching a different aspect of the various campaigns. Brazil’s group is studying social media and the effects of Snapchat.

“It’s how candidates and campaigns are beginning to use newer forms of social media to reach out to especially younger voters and how that motivates people to actually get involved; whether it does that or not,” she said.

Going into the convention, Brazil didn’t know what to expect.

“It was kinda scary going into it. My classmates and I wanted to see what protesters would be doing and what the police presence would be,” she said. “There were reports leading up to [the convention] saying this was where everything was going to culminate and thankfully nothing really ended up happening in a way that was threatening.”

While at the convention, Brazil saw everything from Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump giving her speech to former presidential candidate Ted Cruz getting booed off the stage.

“Ivanka’s speech was really crucial because she was able to humanize [her dad] in a lot of ways, and she was able to say the things that he couldn’t say himself,” Brazil said. “[She] boosted his character, not really so much his policies.”

But not all speakers at the convention gave promising speeches. Cruz criticized Donald Trump and was criticized in return.

“Part of me wants to say good for him for sticking to his beliefs and not supporting someone he doesn’t want to support. But part of me also feels like that’s his job,” she said. “[However] he certainly did not win over anyone by doing so.”

The goal of the Republican National Convention is to present a united front and a united party, and Cruz did the opposite of that, Brazil said.

And the goal of the trip was to learn about social media directly connecting voters and candidates – something that happened to one of her friends.

Classmate Annabelle Hopkins found Ivanka Trump’s earring on the convention floor Wednesday night and tweeted about it, hoping to return the jewelry to its owner. Hopkins received attention from various media outlets and was able to reunite Ivanka Trump with her earring.

“It was so weird when [Hopkins] came back [from returning the earring]. We all reconvened in the morning, and she was telling us the story,” Brazil said.

She explained the undeniable presence of social media – citing the earring incident as a prime example.

“If a candidate wants to reach out to younger voters and mobilize them, they have to be on social media,” Brazil said. “It’s the most basic thing that you can do, and not just in a way to make them relatable, but just to get their message out.”

Brazil was also interested in the multitude of media coverage from around the country.

“There’s a closed off street that was right next to the convention center where all the media outlets were. It was fun to walk down there because NBC had their set up there, CNN and all those other major outlets,” she said. “So we saw all of the famous anchors and the weekend update team and [Canadian comedian and former Daily Show correspondent] Samantha Bee.”

But with all good things comes the bad.

“I identify as a Democrat. I’m not at all happy with Donald Trump as a candidate,” Brazil said. “But at the end of the day, it’s really important to hear both sides, to challenge yourself and to get out there and listen to what other people have to say.”

So how exactly is Brazil conducting her research?

“When we were [at the convention], we were taking lots of Snapchats to compile it into a [big] Snapchat, and then we put it into a survey that we sent out yesterday,” she said. “And in the next couple of days, we’ll be looking at the responses and analyzing the data and making our conclusions from there.”

The short and simple survey consists of watching a 100 second Snapchat video and then answering several questions about how it made the viewer feel.

“We’re really just trying to see if social media in such a small form has the power to make people motivated enough to go get involved with politics,” Brazil said.

Anyone can take the survey, located here.

Brazil will continue her research this week at the Democratic Convention and hopes for a different experience.

“Last week the vibe was just very hate-driven and very negative,” she said. “[…] I think it will be refreshing to go to Philadelphia and get some positivity and excitement about the future instead of just fear mongering.”


“DHS alumna researches social media at Democratic Convention”

Note: I followed up on Brazil’s visit at the RNC with a story about her time at the Democratic National Convention and referred back to my previous story in the lede. I was clear in explaining the different social media platforms and attributed all opinions to Brazil.

(Published on BlueDevilHUB.com on Aug. 3, 2016)

By Meghan Bobrowsky,
BlueDevilHUB.com Multimedia Editor-in-Chief–

Lucy Brazil, 21, a Davis High ‘13 graduate, attended the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pa., last week to confirm her hypothesis that Snapchat, a mobile messaging app used to share photos and videos, plays a vital role in political participation. She also visited the Republican National Convention two weeks ago to gather data and conduct surveys on the topic.

“We can generally say that Snapchat is influential, and it is a significant media news source that motivates people to get involved in the political process,” Brazil said. “I think we’ll continue to see just in general science research and political research that Snapchat is not going away.”

The rising senior at Wooster College in Wooster, Ohio, said her group distributed 200 surveys to people mostly in the 18-25 age range via the Internet.

“[However], we had a considerable group of people in the 40+ age range, so I think that was important to note,” Brazil said. “It was […] very diverse in terms of geographic location–what state they were from–and that was 22 states represented.”

She also mentioned the varying education level of survey participants, ranging from high school to college graduates, and the even split between men and women surveyed.

Social media and its influence on politics were Brazil’s main focus at the conventions; but she experienced historic speeches and contrasting atmospheres along the way.

“The RNC’s rhetoric is based off of negativity [and] talking about how they can avoid certain things,” Brazil said. “The DNC is much more focused on […] the positive and less focused on individual people.”

She further described the Democratic Convention as “Oh Democrats, we have to unite. We have to come together with these different party platforms, and we have to be a united front so that we can be victorious ultimately.”

Brazil admitted that negativity is working for Donald Trump, and positivity is working for Hillary Clinton. It’s just a matter of who comes out on top, she said.

So when Trump was briefly leading the polls after the Republican Convention, Brazil wasn’t surprised. She attributed Trump’s lead to a phenomenon called the convention bump.

“Basically it means that at the end of the convention–whoever is hosting–that candidate will experience a bump in polls,” Brazil said. “This is a phenomenon that’s been studied in political science forever, and it’s a generally recognized rule.

After the Democratic Convention, Clinton took the lead in the polls. A factor that may have led to her convention bump is Bernie Sanders calling for Clinton’s nomination–something which not all Sanders supporters are behind.

Bernie or Bust protesters lined the outside of the Wells Fargo Center, making it clear they would not be voting for Clinton.

“I think the protesters were really screwing his message,” Brazil said. “Sanders supporters may not agree with Hillary on a lot of things, but they agree with Trump on probably zero things.” 

However, the protesters might not know that if they aren’t checking their news sources on a regular basis. One convenient and reliable news source at our fingertips is Snapchat, Brazil said.

“We argue basically that Snapchat is so important because it’s different. It does what Twitter does but with images and videos,” she said.

Instagram–realizing this–decided to follow in Snapchat’s footsteps and create their own platform for temporary photos and videos called Instagram Stories.

“I just noticed it today, the Instagram story feature, and I think that that’s really indicative of the trend that things are going towards,” Brazil said. “It continues to support our hypothesis that these disappearing pictures actually have an impact on people, and that’s sort of the information that we’re craving.”

The downside, however, is that the photos and videos only last for 24 hours.

“If you don’t delve into [the issue] further, you’re getting a very surface level look into politics,” Brazil said. “When people take surface level as the whole story, that’s never a good thing. But you would rather people have some information than none.”

All in all, the political science major–who lives in a swing state–is excited for the upcoming presidential election.

“A lot of candidates will come through. Just coming from California, we don’t really experience that,” Brazil said. “It’s such a different way of looking at politics in the Midwest.”

Brazil will continue studying the election process in the fall.