Students Give Inspired (and Inspiring!) Speeches for Town Meeting Presidential Election

Town Meeting is Athenian’s version of Student Government.  Students, faculty, and staff participate as equals in this governing board to improve the school.  Students have the opportunity to voice their desires and concerns and exercise their democratic muscle by debating and voting on Town Meeting proposals.  Several rising seniors ran for Town Meeting President this year. Read their compelling election speeches below.

Kaia Haney

I have been involved in this school since I was born. My parents have worked here for as long as I can remember and some of my earliest memories are on this campus, in this very hall. I am in love with this school. I love that we get a chance to evaluate our teachers, that we can look forward to poems at morning meetings and that we have this—town meeting. Athenian is unlike anywhere else, but I also see so many ways that it can improve. I am invested in this school, its development, and the ability that town meeting gives us to change it for the better. I am invested in improving this school in whatever way I can. As president I have the opportunity to do that and I will be fully dedicated to the job and all the commitments that come with it.

As president, I hope to increase town meeting attendance by reminding people that town meetings are their, our, opportunity to make change and make a difference within this school. I will encourage the participation of each member of the community, especially underclassmen, which will help to widen the range of opinions that are voiced during town meeting. I plan on being available as someone you can come to with concerns, questions, and issues. I will work to make the proposals at town meeting interesting and relevant and be dedicated to getting them passed. I will do my best to voice your concerns and your needs in faculty meetings.  I hope that you will feel president is not just a title, just as I will not feel it is. I will truly dedicate myself to being your voice, but to do that, I need you to communicate with me. There is no difference in the worth of our opinions. In a way, you are all my co-presidents and I am simply the one who communicates your message.

During the hike Monday, I was reminded of how just how amazing this school and its students are. On my hike to the summit I felt a school wide sense of determination and community and realized that those are the qualities that I hope to bring to every town meeting as president, without that 6 mile hike to the top of Mount Diablo.

Andrea Tam

Hi, my name is Andrea Tam, and I am running for Town Meeting President. One thing that I love about Athenian is that we are encouraged to voice our opinions, which has helped me come out of my shell and develop my own views. This is why Town Meeting is so important to me and why I am running.  We, as a community, have the privilege of openly discussing issues and making a difference at our school.  Our mission statement says that we should face life directly though open communication, embrace democratic governance, and develop confidence for future challenges, but how are we supposed to make a difference in the world if we lack the confidence to make a change in our own Athenian community?

Throughout the years, I have been fortunate enough to see Town Meeting steered in the right direction, but there is much that we can do. If elected, I will be a strong student voice and student advocate. I was a sophomore class official and currently am a junior class official and disciplinary committee member, so I have experience in student leadership and interacting with faculty as a student representative. I will effectively communicate the developments of curriculum committee meetings so that the community is better involved in every step of school issues. I will also do everything in my power to make Town Meeting, itself, an efficient forum of discussion where decisions are reached. Though I want to encourage people to go to Town Meeting, I will update the community of all passed proposals so that everyone, present or not, is aware of the decisions made by our student body and faculty. I will make Town Meeting an effective means of bringing about the changes we want to see. Please help me make Town Meeting an effective system where our opinions matter and vote Tam for Town Meeting President. Thank you!

Dan Choi

Hello my friends, faculty, and acquaintances. My name is Yoon Hyuck Choi, a.k.a Dan Choi and I am here as a candidate for the town meeting president. For three years, I have observed all of the town meetings and elections conducted in this main-hall. Don’t get me wrong, but what I have figured out from the three-years-of-observation and participation is that all of the candidates that I have seen came with similar promises, such as, becoming an accessible person who can listen to the Athenian community, a person who organizes the issues well and delivers effective policies to the community efficiently, and a person who is capable of taking the heavy responsibilities and seek the well-being of Athenian community. These are all good promises to make. However, what I noticed is that these are actually expected when whoever becomes the president. In other words, people who come up here in this podium as a candidate are already expected to become a person pre-supposed to deliver certain promises. Then, what am I going to say in this spot right now? That is a really good question. Well, last year, I was inspired by my fellow classmate’s speech about becoming a high-priest of the Athenian town meeting. I pondered about the name, “high-priest”, and it makes sense because this town meeting is a part of the Athenian school spirit. Let’s face it. Soccer players, aren’t we owls? Please say ‘aye’ if the answer is yes. Basketball players, aren’t we owls? Wrestlers, aren’t we owls? Let me change to something more all capturing. Athletes, aren’t we owls? Drama people, musicians, Robotics people, poets, writers, dancers, and all of you guys, aren’t we Athenians? YES. We are indeed Athenians. Then, what is “Athenians”? Definition wise, they were ancient Greek people who had a direct democratic system. The democracy part sounds appropriate, although we are not ancient Greek people. By these pillars we have here, democracy is a main pillar we should work on in my opinion. The school founder Dyke Brown wanted to make a school based on these pillars. Let’s see. Out-door adventure. We have an awesome AWE and other opportunities. Solid. Community service. We have sound programs with Round Square and we need it to graduate, thanks Mark Friedman. International understandings, again, we have Round Square. Environmental stewardship, we have a compost bins and Bob Oxenburg.  Education for Democracy. Currently, we have Democracy in Action class. Besides that, what do we have? Town Meetings.  Dyke Brown envisioned this school for students to fulfill all of these pillars and become not just an intelligent person but beyond that, a person who can live a life of stewardship and leadership. For that, the practice of town meeting, shouldn’t it be practiced well? Folks, I ask you again, AREN’T WE ATHENIANS? YES WE ARE and we are responsible for the practice of town meeting because we go this school and we will live a life unlike those schools that only produce test taking machines that do not have life. Folks, I believe we have more unique experiences to make our life richer and live a better life than them. We do, and I address that I am ready to enhance this school spirit of town meeting with you folks. I am ready to become the Arch-bishop of town meeting. Remember. We are Athenians. And I am your choice. Thank you.

 Tyler Huntington and Hana Sarfan

Tyler: Hi, I’m Tyler

Hana: And I’m, Hana, and today we want to tell you little a story.  This is the story of the power of the two, the number of duality, the only prime and even digit, the number that is about to revolutionize Town Meeting!

Tyler: However as we speak, there is a crisis occurring right here at the Athenian school and we are facing what could be the Time magazine headline of the century and that is: will our Democracy survive?

Hana:I think we all want to see our democratic community reach its fullest potential, but we know it is going to take strong leadership to steer us there.  And that is where our favorite number, 2 comes in because this year for the first time in Town Meeting history, Tyler and I are running as a co-presidential team!

Tyler: As a collaborative team we plan to bring our democracy here to a new level by combining our respective strengths, minds, and time towards a shared goal and vision.  Working together, we hope to hear every voice in our community, and better represent all of you at faculty and staff meetings, which we would attend together.

Hana: We want to contribute to the process of town meeting and feel that the position of president plays to our strengths as a team.  I am out-spoken and communicative and will be able to advocate strongly on behalf of the student body, but am also approachable and have the desire to work with all of you to improve our school. To me Town Meeting embodies what our school is about.

Tyler: For me, Athenian has been more than just a school, it has been a home and a living community.  Through my time here as a resident and a student I have only grown to become more appreciative of the opportunities Athenian offers its students and the power that it entrusts in us. This year in the Democracy in Action class  I have learned how to navigate the change making process. I plan to apply these skills to Town Meeting, initiating more dialogue around campus and helping students prepare for both sides of discussions!

Hana: This year we have seen exciting changes including the student-created classes, democracy in action and art and the science of making, as well as a changes to the town meeting bylaws.  We have proven that we have valuable ideas and can use the tool of town meeting effectively.

Tyler: It’s clear that our community is capable of discussing ideas, deciding on goals for the future, and accomplishing them.  Together, we can all utilize town meeting to its fullest potential and make Athenian the school we want it to be.


Learn more about Town Meeting here.

Athenian’s Sailing Team Overcomes Rough Conditions in Treasure Island Regatta

Athenian’s sailing team competed in the Pacific Coast Championships on Treasure Island this past weekend.  Despite being without their team captain, this group (including one rookie who’d never sailed before!) held their own in an intense race.

Thanks to Sailing Coach Andrew Nelson of the Encinal Yacht Club for supporting our students and reporting back with this exciting review:

We had quite a regatta at Treasure Island this weekend, with 20 teams from California attending the Pacific Coast Championships. The PCC’s are the final regatta of the year and the top five teams advance to compete for the Mallory Cup in Seattle this May. For many sailors this was their last regatta, and some had spent an entire high school career trying to reach the High School National Championships. Athenian High School was invited to participate, and managed to field a team despite the fact that their team captain and “A” skipper Haley Kardek is currently studying abroad in India. Senior Parker Hamren stepped up to the plate to fill in for Haley. It was a tall order, considering he had never been in a race before. His crew Tyler Huntington had even less experience, with just 3 days of sailing under his belt… total. Having done some dinghy sailing in the past, Parker and I went through an INTENSIVE 3 day crash course on racing last week here at the club. He spent about 8 hours over three consecutive days with me learning basic rules, roll tacking, starting etc. I was nervous to say the least going into this weekend. It was a big deal for Athenian to be invited to such a prestigious event, and I wanted to have a good showing. We set goals of getting around the course without delaying races, not committing any egregious fouls, and staying safe. I told them it was highly unlikely they’d beat any other boats, since they were sailing against the best talent on the West Coast in the biggest regatta of the year.

Abby Kardek and Gabby Rigby went out for their first ever Gold Fleet race in the light morning breeze. Gold Fleet is a lot tougher than silver fleet, as Abby and Gabby quickly realized. There is no room for error when sailing against some of the best in the county. Everyone sails fast and there are no stragglers to catch after a bad start. Simply put there is no margin for error and no playing catch up. I wasn’t too worried about the girls holding their own, and by the end of the day the girls had posted some mid-fleet finishes. Abby has plenty of experience sailing in tough fleets and their boat speed was comparable to that of the leaders on day one. I was pretty nervous as the boys got in the boat for their first “B” division race. It took the boys about 2 minutes to get off the line and up to speed. I couldn’t watch them crash and burn, so I went to go stand in line for lunch. When I came back they were being lapped, so I turned around and got seconds. I was seriously thinking about pulling the plug on their day, however in the second race they showed a bit of improvement. As the breeze built and the day went on they closed the gap between the boats in front of them. They were still finishing a minute or two behind, but each time they were learning from their mistakes. Once they got off the water they stood with me on the wharf and we watched the other races. Like sponges they were quickly soaking up valuable bits of sailing knowledge though observation and inquiry. Each race was better than the last, and soon I had a bet going that they’d beat a boat by the end of the regatta. They won the pin end of the line towards the end of the day on Saturday, and I was sure this was their race. Quickly the other boats caught up to them, but they proved to themselves they could hang with the pack even if it was for less than a minute.

Sunday was a new day, with a fresh westerly wind of 12 knots in the morning which built to near 20 knots by late afternoon. Considering they were the lightest boat in their division, Abby and Gabby went out and did surprisingly well in the breezy conditions. The boys still looked exhausted from the 8 races they had sailed on Saturday, but they didn’t complain one bit and got right back in the saddle. After watching the first race I was sure that any progress we had made on Saturday was lost. I started looking for the taco truck, so I’d have an excuse to turn away from the action, but to no avail. Then on their second race of the day they were right back on the heels of the fleet. With the breeze building to over 15 knots I was just glad they made it around the course. At least we were still on track with our original goals. In between sets we talked about the importance of staying in a full hike and using the mainsheet to balance the boat while going up wind. Parker was also footing a lot, which made it hard to keep the boat flat. In A fleet the girls were getting severely over-powered. Their combined 200lbs was not enough to keep the boat manageable. They appeared to be sailing in survival instead of race mode, while the bigger pairs put their weight to work on the upwind legs. After a capsize it appeared the girls were done for the day. Both were cold and exhausted, and without any alternates we had no subs to put in. Watching boats capsize in A fleet must have been unnerving for the boys, but once again they went right back out. On the downwind leg they soon found themselves swimming. I was surprised how quickly they were back up and going considering we hadn’t had time to do a refresher talk on capsizing. Still they completed both races and were hanging tight. The wind continued to build, with gusts near 20 knots by 2pm. The boys, undaunted, headed out for their last set. They had the best start of any boat and went out left with pretty good speed. Their boat was moving and pointing like all the others. They were hiking hard and putting their weight to work. They beat 3 boats to the weather mark, but their lead was shrinking. They were passed by all three on the second beat, but they were still in the hunt as the fleet headed for the downwind finish. Five places in front of them a boat capsized, then a second boat went over a bit further down the course. If the boys could stay upright they’d beat at least one boat. With their bailer long since lost, they were in danger of submarining. They quickly overtook both capsized boats, but with gallons of water in the boat and only a couple inches of freeboard, they were dangerously unstable. They held on and crossed the finish line in 18th place, promptly death rolling five seconds later.

By this time most of the sailors and spectators on the wharf knew their story. There were cheers from several people on other teams as they crossed the finish. I personally don’t think I’ve ever been as ecstatic about an 18th place finish. They went from being a joke, to being an underdog, to being heroes. It was quite an event to make one’s racing debut, but I was really blown away at how the boys handled everything. Attitude is everything and the boys reminded me of that this weekend. Make goals, set your mind to it, put in the effort and don’t back down. One of the other coaches, who never gives compliments, told me with complete sincerity how blown away he was by their progress, composure, and performance. This was definitely one of those regattas where the final score doesn’t reflect how you feel at its conclusion. Athenian finished dead last, but I’m still grinning like an idiot; proud of the way the WHOLE team sailed.

Results should be posted soon on the PCISA website. Kudos to Branson High School for qualifying for nationals. It’s been a while since we’ve had a NorCal team in the running for the Mallory Cup, so wish them luck and cheer on your district.