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Senior Profiles

Victoria Muñoz

Those who know Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS) senior, Victoria Muñoz, might be surprised to learn that when she first started as a freshman at Berkeley High School (BHS), she was shy and didn’t have many friends. Today, as a senior, she says she has made amazing friends, bonded with her teachers, and even discovered a passion for performing. She credited her most memborable experiences at BHS and in AMPS to the personal growth she’s experienced during her high school years.

“I have been in AMPS since my freshman year and it is the best decision I made,” said Muñoz. Her time spent in AMPS helped her become more compassionate, and as a result she joined groups like Green Dot, an anti-bullying and harassment group, to help her peers who need it. Participation in groups such as Green Dot also helped Muñoz develop communication skills that will be useful to her throughout her professional and personal life in the future.

Muñoz is involved in dance at BHS as well, which helped transform her from a reserved freshman into a confident stage performer. Because of her positive experience with dance, she emphasizes that while academics are definitely important, extracurriculars like dance are just as valuable for a fulfilling high school experience, especially in a school like BHS where there are so many extracurricular opportunities. “BHS gives [its] students a lot of freedom and opportunities,” said Muñoz, “so take advantage of them,” she advises younger BHS students.

This fall, Muñoz will be attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (SLO) as a political science major. Though she’s excited to enjoy the “beautiful town of San Luis Obispo,” she’s also looking back fondly on her good memories of BHS, such as the latest carnival, which she enjoyed mainly because of the fun activities and the chance to spend time with friends for one of the last times.

She also has some wise advice for incoming high school students or those already in high school, many of whom feel self-conscious or nervous: “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.” After all, that’s what Muñoz did during her time in high school, and it certainly worked out.

Helena Busansky

Berkeley International High School (BIHS) senior, Helena Busansky, is headed to Barnard College next fall. In her time at Berkeley High School (BHS), soccer and Youth and Government (Y&G) have been formative experiences. Through both her studies and extracurriculars, Busansky has met many “awesome people” and a lot of her best friends.

According to Busansky, her time in Y&G “has been super formative and exposed [her] to a lot of awesome people and interesting and strong ways to debate [and] learn about real world issues.”

Busansky has had a positive experience here at BHS. She said it’s been “really good overall. I love my friends and feel like I’ve learned a lot.” Her favorite classes were “Theory of Knowledge and Studio Art,” but, “Physics this year was really interesting as well.”

Micahel Weitz, Nick Pleskac, and Robin van der Vegt are her favorite teachers, because they’re “all teachers who really care about their students and it shows,” said Busansky.

“I’ve become a lot more confident in myself,” she said during her years at Berkeley High.

If she could go back, Busansky said she would have “followed [her] interests more … and tried more stuff that put [her] out of comfort zone.”

Some advice Busansky would give to future BHS students is: “Do what you want to do, not what you feel like you should do. Be friends with who you like; be nice.” In college, Busansky is considering majoring in political science, but she is also interested in computer science and psychology.

Busansky said she is “So, so, so excited but also nervous” about being far from friends and family. She looks forward to “learning in college and experiencing New York and everything it has to offer.”

Anyone who has spent time with Busansky knows that her positivity is infectious and that she has definitely left her mark on BHS.

Armani May

Armani May, a senior in Academic Choice (AC), describes her high school experience as “a beautiful struggle.” Freshman and sophomore year were not the easiest for May. She would get into fights, snap at others, and would get in trouble often. However, May began to build relationships with the security and On Campus Intervention (OCI) staff, which blossomed into a positive support system at Berkeley High School (BHS). May said that Jasdeep Mahli, a BHS counselor, “is like my school mom.”

The end of sophomore year was a turning point for May. “I got involved in Green Dot,” May said, which is a program that teaches you how to be an ally and encourages students to be responsible citizens in their communities.

Spending time with counselors in a positive setting like Green Dot, rather than being in trouble with them, was key in May’s personal growth. Instead of being reprimanded by staff, May and the counselors had the chance to talk about their lives, how school was going, and just joke around, said May. Her relationships with staff members at BHS are emblematic of her growth throughout high school.

May’s commitment to social justice became evident when a racist Instagram account was discovered and reported to the school her junior year. She attended restorative justice sessions with students involved, and went to school board meetings that addressed the issue in order to represent students at BHS and articulate the need for action.

May’s personal growth is evident. In the fall, she will be attending Glendale Community College, and then plans to transfer to California State University Northridge. She will study criminology, and strives to become a public defender. She aims to make a positive impact on her community, and can do so by being a public defender.

Her one piece of advice to younger students: “Go to class.”

Ava Remler

Ava Remler is dedicated. She has powered through the Berkeley International High School (BIHS) curriculum with the help of “dedicated and challenging teachers,” and gone above and beyond, even taking classes at Berkeley City College. “I’ve managed to learn a huge amount in the brief time I’ve been here,” Remler said.

On top of her academics, Remler has pushed herself when it comes to extracurriculars. She did crew, debate, and was an active member of Liberty Club.

Through these clubs she gained a lot of confidence. Crew helped her learn how she wanted to improve herself, while debate helped bring out her public speaking skills and ability to vocalize her opinions.

“I realized that if I did good work, and really tried my best to learn and get stronger every day, I didn’t need to fear disappointment. I’ll always screw up in life on occasion, but I become a failure when that fear of screwing up limits me from doing what I love to do,” she said.

Through Liberty Club, she found a group of people she has really connected with, people who didn’t ostracize her for what she believed in.

One of the most important things for making it through Berkeley High School (BHS) is finding a home, and she was lucky enough to find that.

She hopes that BHS students push themselves and work on what they’re passionate about. Remler said that she recommends that people “remember to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them at Berkeley High because this kind of quality education, combined with really diverse and awesome people, isn’t available for long.”

In the future, Remler will continue to follow her passions, rowing for the crew team at Boston University. “I hope people can see past all the hard stuff and realize that if the opportunity’s staring you right there in the face, then there’s no harm in going for it.”

Anna Portnoy

Anna Portnoy, a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), is described by friends as being incredibly caring and hardworking. Her endless achievements within and outside of Berkeley High School’s walls only support the incredibly high opinion that her peers have of her. Outside of school, Portnoy was not only a part of her synagogue’s leadership team, but also worked at a clinic called “Street Level,” in order to advocate for healthier lifestyles.

She also participated in Youth & Government’s Berkeley chapter, and additionally climbed her way to the top of the Best Buddies’ leadership team, ending as the president of the program in her senior year. Junior Anna Orebic, who worked with her on Best Buddies leadership, described her as having “contributed to Best Buddies in so many ways by being a great leader, an organizer, and a good friend.” Portnoy described this experience as being both very challenging, but also one which entailed a lot of growth in her character over the course of her last year.

In fact, she believes that being a part of Berkeley High School allowed her to develop into a more mature person, and taught her to reassess her current priorities, which in turn allowed her to value friendships much more deeply.

Additionally, she spent her sophomore year abroad in Peru, which was an experience that provided her with a deeper understanding of privilege and an appreciation of the opportunities that Berkeley provides. The specific aspects of BHS that she appreciated the most were the small schools, different departments such as AFAM and Chicanx Latinx, and the abundance of diverse clubs that the school offered such as Best Buddies. These clubs allowed her to explore her interests and also serve her community.

In terms of her plans for the future, Portnoy hopes to take a gap year to travel, and is scheduled to attend New York University the following year. When asked what advice she would give to an incoming freshman, she says that they should put themselves outside of their comfort zone by pursuing new experiences and relationships.

Milo Balcziunas

Milo Balcziunas is a graduating senior in Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Berkeley High School (BHS). Next year, he will attend Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington to study electronic music production.

Students often pursue fields of study in college that they are unable to gain much exposure to in high school, but producing music is nothing new for Balcziunas. He said he participated in the Music Production Club at BHS in his junior and senior year of high school. “I make music myself, so that club in particular has opened me up to new ideas and improved my production skills,” Balcziunas said.

Balcziunas talked about joining the Music Production Club among some other BHS clubs like the Space and Dinosaur Club in his junior year.

Balcziunas looks back on this time as a turning point in his high school years. “I became more aware of who I was and what I wanted to do with my life,” said Balcziunas. This allowed Balcziunas to feel more positive and come out of his shell.

Balcziunas had a rocky start to high school, but like many students, he felt more social by his junior year, and this made for a happy ending to his high school years. “I reached a level of confidence that allowed me to improve my experience for myself,” said Balcziunas.

Balcziunas recommends joining clubs and other similar groups to future BHS students. “Future Berkeley High students should know that finding a more focused group of people with similar passions, like clubs, can make a huge difference in terms of how enjoyable high school turns out to be,” Balcziunas said. Balcziunas believes that clubs foster collaboration by bringing together people who share similar goals.

One of Balcziunas’s favorite memories from his time at BHS is the CAS graduation. Many of the graduating seniors, including Balcziunas, will miss the tight-knit sense of community that came with being in CAS. The emotional CAS graduation highlighted the qualities that CAS members had, and made Balcziunas sad to leave.

Maxime Hendrikse Liu

Maxime Hendrikse Liu has amassed an impressive resume of community building, peer educating, student organizing and artistic achievements throughout her time at Berkeley High School (BHS), from leadership to a cappella to acting.

Hendrikse Liu has been involved in a wide variety of groups and clubs, co-leading the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (through which she helped to organize various events like Queer Prom and the Day of Silence) and Kiva Club (a group of students that makes micro-loans to people in developing countries).

Hendrikse Liu has also taken advantage of the many performing arts opportunities at BHS, performing various plays and taking the lead in the formation of BHS’s new a cappella group, The Hot Pitches. She also beatboxes for the group.

Through BIHS leadership, Hendrikse Liu helped to spearhead the BHS meditation program — you may have heard her audio-recorded voice guide you through an in-class meditation.

Hendrikse Liu attributes her success throughout her Berkeley high school experience to “tons and tons of hard work and a stupid amount of stubbornness.” When the list of activities, meetings and events pile up, Hendrikse Liu’s passion and belief that the work she’s doing is important allows her to persist.

Her time at BHS has taught her the importance of caring and that “there are a million different people who think a million different things and all of them are important, all of them are beautiful and you can learn something from everyone.”

Some of Hendrikse Liu’s most impactful experiences at BHS include performing in “The Vagina Monologues” earlier this semester and being a part of BIHS leadership for the past two years. “My experience in leadership truly turned my life around,” she said. “I realized serving the community was important to me and then I kind of went nuts with it.”

Hendrikse Liu is headed to Brown University in the fall, where she plans to study performing arts and potentially computer science. “In the future I hope to have a career in which I can tell stories and promote empathy and continue fighting for the causes that I care about, like climate change, gender equality and LGBTQ rights,” said Hendrikse Liu.

“I think that’s one of the things that make art so powerful is it can introduce new perspectives and promote empathy in a way that doesn’t make people defensive,” she said. “I think that’s something that’s really, really needed in our world right now.”

Marlena Raines

Many of Marlena Raines’s peers know her as passionate, driven, and having an unconditional love for animals. Her experiences at Berkeley High School (BHS) and the opportunities she has been given have greatly influenced her passions and future plans.

Since first starting at BHS as a freshman, Raines says that she is “much more confident in what I’m interested in and what I want to pursue.” During her four years at BHS, she has found a multitude of ways to get involved in her passions, one being her love for animals and wildlife.

Her freshman year, she began a new club at BHS called the Wildlife Conservation Club, which has “been a great way to raise awareness about global environmental issues and what actions we can take on a local level. We organized volunteer activities like shoreline clean up days and zoo volunteering, and also raised funds for organizations doing advocacy.” Wildlife Conservation Club continues to thrive and make an important impact at BHS.

Raines has also found ways to explore her interests through taking classes like IB Environmental Sciences and IB Studio Art. She says, “I also really liked being part of the IB Studio Art show, I’m always so blown away by my classmates’ work and they constantly give me new ideas for my own.”

Raines’ art investigation for this class focused on the human impact on marine life, delving into her passion for animal conservation and environmental justice.

If that’s not enough, Raines has been involved in the BHS community through being a photographer for the Jacket and being a part of BIHS Leadership. As BIHS co-president, she had the privilege of hosting the BIHS graduation ceremony held on Friday, June 7.

Outside of school, she continues her love for conservation through volunteering at the Marine Mammal Center, which has been “integral to her experience in animal conservation.” Another important experience for Raines was “the opportunity to volunteer at an animal reserve in the Yungas jungle this past summer while visiting family in Bolivia.”

Some of Marlena’s favorite memories from BHS will always be “Spirit Week and planning outfits for each themed day,” as well as “seeing everyone dressed up and being creative.”

Her advice for future students would be: “Don’t feel pressured to join every club, rather push yourself in what you really like to do.” Raines has clearly shown how she followed this same advice throughout her own high school experience, given all of the passions she has pursued.

Next year, Raines will attend Yale University to study environmental science and film. She has certainly made a lasting impact at BHS and has a bright future ahead of her.

Melina Fike

Senior Melina Fike reminisces on her past four years at Berkeley High School (BHS) with pride, describing it as an instrument of growth and learning in her life. The community, she explained, has provided her “with the spaces to find confidence in my individuality and allowed me to be independent.”

With numerous extracurricular endeavors, Fike took advantage of every opportunity presented to her. The most significant to her is her involvement in Vote 16, a student-led, grassroots campaign. Vote 16 fought to lower the voting age to 16 years old.

In November of Fike’s second year with the organization, they successfully lowered Berkeley’s voting age for school board elections to 16 years old. This organization, she describes, “pushed [her] outside [her] comfort zone.”

Fike’s involvement with the communities around her can also be seen within BHS; this year, she is Associated Student Body Secretary, last year she was Junior Class President. Youth & Government, a model government program that encourages youth involvement in politics, has also played an important role in her high school career. These programs have encouraged her growth as a person and leader, and have allowed her to meet interesting people with similar interests to hers.

Fike expresses that her choice of small school, Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS), “has been a gift.” The smaller community has allowed her to form unbreakable bonds with her teachers and “CAS-mates.” Being so close with her classmates made her CAS retreats some of her favorite memories from high school, and overall she delineates her content in her small school community.

Her times at BHS have led to her growth not only in terms of skill, but also in terms of her perspective on the world. “I’ve learned how to analyze the world around me and think critically about the structures we as a society have built,” she said. This is one of the many important and pivotal skills she has taken away from her time at BHS.

Her advice for any future BHS students is reminiscent of her own story; she would encourage all students to try new things, join new clubs, to meet new people, and of course, to choose CAS.

Mihika De Souza

Over her four years at Berkeley High School (BHS), Mihika De Souza has participated in multiple school activities including water polo and leadership. Freshman year, De Souza joined Berkeley International High School (BIHS) Leadership, and in her sophomore year, she was co-president of BIHS. This year she was the Associated Student Body (ASB) Vice President and worked on various activities such as the Activism Fair, the Spring Carnival, and Spirit Week. As ASB Vice President, she also worked with Director of Student Activities John Villavicencio. “Mihika is able to relate well with people of all backgrounds, making them feel at ease and comfortable with talking,” Villavicencio said. “She demonstrates a genuine curiosity and interest in both listening and asking questions.”

Additionally, De Souza joined water polo in her sophomore year, and it was “one of the best things,” she said. She became captain during her junior and senior year and met many underclassmen. As a leader, she was able to help her teammates make their high school experiences as good as her own. A few sophomores even wrote cards to De Souza, telling her how she was their role model and how she made an impact on their lives.

De Souza encourages all BHS students to get involved because “you will find like-minded people.” BHS has also made De Souza more independent and driven. Once she got to BHS, she learned that there are many resources available to students, but you have to take initiative and actively look for them. “It’s your choice if you’re going to get involved or just sit back and watch things happen for you,” De Souza said.

De Souza’s main advice is to “get involved. 110% get involved.” She stressed how important it is to join the things you love. She also said that “your high school experience is what you make it, but you need to put in the effort.” De Souza has loved BHS, and she will bring all that she has learned when she attends Scripps this fall. Villavicencio said “I would like to thank her for her service and leadership for Berkeley High … I think she made a mark on the school.”

Eliza Loran

Academic Choice (AC) senior Eliza Loran has found a way to express and develop her artistry and style through dance. Through Berkeley High School’s (BHS) Dance Production (DP) class, she has gotten the chance to choreograph her own performances over the past two years. The high-level class has given Loran a truly unique opportunity as a dancer, allowing her to explore other sides of the art. Spending nearly 20 hours every week dancing after school, Loran has found an outlet to escape her academic challenges of the day, being able to dedicate time to what she loves each day. Throughout her four year journey at BHS, Loran has stated that, despite having a wide range of exceptional memories and teachers, her “entire heart [lies] with the Dance Production family.”

When asked about how BHS had changed Loran’s outlook on the world, she simply highlighted the power of community and collaboration that has been put on display through the duration of her high school experience. Going into BHS, Loran was unsure if she would thrive in such a big school. However, she found that “with such a large class size comes even more opportunity to meet new and creative individuals.”

Loran went on to express the highly valued relationships that she has formed over the years, both with her fellow dancers and the BHS community as a whole. Loran shared how special each one in the BHS community truly is, and later went on to say that “there is a sense of camaraderie at BHS that I will definitely value going forward.” She noted that BHS has allowed her to see the power in community and collaboration.

Next year, Loran will be attending California State University, Long Beach, where she will pursue her passion as a dance major. Despite parting ways with BHS next year, Loran Encourages future and current students to “make your [voices] heard in and out of the classroom” and not to be afraid to reach out to peers for support during times of need. Loran reminds us all to have fun, even in the face of adversity and to always remember that “lightheartedness is key!”

Jonathan Prudente

Jonathan Prudente has only been at Berkeley High School (BHS) for two years, but he has made them memorable and impactful. Coming from the Philippines, Prudente says that the school has played a significant role in helping him adjust to a new environment. He says that choosing to be in the Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS) was the best decision he has ever made. “The AMPS community is a tight circle consisting of open-minded and friendly people,” said Prudente. Additionally, he was a peer educator in the Mental and Emotional Education Team where he was able to educate freshmen about the resources they have at BHS in terms of mental health counseling and crisis intervention.

Prudente said, “The diversity in Berkeley High in terms of race, gender, and beliefs made me more open-minded and more sympathetic about current social issues.” With regard to his most memorable moments from BHS, he says that his first spirit week takes the cake. “I came in late for the school year last year so I didn’t get to experience it. Spirit week gave me a taste of how hyphy Berkeley High is,” the senior recalled.

Prudente likes how people in BHS are vocal about their beliefs and opinions. Accordingly, he says that he has learned to express his own opinions and has become more trusting of other people.

One valuable lesson Prudente has learned from BHS was to never try too hard to be unique, because everyone is already special in their own way. He believes that although one may have the same beliefs, culture, gender identity, or race as someone else, one’s thoughts makes everyone unique.

One piece of advice the senior has for future BHS students is to “never hesitate to ask for help. Berkeley High has tons of resources in terms of academics. The health center will also be there always for those who need counseling, or maybe even just cough drops.” Next year Prudente is going to Berkeley City College and hopes to eventually transfer to a university to get a degree in psychology. From there he hopes to study more to be a licensed psychiatrist or fiduciary.

Solomon Chang

Solomon Chang has been an integral part of the Berkeley High School (BHS) community during his four years here. Anyone who has attended a BHS assembly or listened to the announcements will have heard from him at some point — he’s just that involved.

Chang has a YouTube channel, CNZ Productions, where he has posted funny skits, music videos, and a 2019 Rally Day video. Chang first picked up a video camera his junior year in Philip Halpern’s video production class, but he has been making skits and pop culture parodies with his friends since freshman year. He is most proud of his videos that he feels really needed to be made, such as the video he made about Nia Wilson the day after she was killed at MacArthur station, and his video about yellowface and “chink” accents in Hollywood.

In addition to his more serious videos, Chang is also proud of the more lighthearted ones, like the Rally Day video. “I have always loved to entertain people and see people smile, and I also have never been afraid to fight for my rights and speak up for myself,” said Chang. “Creating videos gives me the opportunity to do both: express myself and be understood.”

Chang is also known at BHS for his role this year as Chief of Publicity. He really enjoyed standing on stage for the Spirit Week assembly which is something he had wanted to do since freshman year. “I also like when random students come up to me and say, ‘What’s up, What’s up, What’s good Berkeley High!’ because I was so nervous to open the announcements the first day and I’m hella happy that it caught on,” he said.

Next year, he will be attending University of California, Los Angeles as a film, television, and digital media major.

Reflecting on his time at BHS, Chang sees both the flaws and strengths of this school. “Berkeley High was not perfect. Far from it. But I will say that the students that go here are next level,” he said. “As an artist, this place gave me the opportunity to thrive in so many ways, and build so many friendships. I wouldn’t want to graduate from any other high school!”

Sophia O’Shea

Sophia O’Shea has been fighting adversity since the start of her life; she was born with tibial hemimelia, meaning that she had to have one of her legs amputated below the calf and wear a prosthetic. However, she hasn’t let that hold her back. O’Shea has enjoyed four years of success within Berkeley High School’s (BHS) community.

While at BHS, she has participated and excelled in soccer, field hockey, and track. She says that at BHS, “playing sports helped [her] build a community and have a place to go.”

O’Shea has been able to use sports to prove people wrong and exceed expectations. “Given that I have one foot, there’s always been a lot of people saying ‘you can’t do that.’ As a kid, they said you can’t run, you’re probably not going to be able to run when you grow up.”

Now Sophia has played field sports and competed specifically in running events with the track team, as well as running for fun and in 10k races on her own time. “Sports showed me who I am and the determination in my character.”

BHS didn’t just help O’Shea grow on the field. “Coming into Berkeley High, I think I was a very self-absorbed person, but growing up with people [throughout high school] you learn to learn from others, support others, and be a good friend and a good person.”

O’Shea wants younger students to have the same experience with BHS that she did. Her advice to incoming freshmen and to BHS students is to “find your niche, find your people … I found my best friends in my junior and senior years, don’t think that you’re stuck in a friend group.”

While many younger students might be scared about trying to fit into such a large school, O’Shea says that “the beauty of Berkeley High is that it’s so big that there’s a person for everyone.”

Next year, O’Shea will be staying close by to study biology at University of California, Berkeley. “I hope to be able to work in a clinical lab or go into prosthetics and orthotics and help other amputees.”

O’Shea says she plans on continuing to play sports for fun, but doesn’t plan on playing competitively in college. We wish Sophia the best of luck in the future, and are excited to see her continue to inspire.

Written by: Olivia Chang, Oliver Porter, Charlotte Shelton, Emmett Howard, Sofie Maurer, Teoman Tezcan, Sonya Love, Lucy Yama, Declan Gaffney, Elliot Mark, Gunner Lee, Benton Shepard, Rachel Alper, Kai Page

Photos by: Estella Hemp, Nigel Oliphant, Allyn Suzuki, Mattias de los Rios, Nina Morasky, Samuel Heller, Calliope Arkilic, Marlena Raines, Asia Guzman, Braelyn Wekwerth, Nicole Lyons, Estella Hemp, Nicole Lyons, Jerome Paulos

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