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Branching out: Rediscovering the school’s roots

By Raymond Dai and Breanna Lu Mar. 17, 2021

From early alumni to present day traditions, the school carries a unique history—one that reflects the school’s culture, campus, course offerings and customs today.

According to Principal Peter Park, the school’s mascot—the Charger, an armored warhorse that carries a knight into battle—was chosen by the first Associated Student Body (ASB). It is embodied by the Charger statue located next to the quad, which remains one of the campus’ significant points of interest. Rob Miller, Social Studies Department, explains that when the school first opened, students were able to take a metalshop course. In 1970, Steve Austin, a student at the time, created the Charger statue in the metal shop and gifted it to the school.

Diana Yousef-Nejad Photo

To explore the school’s history and student works, an array of notable items can be found in the school office, including student artwork. One piece that has been on display since 1979 is a student-created stained glass picture of the school. Apart from artwork, some alumni are also honored through their old sports jerseys, including Tristan Nguyen, a student-athlete who passed away during his junior year at the school.

The Class of 1979 stained glass artwork hangs in the principal's office.

Diana Yousef-Nejad Photo

Both Park and Miller confirm that the campus has remained mostly the same since its establishment, though many small renovations have been made to provide a better experience for students. In recent years, the campus installed new water fountains, replaced whiteboard signs with televisions for announcements and renovated the stage with new video and sound equipment. Park also recalls that the school’s campus used to have an L-Wing with several classrooms that were demolished after a termite infestation.

In the past, students were able to take many unique vocational classes on campus including keyboard typing, farming...woodshop, metalshop, driver’s education, auto shop, drafting and stained glass art.

However, a variety of classes that taught useful life skills or technical skills are not offered at the school anymore. In the past, students were able to take many unique vocational classes on campus, including keyboard typing, farming and raising livestock through Future Farmers of America, woodshop, metalshop, driver’s education, auto shop, drafting and stained glass art. Gradually, these courses disappeared from the campus as the school shifted towards a more STEM and college preparatory-based curriculum with 21 Advanced Placement courses and San Jose City College classes to accommodate student needs and parent demands, in addition to college A-G requirements. However, students still have access to career-training and vocational courses like they did in the past through Silicon Valley Career Technical Education. Heather Hendry, Foreign Language Department, and Miller both believe that the school has transitioned well through the years to prepare students for their futures, but wish that some of the old courses were still around.

“There used to be a good balance of vocational education and STEM courses, which provided for students who did not wish to pursue tertiary education, but at the same time sent many students to top-tier colleges. The school is currently focused on achieving the latter, which is a shame because many interesting programs are now neglected,” Miller said.

...past students could be DJs in the school’s former rock radio station, KLEL, to play music for all students.

In addition to career-preparatory classes, alumni believe that athletics involvement has also decreased with the change in curriculum. Steve Seandel, Social Studies Department, who is the son of the school’s first principal, Aaron Seandel, believes that sports are a crucial part of high school that have now taken a back seat because many are choosing to participate in academic programs such as Robotics and Speech and Debate instead. Due to changing times, engagement in the community and school spirit is demonstrated differently as well. For example, past students could be DJs in the school’s former rock radio station, KLEL, to play music for all students. Currently, the Charger News Channel serves as a similar program, periodically broadcasting school news to students and their families digitally. As social media has become much more prevalent compared to previous decades, the school’s ASB now utilizes multiple platforms such as Instagram to encourage student involvement in school events and school spirit weeks.

“There was a lot of school pride and the community was quite social: our spirit squad consisted of the mascot, cheerleaders, song girls, letter girls, the dance team, the school band and even a baton twirler. Our basketball games, football games and track meets were always well-attended and fun,” Alumna Erin Coelho, parent of Senior Alyssa Blodgett, said.

On the right: Alumna Erin Coelho, Class of '87, sports a school letterman jacket.

Quynh Nguyen Photo

Aside from classes, participation in sports and class camaraderie, school policies have also changed. According to alumna Michelle Pantiga, wife of Joe Moura, Social Studies Department, and parent of Senior Nicholas Moura, the school used to have an open-campus policy, where students could leave campus during lunch breaks.

Michelle Pantiaga, Class of '86, displays the 1986 school yearbook.

Quynh Nguyen Photo

As for past traditions, Hendry recalls how each grade level used to make floats, or decorated platforms, for Homecoming and parade them around the school track, whereas nowadays, each grade performs a musical skit. Additionally, Park mentions how the past Battle of the Bands, where students showcased their musical talents, has transformed into the annual Talent Show today. One unique practice that has existed for a decade involves collecting metal leaves that hang from the top of the quad stage. Miller explains that in 2010, a student wrote his name and graduating year on a fallen metal leaf and placed it on his classroom wall, and other students followed suit. However, this year, students have been unable to participate due to distance learning.

Diana Yousef-Nejad Photo

Over half a century has passed since the school’s inception in 1967, and several past alumni have left significant impacts on both the school and larger communities, including astronaut Steve Smith (Class of ‘77), former Arizona Cardinals football player and former veteran Pat Tillman (Class of ‘94), former Portland Trail Blazers basketball player Reggie Smith (Class of ‘88), animator Joe Murray (Class of ‘89), Korean pop rapper Yubin Kim (Class of ‘06) and Calif. State Assemblyman Evan Low (Class of ‘01). Similarly, current students hope to leave their own legacies in different ways, whether it be through clubs, activities or athletics. Blodgett hopes to make a lasting impact through the CAN club that she started sophomore year, which supports those who lack food in the community. Moreover, N. Moura wishes to leave his mark through his friends—wanting them to cherish the memories they had in classes together.

As the school adapts to new standards throughout the years, Park is proud to assure that students will always have access to an abundance of academic opportunities and activities outside of the classroom. Whether there is a change in curriculum or student traditions, the school will continue to prepare students for their futures.


About the Contributors

Raymond Dai

Staff Writer

Raymond Dai is a sophomore at Leland High School and a Staff Writer for the Charger Account. He likes to play video games, play badminton and go out biking in his free time.

Breanna Lu

Staff Writer

Breanna Lu is a freshman and a new staff writer. She enjoys binge watching sci-fi movies and her favorite book genre is murder mysteries/crime fiction. In her free time, you will most likely find her asleep or chatting with her friends.

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