Expectations Superseded

By Nick Murray

With graduation rapidly approaching, I find myself reflecting on my experiences at Westmont: the friendships I’ve built, the teachers who have taught me, and the experiences I’ve had. Westmont exceeded all expectations, allowing me the opportunity to learn from teachers who care about education and their students. 

I will forever remember getting hyped at football games with every reception for CJ Yazalina or looking out for George Bilionis pancaking opponents. I remember my entire friend group going crazy with every deep ball to Haris Kadich or big hit from Zach “ZT” Taylor and repeatedly annoying Jim Economy, asking the number of various players because I can’t remember numbers for the life of me. I don’t think I left a single football game with my voice intact.

Like every other highschool experience, friends played a pivotal role in my time at Westmont; I not only found my tight knit friend group and my beautiful girlfriend, Shannah Inocencio, but also made innumerable class friends along the way. I rarely shared classes with my friends, choosing rather to pursue a slightly different educational path and take as many liberal arts AP and Honors classes as possible. Throughout said classes, I found myself learning about F1 from Brian Lu and discussing politics with Maddon Hoh-Choi (even though his knowledge wildly outmatched mine).

The teachers at Westmont made class interesting every day and made sure to get to know each of their students. Having taken Andy Evans’ classes five times, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a teacher who made such an effort to make the most benign tasks fun. Evans stood outside the door every morning, making small talk with every student that walked in. He made an effort to find something in common with each student, whether it be comparing lists of top 10 quarterbacks of all time with me, discussing thoughts on the latest episode of Survivor with Amelie Arango, or showing his students a video of himself in line for a 21 Pilots concert. Evans has had a bigger impact on my educational path through The Shield, but we’ll come back to that later. 

The English, History and Spanish departments specifically stand out to me as some of the best teachers I have ever had. Chris Haskett made class fun every day, greeting each student with his famous “Happy New Year!” and sending class off with, “May your houses be safe from tigers!” every day. Eric Buran prepared me for the real world, which all seniors now approach, with invaluable lessons in government (made easier with my handy Pocket Constitution courtesy of Buran) and financial literacy.  Buran kept class interesting, always seeking to spark discourse amongst his students–one could never quite figure out his real stance versus his outstanding ability to play devil’s advocate. One never quite knew what to expect in George Palau’s Spanish Class; from Palau placing a Wonder Woman temporary tattoo on his forehead to an impromptu rolling char race around the class, he still managed to instill in me a strong base for my understanding of Spanish. John Tavernakis would probably pride himself in teaching likely the most challenging class of my educational career at Westmont, Spanish 3. Regardless, Tav kept every class interesting with spur of the moment jokes like pointing out my “La Socialista” sweater (it was a Bernie Sanders sweater). In the art department, Rachael Bradley fostered my creativity and taught me more about photography and Photoshop than I thought possible. Her lessons in Photoshop also enabled me to develop strength in graphic design, which I employed for Journalism as well. Above all else, I commend and appreciate Bradley for putting up with me and my friends throughout senior year. Her patience did not go unnoticed.

Finally, a reflection on my time at Westmont would be incomplete without acknowledging the tremendous impact of Journalism. I began Journalism my freshman year, welcomed into The Shield by upperclassmen and Evans. I spent most issues freshman year writing for Global News and Politics under the guidance of Will Caraccio and Tom Hirshfeld. I didn’t write my first sports article until I suggested the idea of a Madden Cover Curse story to Aditya Kulashekar, who thought it would be an awesome article for me to write. Since then, I’ve written an incalculable number of sports articles as a way to satisfy my constant urge to discuss sports without annoying those around me. My goal now is to study Journalism with a focus in sports, writing in the hopes that I can make a living discussing my passion. However, I haven’t forgotten the advice of Buran and I plan to double major in Business as a backup plan.

All told, I appreciate the friendships and guidance I’ve had the privilege to experience at Wesmont. The experiences I’ve had at this school have contributed to the person I am today and the path I wish to pursue in the future.