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Volume 5, Issue 62  |  August 4, 2020

Take Five: Meet Gabi Gomes, rising CdMHS senior and anti 4x4 organizer


As teachers, administrators and students began to look toward the new school year, wondering how to implement a plan that was safe and educationally sound, CdMHS rising senior Gabi Gomes was paying attention. A varsity volleyball player and ASB vice president, Gabi, 17, had been talking to other cabinet members (President Troy Tsubota and Secretary Treasurer Stephen Weinstock) about the situation, and they were dismayed when the board passed the so-called 4x4 model earlier this month. That plan would have limited students to half of a course load in the fall and the other half during the spring, but to students like Gabi the problems were glaring. She started an online petition that quickly gained more than 2,000 signatures, and she participated in a protest the day before the district withdrew the plan and decided to stick with last year’s structure. I caught up with Gabi to learn more.

Take Five Gabi Gomes

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Gabi Gomes

Gabi Gomes

Q: What was your reaction when you heard about the district’s 4x4 plan, and what did you do next?

A: When I first heard about the 4x4 plan, I was extremely confused and convinced that it was not going to pass. I heard about it the day before the meeting from Troy Tsubota, the student (school board) representative for CdM, and didn’t see how this system could work for any high school student. Since I heard about the plan before it was voted on, all I could do was wait for the results. Once it passed, I and my two peers (Troy Tsubota and Stephen Weinstock) began discussing how flawed the plan was and how we could potentially make a difference. The three of us are a part of student leadership at CdM and even hold the three highest elected positions, so I felt that I couldn’t just sit by and accept a plan that would hinder so many students at my school and all the others of the district. 

Q: Who planned the Monday protest, and what was going through your mind as it unfolded?   

A: The protest was organized by CdM parent of four Kristen James. She worked alongside Troy and me and was our main support system for the entirety of the movement. She guided us in finding our exact message of what we wanted to convey to our community, board and press. She was so supportive of this from the beginning as a student-led movement and wanted to fight alongside us to ensure the best for not only her kids, but kids throughout the district. As the protest unfolded, I was excited and nervous. I was excited to see our community assemble peacefully and safely, but also nervous about the response that we were going to get from the NMUSD Board. The protest was amazing, the turnout was a lot bigger than I expected (roughly 300 people) and we all assembled to fight for a cause we all believed in. 

Q: What would you say if you had five uninterrupted minutes to talk to the superintendent or to board members? 

A: If I had five uninterrupted minutes with the NMUSD Board I would first thank them for trying to innovate the way we learn in school, but then would explain how although they had good intentions, the execution was flawed. It was flawed how they failed to acknowledge the plan’s hindrance to the performing arts, leadership programs, AP courses, and core classes that build on each other such as math and world languages. I would also mention how the semesters aren’t even, so second-semester students are put at a natural advantage over first-semester students, as they will have 20 extra days to retain information that is being taught at too fast a pace. The pacing is another big issue to address as students cannot miss a day where they can’t attend school, or they just don’t understand the information. Grasping a concept and understanding it fully does not happen overnight and is proven by many scientific studies that learning is more successful during longer periods. For a study, go here

Q: Had the plan gone through, how would your classes have worked, and what do you think your personal challenges would have been, and what was your reaction to the news that your efforts worked and that the district was not going forward with the 4x4 model?

A: If the plan were to go through (which as of July 28, it’s not) I genuinely wouldn’t know how my schedule would work. Next year, I’m taking five classes total (three APs and two electives). I would guess that I would have had three classes one semester and two classes the other. My main struggle would have been not only the fast pace of my AP classes but the lack of my electives. I have been in ASB since my freshman year, so to have it for only one semester of my senior year would have been heartbreaking. I also just recently joined yearbook, so I would have been bummed to miss out on a class that I’m so excited to contribute to in any way that I can. I was very relieved when the news that the board recalled the plan came out. Having our voices being heard was so impactful. There have been so many instances where efforts when trying to spark positive change have been ignored, so to have the district listen to us was an incredible feeling. To have started a student-led movement against this plan and have gained the support of the community was such an inspiring experience that I am very grateful for. As an incoming senior who will soon become a part of the adult world, this experience taught me the value of using your voice to leave an impact on your community. I feel as if anyone can spark change and leave an impact if they have the right intentions and a balanced plan moving forward. 

Q: What are your hopes for senior year, and your plans for the future, as well as what advice do you have for incoming freshmen?

A: My hopes for senior year is that I can make the most out of it. In an ideal world, I would want a senior volleyball season and especially Senior Night where we walk across the gym with our families and are celebrated for our dedication to the volleyball program. I’m hoping that since CIF moved our seasons back, I’ll be able to play and wear a CdM jersey for the last time as a senior. Above all else, I’m hoping for a safe and healthy senior year for me and all my peers. It’s not going to be what we imagined our last year of high school to be, but if we can all come out of it safely, it’ll be worth it. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from quarantine it is that we have to let go of what we can’t control. When we resist change, we suffer more than adapting to our circumstances, so instead of being bummed and angry that our last year is going to be different, I hope I can embrace learning opportunities as they come my way. My plans for the future are to go to college and major in business and marketing. After graduating, I want to move to Japan for a year or two. My advice for incoming freshmen is to not be scared to try new things. High school is all about growth, whether it be in the classroom, physically, and in my opinion most importantly mentally. Embrace every opportunity that comes your way and give it your all. Create solid relationships with your teachers and be respectful to everyone around you. Your freshman year will be different, make sure to embrace it, but also look forward to the bright future you have ahead. If you find yourself feeling down, always remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel! 


Amy Senk is a longtime resident of Corona del Mar and a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.

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