The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders

Our Voices/Showcase

The doctor’s out: Administration bans classic shoe

Lily Yepez (12) in Doc Martens. Photo by Gus Flores-Rascon.

In a romanticized version of our school, grey socks and chipped nail polish are a heroic act of disobedience against a uniform made by a tyrannical administration. In reality, we couldn’t find any clean socks in uniform, and we’ve picked off our nail polish while nervously taking a test. I’ve never been great at following the uniform, mostly because I don’t like to do laundry, but I’ve accepted demerits without argument when it comes to dress code offenses. The uniform is pretty comfortable – if you keep your skirt unbuttoned- and easy to follow. Most of the time, it’s not worth arguing with admin over whether or not your earrings are too distracting.

Therefore, it’s understandable to get a demerit for wearing cowboy boots or thigh high leather stilettos. Those types of shoes are loud, distracting, high maintenance. But what about practical, undeniably comfortable and waterproof Doc Martens? They are a classic, much like Converse, that are so popular among ARS high school students in solid black. I’ve worn black Doc Martens since the beginning of this school year, but I was forced to return to my flimsy, worn out Chuck Taylors when I was informed a full semester into the year that my reliable Docs were not in uniform. My Converse, which I bought three years ago, are so faded they’re basically dark green, but apparently that’s better than my Docs.

The specific uniform violation I committed was wearing “boots.” Every winter, admin crackdown on boots as students try and wear winter boots to school. Prior to the wave of winter boots, nobody had a problem with my Docs. There are a handful of students who have also sported Docs, some longer than I have, without anyone bringing up a uniform violation.

First of all, I don’t think Docs even qualify as the boots the ARS dress code mentions. Maybe Docs cover the ankle, like many boots, but so do high top sneakers. Docs have laces just like tennis shoes, and they have a heel like any supportive footwear. Docs may resemble typical work boots, but they’re hardly ever worn by blue collar workers. Similarly, you can call Converse tennis shoes, but I don’t know anyone whose athletic shoes of choice are Converse. Doc’s have been claimed as an everyday shoe that is versatile and appropriate for the office, traveling, going out, or school.

Second of all, this whole new attack on Doc’s may not be just about the dress code. It may be political. Since their popularization in the sixties by British Skinheads – a subculture of working class Brits who loved reggae and ska music – Doc Martens have been a symbol of rebellion against the man. They’re ugly, industrial and the opposite of sophistication and the upper class. Instead of kneeling to the bourgeoisie by imitating their style, Skinheads wore work boots as a badge of pride in their working-class roots. Through the decades, Doc’s have been adopted as signs of rebellion. To admin, Doc’s not only “violate” the uniform, but also have connotations of societal defiance and nonconformity.

Now days, a new pair of Docs can cost over a $100, but they are still a common shoe of younger generations, perhaps because of retro style and thrift store trends that make them more accessible. For example, I’ve had three pairs of Docs, all of which I bought used for under $45. It may appear as if Docs have become a luxury item, but with clothing recycling they aren’t hard to come by at a good price for broke teenagers.

There is solid reasoning in banning a clothing item that is recognizable as a sign of rebellion: it clashes with the idea of sisterhood and students working with teachers for the same goal. However, if admin embraced Docs, and they became as widely worn through out the ARS halls as Converse, then students would gain a cohesive image of empowerment. In a way this currently banned shoe could be a physical representation of the school’s commitment to fighting for change.


‘Ye or nay: Why Kanye’s wrong about thinking for himself

One thing that surprises people who know me well is that I love Kanye West. My Spotify account is eclectic at best, ranging from 50’s Motown to 60’s rock to 80’s pop, all the way to more recent music that fits under the general guise of “indie.” Kanye West holds his own special place in my album collection – I have always loved how Kanye mixes his songs with intention, his deliberation bleeds from the frequency waves. In “Drunk and Hot Girls,” he samples “Sing Swan Song” from 70’s band CAN for the titular line, a song that’s mumbling, ambiguous lyrics only feeds to the hazy frenzy West describes. On the album Yeezus, Kanye utilizes samples to juxtapose past injustices with modern day black experiences. What he chooses to say in his songs is only enhanced by what he adds to it – he cherry-picks lines, beats, and samples to create songs that transcend into works of art and become powerful.

From an artist who I’ve always respected for his deliberation, his awareness, and seemingly close analyzation of lyrics and mixes, Kanye’s recent media stunts have seemed haphazard at best. The lyrics from the 2016 song “I love Kanye” have never stuck out more.

Starting on April 21, he began tweeting and retweeting messages from the far right, leading followers to question his political leanings. On April 25, his behavior escalated –  Kanye went on a twitter rampage, announcing his love for Trump, and posting pictures of himself in a “Make America Great Again” hat. In a May 1st appearance on TMZ, Kanye stated mid-interview that slavery “sounds like a choice.” Amid the controversy, West just added fuel to the fire, dropping two songs: “Ye versus the People,” a collaboration with rapper TI in which the two debate Kanye’s political views, and “Life Yourself,” a song which samples the Amnesty track Liberty over the lyrics “Poopy-di scoop/Scoop-diddy-whoop/Whoop-di-scoop-di-poop/ Poop-di-scoopty.”

Kanye’s interviews, lyrics, and tweets are full of contradictions. In one tweet, Kanye offhandedly mentions “I’m not political.” However, he raps, “ever since Trump won, it proved I could be president,” and tweeted simply “2024,” building on his VMA speech where he first announced his intention to run for President. He acts like his suddenly expressed admiration for Trump occurred organically, and says in the TMZ interview, “I felt a freedom in, first of all, just doing something that everyone tells you not to do.” In his song “Ye Vs The People,” which was released the day he publicly endorsed Trump, he says, “Make America Great Again had a negative perception/I took it, wore it, rocked it, gave it a new direction.” Kanye’s version of the narrative seems to be widely off from reality, considering the backlash he received. Did he assume by endorsing Trump he would lead his fans towards doing the same? And, of course, the main contradiction Kanye keeps sticking to is a message of “Love Everyone.” But by coupling a message of acceptance of individuals with the act of embracing one of the most divisive administrations in recent history, Kanye sets up yet another contradiction in his behavior.

I’m a huge advocate for respecting the political beliefs of others – I understand that everyone is different and, as long as their beliefs don’t inhibit the basic human rights of others, should be able to vote and act as they see fit. But I also see no problem with discussing said beliefs. Even if two people leave a conversation unshaken in their stances, friendly political discussion can help us see the ‘other side’ as more human. Understanding “why” can lead to understanding of the individual. And this is a key issue with Kanye’s tirade – contradictions in his own messages imply he isn’t listening to what others have to say, including TMZ’s Van Lathan, John Legend, and others have attempted to explain to him. At this point, his behavior isn’t “free thinking” – it’s deranged and misinformed. And, as an influential figure, we must hold him accountable for it.

Part of holding Kanye accountable means twisting the narrative away from excusing Kanye’s behavior as side effect of mental illness. First, while Kanye opened up about his history with mental illness in an interview with Charlamagne tha God, he explained that he’s “stronger than ever.” But, even if Kanye was in a worse-off place, the reality is that supporting Trump is not a byproduct of an underlying condition – the implication is harmful to individuals with mental illness, as it undermines their political participation, and democracy itself. After all, saying that aligning with any individual because of mental illness simplifies the election process and discredits any valid reasons why someone might support a controversial figure. This prevents any value we may gain from analyzing why Trump was elected and what we can do to prevent it in the future. In Kanye’s case, attempting to project the blame onto his history doesn’t hold him accountable for the choices he is making as a powerful member of society. As Trevor Noah pointed out, those on the far right and white supremacists will use Kanye’s endorsement of Trump as a way to excuse their behavior.

In the TMZ interview, Kanye tells reporters, “We’re taught how to think, we’re taught how to feel, we don’t know how to think for ourselves.” As Lathan pointed out, West isn’t breaking any sort of government-taught brainwashing. By refusing to engage in a dialogue about his most recent forthcomings, Kanye isn’t thinking for himself. I’m not sure what worse – if he’s not thinking about the repercussions his actions have, or if he has, and doesn’t care. But as a public figure, we must hold West accountable for the messages he is broadcasting. Given the release of his new album, I’m both apprehensive and excited to see what he says next.

Making bank: Fun summer jobs for 16+ students in Austin

Each year, a new group of students in high school becomes old enough to get summer jobs! The following fun and interesting jobs will help you get outside this summer, learn important skills, and get paid for it!

Little Stars Camp:
Every summer, Ann Richards holds a two week Little Stars camp for elementary students from grades 3-5. The camp is for these students to learn what being an Ann Richards girl is like, andtrains young women to be powerful in themselves and meet kids. Through activities using skills like problem solving, the camp helps students get a feel for the Ann Richards lifestyle! High school students in Ann Richards can work here and get paid weekly for running the camp and coming up with activities for the kids. For more information on how to apply for a position, you can go to Ms. Castro or Ms. Bryant.

This summer, if you are 16, you can become a lifeguard at pools in the Austin area. This job includes training for aquatic safety and getting CPR certified. At 16 you can become either a lifeguard or a pool attendant, and if you are 17 you can become a cashier. Visit the website or go to the Austin Aquatic and Sports Academy center to learn more about these jobs and how to apply.

Youth Activist Groups:
This year-round youth activist groups at Creative Action is an outlet for high schoolers in Austin to express themselves through art forms and activism. There are three programs you can be a part of at Creative Action that use activism. Youth Cinema uses activism through film, Changing Lives uses acting to express activism to middle schoolers around Austin, and Color Squad creates beautiful murals in the Austin community to express activism. Creative Action is a safe place for individuals to explore their identity, and collaborate with new people while spreading an important message. To contact Creative Action to get involved, you can email [email protected]

South Austin Sno:
Snow cone stands are the perfect summer job for students! While it’s a fun way to pass the time, you also gain communication and time management skills for the future. South Austin Sno would be a great first job for underclassmen, because you can gain experience for future jobs and how to manage your work and school. You can visit their two locations at 5399-5301 Manchaca Rd, and 1817 S Lamar Blvd to learn more information on how to apply.

Live Projects/Showcase

Just around the corner: Sophomores work on their DAP projects


Every year at ARS, the sophomore class has a two month long project for their pathway classes: Biomedical, Engineering, and Media Technology. This project qualifies students for the Distinguished Diploma Plan (DAP). Scoring an 80 or above on the Cornerstone project is also how Ann Richards’ letterman jackets are earned. Here is what some of the students are doing in their Cornerstone project:


In Media Tech, the sophomores focus on animation.By the end of the year, students create a  create a three minute animation with a partner. In this project, students must make a story, characters, backgrounds, and a musical score. This year, students Johanna Lechuga (10) and Kate Singer (10) are making their story gets the message across that working together is the best way to get things done. Their characters are described as “a humanoid, plant thing that is basically Mother Nature embodied” and a robot. However, this story wasn’t easy to come up with.


“We had like five ideas at first,” Singer said. Mr. Roger Soden, the Media Tech teacher, is very selective with the stories, which causes students to go through many ideas before they find the best one. “We would go up to him thinking our story was really good, and every time he told us it wasn’t and we had to change it every time,”  Lechuga said. “He is really picky.” The animation Cornerstone will be done in early May, and now the class is starting to animate their characters after designing them in Adobe Photoshop.


Engineering in sophomore year is focused on ways to help the community. Groups of students must come up with a product to build that will in some way improve a space around them. One of the groups this year is Marisol Farias (10), Avandia Avila (10), and Alyssa Reynolds (10). Their project is about water conservation, and they will build a greenhouse out of PVC piping in the shape of a geodesic – a design elements that spaces lines the shortest possible distance between points – dome.


“We are going to use garden beds to demonstrate vegetation, and then we will have drip tape which is basically a form of irrigation, it’s like sprinklers,” Farias said “Also, we will have a time sensor to disperse water through [the garden beds] at certain times of the day.”.


For some engineering groups, the hardest part of the project is trying to collect materials that aren’t easy to find in stores or at our school.


“It’s hard to work with the project since we don’t have the proper things to work with,” Farias said. The engineering project will be done between April 19th-20th.


The Biomedical Cornerstone is all about nanotechnology and diseases. Students must pick a disease they are passionate about curing and create a nanodevice to help treat the disease. While they don’t build nanodevices – a tiny device that can interact with cells –  but they do research extensively how they work as well as build a model of one.


“It’s hard because there just isn’t a thousand articles on nanodevices and nanodevice generators,” Fatima Rosales (10) said. Rosales and her partner,  Anne Katula (10), and Fatima Rosales (10), are working to create a nanodevice to treat a part of celiac disease called glycogen, which is a substance deposited in tissue that stores Carbohydrates.


“We chose to target glycogen and when it enters the body instead and the breakdown of glycogen so nothing that damages the immune system happens,” Rosales said.


The groups must design these nanodevices to present to a client or organization that works with the chosen disease. The biomedical pathway cornerstone will include a model of the body, a research paper, and a presentation on what the students learned that will be due April 27.

Student Kate Singer (10) works on her character for her animation
Students Marisol Farias (10), Avandia Avila (10), and Alyssa Reynolds (10) work on their geodesic dome
Student Anne Katula (10) works on her diagram for their nanodevice
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