The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


Year in Review: 2020-21

By Staff Writers Sumani Alem, Nishi Bhagat, Sabrina Cai & Brooke Zheng

As the summer approaches, the Smoke Signal has rounded up the most noteworthy achievements, competitions, and school changes of the 2020-21 school year. Read on to find out more about the events that have shaped the Warrior community this year!

Mental Health 

After Ankush Swarnakar’s Medium post, “An Open Letter to MSJHS”, raised concerns about racist remarks, stress, and competition at MSJ, ASB and GENup Fremont held two town hall meetings  with students, parents, staff, and board members to discuss mental health and microaggressions at school. One widely debated issue this year was school resource officers (SROs); the Board of Education voted to remove the SRO program after many students and alumni voiced their concerns that SROs were perpetuating a hostile environment at FUSD with racially skewed arrests/referrals and practices that deteriorated students’ mental health. However, the program was reinstated quickly afterwards due to backlash from the Fremont community. 

MSJ also partnered with three mental health agencies — Fremont Youth & Family Services, The Hume Center, Bay Area Community Health — again this year to provide students with free, confidential, one-on-one mental health services from qualified therapist interns and doctors. The counselors also started weekly 15-minute guided meditation Zoom sessions to aid in ways to both embrace self-care and to de-stress.

School Events 

This year’s much anticipated Homecoming Week was held virtually via Zoom over two weeks. Aladdin Freshmen, Bikini Bottom Sophomores, Kung Fu Panda Juniors, and Super Mario Seniors went on Feb. 1, Feb. 2. Feb. 3, and Feb. 4, respectively, and Unity Day was held on Feb. 5. The L2 Videography Committee compiled footage of past airbands to stream each class’s Homecoming performances. 

MSJ Multicultural Week was held virtually from April 12-16 and included club fundraisers, a virtual assembly featuring 11 airbands, and student posts across social media Instagram stories. Each day of the week of the celebration spotlighted a different cultural theme: Food Day, Celebrations/Traditions Day, Fables/Myths Day, Languages Day, and Clothing Day. 

School Changes 

Though FUSD instated distance learning  throughout the whole year, many significant changes have taken place. Notably, the Calendar Shift, a four-year initiative pushed by SURFBoardE, was passed to be implemented for the 2021-22 school year. As a result of this shift, schools will now reopen early-mid August for finals to finish before winter break. In addition, after the town hall meetings earlier in the year, MSJ formed its first ever Inclusion Council, which is composed of students, staff, and parents to bring tangible change to the problems brought up in the two town hall meetings. This past year, the school board also voted in a 3-2 decision to remove SROS in November only to revisit the decision and reinstate the officers in January.


This year, the performance arts found a way to thrive, thanks to the ubiquity of virtual platforms. MSJ Universal Performers put on three plays this year in addition to having seven members win awards at the Lenaea High School Theatre Festival. Additionally, through collecting submissions online, MSJ Impromptu was able to put on monthly concerts for their audience. Gregory’s Big Band, a jazz ensemble put together by local student musicians, made the most of editing software and virtual tools to continue pursuing their love for music and creating content for their community. 


This year, MSJ Speech and Debate attended more than 40 local and national tournaments, collecting an impressive 26 total bids to both the prestigious speech and debate Tournament of Champions, a national high school speech and debate tournament that takes place every year at the University of Kentucky. With eight additional state championship qualifiers and numerous finalists and champions at national competitions, 2020-21 marks a season of unprecedented success for MSJ’s forensics team. 

Out of the 98 MSJ DECA members who attended the 2021 State Career Development Conference, 38 placed in the Top 10 of their category, and 20 qualified to the International Career Development Conference (ICDC). 12 members placed Top 20 at ICDC, and of those 12, five members placed in the top ten. 

MSJ Model United Nations (MUN) had more than 20 active competitive delegates that attended five conferences, winning multiple awards including the Award of Distinction in research and participation and Award of Distinction in committee performance and contribution at the National High School Model United Nations (NHSMUN), the largest global high school MUN conference. Over 80% of MSJ MUN members have brought home awards at every conference and over 70% of first-time delegates bring home awards at their first conference.


MSJ Relay for Life participated in their 9th Annual Relay for Life event on April 24, raising a total of $48,625.83 for the American Cancer Society with 32 teams and a total 174 participants. MSJ’s Charity Fashion Show was held online on May 14 with a peak of more than 50 viewers, raising around $141 during this event. MSJ Peer Resource held their annual Peer Benefit Show online on April 23 and raised $295, along with $65.90 during a dare fundraiser and boba fundraiser, bringing their total amount raised to around $360.


This year, sports were filled with a variety of new regulations and precautions. Although some sports seasons, such as cheer, did not return, on October 14, preseason athletic conditioning was approved by the FUSD Board of Education.  In the latter half of the school year, more sports seasons were approved with additional new measures for teams to follow. Such changes were regular testing for COVID-19, identifying contact information for local health departments, and wearing masks at all times. In addition, no spectators would be allowed during competition. Despite these obstacles, MSJ still outperformed their competition. Boys and Girls Tennis led an undefeated season, triumphing against all their competition. Similarly, MSJ Boys and Girls Cross Country won all 6 divisions against long-time rivals, Irvington High School Vikings. 


Despite challenges with the pandemic, MSJ Academic Challenge performed exceedingly well in their virtual competitions. Notably, Science Bowl opened the season strong, with MSJ teams placing 1st and 2nd at their first competition of the year. Similarly, another branch of MSJ Academic Challenge, Science Olympiad placed 4th out of 50 competing schools at the esteemed Mira Loma Science Olympiad Invitational. Outside of competitions, new clubs such as MSJ Students for Rare Diseases were introduced to raise awareness on STEM causes. Throughout the year, they held education workshops and career panels to inform students about the experiences of disease patients.

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