Taylor Moises

My identity is very important to me. However, I don’t know what identifies me and I fight over what my identity is everyday. I’m a very self-reflective person. I’m not sure exactly when that started. I’ve always been an overthinker and in my head all the time, but throughout my time at Catalina and especially this year, I’ve been reflecting on who I am and who I want to be.

I remember first searching for my identity adamantly when I first got to Catalina. It was a new school in a new city with completely new faces. Coming from an elementary and middle school similar to Catalina’s lower school, I’d known the same people for the past 11 years. I knew where I stood with them and knew who I was. But coming to Catalina changed things. During my freshman year I completely loss touch with my middle school best friends, old classmates, and worst of all, I distanced from my cousins and their families. A lot of it was on me; Catalina takes up so much of our time. We’re here from at least 8 to 5 everyday and then homework takes up the other hours. Even though I’m not a boarder, and Monterey is only 45 minutes from Salinas, they are separate worlds and it’s hard to relate my Catalina experience to my middle school friends who stayed in salinas and I didn’t have as much free time to hang out with my cousins. And if starting high school isn’t hard enough along with losing everyone I was close to (besides my immediate family, my core), I was trying to make new friends at Catalina and create lasting relationships and make good first impressions.

From what I’ve mentioned, it probably seems like I hated my freshman year. I didn’t. I did make friends and I thought I had figured out my identity and it was nice. Though it took an adjustment period, I assimilated to Catalina culture. Freshman year I decided my identity would be where I was from– East Salinas. Sure I’ve never attended public school in my life and 85% of my time is spent in Monterey, but I live in the hood (I don’t.) “I’m not the same as these white girls from Monterey and Carmel,” I’d think. “I’m a POC, I’m different, I’m unique.” It sounds pretty bad now but when searching for self, you look for what makes you special and skin color and culture is what I first picked up on. Before Catalina, the majority of people I knew were Mexican and Filipino. It was a culture shock. Plus, it wasn’t fully one-sided. I even had a basketball coach freshman year calling Mikayla and me “Marina and Salinas.” That was my identity (or at least what I thought) for freshman/sophomore year.

Two years had passed and I thought I knew who I was. I had broken in Catalina like you do with new shoes. I had my best friends; I had my extracurriculars; I felt good about myself. But then I mark junior year as another turning point in my life, or at least in my struggle to figure out who I am. When I decided to audition for the winter play, Macbeth, instead of playing basketball, it confused my peers and muddled my “identity.” Sure switching after-school activities shouldn’t change me if I identified solely by my house’s area code, but I also identified with my extracurriculars, as we tend to do here, which, for me, had always been sports. I’d never performed on a stage before (unless you count a Christmas play when I was in 8th grade. I was just a narrator too, I didn’t even have to act). But Just like going from Salinas to Monterey shouldn’t be that drastically changing, sports and theatre are divisive and separate worlds. I spent less time with my “sports friends” because we were on different schedules, and frankly, had less in common. I became best friends with my “theater friends.” All the changes made me really rethink my identity once again.

Before, I had figured out who I wanted to be to Catalina when I was on the outskirts of the community, but now I was fully participating as an upperclassman and needed to figure out where I stood within Catalina. This identity crisis continued throughout college application season because you’re supposed to show colleges who you are, what’s your identity, with 650 words or less. How was I supposed to tell colleges who I am when I don’t even know? I started writing my essays about my identity but all I did was paint the honest picture, that I didn’t know. As I’ve said before: especially in those long, angsty times, I overthought everything.

But self reflection has been key. By continually searching actively for who I am, I’ve practiced retrospective thought. By pulling from my roots, my core, and my friends throughout this year, I’ve come to terms with not being able to pinpoint who I am. Knowing who I am, doesn’t necessarily mean identifying with labels. Labels are good for some things, but they mostly oversimplify us and put people in separate, clean-cut boxes. I, for sure, do not fit in a clean-cut box – or at least I don’t want to. I’m constantly changing, as we all are, and being here at Catalina for the past four years has forced me to recognize that and accept that. I’ve realized it’s more important to just do what I want to do and figure my whole situation out later. It also helps that I’m not the only one struggling over my identity. I cried each time I saw Moana in theaters (yes, multiple times), especially when she sings “I am Moana” ….(gets me every time, 10/10 recommend this movie). Coming of age stories, and stories of finding self, appeal to me because I’m going through that too. And while Catalina has allowed me to delve into this search, college is where I’m going to find my answers. As admission officers and deans tell us, “In high school, we learn to answer questions. College is a place to ask the questions.” And boy, do I have questions.

So all in all, my search for self may not relate to all of you but what I’ve tried to express  through this reflection is this: enjoy your time here at Catalina; take advantage of all Catalina has to offer, don’t put yourself in a box, keep moving; and it’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want now or at the end of your senior year. College is for exploring who you are, and you/ we have so much more to experience and learn from. Keep on and fight on. 🙂

Sofia Vela

What is my purpose? What am I doing here? These are the types of recurring questions that I faced at the start of high school.


Now, let’s rewind some years. I had always been a particularly independent child. At the age of four, I decided to let my personal stylist go, a.k.a. mom, by explaining bluntly that I did not need her to do my hair or pick out my outfits anymore, that I was perfectly capable of brushing and styling on my own. To help “lighten” my mom’s workload, I took it upon myself to lay out my big sister’s outfits, as well as make sure she was groomed and looking presentable for the day. By age nine, Mom quenched my thirst for independence by sending me off to the best summer camp there is. Summer at Santa Catalina became my home away from home. I felt safe, loved, and best of all free! Free from nagging parents, free from chores, and free to be whoever I wanted to be. One summer turned into two summers that, before I knew it, added up to five summers spent at Santa Catalina. During my last summer at camp, the summer going into freshman year, as Nikki and I paid our daily visit to Mrs. Reyes and her basket of chocolate, I noticed the collection of names on her cabinet, some familiar and others not. These were the names of the class of 2017 and this was the moment that planted the idea of attending Catalina in my head.


At the end of my eighth grade year I was ready to be unleashed! Anticipating the long road ahead of me, along with every twist and turn I would encounter as if I knew. Soon after this train of thought ran its course, the realization set in that, once again, I had gotten ahead of myself. Taking a few steps back–more like 50 steps back, actually–my parents and I began narrowing down which high schools would be the best fit for me. Attending high school at Catalina was a dream that I never once considered coming true, so it sat anxiously waiting to blossom in the back of my mind.


I spent my freshman and sophomore years at a school called Gross Catholic High School. I did well there and got involved. However, by sophomore year I felt that I needed a little something more. I had visited and toured Catalina freshman year, which solidified my desire to someday transfer and, on the other hand, further terrified my mom of having to let me go a few years sooner. Sophomore year I began dropping subtle hints to my mom, indicating to her that I was ready to move on to bigger and better things. By the end of the year, and way too many hints later, she fed into the idea and helped it grow until finally my dream became my reality. After many discussions, lots of decision making, and what seemed like endless paperwork, here I am, eternally grateful for the sacrifices my family has made in order for me to be here.


If it weren’t for my parents’ continuous support and undying faith in who I am and who I am becoming, I physically and mentally would not be where I am today. The opportunities and experiences presented to me through Catalina are beyond what I could have imagined they would be. I have grown so much in mind and spirit, thanks to Wednesday chapel services and Sunday masses. I have experienced what true friendship is and know what fake friends look like. I have matured through each struggle and stare confidently in the face of hard or seemingly scary tasks. I recognize that there is a chance that I may never again be in the midst of such incredible, intelligent teachers who actually care about me the way Catalina teachers do. What a gift. Every single teacher I have had has helped me grow in one way or another and most of them make me feel smarter just by being in their presence.  There is so much truth in the comments I hear about the Santa Catalina community being unlike any other I’ve ever experienced.
With all of this and more under my belt, I feel ready to tear into the next chapter of my life but have to admit that I will miss my home away from home. So, for those who are like me and can’t wait to know and experience what’s next, every now and then give yourself a second to stop, take a deep breath, and remember these wise words by Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” For those of you who can’t relate to that, here’s some advice that I know every Catalina girl could use: in times of stress, whip out that list of things you have to do or that assignment notebook I know each of you has and just take it one step at a time. I promise you, it will all get done.

Juliana Tarallo

I am in a state of blissful unawareness. I think I have been for a while. About graduating, about leaving, about being considered an actual adult, even though we all know that we 18-year-olds are idiots and shouldn’t be trusted to make any real decisions. There is a book by a girl named Arden Rose called Almost Adulting, and that it exactly how I feel right now, not really in the sense that I am almost an adult, but that everything I do is just short of adulting. For example, after cooking a successfully healthy breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, I might enjoy a small dessert of three chocolate muffins and some salt and vinegar chips that I somehow managed to make last for longer than three hours, and call that a “healthy day.” Or, I might go to Target in search of a new pack of socks, only to realize when I get home that they were sizes 5-6 in baby’s feet. And yes, I did wear those little cotton coin-purse-sized sacks, because I’d be damned if I didn’t get my money’s worth. So, you see–almost adulting. But what I have come to learn over the past four years is that that is OKAY. Trying is what counts, even more than the actual final product. Unfortunately, this philosophy does not apply to my classes, like when I confuse the different Chi Square tests in Statistics or get a little too passionate in English class and accidentally maybe start yelling. But hey, this concept has generally served me well over the years–after I accepted its importance, of course.


It all began with theater. (Hold the eyerolls! I’ll make it quick.) When I came to Catalina, I didn’t really feel great at anything. I felt like Average Andy from The Ellen Show–you know, like I could get by doing anything, but never really excelled at anything. So, when I came to Catalina, I decided that I would try out theater and see if I could be great at that. Well, the first show I auditioned for was Scapino–you know, that weird comedy they put on a few years ago that had something to do with spaghetti? Well, I thought I would be perfect for the show, being a loud Italian already, but guess what, I wasn’t cast. I consider myself a pretty strong person, I’ve been through a lot personally, I can take rejection, but this hurt. My plan of being great in high school was foiled, and my confidence was at an all-time low. Luckily, as you all know, that story has a happy ending with many funny and memorable experiences, as I was later cast in Peter Pan, and the rest was history. What I learned from my time in theatre, and really at Catalina, is that being great is not nearly as important as being a part of something great, and Catalina is something great.


Let me leave you with some words of advice:


1)We live in a world where we ignore people to get their attention. Always say what you mean and be genuine.

2)Don’t try to be the tough, bad, strong girl, believe me. Take down the walls. This is something I am continually struggling with. Being kind is vastly underrated.

3)Don’t worry about the things you can’t change. You could be the nicest peach in the bowl, but there will always be someone who just doesn’t like peaches.

4)My final and most important piece of advice: Always run to lunch on curly fry day, because you will get stuck with regular.


Thank you.

On Why Hamilton is Everything by Taylor Moises

I am obsessed with Hamilton: The American Musical, and you should be, too. Why? Because Hamilton isn’t just an award-winning musical–it’s a cultural phenomenon that tells “the story of America then told by America now.”

It is topically relevant with American society and politics today while still providing top-notch entertainment for all types of people to enjoy.

Here at Catalina, people either love Hamilton or hate Hamilton. For those of you who have not been enlightened to the greatness that is Hamilton: The American Musical, it is a Broadway musical sharing the story of one of America’s own founding fathers: Alexander Hamilton. Why in the world would a musical about an old, dead guy be so widely raved about? Because the genius behind it (its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda) created the musical so that it is topically relevant with American society and politics today while still providing top-notch entertainment for all types of people to enjoy. Lin-Manuel was able to liken Alexander Hamilton’s story to that of a contemporary rap artist and then link rap and conventional showtunes as the basis of the musical.

Now for a quick history lesson: Who exactly was Alexander Hamilton? If you are a Hamilton fan, you already know who he was and then some; for others, you have heard of his name if you have taken U.S. History with Mr. Place, and you have seen his face if you have ever seen a ten-dollar bill. Nonetheless, most people do not know much about who Alexander Hamilton was except that he was a founding father and that he died in a duel with Aaron Burr. However, Alexander Hamilton was the first secretary of the treasury of the United States, and he created our financial system. From this information, he does not seem like the obvious basis for a hit musical; however, Hamilton’s formal accomplishments do not sum up all that happened during his short but eventful lifetime. After reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, Lin-Manuel realized Hamilton’s life was full of scandals, duels, and drama perfect for some entertainment. The musical focuses on Alexander Hamilton’s rise from a poor orphan from the Caribbean to George Washington’s right hand man in the Revolutionary War to his trusted aide when Washington became the first president. The musical ends with (spoiler alert!) Hamilton’s death after his duel with Aaron Burr.

One reason to be obsessed with Hamilton, and why I am obsessed with Hamilton, is because of the ingenuity behind its concept and its effective execution, both of which are mostly due to Hamilton’s founding father, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda, along with close friends and colleagues, worked for seven years to create what is now the musical. When he would explain he was working on a rap-musical about Alexander Hamilton, people did not see the connection or how that would work but because they knew Lin, they trusted that whatever it would turn out to be, it would be amazing. They were not wrong to believe in him. In 2009, Lin-Manuel was invited to the White House and he performed what was to become the opening number of Hamilton. The audience, including the Obamas, laughed when he introduced the piece, but by the end of the song, everyone, again including the Obamas, was on their feet applauding. This is the typical response from the time when people first hear about Hamilton to when they finally listen to it and realize how moving it is. With Lin-Manuel’s love for theatre and for hip-hop, he was able to successfully combine both styles in the musical to create this masterpiece.

Beyond the initial brilliance of successfully intertwining contemporary music with show tunes, Hamilton is made even better by the characters and actors behind the characters. Another crucial aspect to Hamilton is its racially diverse cast. All of the principal cast members are people of color. The Puerto Rican creator, Lin-Manuel, plays Alexander Hamilton; the three actors who play the first three presidents of the United States are African-Americans, and the lead actress is Asian-American. This diversity is necessary because Lin-Manuel embedded in Hamilton’s identity the idea of telling the story of the founding of America by the diverse inhabitants of America today. Hamilton could not be as successful as it has been if the cast were all old, white men. By including a racially diverse cast that reflects America today and using music less traditional for musicals, it brings Broadway closer to a less elite crowd and more available to all. It shows that Broadway musicals are not just for white people.

From its conception, Hamilton has attracted many celebrity followings along with popularity among the general public. Celebrities from Beyoncé and Jay-Z to Will Ferrell to Shonda Rhimes and many more have watched the musical at least once. The Obamas have seen the show multiple times and even invited the cast to perform in the White House. The show is in such high demand that the next available tickets are for May of next year. Seniors will be done with classes by the time a show has tickets that are available. While the low quantity of tickets makes the show less accessible, Lin-Manuel and those working on Hamilton are creating new ways for more people to watch the show live. Every day there is a lottery people can enter, and twenty-one people win front-row tickets for ten dollars (versus thousands of dollars). In addition to the lottery, there is often a “#Ham4Ham show” (known as Ham4Ham because winners give a “Ham” (ten-dollar bill) to watch Hamilton) that the cast hosts outside the Richard Rodgers theatre, when they put on an extra show including cast members, crew, or special guests as another way to give more to the Hamilton fan base. There is also a free show on some Wednesdays that New York City students attend if they in turn take a specialized curriculum about Alexander Hamilton and then perform an original piece based on what they learned on the Richard Rodgers’ stage for other schools and the Hamilton cast. These incredible experiences are just some of the many ways the minds behind Hamilton are working to make it available to as many people as they can, especially those who normally would not be able to attend a Broadway performance. Soon there will be Hamilton openings in Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, a nationwide tour, and a production in London. While it is the single hottest ticket on and off Broadway right now, these expansions and its continual success ensure Hamilton will be available for a long time.

Now, on a more personal level, here is why Hamilton is so amazing to me. As I have mentioned before, it has made Broadway shows more available to people who were never interested in musicals before, but it has also opened the door of rap music to theatre kids. For me, I was a rap fan turned musical fan. I have joked before that I am the “Troy Bolton” of my class–basketball player turned theatre kid–and Hamilton definitely is mostly to blame. It was such a seamless transition because of its hip-hop style and contemporary diction that I became obsessed quickly. I have all the words from every song memorized. Those who have listened to the cast album can attest that it is beyond catchy for musical geeks and just plain catchy for everyone else.

I got to watch it this summer on July, and it was one of the best experiences I have ever had.

You might be skeptical as to how I can be so sure Hamilton is so amazing, but I can assure you as one of the lucky few who have had the privilege of actually watching the show that it is everything I have hyped it up to be. I got to watch it this summer on July 2nd, and it was one of the best experiences I have ever had. The performance was one of the last shows with the original Broadway cast, which is a big deal, especially for this musical, because the roles were tailored for many of the actors. Leslie Odom, Jr., who was able to humanize Aaron Burr, the villain, made the audience empathize with him even when he kills Hamilton. Plus, Lin-Manuel handpicked Daveed Diggs to play Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson because of his superb rapping skills and chose Chris Jackson to play George Washington before Lin-Manuel knew Hamilton would be a musical. I was sitting in what was probably the worst spot in the entire theatre, but I can attest that there truly is not a bad seat in the house. Just being in the room where it happened was enough. I only cried seven times because I had to tell myself to keep it together since the tears blurred my vision and impaired my view of the show. Also, because Hillary Clinton was watching at this performance, I could have been in the same room with the next president of the United States.

Now why would something that I make sound so wonderful be hated, like I said it was, at Catalina? Many people hate it because of the obsessiveness from others and me that can be annoying. So yes, I apologize for singing it out loud or making many Hamilton references, but it is relevant in everyday life, making it hard not to quote.  During an election year with candidates knee-deep in mudslinging and scandals, Hamilton involves many current, political issues. Although you will probably get some eye rolls when Hamilton is mentioned at Catalina, when was the last time people, especially those who aren’t theatre enthusiasts, had a strong opinion on a musical? This show has surpassed the conventionality as a musical; it is a cultural phenomenon and an integral piece of pop culture. Hamilton incorporates social and political issues while reaching a broad audience and providing great entertainment and art.

This may still not be striking enough for you. If you cannot see the brilliance behind this Pulitzer-Prize-, Grammy-, and Tony-winning musical, or refuse to give it a shot even after reading this article, my humble efforts have been useless. I don’t see how you can say no to this, but I am satisfied you at least read up to this point. We know the theater kids already play Hamilton non-stop, but it didn’t feel right to throw away my shot at trying to explain Hamilton is genius. One last time, I’ll say that it is worth it to give Hamilton a shot.