The sky burns orange as the smell of charred wood fills the smoky air. Students cover their eyes as they hurry between classrooms, masks covering their faces and hiding coughs underneath.

As the pandemic gradually flickers out, life is slowly becoming recognizable again. And yet — not quite. The “normalcy” we so desperately want to return to is a world devastated by climate change, political turmoil and war, nothing close to the idyllic paradise many of us dreamed of during the worst months of the pandemic. 

In this issue, we explore how these critical issues affect the minds of the members of our community, through a more introspective and psychological lens. While burning forests, endless violence and partisan clashes seem like issues centered far away from Palo Alto High School, their mental effects reach surprisingly far and wide.  

With threats of fires persisting in northern California and local anxiety remaining, Profiles Editor Sasha Boudtchenko, News Editor Bella Daly and Multimedia Manager Melody Xu explore the impact of California’s wildfires in “Lost in the flames.” Though Palo Alto has been physically unscathed, the pervasive smoke and unending news alerts on social media each fall have made their mark on many local residents’ psyches. 


Perhaps life is no longer recognizable, but we can embrace this new world and continue to ignite change through our work, one story at a time.


The recent withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan also seems like an issue with its epicenter far away. But for Afghan community members, the war and its lasting effects are deeply personal and tied to their identities as Americans. In a poignant letter, staff writer Ines Legrand reflects on her identity as an Afghan American and a daughter of immigrants in “A message to mom,” highlighting her internal struggles with her identity as a highly personal war comes to an end halfway across the globe.

Over the summer, many high-profile athletes publicly stepped back from competition due to concerns over their mental wellbeing. Though much of the discussion surrounding the mental toll of competition is focused on professional athletics, right here at Palo Alto High School, student-athletes struggle with the immense pressure of high-level competition as they attempt to pursue athletic excellence, a struggle documented by Perspectives Editor Meena Narayanaswami, Business Manager Andrew Xue and staff writer Miya Whitely in “Athletic adversity.”

But as crises fill our news feeds and our thoughts, a full in-person return to the Verde classroom has been a place for us and our staff to examine the issues pressing society and ourselves — together as a whole staff for the first time in over a year. Lengthy discussions of topics ranging from climate change and COVID-19 policy to bathroom breaks and construction complaints have punctuated our time together as a staff. Our writers’ pursuit of the most pressing issues in our local community has allowed us to process the angst and powerlessness felt throughout the student body.

In our May issue, we pondered the state of life after the lockdowns and restrictions characteristic of the past year. As we return to a relative normalcy, the world we are reflecting on today is nothing like that we envisioned just a few months ago. Perhaps life is no longer recognizable, but we can embrace this new world and continue to ignite change through our work, one story at a time. 

On the cover: 

Senior Maia Johnsson anxiously looks ahead as a cloud of smoke closes in around her. This photo illustration, shot by photographer Anushe Irani and edited by graphic designer Esther Xu, visualizes the annual helplessness community members feel — as smoke once again seeps into our lives, yet again we are powerless in changing its course. In this issue, we explore the psychological impact of tragedies like this, and the guilt and desensitization that often follows.

Find the full PDF document of our print magazine on Issuu.