ESCAPE FROM PENZA-19 by Jared Hamersly

Jared Hamersley

Mr. Bearson

Period 4



ESCAPE FROM PENZA-19: A descriptive essay of classmate Lindsay Whitworth in Zarechny Russia (formerly known Penza-19 before the fall of the Soviet Union)

Dreaming Big

Lindsay Whitworth aspires to win a gold medal in gymnastics at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.  Her mother, Victoria, the silver-maned matriarch of the Whitworth family is Lindsay’s biggest fan and would love nothing more. When she’s not in training, Lindsay relaxes in her bedroom after school listening to music—High School Musical is her favorite.  She also enjoys playing Hayday on her Ipad, and watching Sidemen on  On the weekend, she chills with her friends at the local burger joint, Willie’s.  She’s looking forward to wearing her favorite midnight black romper and beat up Converse All-Star high-tops this weekend.

Lindsay cherishes her family and simple life in Carmichael, California, but she dreams of bigger things.  She imagines herself driving her dream car, an iridium silver Range Rover with chrome 22s, and living a glamorous and exciting life far away from the humdrum of Sacramento. She has no idea just how to get started in living up to her grand aspirations.


World Traveler

“Beep . . . beep . . beep . . . OH, JUST GO AWAY! . . . I hate that stupid alarm clock!”  Lindsay yelps in her grumpy voice.  Okay, so she’s not exactly what you might call a morning person, but today is the big day.  It’s Friday, the twenty-second of September.  Lindsay and Marcie Joe Thomas, another aspiring Sacramento area gymnast, will be jet setting halfway around the world to a gymnastics event in Moscow, Russia.  Lindsay secretly views this as her first step to stardom.


Passport, tickets, itinerary…check, check, check. are all accounted for.  Lindsay’s  all packed, but she’s far from ready to go.  She still has a few mental loose ends to tie up.  Lindsay’s never flown on an airplane before.  The thought of flying 30,000 feet above the ground absolutely terrifies her.  She dreads the thought of being so far away from home in a strange land, but she also knows that she will have to overcome such phobias to realize her dreams.

“Three, two, one, blast off,” Marcie Joe whispers in her ear.  Lindsay is not amused.   “Ready or not here we come, Moscow.”  Marcie Joe proclaimed.  Lindsay slid her hand up from her mouth to cover her eyes, leaned forward slightly, and reached for the folded white bag inside the seat back in front of her.  A few hours later, when the nausea subsided, Lindsay nodded off.  


Prisoners in a Foreign Land

A tall, dark-haired man with ghost-like grey eyes is standing in the aisle of the plane shouting incessantly in a raspy voice.  It sounds like gibberish: “Ne delay nichego glupogo, i nikto ne postrada . . . . Ne delay nichego glupogo, i nikto ne postrada”   “Huh? What?” Lindsay was suddenly startled awake.  “What on earth is going on, Marcie Joe?”   “OMG!  He has a gun!!!!”  

Bronia Bierwicz, the Polish gymnastics coach traveling with Lindsay whispers in Lindsay’s ear “Please, try to calm down, I think we are being hijacked.” Coach Bierwicz explains that the man is speaking Russian and saying, “Don’t do anything stupid and no one gets hurt.”  


“Attention, this is your captain speaking.  The plane has been um, uh, diverted and will soon be landing in Zarechny, Penza Oblast.”  Lindsay thinks to herself, “Where on earth is Zarechny, Penza Oblast?  I’ve never heard of it.” She was not alone.  Zarechny, formerly known as Penza-19, is a remote closed administrative-territorial formation, commonly referred to as a “closed city,” in the former Soviet Union. No foreign visitors are allowed into Zarechny without the permission of the Russian government—and that never happens.  Zarechny’s main employer, Rosatom, manufactures nuclear weapon components for the Russian government.  


About thirty minutes later, the plane began its final descent into Zarechny.  The captain came on the speaker again, “Brace yourselves, we’re in for a bumpy landing.”  Apparently, the runway at the Zarechy airport had not been maintained for more than a decade.  The jumbo jet slammed to the ground and bounced like a yo-yo.  The reverse thrusters began to roar before the jumbo airliner finally bounced to a stop.  Before anyone could celebrate this miracle,  a group of ten or twelve men carrying what looked like AK-47 rifles boarded the plane and began placing canvas potato sacks over the heads of all the passengers.  Lindsay was terrified! All 96 of the passengers were all led off the plane and boarded onto a large tractor trailer truck.  After they were crammed in like sardines, the door was slammed shut.  The stench of livestock permeated Lindsay’s nasal cavity going directly to her brain.  The truck drove for nearly three hours before coming to a stop.   

Things Go From Bad to Worse

The close quarters made it very difficult to breath.  Lindsay struggled to expand her chest cavity and draw in enough oxygen into her lungs.  It grew colder and colder as the hostages remained in total darkness in that truck for more than a day.  The following evening, one of the armed men opened the door about twelve inches and slid in a tray of three loaves of bread and plastic liter jug full of water.   How would this possibly feed 98 people?  It couldn’t.  Lindsay privately thought to herself “I would die for a cheeseburger and fries” while the rest of the passengers were, no doubt, merely hoping not to die and would have gladly settled for one more morsel of bread just to stay alive.  


The crack of daylight soon shined through a crevice in one of the ceiling rivets.  Morning had arrived.   Lindsay had not slept a wink that night.  It was impossible to get comfortable on the cold and hard wooden floor and Lindsay worried she might never awake again if she closed her eyes.  Gore, a toe-headed eight-year-old lad and the only child among the passengers had no such problem.  This all must have seemed like a game to a child.


The lack of adequate nutrition was beginning to wear on us.  Most of the passengers could barely move a muscle that day as they sat motionless on the truck floor.  Lindsay could tell it was night again because the crack of daylight shining through the ceiling rivet faded and then disappeared.   A few hours later, Lindsay heard the sound of the men approaching the truck.  She crawled towards the truck door and leaned against it to listen in on what the men were saying.  Just then, the door sprang open and Lindsay plummeted to the ground nearly six feet below. “Umph!” You could hear the air rush out of her lungs.  A scrawny young guy with murder in his eyes quickly approached Lindsay.  He then pulled her up by the hair and pointed his rifle right in her face.  


“Cron!” shouted a big burly man with a black woolen beard. The other men froze in their tracks. It was clear that the burly man was in charge, as he waved his hand downward directing Lindsay to get down.  “Syad’te! Syad’te!”  he barked.  Frightened for her life, Lindsay dropped to the ground.  The big man then received a message on the radio attached to his belt. A raspy voice rang out.  It sounded like the tall, dark-haired man with ghost-like grey eyes who had hijacked the plane.  “Problemy bistro,” he shouted through the radio in a troubled tone.  The big man then pointed to the door and headed out. The others quickly fell in line.  The scrawny guy looked back at Lindsay on the way out and muttered “Durak,” which roughly translates to “fool” in English.  


Lindsay’s close call earlier that evening and the dwindling rations of food left the passengers with an increasing sense of urgency.  They knew that they would have to figure something out soon.  Staring up at the ceiling of the truck each night in her sleepless daze, Lindsay had somehow noticed a ventilation hatch.  


The diameter of the ceiling vent was barely larger than Lindsay’s shoulders and the ceiling was more than 12 feet high.  Lindsay asked two of the taller male passengers, John Peterson and Henri Lamond, if they could hoist her up to the vent so that she could use her gymnastics skills to open the vent and swing through the opening to escape.  A few hours later that evening, the plan was put into action. To her surprise, the vent came off rather easily and Lindsay was able to pull herself up and out of the truck.  


Lindsay laid frozen for nearly 20 minutes up on the roof of the truck as she tried to figure out the timing of the lighthouse-like spot light shining from a distant structure.  The search light shined upon a fence in the distance and large factory of some sort just beyond.  It was then that Lindsay saw a white metallic sign with large red letters that read “Опасность! Радиоактивная область за пределами. Нарушители будут расстреляны без предупреждения! “   She recognized the Cyrillic alphabet and knew that it was used by the Slavic people of the former Soviet Union, but she had no idea what the sign said.  Lindsay would later learn the translation to English “Danger!  Radioactive area beyond.  Trespassers will be shot without warning!”

Lindsay somehow managed to go undetected up on the roof of the truck.  When she was sure that no one is watching and the search line was shining the opposite direction, Lindsay leaped from the roof and stuck the landing as she had done dozens of times in her balance beam dismount.  

Lindsay’s hands were now trembling in the bitter cold, but her palms were getting sweatier by the minute.  Here mind wandered, “Where on Earth am I?  How on earth did I get to this wretched place?” She had to get a grip.  Run . . .  run” she thought, but her legs would not respond.  “Kerpow,” she heard gunshots ring out.  It jolted her into action.  She raced for the forest tree line like her life depended on it—because it did.  The forest was nearly two miles away, but the rush of adrenaline made it feel like a 100-yard dash.  


Grandpa Joe’s Training Comes in Handy


Lindsay heard the roar of a large vehicle approaching her.  The light shined just above her as she dove into the pile of leaves in the forest floor.  The smell of mildew was overwhelming.  Cold and afraid, she lied motionless as the light of the full moon glistened on nearby stream.  


When Lindsay was a little girl, her Grandpa Joe, a World War II veteran, taught Lindsay Morse code.  She recalled how she had once read an article in Popular Science which explained how to “hotwire” a mobile phone to send Morse code from any location in the world and turn it into a homing beacon for use in case of emergency.  Lindsay retrieved her rose gold Iphone 7 from her tattered pocket.  She pried off the with her fingernail, rerouted the microprocessor interface cable, and shorted the SIM card in sequence to squelch out an SOS signal in Morse code before converting the device to a homing beacon and hiding it under a pile of slate stones.  


Exhausted and starving, she started to nod off in her foliage cocoon.   “Rat, tat, tat.”  The sound of automatic machine gun fire rang out for nearly an hour off in the distance near the truck.  Lindsay is too tired and afraid to emerge from cover.   She fell asleep.  When day broke, Lindsay could see a red, white, and blue flag waving from an armored personnel carrier and a dozen or so Navy Seals surrounding the truck where the hostages were being held.  It was then that she realized that her plan had worked and the nightmare was finally over.  


Home Sweet Home


Two days later, Lindsay, Marcie Joe, and the rest of the hostages arrived home in Sacramento.  As the fierce Delta breeze whipped her long silvery locks across her face, Lindsay’s mom waited anxiously with the rest of the huge crowd at the SMF tarmac, She was so proud of her little girl.  Most of all, she was so relieved to have her back home safely.    


Lindsay got her wish that day. She is now quite famous, but not in a way she ever imagined.  The mayor of Sacramento presented Lindsay with a key to the city and American Airlines gave her a check for $100,000 to reward her for her act of heroism.   The next day Lindsay wore her midnight black romper and Converse All-stars on the Today Show. She had arrived.


A few weeks later, things began to return to normal.  Lindsay arrived home after school and was greeted by the aroma of fresh baked Nestle Toll House cookies. She grabbed a couple and headed back to her room to play some Hayday.  That next morning, she listened to High School Musical before heading out with her mom to the Roseville auto mall to get that iridium silver Range Rover.  


As she drove off the car dealer’s lot, she could hardly believe that she was really driving her dream car.  She pinched herself to make sure it was real, and then shouted out the window “Hey mom, come hang out with us at Willie’s for a cheeseburger and fries.”  Lindsay could not help but think to herself “Boring never felt so good.”


25 Short Digital Stories Produced on Smartphones For Your Viewing Pleasure 9.21.17

Annalee Gorman shows us daily life at the Mirada:

Hannah Thompson shows us around shop class:

Making us aware of Attendance Awareness Month by Amelia York:

Breck Paschal promote Attendance Awareness Month with Miranda’s Day Off:

In this video editing how-to tutorial, Liam Harris shows us how to use a green screen in Premiere to create a spinning banana:

(Audio)Mr. White’s tells the story of his Best Day Teaching on his hike at Mount Lassen by Zainab Abbas:

(Audio) Katina Chapralis’s tells the story of her Worst (and Best) Day teaching school to Mahlet Ababa:

(Audio) Mr. Spencer’s Worst Day Teaching as told to Macolin Irvine:

(Audio) Mr. Freund’s Worst Day Teaching by Amelia York:

Amelia York satirizes students too cool for Homecoming:

Mahlet Ababa and Zainab Abbas show us how to prepare a French Braid for Homecoming:

Connor Kinder-Ebersberger and Joel Spaid show us how to ask someone to Homecoming:

Connor Kinder-Ebersberger and Joel Spaid show us how to dance appropriately:

Hannah Thompson offers a tongue and cheek alternative to Homecoming.

Will and Jacob Engleburt show how to slow dance at Homecoming.

Roman Perez teaches us how to ask a beautiful girl to Homecoming:

Liam Harris is clearly frustrated with the wifi at Rio:

Photography Passion by Bailey Munion:

Amelia York gives us Rio Americano’s MTV Cribs Edition:

Vincent Stirling’s short crime comedy: The Appearing Chair:

Connor Jang is  interviewed by Josh Zezzo:

Interview with Chloe by Josh:



















Introduction Survey for Mr. B

I love to hike and mountain bike in the Sierra Nevadas. In 2014, my son and I walked 220 miles from Yosemite Valley to the top of Mount Whitney in 25 days. We plowed with our heads bent through  17 days of storms. When it was sunny, we jumped in lakes.  We made lots of friends, including animal friends. Here’s a pic of my son Nate as we climbed toward Forester Pass (13200′):

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In 2016 I did it again going the other direction. It was harder because I was alone for most of the hike. I much prefer hiking with friends and family. My family met me at Devil’s Postpile and together we walked the rest of the way back to Yosemite (60 miles or so).

I’m also a fanatical mountain biker. I have a dual suspension GT Sensor and Trek Stache hardtail that I take up to Tahoe every weekend when weather permits. I’m not that good or fast, and I don’t do crazy stunts, but do absolutely love the way mountain biking keeps me focused in the moment.  Also, it helps keep me fit. These are pictures of my mountain bike buddies Roy and Al. We are all old goofballs.

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The other thing I love to do is make stuff with kids. I like telling digital stories with my students, and have a side gig as a producer. I’m good at the writing part and can edit well enough, but I’m no tech wizard. My students teach me a lot about the tech. I teach the Video Production class here at school where we focus on how to tell good stories with little equipment and no money. Here’s a movie I made a few years back at Bella Vista when we had some good cameras. The kids were great actors!

Of course I also love reading books and teaching kids, but that’s kind of obvious since I’m an English teacher (and have been for 20 years).  Before I was a teacher I did a lot of crazy stuff. I worked in radio, did a stint as a private investigator in San Francisco, and even owned and aircraft parts business for 7 years. People like to ask me “What is your favorite book?” and I often have no good response. I tend to love the book that I am reading at the moment because if I’m not loving it then I put it away forever. I mean, there are too many great books in this world to waste time reading mediocre ones! My daughter Lily thinks this cat looks like me.

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I do have a special talent. If you play baseball I can look at you and guess what position you play with 90% accuracy! I don’t know why I can do that, but it seems to work. I guess it’s not really a talent. In fact, it may very well be a delusion I have. Still, try me. I bet I can guess your position.

My life is pretty good. I love my family and my job, but I would be lying if I didn’t cop to a few unfulfilled dreams. I want to mountain bike across Africa, complete the Iditarod with a bunch of friends (not win it, just do it), and spend the rest of my life (after I retire)  traveling with my wife, and writing about it. Wouldn’t that be nice?


Translations 2017

This year Video Production produced original video translations of Rio artists, poets, composers and photographers. All work shot, edited and rendered on their personal smartphones. The process was:

  1. Choose a composition, poem or piece of art from the Translations event hosted April 4th in the library.
  2. Translate it into a piece of video art. The goal was NOT to illustrate the other work, but to give it a fresh interpretation based on your own reading. Here are some highlights:

Parker Bosley:

Edward Verdugo:

Emily Hegland:

Adelyn Fowler:

Matthew Sutherland:

Megan Ferris:

Liam Harris

Alex Nash:

Amy Deshong:

Gabi Noack:

Blake Bepler:

Victoria Salazar:

Kaitlyn Ketsdever:

Ryan Maves:

Vlad Stanyak:


Extra Credit

Many teens nowadays are known to get very little sleep. This in turn leads to poor school performance academically, and mentally. Research has shown us that California schools alone, have a vast amount of kids that begin school at a time that does not go along with their schedules. More research also shows that a lack of sleep can lead to serious health consequences. These consequences include a high risk of type 2 diabetes and other cognitive deficits. A bill as of now is in the process of being passed which will eventually expect middle school and high school students to attend school no later than 8:30am.This bill is expected to become law by 2020, but depending on each school, it could take 2 extra years to adjust.


Extra Credit

Two months ago, on April 22nd, a March for Science event had occurred. This March was in support of everything related to science, and is a way of getting involved with the topic, as well as contributing to how important and reliable it is to society. The March for Science Event is to “celebrate a passion for science and to support and safeguard the scientific community”. The March began in Downtown Sacramento and included many different performances and several guest speakers that have attended. Everybody in the science community brought reasoning as to why we should take the topic of science more seriously, and how it greatly affects our surroundings and environment.


March for Science Event

Extra Credit

For the 2016-2017 Rio Americano High School school year, teacher Robert Grupp decided to teach an AP Computer Science class for students. Mr.Grupp says that this course is a great opportunity for students to earn college credits, broaden students’ insight on their career options and to also have a fun, interesting experience with the topics of computers and science. Grupp explains his deep study of this topic as he is now taking college programming classes, which will help him greatly when teaching this class for Rio. The principal, Mr.Ginter, had asked teachers if they would be interested in teaching this particular course. Since Mr.Grupp is both a math and science teacher, he gets involved immediately. Grupp says that this is a good class and is about learning different “aspects of programming, abstractions, algorithms, large data sets, the internet, cyber security concerns, and computing impacts”. Several students are excited about this, as many positive rumors are spreading across campus. Grupp had also mentioned that this class is important for students today because of how computerized our generation really is in today’s world.


davis water polo review extra credit sophie eiserman period 2

This Saturday I went to a water polo camp at UC Davis. It stated at 10 and went till 6. It was ran by the granite bay coaches and other coaches and some alumni from Davis. It was a coed camp so it was mostly guys, there were about 150-200 people there and only about 10 of them were girls. In water polo the way girls and guys are taught is pretty different. Guys are taught and practice more of the harder things like skipping and pump faking. The girls are taught and practice more of the basic things and building off of those things like releasing and shooting. At practice we never get time to practice things like skipping and pump faking so this camp was a really cool experience. Since it was mostly guys it was ran like a guy’s camp. This meant that I got to work on a lot of things that I’ve never done before. Sometimes when you go to these camps you won’t do anything new and they’ll end up being a little pointless but this wasn’t the case. I learned a lot of new stuff and did a lot of new drills that I think really benefitted me.

s and guys are taught is pretty different. Guys are taught and practice more of the harder things like skipping and pump faking. The girls are taught and practice more of the basic things and building off of those things like releasing and shooting. At practice we never get time to practice things like skipping and pump faking so this camp was a really cool experience. Since it was mostly guys it was ran like a guy’s camp. This meant that I got to work on a lot of things that I’ve never done before. Sometimes when you go to these camps you won’t do anything new and they’ll end up being a little pointless but this wasn’t the case. I learned a lot of new stuff and did a lot of new drills that I think really benefitted me.

Student Experiments in Multimedia Storytelling CONTACT: