Hailey Rae Darras Portfolio

About Me

I am a sophomore at Englewood High School. I have been in multimedia journalism classes for two years. Starting with a love for writing, I now can share my own stories through my school's website. I more recently became involved with my high school Academic Decathlon and tennis team. I take up my spare time making crafts or hand-making my jewelry. I also enjoy spending time with my friends and family, whether we're going out to eat or taking a walk in a park. I also enjoy listening to true crime podcasts and watching TV shows.

Life at Englewood High School

Honors and Awards

Colorado Student Media Association: Third place in In-Depth News Coverage for 'Nine TEC fountains now have filters'

Colorado Student Media Association: Honorable Mention in Lifestyle Coverage for 'Learning about: Teen Homelessness'

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Inside the restaurant, you will see the ceremonial table celebrating the Persian New Year.

You breathe in the smells of spices the second you walk in the door. Clean linens, elegant white decor, and a ceremonial table filled with items celebrating the Persian New Year. Tucked in the corner of the Shops at Dayton in Englewood, is the Mediterranean restaurant Surena Persian Cuisine.

Owner Aryan Diba opened Surena on February 23, 2016, “One of my favorite parts of being a restaurant owner is the flexibility I have. I get to come and go as I please. I get to take days off that I need off and there’s a lot of flexibility throughout my day.” That is not to say he doesn’t work hard to make the restaurant a success, “My least favorite part is the amount of responsibility that comes along with that. It’s hard to balance being responsible, having flexibility, and making sure things run smoothly.”

Traditional Persian food dots the menu and includes Kashk Bademjan, Mirza Ghasemi, Koobideh Kabob, and daily stews served with saffron basmati rice, “I’m Persian, both my parents are Persian, and I grew up eating Persian food. Funny enough, my mom was a terrible cook. So growing up I hated Persian food,” Diba said, “But once I tried Persian food from a bit of a better cook, I just fell in love with it.”

Diba’s family also owns an international market, so the family had always thought about adding a restaurant since supplies from the market would be easily accessible at wholesale prices, “My dad has been running that business for 30 years and gets really good deals on stuff. So we figured a restaurant and a market would go hand in hand, and that’s what we did.”

Diba thought owning and running a business would never be in the cards for him because his early years were, “pretty wild and crazy growing up, and I’m in recovery.”

He said he never quite knew where his life was headed. Then he got his life together, “Once I got clean my parents and I were talking more about opening up a restaurant. So they helped me out and helped me get this set up and we jumped in headfirst.”

He never dreamed of opening a restaurant, but he credits his parents for pushing him, “I was kind of lost.”

As well as the thousands of small businesses that suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, Surena was struggling to stay afloat. “When it first happened, we shut the restaurant down completely and it was so sudden that all of my fridges were filled with meats, vegetables, yogurt, all of the things, so I just had to give it away,” Diba said.

When they were able to open the restaurant back up again, they only took takeout orders. This slowed business down quite a bit, “with one server, two cooks, and a dishwasher. That’s all we could get, and that’s what we ran with. If it wasn’t for the PPP loans the government gave out, honestly, my business would have gone under. I applied for both of them and received them, and they kept my business afloat.”

Rebuilding from the pandemic took hard work and a lot of help from the close-knit community who frequented the restaurant. Still, through all the headaches, heartaches, wins, and losses, he wouldn’t change anything, “The people and the work that comes with having a restaurant is stressful. There’s a lot of work to be done, and honestly, it’s not my favorite thing. But the people I work with, I love them, they’re all my people and we all get along very well. We’re all friends, and that just makes things go so much smoother.”

Diba says above everything else, it’s the people who make the business successful, “I think that the environment that I’ve built here, and the people that work here with me is by far my favorite thing about the restaurant. If it wasn’t for all of them, there’s no way this would function. It’s the people that make this place what it is. They pay the bills and serve the food, everyone has their place here. We all work as a team and that’s exactly what it feels like.”

You can visit the restaurant at 9625 E Arapahoe Rd Unit P, Centennial, CO 80112.

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A commotion in the hall, then just after 9:20, an announcement over the school speakers saying, “Lockdown, lights out, this is not a drill.” It was repeated twice. Within 40 seconds the school was swarming with swat team officers in full gear with long guns drawn. We, the students in journalism, in period 1, were crammed into a small closet for close to an hour having no idea what was happening beyond the closet door. We were two dozen out of thousands of students who were the apparent victims of an elaborate prank across the state of Colorado. But to us, it wasn’t a joke, it was terrifying, uncomfortable, nerve-wracking, and eye-opening. We hear about guns and schools a lot, but never thought it was going to be us. Not a lot of information came out during the full lockdown as police officers swept the school, that was to be expected. Administrators, police, staff, and students were all trying to figure out what was happening in the morning hours of February 22. We later learned that a series of phone calls went out to 9-1-1, including the Englewood Police Department. The calls were different, but the one to Englewood was a male voice saying that he had a gun and was going to open fire. Law enforcement called it “swatting,” when someone makes a false call to law enforcement, claiming an emergency situation and providing a real address for officers to respond to. The call prompted quick and efficient law enforcement responses and caused lockdowns in what was later revealed to be alphabetical order. According to CPR news and CBS Denver, the order in which calls came in was as follows: Alamosa – 8:24 a.m. Aspen – 8:25 a.m. Aurora – 8:30 a.m. Boulder – 8:33 a.m. Brighton – 8:41 a.m. Canon City High School – Not time confirmed Denver – Just after 9:00 Durango – 9:16 a.m. Englewood – 9:19 a.m. Estes Park – 9:23 a.m. Fort Morgan – 9:38 a.m. Gilpin County – No time confirmed Grand Junction – 10:05 a.m. Lamar’s Parkview Elementary – No time confirmed Littleton – 1:45 p.m. Roaring Fork (Glenwood High) – No time confirmed Final reporting determined at least 17 school districts received 9-1-1 calls during the day. The FBI had to get involved because the calls also went to schools in other states. Police said they knew of numerous threats made to a variety of organizations but said they had no information to indicate a specific and credible threat. However, for the students who experienced the incident—for an hour—in the closet, the feeling was real…and traumatizing. From our classroom, we saw men with rifles in the hall just outside our doors. Guns were in the school. Here are their thoughts: “I was one of the students in the closet. I felt panicked and slightly scared, my heart slightly pounding and my mind wandering. If that couldn’t get worse, everyone was talking about what was going on and it actually made my mental state worse than it already was. So there I stood, in that closet with all the others, trying not to make anyone notice how I had started to cry. Ms. Shotts helped me with that, she was allowing students to use her phone to text their parents about what happened. I was one of those, trying to make my message readable as I told my dad what happened. If I had my phone, I would be telling everyone I knew to make sure they were okay. If I knew what was going to happen that day, I probably would have stayed home,” said Ophelia Durgin. “Standing in the closet, I could feel the tension of everyone around me. The feeling of panic going through everyone as we waited for news to get to us,” said Giselle Quinonez. “I was standing when I heard Ms. Shotts say someone was armed in the hall running. Right at that moment, it was 9:19 am, and we heard that we were on lockdown. I froze and all I could hear was Ms. Shotts telling us to hurry up and go into the closet. I was in the middle of a few students, I noticed they were all panicked. I texted my friends asking them if they were alright. And once I heard they were fine I was able to calm down. I felt calm because I knew that I’d experienced something like this before and I wasn’t worried. Once it was over I felt relieved,” said Jade Coronado. “There are several different reasons lockdowns can occur, my first thought shouldn’t be we’re in a school shooting,” said Robyn Gusek “I stood in the closet seeing students post jokes about the moment during the lockdown. One post said, “I can’t die yet I just got a new puff.’ I was pissed that the idea of a school shooting was being joked about while in the moment,” said Dylan Noll. “I heard hard running footsteps hitting against the ground, as someone supposedly was being chased due to being ‘armed’. Someone came on the intercom around 9:19 am and said these words that I thought I would never have to hear; ‘Locks Lights out of sight, lockdown, this is not a drill.’ My heart pounded against my chest hard, it felt like it was gonna come right out. I followed people into the back closet scared and nervous, the space was small and uncomfortable. The energy was fearful and draining. Being in that small closet for almost an hour was terrible. I thought that I would never have to experience that, but I did, and everyone did. ‘How can people be so ruthless?’ I asked myself. It’s upsetting to see the type of world we live in, how people have to live in fear everywhere we go because people are pathetic and heartless and chose to scare people into that state of mind. It hurts to see people acting like something so terrible is normal because of how often things like this happen,” said Serenity Griego. “People are scared” Corsten Bystrom “I was lying in my bed scrolling on my phone when I suddenly received a panicked call from my grandparents asking if I was okay and if I needed them to pick me up from school. My initial thought was confusion as I assured them that I was safe at home. They explained to me that my younger cousin who attends the middle school had texted them about a lockdown. The moment I heard that my heart sank and my body was filled with fear for my cousin and my friends. I had later learned that everyone was safe, but I guess the lockdown made me realize that no matter where we are, we will never be truly safe. In the back of my mind I have always thought that a situation like this would never happen to us, and I think that we have become so familiar with school shootings or school shooting scares that it has become natural for us.” said Alizaya Garcia. ¨People tried to stay as calm as possible but all you could hear were muffled cries. Before all of that, It was a normal day but at 9:19 the words lock lights out of sight blared over the intercom. People just started to feel a sense of panic when having the run to a small closet and having the sit there for an hour not fully knowing what is going on and just standing there in a completely silent room,¨ said Ethan Brown. “People heard the intercom going off about a “lockdown, this is not a drill,” everyone stayed calm and knew what to do. All those lockdown practices worked and many people were hidden away very quickly,” said Matthew Dreiling. “I didn’t really feel surprised, it’s just the world we live in. It’s sad that we have to live in a world where this is a normal thing, everyone should be able to go to school or any other public area while feeling safe,” said Mazin Fadulelsaeed. “We had no information. I was scared for my own life and my sister’s life. My mom heard about the lockdown and told me she almost crashed her car getting to the school because she was so worried,” said Erin Hoglund. “It’s eye-opening to realize that people are prepared to go through something like this as if it’s normal,” said Hailey Rae Darras. ¨When the initial lockdown occurred I was unsure of what was going on. I was ready to escape if I had to and I was in contact with my parents,¨ said Sean McKee. We were left to ask the question, “why?” What was the reasoning behind the prank? Did you, the person or people responsible know your actions made students afraid of school, afraid of the possibility that this time, it was Englewood High School? Finally, it was time for our room to be cleared, as everyone walked out of the closet it was clear a sense of relief washed over everyone, but you could still feel the tension in the room. Looking around you could see everything from people crying to people cracking jokes, everyone just trying to find a way to cope. But as we sat in the classroom, still locked behind the classroom doors, we still had no idea what was fully going on. Every window you looked out you saw a cop or a SWAT officer walking around gun in hand. Our superintendent, Dr. Wendy Rubin, sent an email clearing the air, but at this point, the parking lot was already full of parents trying to get their kids. The email explained how today would go on as normal, but our absence would be excused if we chose to leave. Many did. As we waited for our parents to be let into the office to pick us up one by one, you could tell the day was not going to go back to normal. Despite everyone trying to move on, you could feel the lingering sense of fear. The hope was that whenever an escort came to bring you to your parents, it was your name being called. That took another two and a half hours. There was a real fear that no one really knew what was going to come next, and we began to realize this fear was going to be a normal thing for us from now on. We now know, this fear is forever going to be in the back of our minds. But this horrible “prank” affected a lot more than just the well-being of Colorado students. The teachers were forced to test how efficiently they could get their students to safety. They were under the stress of realizing for the next hour these students were their responsibility in a moment of terror. Emergency responders and law enforcement charged to the scene and this could have taken them away from emergencies that may have had an actual immediate threat. They were distracted having to deal with what was considered a “prank” to someone, while others may have been faced with life-threatening danger. Parents left homes, and workplaces quickly when they found out their kids were in lockdown, swarming the parking lot and all around the school also not fully aware of what was going on inside those doors. A lot more than just students were forced to face the reality of the world we live in today, creating a permanent sense of fear in many, unsure that something like this may happen again. As a final thought, we wanted to say how grateful we are to the Englewood police department and our School Resource officer, Matt Creaghe. Officer Creaghe was the first to make entry into EHS. The familiar face students saw in a very scary situation. He was on the scene and inside the school protecting students within 40 seconds of the 9-1-1 call being aired. We are very grateful everyone reacted quickly and it was clear student safety was the number one thing officers had in mind. We have heard the stories of SROs with less than timely reactions in times of crisis but because of our relationship with Officer Creaghe, and his willingness to jump into action, it makes coming back to school just a bit easier. We are sending this editorial to members of our state and federal government. It’s time for them to hear the student’s voices and time to take action and work on legislation to protect students.

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Finally! Students cheered the morning the water changed at Englewood. Water filters can now be found on nine water fountains across the TEC campus. You may have heard the impact drill sounds echoing through the halls. Two journeyman plumbers from Foster Plumbing spent hours installing the white canisters to the left side of the fountains near the high school gym, in the Commons, and in the ELA hallway. The workers said the installation process took roughly 30 minutes each. Two journeyman plumbers from Foster Plumbing spent hours installing the white canisters to the left side of the fountains near the high school gym, in the Commons, and in the ELA hallway. The workers said the installation process took roughly 30 minutes each. (Hailey Rae Darras) On October 10, 2023, the workers arrived at 7:15 to get started with the project that had been one year in the making. You will also notice the posters hanging with the new filters above the fountains. They are there to educate students about the cost and importance of the new addition. We learned that the plumbers are highly qualified and well-educated in their craft. The workers have a combined 20 years of experience. They said they attended Plumbers Local 3, taking classes twice a week, while working full time. The education from Plumbers Local 3 in Aurora is free and they plumbers make over 6-figures in salary. Click on the link above to learn more about the school. The water coming out of the new filters is ice-cold and clear. It also has a few bubbles that may indicate its effectiveness. This is the first set of three installations that will take place over the course of the next five years. __________________________________________________________ “Kinda like there is something in it, like musty,” said freshman Ophelia Durgin, when interviewed about the water fountains on the Englewood High School campus a year ago. Now, we have an update that will soon deliver fresh, filtered water to students. It was September of 2022 when The Pirateer brought attention to the unfiltered water coming from many of the fountains around the school. We learned several things at that time. First, the fountains around the TEC campus were installed when the schools were rebuilt nearly ten years ago and the actual filter system was not included in many of the installs, despite the green light that may look like the water is being filtered into your bottles. Second, the water for Englewood originates in the mountains. You may assume that it is pure, but it goes through a water delivery system of pipes that are more than 70 years old. According to the city, the taste and odor can worsen as pipes get older. On the city side, two huge projects are in the works that will replace old pipes and refresh our water system. They are called the Big Dry Creek Diversion Project and the Flow it Forward Project. You can learn more about these programs here. The water issue at the TEC campus caught the attention of the superintendent who recently stopped by The Pirateer classroom to give a highly anticipated update. We have now learned filters are just weeks away. Joanna Polzin was accompanied by Ariel Ramos, the Operations and Maintenance Director for Englewood Public School District. When the initial story came out last year, Polzin wanted to get started right away on finding a solution, but due to budget issues and numerous district projects, a solution was postponed. Superintendent Joanna Polzin led the charge to fix the issue surrounding the non-filtered water after it was brought to her attention by the staff of The Pirateer. Standing by one set of fountains that will get a new filter are Polzin and Ariel Ramos, the Operations and Maintenance Director for Englewood Public School District. Ramos spent time researching plumbing companies and getting bids. (Michael Marquis) To move the water filter project forward, Ramos, who had to search for funding and get bids, had a lot on his plate. “He oversaw the construction of all four elementary schools, the early childhood center at Maddox, as well as the renovation at the Roscoe Davison Administration building,” said Polzin. “I was here through all the construction, from the old building into the new building. The water-filtered fountains don’t have filters and I know why that process didn’t happen during construction. The bottle fillers were kind of a new thing at that time; the plumbers had a very difficult time getting those to fit inside the existing fountains that were chosen during the project of this build,” said Ramos. Ramos was the head facility manager for EHS when it opened. When he started working here, he noticed the water issue. “It doesn’t taste good. I remember the first time that I started here back in 2014, and I drank out of one of the fountains, and I was like, Oh my goodness, no, I cannot drink out of this fountain every day.” To fix the issue and bring clean, filtered water to students and staff, Ramos says, it is necessary to mount all these filters on the outside of the fountains or next to the fountains. “These are going to be out where the kids can touch them, they can be vandalized.” Our new filters Signs will go up where the new filters are located Signs will go up where the new filters are located The filters are being installed on the walls near the fountains, and they are open to vandalism. That is concerning to Superintendent Joanna Polzin and Operations and Maintenance Director Ariel Ramos. You will start seeing signs up around the fountains so you know which stations are filtered. "Ariel (Mr. Ramos) has a budget for the Englewood campus concerning operations and maintenance and every time something happens here, whether it's an accident or whether it's on purpose, it takes money out of that budget to get it fixed. To do the cleanup after the flood that was caused by too much toilet paper being put in the toilet it takes more money out of his budget to fix it. So it puts things like the rest of the drinking fountain on the back burner because it's not an immediate need for the building," said Polzin. The water fountains in the Commons will be fitted with new filters on October 10, 2023. The water fountains in the Commons will be fitted with new filters on October 10, 2023. (Serenity Gambrell) Students react to new filters - Story by LaMarr Sykes A year after the Pirateer brought the water filters to our attention, it still seems to be a problem affecting both the students and athletes. “After hard work of practice, the team needs fresh water to rehydrate and should be able to rely on the school for that,” said Senior Dane Quintana. The water issue is making things more and more difficult for students to hydrate when the water they need doesn’t taste good. “The water at this school is important for athletes who need to hydrate, but have no water of their own. But some students would rather not drink anything than drink this water,” said Junior Cameron Meade. When told about the water issue being corrected soon, students are excited, “Feels nice to know the taste of the water is finally being corrected to help the students and athletes at this school,” said Quintana. “I’m finally happy because the water here has been nasty for years. And it’s good that it’s finally changing,” said Sophomore Hernan Martinez. “The water here doesn’t taste very good, But I’m glad it’s being updated to fit the needs of students,” said Junior Nayla Johnson. When Ramos was researching solutions he found the costs for filters were way more expensive than before COVID. That means the district needs to take into consideration which fountains students prioritize. “It would cost us about $10,000 to have all of the fountains done. It gets pretty expensive when it comes to labor.” Ramos and Polzin pointed out that in this district, there are limited funds for buildings and projects. They emphasized that money from last year could have been used to update the filters, however, because the bathrooms were vandalized, and toilets were clogged on purpose, it caused thousands of dollars in damage. “And it takes away from the budget to be able to put in things like water filters,” said Polzin. We learned that there are working filters on a few fountains around the school including the set by the girls’ locker room, as well as the fountain on the lower level in the middle school, outside of the Northfield house. “There is filtered water in the building, just not at every location,” said Ramos. On September 20, the district awarded the contract to install filters on nine fountains to Foster Plumbing. The company ordered the filters which have a two-week lead time. “I’m looking at doing three groups of fountains, which will be outside the Southfield house, the ones on the upper level of ELA, and then the cafeteria ones,” said Ramos. The rest of the filters will be installed in the coming years, “We would do nine fountains this year, and then we do maybe five fountains next year and so on, till they’re all done.” The installation date has been scheduled for October 10.


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The general public looks to journalism to reflect their points of view and give them honesty. Currently, thousands have had their perspective on journalism shaded by the broad term "media" being used in a negative light. The modern role of student journalists is to bring light to the trustworthy and non-biased information journalism should be known for.

EHS baseball game against Arvada

Being able to provide a source for the unheard to tell their story is a main priority. All groups in any circumstance must be able to share their points of view with others through journalistic writing. Not sugar-coating and showing the good and bad in any situation brings forth the truth.

Staff at EHS during winter spirit and kindness week 2024, dressed up for 'sports day'.

Being in journalism classes for the last two years has taught me many things. Which include, being able to properly digest media and the meaning behind pieces, what it takes to get information needed for stories, and how to spot credible media. This has been very insightful as a teenager and can be a resourceful skill for anyone.

EHS choir students who represented Englewood at the 2023 annual Rocky Mountain Invitational Choral Festival (RMICF)

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