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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The halls Spielberg walked, 50 years later

Fifty years ago, a 17-year-old named Steven Spielberg first walked through the halls of Saratoga High School. It was a different time then. Spielberg was a sports writer for a letter-sized Saratoga Falcon (sports column name: “Athlete’s feats”); the giant redwood in the middle of the quad was only a sapling then. And, as has been well documented, Spielberg faced anti-Semitism. 
Attending SHS only for his senior year (1964-1965) after moving from Phoenix, Spielberg remembers his time here as “Hell on Earth.” 
In Joseph McBride’s book “Steven Spielberg: A Biography,” Berf Pfister, Spielberg’s journalism teacher, remembers that he was “very capable [and] a good student, but he kept very much to himself.”
As he walked down the halls, Spielberg kept his head down as some of his classmates eyed him with disgust.  This was sometimes paired with penny-throwing and name-calling.  The phrase “Jew” followed him everywhere he went.
Feeling isolated, Spielberg buried himself into the world of film.
“He knew what he wanted to do. He was so confident and sure of himself. At the same time he was having to live the life of the moment in high school,” said Spielberg’s classmate Mike Augustine in McBride’s biography.
Spielberg went on to direct blockbuster films such as “Jurassic Park,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List.” Spielberg has been nominated seven times for Academy Awards Best Director and won the title twice.
What if Spielberg were a student here today? Would he fit in? Would he have more options?
Since Spielberg’s time, the school has done a lot to make the school more technologically based. LIFE (Learning Involves Fulfilling Experiences) was a program that former English teacher Kerry Mohnike and World History teacher Mike Davey co-taught, combining history and English.  After Saratoga applied for and received a grant offered by the state of California, LIFE developed into MAP, the schoolwide media arts program that incorporates digital side of the era. 
Sophomore MAP student Saro Acharyo said that Spielberg is one of his favorite directors and “one of the reasons I want to go into film.”
“I love Spielberg because he knows how to make a movie that can really pull at your heart strings,” Acharyo said. “Most, if not all, of his movies are emotional roller coasters. He really develops and fleshes his characters out and makes you care about them.”
Acharyo said that he’s knows about Spielberg’s harrowing experience at Saratoga High, but feels that it is hard to imagine that happening today.
“He felt SHS wasn't appropriate for someone interested in film which isn't true in present day,” Acharyo said. “Our MAP program specifically caters to students who want to go into filmmaking, animation and anything else media related.”
MAP head Tony Palma added that the program strives to give students outlets to show their creativity and succeed at what they do.
In relation to Spielberg, Palma added that the MAP program would have probably been a “perfect fit” for the developing director.  
“Certainly, as a child growing up in any community, all students are looking for is an opportunity to express themselves, to be who they are,” Palma said.  “And on campus, at SHS, we have tried to be that for as many students a spossible. Would [Spielberg] have enjoyed this program? I certainly hope so.”
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