Falcon Faiths

No matter where a person is, a compass will always point them north. At TPHS, some feel that religion is their compass. There is a diverse spectrum of beliefs on campus. Some are Christian; some are Jewish; some are Muslim; some are anything in between, and some are non-religious. Much like a compass, religion guides its followers to choose the right path through a set of ethics.

“I think faith is important,” Michael Rall, an Honors Chemistry teacher and a Christian, said. “It’s another dimension of us that allows us to hope, to dream, but also to set boundaries for ourselves … So I think as a baseline, everyone, even if it’s not about faith, should have ethics and have ethical lines.”

Natalie Christmore (12), a Christian, agrees that religion drives her decisions, whether they are ethics-related or pertain to her future aspirations.

“I feel that [religion] is really prevalent in a lot of the things that I choose to do with my life, like where I want to go to college and what I want to study,” Christmore said.

Yet religion is not only a moral code or guideline — it encompasses centuries-old traditions and daily routines. For Erik Shamsedeen (11), Islamic practices play a significant role in his everyday life.

“During Ramadan, I was able to actually pray [at TPHS],” Shamsedeen said. “I brought my carpet and everything, and the school let me have a room and just pray.”

According to Shamsedeen and other students and staff who follow a variety of religions, TPHS’s welcoming and receptive environment generally allows them to practice their religion unimpeded, regardless of belief.

“At Torrey Pines, I don’t suffer any discrimination or inequality,” Shamsedeen said. “I think that I’m free to do anything with my faith, peacefully and religiously.” Rall agreed.

“I think that [TPHS] is a very inclusive place and makes space for anyone to come and exercise their beliefs,” Rall said. “And I don’t think they’re trying to stifle anyone.”

However, Rall also noted that “sometimes people have misconceptions and biases, and they are offended just by the presence of others,” though that is “not because of our campus administration.”

While there is generally religious acceptance at TPHS, there have been times where religious students and teachers have felt judged by others on campus and elsewhere.

“Their views are none of my business, and my views are none of their business, ” Alex Weinstein (10), who is Jewish, said. “If they don’t like me because I’m Jewish, I probably won’t end up liking them … and then we’ll have mutual disrespect.”

Shamsedeen expressed having “felt hesitant” to tell people about his faith, though not at TPHS.

“I have been through situations back when I used to live in LA, where people look at you in a different way or discriminate [against] you, especially in school, or they would not be your friend anymore or be hesitant to hang out with you,” he said.

One place that students can feel no reluctance in expressing their religion is in clubs. Following their own inner compass, students of numerous faiths are pointed toward joining religious clubs, the purpose of which is to let them express their beliefs.

“[TPHS] has embraced a lot of faith-based organizations on campus, and I’m really thankful for that because it allows us to have a safe space to talk about what is really important to all of us,” Christmore, who is a member of the Christian-Athlete club and the president of Horizon Christian club, said.

In the No Higher Calling Christian club he advises, Rall works to blend advice about being a high schooler with how to follow one’s inner religious compass.

“So it’s like what does [a scripture] mean to a student or a young teenager trying to navigate all this ?” Rall said. “What does it mean to walk in faith?”

While most people know about the various Christian clubs on campus, many do not know about the variety of clubs for other religions.

“I recently found out about a [Jewish] club, so apparently there is a community, but I didn’t know about it until three days ago,” Weinstein said.

At TPHS, minority religions sometimes have to work against the magnetic pull of the majority religions.

“I guess you feel special [being a minority religion],” Shamsedeen said. “When you get to tell others, it’s an amazing feeling, like they never knew this about Islam or they never knew that about being a Muslim. So at times it gets lonely, but you also have times where it’s an amazing experience.”

Part of this experience is the “journey religion paves for you,” according to Shamsedeen. “You always know that you might be going in the right direction in some way by following any religion,” he said.

This is what the religious groups across campus all have in common. So when charting waters, whether they are rough or smooth, the religious groups across TPHS’s campus rely on their compass — their faith — to do so.

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