VOLUME 10, ISSUE 4 (FEBRUARY 2013)

BUDGETING AND GRANTS

Danya Levy ’15

Many early colleges around the country, whether a boarding school or an afterschool program, seek to provide a quality college education for their students. But the majority of the students who attend such schools do not pay tuition, as is done by actual college attendees. As a result, early colleges like our own are forced to seek other sources of funding in order to run our programs.

In our particular case, the Department of Education usually supplies only around two thirds of the money needed to run the BHSEC programs. For the 2011-2012 year, the DOE supplied 6.4 million dollars to the both New York City BHSEC institutions, BHSEC Manhattan and BHSEC Queens. An additional 4.2 million was needed in order for the programs to continue to serve their students.

There were three other sources of funding that helped make the BHSEC schools work. The first is private donations, including those from parents, as well as various other benefactors. The second category consists of grants. During the 2011-2012 school year, the BHSEC schools received 2.5 million dollars of funding from these two sources. The remainder came from Bard College. This situation is far from ideal: one goal for the future is for our early colleges to become entirely self-sufficient, and to not necessitate funding from our college partner.

The grants that our school receives fall into two categories: government grants and grants from foundations. All grants are hard to secure, and often need to be renewed or reapplied for after a year or several years.

The administrators from our school that work on attaining grants and other funding are Martha Olson, the Dean of Administration, and Cathy Iselin, the Development Director. Both work very hard to secure, and effectively use, the financial assets that they believe BHSEC deserves.

In order to receive a grant, administrators from BHSEC often need to negotiate with the state or with foundations, and have to prove that what our schools are doing really works and deserves the money. The battles for funding are often data-driven, so the school provides numbers in order to prove that our model of early college really works. In addition, many organizations offering grants have specific goals of what they want to fund—and BHSEC doesn’t always match their vision, even if they approve of the school. “Sometimes we can have really great conversations with funders, and they’ll think our program is terrific, and they’ll be really inspired by what they see when they come and visit,” Dean Olson told me. “And then at the end of the day they’ll decide that what they really want to do is fund SAT preparation with other organizations that are doing it after school and not within a program.”

It may not always work out, but many of the things that make our school so great are direct results of the grants we receive. BHSEC was founded thanks to a grant from the Gates foundation as part of a national initiative that created around 200 early colleges around the country. Most of the funding we receive nowadays goes to teacher salaries, which, as Ms. Iselin told me, is “our main priority.” As a result, the BHSEC faculty has about 15 more teachers than an average high school of its size would. Class sizes are small, and the teachers are capable of teaching the academically demanding college curriculum.

Government funding can be unreliable; it is possible for the grants to be cancelled as a result of budget cuts. But states grants, of which BHSEC is currently receiving several, do make a big difference in our school. Most are program-specific; one state grant provides half a million dollars a year to fund math and science programs, and another helps pay for admissions outreach as part of an effort to diversify our school. A school violence prevention fund also assists in paying for the Bard Early College Academy (BECA), BHSEC’s way of giving back to the surrounding community by helping local middle school students with their academics.

In providing New York City public high school students with a high quality college education, BHSEC is certainly a very special program. And, thanks to the work of our administrators in securing funding, our schools can continue to flourish and expand. 

 

 

LET’S EXCHANGE THOUGHTS

Eddie Westerman ’13

What’s your opinion on furniture – I don’t have much space, and I’d like to know if I should get a small couch or three wooden chairs for my new room?
Three chairs? Terrible idea. Why would you ever want three chairs over a couch, especially if the couch can fit three people, which it ought to being a couch and all. So unless the wood is very nice I would definitely get a couch. 

Is it true that seltzer contains zero calories?
Pure seltzer does indeed contain zero calories. Flavored seltzer can sometimes be slightly more caloric. However, make sure to watch your carbon intake; you wouldn’t want to turn into a dinosaur, eh?

I’ve been trying to get an unconverted neopet, but it seems practically impossible! Any advice?
Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to trade converteds for unconverteds these days. Your best bet would either be a Draik Egg + Fountain Fairy Quest Custom, or a high battledome pet. Those could go for bad named low UCs like mutant or tyrannian, and eventually you could trade up to what you want.  Good luck!

 

 

TEACHERISMS

Isabel Gadd ’13

“The main difference between my life now and my life as a lawyer is… the average age of my clients. Their average maturity level is largely unchanged.” –Mr. Mikesh

Student: It seems like Machiavelli is saying that initial cruelty is necessary to allow for a more beneficent princedom.

Mazie: You gotta be cruel to be kind in the right measure.
Student: Right so, when Machiavelli uses—
Mazie: Cruel to be kind means that I love you.
Student: Haha yeah, so the example of—
Mazie: You gotta be cruel to be kind. Sorry, last one.
Student: So, when Machiavelli says—
Mazie: *Dances in place*

Dr. Mazie: I’ve always been dismayed with the constraints involved in making bacon weaves.

Mr. Noyes, before letting the class leave 5 minutes early: “Be sure you thank the Basedgod for this.”

All Teacherisms are published and transcribed with the explicit permission of the teachers being quotes. 

If you have a Teacherism and would like to submit it, join the Facebook group “BHSEC Teacherisms: The Bardvark Column,” or email them to: isabelseckmangadd@gmail.com

 

BHSEC’S PARK OF CHOICE: CENTRAL PARK

Willa Glickman ’14

Central Park, the most visited urban park in the United States, has been hailed as “a democratic development of the highest significance” and, by one 1907 visitor, a “bad place to be after dark.” However, Central Park can now add another accomplishment to its trophy case – 41% of BHSEC students who were surveyed reported that it is their favorite public park in NYC.

The next most popular parks, Prospect Park and Tompkins Square Park, tied at a measly 12% each, making Central Park the clear winner.

So what’s so great about Central Park? Sure, it’s almost eight times larger than Vatican City (the world’s smallest state) and receives about 96,000 visitors per day (the Vatican only gets 17,000), but it’s only the fifth largest park in the five boroughs, and it has had such a reputation for crime that in 1956 the poet Robert Lowell published a poem called “Central Park” that included the line, “We beg delinquents for our life / Behind every bush, perhaps a knife.”

However, these days the Central Park precinct has one of the lowest crime rates in the city, largely as a result of a movement in 1980 to clean up the park by attacking graffiti and increasing police presence. The Parks Commissioners and Administrators faced a number of difficulties, like the fact that most police officers who patrolled the park had usually selected that assignment because they were looking to have a few relaxing years before they retired, or that the Central Park precinct building had in fact once been a stable, and often smelled like urine on hot days. Despite these setbacks, the crime rate dropped steadily.

Central Park is the single most filmed location in the world, which helps cement its status as a cultural landmark. In 1908, the first film version of Romeo and Juliet was shot in the park, and since then 305 movies have had scenes that were filmed there, ranging from The Smurfs to Borat to Crime and Punishment. 21 films were shot in the Park in 2007 alone.

The Park is also enticing because of the art it contains. There are 29 sculptures in Central Park, some of the most famous being the large sculpture of characters from Alice in Wonderland reclining on mushrooms, and the sculpture of Balto, the sled dog who ran a serum to combat diphtheria a thousand miles up to Nome, Alaska.

Central Park contains seven ornamental fountains, about 150 drinking fountains, 36 bridges and arches, 21 playgrounds, and over 9,000 benches. If the benches were lined up end-to-end, they would stretch almost seven miles, which is approximately the distance from BHSEC to Harlem.

Yet despite being filled with fountains and filmmakers, Central Park is home to a great deal of plant and animal life. The Park contains 80 acres of woodlands, equivalent to the size of about 60 football fields, and has 24,000 trees. The Park is also a stop on the Atlantic flyway, which is a major bird migration route, and over 275 species of migratory birds have been spotted there. The mammals in the park are slightly less impressive, consisting mostly of raccoons, squirrels, opossums, and the occasional chipmunk.

Central Park was once covered in glaciers, some of which receded as recently as 12,000 years ago. These glaciers left behind much of the Park’s famous rocks, some of which are about 450 million years old. The rocks in the Park that people clamber on today are schist, but under the ground is a type of rock calls Fordham gneiss, which is about one billion years old.

It is clear that whether you are a glacier, a policeman ready for retirement, a migratory bird or a BHSEC student, Central Park will always have a special place for you.      

   

 

TEACHER FEATURE: MICHELLE PINTO

Jed Lenetsky ’15

This semester has seen the addition of Michelle Pinto, a professor of Global Studies, to the BHSEC Social Sciences faculty. Born in London and raised in Chicago, she early on “developed a passion for learning about the different regions and cultures of the world”, leading her to study history at Northwestern University and then at New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. While pursuing her Ph.D. at New York University, she spent one year at the American University of Paris, teaching the courses “Histories of Race, Citizenship and Immigration in France” and “Global History from 1500.” Afterwards, she moved back to New York and taught at NYU’s home campus and at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights.

Now at BHSEC, Professor Pinto is teaching four sections of Global History, taking two of Dr. Marion’s sections and two of Dr. Martin’s, as Dr. Marion is teaching a couple of classes at Bard College as a visiting faculty member and Dr. Martin has shifted to teaching more college classes. Although Professor Pinto is teaching four sections of Global History, a course load more different than most BHSEC teachers, who have an assortment of electives and core courses, she has a very positive outlook towards it. As she stated, “Each group of students brings different questions, perspectives and comments to the table,” and “every time I teach this class, I learn something new.” Professor Pinto’s fundamental love for global history also contributes to her positive outlook on teaching four sections of global history. She remarked, “Teaching global history always fascinated me as it provides the tools and the base of knowledge to talk about the pressing issues of today.” This philosophy towards global studies influences her classroom discussions. In one class, a substantive discussion concerning the political theories of Machiavelli’s famous saying in The Prince, “the ends justify the means” was transformed into a vehement debate concerning the President Obama’s policies towards drone warfare and whether or not his policies classified him as a Machiavellian ruler when she asked her class to apply the concepts of Machiavelli to the issues of today.

In Professor Pinto’s free time she enjoys aerobics, cooking, and exploring the different neighborhoods in New York City. In short, Professor Pinto seems excited to have joined the BHSEC faculty and “embraces the opportunity to teach a college level curriculum to a diverse and motivated student body.”

 

 

ECO FEATURE

Luis Lozano ’14

On February 8, 2013 snowstorm Nemo took the Northeast by surprise. Many people were glad to see snow, children embracing this perfect time to build snowmen. Scientists, however, were stumped as to where this storm came from and how it became so large. Due to the storm’s unusual size and severity, many scientists began to suspect that global warming played a role. Hold on! Global warming? How can snow and cold weather be the effect of global warming? Snowstorms are a result of warm, airborne moisture colliding with cool air, freezing the moisture and producing snow. Because of increasing greenhouse gases within our atmosphere, heat is trapped, increasing temperatures. This causes ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise, producing a larger amount of warm airborne moisture than normal, thus increasing the potential for snowstorms. Additionally, snowstorms are impacted by a “polar-vortex”—cold, low-pressure air contained by high pressure above the arctic. Global warming has caused shorter and warmer winters, which melt arctic caps faster and prevent them from freezing again. This increases the pressure of the polar vortex, and causes it to increase and break free from the surrounding pressure that kept it contained. This means arctic winds travel below the arctic and have a greater chance of colliding with moist warm air, increasing the possibility of violent storms like the one the Northeast just experienced.

The constant use of fossil fuels in a large economy like that of the United States is a leading contributor to global warming. The greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere are drastically changing our climate in unexpected and unpredictable ways. As storms get bigger, the consequences grow. In addition to the loss of lives, increasingly powerful storms mean more money will be spent repairing damaged infrastructure and communities. Why invest in fossil fuels when the result will eventually cause economies to lose huge amounts of money? Global warming is a problem that’s being overlooked because we assure ourselves that it isn’t immediately affecting us. However, as storms like Nemo and Sandy demonstrate, it clearly is. If Barack Obama is going to live up to his State of the Union message that “We will respond to the threat of climate change knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations”, he must do so through investments in clean, renewable sources of energy. Many European nations like Germany already provide an example of substantial use of renewables. In order for there to be real change, in addition to government action, citizen activism must also take place. Examples of such activism include the fossil fuel divestment campaign already underway, as well as the recent Forward on Climate Rally in Washington D.C. In order for the issue of fossil fuel use in the United States to be solved, we must hold our public officials fully accountable, and take action on our own. If you’re interested in taking action on environmental issues at BHSEC, or learning about environmental activism and policy, email ecobhsec@gmail.com, visit facebook.com/bhsececo, or come to a meeting of the eco club on Mondays after school in room 509. 

 

 

THE UNCONVENTIONAL MUSEUM VISIT

Lindsay Duddy ’13

When we think of the typical venue to view art we think of a large museum like the Metropolitan, MoMA, the Whitney or a smaller scale Chelsea Gallery. But what if we expanded the typical definition of a museum to encompass a much larger range of venues? When I walked into the ominous New York Public Library at Bryant Park, adorned with its large stone lions, I expected to be greeted by hundreds of books, but before even entering the library’s main sanctuary I was confronted by a series of photographs. At first I remained focused on my initial mission, but the photographs become too enticing to just briefly pass.

Who was the artist behind these works?

All of the photographs surrounding me in the dark lit, second-floor side hallway were black and white photographs of architectural structures. “TRAGER”, read a large post on the grey wall of the Library’s hallway, which was, in this case, being used as the gallery space. I said the name over and over again in my mind but could make no connection. I had never heard of Philip Trager, leaving this exhibition with the daunting task of not only keeping me focused on the works in front of me, but also on answering the question: Who is Philip Trager?

I knew that there was something wrong with the way I was approaching the works when I attempted to define these works in a single sentence. I had to turn on “museum mode” – a way of viewing something not as an object but as a piece of art. This mental mode requires that one remove oneself from the space of the library and transport oneself into the space of the museum.

I soon found the blurb on the wall, the introduction to the exhibition. After reading it, though, I found that my initial feeling of discontent still remained. I didn’t feel as though I could continue on, lacking so much critical knowledge. So I got out my trusty iPhone and did a quick search to find a description of the artist: “Trager is one of the foremost photographers of architecture and dance” (philiptrager.com). Disappointed with the results of my google search, I found that my approach to this exhibition was going to be as unconventional as the space it was in. I had to rely simply on my own defenses. What had I unintentionally gotten myself into?

I planted myself in front of the one of the photographs, which depicted a Victorian style home. It reminded me somewhat of the typical Brooklyn home I walk past on a daily basis, but there was another dimension to this building that emanated from the hand of the artist. Trager uses unconventional modes of cropping the photographs, and he highlights stark contrasts between colors on the façades of the buildings to create dynamic photographs. By cropping his photographs in a specific way, Trager highlights aspects of the structures that would be missed by the general observer. Each of Trager’s photographs focused on particular buildings or a portion of the building, but through the lens of his camera Trager articulated a specific, timeless perspective of the building, whether he was photographing a grand New York City monument or a small New Haven, Connecticut townhouse.

The exhibition space and the context given by the organizer left the viewer in a lurch. Granted, most people do not go to the library to see contemporary photography shows, but the unconventional space of the library should not diminish the importance of generating a well organized show, especially when working with the art of a great photographer. Moving past my list of critiques, this show succeeded at accomplishing the great task of introducing me to the work of Philip Trager, a photographer I would not have encountered otherwise.

 

 

ZERO DARK THIRTY

Alex Cohen ’14

Zero Dark Thirty, a film by Academy Award winning director Kathrynn Bigelow, could easily be a lesson on workaholism: get too involved in your job, and you could get someone killed. Luckily for Barack Obama’s reputation, that someone turns out to be none other than Osama Bin Laden, or as he is affectionately called in the film, UBL. The film begins with audio snippets taken from real people trapped and burning to death in the World Trade Center, setting the stage for America’s vengeance.

Zero Dark Thirty is not an action film, it is completely dedicated to the search for Bin Laden, with only the last fifth of the film showing the raid itself. The film’s first real shots are an extended torture scene involving a man named Ammar, played by French actor Reda Kateb, also in the Palm d’Or winner Un Prophete. It was this torture scene that proved to be the most controversial aspect of the film, called “Disturbing and misleading” by Steve Coll of the New York Times. Many saw the torture scene, which eventually divulges information that lead to the death of Bin Laden, as an indication that Bigelow was giving “enhanced interrogation techniques” her official seal of approval. The entire film portrays the actions of Americans in a realistic, if not dramatic manner. Opening the film with torture, and closing the film with a shot of the main character, Maya, crying alone in an airplane, gives you a full idea of Bigelow’s cinematic objective.

The Hurt Locker, her last film, was a personal story about one man’s addiction to war, and can be interpreted as an allegory for America’s obsession with that most harmful of arts. Zero Dark Thirty, on the other hand, is simply the story of America’s quest for revenge, and all of the terrible things we did along the way to achieve it, shown through the lens of one CIA analyst, played by Jessica Chastain.

What the film ends up conveying to the viewer, with its straightforward raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound, the killing of a few of his family members, armed and unarmed, and torture, and finally concluding with Maya being asked, “you must be pretty important, where do you want to go” while sitting alone in a plane is that the United States did whatever it did, and now the question we as a nation have to ask ourselves is: What do we do now? We did away with the Geneva Convention in order to find closure, and while the film itself does not seem to judge Maya’s actions, it should not be the torture scenes that draw criticism, but the actual killing of Bin Laden himself.

Far from approving torture, the film questions whether killing Bin Laden actually did anything at all, and even if it did, whether all of the wars, deaths, and economic investment could ever have been worth it. Maya does not jump for joy when she is finished with her mission, she just cries, sitting in an empty military transport plane. The war on terror may not be over, but its sheer length enables us to see the results, diplomatically and domestically, of our hunger for, as one senior CIA man says during a particularly stressful moment, “targets”.

In one scene, one of Maya’s CIA colleagues asks her about her sex life, to which she just blankly stares. The suggestion is that Maya, just like the United States itself, has forgotten her personal life due to her obsession with finishing what she started. In the same way our government neglected its home life by pouring billions of dollars into foreign conflicts, even when she has succeeded, Maya feels empty and depressed, just like our economy, and hopefully, our conscience.

 

 

THE ATLANTIC YARDS CONTROVERSY

Jed Lenetsky ’15

On September 28, 2012, Jay-Z performed the first concert at Brooklyn’s brand new Barclays Center. The opening of this new arena, along with millions of square feet in apartments, stores, and office spaces in the Atlantic Yards, on the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, is highly controversial. The controversy surrounding the project ranges from issues on eminent domain – the city’s right to seize private land for a project designed for public use – to the modern high-rises, many critics claiming them to be “incompatible” with the low-rise historic buildings of Downtown Brooklyn. What lies in the center of the controversy is the question of how the development of the Atlantic Yards will continue to affect the surrounding communities of Prospect Heights, Boerum Hill, Park Slope, and most centrally Fort Green.

The most likely of changes to downtown Brooklyn’s neighborhoods will entail gentrification. The predicament of gentrification is one that is facing multiple lower income (or formerly lower income) neighborhoods in Brooklyn. In the past couple of decades, Brooklyn residents have seen Williamsburg, Bushwick, Red Hook and many others succumb to the whims of gentrification. As gentrification begins in lower income communities, real estate developers come in, creating new high-rise condominiums. These new housing options draw more middle to upper class families to the neighborhood and as they arrive, more amenities soon follow, such as better stores, restaurants, and supermarkets. This combination of improved housing options in poor communities and better public amenities results in the skyrocketing of real estate prices. As housing prices rise, lower income families, who were formerly able to afford their homes, are forced to leave them and in some cases start their lives over.  

This process had already begun to occur in Fort Green with the creation of the Atlantic Center, and the Atlantic Yards developments have only increased the process. In 2010, according to the census, Fort Green and Clinton Hill’s African American population was at 47%, dramatically decreasing from 2000, when the African American population was over 65%. Additionally, Fort Green and Clinton Hill’s white population dramatically increased from being around 19% in 2000 to 36% in 2010.

However, in spite of being partially responsible for the drastic demographic changes in Fort Greene, the Barclays Center is making an effort to help its surrounding communities, mainly through supporting many small local businesses, especially those involving food. When I walked through the Barclays Center during the intermission of a concert, I was stunned to see an almost entirely “Brooklynized” concession area. There was a stand for Nathan’s Hot Dogs, a touristy fast food stand that originated in Coney Island, and a stand for Buffalo Bosses Boneless Chicken Wings. In addition to the classic Brooklyn theme, the various options for purchasing food also had an artisanal feel. Present were sausages from Saul, a restaurant on Smith Street, Cuban sandwiches from Habana Outpost in Fort Green, and finally, Calexico’s Taco’s, which began as a street cart in SoHo and now has restaurants in Gowanus and Greenpoint. And not only is the Barclays Center supporting local businesses; many jobs are being created as a result of its existence. Currently, the Barclays Center is employing almost 2,000 people part time, and during construction employed several thousand people.

The long-lasting effects of the Atlantic Yards projects on its surrounding neighborhoods, whether good or bad, are still hard to predict. However, one thing is for certain: downtown Brooklyn is looking very different everyday.

 

 

THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY INTERNSHIP PROGRAM

Genevieve Fried ’13

Last year I participated in the Science Research Mentoring Program (SRMP) at the American Museum of Natural History, a program many BHSEC students are currently involved in. Under the tutelege of a theoretical astrophysicist, I traveled to the museum two times a week to conduct research with two other students. This research was graduate level and thus demanding, if not slightly esoteric, but the experience of working in a real scientific community was invaluable.

SRMP was bifurcated into two programs: Astrophysics/Planetary and Anthropology/Biology (the application process for the two programs differed[1]). I participated in the former. To be eligible to apply to SRMP, I had to first take a minimum of three after school classes offered by the Museum of Natural History for free, which I did when I was a sophomore. About halfway through the year I applied to SRMP—the application consisted of an essay, and interview, my transcript and a school recommendation—and was admitted early action.

Being physically at the museum was exciting. I worked in the staff quarters of the theoretical astrophysicists in the Hayden Planetarium, right next to Neil Degrasse Tyson in a conference room that had an original painting of Galileo. Once, when we were working, Neil Degrasse Tyson simply came over, handed my friend and I free stuff, and started talking to us about education. My mentor was also hilarious, albeit always sarcastic. My friend and I spent more meetings than we should have simply talking about non-science related topics. In general, SRMP felt like a community. I was close with many of the staff, scientists and students, and so coming every week felt at its very most like a blessing, and at its very least like a respite; in no way was it a chore.

Of course my favorite part of the internship was the research. My mentor was the only theoretical astrophysicist of the six mentors (the other four were observational astrophysicists, and the fifth, a geologist). My mentor was writing his dissertation, so we worked on material relevant to his field of study. My work was largely computational, which was invaluable since knowing how to program is a huge advantage in the STEM fields. Another large part of the internship was the social ethos. My mentor was the youngest of the six. He was brilliant and condescending, and did not seem like he wanted to participate in SRMP. Consequently, the beginning of the internship consisted of my friend and I attempting to make our mentor like us. This probably sounds horrible but I swear it was not. The wonderful thing about SRMP is that the mentors are not educators but research scientists. This means that they are actively conducting research and publishing. My mentor was not there to make me feel smart, which was an incentive to do well. Working with a research scientist too was invaluable because I received a very grounded and nuanced insight into the scientific community. Thus, when I finished SRMP and still wanted to be a scientist, it was a far more profound declaration because I had more insight into what being a scientist actually constitutes, all romanticism aside.

It is easy to lose sight of what is important in high school because the college process is perverse and likes to warp authenticity. I would be lying if I said that I applied to SRMP without college in mind. Yet SRMP is undeniably the best experience I have ever had. The American Museum of Natural History is an amazing institution, both in what it stands for and what it does for the public. I can also guarantee that SRMP is one of the few programs where a high school student can work on graduate level research and beyond without A) being brilliant (and even then) or B) getting a PhD. Moreover, the museum is now like my second home. I continue to work there and learn from people who are as wonderful, talented and intelligent as they are undervalued; a privilege by any means. I cannot recommend SRMP enough.

SRMP has been restructured since my participation in the program. You can find more information by typing “SRMP AMNH” into your web browser.

 

THE COLLEGE PROCESS

Chloe Kekovic ’13

My college process began with adults pulling me in every direction: “Brace yourself for disappointment!”, “Be optimistic! Apply to tons of reach schools, why not!”, “Don’t get attached to any one school!”. CTO every Friday only enhanced my stress. Phrases were constantly flying around in my head: safeties, matches, acceptance rate, College Board, FAFSA – it went on and on. Applying to college was intimidating, daunting. In my second semester of Y1 – essentially the most important semester of one’s high school career – I was terrified that I wasn’t going to get into any schools because of my sub par GPA, and an SAT score that was good, but not comparable to that of some of my peers. I felt, for lack of a better word, screwed. But, as it would turn out, I wasn’t. I only applied to 4 schools, and thus far have been accepted to Ursinus College and Bard College, both of which I’d be more than happy to attend. However, I was deferred from my first choice school, Skidmore College, after applying Early Decision. When I received that dreaded thin envelope, I was nothing short of devastated. Why was I not good enough? Even though every adult I’ve ever met has been immensely impressed with my curriculum, my lacking GPA meant everything. 

BHSEC has taught me not to equate my intellect with a 4.0 scale. What I have learned from BHSEC is that grades don’t really matter – but they do. When it comes to trying to go to a good college, then a good grad school, so I can have a “good” life, the grades that I receive in high school mean everything. We’re supposed to measure our intellect in what we absorb – in what we take away from our BHSEC career. I’ve learned a great deal from my BHSEC experience and absorbed so much, but feel as if I have nowhere to put it. Perhaps this is the clash between the BHSEC bubble and the rest of the world. To the majority of people, how “good” a college is is measured on the basis of names. Ivy Leagues, baby Ivy’s – for whatever reason, these are the schools that really matter. It’s immensely frustrating to me that I feel I had the potential to excel in an elite school, but don’t have the tangible credentials to show for it. 

It’s been a struggle in this process, but I’m starting to understand that school is what you make of it. I might not have a 4.0 GPA, but I’ve been granted an excellent, enlightening education, and for that I am grateful. Though I am frustrated with BHSEC every single day, I know that I’d do it all again. Why? I’m not sure. Something about BHSEC, something about how off-kilter and strange we all are, about how we’d rather analyze someone than just partake in petty gossip. This school is where we discuss profound texts, what it means to be human, the notion of ‘truth’ – BHSEC has made me think in ways I never could have imagined. BHSEC has allowed to me to feel like I am significant, like I mean something, like I’ll leave some kind of mark on the world. Hopefully, regardless of what college I end up attending, I will. 

 

 

PICNIC

Maverick Cummings ’13

This semester, Professor Jordan chose William Inge’s Picnic, a story about breaking away from the normal social customs and relations and finding true love. Picnic takes place in Philmont, New York, a small town set in 1953 where the obvious gender stereotypes are at first the very fabric of what keeps the town together. But with the arrival of Hal Carter (played by Laurence Welch), an impulsive young man with so much potential and yet nothing to show for it, the town soon begins to reveal that under all of the vanity and tradition, there were people that wanted to break free from it all. Madge Owens (Oona Roche) a young woman already on her way into adulthood, falls in love with Hal during her prolonged courtship with Hal’s only friend, the rich and handsome Alan Seymour (Kameron Block). Madge must make a choice between what is socially acceptable and true love, and true love is what Madge ultimately chooses by running after Hal to Philadelphia.

What makes the play more intricate than expected is the supporting cast and stories that intertwine the main predicament, and how the outcomes of these stories affect Madges decision. Madge’s mother, Flo Owens (Ada Rustow) presents the more traditional side through her pestering of Madge to avoid Hal, driven by scarred memories of her own husband’s desertion of herself. Balancing the overbearing mother, who lives through the dreams of her daughters, is Flo’s flirtatious middle-aged neighbor Helen Potts (Nikki Rice/Ksenia Matthews). Her easygoing nature and comedic timing make her likeable from the start, but it is also her challenging of the traditions in this town that offset Flo’s frustration towards the shift in equilibrium in this town. Millie Owens (Gabriella Gonzales/Tessa Murphy) is probably the most obvious example of a character having an unconventional attitude toward the town’s customs. She is the antithesis of her sister, focusing on academic studies and lacking interest in personal hygiene, partially because of her distaste in what it means to be a proper lady and also her jealousy of her sister receiving much more attention than she does just because Madge is reluctantly labeled, “the pretty one”. At the end of the play, despite trying to act like a proper lady at the picnic, Millie decides she wants to go to college to become a novelist and shock the world with radical ideas. 

The relationship between small business owner Howard Bevins (Angeliesse Acevedo/Iesha Hodges) and Rosemary Sydney (Jasinya Jackson) intrigued me the most because Rosemary is the persistent one in their relationship, asking Howard to marry her, when traditionally it should be Howard asking Rosemary; but Howard is elusive and content that his life may not be everything he wanted and goes along with the marriage despite his initial feelings against it. With all of these stories surrounding Madge’s life, it complicates her decision to either be with Alan or Hal and sets this story apart from the other great love stories.

The play was so well done with outstanding direction from Professor Jordan as well as assistant direction from both Maddie Hamingson and Tsiann Hills. The ensemble was incredibly strong and each actor seemed to really own their character or characters (some roles were doubled). The costumes from Wendy Phillips-Kahn were crucial in capturing the 1950’s and issues of gender relations, and the choreography from Pearl Marasigan was another great touch. All and all, this was an excellent production.

 

 

NEW MATH GRADING SYSTEM FOR BHSEC FRESHMEN

Josh Waldman ’16 and Noah Goodman ’16

This year the freshman class has been the first to experience a new math grading system here at BHSEC, and reviews have been mixed, to say the least. Freshmen have called this system “ridiculous” and “unfair,” and complained “it just doesn’t make sense.” There has been so much backlash and protest that a town hall meeting was called to address the subject.

BHSEC has progressively moved towards this unified standards-based 9th grade system over the last few years. The current Year 1’s had a significantly different math program than the current 9th graders do. There was no unified grading system among 9th grade math teachers as little as two years ago, although the change has been progressive. One way in which the current Year 1’s 9th grade curriculum took a step towards the standardized freshmen math system was by having a common 9th grade final for the first time. Last year’s 9th graders, for the fall semester, had a similar grading format as the year prior. However, during their spring semester of 9th grade, there was a standards based system, with skill level standards, that was similar to the current 9th grade system. 

The fundamental objective of this new system is to guarantee the comprehension of basic principles in the course, and offer higher level students an extra challenge. It is a standards based system, divided into three levels of problems: C, B, and A. The C-levels test mastery of the basic principles taught in class, and are graded with either a 0 or a 1. B-levels combine various C-level skills in a more challenging problem, and are graded with a 0, 1, or 2. A-levels are an extension of concepts taught in class, and represent an extra boost for mathematically inclined students. This standards based system appears on every homework, test, or exam that students take. In addition, 5-minute daily quizzes are given most days as C-level problems, graded on a 0 or 1 basis. These five minute quizzes are essential for a student to be able to pass the course. This is the first of four chances to get credit for a C-level problem, the second being on a longer quiz, the third on an exam, and the fourth on the final. This is designed to give students a chance to prove that they know the material over time.

By the end of the first semester of this school year, many freshmen believed they had not gotten the grade they deserved. In fact, half of the interviewed freshmen believed this. Because of the difficulty of A and B-level problems, it is disproportionately difficult to get above a B+ in the class. According to some freshmen, another flaw in the A-levels is that it increases the incentives to violate academic integrity. When such a hard problem is presented on a homework, it is easy for students to be tempted to copy other classmates’ answers. Many students do not even attempt the A-level questions.  Michelle Wong, a freshman, said that the system was “not necessarily” clear and that “at the beginning of the year none of the grading policies made sense to me.”  The intricate grading system clearly caused problems for many.

On the bright side, half of the interviewed freshmen did believe they got the grade they deserved under this system, and attributed their frustration to the class itself. Rafi Misak, a freshman who feels this way, does note, however, that “the homework is ridiculous”. Another student called the grading “inconsistent”, but the system “fair”. Standards based grading looks appealing to almost all on paper, but by the end of the semester, many found themselves yearning for a simpler method. “I wish they just used a check and check plus system” said Rebecca Weinberg. “It’d be a lot easier to just use percentages” said Max Rein. Almost all of the interviewed freshmen said they would change the system if they were in charge. But for now, students are learning how to handle the current system, and perhaps even to thrive in it.  When asked about the standards-based grading system in place, Max Rein said, “It allows you to know what you’re doing well and what you’re not doing well.”  When asked about whether he can cope with the current system, another freshman, Eli Blumfield, said “Yeah, totally. I don’t think it’s that bad of a system.” Perhaps he’s not speaking for all freshmen, but definitely for many.

 

 

HOUSTON STREET PROJECT

Jesus Valdez ’16

Ever notice the large amount of construction being done on your daily commute to BHSEC along East Houston Street? It is all a part of the Houston Street Reconstruction Project.

The goal of the Houston Street Project is to enhance the state of Houston Street, which stretches toward the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive. New street lighting and designated areas for buses to stop, among other things, await street pedestrians and drivers if and when the project is completed. The construction was scheduled to be finished in the spring of 2013; however, the deadline has been extended to the summer of 2014, and the ongoing work could potentially have a negative effect on business, as well as cause daily inconveniences for many New Yorkers.

The 60 million-dollar project was intended to be very beneficial to the city, but it has now been extended an extra one and a half years, becoming potentially more of a deterrent to business and an eye sore of construction than an improvement. As the amount of sighted cranes and construction machines continues to rise, this project, which was supposed to bring satisfaction to the neighborhood, has only brought widespread nuisance. Will the desired improvements really make the construction, and all the problems that come with it, worth it?

Part of the project consists of replacing many elements of the water and sewer systems, and as a result of certain problematic issues with wiring and cable, there has been a relocation of utilities, which adds to the already large toll being taken on the people of the Lower East Side.

Many BHSEC students are forced to experience the terrible upturning of the sidewalk and loud obnoxious noises caused by the construction as they commute down East Houston Street. When questioned about their feelings towards the project and how it has affected them, most students say that it has created unnecessary issues in their daily commutes.

Students aren’t the only ones negatively affected by the project; business owners are too. As a result of the immense amount of traffic caused by the project, which seems to constantly surround East Houston Street, it becomes difficult for drivers to reach their destinations, which is never good for business. 

Lane restrictions on the roads aren’t the only issue people are facing; some sidewalks have become narrower as the project continues. Buses are sometimes delayed along East Houston Street, which becomes an obstacle to both students attending schools like BHSEC and other pedestrians. With the congestion that builds up as a result of the reduction of travel space, people now potentially become even more exposed to hazardous fumes that are emitted because of traffic than they normally would be.

Overall, the Houston Street Project tests the balance between the importance of working towards improvements in our city and weathering the daily inconveniencies caused by construction. The benefits are certainly crucial. But is it worth the four (or more) year wait, not to mention the daily headaches caused by the work? There is no doubt that businesses are at risk because of the increased traffic on East Houston Street, and many of them continue to record less and less customers. As the project has become a longer and more difficult endeavor, the construction has certainly angered many people, and it will continue to negatively affect many more. 

 

 

BHSEC’S TURKISH EXCHANGE PROGRAM

Eliza Fawcett ’15

The magic of snow globes is that you can hold an entire city in the palm of your hand. Buildings miles apart from each other are condensed into quaint perfection: the lamp of the Statue of Liberty shines into the Empire State Building’s 70th floor, the Brooklyn Bridge arches in the foreground of St. Patrick’s cathedral, and Grand Central peaks out from behind a taxi cab as big as the colossal building itself.

In many ways, this snow-globed version of New York—a memento proudly displayed in many a Times Square souvenir shop window—was the city that the students from Istanbul, Turkey experienced in the last weeks of January. As part of BHSEC’s Turkish Exchange Program, they toured our city and experienced a taste of American culture. In a flurry of activities, fifteen students from Kabataş Erkek Lisesi, a public high school in Istanbul (along with their BHSEC counterparts) reveled in Snow-Globed New York, as well as occasionally cracking it open and exploring more unusual attractions. From Times Square to the Tenement Museum, with the Met, the African Burial Ground, the 9/11 Memorial, two Broadway shows, and everything else squeezed in between, the Turkish students saw in two weeks more than native New Yorkers see in a year.

The Turkish Exchange Program is one of BHSEC’s longest-running enterprises; this year it is being led by Ms. Poreba, Ms. Riviere, and Ms. Chatterjee, and is being coordinated with the help of Dr. Marion, who for many years led the trip but is teaching at Bard College this semester and is thus otherwise occupied.

For most of the Turkish students, the program was a wonderful experience, not only in terms of the friendships formed and the cultural exposure, but for the simple fact that, as one exclaimed, “it’s NYC!” A common refrain amongst the Turkish students was that New York City and America represented their “dreamland” or their “ideal…ultimate place.”

Part of that predetermined notion of the city, many conceded, stemmed directly from television: as Alp Şerif Bensen said, “we had expectations [about the city] which we got from…movies and the media.” As another explained, “The America that I expected was highly created by Hollywood.” But for many of the students, the America (and the New York) that they expected and the one that they experienced were the same, if not better. Alp asserted that “every single corner of the city was more impressive than I imagined”.

However, there were some aspects of the city that were undoubtedly surprising, if not dissapointing:  amongst the eight Turkish students interviewed, the common complaints were rats and the subway system (though native New Yorkers know that the two are inseparable). Speaking about the subway, Sinan Kirçova stated that “I really think your underground system needs a woman’s touch.” Another student expressed shock over the city’s large homeless population.

Although coming from a school which is a former Ottoman palace situated picturesquely on the Bosporus, many of the Turkish students were at ease at 525 East Houston Street. Nazli Güleç characterized our school as having a “cozy and comfortable atmosphere,” and was grateful for the fact that she “didn’t feel like a stranger at all.” Another student, Selin Öztürk, commented that the people at BHSEC were “warm and casual” and that the “teachers were just like us! That’s awesome.” Ece Şenyiğit was pleasantly surprised by the fact that although BHSEC has no bells to signal the start and end of classes, “nobody was late. [That’s] cool.”

Many of the Turkish students were further impressed by BHSEC’s free-flowing lesson structure and open-minded discussions, something which, for them, was a new phenomenon. As Alp said, “Students of Bard must be thankful for all the opportunities that Bard is providing them with. Free choice of classes, interactive and quite entertaining lessons and teachers and a school in Manhattan… I’m totally impressed.” Another student, Eda Belen, enthused that “Bard has all the possibilities that a student can expect. It’s like a private school.”

BHSEC students were often as impressed with the Turkish students as they were with us.  “I thought it was quite impressive how they were able to easily integrate themselves into our school and into our culture,” said Isaiah Back-Gaal, a sophomore. Janna Adelstein, a sophomore who participated in the program, was amazed that “their public school education allowed them to become fluent in a language before they were 15,” and said that, also, “everyone from Turkey was incredibly nice and fun to be around.”

As many BHSEC students might agree, the one main critique that was voiced about the school was its cell phone policy. Said one Turkish student, “In your classes you talk about everything without any taboos or limits which is unbelievably impressive and cool. But [restrictions on] mobile phones? No. It is pointless!”

For some on the trip, though, coming to BHSEC became an opportunity to compare—and often, critique—the education system they had become accustomed to at home in Turkey. At Kabataş Erkek Lisesi, the rigorous and prestigious public school that the Turkish students attend, most students are required to take fifteen courses (for some, this means taking physics, chemistry, and biology at the same time) in which they are, as Alp says, “examined harshly…several times in a term.” In 10th, 11th, and 12th grade, according to Deniz Altuner, the Turkish students “do not do homework or write essays [because they] only focus on working for the national exam which is required to be accepted to a good university.” For many Turkish teens, this necessitates attending prep classes on the weekends. Entrance to Turkish universities is determined by, more or less, a single score; of that score, the vast majority of the points come from the national exam, while the rest come from the student’s school grades. This means that, as Deniz says, it does not matter whether one “attend[s]…any clubs [extracurricular activities] to be accepted to a good university. The only thing is to get a good grade from the national exam, and I think that makes us test-solving machines, not student.” Sinan also agrees with this assessment, even more vehemently. His experience at BHSEC allowed him to see the entire Turkish educational system in a whole new light: “After spending a few days in BHSEC, I realized the fact that we [in Turkey] do not have an education system at all. The whole education system in Turkey is like a perfect combination of irrationalities. It includes everything but brain.” He concedes that students in Turkey are required to do quite a lot of work, but that the work itself does “not make people think about the world…the deformity of our education system is not a secret. It is a well-known fact!” Echoing Sinan’s remarks, Orçun Doğmazer declared that “In my opinion the USA’s education system is better because I am a student who likes to learn with discussions.”

The Turkish students quickly noticed more basic cultural differences between themselves and BHSEC students, the main one being in terms of clothing styles. As Orçun said, “People that I saw [seemed] half-naked”; Ece noted that “in Turkey if you wear crazy things people care what you wear and you can feel uncomfortable.” Or as Deniz said, “The difference is, Turkish people are more conservative and we do[n’t] have a lot of hipsters in Turkey.” Another difference was rap music: according to one student, it is the “lamest music” in Turkey although, she continued, “teens here adore rap.”

Conversely, many American teenagers share far more cultural trends with their Turkish counterparts than they might realize. As Deniz pointed out, “the world is so globalized” – American music, literature, and media rapidly diffuses itself across the globe, especially encouraged and amplified by the Internet Age. Starbucks, for example, is one of the “cool” places for teens to congregate at in Istanbul.

The final activity for the program was a group potluck generously hosted by the school in the auditorium. Termed by one Turkish student as the “last supper” it was for many the “saddest” moment of the trip, since the Turkish students gave “emotional” speeches thanking their hosts and recalling anecdotes from the trip. As Nazli summed it up, “I [have] never wanted to cry that much in my entire life.” The American students will travel to Istanbul in late March, but it was certainly an evening of tearful goodbyes.

Nonetheless, there was also the sense that this was simply the beginning of something truly wonderful. As Sinan said, “I cannot guess the reasons that will take me to NYC once more. Education, business or maybe romance…All I know is that the sky is full of surprises.”

 

 

ASK.FM AND THE BHSEC COMPLIMENTS PAGE

Danya Levy ’15

Anyone of high school age with a Facebook account will have seen their newsfeed flooded with links to a curious website called Ask.fm in recent months. Most students know what this website is, and will chuckle or sigh upon reading its name. Parents and teachers, on the other hand, will probably be mystified.

Basically, like Formspring, another Internet trend that died out a couple years ago, Ask.fm is a website that allows anyone to create a personal account, with a profile picture and a short bio. Then anyone, whether or not they have an account, can submit a question anonymously. (If someone with an account submits a question, they can choose whether or not to show their name.)

The questions end up in the user’s inbox, where they can choose which ones to answer and which to ignore. When a question is answered, both the question and the answer show up on the user’s page, which is public.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of anonymous question-and-answer sites like this; people, especially teenagers, like asking questions anonymously, as well as receiving questions to answer. And there isn’t anything inherently wrong with Ask.fm; in essence, it’s just fun.

When people start using it as a vehicle for anonymous hatred, however, things get complicated. Seeing someone’s page flooded with abusive statements is common enough that many schools warn parents against letting their children have accounts.

So when teenagers use Ask.fm to encourage acts of kindness, it often elicits a sigh of relief. At BHSEC, this has come in the form of the Compliments Page.

Inspired by similar pages from other schools around the city, Cena Loffredo, a sophomore here at BHSEC Manhattan, created a BHSEC Compliments account on Ask.fm, where students can anonymously submit compliments about other Bardians.

Those deemed appropriate by Cena and her helpers, or “elves,” as they are sometimes called, are posted to a public Facebook page. The “elves”— Alberta Devor, Viola Herzig and one elf that would like to remain anonymous — each committed to helping run the page at its inception, and have been helping out with it ever since.

“I couldn’t help but notice that, although a generally open atmosphere, BHSEC doesn’t have a lot of school spirit,” Cena explained. “I was just hoping that coming home at the end of the day knowing that people throughout the school are thinking positively about you would help to bring us together as a community, or at least bring some levity to the stress of the school year.”

The page exploded in popularity during its first hours of existence, mostly amongst other sophomores. The Facebook page rocketed up in “likes” and the Ask.fm account received hundreds—and soon thousands—of compliments, about everything from hair to math skills. Over the course of the next couple days, students from other grades also began to submit their thoughts.

Mostly, the reception has been positive, with lots of shout-outs to the “good vibes” being spread by the Compliments page. But not everyone has been happy with it. Some students, “have thought that it represented more of a popularity contest, which we can’t really control, and personally haven’t noticed,” Cena said. And of course, there’s the BHSEC workload to worry about: “A couple of people have been concerned about how this cuts into our homework time, but that’s why we divide it up between four people.”

The Compliments page has certainly had somewhat inappropriate moments, and its policies have changed over time in order to keep the content as positive as possible. Submissions not deemed appropriate are no longer published on the Ask.fm account at all, which they used to be. Now they are just left sitting in the inbox, so the public will never get to see them. And recently, a lot of the entries have had to do with commentary, mostly negative, about cliques, which the “elves” have announced they are no longer tolerating.

But, most of the time, scrolling through the BHSEC Compliments pages warms the heart, with shout-outs of “X is so pretty!” “Y is the nicest person ever,” or “Z is just perfect.” 

“People have been messaging us telling us how grateful they were for a forum like this,” Cena noted. And, although it isn’t as popular as it was during its first days of existence, the BHSEC Compliments page continues to be a source of joy and kindness for all.

 

 

A TIMELINE OF OUR WALK TO SCHOOL

Isaiah Back-Gaal ’15

Imagine: the year is 1609 and you walk through the forests of what is now the Essex Street Market. Masked shrews scamper around your feet as you make your way through the undergrowth to Rivington Street. Where Sugar Sweet Sunshine now stands you must be cautious, for nests of timber rattlesnakes infest the area. You may even encounter packs of grey wolves that stalk the dense woods where there is currently an M14D bus stop.

In the 1600s, what we know as the Lower East Side of Manhattan was a lush forest, home to wolves, bears, frogs and otters. About four hundred ago, two rivers flanked the plot of land that BHSEC currently stands on. One of the rivers meandered along what is today East Houston St., the other was roughly aligned with Baruch Place. No animals lived and no trees grew between the rivers, but many members of the Lenape people resided on the land, relatively safe from predators. In that same year, 1600, an Englishman named Henry Hudson working for the Dutch East India Company came to the land he named New Amsterdam and changed the landscape forever. 

Since Hudson’s arrival, New York City has attracted people from around the world. The Lower East Side especially has had a great amount of immigrants. In the 1840s, the Lower East Side was known as Kleindeutschland, or “Little Germany.” By the end of the nineteenth century, there were 50,000 German-Americans living in Kleindeutschland, the largest German-American neighborhood in New York.

One of the most noticeable influences on the Lowe East Side has been the area’s historical legacy was a residence of thousands of Ashkenaze Jews. By 1910, a majority of the 373,000 people that lived in the Lower East Side were Eastern European Jews. Jewish immigrants built notable Lower East Side establishments such as Katz’s Deli and Russ & Daughters around the turn of the century. Streit Matzo and Co., a landmark of Jewish culture, stands on Rivington.

Still functioning today, the Matzo factory appears increasingly out of place. In January of 1949, the Jacob Riis houses were completed, adding the nineteen impressive buildings now familiar to BHSEC students as the projects surrounding our school. At the end of the twentieth century the Lower East Side saw a great number of Polish, Ukrainian, and Japanese immigrants, and in the last decade the Lower East Side began a slow process of gentrification. Expensive boutiques popped up amidst the old Judaic shops and the Japanese restaurants and markets. Incredibly, as each new wave of people enters the Lower East Side, they have not erased the histories of its past inhabitants, but rather preserved them, so that all of their legacies are apparent today.

 

 

BHSEC’S FAVORITE CUPCAKERY: SUGAR SWEET SUNSHINE

Ayla Safran

Many people know Sugar Sweet Sunshine as the friendly bakery with the pink awning that is ideal for an afternoon cupcake. From the comfy chairs and dim-lighting to the open view of the kitchen and all of its workings, this patisserie is very inviting to anyone with a sweet tooth. In fact, situated at 126 Rivington Street, Sugar Sweet Sunshine has been around almost as long as BHSEC. Co-owned by friends Peggy and Debbie, this cute confectionery is a staple of the neighborhood. When asked about its history, Peggy proudly proclaimed, “We’re in our tenth year.”

Peggy grew up in Sayville, Long Island, and Debbie right outside of Boston, Massachusetts. The two met performing in Brooklyn Heights in a production of “The Music Man”. In 2002, when the two decided to open a bakery together, there was only one problem – neither of them really knew how to bake. In the time between their decision to open the bakery and when the doors opened, this was what they set out to learn.

Sugar Sweet Sunshine gets its ingredients from a distributor by the name of Woolco, who has been loyal to them for the past 10 years. Besides Debbie and Peggy, there are three people who work in the kitchen full-time. At the counter, there are four to six full- or part-time workers.

The bakery does have plenty of competition. In Peggy’s words, although they would like to expand, “cupcake shops are at a max in the city.” Still, competition is not always a bad thing: “in many cases it is a friendly competition too.  e have been known to borrow things from each other if we’re in an emergency situation – like we run out of cupcake papers on a weekend. We’ve been known to ask advice, too. We are, after all, still in this together.”

When entering the shop, the first thing to be noticed is the lit-up display of cupcakes. There is a large variety in flavors, ranging from chocolate and red velvet to pistachio and pumpkin. According to Peggy, “Some of the flavors we come up with just from our own heads, just what we like.” She adds that “some things have come from customers ‘Have you ever tried this or that’… from suggestions.” Obviously, this bakery has a creative customer base. Peggy says that one time, “We made a bacon cupcake that was pretty gross – especially by day 2. One of our regular customers still talks about the indigestion it gave him!” In addition to the kooky flavors, each type of cupcake has a name and description that compliments the taste. Some examples are “Ooey Gooey”, “Black & White…Just Right”, and “Bob”. Do not be fooled though; the names do not take a lot of planning. Peggy admits, “Names are just a moment of inspiration.”

The name for the bakery, on the other hand, took a little bit more effort. Peggy explains that they tried out many names, such as “Cupcakery, Sweet Treats, Two Tiny Chicks” and more. They finally decided on the name Sugar Sweet Sunshine when they found the words etched in a cement wall in the Lower East Side, considering it fate.

The cupcakes are the most popular product of Sugar Sweet Sunshine, and out of all of the flavors, the “Sunshine” is the winner. This traditional combination of yellow cake and vanilla butter cream frosting is hard to turn down. I speak from experience when I say that it is particularly delectable. Although they do not give out their recipes, Peggy says that in trying something new, she likes to “start with what I know I like and then start researching recipes and then tweak from there.” But cupcakes are not the bakery’s only product. The next most popular item is the pudding. Out of the wide selection available, the chocolate chip and banana flavors are the most purchased.

Sugar Sweet Sunshine has a wide variety of customers. When asked what the least common demographic is, Peggy thought a moment before saying, “I’ve noticed we don’t see a lot of people in suits or business attire down here in the LES.”  The cupcakery is right on the way from the Essex-Delancey Street station to BHSEC (or vice versa), so it is logical that many of the bakery’s customers are Bardians. It is a rare afternoon when the front window is not full of high schoolers. When speaking of BHSEC students, Peggy confesses that “You might get a little noisy sometimes, [but] you guys are pretty polite.” She even discloses, “When you guys aren’t here we miss you. Like ‘Oh it’s so quiet! School kids aren’t in today!’ I like that you guys feel like you can hang out here.”

Besides the small everyday cupcake purchases, the bakery has had some pretty crazy orders as well. Peggy says that the one that stands out most in her mind is the time when “there was one really large cookie order [500 cookies] where there were 3 different flavors of cookies and each cookie had to be individually bagged [with] an ingredient label attached.  One of the types of cookies had the wrong label on them… which I discovered after they’d already been delivered to the Upper West Side. I had to reprint the correct labels and take a cab to this guy’s apartment where we delivered the cookies… [My husband and I had to] sit on his floor and go through each box of cookies to find and replace all the incorrect labels.  The guy was also dog-sitting 3 big dogs which wanted to climb all over me while I was working.”

Between delicious desserts and welcoming owners, this bakery is the perfect pit stop on the way home from school. For those who have not been inside, check it out! Cupcakes are $1.75 each, and for anyone inclined to pitch an idea for a new flavor, you may be lucky enough to get your idea into Sugar Sweet Sunshine’s display case.

 

 

THE BLUE TRUCK

Everett Pelzman ’15

The Blue Truck is a phenomenon that spreads like wildfire from BHSEC upperclassmen to incoming freshman, year in and year out. One ninth grader recalled hearing first about Rico, the Egyptian salesperson who is the face of the truck, behind duct-taped cartoon-like epitomes of sausages and knishes, “at least three weeks before the start of school.” Rico, whose real name is Riad (a name most customers have difficulty pronouncing), is the true legend here. Recently, he has been getting move coverage from the media. From up close, his presence is palpable, as he looks down at you from his perch at least three heads above (giving him the ultimate advantage in any dispute). Rico is a New Yorker of a dozen years, coming to the United States from Egypt in 2000. At least half of that time has been spent in his blue truck.

But, to those BHSEC students who equate Rico to the truck itself, a history lesson is in store. According to Riad himself, the Blue Truck business has been around since the 1960’s. It has always been in the vicinity of BHSEC—well before BHSEC was BHSEC—but has not always been parked on its current East Houston Street corner. Rico claims that no neighborhood locals or outer-neighborhood intruders have ever taken issue with where he parks. In fact, when one sits down and speaks with Rico for about an hour, you realize just how proud he is of the history he has perpetuated, and how integral he has been to it. The current truck, which, to any BHSEC student, really needs no visual description, is a 1997 model.

Recently, Rico has been on the search in the tri-state area for a new truck. His diligent pursuit of the truck is a testimony to the pride he has in the legacy of his enterprise. Interestingly, he is not the owner of this enterprise. A man with similar physical features to Rico himself can sometimes be found on a lawn chair in front of the truck—Rico’s proud boss. The new truck must be blue, Rico interjects, unconditionally (although recent reports claim that Rico has discovered a suitable red truck). Rico manages to fit many cooking and cooling devices into his small space, but wants a large truck, so that he may begin to serve three meals every day to his customers, who have specifically requested Halal food, which Rico is intent on bringing to his business. The current Blue Truck poses some significant problems. First of all, Rico says he has trouble hitting 30 MPH, even on the highway. Of possibly more concern (although he seemed to brush it off ) is the fact that the Blue Truck, in the past few years, has actually tipped over a couple of times. While it braved Hurricane Sandy in a garage in some unspecified location (no, Rico does not keep the truck anywhere near the school itself, nor does he live in it), Rico says that some particularly high gusts of wind have turned the truck in on itself.

Rico’s day begins early as he commutes to the garage where his truck is stored. Overnight he assures that his food is well secured and preserved. His produce and snacks come in regular deliveries. A year ago he notched up the level of creativity with plastic Barbie doll cell phones, in celebration of Independence Day. Unfortunately, those did not sell well. Rico sees patterns in the purchasing tendencies of his customers, and willingly responds to them. For example, he knows that his most popular products are the hot dog and knish. He sells roughly one hundred hot dogs every day. Rico sells hamburgers and kebabs as well, but recently a customer came by and asked him for a burger, to which he responded they take too long to cook. The customer then asked for a kebab, to which Rico said it would take him too long as well. Redbull is his most popular drink. Rico says that candy and sunflower seeds are his least popular products, but clarifies “sometimes yes, sometimes not.” Rico has two grills, a deep fryer, and a coffee machine in his truck.

Rico’s awkward yet amusing interactions with his customers are possibly the most visible part of his legacy. He was asked for a few funny stories. All of his stories had something to do with getting to work in the morning. Whenever he is late, he tells his customers that the subway had a flat tire. A customer approached Rico and asked him to sign her cast. She asked for a discount because her thumb was broken. A construction worker grumbled jokingly that Rico “gives me a headache every day”. The worst argument Rico has gotten into was in the morning with a customer who asked Rico to speed up his cooking and that he had put too much ketchup on his hot dog. With a student, Rico’s favorite memory is with a BHSEC customer who came to buy a falafel as Rico was opening the truck early in the morning, and was angered that it took Rico fifteen minutes to prepare the falafel. A chef in the cafeteria of a nearby school came by during our interview to order food from Rico. Top customers include Alex (BHSEC), David (BHSEC), and Con Edison.

Rico also is proud of the trusting relationships he has with his customers. Nobody has ever taken his parking place. He uses the bathroom in a nearby apartment building. He always remembers to bring change back to customers who forget—about a third of them he says. His worst trusting moment was last year, when a customer stole the tongs he uses for his hot dogs. He had to close up shop for the day and go find new tongs. Rico works year-round and he says he loves his customers: “I stay on the street more than I stay at my house.”

 

 

BARD EARLY COLLEGE NEW ORLEANS

Liana Van Nostrand ’16

It doesn’t come as a surprise to many BHSEC Manhattan students that they are not alone in our early college bubble. BHSEC Manhattan students even spent a few days at sister school BHSEC Queens following Hurricane Sandy. Most, if not all, are aware of BHSEC Newark, the latest addition to the Bard Early College family. However, it might come as a surprise to some that this January, Bard Early College New Orleans celebrated its fifth anniversary.

The school’s first semester was in thespring of 2008. It opened its doors to eleventh and twelfth graders hailingfrom thirteen of New Orleans’ sixteen public schools for a revolutionaryhalf-day program. The program was founded in 2007 after the thensuperintendent, who was enamored with the BHSEC model, invited Bard to NewOrleans. He asked if Bard could be creative in finding a way to, instead ofcreating a new school that would drain other schools of resources, serve theexisting schools as a resource.  Theresult was a satellite campus and a half-day program.

A typical student at Bard Early CollegeNew Orleans (BECNO) spends their mornings at their New Orleans public highschool, from which they will receive a diploma at the end of four years, and isthen bussed during lunch to BECNO’s satellite campus.  They spend the second half of the day incollege level classes not unlike those at BHSEC Manhattan. These 140 studentswill also graduate with one year of college credits. A glaring difference fromthe BHSEC model is the lack of a high school program. There are no ninth andtenth graders on BECNO’s campus. The opportunity is available only to drivenupperclassmen who, as BECNO’s director Stephen Tremaine put it, may “have acertain feeling of escapism” that drew them to the program.

The application process endured bythese students is also quite different from that at the BHSECs in New York.Instead of a round of testing, all applicants have an interview followed by an“academic audition”. Ahead of time applicants are sent a set of readings. Thenthey take part in a ninety minute mock class with other applicants. Staffobserve and take notes. Dr. Tremaine says staff look for, “if a student in thatsetting shows they’re not interested in reducing a text, or shows they’re facedwith a real intellectual challenge, or has a real capacity for theirreducibility of complexity, we’re happy to have them”. Students who applywant more than the traditional high school education of “reducing big ideas toright answers”. These students want to be treated like adults and want adifferent sense of community. These are reasons not unlike those of manyapplicants to BHSEC Manhattan.

From New Orleans to Newark to Queens toManhattan, Bard’s early college students are looking for something differentthan what other schools may offer. There is an undeniable link between thestudents of all of the schools. However, there is an unfortunate lack ofinteraction between BECNO and the BHSECs. One place students from the differentschools do come together is the Hannah Ardent Conference at Bard College.

The Hannah Ardent Conference considersone political, philosophical question each year. Throughout the conferencethere are presentations given on certain aspects and viewpoints on the topic.Dr. Tremaine said his students came back from the conference most impressed bythe other early college students. They felt they were “more a part of Bard’sintellectual community” and now know “that they are not at the periphery”. It’simportant, as Dr. Tremaine says, “to keep up these ideals of Bard’s democraticinstitution”.

No one part of Bard is a more important part of Bard, although the early colleges often feel quite separate. That problem is exacerbated when BECNO is separated by region as well. What happens in every BHSEC classroom is so similar that allowing separation by geography to stop collaboration would be an unfortunate loss of opportunity. Some of Dr.Tremaine’s suggestions for collaboration included classes together via satellite, a conference specific to early colleges, or a collective symposium.A project like this would connect the campuses in a novel way and offer an opportunity to show case, what Dr. Tremaine deems, the schools’ cultural breadth.

 

 

QUADROPHONICS

 

SONIC AMUSEMENTS!

Cena Loffredo ’15 and Lilabet Johnstongil ’15

Sonic Amusements! Our equivalent of Teacherisms but with band names! Basically, Sonic Amusements is an assortment of mildly amusing and real band (or album) names that will eventually, hopefully be submitted by readers.

 1) Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head         

 2) Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band                      

3) Suburban Kids With Biblical Names      

4) Liquid Liquid

5) No Bra                                                  

6) Little Deviant Fingers

7) Shitbirds                                               

8) Male Bonding

9) Perfume Genius                                  

10) Reel Big Fish

If you have submissions for Sonic Amusements, send them to cena.loffredo@gmail.com or lilabetgilabet@gmail.com. Only real bands/albums will be accepted unless you come up with a really, really, really funny fake name. The pressure is on. 

 

 

DOES TAYLOR SWIFT LIKE BEING THE LUCKY ONE?

Mitali Sarkar ’16, BHSEC Queens

“Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead end street” 
If you haven’t heard of this line, you are probably not a teenage girl. 

With her golden locks straightened out, and a dark shade of lipstick setting a contrast to her pale skin, this singer has finally said goodbye to her innocent self, and undergoes a metamorphosis that transforms her into a more fearless, mature lady. Unlike her prior songs, she takes a stab at a completely different type of music. She’s finished writing about first kisses and tear-streamed guitars, because she is no longer a freshman in high school. She’s America’s 22-year-old sweetheart, and she’s done with writing cheesy love songs. Her latest songs are comprised of multiple tracks that cross genre lines, shying away from her crystal clear country roots. 

Swift, being the “queen of breakups,” is famous for her relationships with some of the country’s most eminent male celebrities – John Mayer, Joe Jonas, Taylor Lautner, and Jake Gyllenhaal, to name a few. Her signature heartbreak anthems are inextricably connected to the famous men she dates, which makes the guess-the-celebrity game that the media plays with her deeply confessional lyrics so much fun to deconstruct. The paparazzi have always been desperate to know the tiny details of the singer’s personal life, and the release of her new album probably doubles the curiosity. However, how content is Swift herself about her extreme fortune and fame? In her song “The Lucky One,” she sings about “a famous singer who spends years under the glare of the spotlight, then ditches her uncomfortable fame for a life of solitude.” Can this be Swift’s eventual exit plan to her career? Through her song she depicts the troubles of being a celebrity, such as tabloids, paparazzi, and living life in a bubble. So, is poor Taylor overwhelmed by these constant boyfriends and gossip pages? As of right now she seems to be able to endure these troubles, and is embracing her dream come true of this larger-than-life status. However, it is still in question as to how genuine her song is, and how much it relates to her actually mapping out her future. 

In interviews, Swift does not shy away from personal questions about life as a celebrity. “There’s a lot of trade-offs. There’s the microscope that’s always on you. The camera flashes, the fear that something you say will be taken the wrong way and you’ll let your fans down. There’s the fear that you’ll be walking down the street and your skirt will blow up and you’ll be in the news for three months,” says Swift, as she sits at her dining room table in her apartment in Nashville, in a black shirt and red skirt. Her house is decorated with quite the aesthetic talent: flower-decorated walls, a small pond in the living room, mismatched chairs and paper cutouts of her age, 22. However, she does say that along with all the troubles, her career is still worth it.

Along with her changed song storyline, she has also changed her typical way of songwriting. She decided to step out of her comfort zone and “do something that wasn’t what [she has] done for the first three [albums].” Her latest songs don’t stick to calm country music anymore. She explores her limits and adds more pop to her songs. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” is an example of when she leaves her typical style of and adds a more mature tint to them.

Heartbreak, however, is still the main theme of most of Taylor’s songs. During last summer, when she was working on Red, she had gone through several romances – particularly her relationship with the grandson of one of America’s prior presidents, Robert Kennedy. With all these ups-and-downs in life, she still sticks to her usual cathartic songwriting, stating, “People haven’t always been there for me, but music always has”.

 

 

CLASH OF GENRES

Lucas McGill ’15

I wouldn’t pretend for a moment Punk Rock is my strong suit, but I don’t need to be an aficionado to appreciate The Clash. The Clash formed in England in 1976, becoming a major part of the original wave of English punk rockers. Regardless of their foundational contributions to the genre, The Clash soon made a clear division between themselves and other punk rockers by strongly infusing elements of other genres into their music. If you pick up the Clash’s original self-titled album (which I highly recommend), you’ll hear what you’d expect: punk rock, often angry at the system, be it English or American. Songs usually consist of one or two heavy power chords which are alternated between throughout the song. For a good example of this formula, listen to “White Riot”. It was after the release of “London Calling” that the number of genres they pack into their music began to grow and grow.

London Calling is a 20 song album released in 1979. Sticking with the band’s roots, the songs focus on social upheaval, displacement, unemployment, drug use, big corporations, race, and the feeling of responsibility which comes with age. Also sticking with their roots, you’ll be able to understand about 30% of what Joe Strummer says. But this time the message is delivered through different genres. The first major musical difference comes up in the first song, the titular “London Calling”. Here, the guitar has fallen down to playing only a few sharp chords, and much of the attention has been moved to the bass’ melody. Much emphasis is also placed on the singing, which is no longer the sort of semi-yelling we see in other Clash songs. Vocal harmony is also introduced.

But the changes go even further, to the point that each song almost takes on a new genre, in addition to a new topic. The second song “Brand New Cadillac” features a guitar riff reminiscent of surf rock. “Hateful” has a focus on call and response vocals and a rhythm focused guitar part with help from synthesizers. “Rudie Can’t Fail” and “Spanish Bombs” both feature Latin influences, with a significant horn part, and even a few lines sung in Spanish. “Lost in the Supermarket” contains some clear pop rock and new wave influences. And lastly “The Guns of Brixton” and “Revolution Rock” pay some major homage to reggae in their bass, guitar, vocal and horn parts.

The songs still speak to the revolutionary zeal of the punk rock genre. With songs that put down war and terrorism like “Spanish Bombs”, which mentions “the busses [that] went up in flashes” in the terrorist attack that detonated explosives on two London busses, and others that mock big business like “Koka Kola”. Many of the issues these songs tackle are very relevant today as well. Lyrics like “I’ve got a friend who’s a man… He gives me what I need. What ya need? What ya got? I need it all so badly.” The grim rhetorical questions of “The Guns of Brixton” (such as “When they kick at your front door, how you gonna come? With your hands behind your head or on the trigger of your gun? When the law brakes in, how you gonna go? Shot down on the pavement, or waiting on death row?”) signal a pessimistic and paranoid outlook on life and on law enforcement.

If you’re interested in the Clash’s origins I recommend you check out their first album as well as “Give ‘Em Enough Rope”. If you want to hear how smoothly this band blends punk rock with so many other genres, then “London Calling” is the album for you.

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