Meet the Women Athletes of Beacon High School

By Chisom Eke

Sports are a significant part of the high school experience for many Beacon students. From being part of a team of classmates that share the same passion, practicing with one another, to competing against rival schools, sports provide countless opportunities to have fun and build a community with your peers! However, for many female-identifying athletes in our society today, there are challenges when it comes to taking part in such joyful experiences. The media constantly under-values women’s sports and players are met with stereotypical comments from sportscasters, journalists, viewers, and even their own friends and family.  Yet, these athletes don’t let that negativity get in the way of their game. Female athletes continue to strive, stay committed and determined, while using their resilience to challenge themselves on and off the field. So, let’s take a deep dive with women athletes at Beacon who constantly empower themselves and others while playing their hearts out each and every night.

The following interviews have been edited for clarity.

Isabella Jean-Pierre, Senior, Beacon Dance Company Member

My first experience with dance was when I was three or four years old. My mom put me in a dance class and brought my sister along. As soon as we entered the room and the dance teacher started playing music for class, I ran out. I ran out, and I never came back, so my sister ended up taking my place in the class! Though I wouldn’t take another dance class until the fifth grade, I grew up obsessing over Dance Moms and wanted to be Maddie Ziegler for the longest. I am still no Maddie Ziegler, but I’ve improved from the shy child I was.

In my sophomore year of high school, I transferred to Beacon. My schedule was all messed up when I arrived, but Beacon’s previous dance teacher, Ms. Elliot, told me to join the dance, and she put me in the intermediate level. 

Now I am in Advanced Dance, and I love the feeling of performing and doing dance show. For company members, our back-to-back rehearsals every day bring us together. Just knowing that people are cheering for you backstage brings me joy. Society constantly underestimates female dancers, but everyone who has seen Beacon Dance Company perform has seen how hard we work. Ms. Cory, the current dance teacher at Beacon, has been one of my primary motivators in life — I am constantly amazed by her ability to bring something new to the table daily. 

I almost gave up on being a dancer, but the moment you give up, you give up a real opportunity that can allow you to grow like never before. One purpose of life is simply to learn. If you’re not willing to keep pushing forward and stay open-minded, then what will you ever gain?

Griselle Ramos, Senior, Beacon Dance Company Member

My passion for dance came from my family because I come from a big Hispanic family who always danced around at home. I started dance with ballet lessons but grew to love Hip-hop and West African choreography a lot more since it helped me get out of my comfort zone while pushing my love for dance. I also love music and playing the piano. I think that’s where my passion for dance comes from — music and dance intertwine so much more than people realize.

Being a part of Beacon Dance Company has let me continue these passions, and this year having the title of dance director helped me step up to the plate. This leadership position is not as easy as some people think it is — you have to empower yourself and everyone around you. No matter what dance class you are in, we’re like a family, and that is the best part of being a part of BDC. 

I’ve learned that as long as you’re true to yourself and you’re true to what it is you stand for what you believe, and you’re willing to put yourself out there, that’s the best thing you can do as an art student, as an athlete, as a person in general. There’s this misconception that you have to be successful; you have to have “this and that,” but no. You’ve earned what you deserve as long as you work hard for something.

Rebecca Kim, Senior, Beacon Dance Company Member 

I started dancing at around seven or eight years old, and when I was little, I wanted to be an actress and a teacher. Though those goals have changed, I still love teaching people and collaborating with others. 

In particular, at Beacon, I have changed so much since freshman year. Being a dancer and being a choreographer in BDC has provided me with so many valuable skills that I need in the future when I collaborate with other people of creativity, technique, determination. Even if everyone in my dance classes is in different circles, once we step into the dance room, we are like best friends, and it’s chaotic, but it’s super fun, and we all work hard, so it works. I believe that you should always be proud of your work and showcase it. If you’re not selfish, you can accomplish so much and build great connections with people. 

In college, I want to use these collaboration skills to learn about physical therapy and kinesiology to work with dancers. I injured my knee last summer and know firsthand how devastating it is to miss the big show or not perform. In dance, everyone wants to look a certain way, and many dancers develop body dysmorphia because of the stereotypical comments. Seeing more cultural representation, plus-size dancers (especially in ballet), and caring for such performers is necessary, and I want to be a part of that change. 

Desiree Cotto, Senior, Bowling Co- Captain

When I was a sophomore, I wanted to participate in more extracurricular activities. So as I walked down the hall one day, I saw a poster for girls bowling and thought to myself, “Oh, I didn’t know they had a bowling team here.” So I said, “You should get out there and try a new sport you’ve never done before.” I didn’t think it would turn into anything serious — I just assumed I’d be bowling for the fun of it. But here we are. My slightly competitive spirit has undoubtedly led me to do bowling and other extracurricular activities to pursue my goals.

Nearly two years ago, Coach Dowling offered me a leadership position on the team. I worried about how I would go to encourage people to get back into bowling when we were in such uneasy times. But, my team and I came together, and without the help of my teammates, I don’t think I would have been able to do it. 

Throughout this entire journey as a captain, my role model has always been my mom, empowering me through anything that I do. She taught me to keep a positive mindset, and having an optimistic attitude is a critical component of what you need to be successful. 

Erin Cheong, Senior, Bowling Co-Captain

I used only to think that bowling was something to do on Saturdays when you’re going out with your family — I didn’t know it was an actual serious sport. However, Beacon’s girl’s bowling team held practices every Saturday, so I ended up doing and gradually became a member of the girls’ varsity bowling team. 

As co-captain these last two years, it was hard to get people committed to the danger of COVID looming. Coach Dowling wanted to bring back the team and for us to play last year in June when school was still virtual, but only four people said yes to joining the team out of 16. That was quite hard because we had to go to competitions as a team of six when other groups had like 15 people. When we got back to school last fall, I realized how hard it was to maintain being a friend and a captain because I didn’t want to be that person who was just like, “Guys, let’s be serious.” Maintaining a captain team member who can be comfortable and a figure with authority was quite hard. But Desi and I helped maintain that relationship between the team members and us.

I want to continue bowling in college because the number of friends and relationships I’ve made through this sport excites me on all the other bowlers I can connect with in college. 

I have realized that the whole point of high school is, yes, for academics, but in general, we have so many different opportunities to be various students. So try new activities if you don’t like them. Be fearless and join whatever I want to do. 

Nina Williams, Senior, Basketball Capatin

My whole life has been very basketball orientated; it’s been school, basketball, and no in-between. I joined Beacon’s girl’s basketball team as a freshman and looking back at that time, the girls and I on Beacon’s basketball team were just a random group of 15, 16-year-olds pushed together. We had no chemistry on the court at first, but as the season progressed, we strengthened our bonds, and you can see how that reflected in our game wins. The desire to win motivates me to work hard and collaborate with my teammates. 

Still, people consider girls’ sports to be less interesting, fun, and less aggressive than boys’ sports. It kind of hurts that many people don’t see female athletes as competitive as our male counterparts, which is irritating because we work just as hard, if not more, than they do to prove ourselves. I wish somebody would speak up for us female basketball players. All this time, we’ve been speaking up for ourselves when no one seems to hear.

Ruby Krop, Junior, Basketball Co-Capatain

Since I was a freshman, I’ve played center for Beacon’s girl’s basketball team. I started playing basketball in middle school, where my father and middle school basketball coach pushed me and believed in me to pursue my basketball dreams.  

Since then, school and basketball have dominated my life, but I always make sure to spend time with my family since that is extremely important to me. My Beacon basketball teammates are so supportive, and we push each other to be the greatest we can be at Beacon and outside of school.

Being an uplifting teammate and communicating are very important. I particularly admire the Columbia University Women’s Basketball team and how they play, interact and work together. They never put their heads down because on the court; you can’t let negative thoughts impact you because they can affect your attitude, teammates, or even the rest of the season. In basketball, attitude is a huge factor, and success comes from trying as hard as possible. As long as it’s evident that you know you’re trying, that is beneficial for yourself.

Clementine Paarlberg, Junior, Varsity Soccer

Since my older sister liked soccer, I grew to enjoy it because I wanted to follow in her footsteps. Now, soccer players like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe are my role models both on and off the field. For example, after having a baby, Alex Morgan returned to playing soccer, showing that you can do both as a woman — it doesn’t have to be either one.

Therefore, I wish society would give female athletes the respect they deserve. Even at Beacon, students give more attention to the boys’ sports teams than the girls’ teams. For example, when the Beacon boys’ soccer team played a game against MLK, there was an insane amount of people watching. Then, when the girl’s soccer team had a huge game, very few people were there to watch us play. It was very disappointing to our team, even if we already expected it, but seeing it still happens is disappointing. I also noticed the boys’ games all get filmed, and someone recorded the girls’ finals, but the boys’ ones had commentary, and there were none for the girls. This would affect you, even if you expected it to happen already.

I don’t want to go pro, but I don’t want to lose soccer in life. It is not just about the results in school or sports; it’s about the work and effort you put into it. I have no idea what I want to do, but I know that I want to keep soccer in some part of my life.

Imani Colon-Solivan, Junior, Soccer

Beacon’s soccer team is more than just a team. As teammates, we must have a connection because we will play better, know each other’s strengths, and understand the game’s goal. I think it’s incredible how close Beacon’s girl’s soccer team is. 

I use myself as a motivator, on and off the field, because when you apply yourself, whether within academics, the sport you’re in, or any activity, you will go far. For this reason, Cristen Press, a player on the U.S. Women’s team, and Megan Rapinoe inspire me. They are both great examples of players who fight for women’s rights in the sports industry. Watching them reminds me that I can be at their level if I work hard enough.    

There is a significant underrepresentation of female athletes in all sports, especially soccer. Women athletes get paid less than professional male players, although women are just as good as men, especially in sports. To promote that more, I think girls at the high school age should be more represented. I believe that starting from a young age can teach girls that whatever sport they participate in, you can make as much as any man can. 

Olivia Barker-Dell, Sophomore, Tennis 

I started playing tennis at one of my local courts at around eight to nine years old with my family. When I was thirteen, both of my parents got injured, so my family stopped playing for an extended period. But over the Covid-19 pandemic, I wanted to get back into sports. So I started playing tennis again. 

While tennis is primarily a single sport, there are times when you play doubles with a partner; I think the motivation is being competitive, the motivation to win as a team. When we’re down to the last game, and everyone’s cheering on each other, it shows that you are just having that community around you really helps your emotional state, as a person, and also your game’s performance. I met many people while playing tennis, the community and sport, in general, is very fun.

Outside the realm of sports, I love newspaper writing and have been taking music mixing classes at Beacon, which help me learn behind the scenes of the music industry.  

As an athlete, you have to have a strong work ethic, and I believe that is one of my biggest strengths. When there is a goal I need to achieve, I work hard for it. In my own words, success comes from achieving what your goal is. So if your goal is to get into Harvard and you accomplish that goal, that is a success. But, many times, female athletes and women, in general, have to work twice as hard to show society they are just as great and thriving as a male. That’s just unfair. But my advice to female Beacon students is to make sure that you’re in a good mindset, which helps you succeed a lot.