The Rules and Etiquette of Online Learning

By Cali Morrison Carss

The year 2020 has been one of adaptation. With a global pandemic at the forefront of everyone’s mind for the better part of the year, the spring semester of last year was undoubtedly messy. New York City was sent into lockdown in March with the expectation of reopening following the week of spring break. Because of this, students and the administration did not prepare to be online for very long. However, as the back to school date got pushed further and further, schools had to quickly switch to the uncharted territory of online school that has become the new normal. The problems with online class last year at Beacon were abundant. The school did not have a set schedule, nor were there many expectations for students. Work has been marginally cut down for many; and while that was a smart and considerate move made on the student’s behalf, it makes regular online learning that much more difficult to adjust to. 

This school year is different. Not only does Beacon have a new principal leading the school, but there has also been time to organize a more structured model. Teachers have adapted their curriculums and a set schedule has been put in place. Additionally, the class time has been cut down to still allow students break times to work alone. One of the biggest factors of this new school year is a new set of rules put out strictly for online classes. These rules provide guidelines for making online learning as efficient and practical as possible. They are the:

Beacon Student Zoom Expectations

  • Join your class a couple of minutes early to ensure proper connection
  • Mute yourself when talking; to eliminate background noise
  • Have video on whenever possible; turn it on if a teacher requests
  • If having video on is uncomfortable, communicate this with a teacher directly
  • Check to make sure your background is appropriate and dress as you would if you were going into school
  • Make sure your name is accurate
  • Add your preferred pronouns to your Zoom name to create an inclusive community
  • Try to wait to eat or drink until a break from class – if needed make sure you’re muted and be discrete
  • Act appropriately; treat it like a regular classroom
  • Do not share the Zoom link with anyone outside your class
  • Inappropriate comments, verbal or chat, or images will result in a follow-up with an administrator as per the Beacon Respect for All policy

Overall, these seem to have been taken quite well by the students of Beacon, leading to a much more organized and formal classroom environment. For example, almost all teachers require students to have their cameras on as it demonstrates attentiveness and accountability. It’s also an effective way to stay partially connected to our classmates. As we cannot physically meet, at least being able to see faces on Zoom keeps up the feeling of a school community. This rule has probably had the most impact seeing as it’s one of the most enforced and it helps quite a lot in terms of normalizing the online classroom. Additionally, rules like “try to avoid eating” and “mute yourself while not talking” help to keep up the atmosphere of being at school, even if it’s not actually in person. Most of the other rules generally connect to rules that are kept in an in-person environment as well. The one rule specific to online classes would perhaps be “dress as if you were going into school.” While this rule can’t exactly be enforced like the rest, it is good advice to take. 

However, one of the rules “Join your class a couple of minutes early to ensure proper connection,” alludes to one of the biggest issues online school presents: inequity. Obviously, not every student has access to the proper technology or a stable internet connection. When attending school in person, there are ways around this, like using school computers, working at libraries, etc. Unfortunately, under the current conditions, the reliance on at-home technology for learning takes away these solutions. Now, the problems schools face is how to approach the issue. For most teachers, it means being lenient on latecomers, or not penalizing them at all. It’s a new adjustment, but a necessary one in order to not exclude any student from their deserved education. This also helps students who might be preoccupied with watching siblings or helping their parents. Online learning would be a huge hindrance in situations like this, so it’s important to have accommodations like this. But for students with proper access, joining a bit early is a good habit to develop, as it could help out teachers who are trying to reach so many students within the limitations they’ve been given. Common courtesy is needed at a time like this, so this rule is much more important than many students might think it is.

Online school is new territory for everyone, and students have to be a lot more responsible about showing up to classes and keeping track of their work. These rules are supposed to serve as a loose guide to the expected conduct while attending classes. Cooperation with them makes school a lot smoother, no matter how confusing it is to be online. The fact of the matter is that reality is not going anywhere anytime soon. Hopefully, with the cooperation from everyone, Beacon can continue through this semester and grow as a school and as a community.

Meeting Our Principal

By Sanai Rashid

Principal Brady. We all know that he sends us emails from time to time, most of us met him on the Meet The Principal Zoom back in August, and for those of you who do hybrid learning, you might have even seen him at school! But many other Beacon students and I felt like we still didn’t know a lot about our new principal. It is indeed a wild and odd year to start as a new principal at a new school since there are little to no students and faculty in the building. Principal Brady hasn’t seen Beacon in its full glory, and the school we know seems more distant than ever. 

I took it upon myself to interview Principal Brady over Zoom last week, to find all about our new leadership and the new changes he will bring to the school building. This interview shed light on how the school plans to recognize and adapt virtual learning — since it has made a major impact on student’s mental health, how Beacon plans to create a more inclusive environment for students of color, and many other pressing issues.  

Before we could dig into all of those topics, I wanted to meet the “man behind the emails,” and learn why he applied to become a principal. 

[Sanai] : Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what initially attracted you to apply to become a principal at Beacon ? 

[Brady] : I’ve known about Beacon for many, many years, and in fact, I’ve said this before, but my daughter did apply to Beacon and did not get in, but I’ve been a potential Beacon parent. Even from the parent perspective, it was a school that I admired. It reminds me of some of the experiences I’ve had throughout my education. I was definitely into theater, I’ve been a musician, so the arts emphasis resonates with me. I’ve also been a principal in a  Consortium school for the last seven years, and even before that, the high school that I founded in the Bronx in 2005 — and I ran that school for six years, we were not a  Consortium school, but we were in a pilot to become one. Basically, my entire career as an educator in New York has been aligned with the philosophy of  Consortium schools and the belief that performance-based assessments and project-based learning are more authentic ways for students not only to learn but show what they know and are able to do. I definitely wanted to be in a Consortium school. Though I was in one, the decision to apply to come to Beacon had a lot to do with the resources, the student population with the facility, the veteran staff, the size of the school. There are many elements that are different from the school that I came from, that I found compelling. Also, knowing that there had been some challenges in the last few years and those were challenges that having done a lot of work in the area of racial equity and restorative justice, it felt like a chance to bring that work to a new community that was looking for those supports as well. That all informed my decision to apply for the position. 

[Sanai] : This year has been an emotional roller coaster, filled with stress, anxiety, and uncertainty as we students tried to grapple with online learning and the sudden shift from our everyday lives. Before Covid-19 many students felt like school caused a negative toll on their mental health, and now as I’ve talked with friends and students at Beacon this rings truer than ever during virtual learning. What will you do to make sure students’ mental health is a priority at Beacon and does it tie in with the Beacon Counseling Team’s agenda? 

[Brady] : That’s a great question and a real high priority for us. There are a lot of different components to that, some are in place already. We have a schoolwide goal on the School Leadership Team around mental health and wellness. There is not a single move or a single solution that you can make to address socioemotional support for students. I’ve met with our current guidance team and that includes counselors and social workers and Diane Kim, the RAP coordinator. They’re working with the PTA to create those Wellness workshops you might have been hearing about that are available for both parents and students. That is one aspect of in this remote environment, what can we do, providing information and space that have dialogue about mental health and socioemotional support. Some of the other pieces are around the workload, which I know are stressing out many people especially when school all day is on a screen and then homework and class assignments and a-synchronous work. In the case of juniors and seniors there are college applications and in some cases internships and things like that, that also occur remotely. We’ve added clubs now and clubs are remote. So, I have a lot of different thoughts about how we might make adjustments. It is just hard to avoid the screen. That’s a real challenge and I would welcome some thoughts from students about how can we continue to maintain high expectations, expectations that lead to the outcomes that our students and parents want to see for themselves. I’m not sure colleges have adjusted their expectations for applicants. While I want to find a balance for students that is sustainable, and doesn’t cause stress, anxiety, loss of sleep, depression, and all those other issues that young people are dealing with. I also would like to figure out how to do that without finding out that some months from now that the post-graduate plans have to be changed because we made adjustments. I feel that tension. I know there are things that we can do but I would welcome new ideas about what we could do with screen time to perhaps adjust workload but still get to those post-graduate outcomes students and parents expect. 

[Sanai] : I remember there was a Wellness Workshop on Election stress. I thought that was super helpful. Even though it’s on virtual, there is a little bit of a difference when you are on Zoom and it’s more of a decompress, then doing school work and you are just talking to other people. That’s why I’ve loved that clubs have started up again. I’m still on a screen but I love that I get to talk about other things. Do you think there would be more workshops in the future, would it be a monthly occurrence? 

[Brady] : Definitely. We are trying to do grade level meet-ups. When you look at what’s happening in some of the peer schools and selective high schools in the city you have a  reduction in synchronous learning and screen time in comparison to many other schools. So we’ve already created a schedule that with the advisory check-in in the morning and the Wellness break in the middle of the day. I know they seem small but I also think they have a high benefit and high impact to mental health that I think we need to acknowledge. It could look a lot worse, that’s not an excuse to say that we can’t continue to make changes but it could look a lot more like straight zooms from 8-3:20 and at least we’ve avoided that. 

This year has been filled with so many changes. So when Ms. Lacey announced she would be leaving the school, I’m sure a lot of us were in shock and apprehensive about so many new adjustments. In particular, when Ms. Lacey made her announcement, it was during the height of Black Lives Matter protests all over the country. My parents and I were surprised that Beacon chose yet another white person, a white male, to lead the school when this could’ve been a great chance to have a person of color lead the school. I decided to ask Mr. Brady his thoughts on this. 

[Sanai] : After the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, there seems to be a push amongst our society for accountability, equality, and diversity in our politics, language, and school systems across the country. As a white male, how will you make sure that students of color are represented equally at Beacon when you haven’t lived through our experiences or fully know what it is like to be a person of color?

[Brady] : That’s a really great question and I appreciate it very much. I applied to the position with an understanding that there was work in that area to do. I know who I am and I know where I represent. I represent an identity that perhaps is not what many people wanted to see in the leadership role at Beacon. I’ve worked with populations of students in incredibly diverse populations of students both on the West Coast and the East Coast. So while through my personal experience, I can’t relate to the experience of a person of color, my professional experience has been in communities of color in New York for the last 20 years. I have a sense of how I as a white male can engage in that work, and that comes from experience professionally, not necessarily personally. I think too often people that look like me say the right things but don’t take the actions to make change. When I’ve had these conversations with young people about what changes need to happen at Beacon, particularly around diversity, equity and inclusion, I’m very careful to say I’ve done some of that work, I understand and believe in that work but you have to make sure that I am walking the talk. That it’s not just me saying this is what’s going to happen but you’re actually helping me stay on track and keep my eyes on that work. What I don’t want is for that work to fall by the wayside. I have energy for it. I have plans for how we can move that work forward, both in terms of diversifying students and staff, doing admissions and other pieces like that. I’m here because I want to be here. I’m here because I believe in DEI work, and have done it before and I know who I am, I know that the work is necessary not just for students but for adults, and for adults that look like me. We all have to engage in this work. I think one of the great tragedies I’m feeling is that the pandemic and the election have shifted attention away from societal calls for racial equity. Our focus is not on that and that I think is a great tragedy because there is so much momentum and such dire need. People are talking about racial equity in places and forums and groups that haven’t before. So, I think we really need to take advantage of this moment and push for change and I want to be a part of that push. 

[Sanai] : As you might have known, in December of last year, the Black Student Union and Beacon United Nations held a sit-in at the school because numerous racist incidents had occurred and students felt that the school’s faculty did not properly address these issues. As a student who participated in the sit-in, and attended the diversity workshops each student union held, I saw firsthand how isolated other students of color felt at Beacon. Going forward, what will you do to ensure that the classroom environment at Beacon is inclusive to students of color? How will faculty be trained to do that virtually? 

[Brady] : I am meeting regularly with BUU reps and I’ve found those meetings to be really rich and compelling and the representatives in that group come with a really thoughtful agenda, the pushing is the right kind of pushing. In other words it is pushing that is going to lead to change and action and I’m happy to be doing that regularly. The BUU reps identified Peer Connect last year as an organization that they wanted to work with to support the DEI work at Beacon. I happen to know one of the two founders of Peer Connect and I’ve worked with her before, quite a bit, so I was able to continue that conversation. Currently, we have Peer Connect under contract to work with students and staff and parents. The parent workshops start this month, the staff workshops started back in September and there are student pieces that we are rolling out. We’ve also started a  multiple constituency equity team, a group that is focused specifically on things that we can do in the Beacon community to make it a more welcoming place for all students. That equity team will include students, staff and parents. We’ve got a vision of crafting a Anti-racist statement as a school organization, talking about the things that we believe in and what we intend to do to make sure Beacon is an anti-racist school. We’re re-examining the mission statement for the school, the original mission statement which is now 25 years old has some really beautiful components but it also has some that are no longer relevant in our environment. We are looking at re-aligning and re-revising the school mission statement with an eye towards equity, diversity and inclusion. Lastly, I think that what I’m doing in perpetration — they are virtual now, but I hope that they become face to face soon enough, I’m identifying who has not traditionally had a voice and access to leadership at Beacon and making sure I’m creating pathways for those voices to be heard. Informal and formal pathways. For example, one-to-one meetings with teachers but also creating focus groups of subsets of teachers, teachers of color, female teachers, LGBTQ identified teachers and their allies, trying to figure out ways that we can hear from voices who might have felt marginalized in the past so that we can use their feedback to make Beacon more welcoming for all. 

Principal Brady also informed me that nine teachers have gone through the Respect for All training, a training for adults in school communities to receive concerns from everything from micro-aggressions to the more major concerns that led to the sit-in last year. 

Re-reading the profile, which was sent to Beacon parents back in September, I learned that Principal Brady was an English teacher before he became an administrator. English class has always been my favorite subject in school, and I see a career in journalism in my future. So it was natural that I wanted to learn more about Principal Brady’s English teacher days!

[Sanai] : What are some of your favorite books and authors? Or what were some of your favorite books to teach students?

[Brady] : Wow. Right now, I’m reading Caste by Isabel Wilkerson which is along with the PTA DEI committee. It’s a recent publication and it’s brilliant. She’s brilliant. That’s nonfiction and that’s mostly what I read during the school year. One that I read not too long ago — I wish I put my list together, I’m trying to picture what’s next to my bed right now. I just finished The Burning, which is a novel that takes place in India and it’s a fascinating structure and I really enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See, and Half a Yellow Sun was one of my favorite ones. I really like epics and epics that follow multiple generations. I’ve traveled a lot but I really find that I’m drawn to settings that are less familiar like places I haven’t been or lived in. I like to read fiction to learn about people and places that are not familiar. I was so not ready for this question, I have too many answers!

[Sanai] : Don’t worry I always get stuck on book titles too! I did an interview with some English teachers at Beacon last year for the Beacon Beat because I appreciate how diverse the books we read in the school are. Over the summer sophomores like myself had to read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and currently, I’m reading James Baldwin in my class. 

[Brady] : That was a great one, it’s jumping off of James Baldwin’s letter to his nephew. Having come from the James Baldwin School I read a lot of Baldwin while I was there and the students read a lot of Baldwin. That book but also all of James Baldwin’s fiction and non-fiction were in heavy rotation for me in the last few years. We had a great drama in the American family class that read different things like Fences, and used theories from DuBois to analyze the drama of the plays that we read. 

[Sanai] : This year was actually the first time I have ever had a Black female teacher teaching my English class which is very reaffirming because writing can still be such a white space.

[Brady] : The interesting thing is — this is a fact for me is that every book on my shelf is by a person of color and I’d say that 80% are females of color and that is what I tend to read for fiction. I don’t know what that means and I don’t know how you can hear that coming from me. But I think that’s an interesting thing I’ve learned about myself. When I go into a bookstore or a library, the books I leave with tend to be books written by women of color. 

[Sanai] : Maybe you’ll see one of my books there one day! I wish we could talk about books all day but I have one last question. What do you want Beacon students to know about you and how do you hope our school will look like with you as our new principal? 
[Brady] : There is a lot that I think I bring to this work. I did not know I would be working in schools when I was in high school myself. I thought I would be something else, I didn’t know what yet. I was an artist, actor, and a musician, so I thought I would be in the arts. I’ve been a lot of different things, I became a teacher sort of later in my career a little bit, I was 29 when I started teaching full time. I think what I’ve found as I’ve moved through my life is that teachers in general, myself included, bring a lot of ourselves to the work. I’m here not just because I want to run a school. I’m here because I know the potential for a really dynamic education to be transformative. I know that the right relationships between adults and youth can really make that experience so much more rich and compelling. That’s what I like about being in schools. I like interacting, I like the relationships that are developed, I like having those conversations, the hard ones and the ones that push. One thing that I do miss with this approach to virtual learning is that it’s harder to have those conversations and I really look forward to when I can again. I think we’re able to actually add to our teaching toolboxes while we are teaching in remote learning but I really believe that once we are back into the normal way school is run, Beacon is going to be in some ways better for having had this experience. We are going to have teachers that learned new approaches that might be more appropriate for our current student population. They’ve had to switch their practice to think about different ways to reach young people and that’s really exciting to me. Beacon has been a great school, there are so many wonderful things that have happened here and I want those wonderful things to continue. I think I can bring a new flavor and new energy to that.

Black Student Union Roundtable on Racism, George Floyd, White Privilege, and Recent Protests

By Sammy Bovitz

In response to recent events, I took to Zoom and discussed many of the recent issues that have sparked conversations once more due to the death of George Floyd with a few members from Beacon’s Black Student Union.

The following roundtable has been edited for clarity. 

Sammy Bovitz, 9th Grade (Moderator): Thanks to all of you for joining me today. The killing of George Floyd has once again brought to the forefront the systemic injustice of the police in the United States. I’ve heard many different solutions to this problem. Which one that you’ve heard or thought of yourself will bring the best results, and how will it be implemented?

Clementina Aboagye, 11th Grade: This is a really tough question because there’s a lot that goes into it. I feel like there’s not just one aspect to control or try to fix, but it starts with police training. It starts with when they first go to the police academy, and having discussions about race; discussions about the fact that you are a police officer and your job is to protect people, and you are supposed to protect all people, and these stigmas, these stereotypes, these fears, of people who have more pigmentation than you should not be part of your job as a police officer. It’s hard to be a human being and not go into your job being subjective, but you need to pull yourself out and look at it from the lens of black people being human beings and not a threat on your life, because when you see people who are black as a threat, then you’re not doing your job right. If you fear black people, then you should not be a police officer because you are policing in the United States and there’s all kinds of people here. You need to take out your own personal biases and put them in another place and do your job as a police officer, which is to enforce the law, not abuse it. 

Jade Walker, 10th Grade: I agree with Clementina. Basically, starting with education, we can go from there to law enforcement. I think that people need to be educated on our history, and really acknowledge it, not just know it, to be sensitive and try to understand. I agree, I really think a good start is education. 

Chinyere Brown-McVitie, 11th Grade: I agree with everything that’s been said about education, but also, people have always relied on police for the littlest things and we have to stop that. For instance, if a light is broken in your house, you don’t have to call the police, you call the electric company. I think education is a start, but I also think that the police are getting too much funding. I think the amount of money they’re receiving is getting to their heads. The police do not need $6 billion dollars. I think education and cutting back some of the money that they get.

Naia Owens, 10th Grade: I think defunding is also a huge thing as well, as far as a solution goes. I think a few years ago, [NYC mayor Bill] DeBlasio did something related to police that they didn’t like, and in retaliation, they decided to pretty much not do their jobs and sent out less policemen to patrol the area to see if there were higher crime rates, and there just weren’t. They thought they were doing something, and really nothing happened, and it made it very clear that there doesn’t need to be as much funding. If we don’t need that many police officers out and patrolling, we can take away some of their funding. That’s not to say that police don’t deserve to get funded, of course not, we’re not saying that, it’s that they don’t need billions of dollars to do their job. There’s a lot of things that we can do, but part of it is changing the amount of time that they’re educated and the little things that happen when you’re at the police academy. It’s a little thing someone mentioned to me a while back, but changing the color of the targets from black when they’re doing gun training and stuff like that to any other color in the rainbow because if you spend so much time seeing that target for so long and then go out into the real world and see anything with darker skin that’s immediately what you’re going to go for. It’s minor things like that that really make a change, but also defunding the police is a huge one. 

Chinyere Brown-McVitie: Yeah, I also think that we have to look at the curriculum of each police academy, because I’m pretty sure the type of training the police get in New York is much different from what they get in the South. So I think all over the United States they need the same type of training. The way the sheriffs are trained in Long Island should be trained the same way they’re trained in Brooklyn. 

Moderator: Let’s shift gears a little bit, and this is again a bit of a general question; what is the right way to honor George Floyd’s memory?

Clementina Aboagye: I think that if George Floyd was alive right now, he would realize that his death was at least not in vain, not to say that him going away that way was good. He’d be happy that he didn’t die for nothing because his death catalyzed everything that has happened now. But I also don’t want to say it was because of his death because it didn’t need to take a death for the United States to realize that black lives matter. I think the best way to honor him right now is to keep  educating, keep pushing for systemic changes to happen, vote; I think that’s a big thing for Americans because there’s a lot of people that protest and people that have voices but when it comes to voting for political leaders, they don’t use that power and they forget that black people fought for the right to vote. It wasn’t given to us like it was given to certain people, so we had to fight for it. We need to utilize that power to implement leaders that can create systemic change. I think that’s what can truly honor his death. 

Jade Walker: Agreed. I think that change is the biggest way to honor his death. This is also the kind of thing should be learnt about in school and I think we should have a unit not only on how black people were treated in this country due to slavery, but how black people are treated in this country now with police brutality and different things that black people face in the workplace and so on. I think his story, along with many others, should be taught in school; I think that’s a big way to honor his memory. 

Naia Owens: I think the other thing about using his name is that his case was somewhat different because a lot of times I thought of police brutality as just when people were shot, but this time an officer kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, and that’s very much intent, you can’t say that’s self defense. It sparked in all these people this rage because it’s clear to see that it’s obvious, blatant racism. There were video clips before where he wasn’t even fighting back, he went and sat down against a wall, and the cops were talking to him peacefully, and then he’s taken by the officer around the corner of the van, and then all that happened. But before that, he wasn’t doing anything that would spark rage from the rest of the officers so it was very clear that he did not deserve to die and that’s what brought the resurgence of the movement. In a way it’s sad that it had to take his death to do that, but it is what it is. I think we are honoring his memory by just saying his name, and using it in these cases, but I don’t want his name and Breonna Taylor’s name to be the only ones that are seen here. I think it’s really important to call out the rest of the people– and there’s a lot of them. George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are the victims who are sparking all of this, but they’re not the only ones and I think honoring them is also honoring the rest of the people who were killed through police brutality and people who are now affected by it, people who are still alive like me and the rest of my family, living in the slight fear that should something happen we could never talk to cops or law enforcement. I think to really honor their legacy we need to wake up everyone that the deaths of Floyd and Taylor should not have happened, but it has happened to a lot of other people.

Moderator: I can definitely see that George Floyd’s name in particular has sparked something in people. Have any of you attended any of the recent protests, and if so, what were they like?

Chinyere Brown-McVitie: I didn’t attend any protest physically, but I did attend some virtually. My friends would FaceTime me when they were at one  and many of my family members who live in Europe, they would go live on Instagram and I would feel like I was there. So, watching those protests in Europe, seeing everybody outside– and from what I’ve seen, it wasn’t just black people protesting, it was all races, all backgrounds, all genders, and I think that it’s so beautiful to see everyone coming together for the same cause because it shows that we’re all on the same page. I think that sometimes when things like this happen, everyone has their own agenda or everyone is disagreeing on how we should go about this situation, so it’s very beautiful to see. I also think it’s really good it’s white people protesting too because black people have been protesting for a while, it’s amazing to see them protesting and us all coming together. 

Jade Walker: I attended a protest in my neighborhood, and I live in a predominantly white neighborhood– some might call it diverse but it doesn’t feel like it when you’re the minority– and I was the minority at the protest, and I went with my grandmother, and she’s kind of old school. She thought it was so funny, all these white people saying “Black Lives Matter!” She’s looking around and hearing them say “Black Lives Matter!” and saying “Wait, I know!” It was funny because we were the minority, and other people were fighting for our cause.  It was a good feeling but also a weird feeling, because to be honest, I want to be surrounded by black people, but it feels good to have support. It’s a weird thing, but a good thing. I wasn’t surprised that it was majority white, but it felt good to have my neighbors supporting me and supporting my family, my black brothers and sisters in this country. It was definitely a good feeling, but a new one. I remember a couple years ago with the Trayvon Martin protests, I went out and the crowd was very different, it was predominantly black, so seeing it shift was really interesting. 

Chinyere Brown-McVitie: Also, just like Jade, there was a protest happening right in front of my house that was passing and I was honestly shocked to see some of my neighbors outside. I was like, I didn’t know you were down for the cause. I always assumed because they were white they were just not with it, but to see some of my white neighbors outside actually saying “Hey, you better sign this petition and donate money!” It feels like a utopia.

Jade Walker: Yeah. 

Moderator: We’re going to shift gears again, and talk about another huge issue recent events have brought up: white privilege. It is obvious, it exists, and every white person in the US has been a part of it, no matter how subtly. But there are some that still deny that exists. What is the best way to educate these people? 

Clementina Aboagye: So I was watching this TED Talk about white privilege because I felt like it was the best way to truly explain it to someone, white people have to educate themselves and start by putting it in the easiest form so that they can understand it. One prominent thing that the man said in the TED Talk that really stood out to me was that white privilege doesn’t mean that you don’t face issues, that you don’t face struggles, that you can’t overcome things, or that you don’t face challenges as a white person. It just means that those challenges don’t come to you because you are of another race, that you are not facing them because of your skin color, you’re facing them because you’re a human being and we all face challenges. So I feel like the best way to truly educate white people is for them to tell them we’re not undermining you being human, and we’re not undermining [you] having overcome things and having to face things. Just like how black people can get cancer, white people can get cancer too. That [doesn’t] mean because you’re white you’re all of a sudden immune to having issues, it just means that you don’t have to fear the police, you don’t have to fear for your life. You know when you encounter a police officer, he might smile at you, give you a ticket and let you go when you drive past the red light. You know that your kids are safe. You know that when you go into the grocery store, the man behind the counter is not going to be staring at you, looking at the security camera to make sure you don’t steal anything. I just feel like that’s the best way to tell these people that you don’t have to fear these things, because the world has been built to fit around you, the world has been built to cater to your life, and the way you live, and you see yourself on TV, you see representations of yourself all over, and people of color have not had that same privilege. That is what white privilege is, at least a big aspect of it. 

Naia Owens: I think along with that, with what you were saying, Clementina, about how the world caters to white people. I think part of that is also expecting that someone else will explain white privilege to you, that people will take time out of their day and make the effort to explain to you why you have privilege. I think that’s a huge part of it, that everyone will stop what they’re doing to explain to you why they are feeling hurt or feeling scared, stuff like that that you should know and be aware of yourself, and educate yourself on. I think another part of it is just the fact that you don’t realize it or can deny that it exists is part of white privilege. People are always like “I don’t have white privilege because my life isn’t pitch perfect,” but privilege isn’t always a bad thing. The problem is that we don’t all have privilege. I would love it if we all had privilege, but that means that none of us had privilege, it would mean that we’re all equal. The thing is with white privilege is that you guys don’t have to be above that and that’s what the problem really is. You don’t have to be aware that you have that privilege to do what you want and do all the examples that Clementina said. White people have to educate themselves on that and take their time and effort into learning about it themselves without expecting all the people of color around you are going to explain it to you, educate you on it. You can struggle with financial issues, but you don’t have to face racial oppression on top of that. The fact that you have privilege isn’t necessarily bad, it’s the fact that we don’t all have privilege makes for the inequality.

Moderator: We have just a couple more questions before we wrap, but those were some great responses. I now want to talk about Instagram performative activism. Beacon students, other teens, adults, parents, and celebrities alike all participated in what was called “Blackout Tuesday” on June 2nd. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the event and its response. 

Mali Jackson, 11th Grade: Personally, I feel like the blackout was used by a lot of people in the wrong way. I feel that people thought they were doing something by just posting a black square or putting that as their profile picture, and that was completely missing the mark. I thought Blackout Tuesday was supposed to represent an entire media chain for people and posting content that was about the issues, and spoke to your feelings and emotions as a black person about this. I think it was abused by white people and black people, to be honest. I think the idea was in the right headspace, but it just wasn’t used correctly in terms of using social media as a platform to gain awareness and attention about the issues that are going on currently. 

Chinyere Brown-McVitie: At first, I thought Blackout Tuesday was something that was really good. Everyone was going to be in solidarity, because when I looked it up, that’s what it was. But then, as the day went by, I started to see people that did not post one thing about the movement started posting “#blackouttuesday,” and I was thinking, is this your way of saying “Oh yeah, I’m here with y’all, but really I’m here because it’s a trend.” I think there was some positive within it, because people used it differently. Some people would post a black screen and their caption would say “here are some black brands that you can buy from,” and someone put a caption that was the history of something. But I feel like it wasn’t very effective, and the protests and people learning were a lot more effective. 

Moderator: Let’s now focus on the student body here at Beacon. If you had an opportunity to send a message to all the white students at Beacon who want to help, what would you say to them?

Clementina Aboagye: I want to say that silence is deadly, silence is betrayal, silence is painful, silence is hurtful. The phrase “I don’t want to get involved but I still support it,” is deadly, is dangerous. You can’t say that you don’t want to be a part of it, but you support it. You can’t say that I care about the issue, but I’m not going to speak of it. You can’t say “I don’t want to get political,” because my life and my blackness is not about politics. I hate when people bring up politics when talking about black lives, because this is not about Trump and whoever is competing to be the President of the United States. This is about people’s lives and the color of their skin, not about whatever political party you want to be a part of. Staying quiet and being in your little bubble is another example of white privilege because you can decide you don’t want to be a part of it and it doesn’t affect you, and you’ll be fine. I heard this quote that said that black people cannot ascend and get away from white people, but no matter how much white people ascend, they are able to get away from black people. Those who are at the top are usually white. I can’t keep ascending and say that I can bring black people with me, but you guys can take your own people up there, but we can’t all the time. So I want people to understand that your silence is betrayal, and you need to speak up. And when you speak up, you need to educate yourself first. Don’t just look at an Instagram post and then repost it without really acknowledging what it says, without educating your own self, and don’t just show up when I’m around, but show up when I’m not around too. Educate people, especially when someone says something out of pocket, you stop them, you educate them, and you let them know what they say is wrong and why it’s wrong and why it affects black people.You shouldn’t just be saying it because it’s a trend, you should say what you mean and mean what you say. That’s what I would say to the white people at Beacon.

Mali Jackson: That’s such facts, Clementina. I just wanted to say that white people don’t deserve applause for believing in our rights. Just because you go to a protest or post something on your Instagram, does not make you an ally, does not make you the best person on Earth, does not make you more important than black people who are fighting for their lives every day. I think a huge misconception within the white community is that just being an ally, just saying that you’re for us and for our lives, saying that Black Lives Matter, posting that as a hashtag. You don’t deserve applause for that, you don’t deserve to be recognized for that, because it’s a simple thing that everyone should believe. People think that just because they’re not the bad guy they’re automatically the good guy, but I don’t think that’s true. You can’t just be not racist, you have to be antiracist and have to go off and try to make actual change like every black person and other people are trying to every single day. It’s a constant fight for us, it’s not something we can just put on a hashtag for or post something on Instagram, it’s our lives, like Clementina was saying. You don’t get to be a superhero just because you posted Black Lives Matter. It doesn’t work like that. That’s something that the white community often gets confused about, just because they’re saying something does not make you a superhero. 

Naia Owens: I agree with that, I think a huge misconception is that white people get a trophy for fighting the good fight which we’ve been fighting all our lives, which is not true. We appreciate the support, but you don’t get a huge thing for doing that for us, which is really doing that for everyone. I think another thing is to stop expecting that every black person has to have a terrible story, like they almost got shot or something that terrible for us to still be hurt and be affected by the racism that’s happening. To those white people that want to help, understand that it still affects us whether we’re 100% black, half black, whatever, any minority really. There’s a lot of interconnectivity, it’s not just a black people thing, it’s all of us. Stop expecting that we have a huge, terrible, traumatic experience for us to still have experienced racism or any form of oppression. Don’t wait for us to have a huge sob story to stand up for us, fight for the microaggressions that happen all the time as well. 

Chinyere Brown-McVitie: I would say to the Beacon student body that in order to be comfortable, you have to be uncomfortable. Let’s just say that you’re having a discussion about race, don’t be afraid to speak up and say how you actually feel, live in your truth. In order to be comfortable, you have to be uncomfortable, and that goes for everybody. Teamwork makes the dreamwork, that’s the only way we can go ahead, we have to go as a team. 

Jade Walker: I want to connect with what Chinyere said, and when it comes to injustices, no matter how awkward a white person may feel, maybe they feel talked about, and they’re embarrassed because of their history. They have to remove themselves from being the victim, and really focus on who is being victimized.

On behalf of The Beacon Beat, I’d like to thank everyone from Black Student Union that joined us for the roundtable. 

The Many Sides of Mr. August

By Tali Lebowitsch

Photos By Adrian Flynn

Mr. August at work in his administrative office

His name may sound familiar from the countless emails you received in your inbox at the beginning of the year. He may have been the one who saved you from taking that A.P. physics class you knew you couldn’t handle, or transferred you into the art class you have always wanted to take. Perhaps he is your beloved English teacher, trusted advisor, or close confidant. Regardless, in only two years, Ben August has become a fundamental member of the Beacon Community. Whether you have ever had personal contact with him or not, you can be assured that he has put in maximum effort to ensure that you personally have a Beacon experience that fulfills the requirements while simultaneously accommodating your personal interests. 

But who is the man behind the name? What really goes into organizing the schedules for the entire student body? How does one balance a crucial administrative task, while remaining accessible and dedicated teacher? What are the potential downsides to being so committed and passionate about a job that can be incredibly draining? These were all questions that I had in mind when I had the privilege to sit down with Ben August to discuss his new administrative role. 

Before discussing the nuts and bolts of August’s new role, I wanted to begin by getting to know a little bit about his past before he came to Beacon. August grew up in the South Eastern district of Melbourne in Australia. August said he “has always liked to think of himself as an artistic person.” He continued, “Before being a teacher I was a photographer which is how I put myself through college.” Yet, August has never felt confined to one role. He said, “I’m a person who has a lot of different sides . . . I’ve never been able to settle on something that was my ‘thing.’” However, August has always felt drawn to coding and building intricate systems, stating, “Computer coding is something I enjoy doing, pulling together pieces of information to make something novel.”

Therefore, when presented with the opportunity to become the coder for Beacon, he jumped at the chance. His official title is Chair of Programming, “which is probably the most interesting but least talked about job in a school!” When describing his job, August says, “Every school has to have someone like me who is putting the pieces together, which is really fascinating because you have to learn everything about what everybody needs and then do the huge puzzle to make sure people have what they are supposed to have. There aren’t many jobs that are more challenging that happen all at once with more real deadlines.” Despite the hard work, August finds his job “really fulfilling, because it is so obvious how meaningful and useful it is for people. I find programming really rewarding because you put in a lot of effort and do your best and then you start again and get to do better the next time.” He continued, “I guess I’m sort of just obsessed with my job!” 

Nonetheless, there have been many challenges that have arisen as a result of such a demanding job. When asked the most difficult part, August says that is has been “creating a system that makes the most sense to students and gets them really good changes really quickly.” When it comes to making schedule changes, “Communicating about those things with students is enormously challenging especially for the first year, and I just hope it gets easier and as people get used to it.”

Additionally, his new role has lead to personal sacrifices when it comes to balancing his new job with his original one, the job of an english teacher. He prefaced, “I think my seniors would tell you I dont balance it as well as I would like.” However, August maintains that his priority first and foremost is to remain accessible to his students. “I definitely try to make sure my students come first. My job is to be a teacher first, then support the school in any way I can.” He continued, “There’s a big cost to coming into a programming position, it becomes a distraction from the important things in the classroom. It’s something I struggle with, but it’s really important to me that students in my class have a good experience.” For August, when it comes to balance it means “carving out intentional time, forcing myself to make sure that I take care of the important things before the urgent things.” Yet, August emphasized the value of having administrators who also have teaching roles. He explained, “one of the best things about our school is that the administration teach,” which he emphasized as important because “it keeps our behind the scenes work connected to students and what they really care about.”

Overall, August describes his new responsibilities as one large learning experience. For August, whose first priority is that students have a “quality learning experience,” it has been about learning to operate “all these cigs and wheels that are behind the scenes that people don’t even know are there. When asked about what the most important lesson he’s learned, he answered that it has been about creating a system that makes it most convenient for all involved. He says, “Whenever possible, instead of creating work for other people, you should just abstract it away. There’s no reason for teachers and students to have to do all this superfluous paperwork that will distract them from learning if there is a system or programming that will do it for them.” He finished by saying: “it’s nice to save people from doing things that are really just a distraction!”

To conclude our interview, I wanted August to share his direct advice to students in order to ensure they have the most fulfilling learning experience available to them. For August, the most valuable action a student could take to make the scheduling process as efficient as possible is planning ahead. He states, “If you plan out your courses and maintain that plan and take responsibility for it that means when we ask for your preferences you can put it in as early as you can.” One of the most challenging parts of his job is that “Students don’t do the planning or thinking ahead that a system as complicated and dynamic as ours really requires.” He concludes, “the last thing I want to do is cut down on student choice,” and finished by saying “The more that we can cut down on the last minute attempts to change from one thing to another, the more smooth the experiences for all students will be.”

Beacon’s Sit-In: How Did the Staff Show Their Support?

By Coco Hill

After the inspiring gathering led by the newly assembled Beacon United Unions on Friday, December 13, students and staff were left anticipating the continuation of the powerful student-led movement. Students were instructed to look to the BUU’s Instagram page for updates on the expected demonstration. Throughout the weekend, those who had access to the Instagram page were able to keep up to date with the status of the sit-in. By the end of the weekend, most students who wanted to participate were aware of the plan of action and were prepared to act powerfully in support of the fight for a safe educational environment. However, teachers were left days without official notice or advisory about how to approach the sit-in. 

Seeing students take their safety into their own hands was a powerful message to the staff. Anecdotes were shared describing unsafe experiences within classrooms without protection from teachers; some students even shared experiences in which they held their teachers directly responsible for discrimination within the classroom. After such an eye-opening experience, teachers were left just as emotional as students. But, some struggled to come to terms with their limited abilities in supporting and encouraging students. Many teachers were left unsure of how to proceed with their teachings during the sit-in, as well as how to implement an overt change in their classrooms that would satisfy students’ demands. 

Following Friday’s meeting, teachers received no official statement regarding the situation until the end of the weekend. Late Sunday, they received a message informing them of an emergency meeting before school on Monday. In the early morning meeting, teachers were advised not to directly participate in the sit-in, however, it was suggested that they accommodate their lesson of the day to address the problems that had arisen. One teacher recalls, “we were advised to use our own judgment regarding exams missed, assignments due, etc. but the overall consensus among those present was to be lenient; we were told not to speak to the press.” From what is known of the content of this staff meeting, it is clear that the main goal of the staff was to support the students’ cause. Staff also intended not to punish students for partaking in the sit-in. The administration’s compliance to students’ “disobedience” raises a question that often presents itself among the Beacon community: is a protest effective if it is supported by authority?

The staff also received a statement addressed to the entirety of the school, including students. In the statement signed by Ruth Lacey, she states that the entirety of the Beacon community “share the goal of creating a school that supports and encourages every person to learn and to feel valued”, and to execute this goal, all sides must take responsibility. In response to this email, many teachers felt that it did not feel natural, nor genuine and that it had possibly been written with the help of a staff of lawyers. However, these same teachers recognized that that execution was necessary to prevent the Administration from being legally liable. 

Some active students felt similarly towards the email, as well as the process as a whole. There were a number of meetings between Beacon Administration, Staff and representatives from the Department of Education. For a few of the meetings, representatives from the Beacon United Unions were allowed to attend. A leading member of Beacon United Unions, who was present at multiple meetings between the Beacon staff and the Department of Education, noted that the teachers “were definitely on board”, as well as the DOE members, who he described to be very accepting of the demands. Although, when asked whether there was a feeling of authority and influence of the DOE representatives over the administration, he responded: “Definitely. It felt very weird.” He felt that what was discussed in the meetings represented what they found most appropriate to discuss, as well as the safest, seeing as there were legal restrictions. From a teachers’ perspective, the overall tone from teachers, school administration, and the representatives from the Department of Education was “mostly sympathetic, with few exceptions.” Despite the prevalent feeling among Beacon students that their actions feel unimpactful, our actions have begun to make a change, and will continue to do so if we continue to fight for it. 

The Role of Jewish Identity and Activism at Beacon

By Ariella Moses & Tali Lebowitsch

Since the Beacon United Unions (BUU) formed, questions about the role that the Jewish Student Alliance (JSA) plays within the organization has generated intense controversy. Many have criticized the JSA’s involvement in a movement that least impacts their demographic. This movement was founded to address recent racism within Beacon’s administration and student body. The polarization within the student body regarding the validity of the JSA having a place within the movement has inspired larger questions about the nuances within the experiences of different student minority groups and who has the right to speak to those experiences.

Nevertheless, the inclusion of Judaism within this narrative became more complicated when the student whose comments led to the sit-in was consistently described in the New York Post as “a white Jewish girl.” The news publication made a point to highlight the student and the guidance counselors’ Judaism, as one line stated, “Friday’s protest was set off by allegedly ‘racist remarks’ that a black student claimed he overheard a white Jewish girl make in a confidential meeting Tuesday with two white Jewish guidance counselors.” The publication, by purposefully singling out the students as “black” or “white and Jewish,” creates a narrative of two “minorities” pitted against each other. Therefore, the inclusion of JSA within the alliance was symbolically significant, as it showed that the Jewish students at Beacon were fighting against that narrative and showing solidarity with people of color at Beacon. 

In response to the prevalence of mentioned Judaism within the post article, a student who prefers to remain anonymous stated “it’s really hard to watch this happening because it feels as though the Post is deliberately pitting two bodies against one another and there’s not much we can do.” 

In conversation, however, a non-JSA member and Beacon student claimed “I actually believe that it is extremely important that JSA got involved with the sit-in; the club’s involvement demonstrates their solidarity for the movement… they’re making a statement.”

Furthermore, some of the student body felt uncomfortable over the choice to have JSA lead an activity on the day of the sit-in. Students even approached JSA members as they were leading the workshop to express their concern. Considering that this was a day entirely devoted to confronting the underlying racism present within the Beacon Community, students felt that a workshop led by a group of white students was unproductive and counter-intuitive. However, following the workshop, many students noted that the JSA-led activity had been well-organized and that the leaders appeared aware of their difference in experience as white students and had accordingly not over-stepped when addressing discimination at Beacon. In fact, the alliance had made the decision to not even mention Judaism at all, focusing instead on the role of stereotyping and its implications within the Beacon environment, a discussion many found productive and stimulating. 

Members of the Jewish Student Alliance lead an activity during the sit-in (Photo by Jeremy Weine)

The debate over the validity of JSA’s presence in an organization created to combat  discrimination brings up questions about the larger role of Judaism when discussing minority experiences within America. Since 2016, antisemitism has been constantly on the rise, as displayed through the many anti-semitic attacks on synagogues and other places of worship, as well as a general increase of anti-semitic sentiments in correlation with a rise of white supremacy within America. While for a long time the distinction between Jewish people and all white people had appeared virtually obsolete, the rise of these anti-semitic sentiments has re-established Judiasm as a minority group that is also treated accordingly. However, the majority of Jewish people in America are white, and disproportionately upper/middle class in relation to the rest of America’s population. This makes anti-semiticism inherently distinct from racism, and makes the question of how to address it more complex. 

Should Judaism be treated just like any other minority group? What role does Judaism play in a discussion over minority experiences in America? Is all discrimination the same? What is the difference between race-based discrimination and religion-based discrimination? These are questions that we do not know the answer to but have grappled with through the course of writing this article and in much of our lives. In truth, we have many conflicting and contradicting ideas surrounding the topic, ones we know will take a long time to figure out for ourselves. All we do know is that this event has triggered a significant dialogue, one that is important for people to talk about and work through if any progress is to be made.

The Story of the Sit-In

By Esme Laster

Photos by Jeremy Weine

“I’ve never felt connected to people in this school the way I do now,” said a student at Beacon High School, Gabriela Gomez about Monday’s momentous student-led sit-in. The sit-in, organized by a brand new student coalition, Beacon United Unions (BUU), called upon the administration to better advocate for minority students after recent events brought to light an unsettling reality. 

Last week before Winter break, a conversation was overheard in the college office in which a student used hateful words to comment on students who had recently been accepted to schools through the QuestBridge program and Posse Foundation. Questbridge and Posse are non-profit organizations that allows high schoolers to achieve their desired college experience through affordable means. 

This student’s divisive comments were soon relayed through word-of-mouth and social media to the larger student body. A sea of anger, hurt, and shame quickly washed upon seniors and freshman alike. “I felt so isolated,” said Gabriela about how the comments affected her. The emotional heat around this issue could be felt in every corner of Beacon in the days following the incident; students had urgent questions, opinions, and feelings, many of which were expressed through social media. Through instagram stories and posts, arguments and apologies emerged, but soon enough, so did a plan.  

After a Black Student Union (BSU) meeting in which recent events were discussed, students began to organize. Members of BSU reached out to the leaderships of other Beacon student unions. It was soon decided that BSU would hold a meeting in room 506 open to all Beacon students interested in taking action against what was beginning to feel like an administrative crisis. Orchestrators of the highly anticipated meeting named their snapchat group chat “506.”

It was official.

Word of the meeting spread rapidly on social media and it quickly became clear to organizers that room 506 wouldn’t hold all who desired to come. The meeting was moved to the cafeteria where, that friday at 2:20, over one hundred students rushed to fill every last inch of open space. Attendees of friday’s assembly were eager to hear the voices behind the plan. To Gabriela, “It became clear how distraught and moved the student body was.” According to her, leaders of friday’s assembly left feeling “stressed, unmotivated, and uninspired.” Chaos reigned from students and a teacher both of whom offered conflicting ideas for next steps.

Later that night a new plan had formed along with a new form of student leadership. The Beacon United Unions took charge in informing student that those who were willing would participate in a sit-in that coming monday. In a clarifying Instagram post, “beacon united unions” wrote, “It is a sit-in, not a boycott. Please come to school by 8 AM on monday dressed in all black!” 

As excitement and even apprehension amongst some built throughout the weekend, new members of BUU worked tirelessly to bring their plan to fruition. “It was a lot of 3 am type of nights,” Gabriela explained about the days leading up to the sit-in. During these days, members of the BUU collaborated to form a list of demands. The demands went as follows: that beacon issue an apology to students, staff and parents, that college counselors involved in the incident be investigated by the Department of Education, that past incidents of discriminatory behavior also be investigated, and that workshops on culturally responsive education and implicit biases be mandated for Beacon staff and students. The BUU’s demands also called for more long-term change, including a transformed hiring process that brings in more staff of color and that meetings between the administration and the BUU take place on a monthly basis to ensure continued support from the administration.

As students entered the building monday morning, leaders of BUU handed out colored rubber bands to students, indicating which floor to go to. Throughout the day, various student unions including African Student Association, Asian Student Union, Latinx Student Union, Jewish Student Association, Black Student Union, and Muslim Student Union circulated throughout the building from the cellar to the 6th floor. Each student union facilitated racial discussions with students or taught lessons of their choice with sit-in attendees. For example, Asian Student Union asked students to name as many Asian countries as they could within a specific time frame. This exercise along with other activities led by student unions were intended to incite conversations students often don’t have. 

Half way through the day, a member of BUU made a final announcement: BUU’s demands had been met by the administration. In the weeks and months following the sit-in, the BUU is focused on ensuring that their demands are adequately met by college counselors and the administration.

One of BUU’s Demands Met as Students Gather for Assembly

By Cali Morrison Carss & Sammy Bovitz

Photo by Jeremy Weine

One of the Beacon United Unions’ demands from the sit-in came to reality Thursday when an assembly was called to discuss racism and diversity, the main issue at hand from Monday’s sit-in. The administration led assembly took note of teachers’ determination to work with students through the issues at hand. While the outline of plans was more general than many students were expecting, there was a clear motivation to right the wrongs made by the administration and to move forward as a community. Students expressed varying expectations and hopes for the assembly before the assembly for freshmen and seniors took place at 10:30. Some were unsure of whether the assembly would be led by students or the administration. Many were expecting the student leaders of the sit in to take charge and lead the assembly, which was quickly turned on its head when all of the speakers were part of the staff. Sophomore Maddie Hager said she would prefer a student led assembly, saying  “they would just handle it better because they’re the whole reason we had the sit in.” However, she, along with others, believed the administration should be there in support and collaboration with the student leaders.

The assembly began at 10:35, after a brief struggle to quiet half of Beacon’s student body. “This week was a lesson for everybody,” Principal Lacey said as she began the assembly. She expressed the awareness of the faculty as a whole and on their behalf closed her opening statement by saying that “We want to work with all of you.” She then handed off the mic to five faculty members expressing their perspective. The next faculty member to speak was Ms. Yang. She first discussed her relationship with her students and their own approach, then shifted gears to discuss her own experience growing up as an Asian girl in a conservative white community. Of her experience she said “I adopted white culture. I adopted white language.” She closed by standing with the students of color at Beacon, saying “If you are one of my bold, beautiful Beacon students of color, I am proud of you.” Ms. Erdene Green was next to speak. She recited a spoken word titled “RACISM.” It was an empowering and moving thing to witness. The words used represented the darkness of racism and the light of people trying to correct it. Her speech was said by some to be the overarching highlight of the assembly, or even that it was the most powerful. The next to speak was Ms. Heller, a  college counselor at Beacon. She began by providing a brief apology on behalf of the college counselor office, but mostly spoke to hoping for a better future for the college office to provide more of a safe space. Some were not satisfied by this, though. Julian Capodanno, a freshman at Beacon, said that he didn’t like the apology, explaining that “It seemed not sincere, and they kind of went around saying… we’re not all like that.” Other students felt they were trying to distance themselves from the issue at hand. The final teacher to speak, Ms. Sam, was new to Beacon, and mostly spoke on what she believed a safe space should look like at Beacon, saying “When we get to know each other, generalizations and stereotypes are distasteful to us. We are all uniquely different. We want to celebrate your beautiful differences.” 

The assembly closed promptly at 11:00, and lunch proceeded as normal. There were mixed feelings on the assembly overall after it concluded. Gabby Garcia, a freshman, said that “It was inspiring and empowering, but a lot of the kids weren’t listening because of how the speeches were written. I don’t think they had such a big impact because they weren’t students they were coming from the teachers.” Others outright said they’d prefer a student-led assembly, while some said the assembly should have been longer. When asked whether the administration met her expectations for what the assembly should have been, freshman Bria Johnson said this; “I really felt like it was – the protest as a whole was very empowering and everything. I really wanted to see a change and I feel like the staff really internalized it and are trying to make a change. I do feel like it could have been more about what they are going to do instead of just saying ‘Oh, we hear you guys.’” This sentiment was shared by many of the students interviewed. Students feel like the assembly was too general and want a specific plan to be laid out by the staff instead of just reassurance that teachers want to work with the student body. Either way, the Beacon United Unions had one of their demands filled Thursday. It is the first domino to fall in the aftermath of Monday’s sit-in, and time will tell what demands will be filled next, when, and possibly most importantly to the student body: how. 

The Wolves: A B’Dat Production

By Sanai Rashid

Beacon’s intensive theatre arts extracurricular, B’Dat’s, production of The Wolves sure scored a goal in my referee book after watching it on opening night. The Wolves, a play by Sarah DeLappe, follows the ups and downs of a high school indoor soccer team and the drastically different personalities of its members. 

The set was different and made the audience feel close and in touch with the actors, as if the audience was hovering above them. Dozens of seats surrounded a small soccer field on the stage on each side with only a net separating onlookers. In fact, it must have been quite unnerving for performers to have the  audience so close up with no room to wander off at all and yet these girls didn’t show an ounce of fear.

The play started off with the 8 members of The Wolves soccer team stretching before practice and babbling about the Khmer Rouge, a radical movement in Cambodia that led to mass genocide and depletion of many ethnic groups. The audience learns The Wolves is a decent team and do everything for themselves since they are getting closer to scouting year and their drunk coach is no help. The leading team members are unique and spunky individuals. Number 25, played by Hadassa Garfein, is the captain of the team. She is always ready to whip into chatter and catch slacking teammates such as rebellious Number 7, played by Ruby Kim. Player Number 2, performed by Lulia Aklilu, is the innocent, baby type of the group whose mom reprimands her for not wearing headgear for deathly fear that she will get a concussion.  Number 11, played by Lila Marooney, is the co-captain of sorts, Number 13, Louise Wandesforde, is fiery and head-strong, and Number 14, played by Chiara Aiello, is the minion of her best friend Number 7. Number 0, played by Uma Rao-Labrecque, is shy and vomits when anxious, and Number 8 , Grace Albano, is the ditzy friend. Finally there is Number 46 played by Adelaide Lobenthal. She is the new girl.

All of these different characteristics of the girls who are all the same age and on the same soccer team represents how complex the teenage girl world is. No matter where you live no two adolescent girls are the same, they are different and unique in their own ways. All of these starkly different team members still find a way to come together and kick some soccer butt, which is pretty awesome.

In a notable shift in the play, new girl Number 46 waltzes in and immediately the 8 other soccer girls who have been playing together since childhood shut her out. The pettiness of their exclusion: talking behind her back as she changes and purposefully locking her out of the locker room is characteristic of classic teenage girl behavior. It seems that there is always competition toward and belittling of Number 46; a girl they should embrace as their own is instead brutally made fun of until she later reveals that she has played soccer all over the world and turns out to be an excellent player.

The striking similarity of the script was an appealing feature of the play. It felt as though I could walk into any soccer practice in America and hear conversations similar to the ones within The Wolves. The characters talked about tampons, dissed their competing teams and did all of this while doing actual soccer exercises on stage! How one could do “burpees” and laps and still recite their lines perfectly boggles me! There was never a moment where the girls simply sat down and talked, but that’s what made the play different. Everything kept moving just like a soccer game. And like referees, audience members had to be on watch, ready for whatever happened next.

At the end of one particular practice the girls take silly selfies with orange slices in their mouths and we see that Number 2 sticks around and eats the rest of the oranges. A girl hiding her eating disorder for fear that even girls you’ve known for years could reject you is such an unfortunately real dilemma.

What was so powerful about the play was that these girls were battling other teams on the soccer field but also inner demons within their own personal lives. The girls are divided and balancing friendship with competition is a tricky thing. At one of the games some of the girls get scouted by a college coach while the others have to just watch. The jealousy of seeing girls you worked with rise higher than you can hurt and the play brilliantly captured this. “What did I do wrong?” are the girls’ first thought and that soon turns to resentment.

Moving on, Number 7 is rumored to have had an abortion and after walking in on a conversation about her she completely snaps. She yells, “IT WAS ONLY PLAN B!” and dashes off. It’s like no one feels safe around each other and Number 7 finding out that her so called best friend, Number 14, whom she worshiped,told others about this hurt. No matter how strong-willed Number 7 may seem, she has her insecurities like all of her other teammates. To make matters worse in later scenes Number 7 goes off on Number 14 for not engaging in sexual activity with Number 7’s boyfriends’ friend during her birthday getaway.

In what seems to be in Act 2, one of the girls is missing and we later find out dead. And guess who it was, Number 14. In an early morning jog, she was run over by a car. The weight of this loss seeps into the team. Number 7 who has been “benched” since she tore her ACL during a game, responds to her grief by criticizing her now dead best friend for  running so early in the morning and how stupid that was. The team seems becomes discouraged. Later, as they stretch to prepare for their last game of the season the last character, “Soccer Mom,” interrupts. “Soccer Mom” is supposed to represent the dead girl’s mother and we hear her babble about her daughter, how she wishes the team well and later brings the remaining team members a bag of orange slices. Soccer Mom almost seems unreal or ethereal in a sense, the grief of losing he daughter spirals out of her and she talks so fast you can’t process her words.

            The play ends with the girls huddled in a circle shouting a motivating team chant until they finally cry together in sadness and  anger, in relief and happiness. Female empowerment and navigating the world at such a young age shines through my memory of the play and The Wolves script itself. The Wolves was a great choice by B’Dat and I can’t wait to see more school productions like these.

Two ‘Chips One Night

By Jaiden Fisher-Dayn

The Beacon Boys and John Adams Varsity Soccer Teams line up before the start of the PSAL Championship game

After a long road to the finals and two amazing seasons, both the boy’s and girl’s soccer teams finished off by winning both the city championships. It started off with the boys, who were facing John Adams in the finals. John Adams’ side of the field was half full with fans, and they were pretty loud if you were near them. But on the Beacon side, it was impossible to hear anything else than the constant Beacon chants led by seniors. The game was played at St. John’s University, right in the middle of Queens, and over an hour commute from Beacon. To Beacon students, however, the distance didn’t matter. The Beacon stands were filled with students, teachers, and parents, who kept energy high for the duration of the two games.

The boys started off strong. Within the first five minutes senior Jaden Graber scored the first goal on a free kick. Remember that name. The captain of the team, who already was in the top five in goals scored in the city, had maybe the best performance I had seen in a soccer game. He dominated the offensive end, and every time he touched the ball you had a feeling it was going to end up in a goal. Not long after, Xavier ‘22 Beeby Pierre, scored t off an assist from Jaden. With Beacon up 2-0 in the beginning of the first half, the crowd went absolutely wild. Members of Beacon’s Basketball and Baseball teams all came in their Beacon gear and students from all grades filled the stands from the first row to the last. The chanting and cheering didn’t stop after that as just being up 2-0 did not satisfy the players nor the fans. Not long after, Jaden scored his second goal putting Beacon up 3-0. As the roars from the crowd only got louder, everyone was beginning to see it was going to be a memorable night for him. Up 3-0 in the first half, John Adams did respond. They took advantage of the one break they had, and converted. They made it 3-1, the only time they would score. Beacon immediately came back though, with Jaden scoring yet another goal. A hat trick just in the first half for the dominating senior. You couldn’t have asked him to play a better game, and most couldn’t even imagine one being such a dominant force for the Blue Demons. 

Jaden would continue his memorable night scoring 5 out of Beacon’s 7 goals, the most goals scored by a player in PSAL soccer finals history. Although the offense may have been the highlight of the game, it was Beacon’s defense that completely stopped John Adams’ players from getting anywhere near the goal.. In the second half, the blowout continued, but then the rain came and the temperatures dropped. It got really cold, and I thought I would see kids leaving. After all, it was late and everyone was getting soaked. But instead of leaving, everyone just got louder. You may have not been able to feel your fingers, or sit in a dry area, but everyone was definitely committed to supporting the girls and finishing off the night with another win. 

The win for the girls definitely did not come as easy as one for the boys. In fact, Brooklyn Tech quickly went up with a 1-0 lead and sustained it for most of the game. It was an aggressive battle with two talented teams fighting it out. The Lady Demons battled to get back in the game. With 20 minutes left in the second half, Beacon had a few breakaways. Every single time the ball reached Beacon’s side of the field, every person in the stands stood up, anxiously waiting for the game tying goal. That goal would come when Sydney Poppinga ‘21 scored a phenomenal goal to tie the game. This was the loudest Beacon’s crowd had been all night. We all knew the momentum had switched and it was Beacon’s game to take, but the ball wouldn’t end up in the net before regulation ended. The rain hadn’t stopped, the cold got colder, and the crowd got louder. It was overtime in the finals; a chance for Beacon to win two soccer championships in the span of 4 hours. All it took  was that one corner kick about 2 minutes into overtime. It was the cross which Lourdes Reardon ‘22 put in for the victory goal. As the ball hit the netting, the night ended in a loud roar with everyone jumping up from their seats to celebrate the second victory of the night and a full Beacon sweep.

Both soccer teams set the standard for Beacon athletics this year, as did our other sports teams. That same night, the girls volleyball team emerged victorious in their first playoff game. Both basketball teams have been practicing non-stop as the season approaches. This will be an interesting year for Beacon sports and it has started with a bang, with the clinching of both soccer championships.

Equal Representation in High School Literature: What Beacon Gets Right

By Sanai Rashid

As I opened my English syllabus for my upcoming freshman school year a smile spread across my face. The books listed were from writers of all colors and backgrounds. In most schools, teachers don’t get to choose what books their classes get to read because it is a grade wide decision made by each school. In these cases, most of the books are old and outdated, and teachers fail to realize that they do not connect with students. Literature can be timeless, yes, but in our society today there are so many different books to choose from, so why not be more inclusive?

Coming from a middle school that lacked a certain creativity because everything was strictly based on the curriculum, I often feel uninterested in the texts we were reading. Nobody would participate in discussions and I could see why. We were reading books from writers decades ago and couldn’t relate to the struggles of the characters. Students like myself often had to resort to independent reading to find books they were actually passionate about. A classmate from my middle school shared my feelings, saying “The books we read didn’t show enough real world issues on minorities and the majority of the characters were white males, not reflecting our student body.”

However, now in my Beacon English class, we are reading books from all over the spectrum. We started with Junot Diaz, a Dominican American writing about his struggles of growing up as an “alien” in the United States in his novel Drown. However, in the summer of last year there were allegations against Diaz by former students of his saying that he sexually assaulted them while under his teachings. I inquired to my 9th grade english teacher (also an 11th grade teacher), Mary Whittmore, why she chose to include this book on her syllabus in light of this allegations. She had to say, “So, I don’t think against the charges against him disqualify him as a writer…  I think Junot Diaz is both a victim and a victimizer and he writes characters like that. I don’t think the charges against him says we shouldn’t still read his books, and they give us important questions to raise.” 

We’ve also read a short piece by Jamaica Kincaid, titled “Girl”, who is a Antoguan American writer. Other titles include: The Bluest Eye, “Superman and Me” and Purple Hibiscus. Of course we are still going to be reading classics like “The Odyssey” by Homer and “Hamlet” by Shakespeare. I asked Ms. Whittmore if she ever finds it difficult to balance out the classics with new and upcoming literature. She replied, “Well I think it’s hard to find books that everyone can relate to at the same time. And by 11thgrade I try to choose books that I think are important to know and that all students should encounter rather than if they feel represented.”

Being an African American teenager who sees a lack of representation of people like me in the media as it is, it’s nice to have teachers that support an exploration of all different types of people. It was especially appealing when during my interview with Ms. Whittmore she emphasized, “When I’m teaching 9thgrade I want to try to have as many Non-American authors as I can and try to include authors from different backgrounds.” For once, I am interested in what I am reading and find joy in all the projects that come with my readings. 

I wanted to get as much voice as possible on this topic so I also talked to Mr. Seckler, a 9th grade English teacher in his second year at Beacon. When I asked “During one school year, it’s difficult to pick books that every one of your students can relate to; how can you ensure they feel represented by the works discussed in class?” He told me his unique process for making sure he hits different races and genders, “I try to get as close as possible. As a check for myself I made a table for myself and broke down all my texts by race and gender and it was a reminder for me. If I see something is “missing” then I may add something like a poem to be representative.”

Diversity is on full stream at Beacon and another freshman I talked to about this topic strongly agreed, saying “I do feel like the books we’re reading at Beacon are diverse. The books I have read for class represent a wide variety of texts exploring challenges facing multiple demographics and Beacon has made an effort to develop a reading list that accurately represents their student body!”

To conclude, I give two thumbs up to Beacon teachers for selecting a variety of books that we can all enjoy and learn from.

Schooling Ourselves on Climate Change

By Tali Rosen

On Friday, September 20th, students at schools in New York City and around the world walked out of classes to take a stand against climate change. The Beacon School, in addition to supporting and facilitating the student walk out, dedicated itself to the fight against climate change by replacing the morning’s regular classes with guest speakers and our own Beacon staff teaching about climate change and global warming. Each student attended two of these workshops, each one lasting an hour, and then joined the rally at Foley Square and the march, or continued their afternoon at school. 

I was able to attend a lecture given by two guest speakers talking about sustainability, as well as a lesson about the chemistry behind global warming taught by Mr. Mott, a science teacher here at Beacon. 

The guest speaker lecture was held in the auditorium with students from all grades. Mr. Timothy Lewis, a biology teacher at Beacon, enthusiastically introduced the speakers, Mr. Peter Burger and Dr. Richard Perez. Mr. Burger is a senior associate and sustainability manager at an architecture and construction management firm, which overseas projects that focus on sustainability. One of his current projects is reenvisioning the Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey. Dr. Perez is senior research associate at the University of Albany. He works in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and focuses on solar and renewable energy, and spends time spreading the word about their benefits. (For a video he helped create, click here:

In the workshop about chemistry regarding climate change, Mr. Mott showed a series of videos explaining the chemical processes that lead to the earth warming. He also handed out a puzzle where students had to arrange the steps of global warming in the correct sequence. Mr. Mott’s lesson, and the earlier lecture, were a great way to get a glimpse of a complex subject that affects us all, and a chance to meet some of the people trying to make a difference. Whether designing a major airport to meet new goals for sustainability, researching the use of solar panels or teaching chemistry at Beacon, it will take all of us working together to understand and change what is happening to our world. 

Where Can the Blue Demons Take U?

By Guy Mermelstein

Alex Ferrara, left, and Raven Ennis, right

As MVPs and nationally ranked champions, a handful of Beacon’s finest athletes have built resumes that are nearly flawless — yet underneath all of their evident success, there were countless hours dedicated to enhancing their craft, social events and academic opportunities missed, and the agony of defeat and rejection. In some cases, their years of hard work resulted in opportunities to play the sport they love at the highest level they can: the college varsity stage. Each athlete showcased in this edition of The Beacon Beat reached their goal of playing their respective sport at the university level and each has had a unique experience when it came to their individual recruiting process. Some of these athletes shared stories of first receiving interest when they were as young as eighth graders, while others explained that they are still working tirelessly to keep acquiring additional offers with higher profile competition. 

Alexander Rando

From being first recruited to a Division I soccer program as a thirteen-year-old, becoming the top ranked freshman goalkeeper in the the country, to prevailing over Real Madrid’s U17 Academy, Stanford University commit Alexander Rando has made an incredible soccer career for himself thus far. Despite having never played a game for the Beacon Blue Demons due to his commitment to his Development Academy team, Rando has spent his academic career at Beacon, and managed to maintain outstanding grades along with an undying commitment to his soccer club, which runs eleven months per year. Rando detailed that he realized that college soccer was in his future when in eighth grade, Stanford first reached out to him personally after a strong tournament performance in Northern California, and encouraged him to keep playing the sport he loved at the highest possible level. Alex described that despite getting enticing offers from Wake Forest and Georgetown, he ultimately decided to sign with Stanford at the end of his junior year because it was important to him to continue his “academic advancement as well as his athletic advancement.”

Hayley Bernstein

Playing for the Beacon Blue Demons since her freshman year, Tufts University commit Hayley Bernstein has always felt at home on the soccer field. She described that the girls soccer team as family, and always felt like the team was a “community I could count on.” Bernstein explained that she first realized that she had the potential to play college soccer during her freshman year, when she started attending recruiting camps, also known as ID camps, outside of school, and playing in high level tournaments with her travel teams. Despite later signing with Tufts, Bernstein had at first given up on the school when she heard that the girls soccer team already had three goalies in their rotation. She was forced to reluctantly move on and continue to attend ID camps at different universities in an effort to keep gaining interest and offers. No other university she heard back from was as ideal of a fit for her. By chance, on a tour at Tufts with her twin brother, she happened to be placed in a group led by a senior who played for the girls soccer team. Hayley approached her after the session, and asked if there were any updates regarding the goalie situation, and shockingly, there were two new open spots for that position. She immediately started getting into contact with the coach, and after submitting her transcript and application, received an offer to play for their varsity team. She committed in October of her senior year, and is “extremely excited” and “ready to work hard” to earn minutes on the field.

Since first picking up a basketball and beginning to play seriously in fourth grade, the court had always been a sanctuary for Skidmore University commit Raven Ennis. As a rotational point guard for the Beacon Blue Demons for all four years of his high school career, Ennis witnessed Beacon’s basketball program transform from a low ranking team in the A Division to a powerhouse that was in competition for the city championship. Due to his experience playing high level basketball for the entirety of his middle and high school years, Ennis claimed that “playing basketball at the college level had always been an aspiration of [his].” He mentioned that his dreams started to become realized when he earned his first set of college offers as a junior at an ID camp, and that’s when he said his confidence truly soared. According to Raven, what set Skidmore apart from the others schools that were recruiting him was that “their coach put a lot of effort in [him]” and along with their academics and ideal size, “it felt like the right decision.” Ennis committed to the university midway through his senior year, and explained that he is, “very excited to head right in and start working hard for playing time.”

As co-captain of the Blue Demon Boys Soccer team, the soccer field has always been a place for SUNY Cortland commit Alex Ferrara to create bonds with new people. Ferrara explained that as a result of practicing every day with the soccer team, he developed close connections with all of his teammates and added that he met some of his closest friends while playing for Beacon. In addition, he detailed that since he started to play significant minutes during his sophomore year, “playing college ball became a goal of [his].” According to Ferrara, the majority of schools that recruited him either identified him from his play at Beacon, or from his relentless attempts to get in contact with their coaches. After receiving a total of four offers throughout his four years of high school, he ultimately decided on Cortland because of the personal relationship he sustained with the team’s coach, and the accessibility of the school to its students. Alex is “extremely stoked” to start playing for the Red Dragons, and also said that he, “really looks forward to working hard and proving myself” on the college stage.

Jack Craven

Uncommitted track star Jack Craven described his four years as a member of Beacon’s track teams as an “evolution,” and a “journey I will never forget.” Craven explained that every year he spent doing track, the better he performed, saying that when he came in as a freshman, he “felt some pressure running with the upperclassmen,” but eventually “blew up” by the time he was a senior. Craven detailed that he realized that running track on the collegiate level was a possibility for him at the end of his sophomore season, and after bolstering his aspirations with a strong junior campaign, he started to get contacted by various Division III programs, such as Fordham. He stated that, “I unofficially decided to commit to Fordham in the beginning of my senior year, but after a strong indoor season, higher level doors opened up… and I reconsidered.” Knowing that Fordham was always still an option, Craven decided that he wanted to run track for a Division I program, and as a result, is taking a gap year to, “keep training, and allow for more opportunities to show themselves.” However, Jack is no stranger to daunting tasks. As a senior, he “broke the school record while placing fourth in cities in 25 degree weather on top of a 103 degree fever.” Craven explained that moments like those are, “all part of the process when you’re chasing your dream.”

Ultimately, the experiences Beacon’s scholar-athletes had at this school will serve as a backbone to any situation they may find themselves in. Lessons such as those regarding selflessness, the virtues of hard work, and how to win and lose with dignity were all built upon during these athletes’ tenure as a Blue Demon, and are all imperative traits when it comes to finding success. The stories they shared with The Beacon Beat have encapsulated what it means to achieve a goal through the utilization of these traits, and despite their differences, each athlete exemplified how they arrived at the point they did. Hopefully, these athletes continue on the path they are on, and never forget that the harder they work, the farther they will go.       

A Day of Congressional Exhilaration: Jerry Nadler and Max Rose Visit Beacon

By Adrian Flynn

Photos by Adrian Flynn

We were incredibly fortunate last Wednesday to host not just one but two sitting congressmen at Beacon. Both Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-10) and Rep. Max Rose (D-11) of New York were able to answer questions from students and explain their motivations, musings, and roles.

Nadler arrived at Beacon for E band in the auditorium, and many students jumped on the opportunity to see the current Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the administration of justice within federal courts, agencies, and other law enforcement entities, as well as impeachments of federal officials. Nadler, 71, was first elected to Congress in 1992 and took over from Michigan representative John Conyers after his resignation in 2017 as the Ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee under Republican leadership. When Democrats won the majority of the House in the 2018 midterms, Nadler was named Chairman of the Committee. Nadler was at Beacon due to the courtesy of a parent who works in his office. When Nadler arrived, however, he had to do what History teacher Harry Feder called “the people’s work”, as Robert Mueller had begun his news conference concerning the Special Counsel’s Report at the Department of Justice. 

As students filed in and found their seats, the environment grew tense as people were confused as to what was happening. Nadler sat in the front row, holding a phone to his ear with the screen on, listening intently to Mueller’s comments. Mr. Feder, having unsuccessfully tried with junior Chance Chamblin to project a feed of Mueller’s statement onto the screen, quickly shushed everyone. The auditorium grew silent, and though everyone was glued to their seats, there was an undeniable tilt towards Nadler, who held the phone playing Mueller’s voice on speaker. When Mueller had finished speaking after around ten minutes, Nadler gave the phone to an aide, spoke to him briefly, then sat in a chair facing the audience along with Mr. Feder. There were many bottles of water on the side of the room, possibly placed to avoid what happened the week before, where Nadler appeared to faint at a hearing due to dehydration.

A short Q&A ensued where Mr. Feder relayed to Nadler a few of the top lines of questioning that his students had submitted the week before. Of course, the topic on everyone’s minds, the question of impeachment, drove the discussion. Nadler stated that he believes President Ford’s view that an impeachable offense is “whatever the majority of the House [of Representatives] says at any point in history” is “too cynical.” He went on to explain that he believes that a crime does not have to be an impeachable offense, and by the same token, an impeachable offense does not have to be a crime. Nadler set the bar higher, stating that “an impeachment is a defense of the Constitution, and defense of the Republic against a President who would… upset the separation of powers or threaten liberty… [condone] any conduct that would upset the structure and function of government.” Nadler used this logic to defend President Clinton against his impeachment proceedings, stating that Clinton’s perjury concerning a “private sexual affair” was not an impeachable offense because it did not “impact structure of government,” although it was a crime. Applying this to the current President, Nadler stated that if President Trump hypothetically “committed perjury about some real estate deal in Manhattan”, it would be a crime but not impeachable. 

However, Nadler unequivocally voiced his view that there is “ample evidence for a dozen different counts of impeachment against the President in plain sight.” To begin, he cited the fact that Article III of Impeachment against Richard Nixon was that he defied Congressional subpoenas, while “President Trump has not only defied all Congressional subpoenas and ordered all of his people to defy Congressional subpoenas, he stated ‘We’re gonna defy all Congressional subpoenas,’ he was stupid enough to say that out loud! That is most certainly impeachable.” Furthermore, Nadler noted another possible road to impeachment for the current President by stating that “The framers made clear anything you do before you’re President is not impeachable except for one thing: if you gain your office through corruption, in other words, you try to rig the election.”

“You don’t want to tear the country apart. So you shouldn’t do impeachment if the result of it is going to be that for the next thirty years, half of the country is going to accuse the other half ‘We won the election, you stole it from us.'”

– Congressman Jerry Nadler

In response to the question of why impeachment is not happening at the moment, Nadler noted that although impeachment should be a defense of the Constitution in theory, it is still a “political act, not a judicial act” and that “you must have the American people on your side.” He cited this belief as the reason for him calling in witnesses and holding hearings in the Judiciary Committee, so that the picture can become clearer not only for members of the Committee but for the American people. Nadler also warned, “You don’t want to tear the country apart. So you shouldn’t do impeachment if the result of it is going to be that for the next thirty years, half of the country is going to accuse the other half ‘We won the election, you stole it from us.’” He elaborated that this is a tough line to walk, because he believes that they would need “such evidence and such dire leads, [that] by the end of the inquiry you will be able to persuade at least some fraction of people who voted for Trump that you have to impeach.” Further diving into political ramifications of impeachment, Nadler noted that even if they make it as far as the House of Representatives voting for impeachment, it is then up to the Senate, of which two thirds must vote in favor of impeachment in order to remove the President from office. Nadler commented that “The Republicans at this point are like cultists… the head of the cult can do no wrong,” further adding that if that environment in the GOP does not change, then Nadler sees a great loss in the prospect that Trump could get impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate, and then claim to the American people that this means he did nothing wrong, and further, then what the President Trump is doing gets “really normalized,” destroying the original intent of impeachment.

The conversation then shifted into concerns raised by Beacon students about how the intensified gaze and analysis of the media impacts Nadler’s political maneuverings in regard to his work as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Nadler noted that “Other than the occasional ‘Gee, that’s a good idea. I didn’t think of that,” you know there’s always a market for good ideas, [the media] in a general sense helps set political climate… indirectly.” Mr. Feder then connected this to how his history students have been intrigued by the question of whether legislators throughout political history should be more guided in their work by their own conscience or what their constituents want. When asked about which one should be weighed more heavily, Nadler slightly grinned and stated “Hopefully there isn’t too much divergence… and I’ve been very lucky in that my district and I have been pretty in sync for a long time.” Nadler, representing New York’s 10th district, which the Cook Partisan Voting Index rates as D+26, is in a position as a liberal Democrat where he does not have to compromise too much between his own judgments and the views of his constituents. As such, Nadler believes that the decision depends on the importance of the judgment, and that he weighs his own conscience more heavily than usual if the moral stakes of his vote are high. “Ultimately, you have to live with yourself,” he said, citing the examples of him voting against The PATRIOT Act of 2001 and for The 2015 Iran Nuclear deal. In the case of the Iran Deal, he received heavy opposition from “almost all the Jewish organizations” in his district and many other constituents, but he supported it anyway, because he believed that the Iran Deal would be able to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons. Here, Nadler found that his conscience weighed heavily on the fact that he would not have been able to live with his vote if it increased the odds of another nuclear arsenal to form and therefore increase the odds of nuclear conflict. He also noted that after he was able to explain and justify these decisions to his constituents, he did not have to suffer electoral consequences and was easily re-elected.

Nadler had to leave early to participate in a Democrat leadership conference call regarding Mueller’s statement. To further reflect the urgency of the matter at hand, a member of his team interrupted Nadler speaking a few times to show him some information on a phone, which Nadler would read and then whisper a response, before continuing. This was truly seeing Congressional leadership at work during a turbulent time in history, and we were all privileged to bear witness to it.

Then, after school, Congressman Max Rose of Staten Island addressed students in the library. Rose was invited by Student Government and the Women in Politics club. Rose was all smiles as he was offered Beacon-branded reusable cups. While Rose and Nadler share the same side of the aisle, their respective entries into politics could hardly be more different. Rose, currently the youngest male member of the House of Representatives, was elected in the 2018 midterm elections, defeating Republican incumbent Dan Donovan. He is a decorated veteran of the US Army, with such awards as the Purple Heart and the Bronze star medal, and was wounded when his vehicle hit an IED in Afghanistan. After his active service ended in 2013, he was the Director of Public Engagement for Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson and then later served as Chief of Staff at Brightpoint Health, a nonprofit operator of medical clinics in Staten Island and elsewhere in New York City. He commented on his road from there to elected office, saying “it’s fascinating because a year ago, I was technically unemployed… I proposed to my wife and then quit my job… every woman’s dream!” He emphasized how all the “so-called experts” said that his race was impossible for him to win and that it was a waste of time and money. He says there has to be a distinction between a district that is “Republican-leaning or somewhere that has a legacy of bad democratic candidates at the Congressional level,” and believes that his district is the latter. Even in the year of the Blue Wave, the race wasn’t even ranked in the Top 50 competitive in the country, according to Rose. But by starting with family and friends, expanding his base from there and knocking on around 740,000 doors, he was able to win in a district that he proudly mentions Trump won by a more significant percentage margin in 2016 than he won the state of Texas.

From this historic victory, Rose emphasized to Beacon students that “the policies are gonna change, the debates are gonna change, the issues are gonna change, [so] if there’s anything you take away from this though, please do not let anyone tell you to wait your turn, especially when it comes to politics.” He struck down the notion that politics is run by key donors and political bosses, boldly stating “we have never had a more egalitarian political system in the history of this country, and it’s incumbent upon all of you to seize that opportunity.” Also, with regard to the involvement of young people in politics, he noted that his campaign did not have a position of a youth outreach organizer of anything of that sort because it’s “patronizing,” going on to say that youth voters care about the same issues that others do but have the insight to see issues within the political system itself, even in his own party. He takes issue with Democratic candidates who do not take the components of gaining trust and promoting tangible results into their races, and fail to show voters how government can make their lives better. Rose calls the lack of faith in government the “greatest crisis that we face today,” because without it, absolutely nothing will get done. 

Rose made sure to give Beacon students a view of what politics really looks like. Jokingly, he said that real politics is nothing like the show “West Wing”, and instead consists of shaking a lot of hands, going to people where they are, finding out what their concerns are and seeking to earn their trust. He completely dismisses the idea that campaigns are run on singular issues, saying “as if it was that easy… as if I could just mix up a little cocktail of healthcare, infrastructure, this and that and win an election. It doesn’t work that way and nor should it, because the political process is one gigantic trust-building exercise because we have no idea what problems we’re actually gonna face down the road.” Instead, he says the political process should be concerned with electing people on “both sides of the aisle who are going to put the country first and who are going to have the right values and morals. That’s what this is all about.” After telling a brief anecdote about meeting a bartender from Staten Island who told him she didn’t like Max Rose, clearly not recognizing him, he said something dawned on him after leaving that bar with his “ego in tatters”, that he represents that woman just as much as he represents his most ardent supporters. Through this, he realized the importance of delivering results for his constituents and stopping the constant wheel of running a campaign and smearing opponents. Indeed, he finished by saying “The American people are unbelievably united… this is a tough thing to do but for the purposes of this conversation we should, if you put immigration aside… Donald Trump co-opted a Democratic agenda, speaking about infrastructure, lowering healthcare costs, universal healthcare coverage, draining the swamp, ending our forever wars, protecting medicare and social security, that’s what Democrats talk about! In 2018 Democrats took back the House talking about exactly those seven things… The American people have been consistently for more than a decade voting for those seven things and voting for change, and they still haven’t gotten them. So really the dichotomy that we face today is between the American people and an entrenched class of folks who do not want to get things done… and that’s what your responsibility is coming up to help fix.”

On a lighter note, after a tough round of questions from students ranging from his belief in capitalism to solve issues of inequality to how to fix the current state of politics, he joked that “Okay, I am very happy to be done with you guys and on to Chris Hayes, he’ll give me less of a hard time!”

For Beacon students, having both Nadler and Rose in the same day gave a great image of the diversity of seniority and opinion in the Democratic Party. While Nadler, considerably more senior than Rose, is concerned with impeachment, which is reasonable, Rose places much more value on making government tangible for people. For many who are interested in government, Nadler and Rose represented the dichotomy of the roles of the House of Representatives in both legislation and oversight. Indeed, for the remainder of the Trump Administration and beyond, we must stay informed on how the chambers of Congress and branches of government work so that we may influence good policymaking and a government that works for the betterment of its citizens.

“We have never had a more egalitarian political system in the history of this country, and it’s incumbent upon all of you to seize that opportunity.”

– Congressman Max Rose

A Taste of the Future: Representative Hakeem Jeffries Visits Beacon

By Jude Messler & Adrian Flynn, with additional questions by Cynthia Enofe

Before March 20th, a whirlwind of loudspeaker announcements and ubiquitous posters let students know that Congressman Hakeem Jeffries was coming to Beacon. Excitement soon followed as people prepared to listen to what the Representative from New York’s 8th Congressional District had to say. The Congressmen’s budding leadership role in the Democratic caucus has catapulted him into consideration for Nancy Pelosi’s successor as a possible speaker. Three of the top five Democrats in Congress are are rapidly approaching their eighties, and with the number four Democrat, Rep. Ben Ray Luján, two years Jefferies junior, running for U.S Senate, Jefferies path to the gavel seems clear. So what exactly does the man on the precipice of becoming the third in line for the presidency and arguably the second most powerful person in the country believe?

Representative Jeffries’ speech in front of front of around 100 students was heavy on quirky colloquialisms and fluffy encouragement. He preached the story of his political career, highlighting his two Assembly race losses before he eventually won. The underlying theme of his career was crystal clear to all present, when you are knocked down you always get back up. This pervasive message was an echo from his last appearance at Beacon, but his audience and spectacle this time was much larger. However, an addition from his last talk at our school was his inclusion of a Winston Churchill quote, “success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Twenty minutes of what an anonymous student called “a true political speech” filled with motivational quotes and Game of Thrones references was followed by a succinct dive into policy issues. Rep. Jeffries concisely broke down what he believed to be the three biggest threats to the next generation: A transition from an industrial economy to a digital economy, gun violence, and climate change. Offering solutions to the latter two, Jefferies spoke about the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, recently passed by The House of Representatives, aimed at broadening and strengthening the national background check system for gun purchases. The bill passed the House on a 240-190 partisan vote and as Jefferies noted, has almost no chance of being passed by the current Senate. Even if the bill were to pass the Senate, President Trump told reporters he would veto it. On Climate Change, Jefferies expressed enthusiasm for a clean energy economy and stressed how transitionitioning to that economy would be one of the great challenges of the next decade. However, he briefly noted his opposition to the Green New Deal in its current form.

After Jefferies’ speech, the Beacon Beat had the opportunity to speak with Jefferies, below is the transcribed conversation:

Adrian Flynn (Beacon Beat): In the wake of the Christchurch shooting New Zealand did this incredible thing, within 10 days they passed gun control legislation. A lot of their success has to do with their system of government and the influence of money in politics. Do you see any possibility for us [America] to ever be able respond that quickly to a tragedy like that?

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries: Yeah, the first major piece of legislation we passed this session was the For The People Act, H.R. 1, which is designed to help get unregulated money out of politics so that the public interest can prevail over special interests, like the NRA. The system of government in New Zealand, as you point out, is very different then what we have in this country, including the fact that we have a 2nd Amendment. That presents some challenges as it relates to how we go about promoting gun safety, but we are committed to making sure that we can pass meaningful legislation to address the gun violence epidemic that we have in the United States.  

Cynthia Enofe: Our second question is, as you probably know, in 2019 only 7 out of 895 students who were admitted to Stuyvesant High School, one of the top public schools in New York City, were black. So how should the city address this problem of inequity in the public school system?

Jude Messler (Beacon Beat): We know you work on a federal level, but your roots are in the city.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries: It is a very important question.

Cynthia Enofe: And do you think [Mayor] De Blasio is working effectively to address this issue?  

Representative Hakeem Jeffries: It seems to me that the DOE should figure out how to replicate more schools like Beacon. Which provides excellent education and draws people from a wide diversity of communities throughout the city of New York who then meld together as a community, receive a high level of education and then go out to be incredibly productive citizens. New York City is the only city that relies on a single test for admissions to certain specialized high schools. That appears to me to be an outdated model that needs to be reformed. The Mayor has about two and a half years left on his term and it seems to me to be an urgent challenge with respect to diversifying our specialized high schools that he should confront before he exits city hall.

Jude Messler (Beacon Beat): What are your thoughts on term limits in Senate and House. I know a lot of the new 2020 candidates have been pushing for it, so how do you feel?

Representative Hakeem Jeffries: Well in my view, the best thing that we can do is to reduce the influence of money in politics and the things the promote the power of incumbency rather than term limit individuals who may be doing a good job, but because you want to get rid of some of the bad actors, everybody has to go. I certainly understand the frustration that people have with the difficulties that often exist in defeating incumbents, but with the rise of social media and the ability of small donors increasingly to power grassroots campaigns, we have seen the playing field even to some degree. There is more reform work that needs to be done, but it seems to me that reform is a better approach then imposing a one size fits all solution through term limits. When you have a, sorta, batch of apples and there are a few bad apples in the batch it doesn’t make sense to dump out the whole thing. I can understand the frustration, and the need some people feel to dump the whole thing out rather then just extract the few bad apples.

Jude Messler (Beacon Beat): So [the idea of term limits] is just a gut reaction from some people?

Representative Hakeem Jeffries: Yeah, the most important thing we can do is reform our political system so that grassroots candidates who are community based have an opportunity to overcome the power of incumbency.

Adrian Flynn (Beacon Beat): [Representative] Ocasio-Cortez already showed it was possible.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries: She proved that it was possible. We have seen other instances of the times when we have to level the playing field even further and that is part of what H.R. 1 is designed to do.

Jude Messler (Beacon Beat):  What do you think about Speaker Pelosi’s statement that impeachment is “just not worth it” and would you vote for impeachment based on evidence available today?

Representative Hakeem Jeffries: It seems to me that we have to wait for the Mueller report to be presented to the DOJ, Congress, and the American people (this interview was recorded before Attorney General Barr released his summary of the official Mueller report findings). Then we can all collectively decide what is the best way to proceed. The standard that Speaker Pelosi laid out is one that I agree with, which is that the case should be compelling, the evidence should be overwhelming, and public sentiment around impeachment should be bipartisan. At the end of the day, impeachment is the equivalent of a grand jury indictment. Conviction and the actual trial takes place in the Senate. The House, according to the Constitution, has the power to impeach The President. What that does is level a series of charges against The President that form the basis of a trial in the Senate. The Senate then has the responsibility to conduct the trial and can only remove The President if two-thirds of the Senate agree. Under the current situation that we find ourselves in, there are 47 Democrats and 53 Republicans which means it would take twenty Republican Senators to agree with those 47 Democrats to convict The President and remove him from office. That is why Speaker Pelosi has said, that if we decide to proceed with impeachment it needs to be bi-partisan in nature based on compelling and overwhelming evidence.

Beacon Beat: Thank you so much.

The Beacon Beat’s conversation with Rep. Jeffries gave us a new perspective on the man who would be the first black Speaker of the House. Smart, young, and not too far left it seems as though he is the establishment choice to lead the Democratic caucus. Speaking with him directly revealed the hype around him. Careful in his words, Jefferies clearly was thoughtful in crafting his answers to our questions. Like any good communicator he often referred to analogies to paint a coherent picture of his beliefs. His rhetoric was distinct in that it featured a more youthful and cosmopolitan tone than most American politicians. His approach to certain issues was non-controversial and clearly palatable to party elders. It seems to be only a matter of time before Congress is run by Speaker Hakeem Jeffries.

The Passing of Cassius Clay the Crab & the Crab Sanctuary in Room 527

By Adrian Flynn

Photos by Adrian Flynn

Larry (Pictured) was around long enough for his photo to be taken, unlike Cassius Clay

The Beacon community was rattled in April by the unfortunate and untimely passing of Cassius Clay the crab. The female blue crab, named after the prolific boxer Muhammad Ali, somehow made it out of her tank and into a sink in Mr. McKenna’s classroom. By the time she was discovered, she had passed.

Cassius Clay was purchased in Chinatown along with three other crabs by Marine Bio club co-founder and junior Leo Ku with the goal of keeping and possibly breeding them. According to Mr. McKenna, the breeding “didn’t go well. You can’t just throw ‘em together in a tank and expect some magic to happen.” Cassius Clay had no choice but to escape and secure her freedom.

The tank was not covered on the Friday night when Cassius Clay made her daring escape. After a custodian who shall remain anonymous found her hard-walled body, he decided to not interfere with the rest of the room, feeling that the room was either a crime scene or the site of some large-scale science experiment. After Mr. McKenna was notified by the custodian, he put the crab in the freezer for scientific preservation, mindfully aware of a possible dissection opportunity in the future. A few weeks later, the power to the freezer was cut off and the body failed to be further preserved, and was buried unceremoniously as refuse.

Heartbroken, Ku commented “She was my favorite crab, I was in my bag. It was sadder than Endgame, which I saw later.”

A short gathering was planned but then cancelled as another one of the crabs suddenly passed in their tank without explanation. No foul play was suspected in either of the cases, as crabs could plausibly pull off escapes if determined and can die of natural causes. The remaining two are on careful watch by the Marine Biology club.

McKenna allocated all the entailed responsibility to Ku, “they’re Leo’s crabs.”

On a lighter note, one of the remaining crabs, Larry, shocked both students and Mr. McKenna alike when he appeared in a brand new light-colored shell, with his old one molted and sitting on the side of the tank. Some initially thought that Leo had got a new crab and it had ate the old one, but this rumor was quickly disproven by scientific observation. Long live Larry, until the summer when Leo will have to think of something to do with him.

Larry’s molten exoskeleton, with former gill structures still present
Larry enjoying a meal in his new exterior

Advisory at Beacon: A Failed Concept?

By Ariella Moses & Tali Lebowitsch

Throughout the high-school application process, many students felt overwhelmed when deciding between each school and its unique features. Of these differing traits, one that seemed to stand out at Beacon specifically was its commitment to “Advisory.” It is described on the Beacon website as a nurturing place to provide “academic and emotional support” while “fostering a sense of community within Beacon” in addition to ensuring a space for “students to express themselves and learn about important issues in a safe and comfortable environment for each one of its members.” In its first few weeks, one could say that the weekly advisory meeting fulfilled these requirements on the surface, providing students with a place to go when in need of answers to scheduling questions or some guidance from a Big Sib. Additionally, advisory helped to familiarize students with one another, providing them with at least 20-something faces they could recognize in the hallways. However, as freshmen became more comfortable at Beacon, the strength of advisory quickly began to dwindle.

It has become apparent that advisory has not been meeting the expectations set forth by the Beacon administration during the application process. And though it is portrayed as the highlight of a student’s Beacon experience, there are many discrepancies among Beacon students’ varying experiences, with many people finding Advisory to be a waste of time. Advisors, who are supposed to be trusted adults to advocate for students needs, have often been found to be neglectful of their positions and don’t put in an effort to create the environment that advisory is supposed to be. Additionally, many students have yet to create meaningful relationships with fellow advisees and often feel like they are wasting away a period with a group of acquaintances. People do not feel comfortable opening up to each other, and thus a significant opportunity for students to have an outlet and create a community has been lost.

Many students have expressed their disappointment. For example, when asked to discuss a typical advisory period of theirs, a Sophomore stated “we never do any engaging activities,” later revealing that they view advisory in the form its taken on as more of a waste of time than a beneficial period. The same student later stated that during the average advisory period their classmates end up simply sitting around individually on their phones. Similarly, another Sophomore started “because the activities we do in advisory are either unorganized, tedious, or un-engaging, we lose interest very quickly and resort back to our phones.” Members of the Beacon community have picked up on the fact that the lessons and discussions held in advisory are part of a curriculum, rather than stimulating discussion that is tailored to the advisory in particular. Additionally, another 10th grade student stated “I wish there were actual check-ins and discussions.” This student claims to feel as though the environment “cultivated” in advisory is generic and superficial, rather than modified and supportive.

On the other hand, there have been some rare examples of advisories that have truly cultivated tight bonds and have fulfilled the goal of creating a nurturing environment that provides sanctuary to the students within it. One student commented, “I feel comfortable and it’s a nice place to relax at the end of the day, my advisor makes it clear he’s working to make our experience at Beacon the best it can.” The student elaborated by saying that one of the main reasons her advisory was so successful is her advisor being open to his students wants. She continued, “My advisor asked us directly what we wanted to get out of advisory and that shows he’s willing to listen.” Clearly, there is the potential for advisory to be successful in its mission of making a small, close community within Beacon, but that opportunity just needs to be utilized correctly. It is up to the advisors and the students to be willing to have an open dialogue about what they want out of the experience, in order for everyone to get the most out of it. Advisory is truly one of Beacon’s special aspects, and proves that the school sincerely cares about the well-being of its students. It would be a terrible shame if that were to go to waste.

Beacon Boys Ultimate Starts the Season Off Strong

By Jacob Rafiy

The Beacon Boys Ultimate Team has had a very promising start this year, posting a 1-0-0 record in the NYC Ultimate League as well as two very high tournament finishes. The team has recently been promoted to Division A due to its stellar performance the season prior. In 2018, the Beacon Boys team went undefeated throughout the regular season until their the finals matchup against Brooklyn Tech where they lost by one, ending their season.

So far this season, Beacon has started off the season with three wins and no losses. In Beacon’s first game of the 2019 season, they faced Bronx Science’s A team. Beacon overcame Bronx Science after starting the game on a roll and never showed any signs of slowing down. Beacon ended up winning the game with a score of 15 to 9. Beacon was lead by their captains, Noel Sierra, and Jacob Cowan who both amassed great stat lines. Noel totaled 6 points as well as 1 assist while Jacob threw for 6 assists and totaled an astounding 8 blocks. In Beacon’s second regular season game, they beat Fieldston 8-6 in a windy match. Throughout the game, Beacon was a little short-handed on players, but they managed to pull through. In their third game, they beat Hunter 8-7 in a game that was plagued by rain. In Beacon’s first tournament of the season, the NYC Youth Kickoff, held at Van Cortlandt Park, Beacon finished in third place behind Stuyvesant and Bard. Beacon beat Brooklyn Tech, Regis, and Scarsdale but eventually lost to Stuyvesant’s A team 4 to 3 in the semifinals.

But victory wasn’t far off. In Beacon’s second tournament of the season, they received a first-place finish. In Beacon’s first game of the tournament, they played Dwight Englewood, the host of the tournament. After Beacon started the game off exuberantly, it was hard for Dwight Englewood to launch a comeback and the end score was 13 to 3. In Beacon’s second game of the tournament, they demolished Northern Valley Coalition in a 13-0 rout. In Beacon’s third game, they barely survived against Montclair High School surpassing them by a score of 8-7. In Beacon’s final game, they outdueled Livingston High School with a final score of 8-6.

The players on the team attribute the team’s early success to the team’s chemistry. Issandro Trenard, one of the teams sophomore leaders, credits the team’s early success to the team’s great chemistry: “I don’t know why we are playing so good together but you really can’t complain. We are winning and that’s all that matters.” The coach, Adam Stern, believes a major part of the teams early success is due to the strong crop of underclassmen, “our team has a very strong Sophomore and Freshman team and it really helps that we don’t have to overplay our seniors to get a win.” So far, it seems as though the Beacon boys ultimate team can make it deep into the playoffs, and maybe on to the state championship, at their current rate of success.

Blue Demon Wrestling Turns it Around in 2019

By Guy Mermelstein

Beacon’s varsity sports teams have been playing strikingly well during their 2018-19 campaigns. Beacon Boys Varsity Soccer finished the season first in their division with 11 wins and one loss, while Girls Varsity Soccer finished the year undefeated, and Girls Volleyball split their season record with six wins and losses. On top of this, the Boys Varsity Basketball Team came first in their respective division, and the girls finished in the top two. With all of this attention focused on these athletic powerhouses, one varsity team at Beacon has seemingly gone unnoticed by the student population and has received far less funding from the school: the Wrestling Team. This past year, the Beacon Blue Demon Wrestling Team has begun to change the culture surrounding their program. As a co-ed unit, they have intensified and expanded their practice structure, begun advertising their matches and have found more opportunities for students to support the team. All of this hard work has paid off and they have excelled in their tournaments.

Every athlete knows that how they practice is how they play, and for this year’s Blue Demon Wrestling squad, this could not be more true. During the 2017-18 season, the team practiced around three times per week, but this year’s team practices four to five days a week, for one hour longer, and with more conditioning sessions. Sophomore Ian Krupp says that in practice, the team “busts their a** so we can we can be good,” adding that one time, “I carried my teammate from the lobby to the gym twice as a drill.” Krupp explained that last year, the team did not practice with the same relentless drive they did this year, adding that the wrestling team “saw the success some of the other teams had and realized that [they] wanted that, too.” He feels that if this same desire is maintained over the next few years, the team will eventually reach its goals.

The wrestling team has also done more to advertise their matches and raise funds than in years past. All of the waffle stands that have come to be increasingly popular among the student body have been a result of the wrestling team showcasing their brand and making up for the lack of financial support. One operator of the waffle sale on January 30th claimed, “when people asked me what club they were supporting, the answer always peaked their interest, and gave them a pleasant surprise.” Coupled with these bake sales, Blue Demon Wrestling began to promote their home matches with posters near the cafeteria and elevators. In years prior, fan attendance was usually comprised of  “a few parents and the occasional friend of the players,” but after the placement of the posters, “more students came to the home matches,” said one of the wrestlers. The effect of all the recent publicity was felt by the team as this past year, the team secured four more recruits than last year, and eight more than from the 2016-17 squad.

With all of this effort put into this year’s program, the team placed in the top 10 in their last three weekly tournaments, and hopes to keep up this solid record for next year’s season. With the athletes carrying a winning mindset the team is poised for success in the near future. Beacon should watch out for Blue Demon Wrestling as it finally steps out of the shadow of other team sports one blue letter jacket at a time.

16 Beacon Students on Family Politics, Values, Social Media Activism, and the College Admissions Scandal: A Beacon Beat Roundtable

The Beacon Beat has formally decided to begin hosting “roundtable discussions” between members of both the newspaper staff and the public on specific topical issues. Below is a transcription of a conversation that occurred on March 13th. The transcription has been edited for clarity and grammar. Initially, the topic of discussion was “Family Politics vs. Family Values.”

Participants: Daniel Arturi, Camilla Bauman, Mollie Butler, Linus Coersmeier, Cynthia Enofe, Adrian Flynn, Anne Isman, Phoebe Kamber, Esme Laster, Tali Lebowitsch, Maya Levine, Jude Messler, Ariella Moses, Tali Rosen, Maxine Slater, Sophie Steinberg, Henry Wheeler-Klainberg

Sophie Steinberg (Senior): Today we are having a discussion within The Beacon Beat about family values, politics, and ethics and how they influence your own thinking, decision-making and political views. To begin, my name is Sophie. I’m a senior, and as the moderator of this discussion I will read out questions to get us started. So the first question is: What is the difference between family values and family politics? This could be different opinions or practices your family has.

Jude Messler (Senior): At least in my family, we have a moral code that’s all about honesty and less about policy. So my parents are both independents and neither of them voted for Trump in the last election. So in that sense of “who they vote for,” I don’t really know. I just know what they teach me about how to act, and how to treat people of all different backgrounds. So I think that the way they have taught me to life is basically comes from their own values.

Adrian Flynn (Junior): In the same way, my parents don’t tell me which party or person to support, but through their own values, there is a sense of what kind of morals I should support, stand for, and what I want to see represented in politics. It does lean toward certain parties, but nothing specifically.

Daniel Arturi (Freshman): I think it’s hard to separate family values and family politics because if one of your family traditions, which is apart of family values, is that you go hunting– it’s hard to separate that from family politics.

Maya Levine (Freshman): But I think that your family’s values and how they align with your politics is kind of a “practice what you preach” type of thing. If you support a certain group, and if they live in New York, they’re probably Democrats. They might just be doing that because it’s “the norm” and that’s what you’re expected to do. How your family values align with that shows how much you care about it. So if you support a candidate who is very environmentally-conscious, and then in your own home you compost or have solar panels, it goes to show that how your family aligns with their vote shows how invested they are in that policy.

Linus Coersmeier (Freshman): Both my parents are German and I feel like there’s a stigma around socialism in America in that it has “something to do with Communism” or is unamerican. I wouldn’t say that they’re straying away from the norm, but they have a different viewpoint, which is something I have had access too.

Sophie: In America we have a linear, universal idea of where our political spectrum is. But I think it changes depending on where you are. New York versus the Midwest, but especially in America versus Europe. I think that the translation and blurring of the political lines is good. While my family doesn’t explicitly say that “there are more ways to think about things,” there political differences within a certain umbrella of liberalism is hopefully impressed upon me so that I know that politics are not as polarizing.

Daniel: Diving into the second question (Do you share the same political views as your parents, and do you guys belong to the political group?), my mother is Brazilian and her parents were revolutionaries against the Brazilian military dictatorship and they were full on Communists. Obviously, Brazil is not a communist country but they fought for this ideal society and eventually they got, not a dictatorship, and I would argue that anything that’s not a dictatorship is better, and they got a capitalist society. They grudgingly accepted that, so they raised my mother with their ideals. And she is socialist, which I interpret as the next rung down, and now she’s living here in the United States, which is capitalist, and she’s not campaigning for Communism or Socialism. So I think that as live in a different environment you’re forced to adapt, and it’s easier to adapt than to fight against, you lean towards the political alignment of your surroundings.

Sophie: I even see that at Beacon. Coming into my freshman year, I didn’t know a lot about Feminism. And when I think about my views on sexism and feminism today, that is due in part to my environment, things I was taught, and the people around me. There is such a political awareness in almost every classroom.

Maya: Especially in America, where the parties are so black and white, you are very much dedicated to that. In other countries, in you are raised in a “liberal” household there is more room for differing opinions. In America, you have to be one or the other. I think that it breeds two results: either you hold heartedly believe and agree, passionately with you parents and community (which happens often in New York), or, alternatively, you stray completely from your parent’s/environment’s views because it is so impressed upon you.

Sophie: For those that don’t know, the second question was, do you share the same political views as your parents, and do you guys belong to the political group? I know that I always presume that everyone belongs to the same political group as your parents. Because I live in new York and go to a liberal school, I assume that people’s views are a product of the environment they grew up in. However, I have read stories on the news about people who live in very polarizing environments, or they’re the lone liberal in a very red community, and I think that’s something that we don’t acknowledge who are straying away. I agree with Maya that there is little to no “inbetween.” You either agree or you don’t.

Anne Isman (Senior): Well I disagree with that. Based on what Maya just said, it’s an American ideal to be either one way or the other, so by saying that there is not room for error, it’s only reinforcing that idea of a black and white political atmosphere.

Esme Laster (Junior): Going off of what Sophie said, I think so many people identify with their parents’ politics and that makes sense to me because I feel that people’s political associations often correlates to their socioeconomic status. I think that it makes sense that they align with their parents.

Tali Lebowitsch (Sophomore): To build off, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there’s also a privilege that comes with being able to choose what political party you side with because not everyone has that freedom. You might have the privilege to chose that because you have benefitted from other values in the past.

Sophie: I also think it’s really hard to disagree with your parents sometimes because you may face extreme backlash or physical consequences.

Camilla Bauman (Sophomore): Going back to the first question about values, I feel like if your family has very ingrained values that you have been around starting from when you were born, it is very hard to disagree with them.

Adrian: However, the ability to critically think is also influenced by your household. Do your parents or guardians endow you with the ability to challenge what is being said? So, even though there is the idea that you can be surrounded by like-minded people, are you the kind of person who has been raised to fall in line with that or to challenge those ideas?

Esme: I don’t really think that’s how critical thinking works. I feel that parents can impress certain values or ways of thinking about things, but I learned to think critically in school and based on the people I surround myself with, like my friends.

Adrian: But critical thinking doesn’t mean to just disagree, it means to not take everything at “face value.”

Esme: Yeah that’s what I was saying.

Cynthia Enofe (Senior): I think that actually goes against what Tali said about privilege and having the simple option to “choose” what you think, whereas some minority groups or families don’t grow up with the idea of “option.” They’re taught, “this is how things work,” and you just have to work within the system. You have to be taken out of your comfort zone and placed in this privileged environment where you have to realize, “Ok, I have a voice regardless of my status or who I am,” so I don’t think that Critical Thinking is the correct term.

Adrian: But realizing that you have a voice stems from how your parents raise you.

Sophie: But I think that Cynthia brings up a good point, some people, even if they’re raised in a “critical thinking household,” are taught to have opinions but that they might not be heard or fully come across to society. I feel like the suppression of vocalizing opinions probably does affect family politics. Maybe your family will discuss it less or value politics less because they don’t get to share their opinions.

Maya: I interpreted what Adrian said as the ability to be raised within a politically-aligned household and still be able to recognize the flaws within that party and the “good” and “bad” that comes with every political group. Like I can still be raised in a Democratic household but still be able to see the flaws within the Democratic system because my parents raised me to think critically about everyone with the lens of “What are they doing right?” and “What are they doing wrong?” I think that it’s an important aspect of our society.

Jude: I don’t think that Cynthia was criticizing Adrian’s point, I think she was saying that we have to recognize that there is a large population that doesn’t have the privilege of “thinking outside the box.” I know from my own experience that if you say something that goes against this mass mentality, the common understanding of a certain issue, you’re wrong. That’s where I’ve felt that some parents do raise you to think critically, but not critically of them.

Cynthia: Shifting back to the first question, I would say that my family and I are inherently grouped into the same political affiliation but I think that the real difference comes with age. My parents are immigrants and they have this mentality that, yes, the American Dream is still possible, whereas I know that that mentality is flawed. They always say that “if you work hard you can do this, “ but I don’t know if you guys heard about the whole college scandal, but people are essentially paying to go to college. And my parents come to me and say, “If you get good grades, you can make it, “ but I’m just like, “Dad, it’s not going to work out.”

Sophie: Quickly before we move on, by a show of hands, how many of you were NOT surprised by the college admissions scandal? I was like, I already knew that.

Anne: It’s a lot of money to pay to a school. They’re paying to get in, they’re paying the tuition it’s ridiculous.

Camilla: With Lori Loughlin and her daughter, Olivia Jade, I assumed that there was some sort of discrepancy going on there, but I didn’t realize that she had paid the proctor to change the daughter’s SAT scores.

Jude: For me, the whole idea of people bribing a someone to get into college was not surprising. For me, what was most surprising, was the video of Olivia Jade talking about how she didn’t even want to go to college. That’s what I found most disgusting because she couldn’t appreciate the level of privilege that she had where she could buy her way into one of the top schools in the country.

Esme: Going off of what Cynthia said about the American Dream, this is not that similar, but I think that your family’s conception of “American Democracy” also affects how you identify politically. I know that some families think about democracy as “playing the system” as opposed to voting for your own beliefs or what’s best for American society, so I think that really influences who we believe in and how we make decisions.

Daniel: Beyond the rejection of people thinking critically or plain disagreeing with people around them, in a community, if I see someone with a “Make America Great Again” hat, I am not going to say, “This is just another member of our community.” I am going to say something. I was once in a Dunkin’ Donuts and my friends and I saw someone in a MAGA hat, and one of my friends was like, “I don’t like your hat,” and this full-grown man starts fully yelling in our face. He even called the cops on us for just saying that we didn’t like his hat and arguing with him. This is not a person that I view as “another member of the country.” And I know that this is a flaw in myself and I have this prejudice against this person, but I have it because I wish to reject him from my community.

Adrian: To get back to your point, Cynthia, that’s a great example of how you were raised with the ability to make your own judgments which is essentially what I’m saying, that you don’t always see things for as they are.

Phoebe Kamber (Junior): I just wanted to say that there are extremes at either end. Living in NYC, most people are very liberal but you can still have conversations where there are disagreements, but I think in certain areas, that’s not the case. I think this goes back to why people have the same political affiliations as their parents because whether or not they live in households where it’s ok to question what’s happening, when you get older, you have the opportunity to form your own opinions, especially in college. My grandparents are Republican and my Mom grew up with similar understandings of politics, but when she grew up and left for college she started getting more exposure to other, new ideas.

Tali L: In response to Daniel’s example, and how we respond to opposite views, I would just like to say that while of course we should be respectful, I think that if someone is a Trump supporter, there are certain assumptions you can make about them, and you should be allowed to judge them based on that. I think that’s okay because if you support what he stands for, there are certain judgements you can make.

Sophie: I also feel that the MAGA hat, in general, is a very polarizing thing. I think that the person who wears that hat knows that they will illicit some sort of reaction, polite or not. I think they know “something’s coming,” and I’m not trying to say that that individual was asking for an argument, but there are certain preconditions that come will political apparel. People can see their views and immediately disagree.

Jude: I also want to address what Daniel said. For me, it’s harder because I come from two very different families. My dad’s family is a very liberal, East Coast, Jewish family and my mom comes from an extended family of Hispanic immigrants from Nicaragua who are heavily Catholic and heavily conservative and so it’s hard for me to make the distinction. I know there are people out there who support policies that are racist and sexist, but at the same time, are helping my grandmother have a home and a place to live. So I have trouble with those conflicting personal and political views when it comes to how to feel about someone. That has influenced me to believe that with Trump supporters, I don’t like their policies and I probably don’t like them either but I’m just not going to attack them.

Tali Rosen (Sophomore): But we do see the hat, and we can infer the policies that they believe in and at Beacon, from my own experience, I know that if I ask a question that doesn’t necessarily fall in line with the all liberal, all-left views all the time, and you just ask the question, then people assume your political beliefs and put you in a certain category. It makes it hard to figure out your political identity and your own political views when you have to chose your words so carefully so that you don’t seem like you’re doing anything wrong.

Maya: Just going back to Jude’s comment about religious experiences shaping politics, I feel that it’s really difficult because you can’t deny someone their personal experiences, but you can disagree with their politics. For example, my grandmother, her mother and her family were in the Holocaust and she had family that died. So whenever she travels, she will go to the Jewish memorial or museum there. And because of that, she harbors some very anti-Palestinian and therefore, anti-Muslim sentiments because she feels so strongly that it’s the Jewish people’s right to have a state. I can’t deny her personal experience or everything that went wrong in the Holocaust, which are awful things, but at the same time she will make racist comments when we are in public regarding the Muslim people around us, and I can’t handle that. You can’t deny people their experiences but at the same time, you’re allowed to disagree.

Cynthia: Going off of that and the experiences people are sharing about coming into contact with the opposing party, I feel that we should also take into account the large and increasing population of individuals who chose to not participate in politics at all. They just don’t vote anymore because they’re too afraid to associate with one political party and to be “this or that” because they don’t want that identity.

Henry Wheeler-Klainbe (Freshman): I wanted to go back to question 2 and the story of Daniel’s grandparents in Brazil and their adapting views, because I think it’s interesting how views pass down through generations. On the Jewish side of the family, my grandmother was a counselor at the sleepaway I currently go to, and my mom went to my camp, and the camp is very socialist. We learn about socialism and obviously the camp has impacted my life and my political views and it’s generational.

Linus: Because my parents are German, and all my family is pretty much German, I feel like I have this privilege and ignorance of not knowing what it’s really like to be living in a government or society that’s awful and is doing awful things and is broken, and you can argue that it’s like that here in America, but obviously not like the extent of the Holocaust in Germany. For that reason, when I’m having a discussion with my parents or a debate, a lot of the times I reach the conclusion that I don’t want to argue for the sake of arguing. At the same time, having parents whose relatives were in a society that did such horrible things, it does matter that you have your own voice and are involved in politics, even if I feel that I can’t change anything, or that nothing bad is going to happen, but it does and it has happened and it can happen again.

Sophie: About the arguing for the sake of arguing, whenever I call out my mom about certain micro-aggressive things, because she may be ignorant to certain things due to her age or where she grew up, she will listen to a certain extent and maybe say, “Ok, I get it, whatever,” but I know she doesn’t fully understand what I’m saying or where I’m coming from. It’s something I have to work on when it comes to following up with “No, you don’t understand” or “You should care about this” but it’s hard because they’re your parents and you don’t want to piss them off. At the same time, I think your parents often assume that you’re all on the same page and get annoyed about any discrepancies.

Cynthia: This makes me wonder about when we’re older and when we have kids like, how would you react or would you be open to the fact that your kid has different political views? What if your kid came out saying, “I’m a Trump supporter” or “I’m a Hillary supporter,” how would you react? I feel like we would all have a burning rage towards that.

Henry: Adding onto Sophie, sometimes, if I don’t agree with something my mom says, she will be dismissive because I’m a child, and she thinks that I don’t understand as much as she does and I might not, but obviously I understand some things that she doesn’t.

Maxine Slater (Senior): Adding on, I think that there’s also a huge generational distinction in the sense that the trauma that my parents have witnessed, not their own trauma, but the trauma of others has affected their political thinking. I have older parents and they grew up going to segregated schools, and so racism was a much more blatant thing than it is today, so they can’t understand concepts like micro-aggressions or more covert forms of oppression. So I think that trying to connect those traumas, and relate those experiences to them, is something that I’ve had to do and tried to do in most conversations about politics.

Anne: In terms of the political conversations I have with my parents, I respect my parents and I know that both of them are smarter than I am because they’re more well-read about these things. When I was younger and had opinions, I always had to back it up with evidence, it was never an empty statement and in a way, it’s nice to have someone challenge you even if they agree with you. The practice of supporting an argument with something meaningful and true has helped me know when to speak up about my views or when to refrain and wait for others to speak before talking.

Jude: In my relationship with my parents, there’s more of a generational divide. They still have some respect or faith in the system or the American institution and if things are wrong, they believe it will be fixed.

Tali R: My dad, especially after I started going to Beacon, has been coming to me with the other side, even if he disagrees with it, because he feels that it’s important. Even the fact that we have to read the New York Times every night, says something. He also used to work in journalism so he encourages me to pay attention to how it’s covered and knowing when to ask questions has been helpful.

Daniel: I also think that it’s important to acknowledge that while all of these discussions our important, within our communities or our families, at least with my family, there are points where you just let it go and it’s a conversation without deep questions and moral dilemmas. If you think like that all the time it’s tiring. We can’t have round table discussions all the time.

Anne: At the end of the day, people’s political views and opinions are really no one else’s business. I mean, you can say “Oh I love Hillary” or “I think Climate Change is important” but it doesn’t really matter unless you act on it. By saying your opinion all the time, and especially at Beacon, shoving it down people’s throat, it doesn’t matter unless there’s action.

Maxine: I somewhat disagree with that. Again, the ability to be apolitical is also a privilege by virtue of gender, race, or location. Sometimes their very being is a political matter and it isn’t a choice.

Anne: I agree with that as well.

Esme: I was just going to comment on what Anne was saying, because I feel like the publicization of people’s opinions on social media or the idea that our political opinions are our own business has really changed.

Sophie: I think that posting about politics on social media is really tricky. I am someone who does post about my views, but sometimes I face criticism online as a result. One good example is that yesterday, in reference to the college admissions scandal, I posted something about how privileged people use their privilege to push mediocracy forward. One example is Jared Kushner. He went Harvard but was only admitted after his Dad made a $2.5 million dollar donation and a lot of reports claim that his high school grades were not that great or “Harvard worthy.” And so I reposted a tweet about how many poor people and POC will work extra hard, most of the time, not getting the results they want because of their financial decisions. And on Instagram I captioned this with “@ people who ED.” Then someone swiped up and said, “Yes I agree, but you can’t get mad at people for doing Early Decision. If they have that privilege, they should use it.” And my argument to that would be that the whole system is messed up and Early Decision’s very existence is classist and undermines the process by excluding the poor. However, I ended up taking it down, even if I didn’t really want to, because I questioned whether or not I should even be posting this in the first place, which is something I have to think about. If I can’t handle people disagreeing with me, should I even be posting at all? Or should I respect people’s wishes?

Ariella Moses (Sophomore): I think it’s also interesting to take into account how a singular post can only contain a  certain amount of information, and whatever that information is, can be biased or geared towards one lens, and posting it influences the notion that to share your views on social media is action enough, and that’s the downside to it.

Sophie: I agree, it’s totally not enough.

Maxine: I think social media can give a false sense of gratification. People can use a hashtag to promote a political message and then they think they’re apart of a movement.

Sophie: It’s an interesting dichotomy. You get so much information from your phone but sharing your views on social media, it’s fake. It’s not something you would say in real life. In real life, it has little to no impact most times.

Jude: I also feel like a lot of people who march in the Women’s March or Climate March, they’re great, but like what do these people do after? After it’s over, how many people go home and take action? The percentage is probably very low.

Camilla: Going back to the social media thing, I feel like a lot of people use it to give the impression that they’re woke or whatever but after that it’s like, what are you doing? Posting about it is not doing anything. I mean, it’s good that you went but what are you actually doing to enact change?

Cynthia: I agree with that. I feel like a lot of people, especially at Beacon, well it’s not your fault. But we live in a capitalist society so naturally we do things for the college resume. We want to get involved in these things like the Women’s March to look impressive on paper. But it’s like, people are making real differences, it’s about the gratification and feeling like you’re contributing to change.

Ariella: To add on, it gets even more problematic when people engage in the idea that they’re doing something for their own status as if it will make people view them in a certain way which further feeds into the values that the people who DO care are trying to counteract with action. It takes the action and the activism further back. It contributes to a negative cycle.

Maxine: That’s actually often referred to as “Slacktivism,” which is really interesting and there was recently an article about it.

Mollie Butler (Senior): I agree in the sense that we are just doing these marches and nothing is really happening after the fact and I think that we live in an extremely liberal bubble. But if we are just discussing it or going to the movement, nothing is going to happen. We have learned within in our society that change is really hard and not always possible. A lot of the times, especially with extended family, they will discourage me or my cousins from doing anything because we’re “younger and don’t know anything.” I think growing up with that kind of mentality has suppressed certain values because my family impresses the idea that I don’t know anything about the world and I haven’t been “out there.”

Daniel: Personally, I think that we are all in the same place on the “ladder of political influence,” and I would say that it’s a pretty low rung. We all have little to no influence on how laws are voted on, but what we do have influence on is social media presence (although everyone loves to say that it does nothing and is probably not super effective) and marching. And it’s not like “if 50,000 people come out to march today, then the law will be change,” but it’s all we can do and I don’t think it’s fair to say that marching and protesting in the streets is useless. It’s unfair to all the people that have marched in American history and around the world. It does make a difference and it does help and honestly, it’s all we can do. We can write articles about it or start groups but those are the limits we have as the youth and as normal citizens who don’t have any political power.

Sophie: I agree with you Daniel and while I will say that I have been at marches and movements where there is a lot of inaction, and I do believe that there is such a thing as ineffective marching, but we cannot discredit the success that it has had. The mere presence of a march or of a strike can have so much impact on a school or people who hear about. We are lucky that our school supports us when we walk out, but a lot of the time that is all we can do. Personally, I try and write about things and “practice what I preach” but it is also hard to go beyond that. I can’t take off from school to lobby and there are sometimes when marches and posting are ineffective or not the best method of activism, but they’re often the only things we can do.

Cynthia: Personally, I’m not trying to disagree with you guys. To a certain degree, I do believe that marches are somewhat effective in achieving your goals. But I do feel that if you want real change, and you really truly want real change, it comes with sacrifice. And if you’re not willing to sacrifice your school, your education, miss a test, go out in a rain, march everyday, miss a week of day. Real change comes with sacrifice. Maybe it means sacrificing your privilege or whatever that means. It’s doing more than doing a couple of marches, walking out one day, or writing about it online to feel better about your white guilt, but actually doing and sacrificing something.

Daniel: Have you ever gone for a week in the rain marching?

Cynthia: I’m just saying that if you truly care about change in our society you will make those sacrifices. I’m not trying to discredit you.

Ariella: Similar to the point that was just made, I’m remembering last year, before the walkout, there were people in my Biology class that were frustrated that the teacher wasn’t excusing them from missing the test. But that in itself made me upset because the whole point of a walkout is that you are sacrificing something, and if you can’t realize that the only way to work against our society and its flaws, you have to go against the institution that you are told to succumb to.

Jude: I agree with what Cynthia was saying. I think that two hours on a Friday marching from Columbus Circle to Central Park South doesn’t mean anything unless you stick with it. I think you can stick with it by continuing to march, but it needs to be a continuous thing, not a one time thing. It’s not just once a year. How many people at those marches do you think participate in some form of activism every week?

Tali R: I’m not sexist but I think that the Women’s March is flawed in the way that they run things, even in the way that their website is set up. If you look at what they stand for and their goals, there are too many things. It’s trying to end all suffering ever and that is a goal, but it’s not one that is necessarily solved by one Women’s March once a year. They shouldn’t try and label themselves as the solution. There’s also anti-semitism going on inside the group and as a Jewish person, that is something I deal with, but it’s not a solution for change. It’s a statement that garners attention and people, but doesn’t do anything.

Esme: I was just going to say that marching occasionally doesn’t make much change, but the idea of organizing and having a goal for change is really empowering and should motivate more change than it does, but I think those ideas are really important.

Linus: I think that marching does something. Politicians can see what’s happening and what the people care about, and if they’re not corrupt which a lot are or too many are, then they will care because it is a democracy and they will want to help and make legislation according to the people. I don’t think that you shouldn’t make sacrifices and if you have the opportunity to march, you should. Essentially, the most power an average American has is voting, where you go to a voting station and if there’s a long line that sucks but it’s one day. It’s not like you have to cut off your arm to vote. We live in a flawed society, but we don’t live in an anarchy so I don’t think we should degrade the good things that people are doing.

Jude: Again, I know that this a democracy, but people marching doesn’t affect the decisions or the outlooks of Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell and at the end of the day, while voting is important, it doesn’t always have the power to change everything.

Beacon’s Black History Show

By Tali Rosen

On Friday, February 1st, the Beacon Black Student Union and the Beacon Dance Company kicked off Black History Month with two performances of “Our American History,” an uplifting and enlightening two hours of dance, song, spoken word and drama at the Jacqueline K. Onassis High School. The evening opened and closed with an original skit about a girl applying to college who learns, by evening’s end, to embrace her heritage.

An appreciative Beacon audience watched a dance tribute to the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, who died last August. This was followed by several phenomenal tenth grade vocalists that included Lana Rockwell singing Lauryn Hill’s “I Find it Hard to Say”, Kayleigh Foster singing “We Won’t Move” by Arlissa, Hessie Diallo singing “Crane in the Sky” by Solange and Clementina Aboagye performing “I’m Here” by Cynthia Erivo from The Color Purple.

Dance was used throughout the show to bring history to life through movement, including a powerful piece called “Sadness Unrelieved” about the transatlantic slave trade, where the dancers strained against invisible chains and made the audience feel the shackles binding them. Next, “Justice At Last…???” dramatized youth participation in the Civil Rights boycotts, which moved to a re-enactment of the Rodney King incident and ended with a salute to the Black Lives Matter movement.

A spoken word performance of “Ebonics,” written and delivered by Aaliyah Daniels, gave an eloquent demonstration of the power of speech, and the vivacious BSU steppers ended the first half with a passionate celebration of culture and life.

After the intermission, the audience was welcomed back by a moving reading of the poem “Live Your Creed” by Langston Hughes from Beacon faculty and BSU member, Victor Young. When Mr. Young was asked, in an interview the day before the performance, why he was doing the show, he responded “I’m just trying to share what I know.”

In an interview about the show, several BSU members and Beacon students shared their feelings about being part of such an amazing evening.  Lana Rockwell talked about how she wants “people to experience something that maybe they haven’t before and kind of dive into a world that might be a little foreign to them and see a really fun new exciting show.”

Clementina Aboagye summed up the evening perfectly by describing the way it “showcases a lot of problems that people of color face in such a beautiful way that you can’t ignore it.”

The Hughes poem put one of the evening’s powerful themes, living education, into words: “the very best of teachers are the ones who live their creed.” That idea was echoed in the playbill with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” Mr. Young also paid tribute to Ms. Elliott, who together with the Black Student Union Directors brought the show to life. There were too many amazing performers and performances to mention by name, so mark your calendars now to come see for yourself and help fund Beacon arts programs while you are at it.

BSU Cares: How Social Media and Hard Work Fueled a Successful Coat Drive

By Ruby Paarlberg & Sophie Steinberg

During mid-winter break, as students were waiting on airport lines and sleeping in, BSU members were promoting their upcoming “BSU Cares Coat Drive” all over Instagram. When we got back to school, Beacon’s Black Student Union, otherwise known as BSU, began a coat drive in the lobby. Their efforts culminated in a school-wide effort to support those in need which garnered over 70 items of clothing.

BSU is an amazing club that provides a space for Black students at Beacon to join forces to discuss race at Beacon as well as celebrate Black culture and pride. In addition to their weekly meetings, the club hosts an annual Black History Show, which is often the highlight of February at Beacon. As a whole, their work and presence at Beacon helps create a safe space for black students and serves as inspiration for other social justice clubs and student unions.

Even though BSU hosts numerous events and community discussions, Club Leader Oumy Souane said that BSU tries to do charity work every year. Another club leader and senior Naiima Miller had the idea while talking to her mother. When she tried to throw away an old coat, her mother “suggested that they hosted a coat drive instead.” Collectively, the club realized that hosting a coat drive would be a relatively simple and easy way to help those in need as people “always have extra things that they can give away.”

Coats and clothing from the drive are being donated to the Covenant House which is a center for homeless and at-risk youth that offers “housing and support services to young people in need.” Founded in New York, the Covenant House has expanded to 31 cities across America and houses, on average, 1,920 youth every night. They also have a location called the Covenant House Casa Alianza in Nicaragua that helps prevent sex-trafficking and works to raise kids out of poverty. BSU’s work is contributing to a global non-profit right around the corner on West 41st Street.

    Specifically, The Covenant House’s direct work with teenagers was a perfect example of the “bubble” in which Beacon exists. Most kids at Beacon walk to school thoroughly bundled up in recent twenty-degree weather without a second thought, but BSU wanted to encourage Beacon students to use their privilege for a cause that was relevant to our generation and New York City as a whole. Naiima noted that there “are kids down the street that don’t have a coat or a house to go home to. They’re out there, in this 23 degree weather.” She also mentions that our coats, being teenage-sized, would not have “fit a 5 year-old” so the choice to work with The Covenant House was also practical.

Coat Drives are often overlooked, but during the winter time, they are especially important. Many New Yorkers have to brave consecutive winters without winter coats. BSU’s Coat Drive will truly make a difference and give more people a much-needed way to stay warm. Furthermore, efforts to aid the homeless are often most profound in the form of drives for necessary, and hardly accessible, items such as baby products, clothes, food, and tampons and pads. Club leader Oumy Souane says that as “teenagers going through the college process, we have grades to worry about, so if we can make somebody’s life a little bit easier, why shouldn’t we do it?”

In addition to BSU, the organization, New York Cares, ran their 30th annual coat drive this year. New York Cares is a nonprofit organization that manages volunteers citywide. This incredible program has an average of “65,000 volunteers in service each year.” The hundreds of thousands of winter coats collected in this annual Coat Drive are distributed to “public schools, religious institutions, and transitional housing shelters – all of which serve some of our city’s most vulnerable populations.” Every year New York City endures harsh winters and efforts from both New York Cares and BSU to collect and donate coats are admirable and necessary.

All around, the Coat Drive was a group effort, with much of its presence being owed to social media. The drive was first made known by BSU member InstaStories and even went on to be reposted by other Beacon students. Senior and club member Fatou Ndiaye said it was “empowering to see how we could really make a change and get things done” as members put up posters all over the school. Oumy says that social media was integral to spreading their message as people used the poster graphic on their Instagram to let people know. The poster seemed to go “viral” amongst Beacon students. She continues, noting that they would love to make the BSU Cares Coat Drive an annual event as they wish to “set the trend for the future of the club.” As coats are often taken for granted as basic necessities, Oumy believes that “there is always something you can do to help your community” and that it is not that hard to “do the research and have ideas” on ways to contribute.

BSU’s work is a perfect example of the good Beacon students can do when they put all hands on deck, online and in real life. Their success shows that social media can be a helpful tool for clubs, with fundraising and community service especially. At the end of our interview, Fatou, Naiima, and Oumy all agree that a perfect way to sign off of their discussion would be with the hashtag, “#MakeTheWorldaWarmerPlace,” and BSU is doing just that.

Lights, Music, Action: B’DAT’s Adventurous Twist of Romeo + Juliet

By Ayumu Izumo

B’DAT kicked off February with its production of the Shakespearean love tragedy, Romeo + Juliet, which starred Dylan Nadelman and Adelaide Lobenthal as Romeo and Juliet, respectively. However, this was not your average run of the centuries-old work. With the play taking place in “an American City in the present day between the Last Sunday in June and the 4th of July,” as mentioned in the show’s program, it’s safe to say that this rendition added a modern twist to the plotline–a twist similar to that of Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. It also added another interesting and ironic twist in gender roles. Romeo + Juliet, like many of William Shakespeare’s works, was originally intended to place males in female roles, as women were forbidden to act during the Shakespearean era, and Jo Ann Cimato’s interpretation of the play accomplishes the exact opposite of that by placing females in certain male roles.

    From the moment you walk into the theatre, you can feel the modern aura of B’DAT’s Romeo + Juliet. You can hear hipster, pop music blaring over the speakers as the audience takes their seats, something that you would not expect in a traditional production of the play. In addition to introducing the viewer to the modern setting of the play, the music also played an imperative role in telling its story as well. In some scenes, such as the fight between Romeo and Tybalt in the first half of the play, there was hip-hop music playing right before they started a fight together. As soon as that music broke out, I told myself, “this scene is gonna be intense,” and the fight started right after that, sparking a lot of gasps from audience members like me. In other scenes, such as the iconic balcony scene where Romeo and Juliet see each other, live music was played by cast members who played instruments such as the violin, piano, and ukulele. Not to mention that this live music was composed by one of B’DAT’s own students, Grace Albano. I was overall capitvated by how the play’s story was told through music by embodying the feelings that were brought out in multiple scenes and integrating the cast members’ musical talents into expressing them as well.

    The magnificent acting on the stage was another thing that grabbed my attention, big time. From the Nurse sticking her middle finger towards another character to Friar Lawrence sitting down and doing his morning meditation, I can say that a lot of the acting was really amusing. At the same time, the death scenes of characters like Mercutio, Tybalt, Romeo, and Juliet spawned tons of contagious grief, spreading from the actors to the audience members as they were all mourning the loss of such characters. And one more thing to note about the acting was the stage combat. The large amounts of force and might executed by the cast members in the heart-stopping fight scenes reflected the violent and brutal tone of these scenes skillfully and effectively.

    Also, I have to say how excellent the lighting was. Whether it was for the purple lights that shone at the party where Romeo and Juliet first saw each other, or the dark blue aura of the balcony scene, or the yellow lights that lit up in Friar Lawrence’s morning scene, you could easily differentiate the various settings within the play, amidst a simple set that never physically changed throughout the performance. This is a testament to the strength of both the actors and the story as they didn’t need other physical elements to establish their world.     In conclusion, I’ll use this phrase to describe B’DAT’s Romeo + Juliet: an “interactive adventure.” It was interesting to see how the story was not just told through the actors’ recital of Shakespearean English, but also through an amazing combination of acting, music, and lighting. This wild and wonderful mix made for an artistically pleasing version of Romeo + Juliet, as the story was told from a unique lens, and was able to successfully capture the shock and awe of its viewers.

A Greener Future: How Beacon’s Environmental Club is Working to Protect New York State from the Impact of Climate Change

By Anne Isman

It comes as no surprise that Beacon students have recently become more environmentally-conscious as Mason jars and water bottles line the tables in lieu of plastic iced coffee cups. Yet in spite of the student body’s effort to make small, everyday changes to help the environment as well as they can, much of what we can do is limited.  Fortunately, Beacon’s Environmental Club, which meets each Tuesday to discuss and advocate for environmental justice locally, has been working to pass large-scale environmental policy that will do much more to save the planet than using a metal straw over a plastic one.

The Environmental Club is currently working on the New York State Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA).  In 2016, the CCPA, which calls for making essential environmental reforms in New York, passed in the Assembly three times, but never made it to the Senate floor.  In 2018, the CCPA made it through the Assembly once again, and garnered more support within the Senate. Still, this act has yet to be passed, despite its necessity given the current state of environmental policy–or lack thereof–as well as the current state of our climate.

Specifically, the CCPA would enact statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits, and set the requirement that by 2030, 50% of NYS electricity is powered by renewable energy.  The CCPA also demands that 40% of NYS clean energy funds are reinvested in disadvantaged communities, or communities disproportionately impacted by climate change. Examples of these groups include those that are low-income, rely heavily on energy and fossil-fuel based industries, or suffer higher rates of air pollution.  Finally, the CCPA’s most important point is that by 2050, NYS will be completely free of fossil fuels, setting an example for other states that do not have strong climate-change protection laws.

Recently, the Environmental Club traveled to Albany to lobby for the CCPA to increase support for the bill. To understand why this act is especially timely, as well as its relevance to Beacon students, I spoke to senior Leila Henry, one of Environmental Club’s leaders.  In her opinion, one of the most important aspects of the bill was that “It sheds light on the fact that climate change is truly a social issue, not just an environmental one” by focusing its demands on at-risk communities. For instance, the bill seeks to provide transportation in these communities by offering low to zero-emission options, effectively making these areas more accessible through eco-friendly means.

When discussing why the Beacon student body should support the CCPA and care about environmental reform, Leila did not hesitate: “Students need to care about this issue because they live on Earth.  It’s as simple as that.” Especially given the recent U.N. prediction that there will be severe risk of environmental crisis by 2040, it is necessary to pass this reform now before climate change continues to cause irreparable harm.  Fortunately, if students find themselves looking to advocate for the CCPA or help spread awareness about environmental reform, the Environmental Club is always looking for new members.

The Need To Know: What Do You Want To Be?

By Esme Laster

As teenagers on the precipice of dramatic change, being an upperclassman is a series of unrelenting, and seemingly unanswerable questions: What colleges are you considering? Do you know what you want to study? And the worst of them all: do you know what you want to be? It’s hard to answer these questions honestly, when prompted by a next-door neighbor or an estranged family friend, while one is still embroiled in the social, academic happenings of the now. Whether you’ve known you wanted to be an astrophysicist from the ripe age of 10 like Junior at Laguardia High School, Izzy Lapidus, or merely known that you don’t want to be anything close to an astrophysicist, like myself, the impending “need to know” is an unavoidable aspect of adolescence. However, is this inevitability a mere product of our capitalist society, mobilizing us into economic units rather than critical thinkers? Does this need to know diminish our integrity to explore the limits of our education, or does it shape us into impassioned, productive adults?

While many adolescents are frightened by the prospect of choosing a career path, Junior Izzy Lapidus has met this prospect with surprising ease. Izzy has known since age 10 that she wants to be an astrophysicist or possibly a professor of astrophysics, as she doesn’t have “all the logistics figured out yet.” Upon hearing this, I couldn’t help but wonder if having such long endured interest in one subject has deterred Izzy from other prospective spheres of interest. In response to my inquiring, Izzy told me she “definitely puts more focus on subjects that directly relate to my [her] interests.” More specifically, after her sophomore year of high school Izzy decided to take AP Computer Science instead of AP French. In her words: “French is just not a subject I am passionate about, and so I deemed it unnecessary to take.” Izzy’s experience of dropping a class that doesn’t complement her personal interests is somewhat common ground amongst upperclassmen, who, after reaching a required amount of credits in a certain class have the ability to drop that class. For Izzy, her career drivenness enabled her to mediate between two equally important subjects. This ability to self-select areas of study that correlate to one’s chosen career requisites is integral in navigating the encroaching world of college, where areas of study are seemingly infinite.

While it’s clear that the “need to know” what to do in life is deeply conditioned into the minds of most adolescents, Izzy’s astrophysics aspirations grew more simply from emotion and passion. Perhaps imposing “need to know” on young adults gives adolescents a heightened sense of a purpose throughout their education.

Beacon Physics teacher of 2 years, Mr.Wight, finds this “need to know” both favorable and unfavorable. “On one hand,” Mr. Wight says, “it is an extremely valuable skill to be able to set a long term goal and execute appropriate short term goals to help you reach that goal.” However, Mr. Wight acknowledges that “not all high school students are confident in what career they’d like to pursue,” and “nor should they be!” Wight’s principal doctrine in regard to choosing a career is in accordance with the popular “life is about the journey, not the destination.” He believes, in choosing a career, “the most valuable learning comes from the process and not the end result.” Therefore, Mr. Wight advises students to allow the process to guide them, as opposed to them guiding the process by “working, relentlessly and tirelessly, to ‘achieve’ a goal and make it to a predetermined destination.” As someone who’s endured the entirety of this journey and several years of its destination, Mr. Wight’s advice should not be taken lightly as students embark on this journey.

Crucially, Mr. Wight mentioned that it is likely Beacon students “will change careers several times” throughout their lifetime. As confirmed by the United States Department of Labor, members of Generation Z are expected to change careers 3 to 7 times. These predicted changes force us to reevaluate the assumption that one eternal and unconditional career path awaits us at the tail end of our education. Perhaps, our idea of what awaits is simply outdated. Forbes Magazine also anticipates the unconventional from Generation Z, as it is predicted only 15% of those individuals will choose financial security over job satisfaction. While this statement is deeply dependent on one’s current state of financial security, this foreseeable radicalism in Generation Z’s approach towards the working world is exciting. Additionally, the ever changing state of the economy suggests that today’s adolescents can’t rely on an outdated assumptions or ideals, we can only wait and see.

Coping With Test Anxiety

By Ruby Paarlberg

Most high schoolers know the suspenseful silence as a test is being handed out all too well. The silence continues until the test is over when everyone can breathe again. Exams are proctored in sterile environments amongst a sea of nail biting and fidgety students. It is difficult to remain calm and confident when the air around you is distressed. Test anxiety is a vicious epidemic that plagues teenagers. Not only are students expected to take tests in each of their academic classes in school, but they also need to take standardized tests like the SAT or the ACT.

In New York City, Math and English standardized state tests haunt children as young as eight years old. Controversial common core testing, that is graded on a scale of 1-4, starts in third grade and lasts until eighth. In addition to the required state tests, many eighth graders in the city also take the SHSAT, which is an entrance exam required for specialized public high schools. Curing this cycle of stress is nearly impossible because of how embedded it is in our current school culture. Once a child begins testing, they are in for the long, seemingly endless, haul.

Jenna Diamond, an eleventh grader, says that she gets anxious when taking the SATs because “there is so much pressure to do well.” Jenna is one of many high schoolers who feels this way about the many tests required for college acceptance. High expectations from parents and cut off scores for colleges only amplify the already unpleasant process of test taking. In addition to outside pressures to perform well, students often get shaken up because they think that their score is an indicator of their intelligence. This is certainly not the case, but the test environment can easily provoke these thoughts. As a result of pressures and anxiety, Jenna often feels “a sharp pain in the pit of [her] stomach” before she begins the SAT.

Even though students have to constantly endure the painful process of completing an exam, every test taker has their own way of managing their anxiety in the moment. Junior, Saniah Arnold, eases her test anxiety by spending “a lot of time studying on the days leading up to the test.” Preparing a lot for an exam makes her feel more confident while she takes the test. Other students take cold or hot showers the morning before the day of a big test, or some even bring a lucky pencil.

Another strategy that has been proven effective is to envision yourself succeeding on test day. Closing your eyes for two minutes and vividly imagining the testing environments can help mentally prepare you for the toll of the test. Some students also play their pump up songs in their heads before the start of the exam to get them ready and excited. Being in a good mental state during the test is often difficult to maintain, but nevertheless key to staying focused and potentially scoring well.

Although test taking is difficult, draining and generally discouraging, it is important to find strategies that ease test anxiety so that we can have the best chance at performing well.

Beacon Seniors Organize a Youth-Led Climate March for July 21st, 2018

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Seniors in Global Environmental Politics sit with their Subcommittee groups in class, organizing for the Zero Hour NYC Youth Climate March taking place on July 21st, 2018. 

For the last few weeks, Beacon seniors in History teacher Bayard Faithfull’s Global Environmental Politics course have dedicated their last unit to organizing a Youth Climate March in New York City for July 21st, 2018 as part of the Zero Hour organization, a youth-led movement to combat climate change and support environmental justice.

The march will represent an international day of action. Students from New York City to Melbourne, Australia will take to the streets to call upon policymakers at every level of governance to separate themselves from the fossil fuel industry and support a complete transition to renewable energy.

In NYC, march participants will meet at 11:00am at Columbus Circle. From there, they will march to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza by the United Nations Headquarters, where organizers will hold an hour-long rally featuring high school and college students experienced in environmental activism.

Beacon students began organizing for the NYC march shortly after Mr. Faithfull introduced them to the Zero Hour march taking place in Washington, DC. One student, Ilana Cohen, reached out to Zero Hour’s organizers to inquire about a sister march in the city. After hearing that there was none, she and fellow senior Amy Torres became determined to organize their own. They currently serve as the Co-Head Coordinators of Zero Hour NYC. Their friends in Global Environmental Politics were eager to get involved in the march-organizing efforts. Now, the entire class is broken up into five official Subcommittees, each focusing on a different aspect of the march.

One of the students’ biggest objectives is to raise funds for the stage and sound system needed for the post-march rally. To do so, they have created a gofundme campaign and are encouraging their friends, families, and fellow Beaconites to donate and spread the word. Another one of their objectives is to maximize outreach to students outside of the Manhattan school circle. One Subcommittee is working to contact students in outer-borough schools, as well as to reach out to student social justice and activist organizations, to make the march as inclusive and intersectional as possible.

Seniors have also been putting their artistic skills to use. Several have created posters in support of the march, and a few plan on creating a larger mural with the arts-based organization People’s Puppets of Occupy Wall Street. One student, Sarah Leather, created a brief video emphasizing the need for action to protect the planet and support a sustainable future.

Already, the NYC march has attracted attention from lawmakers and activists alike. Recently, the City of New York tweeted in support of the student organizers’ efforts. Organizational partners for the NYC march include the People’s Climate Movement, 350 NYC, Alliance for Climate Education, and Sunrise Movement.

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Even as their time at Beacon nears an end, the seniors plan on remaining engaged in march-organizing through July 21st. Senior Cristal Colon has found organizing for the NYC Youth Climate March to be a rewarding and eye-opening experience: “I have been able to meet a wide array of people and have interesting conversations. My favorite part about the whole thing is that I️ get to educate and learn form other teenagers.” She views the march as a unique way to call attention to the issue of climate change, one that is “detrimental in all aspects for our generation, as well as for our children’s generation.”

The students’ message is clear: the time for climate action is now. #thisiszerohour

You can learn more about Zero Hour NYC by visiting their website and social media handles (Facebook/Instagram: Twitter: @zerohournyc). To connect directly with the student organizers, email 

You can support Zero Hour NYC’s fundraising efforts by donating at Anyone interested can sign up to join a Zero Hour NYC Subcommittee or volunteer on-site during the July 21st march. 

All Politics Is Local: Council Member Brad Lander Comes to Beacon

By Adrian Flynn

Photos by Kareem Sidibe & Adrian Flynn


On Wednesday, May 16th, NYC Council Member Brad Lander spoke to Beacon students about his experience in city government as part of an event organized by Model Congress minority leader Divine Ndombo. In her opening speech, Ndombo noted Lander’s support for youth involvement in politics, a theme that became clear through Lander’s advocacy for community-based change. While Lander touched on a multitude of issues he dealt with as a Council Member, one message was particularly prominent:  “All politics is local.”

This sentiment underlines Lander’s belief in community activism. After graduating from college, Lander spent over a decade in community development with a focus on affordable public housing. He worked for 10 years at the Fifth Avenue Committee in Gowanus and Park Slope, an organization he stated “helps organize tenants, build affordable housing, help people find jobs, [and] do prisoner re-entry work for people coming back to the neighborhood.” He added that his first “taste into politics” was assisting people in getting organized to participate in public policy campaigns, mostly dealing with gentrification. In Park Slope, Lander recognized that a growing number of individuals were being forced out of their homes by rising prices due to increased development, an issue that he asserts “has grown and still persists today all over the city.”

As Lander tried to deal with these issues, he says that he found that “the public policy tools we needed just weren’t there… [laws] were just too weak to be protecting tenants from displacement.” He subsequently found that his work entailed more effort to change public policy than he had initially envisioned. Over time, he built up his skills in community organizing and applying pressure on politicians to make stronger laws on tenants’ rights. He discussed “inside-outside strategies for making change” and how, while he believes in what government can accomplish, he does not think that change happens just from “good people running for office, getting elected, and making good things happen.” Rather, it is a combination of grassroots organizers and politicians who understand the complexities of moving a piece of legislation that can be effective in bringing about real change.



After weighing the pros and cons of running for public office, Lander decided to take a look at the district he was living in, which was then represented by “somebody named Bill de Blasio.” In 2009, de Blasio was term-limited, so Lander decided to run for Council Member in the Democratic Primary and he won with just over 40% of the vote. He was then endorsed by both the Democratic Party and the left-wing Working Families Party, and easily won the general election with about 70% of the vote. Upon entering the Council in 2010, Lander and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito formed the Progressive Caucus. Lander said the reason for this was that he noticed that even with the Democrats’ overwhelming majority in the Council, there was much “diversity of opinion.” In that first term, the Progressive Caucus decided to focus its work on three core issues: winding down “stop and frisk” procedures, ensuring at least five paid sick days per year for workers, and passing a “Living Wage” bill to make sure that businesses receiving subsidies or grants from the city were not paying their workers poverty-level wages. All three of these initiatives passed before the end of Lander’s first term, an accomplishment he says was due to the overwhelming public support that each initiative received and the ability of the Progressive Caucus to work with outside coalitions of citizens.

In the 2013 elections, the progressive platform again proved successful, with Bill de Blasio winning the mayoral race and the Progressive Caucus doubling its representation. Lander’s Progressive Caucus co-chair Melissa Mark-Viverito was also elected as Speaker of the City Council. With this new sphere of influence in his second term, Lander helped enact many progressive policies. These included persuading the Mayor to announce his intention to close Rikers Island Prison and to ensure that low-income tenants in housing court who are facing eviction could access a lawyer, which Lander states 95% of them did not have. In 2017, Lander got elected for a third time with a whopping 98.49% of the vote. In 2021, Lander and 36 other Council Members will be forced to vacate their seats. Lander remarked to Beacon students that “there will be a lot of openings… it’s a good place to start!” He stressed once more that we need “good leaders” to write public policy and that we should not be intimidated by the prospect of running for elected office.

At one point, Lander recalled the biggest humiliation of his political career. He even remarked that a student was “triggering” him when asked about his relations to the New York State government. He then explained how he had introduced legislation last year to put a five-cent tax on environmentally-damaging plastic bags. The City Council vote was the closest that he has seen so far on one of his pieces of legislation, but the bill passed. However, the state government in Albany overruled the bill, striking down the plastic bag fee. Lander explained: “States are the foundational element in this country,” both giving cities their power and taking it away.

When asked how young people can make change without being able to vote, Lander shared his hopes of “expand[ing] the sense of what civic obligation is” beyond voting, noting how he wants to establish an Office of Civic Engagement to help people take “shared responsibility for the city.” Lander also expressed support for the activism of Beacon students and encouraged them to continue organizing for the causes that they care about. He also emphasized that we should strive to “build relationships across lines of difference,” as “we’re not going to be able to solve problems unless we build that capacity for working together.” This applies to both working in a bipartisan manner and bridging the gap between politicians and community activists.

To end, Lander reiterated his main message, urging students “to stay engaged at the local level.”


Let’s Be Awake: The Benefits of Starting the School Day at 9am

Op-Ed Contest Winner #1

By Leonardo Elie


Everybody learns better when they are awake,” observes Mary Carskadon, Brown University Professor of Human Behavior. Unfortunately, this cannot be a reality at The Beacon School in New York City, where many students trudge through the day like zombies, their brains and bodies unable to meet the requirements of a stressful and exhausting school day. I am a sophomore at Beacon, and I am one of those zombies. Instead of being active and attentive in class, we spend much of the 55 minute period channeling all our willpower toward keeping our eyes open for as long as possible. There is one primary cause for this destruction of our academic performance and mental health: the absurdly early time that school begins.

  A Beacon school day starts at 8am, an hour before the 9am start time recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. It’s possible to claim that many schools across the country start too early (over 90% of secondary school students in America fail to get enough sleep), but our situation is unique due to our school’s location. Beacon is located in midtown Manhattan, while many of the 1600 students live at distant points of the metropolitan area–the Bronx and Staten Island, Park Slope and upper Manhattan. Based on what I hear from other students, most of our commutes take at least an hour (not including train delays). What does this mean? This means that much of our student population is forced to exit their homes at around 7am. Before then, these students must wake up, eat breakfast, shower, get dressed, brush their teeth, and pack their bags–all before seven in the morning! And that’s after students get home late in the evening due to extracurricular activities with mountains of homework left to do.     

  How, specifically, does this early start time affect us students? There are dramatic effects that come with an 8am start time, which scientists have described as “abusive,” “cruel,” and “nuts.” The primary effect is sleep deprivation, which is currently considered a public health epidemic among adolescents by medical professionals. Doctors, scientists and medical experts all recommend that adolescents get eight hours of sleep per night, but most Beacon students I know get seven hours of sleep or less, and studies indicate that this is true for high school students across the country. Car crashes kill more teenagers than any other cause of death in our age group, and sleep-deprived teenagers are disproportionately likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes. While I don’t know any Beacon students who drive themselves to school, the CDC reports a number of other effects of sleep deprivation that certainly impact us Beaconites. These include obesity, excessive use of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs, as well as poor academic performance. If our school really cares about our mental, physical, and academic wellbeing, it must try to remedy the problem of our sleep deprivation.

The solution to this problem is simple, and has already been incorporated in a large number of high schools across the country; school should start at nine o’clock, only one hour later than it currently does. This would allow students to sleep longer, eat better in the morning, and arrive at school on time, alert, and in peak condition for learning. It would also make us less susceptible to the social ills that come with lack of sleep.  

You may think that if the school day begins later, students will then go to bed later, but this is not the case. In fact, in a CDC study, 93% of students surveyed stuck to their bedtimes when the start time was pushed back by an hour. If the start time at Beacon were delayed until 9 am, the result would likely be that many more of us students would get a solid nine hours of sleep a night. The effect of this extra sleep would be profound. Studies in Massachusetts and Rhode Island have shown that when school start time is pushed back, attendance, in-class attentiveness, and grades improve, while the rate of teen car accidents decreases.

It can be argued that the 8am start time is necessary to keep the transit system from being overcrowded in the morning rush hour, centered on a 9am start to the business day — but students and other commuters would adjust (we are good at finding space on crowded trains and buses). And it could be argued that starting the school day later will mean ending it later, delaying sports practices and other extracurricular activities — but these are just not as important as the school day. The primary purpose of school at Beacon is to provide a fulfilling academic experience.  

The pros to a later start time greatly outweigh the cons. If the start time is changed to 9am at Beacon, the students at our school will become noticeably more prepared for the school day, both mentally and academically. We will have higher grades and fewer absences, and will be less susceptible to taking harmful substances. Most importantly, we will be fully awake, ready to be attentive and participate to our fullest extent in our classes — to engage with any situation that comes our way.

Increasing School Spirit Means Uniting the Student Body

Op-Ed Contest Winner #2

By Camilla French

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There is a beauty to standing in a cheering crowd and celebrating the final goal, to standing on stage with your classmates and basking in the glory of the lights and applauding audience, and to walking through the doors on that first day of school to be welcomed by friends and teachers. Your chest swells with pride and you feel like you belong. Although Beacon is known as one of the top public high schools in New York City, it is lacking in a greater spirit. Already disadvantaged by being an urban school—with no campus, football team, or small-town drama—Beacon doesn’t promote schoolwide camaraderie. As Beacon students we belong to our cliques, our after-school activities, and our individual classes, but not to the school as a whole. If Beacon were to encourage school spirit and have a more prominent student government, the energized environment would improve the academic and social experiences of all its students.

As a young child, I imagined high school to be like it is in the movies—cliques, carpools to school, pep rallies, and house parties. Caroline Kelly, a high school student in the suburbs of Massachusetts, described this fantasy as her reality: “we easily express [our school spirit] externally through wearing pajamas, all black, or whatever else the day calls for. I thoroughly enjoyed the Pep Rally sitting in the overflowing junior section, wearing black and screaming for the junior class pie-eater, Sam Phillips. The gym buzzed with its green, white, black, and red sections, all eager to represent their class. The music was energetic, the dances, well-choreographed, and the football players, contagiously excited.” However, the city fosters a different environment. I personally like the network that is created among city schools, but a small part of me yearns for a football game and a bonfire. Perhaps, we don’t need those activities to achieve the same goal and can instead form a family through pride.

Most of the students at Beacon like the school, but this doesn’t mean they have school spirit. When asked about the school, students jumped at the opportunity to complain (not to say that this is wrong—it is natural for teenagers to have a complicated relationship with school). In a quick poll I conducted, 61% of students said that they were proud of Beacon, yet only 14% believed that Beacon has school spirit. When in school, students should want to be a part of activities and events, and to feel like part of a greater whole—that is the root of school spirit.

While I transferred from Stuyvesant High School this semester, entering Beacon felt like a large shift in terms of environment, among other differences. The students overall felt happier and more energized to pursue their passions beyond academics. However, at Stuyvesant, since everyone was working under immense pressure, the struggle brought the student body together in a unique way. Perhaps we needed to justify all of the work we did or perhaps, it was because we truly were proud of our accomplishments, both academic and practical. Looking back on my own experience, I would argue that it was both. The Stuyvesant Student Government, the clubs, and the performances were all completely student-run. When they achieved incredible feats, the success was even more satisfying. One of the most difficult parts of leaving Stuyvesant was losing that spirit—that family. As soon as I was no longer crushed under the weight of school, no longer staying up late in chats debating in student government, I didn’t belong.

This exclusion is a potential disadvantage of increased school spirit at Beacon. When freshmen and transfer students enter the school, they should be welcomed into the environment, just as I was this year. Students didn’t look down upon me because I was from Stuyvesant; rather, the diversity was celebrated. Beacon should preserve this environment by promoting spirit for the school that already exists—one filled with passionate students open to discussion and new ideas, one that cares more about the learning process than the numerical grade.

To reach such a utopia, Beacon should instill a more prominent student government than the club we have now. This will empower kids to create an environment for their peers and themselves that they want to work in. It is much easier to be proud of something you have accomplished yourself. When this organization organizes events such as dances, it will both bring the student body together and show them the infinite abilities of their classmates.

A school with high morale and proud students creates a more positive environment, promoting healthy lifestyles and better academic situations. It also increases loyalty to the school, increasing involvement post-graduation. More alumni support would give more financial opportunity to Beacon—providing more potential for the school to be an even greater place.