Required Reading: A Review of “Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania”

By Anne Isman

Beacon students are extremely fortunate; our college counseling office offers one-on-one advising, and our counselors are essentially our personal assistants when we need a transcript sent, a reminder to a teacher to write our recommendation, or any of our questions answered.  

But with such strong advising, which starts early junior year, college admissions mania starts early as well.  However, if you’re a freshman or sophomore worried that you will not end up at your first-choice school, a stressed out junior that has already taken the SAT three times, or a senior that just received more rejections than expected, you should be reading Frank Bruni’s Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania.

Filled with anecdotes from students who went to college far from the Ivy League, to stories from college admissions counselors and consultants that have seen how irrational high schoolers become while applying, Bruni is more than convincing in his argument that where you go to college doesn’t matter, because it’s what you do when you get there that does.  

Bruni also discusses how deeply flawed and unjust the admissions process is at some of the country’s elite schools.  For instance, admissions officers may reject a student on the basis of their interests simply because a student with similar passions has already been admitted.  He also mentions that children of Harvard alumni have five times a greater chance of being admitted than students who are not legacies. The list of absurdities goes on, which further drives Bruni’s point that a college’s decision to accept or reject you is by no means a measurement of your character, but rather the culmination of factors that are well out of your control.

When I first started reading Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be, I had already received a few rejections and was concerned that I would be going to a school with less prestige than the ones I had hoped to attend.  However, many of the CEOs and politicians Bruni interviews, such as Howard Schultz and Condoleezza Rice, did not attend an Ivy League school, or even an elite college.  Instead, they took advantage of the resources at their respective universities, such as enrolling in classes of interest and maintaining close relationships with faculty, and are successful today because of the self motivation they possessed.  Whether you’re at Cornell or Indiana, your education is only as good as the effort you put in.

Bruni also addresses how the application process distorts the actual capabilities of the applicant.  At Princeton, where he taught in 2014, he noticed that the applications students turned in to land a spot in his journalism course were far better than the actual work they submitted while enrolled in his class.  This, he claims, is because students who have prepared their whole lives or high school careers to attend an elite institution are good at packaging themselves to appear as though they are Ivy League quality, while not necessarily being capable of the caliber of work professors expect.  In other words, attending a prestigious university does not inherently make you more intelligent or more likely to have a lucrative career than a student elsewhere.

The greatest aspect of Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be is the reality-check it provides; reading this book made me realize that although I had worked hard to get into schools that ultimately rejected me, that hard work was not a waste, as many of my peers feel about their admissions process upon receiving rejections.  We don’t deserve to go to our first-choice school because our SAT or ACT score is above a certain marker, or because we had the maximum number of extracurriculars on the Common App. College itself is not a trophy or a reward for having worked hard in school, but another opportunity to learn and discover more about ourselves and our interests.  This can be achieved at any school if you resolve to do it.*Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni is available in the Beacon library.

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.

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.

Snap Out of It: I Deleted Snapchat and You Should Too

By Anne Isman

After another aimless scroll through Snapchat, landing on a story with a slew of unfamiliar faces in it, I realized how boring it was.  Maybe one image was funny or relevant to me, but given how much content people upload to their Snapchat, viewing an interesting story was a rarity.  Even my own posts were irrelevant to anyone outside of my sphere of friends, if interesting to anyone except myself. Snapchat, which is used daily by 187 million people, is essentially a dumping ground for posts not good enough for Instagram, and with that, followers are privy to the mundane and “unfiltered” moments of their friends’ lives.

I first downloaded Snapchat two years ago to stay in touch with friends abroad.  By simply watching their stories every so often, I was supposedly “keeping in touch” the way Snapchat enabled me to do: watching people’s lives but not actually communicating with them.  Exchanging usernames was our way of remaining connected without putting in any effort to remain friends, which created more distance.

Besides the disconnect, the abundance of the amount of content I looked through daily on the app overwhelmed me, especially since many of those I follow are not necessarily close friends.  As a result, I was essentially watching the lives of people I didn’t really know, which felt invasive. Unfortunately, Snapchat makes it obvious when there are stories yet to be viewed, and I obsessively watched the available stories to clear the top of my feed, so only messages from close friends remained.  I was using Snapchat as a replacement for regular text messaging, a testament to how unnecessary this app’s functions truly are.

To emphasize, nearly every time I opened the app, I found myself looking at someone’s lunch or a photo of a street with a decorative geotag or time stamp on it.  Although I continued to watch these stories, upon every viewing I asked myself why I bothered opening the app in the first place. It was as though the more I watched people’s Snapchat stories, the less I cared about what I was watching–and why should I?  The stories disappear in 24 hours anyway.

Eventually, I decided I was going to just get rid of the app, as I was exhausted by giving my time to something that didn’t really provide me with much in return.  Even Snapchat’s news stories, which I usually scrolled through, could have been read elsewhere. The moment I removed the app from my phone, I was no longer haunted by the blinding yellow square and the ghost suspended inside of it.  

After removing Snapchat, my friends asked me what I would do with all my extra free time, or how I would see what people were doing.  Although I’ve only been without the app for a week, I have no longer had to feel the intense boredom that came with scrolling through story after story in which the geotag was more interesting than the photo.  What I’ve realized by not having Snapchat is that I’m not interested in watching the dull and routine moments of someone else’s everyday life, and I can’t understand why anyone would want to see those moments in my life either.

That said, do yourself a favor and get rid of Snapchat.

What’s There to Talk About? What “13 Reasons Why” Doesn’t Show

By Anne Isman

If you haven’t already seen it, you’ve definitely heard people talking about it; the second season of the viral Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” was recently released, consisting of thirteen new episodes revolving around the students of Liberty High as they testify in Hannah’s trial against their school.  Just as the first season dealt with the sexual assault and harassment, which ultimately led Hannah to commit suicide, this season focuses on how these issues continue to plague a high school where the administration repeatedly fails its students. This season, “13 Reasons Why” is less about Hannah, the individual and her story, and more about her legacy and what her peers have chosen to do about it.

During his testimony in the first episode, Tyler warns, “Just because you have the picture doesn’t mean you have the whole story.”  Not only are Tyler’s words true in terms of how Hannah’s life fell apart in Season One, but they seem to explain the more restrained and far less graphic imagery of Season Two, at least until you get to the last episode.  

Just as we saw Hannah commit suicide in a no-holds-barred scene that left many young viewers disturbed and mental health advocates concerned, this season has become far more aware of itself; speaking of students’ battles with self-harm and rape instead of depicting them once again. Critics of the first season’s insensitive handling of touchy subjects, mainly suicide and sexual assault, claimed these images were unnecessary in conveying the series’ important messages, which is why most of the new episodes seem to refrain from showing such upsetting scenes.

However, this is only the case for some of the season, until the viewer is faced with graphic drug use, an entirely new horrific rape scene, and a literal box full of images depicting non-consensual sex acts.  Hearing the students’ testimonies, in which they describe Hannah’s suicide and the events leading up to it, is far easier to consume than explicit scenes scattered among the final episodes in which their purpose seems simply to provoke, or worse, trigger the viewer.  

To return to the opening quote, it’s easy to look at these disturbing images and wonder what to do with what you just saw; how should I appropriately respond to a teenager’s use of heroin? Producers of “13 Reasons Why” claim that their intent is to spark meaningful discussion surrounding difficult topics, yet the actual episodes, in which characters rarely come forward about what they are experiencing, give little direction as to how to actually approach such conversations.  Instead, we see characters respond to assault with attempts to shoot up their school in retaliation, or as we saw Season One, suicide. Of course, other factors contributed to Hannah’s death, yet how can producers expect to encourage discussion when the characters on our screen don’t?

A third season is already being considered, which seems unnecessary.  A show like “13 Reasons Why” is important, much like addressing the issues depicted on the show is, but “13 Reasons Why” doesn’t know how to address them, despite their many attempts.  When so much of viewers’ response to the show revolves around the merits of the actual series, and not the content as the creators so hope, is this series really starting a thoughtful conversation?  In my opinion, no.

Safety in Squads: Unpacking Clique Culture at Beacon

By Anne Isman

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Most of us agree: cliques and high school go hand in hand. Whether we think of a clique as a small group of friends or an exclusive group of people who won’t associate with anyone other than themselves, cliques are visible among all grades at Beacon. These cliques reflect self-segregation among Beacon students in more ways than one, and the culture of divisiveness they create can cause problems for the student body.

Unsurprisingly, Beacon students tend to make friends with peers of similar political ideologies, often more left-leaning and progressive. According to junior Sophia Aracena, “politics is a part of [one’s] lifestyle,” referencing that if a student expresses problematic beliefs or values, she “wouldn’t want to associate” with someone of views that so strongly clash with her own.  Echoing Sophia’s sentiment, junior Elizabeth Stormant, who claims that her friend group is fairly progressive, believes that “political views are a reflection of one’s morals.” In other words, how compatible we are with a friend may be based on how similar our political beliefs are, leading students to seek out those of like mind.

Just as Beacon friend groups tend to share political ideology, they also tend to share racial identity. While the majority of students surveyed by “The Beacon Beat” responded that it is “by chance” that they are friends with those of the same race, Sophia explained that it can be difficult to expand one’s friend group at Beacon given that our school is “comprised mostly of white people who [she] cannot relate to.” With this in mind, is doesn’t seem so random that students gravitate towards friends of the same racial background.

This self-segregation could also be symptomatic of a lack of diversity in Beacon’s admissions process. Senior Isabella Bohner stated that Beacon “accept[s] the same type of people from the same schools,” resulting in a student body that shares similar lifestyles, mentalities, and racial identities. For students like Sophia who recognize these divisions, it can be alienating to be a part of a student body of which over 51% is white.

However, in terms of the economic makeup of friend groups, over half of all students surveyed claimed that as far as they knew, their friends were of different economic means than them. This indicates that while students may seek out friends who share superficial similarities, money and what one cannot necessarily determine from sheer observation may not factor as much into how we find our friends.

As mentioned earlier, many Beacon students hail from the same prominent middle schools, most notably Park Slope’s M.S. 51 and the Upper West Side’s Delta. Out of familiarity, students from the same middle school tend to stick together. Then, once friend groups are formed, they’re “pretty much set” according to a Beacon junior who requested anonymity. A sophomore, also wishing to remain anonymous, agreed: “People aren’t really open to including new people in their already-set group dynamic.” Comfortable with their routine, students may refrain from reaching out to new people.

However obvious they are at Beacon, clique culture is not unique to our school. Juan Zucchero, a new History teacher, weighed in on how he has watched his students sort themselves into various factions. While he sees “very typical cliques [at Beacon],” noting the “gender [and] race divisions” among the student body, Zucchero also sees cliques of “people who play sports [or] people that are musical.” This reflects students gravitating towards others who share their interests. By either standard, it’s not unexpected that in a school of over 1,300 students, people seek out groups of friends who they feel share some part of their identity.

Inevitably, this can also lead to exclusion, the main problem students have with cliques at Beacon.  When asked if the administration should be doing anything about clique culture, junior Lauren Hay remarked that gradewide lunch bands feed into the formation of cliques, and that with grade-dispersed lunch bands–as Beacon scheduled two years ago–students would “be given the opportunity to stray from their typical friend groups and meet new people.” Students could forge new friendships with people they might never have interacted with.

Some students argue that it may be too late for the administration to eliminate Beacon’s clique culture. Sophomore Maeve McSloy affirmed that the problem “could quite possibly be out of their hands now,” given the pervasiveness of cliques and insularity of many friend groups.  Others argue that it’s not the administration’s place to interfere with students’ friendships. According to junior Lucas Lovekin, “they shouldn’t do anything drastic…unless there is bullying.”

If cliques are more than simply human nature at work, we should consider why Beacon students have divided themselves so distinctly. We may want to reconsider how comfortable we’ve become amongst people so much like ourselves, and why in as progressive a school as our own, we fail to show diversity when it comes to our friendships.

“Just One More Episode”: The Dangers of Binge-Watching

By Anne Isman


We’ve all done it. Sitting in front of Netflix or our preferred streaming service, we’ve told ourselves this would be the last episode–or that this would be the last one–until we forget when we even started watching. For the few out there who haven’t spent countless hours sitting in front of a TV or computer screen, binge-watching is defined as continuously watching multiple episodes of a show or program in rapid succession. Binge-watching has become so commonplace that people even brag about how quickly they have watched a particular series, or show surprise at the mere thought of watching one episode a week.

While binge-watching is not exclusive to any genre of television, watching ten episodes of a 30-minute sitcom creates a far different experience than sitting through multiple hour-long episodes of a more disturbing or violent series. Netflix shows such as Mindhunter, which follows an FBI agent’s exploration into the minds of sexually disturbed killers, Black Mirror, which consists of plenty of gore, and intense Law and Order: SVU are clear examples of the latter. Despite how weighty these shows’ content is in comparison to light-hearted shows like The Office or Friends, many still binge-watch them.

“I watched Mindhunter in less than 24 hours,” recalled junior Leila Henry. “[But] I don’t remember anything about the show.” Often, watching a series so quickly does not allow the viewer to retain the information depicted but instead rushes the process of entertainment and ultimately, diminishes the significance of each episode. One’s focus may be stronger during the first or second episode one watches, while by the time one gets to the fifth or sixth episode, the episodes will likely start blurring together.

One student who wished to remain anonymous reported that watching Criminal Minds often caused the student’s “perception of strangers [to] change” and made the student “more cautious and anxious.” Despite this,the student continued watching, explaining, “The show is so addicting.”  

Similarly, sophomore Jake Brooks claimed that binge-watching can make him feel “unsafe” at times. After rapidly watching a disturbing show, “it’s all [he] can think about until [he] watches something else.” Even for the most unnerving show, Jake doesn’t refrain from binge-watching: “If all the episodes are available, why not?”

This temptation to watch all that’s available stops us from limiting our consumption of disturbing content. The next episode quickly pops up right after we finish the last, giving us little time to pause and consider taking a break. Yet it’s concerning that one can feel so comfortable when watching several violent episodes of American Horror Story, for instance, in one sitting. Watching graphic content so quickly may numb us to disturbing material that should be difficult to witness, enabling us to watch such shows more easily.

However, despite its popularity, binge-watching is truly the opposite of what entertainment should be. Rather than watching an entire TV series in a week, we should be slowing ourselves down to give us time to digest what we’ve just watched.  Pacing ourselves can give us a better viewing experience, one in which we can actually absorb the content of the show, which is imperative when it comes to a more nuanced and complex series. Unfortunately, our binge-watching suits our fast-paced lives; abstaining from such rapid viewing of our favorite shows will take a lot more effort than it does to sit for hours on end in front of a screen.

Beacon’s Dreaded Week: How Beacon Students Cope with Stress of PBAs

By Anne Isman

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It’s that time of the year again–no, I’m not talking about the holidays. Following Winter break comes PBA week, an event students cannot escape as deadlines start to roll in, teachers begin to hand out assignments, and students stress even more about semester grades.  When it comes time for finals, it can seem that our schedules consist of nothing but work, which may make students more resentful towards their teachers and even more likely to procrastinate. Fed up with having to face yet another weekend of endless homework, I looked to my peers to see how they remain calm while dealing with copious amounts of stress.  

Many students emphasized a greater need for sleep when dealing with an overwhelming amount of work. As Lauren Hay advised, “Having enough sleep can…improve concentration.” This philosophy was also voiced by Gillian Vilela, who mentioned that taking naps helps break up endless amounts of homework.

Other students believe that rewarding oneself every so often can serve as an incentive to remain focused on work. This can involve taking a break to listen to music, as Anya Splittgerber recommended, or to simply eat a good meal, as suggested by Kate Pamplin.

Kate also detailed the importance of developing time management skills, given all the work assigned in the lead-up to PBA week.  Specifically, Kate suggested that labelling things “in order of importance–to get ‘x’ done first because it’s the most important and then [moving] on from there,” can provide structure to an immense workload, resulting in less time spent procrastinating and more time spent completing assignments.

Despite the pressure Beacon students often experience when asked to complete difficult, time-consuming projects for PBA week, as well as the pressure they put on themselves to maintain and boost their grades, Julian Fuchsberg argued that at the end of the day, “there are more important things than just school.” He reminds students that “eventually [the] work will be done” and PBA week will be over.  Ultimately, all that Beacon students can really do to prepare for an upcoming PBA week is put forth their best efforts, while remembering that in reality, it’s just one tough week they have to face.

The Commercialization of Christmas has Diminished Hanukkah

By Anne Isman


“So Hanukkah’s like the Jewish Christmas right?” This is a question I’ve heard countless times during the holiday season, when ornamented trees start sprouting up across the city with small, dimly lit menorahs trailing behind them. My answer to the question is simple: No. Hanukkah is, of course, not the “Jewish Christmas.” Yet as each holiday season passes, this seems to become an increasingly common misconception.

While Christmas is essentially a religious figure’s birthday, Hanukkah celebrates a candle that stayed alight for eight days. Yet throughout the 20th century, the two holidays became more and more similar due to their overlapping time of year. This led mainly North American Jewish families to replicate the gift-giving of their non-Jewish counterparts in their own households. But in comparison to other significant Jewish holidays, Hanukkah is relatively minor; the growing emphasis on gift-giving often makes it seem to be of equal stature to Christmas. For many, Hanukkah has developed into eight nights of materialism, much like the lauded opening of presents on Christmas morning. Still, Christmas continues to dominate the public sphere during the holiday season.

Whether it’s the Christmas music in department stores—really, almost anywhere with a speaker—or the green and red decorations thrown on every window display, one simply has to open one’s eyes anytime between late November and New Years to be reminded that, yes, it’s Christmas time. Christmas has become a far more commercialized and universally recognized holiday, often celebrated even by those who don’t identify with a particular religion. Yet when it comes to Hanukkah, most reformed Jews I know couldn’t tell you when the holiday even starts. It’s as though Christmas has been accepted as the predominant event, deserving all consumers’ attention. On multiple occasions, I’ve heard people wish that Christmas could just become an official American holiday.

Some find that the commercialization of Christmas has diminished its religious significance, rendering the holiday less about devotion and more of an encouragement to buy into the holiday shopping. In turn, holidays like Hanukkah that have retained more of their religious roots, despite increased consumerism, have become less desirable to celebrate. As the Christmas shopping frenzy continues to dominate the marketplace, Hanukkah has only become more forgotten, dismaying many observing Jews who suffer through the sounds of “Jingle Bell Rock” played one too many times. But while it’s too late this winter to reconsider our mindsets about the holiday season, next year presents another opportunity to stop thinking of Hanukkah as the “Jewish Christmas” but rather its own holiday that deserves more than a small Menorah placed behind a towering tree.

A Perfectly Imperfect Teenager: A Review of Lady Bird

By Anne Isman

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“I hate California. I want to go to the East Coast. I want to go where culture is like New York,” declares Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, played by actress Saoirse Ronan, as she drives with her mother following an onslaught of college tours. Lady Bird is a restless high school senior who dreams of escaping the confines of her Catholic School in Sacramento. As the film progresses, we witness Lady Bird conclude her high school years, experiencing ups-and-downs in her various relationships—all against the backdrop of her strained but meaningful bond with her mother, who is played by actress Laurie Metcalf. On the surface, Lady Bird may seem like another coming-of-age film, yet what makes Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut so striking is that the title character, Lady Bird, is flawed—just like any one of us.

Gerwig is no stranger to an honest portrayal of women in film, as she has played female characters struggling to maintain their identity in the face of adversity in both Frances Ha and 20th Century Women. Lady Bird is no exception, especially considering that Gerwig is also the film’s writer and, like Lady Bird, was raised in Sacramento, making the film almost autobiographical. However, Gerwig has stated that while she drew on aspects of her own life in the film’s creation, Lady Bird and her peers, played by actors Timothée Chalamet, Lucas Hedges, and Beanie Feldstein, are fictional characters.

One reason Lady Bird resonates so deeply with a teenage audience is its honest depiction of young adult relationships, specifically that between Lady Bird and her closest friend, Julie. Although their friendship isn’t perfect, the two remain united in their desire to fit in while retaining some semblance of their individuality. They don’t necessarily want to be popular or wealthy, unlike many of their classmates, but they wouldn’t mind more male attention and often light-heartedly converse about their romantic endeavors—or lack thereof. Relationships like this one are tested throughout the film, particularly when it comes to characters’ struggles with sexuality and Lady Bird’s embarrassment about her economic situation—she refers to her home as being “on the wrong side of the tracks” both literally and figuratively.  Lady Bird also encounters awkward situations with boyfriends, again demonstrating Gerwig’s honest—but never too serious—portrayal of sex.  

Meanwhile, no matter who Lady Bird is trying to impress, rebel against, or become closer to, she never comes off as an unrealistic or overwritten character. Almost any teenager who watches Gerwig’s film can find a part of themselves in Lady Bird’s character and the struggles Lady Bird faces, without feeling patronized or excessively pandered to by the film. In other words, Lady Bird is must-see.

Lady Bird (A24)

Director: Greta Gerwig  Rating: R

Writer: Greta Gerwig     Running Time: 1h 33 mins

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein

Beacon’s Spirit Week Rivaled the Spirit of Beacon Students

By Anne Isman

Walking into school on Monday, two classmates approached me wearing identical outfits. Confused, I asked why they were dressed exactly alike, to which they responded, “Oh, it’s Twin Day!” Like me, most students seemed to have forgotten; these two girls were the only pair in all of my classes that day who were participating in Monday’s theme.

Whether you realized it or not, Spirit Week at Beacon has already passed. Four themed days with themes determined by the Beacon Student Government – Twin Day, Tourist Day, Pajama Day, and Sprit Day – took place the week of Halloween, the day that garners the greatest amount of enthusiasm. However, student involvement in Spirit Week felt strikingly low this year, especially considering that the current freshman class is nearly five hundred students. With minimal dressing-up outside of the more popular Halloween and Pajama Day looks, and an overall lack of awareness as to what the themes actually were each day for both students and teachers, I wondered if Beacon students lacked some school pride.

On Tourist Day, there were few students in Hawaiian T-shirts. Instead, many dressed up for Culture Day, celebrating their ethnic heritage. This was an idea many students found more engaging and even personally liberating. Perhaps, some students just didn’t want to wear tourist-themed outfits on their subway-style commute to school, lacked the time or energy to dress up in the morning, or simply weren’t aware of the day’s theme. Whatever the case may have been, it was clear that many Beacon students were not aligned with the Spirit Week plan.

Many students complained about the themes. Some said that if anyone in the student body was allowed to contribute or vote on ideas for Spirit Week, there would have likely been a greater amount of participation; it wasn’t necessarily that Beacon students were averse to demonstrating their school spirit but that students felt Spirit Week was not representative of their interests.

Hopefully, next year’s Spirit Week will provide new opportunity for engagement among the Beacon student body.

Advice to a Younger Self: Older Students Give Their Best Tips for Dealing with Freshman Year

By Anne Isman


It’s no secret that this year’s ninth grade class is the largest in Beacon’s history—with nearly five-hundred freshmen roaming the halls between classes and lunch, it’s not hard to miss them. What comes with this greater class size is a greater challenge for freshmen to transition from middle school to high school. For Beacon students who have already experienced this, the struggle is still all too familiar. Luckily, some upperclassmen were willing to share their advice with “The Beacon Beat” on how freshmen can survive the trials and tribulations of ninth grade.

One junior, Evy Rahmey, recommends “letting yourself ease into school” academically while “definitely branching out” socially: “It’s important to make new friends because high school is about becoming your own person, and you can’t do that if you stay enclosed in a bubble.”  Other juniors agree that freshmen should aim to find a supportive group of friends. Junior Ayumu Izumo says, “Make a good friend …[Find] somebody who is going be there for you and invest in your friendship and do a lot of things outside of school.”  One of the hardest things about settling into a new school is introducing yourself to unfamiliar face; Ayumu advises just “being yourself.”

Other upperclassmen acknowledged that while making friends plays a huge role in surviving freshman year, ninth graders should “try not to form too many cliques.” Junior Anaïs Cullen explains that “by sophomore year, so much will have [changed].” Most upperclassmen would agree that their friend groups have changed more times than they can count, which only shows that accepting the fact that everything is constantly changing throughout freshman year will help you to ease into the flow of high school.  Of course, that’s easier said than done, as Jake, a sophomore, admits that “School is very hard [because] plenty of social situations suck just as much as the class workload.”  Despite this, students “are never alone” in this experience because “everybody deals with bad social [situations].”  Although being the youngest in the school can be difficult, having such a large class means there are many freshmen sharing the same experience. While freshman year can feel overwhelming now, soon enough, it will just be a fond memory.