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.

“The Farewell” and a Personal Story of Dual Identity

By Sanai Rashid

On the one day during PBA week when I had no tests scheduled, I leaped at the opportunity to indulge in movies at home. After scrolling endlessly through Netflix titles that did not excite me, I thought back to a movie I wanted to see over the summer, The Farewell, directed by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina. I sucked it up, paid the $3.99 fee and pressed play.

Over the summer, my mom and I were listening to a podcast on NPR, and heard from a woman (who we would later learn was director Lulu Wang) discuss with the host, Terry Gross, the events that inspired her to write and direct The Farewell. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in late January. When Wang was six she and her parents immigrated to the United States from China. They would occasionally go back and visit China but Wang grew up with America being her home and subsequently became disconnected from the rest of her relatives overseas. In 2013, Wang’s grandmother was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and given three months to live. Wang had maintained quite a good relationship with her Nai Nai as they would talk regularly on the phone. So as it goes in the film when Billi’s mother (Diana Lin) and father (Tzi Ma) informed her that their family members in China had decided not to tell Nai Nai about her diagnosis, in hopes of shielding her from the anxiety of her near future, which Billi did not understand. Billi’s parents go on to inform her that everyone has decided to throw a fake wedding for her cousin merely as an excuse for everyone to come home and see Nai Nai one last time. Billi’s mom doesn’t even want her to visit with the rest of the family because she thinks Billi can’t hide her emotions and will give away their whole act.

Billi is bewildered at how calm her parents and the rest of her relatives are by this whole scenario. Take this excerpt from the film: 

AWKWAFINA: (As Billi) I don’t understand. She doesn’t have a lot of time left. She should know, right?

MA: (As Haiyan) There’s nothing they can do. So everyone decided it’s better not to tell her.

AWKWAFINA: (As Billi) Why is that better?

DIANA LIN: (As Jian) Chinese people have saying – when people get cancer, they die. It’s not the cancer that kills them. It’s the fear.

As a child whose grandma (whom I call Mimi) on my mother’s side immigrated from Guayana to America in the 1960s I knew all the jumbles of emotions Billi felt too well, but more with my great-grandma. I’ve only met my great-grandmother once when my mom, dad, younger sister, brother and I went to visit relatives in Guyana in April 2016. When I visited Guyana, I felt like I was in a bit of culture shock. Here I was in America, eating Guyanese food like roti, curry, oxtails, peas and rice, while hearing my Mimi listening to reggae while cleaning the house, thinking I knew all about Guyana that there is to know. But when I arrived I couldn’t help but realize how naive I was. Guyana was nothing like I expected. One story houses laid next to one another with the sun beaming through the open windows and vendors at the market with bags upon bags of goods on their back to sell just to have money to support their families. In a third world country where the average income is $4,725.32, I couldn’t help feeling like a spoiled first-world child. 

Throughout the movie, Billi feels lost between her American identity and her Chinese identity. Knowing that this will probably be the last time she ever sees her Nai Nai she can’t help but think about all the time that they never got to spend with each other. Towards the end of the movie she even spirals as far as saying she wants to move to China to be with Nai Nai during her last months. 

I think it is easy to be stuck between two worlds. When I first visited Guyana, I felt like an alien in my own land. However, as our stay went on, I realized that I may have not known the beuaties of this land in the early years of my life but it’s never too late to do so. I began loosening up a bit and talking to my great-grandma about her life growing up in Guyana. I wasn’t so quick to swat away flies or complain about how hot it was and instead tried to have fun. Before I knew it, the trip was over and we were back on the flight to New York. Our farewell ended in cries from everyone all around because you can truly grow close to your family in a short amount of time.

Looking back at it, although I did end up appreciating my trip, toward the beginning of it I spent so much time absorbed in my own world when I could have been spending precious time with my family. I was all too worried about why there wasn’t any WiFi and if my Snapchat “streaks” would end. Luckily, my Granny is healthy at 87 years old, but The Farewell reminded me that our days are numbered and that we must appreciate the little time we get with our family both overseas and even the ones that live 15 minutes away. 

Too often are we ashamed of our immigrant side of the family because we think that others will find our culture odd, confusing or weird. I admit sometimes I would be embarrassed by when my mom urged me to go to Carnival, a Caribbean celebration around Labor Day, and I still didn’t talk much about my trip to Guyana when I got back to the states. But as I got older, I realized my Guyanese side is not something to be ashamed of. If people cannot appreciate where I come from then they do not appreciate me. 

I do want to go back to Guyana one day now that I am older, more mature and also appreciate my background more. I still want to work on things like calling my Granny more often and all of my relatives back in Guyana. This story is common for anyone who has relatives in a different country, or state for that matter, but all in all, family is family. We only have one life to live so we should appreciate everyone who enters it no matter where they live and how different they may seem.

Glitter and Glam: MTV’s Role in Glamorizing Teen Pregnancy

By Sanai Rashid

It’s another boring Saturday night and you scroll through channels on your television. You stop once you see Teen Mom 2 playing on MTV, knowing you will be entertained for  the next hour. And indeed you are, moms screaat their “baby daddy” and deal with crying babies and the struggle of having to now support two people. “I’m glad I don’t live that way” you mutter as you click the tv off and fall asleep, completely disconnected from the world you just glimpsed into. 

Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2, Teen Mom Young and Pregnant, Teen Mom 3 and Teen Mom UK were released by MTV  with the intention of preventing teen pregnancy. As Senior Vice President of MTV series development, Lauren Dolgen, says “These documentary series tell the honest, unpleasant truth of teen pregnancy in America — the whole truth.” In 2008 Lauren Doglen looked through a magazine and saw the rampant news Jamie Lynn Spears, former star of popular Television series, Zoey 101,  had given birth to her first child at 16. She then felt compelled to do a show on other teen moms in America and make their struggles n=known to greater society. The show was supposed to show the heartbreaking challenges young teen moms face but now it has been swept up into the Hollywood media and turned the mothers on the show into celebrities. Teen pregnancy has been hyped up to be an easy job and these shows are to blame. 

America has one of the highest teen birth rates out of developed countries. According to the CDC in 2017, 194,377 babies were born to females 15-19 and among this American Indian/Alaska Nativ were at the top making up 32.9 %, Hispanics made up 28.9%, African Americans with 27.5%, and Whites made up 13.2%. All of MTV’s teen pregnancies are made up of an almost exclusively white cast and this is not representing who teen pregnancy affects the most, teens of color. If you are a teen girl of color you can’t realte at all to the stories being shown on these shows.You start to think that not even the media cares about the girls in my community who get pregnant, so it won’t matter what I do either way  

Instead, MTV shows how teen pregnancy is cool and you can make money from it. One of the shows infamous cast members, Farah Abhrams, who is always on the cover of tabloids for her outrageous plastic surgeries, has a net worth $1 million. A study done by Indiana University showed that out of 185 high school students interviewed most had an unrealistic view of teen pregnancy after watching MTVs teen pregnancy shows. The part about mothers being on welfare, the struggle of having to go to GED classes because they weren’t able to graduate on time is not broadcasted at all t.v. when that’s the true reality. I’m sure some girls think that by getting pregnant MTV will magically broadcast them and they’ll be a famous celebrity floating in cash, such a serious topic is being made a joke out of thanks to these MTV shows.

It isn’t an uncommon that young and confused teen girls have a child because they want someone to love them unconditionally. Especially if you grew up in a motherless/ fatherless home and never felt that love yourself. It’s great that MTV wants to bring awareness to these topics but the way they’re doing so isn’t helping. With 6 t.v. programs none of them get to the root of why this is all happening, which of course can be from a number of reasons such as : lack of information about sexual education, sexual violence, basic education access, the family environment, etc. Watchers seem to read between the lines while watching this show and end up having the mindset of,  “Yeah she may have a child but she still goes out with her friends and she has her mom to help her.” And that mindset leads to carelessness when it comes to sexual intercourse and other responsibilities. Even if MTV does show some struggles and grittiness of Teen Mom life teens are attracted by the wrong message, the message that you could earn a 6 figure salary, and be on the cover of tabloids for being pregnant so young. 

One of the cast members from 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom 2, Janelle Evans, three friends got pregnant very shortly as she started to gain fame on the show. The reason seemed to be like they wanted to gain fame like their friend and were labeled as “copycat moms”. Teen pregnancy seems to be a trend of sorts and when there are teen moms out there who can’t even afford baby formula every week, have a crappy minimum wage job and are nowhere near celebrities they are brushed up into the dust and merely forgotten. 

Overall, I think MTV might have started with good intentions when they started these teen pregnancies shows but the message has been corrupted and watered down completely. The glitz and glam of Hollywood has once again won over teens hearts and shadowed the true hardships of such an important topic.

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.

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.