By Monica Chan (VI)
English 9: Angsty freshmen reading about other angsty freshmen.
English 10: No one actually read Jane Eyre.
Advanced Algebra and Trigonometry Honors: You thought you were good at math, didn’t you…oh well…
AP Statistics: Dear Ms. Peake, can you send me the entire Upper School student email list? I need to do another survey.
Math 6: https://www.wolframalpha.com.
Any Mr. Poprik class: “Ok Folks!”
Any Computer Science Class: The Labs and Problem Sets will bring my grade up, right?
AP US History: More like APUSH me off a cliff please.
US Environmental History Honors: Why didn’t I sign up for APUSH?
American Society and Culture: Boy, am I glad I didn’t sign up for APUSH.
Art Fundamentals: Wait, I thought this was supposed to be an easy graduation requirement!
Chemistry I: Colorado PhET.
AP Chemistry: A 70% curves to an A, right?
Honors Biology II: Were the Bio I Honors Projects not enough of a deterrent for you?
AP Physics C: Mechanics: Everything you learned last year, but add the word “derivative.”
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism: Math 7.
By Rhea Kapur (VI) & Monica Chan (VI) We’ve reached that dreaded first semester of senior year. While our lives seem to be drowning in the realization that we have no idea who we are (but are expected to tell colleges exactly who we are), it is difficult yet even more necessary to find solace in daily comforts. The one constant comfort, besides the shared empathy of our fellow 21’ers and teachers, is music. We bring you a joint music column to share our college application playlists.
When looking to get inspired to write my college essays, I like listening to songs with heavy background instrumentals and introspective lyrics. My first song is “When You Come Home” by Rich Brian. This song is written from a parent’s perspective, “So one day, if you find your way, I’ll be waiting for you . . . I got all these questions to ask but I’ll save them for when you come home.” My parents have always been the most present people in my life, and so writing college applications is surreal not only for the reason that I am embarking on the next chapter of my life, but also the realization that my parents will have to watch me from afar.
My next song choice is “Streetcar” by Daniel Caesar. This song was originally written by Kanye West, but I prefer the slower and more melodic version by Caesar. One of the most difficult parts of the application season for me is grappling with a sense of finality. We’ve prepared our entire high school lives for this time, “Let me know, do I still got time to grow? Things ain’t always set in stone, that be known let me know . . . see I know my destination, but I’m just not there.” At this in-between teenager and adult age, we’re beginning to forge our own futures while trying to understand who we are; these events happening simultaneously make it all the more difficult.
“Nights” by Frank Ocean is a slight wildcard. The first time I heard this song I was sitting in the backseat of my friend’s car on the way to someone’s house and we were on Route 287 when someone said, “Wait for that beat drop . . .” There was something magical about it being nighttime and zooming down at (legal) highway speeds surrounded by the laughter and company of my friends that I find relatively comforting reflecting on now. Maybe it’s because we can’t hang out with the same liberty we used to have, and those memories are all the more precious.
When I write, I focus on flow. I study how each sentence glides into the next, I listen to the melody two words sing when side by side, and I observe how each thought fits with every other to form a whole, defined piece. I like to think that how I approach the art of writing – my style – tells just as much of a story as the words do themselves. For me, when it comes to college essays, that’s generally “in media res” storytelling to start, then half stream-of-consciousness reflection, half punchy declaratives. Recently, I’ve designated Spotify’s “Nightstorms” playlist as the soundtrack to my late-night writing sessions. It features recordings of every type of rainstorm imaginable, and in nearly every possible setting; there’s “Thunderstorm in the Cabin,” “Monsoon Storm,” “Lightning Strikes at the Farm,” and even “Oregon Rain.” The storms lift me out of the scramble that is everyday life, offering an escape from the minutia and creating the perfect, focused environment for essay writing. I’m fascinated by how different they sound across the world; Indonesian rainstorms are thundering, intense, incessant downpour, while Swedish ones gently patter along, each large droplet claiming its own, distinctive splash. Every storm tells its own story. And they remind me, too, to write my own stories – to lift my admissions reader into a faraway land where the lighting strikes and little details I craft make all the difference.
Monica mentioned introspection, and I agree; it’s an essential part of the essay writing process. I turn to Lana Del Rey for inspiration in this regard. As an artist, she is intimately comfortable with herself, with natural, human uncertainty. In “Born to Die,” she sings: “Sometimes love is not enough and the road gets tough – I don’t know why.” In “Freak,” it’s “Looking back, my past, it all seems stranger than a stranger.” Seniors, who can’t relate to that one!? Del Rey’s voice brims with feeling; listen to how she sings “Ground control to Major Tom, can you hear me all night long?” in “Terrence Loves You.” Her songs build slowly to a close, a finish that is not always final. I see them as the embodiment of a dream – an imperfect, messy, wonderful subconscious world. It’s exactly where I find myself when brainstorming. At times, I’m in the lows, forehead against the cool countertop, reminding myself that, like Del Rey, it is okay – good, even – not to know, not to be okay. At others, my fingers fly across the keys to keep up with my thoughts, chasing the high of the dream and the height of introspection. Lana Del Ray is every end of the spectrum; seniors, it’s okay for us to be, too.
By Monica Chan (V)
When people found out about our plans to start the Asian Student Union, some had asked me why I cared so much or wondered if I only started the group to boost my college application. The truth is, I was upset that the issues I cared about were considered “unimportant.” There was one instance when I reported a student in class who was repeating random offensive syllables and asking me if they meant anything in Mandarin despite me telling them to stop. After my talk with the administration, I never even received an apology from the student.
Another time I felt that issues were cast aside was when the Asian parents at this school felt upset and met with the administration about an inappropriate book that was added to the English curriculum; their concern was mitigated and turned into a social media ploy, an Instagram post showing rows of upset parents on the official school page, captioned happily about how the diversity staff was meeting with the parents of the Chinese-American community. The post was promptly deleted when met with backlash.
Overall, I felt upset with how these issues had been ignored, and no one had tried to reach a true solution.
Unfortunately, ignorance from the administration has been a common theme in Pingry’s history, not with just Asian-American issues, but with issues regarding multiple communities. Instead of working to a solution, I have noticed that Pingry tries to reach “the most politically safe” answer instead. I recently found this trend has been happening for a long time.
About a month ago I stumbled upon a 1990 New York Times article, titled “Private Schools Wrestling With Diversity and Identities,” in which the author talked about diversity-based issues at a number of institutions in our area. A large portion of these issues were about Pingry. The article mentions one instance where the Jewish community at Pingry had wanted to light a menorah next to the yule candle at the annual Winter Festival, and how their request had been met with a “peace candle,” which was supposed to represent the yule candle and the menorah.
Lighting a peace candle didn’t really solve the issue, which was about truly representing the Jewish community at the school during the festival. Instead, this was the most “politically safe” response to the issue. People may ask, why would a politically safe response be bad? It doesn’t hurt anyone and nobody can be offended. While this may be partly true, the most politically safe response doesn’t solve the issue. Instead of figuring out how to make sure that the various groups will feel represented at the school, a politically neutral solution almost seems insulting. It is as if the problem is too insignificant to handle head-on. A neutral solution says, “we aren’t offending anyone, so will everyone get off our case?”
At a school that is as diverse as ours, it is very possible for a student to feel ignored, and their issues can slip through the cracks. Our school is proud that we have the GSA, the Black Student Union, and as of this year, the Asian Student Union. But what about all the identifiers in between? How will a student know where to turn to when they have an issue they want to share with the school that doesn’t fall within these groups? I realize that only a few months ago, this is how I felt at the school. Affinity groups keep the issue within the community, but those topics never get shared outside. Most groups are never covered by the various “diversity workshops” advisories must complete. There is no framework at this school to discuss many important issues that don’t fall within these pre-existing groups.
My co-founders and I started the Asian Student Union because we didn’t want future Asian-American students feeling that there was nothing to support them, as that is how we have previously felt. If Pingry wants to be a genuinely inclusive place, it needs to take its various communities’ issues to heart. For instance, when I reported a very direct act of prejudice, the school should have done its best to appropriately handle the situation instead of letting it go with no consequences. Pingry needs to fully address issues like these––otherwise, the school would not be supporting its students. Additionally, I implore this institution to genuinely solve problems, rather than finding a political “peace candle” solution that, in the end, makes nobody happy. Speak to students who have been affected one-on-one, reach out to the parents to gauge their opinions more often, and act on their feedback. Most importantly, though, encourage dialogue regarding all groups––not just a select few. And to you, reader, who potentially has something to say buried within the depths of your silence, my advice is to say it loud and clear. If there’s no framework here, build it. If it’s never been done here before, do it. Make it known that you will not be ignored and that you are the change we need at this school to truly make this community one that you are a part of.
Monica Chan (V)
With a passion for teaching and love for the Spanish language and culture, Ms.Guadalupe Nunez receives a warm Pingry community welcome. This fall, Señora Nunez joined Pingry as a Middle School Spanish teacher and Form I advisor. In addition, she will be helping with the production of the Middle School play.
Ms. Nunez graduated from Syracuse University, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Human Resource Management. She received her Master’s Degree in Foreign Language Education from New York University. Before joining Pingry, Ms. Nunez taught Spanish to elementary and middle school students at schools such as Hunter College Elementary School, Trevor Day School, and New Canaan Country School.
Besides her teaching posts, she also implemented a program for non-English speaking students at Teach for America and worked with other non-profits around the New York City area including the International Rescue Committee, the Coalition for the Homeless, and El Museo del Barrio. In addition to these roles, Ms. Nunez has also worked with a middle school on their diversity committee.
Throughout this school year, Ms. Nunez sincerely hopes to “infuse a love for learning languages and for appreciating the people and culture of the Spanish-speaking world,” which ties in to her passion for teaching. Ms. Nunez says that she was “inspired to become a teacher because through teaching, I feel you can empower students to follow their dreams and be advocates for themselves.”
Outside of Pingry, Ms. Nunez enjoys cooking and taking part in different recreational activities with her two sons. When asked what she enjoys about Pingry, she says that she particularly admires the inquisitive nature students and honorable character of the students.