By Arrie Solomon ‘21
So, if you haven’t heard already, the NCS Black Student Union (BSU) hosted a mixer on March 8th. While the mixer is known as just a party that’s usually hosted in February by BSU, the event holds more significance. The mixer was supposed to be on February 1st at the start of Black History Month (but the weather postponed it ☹). We chose the beginning of the month because the mixer symbolizes a celebration of African-American culture, which is what the month stands for as well. The celebration of African-American culture allows us as a community to come together and remember the achievements of our ancestors to further the pride we feel about the triumphs our community has made throughout history.
Having a BSU at NCS is very important, as it allows members of minority communities to come together in a place where we feel safe and comfortable with each other to celebrate our culture. The sense of community in a BSU allows us to share and reflect on our personal experiences of being a minority around the world, in America, and at a PWI (predominately white institution). The sisterhood our BSU creates also lets us feel pride toward and bond over this special piece of our identity. Sharing our experiences also allows us to learn more about each other, in that we can learn from each other’s experiences, despite the differences in other parts of our lives. Furthermore, having BSUs across the DMV encourages this special bond our community possesses. Connecting BSUs in the area helps to forge broader connections in our community between schools, which connects our sisterhood to other spaces in the DMV. Thus, having our mixer signifies the communal pride and appreciation for our history that otherwise goes unnoticed.
To produce this family-like atmosphere, planning the mixer to perfection is of utmost importance. Our presidents and social chair (Lillian Keller ’19, Anaya Rodgers ’20, Blaise Pelote ’19) took great care in organizing this special celebration of our community. The planning starts with finding a date for the event. Then, we must decide which schools to invite, expecting that they provide a chaperone for the mixer, and make the flyer. Finding chaperones to maintain the safety for the event proved to be the biggest challenge, Anaya noted. However, watching the event come together and watching everyone have an amazing time makes the struggles worth it. After all the planning, we wait for the day of the mixer. Given the importance and amusing atmosphere of the BSU Mixer, the expectations for the event were high. In my opinion, the mixer was a success. The music encapsulated Hearst Auditorium as the guests danced in the dark. Everyone there acted as one. We sang, danced, and laughed together, and it was a night that will not be forgotten.
By Sophia Maguigad ‘21
By Will Holland '20
Emmett Schmidt awoke to the mysterious clapping of hoofs. Perplexed at the noise, he stumbled across his room, to open his window and look down at the street. Within an instant of bearing witness to the astonishing sight below, Emmett’s horror could not be mitigated by his bewilderment, nor his fear usurped by his fascination. Indeed, what he saw that morning was so unnatural, so out of line with his perception of the world, that there were no words that could have begun to describe Emmet’s divergent emotions. What just a few hours prior had been an unassuming street that kept pace with the bustling metropolis that was New York City, had become a disordered, cobblestone pathway that was now host to horse drawn carriages and men in bowler hats.
After staring for what seemed like the entire morning, Emmet forced himself to look away from his surreal surroundings and examine the contents of his room. Of course he hadn’t seen it when he first woke up, but now he noticed that the television on the far wall was absent, replaced by an obsolete map of the world, with the borders of African countries scrambled and the size of Russia far too large. He was sure that there were other discrepancies, but before he could conduct a thorough investigation, he looked up at the ceiling, now entirely devoid of light bulbs.
Emmet frantically searched the entire room for any chance of escape from what he was sure must have been a remarkably detailed nightmare. Yet everywhere he looked, the more his panic was compounded by the lack of modern appliances. The computer in his office was gone, the space filled instead with thick volumes of literary and historical works. As he approached the table, he saw a translation of “The Odyssey” had been opened to the first page in Book 10. Although he didn’t lend it much thought, he considered it odd that his favorite story was seemingly on display for him to see.
Emmett spent the next hour combing his apartment, which was exactly the same in dimensions to his actual living quarters, even if it was entirely disparate with respect to its adornment. Unable to uncover any evidence that could explain his present situation, Emmett collapsed on a chair, from whence he watched the daily activity of the commuters below. He finally decided to discover more about where he was, and perhaps how he could return to the life at least he thought he knew. Feeling determined, while still partially petrified, Emmett rose and went to his closet to investigate its contents.
The clothes that he found were like those worn by the people on the street. Deciding that wanted to fit in with his peculiar surroundings, he took off his T-shirt, which he took as proof that he hadn’t completely lost his mind, and replaced it with an Oxford-like button down that served to cover his fright in its antiquated elegance. After he had put on the overcoat, black pants, and loafers that now inhabited his closet, Emmett walked left his apartment.
He paused momentarily in the hallway, but decided to disregard the fact that it bore no resemblance to the building he had known for years and instead to continue onwards in order to see the extent of the transformation that the street on which he had so thoughtlessly resided had undergone.
Emmett took one step out of the building, and was frozen by the commotion around him. Carriages trotted in place of cars, and there was hardly a man who was not clothed in sumptuous garb. However, Emmett chose to temporarily ignore the inexplicable change in scenery and instead amble to his favorite newsstand on the other side of the street, which he was relieved to find remained in place. Even though Emmett doubted that he would find anything close to a pack of Spearmint gum, his usual commodity of choice, he knew that he could find something that resembled an answer.
He bought the first newspaper he saw. On a well-folded copy of the Staats New Yorker Newspaper which Emmett had struggled to open, he read that the current date was April 3rd, 1896. At this, Emmett entered into a state of complete shock. Of course he had assumed that he was out of place, but never could Emmett have guessed that he was out of time and in the wrong era altogether.
Emmett preceded to skim over the articles on the front page, some of which spoke of William Jennings Bryan’s electrifying persona and others the ongoing economic crisis. Having read enough and wanting to understand how this unbelievable turn of events came to pass, he was about to put down the newspaper for good when he made a most perplexing discovery. Emmett looked hard at the words on the newspaper, and although he understood them he could not put off the feeling that he did not know them. And it was in this instant that Emmett realized that he had been reading German flawlessly, despite never having studied the language for a minute of his life.
To be continued…
By Nisa Quarles ‘21
For those who don’t know (or for those who choose to forget), in sophomore year there is a series of co-ed co-curriculars that are meant to help foster a better relationship between NCS and STA students. For our first session this year, we sat in alphabetical order into which, in typical icebreaker fashion, we had organized ourselves. We first had to write on an index card anonymously why the situation was awkward. This card was collected, redistributed, and read aloud by someone else in the room. Then, we all had to write down on sticky notes (again, anonymously) different stereotypes that we felt existed about NCS and STA students and post them on whiteboards. At the very end, we got the chance to walk around the room and look at the stereotypes that people had written down. Some examples of stereotypes were “driven,” “smart,” “entitled,” “basic,” “liberal,” “conservative,” among others.
Unfortunately, my group did not have a lot of time to debrief as a group after this exercise, but one thing that was reaffirmed for me was that we really don’t know a lot about each other. I would even go as far as to argue that NCS could have done the same exercise with Landon or Gonzaga and gotten similar results. Unless you are in a co-ed sport or activity where you regularly and genuinely interact with students from the other school in a non-academic setting, how could you really know anything about students from the other school? Parties, dances, social media, and a few co-ed classes aren’t enough to bridge this divide, and exercises like these, although noble in their attempt, aren’t enough either. This activity could have even augmented cultural divide because we were forced to face the stereotypes that we know that we have about each other without any follow up or discussion. Not to mention, the painfully obvious awkwardness in the room brought new meaning to the phrase “you could cut it with a knife,” making it an unenjoyable experience for me and I’m sure for many others.
Although I’m not saying whether or not it’s truly necessary that either school increase the connection between NCS and STA, I do believe that if either administration wants to make a more successful attempt at creating a more cohesive culture between both schools, I believe that they should allow students to have at least some input. These interactions shouldn’t feel forced even though they actually are. For example, asking the student governments from each school to help plan and even lead these co-ed co-curriculars would be a great first step. Additionally, these interactions shouldn’t be as limited as they are. A few hours throughout one school year is nowhere near enough time to mitigate an over century-old cultural divide between the two schools.
Lastly, as students, we can’t rely on the administration to decrease the disconnect between the two schools. We have a responsibility to make the best of these awkward encounters and to listen to each other during them. We can also make our own attempts to develop a better connection by starting more joint clubs or organizing our own discussions independent of the administrations. I’m not sure that the relationship between NCS and STA will ever really be perfect, but I do think that we can all make a much better effort at improving it.
By Gabi Liebeler ‘20
Throughout our freshman and sophomore years of high school, the extent of our co-educational experiences on the Close lie in awkward waves walking to and from art or language classes and forced ice cream socials planned by our well-intended parents. But all that changes when you reach junior year. Suddenly, by August before 11th grade, you’re thrown into a whirlwind experience that begins with the flurry of texts you receive all concerning the roster of your future English class. When September comes, however, pretty much all excitement, anxiousness, worry, and ambivalence flees after your first co-ed English class meeting. In all honesty, junior year English is pretty normal.
I took AmLit at STA during the fall semester, and the main issues I faced were the disparate backgrounds of the students entering the class, and the divergent teaching styles between NCS and STA teachers.
During 9th and 10th grade, NCS students are tailor-made to be analytical writers, having completed numerous assessments in the form of short, paragraph close readings, argumentative essays, and even a 10-page research paper by the end of sophomore year. In addition, we consider ourselves experts in the art of Harkness method discussions, making text-based inferences, and ~politely~ conversing with our classmates over a large wooden table over classic texts in order to synthesize our own opinions of the author’s arguments. Typically, our teachers take a more hands-off approach, guiding us into formulating arguments all on our own, but with the help of contextual presentations, discussion questions, and explanation when necessary. I believed, that with that kind of background, I was prepared to conquer any English class.
STA English was not what I expected though, given that STA students have their own unique experience during freshman and sophomore year. They studied different books, learned how to write essays, were more calibrated in grammar and studied poetry for a semester in 10th grade. I was surprised at the analytical skills that the STA students in my class possessed, which unraveled my own superiority complex that NCS girls were far better English students. In terms of my own class, the girls in AmLit were well matched.
Speaking on the class structure, I found that success in my English class was heavily dependent on memorization of key-words, definitions, speakers, and contextual events in works we read. In the first semester, I had two English tests, an assessment of sorts that I haven’t taken since middle school. At NCS, assessments are in-class close readings, formal essays, and research papers. While I believe that my previous years in English prepared me well for writing close readings and essay-types, I went through a sort of adjustment period, where I had to re-learn how to succeed in my new English class, especially in assessments where I was not allowed my book to interpret text on the spot. I was thrown for a bit of a culture shock, but eventually learned how to prepare for assessments, and write in the ways that my teacher expected.
As for the social environment, the class was always lively, filled with the same sort of typical class banter. I looked forward to going to class, knowing I would always be entertained. Despite the initial struggles in a new class structure, I stand by the opinion that it’s worthwhile to break the barriers of single-sex education in high school. After all, that’s what the rest of life is like, so figuring out how to operate in a co-ed educational setting is a skill one should learn early. While I often complained at my disagreement with the nature of assessments, or my preferences of writing an argumentative essay over studying for speaker identification questions, I came out of the class able to adjust to a new system of learning. Unfortunately, throughout the rest of our careers in school, we’ll have to realign ourselves and our natural learning inclinations to match whatever situation we’re in. I can’t say whether NCS or STA English is better and I can’t decide the timeless question of which student body is smarter, but I can say that I had fun and learned new skills in a co-ed English class.
By Maya Thumpasery ‘21
You race through the halls of Hearst, a half-toasted bagel and unsweetened coffee in hand. You have 25 minutes before your assignments are due — yes, the graded homework, formal lab, essay, and test prep included. This means that you must locate a study space free of distractions, a near-impossible environment to find. Where do you go?
By Yash Somaiya '20
At St. Albans, we use the phrases “second home” and “brotherhood” to describe our school and its community all the time. However, for about 30 students, five faculty members, three spouses, one writer-in-residence, one toddler, one newborn, and dozens of unwelcome rodents, St. Albans is quite literally a home away from home. Although everyone knows that St. Albans has a dormitory, it’s still an enigma to many students. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of questions that every dormer has been asked many times. Please refer to this whenever you have a question about the dorm.
Where is the dorm? The dorm is on the second and third floors of the Lane-Johnston building. The steps up are right next to the front desk by the admissions office.
What time do you guys wake up? We have to check in to the dorm office in school dress by 7:45 every morning, so you’ll find people waking up as early as 6:30, while others just roll out of bed at 7:40. Each dormer gets a breakfast cut (seniors get two), so we’re still able to sleep in on F days.
When do you guys go to bed? Theoretically, because we don’t have to commute, we should be getting to bed earlier than most. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Whether it’s casually watching two movies on a school night in our rooms, talking in the common room until an unacceptably late hour, or watching Thursday Night Football while holding a book, dormers find a lot of stuff to do other than work. As it is with almost every other student, sleep is a precious commodity in the dorm.
Do you guys have a curfew/lights out? Luckily, we don’t have a lights out time in the dorm. However, there is a curfew, which is when you need to be in your room. On weekdays, it’s 10:30 for freshmen and sophomores, while it’s 11:00 for juniors and seniors. On weekends, it gets pushed back to 11:30 for underclassmen and midnight for upperclassmen.
Do you guys get to leave the dorm? Yeah! As long as we fill a sign-out form and call the Dorm Master on Duty, we can basically go wherever we want, as long as we’re back before curfew. That’s one of the best things about boarding at STA. We have the independence and freedom to take advantage of living in the city, which means we can always get food, hang out, or even just walk in DC.
Do you have a roommate? Traditionally, freshmen and sophomores have roommates, while juniors and seniors get their own rooms.
How big is your room? Frankly, the rooms could be bigger, but they have everything we need: a desk, closet, dresser, and bed. The Dorm Head Prefect, though, lives in the grand “Presidential Suite” of the dorm, espresso machine and all.
Where are all the dormers from? The dorm has an incredibly diverse community. Although a large portion of dormers are from right here in the DMV, we have many international students from Asia and a couple guys from New Jersey. This wide array of backgrounds in the dorm really makes it a diverse, well-balanced experience for all.
How’s the food? It’s just like lunch, except we don’t have family-style meals or assigned seating at dinner. On Saturday nights, though, we all get to order food on the dorm’s budget, which everyone always enjoys.
Do you like the dorm? It certainly has its ups and downs. The dorm probably doesn’t get as much attention from the school as it should, but at the end of the day, the dorm always offers me a community and a home its members can fall back on. Obviously, there are times that the dorm can be strict or times where I feel homesick, but you can say that about anything. The same way we always complain about school on the Close, dormers will always have something to say about the dorm. But what’s better than living with 30 of your best friends?
By Anita Li ‘21
“I’m so stressed out right now.”
“There’s so much pressure to get good grades.”
Almost every single day as I line up to toast my sesame bagel in the cafeteria, I hear NCS students ranting to their friends about how stressed out they are. Although I do believe that NCS can be very taxing, I don’t think that NCS is competitive.
Perhaps this is all relative. I was in a STEM enrichment program in middle school, so naturally everyone was competitive, since it was a program you tested into. At my old school, it was normal to ask your friends about their grades. Therefore, I would feel bad if I repeatedly got A minuses. My middle school was a lot easier than NCS, so the competition never got toxic or stressful; instead it motivated me to study harder. Also, at my old school there was a clear “intelligence hierarchy”: you knew who the smart kids were, and you also knew the kids that didn’t do too well. So, if I saw myself “falling” in the hierarchy, I knew I had to put some more effort into my schoolwork. Additionally, I also knew the kids who were a little smarter than me, and they helped me know what I should aim to achieve. We didn’t bully the kids that flunked their tests, but I had a good idea of where I was academically compared to my classmates.
When I arrived at NCS freshman year, it was shocking to see students treat grades and academic performance as a sensitive subject. As a result, I still have no idea how good my grades are compared to that of my classmates. Sometimes teachers would give a class average and there are definitely students that seem very academically strong, but everything is very vague. Additionally, NCS has no Honor Roll; we only have Cum Laude, awarded in senior year. Since I don’t know enough information about my peers to compare myself to them academically, I feel less competition at NCS than I did in my middle school.
Although now I feel a little less pressure to do well in school and NCS has a heavy workload (not a good combination for me btw), I’m really glad that the stressful environment is not coupled with students holding each other back to get a leg forward. Although we’re always getting screwed over by close readings and math tests, the environment is not cut-throat. People are always sharing Quizlet sets, answers to past quizzes, and study guides with each other and offering to help others study. I am not a senior yet, so maybe my opinion will change when Flag Day rolls around in 2021, but up until now, no one has ever been reluctant to help me so that they can do better themselves.
For all these reasons, I don’t think NCS is competitive or toxic. Yes, we may receive academic pressure from our parents or teachers, but I have never seen an every-student-for-themselves attitude at NCS, except when it comes to fighting for a chance to toast your sesame bagel two minutes before class starts.