Showcase Assembly (6/1/18)

On Friday, June 1st, Staten Island Technical High School held its 17th annual student showcase. Students hurried to the Salvatore Eretto Auditorium, buzzing with excitement and eager to watch their peers perform. On the way to the auditorium, they were immediately met with the sound of the opening band consisting of William Albee, Tyler Almquist, Daniel Donnelly, and Justine Molinari, who played passionately as the students filed into their seats.

There were many different acts over the course of the showcase, with students displaying talents such as dancing, singing, spinning flags, and playing instruments.

Some of the day’s performances included renditions of “What’s Up” by students Tess Lynch, Ivy Fan, and Felix Mastropasqua, “This is Me” by Katie Schermerhorn, Ivan Bourov, and Mike Albdewi, and “You and I” by Jess Liu. In each of these performances, students sang, and, in “What’s Up” and “You and I” students played instruments to accompany the vocals. Each of these performances were met with great praise from the audience; viewers clapped and cheered for their peers.

Tech senior Felix Mastropasqua, who was in multiple performances, reflected on his experience with the showcase: “It can be nerve-wracking to put on a performance, but I was motivated to make my last show at Tech as memorable as possible.”

Students involved in different school activities also performed in the showcase. Glee Club sang “Some Nights”, the Dance Team danced to “The Greatest Show”, Dance Gym students danced to various Rihanna songs, and the Color Guard showed off their skills to “Confident”.

Rachel Kneitel, a Tech senior in Dance Gym, said of the performance, “Giving your all during practices is worth it in the end when you see the crowd focusing only on the performance.”

The audience truly did focus on the performance, captivated by the many dancers on the stage. In fact, the audience was thrilled by each performance, encouraging the performers with their energy and enthusiasm towards all of the acts. Towards the conclusion of the show, Xenia Rudchenko and Anton Logochniak sang an incredible duet of the song “Stay”, wowing the audience as they walked down the sides of the auditorium, then onto the stage, singing.

To wrap up the showcase, the final act was Anton Logochniak’s rendition of “My Way”. As he sang, photographs of the senior class were projected onto the stage as a tribute to the graduating Class of 2018.

Overall, the students in the showcase gave remarkable performances, a testimony to the many talents of students at Staten Island Technical High School.

 

Tips For Maintaining Good Mental Health

Maintaining good mental health is an integral component to a person’s overall health. There is often a negative stigma associated with mental health, but it is an incredibly important topic, especially in a stressful environment like observed in many high schools across the country.

Mental health includes a person’s psychological, emotional, and social well-being and can affect how someone acts and feels (What Is Mental Health?). Maintaining positive mental health allows a person to be productive and make positive contributions, big or small, to the world around them.

Here’s a list of ways to help you maintain good mental health:

1. Get Plenty of Sleep

Sleep plays a critical role in good mental health. Sleeping too little can impair one’s ability to think and can increase the risk for various mental health disorders. Studies have shown that when your body goes into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, it helps with learning and can contribute positively to emotional health (Sleep and Mental Health). This makes sleep a crucial part of maintaining strong mental health.

2. Manage Your Stress

Stress is the feeling of being under pressure and can be detrimental to your mental well-being. While some stress is good and can help with motivation, too much stress can trigger a variety of symptoms (How to Manage and Reduce Stress). For these reasons, it is important to figure out what is causing the stress and take action. In a lot of situations for high schoolers, this stress can be caused by schoolwork. This can be managed by staying organized and finding a good way to manage your time.

3. Take Time For Yourself

Even when you’re busy, it is important to take some time for yourself. Find what makes you happy and relaxed—whether that be reading a book, drawing, or riding your bike—and make sure you have time set aside once in a while to do only that. Sometimes you just need time to take care of yourself and do something you enjoy.

4. Meditate

According to Mental Health America, “Meditation can benefit people who have mental health conditions, as well as those who do not. Studies show it can also reduce depression and anxiety, and help people manage chronic pain.” Meditation is greatly beneficial to relaxation and reducing stress, so this is a good way to improve your overall mental health

5. Exercise

Exercise can have positive effects on a person’s mood. Studies have shown that a person’s mood can be enhanced just five minutes after moderate exercise (The Exercise Effect). This helps improve a person’s overall mental health and specifically can alleviate stress.

 

References:

  1. “What Is Mental Health?” Depression | MentalHealth.gov, www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/ what-is-mental-health.
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. “Sleep and Mental Health – Harvard Health.” Harvard Health Blog, www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health.
  3. “How to Manage and Reduce Stress.” Mental Health Foundation, 4 May 2018, www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-manage-and-reduce-stress.
  4. “Meditation.” Mental Health America, 4 Oct. 2016, www.mentalhealthamerica.net/meditation.
  5. “The Exercise Effect” APA, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx.

Why We Need The Arts In Education

     Recent years have witnessed a rapid decline in emphasis on the arts in high schools and universities in favor of math and science courses. As a society, we have formed a distinct line between science and the arts, with many believing the optimal side is science. While there is value in teaching science and math courses, the arts are also essential to a quality education and should play a prominent role.

     The humanities, or liberal arts, includes subjects such as English, History, Philosophy, Art, Music, and Theatre – all of which are incredibly valuable to students. More so than other courses, these subjects promote critical thinking and analysis, enable students to think and write clearly, and teach invaluable skills that can apply to virtually any job. The skills emphasized in these subjects allow students to empathize, navigate social relationships, and develop an understanding of themselves, others, and society as a whole.  

     According to Bradley C. Thompson in “Liberal Education and the Quest for Truth, Freedom, and Greatness”, studying the humanities ensures that humans are capable “[…] of understanding the world and man’s relationship to it; of distinguishing between true and false, good and bad, just and unjust, honorable and dishonorable”. The humanities enhance the skills that enable people to understand aspects of the world and the people around them. Sufficient knowledge in the humanities can enable a person to think broadly and potentially alter society for the better. Especially in a democracy such as the United States, society needs people who can differentiate between good and bad, or just and unjust.

     There are also numerous studies that suggest the arts are greatly beneficial to students academically. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, low income high school students who were not exposed to the arts were over 5 times more likely to drop out of school. Furthermore, studies have shown that students who took art classes for four years scored an average of 91 points higher on their SATs than those who took art classes for a year or less. This indicates that there is tangible evidence that emphasis on the arts in schools can help students improve academically.

Additionally, the humanities can be used to enhance students’ understanding of other subjects, as discussed by Fareed Zakaria in In Defense of a Liberal Education.  In 1988, Dr. Irwin Braverman, a professor at Yale Medical School, noticed that his students’ power of observation and diagnosis were weak. His solution was to take his students to an art gallery, where they were asked to “examine paintings, forcing them to unpack the many layers of detail and meaning in a good work of art”. As a result, Braverman found that his students “performed demonstrably better at diagnosis after taking the class”.  The way that the humanities require deep analysis and examination demonstrates a level of deep, critical thinking that can be valuable in all aspects of life and can apply to numerous disciplines. This suggests that the arts can be highly beneficial to students, regardless of what degree they wish to pursue. In this way, emphasizing the humanities in education is invaluable to all students, no matter what their career goals may be.

     For all these benefits, the arts need to take on a more prominent role in schools. The humanities teach skills essential to thriving in today’s society and can be extremely beneficial to the overall education of students. The arts should not be deemphasized in high schools and universities; they need to take on an equal role to science and math courses.

Teacher Interview: Mrs. Brandon

Mrs. Bianca Brandon has been teaching forensics and biology at Staten Island Tech for a number of years. Her path to becoming a teacher is incredibly unique and fascinating.

At a young age, Mrs. Brandon discovered her passion for biology, which was further encouraged by a series of great teachers that she once had.

“In my high school biology class, we got to do a bunch of dissections, which I thought was the coolest thing in the world.” she said: “We dissected an earthworm, a crayfish, a frog—that was it, I was hooked once we started doing that”.

In college, Mrs. Brandon went on to study biology, receiving her bachelor’s degree in science education and her master’s degree in molecular biology. It was while she was seeking her master’s degree and working on her thesis that her career in forensics, as she described, “kind of happened by accident”. One of Mrs. Brandon’s professors told her about an opportunity to intern at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office, which she took because it “sounded interesting” to her. She later got hired after completing the internship.

While working at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office, Mrs. Brandon and the group she was with were busy from the beginning. “We were hired primarily because there was a backlog of cases—primarily sexual assault cases—where there had never been any DNA testing done.” she said. Due to the small size of the department, and lack of DNA databases at the time, rape kits were collected from victims but not tested unless there was a suspect. Once DNA databases became more established, though, this testing became necessary because the databases could potentially find a match to the collected DNA to solve the case.

“So when I was hired, there were literally thousands of sexual assault kits that had never been tested. We were swamped. We did six months of training and while we were doing the training, we were also processing the cases for DNA testing.” she recalled.

Not long after this, the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center happened, creating even more work at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office. Mrs. Brandon was on a team working to identify victims from the attack. “That was really challenging; scientifically challenging and emotionally challenging as well”, she explained in regards to the abundance of cases. Even more cases began to pile up when a plane crash occurred in Queens just a few months later.

“We had two mass disasters that we were working on simultaneously,so it was just complete insanity” said Mrs. Brandon. From this, Mrs. Brandon gained a lot of experience in DNA analysis and forensics. Between her internship and job as a DNA analyst, she worked at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office for about four years, although she said “it felt like a lifetime of experience because it was just a really busy time.”

Mrs. Brandon teaching AP Biology students in 2017. Photo courtesy of UFT.

This lab work was “almost a diversion” from Mrs. Brandon’s original goal of becoming a teacher, something that she had always wanted to do. But she valued her work in the lab, saying, “I knew that if I had more lab experience, it would help me become a better teacher because I would be able to give more of those types of experiences to my students.”

After working on cases related to the 9/11 attacks and Queens plane crash, Mrs. Brandon decided that “it was time to switch gears” and become a teacher. She carried a lot of what she learned while working at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office into the classroom. “When I trained as a forensic scientist, I had never taken a class in forensics, so I learned everything on the job. I think that in the forensics science class in particular, you are learning by doing.”

Due to this, Mrs. Brandon’s teaching philosophy involves “learning by doing”. She believes classroom activities “should be as authentic and real as anything you would experience working in the field of biology or forensic science”.

Mrs. Brandon enjoys being creative with lesson ideas in order to help students understand certain concepts. “It’s almost like there’s this one side of my brain that’s very scientific and analytical ,and then there’s the kind of creative side and they both come together nicely when I come up with those lesson plans.”, she said.

But her favorite part of teaching is engaging with students. “I just have a blast with the kids. I hate those days when we’re in school and the kids are not. I just find it incredibly boring”, she laughed, “There’s such a diverse group of students here and I just think that’s incredible. I just love coming to work everyday.”