Tech’s Annual Multicultural Show

On Friday, March 16th, Staten Island Technical High School celebrated its annual Multicultural Show: a whirlwind of songs and dances that lit up the stage all evening. At around 7:30 PM, people filed into the auditorium, which eventually became a full house. Whether they were there to support a student involved in the show, to appreciate culture, or to spend an otherwise uneventful Friday night, the audience members were buzzing in anticipation of the performances to come.

The Asian American Club (AAC) performing one of their final numbers.

Before the show began, we caught up with performer Allyson Pan. This was her first year being a part of both the Multicultural Show and Desi Club. What drew her to this club in particular were her friends, who have been part of the club for a few years. Being in the club for a few months now, Allyson was able to give us an insider’s look into the club and the making of its number for the Multicultural Show.

She told The Tech Times that the Desi Club had been practicing their dance for about three months, starting in January. The dance the Desi Club performed was almost entirely modeled off of Bollywood movies, with a dash of Western and Latin influences. Thankfully, those who were inexperienced in the art form had impeccable guidance from the club’s presidents: Aruni Ahilan, Priyal Thakkar, and Shruthi Satty. All three are experienced Desi dancers. Not only was the experience informative, but it was widely enjoyable, as shown by Allyson’s newfound interest in dance. Though she was a not a dancer before, she enjoyed her experience in Desi so much that she plans to continue participating in dance extracurriculars in college.

Participants showcase their respective flags at the end of the performance.

Back in our seats, all eyes were glued to the stage up front as the show began. From the more mellow movements of the Greek and Russian clubs to the sharp and rapid movements of the Korean Culture and Jewish Clubs, there was never a dull moment. In between dances, seniors Anton Lagochniak and Xenia Rudchenko delivered stunning renditions of Russian songs. To wrap up the show, Desi Club took the stage with music and dance moves that were impossible not to move along to, leaving the audience in enthusiastic applause. The cheers in the crowd only grew louder as all of the show’s performers ran out on stage and held up their respective flags, representing cultures from Hispanic and Chinese to Indian.

Of course, like at any good show, refreshments were served. Perhaps refreshments is an understatement, as the school’s cafeteria was essentially transformed into a buffet of food from various cultures. Lines of people formed outside the cafeteria, all eager to delve into cultural foods such as Russian cookies, fried rice, churros, empanadas, chicken, or cupcakes decorated for St. Patrick’s Day. Once their plates were loaded up with goods, people sat down with either their friends or families, still buzzing with adrenaline from the show. The general consensus regarding the show appeared to be positive, but then again, who isn’t happy when they’re surrounded by seemingly limitless delicious food?

Be in The Know: Sheldon the Comfort Dog

The date was August 8th, 2017 – school had been out for roughly a month and the students of Staten Island Tech were scattered all over the globe. Some chose to stay in Staten Island to pursue their professional endeavors, while others went on vacation with their families. Wherever they were, the news was completely unexpected – Tech was officially approved for the NYC DOE’s Comfort Dog Program, meaning a certain pooch would be joining the faculty in the fall. We named him Sheldon.

Coming in as a shy pup with a calm demeanor, Sheldon was an immediate hit with both students and teachers. He would get countless visits on a daily basis, which took some getting used to. To help him assimilate, he was given a personal trainer in addition to DOE’s six mandated training sessions. Fourth months later, Sheldon is 9 months old and incredibly energetic and playful. But growing up comes with a busier schedule, even for dogs.

Sheldon posing with his training certificate. Photo courtesy of SITHS Facebook page.

Here’s a typical day in Sheldon’s week: After having a good night’s sleep at Ms. Hansalik’s house, both his owner and an AP U.S. History teacher at Tech, Sheldon joins the students entering the school for his first period of the day – Relaxation with Mr. Erlenwein, the principal. After some time alone and a walk or two, he greets students from fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh lunch periods who come to play with him. Some time later, Mr. Erlenwein takes him up to an AP Psychology class, where he demonstrates the commands Sheldon has learned: come, sit, stay, and leave it.

Given this, the students were able to see the concepts they learned in action, particularly positive reinforcement and shaping. For those of you into psychology, you’re in for a treat. Positive reinforcement came into play when Mr. Erlenwein would make a gesture for Sheldon to sit, following the completion of the behavior with a delicious treat. The “leave it” command demonstrated shaping, a term used to describe achieving a desired behavior by reinforcing the steps leading up to the action. In other words, Sheldon had to first learn to sit, then stay, and finally the “leave it” command.

On another day of the week, Sheldon visited a freshman Health class focusing on the “Balance of Mind, Body and Spirit,” a lesson detailed in the Comfort Dog Program curriculum, which Mr. Erlenwein reported to be a huge success. After that, Sheldon went to the guidance counselor’s office, where he did what he does best, comfort. All in a day’s work.

What did Tech do to deserve such a gift? This would normally be a rhetorical question, but thankfully, Mr. Erlenwein has an answer for us:

“Animals change the tone and atmosphere of any setting and I think having one is very fitting for our school. Our students think outside of the box, and deserve all of the ways we can make life better here. We really try to make it comfortable – a home away from home.”

We all appreciate Sheldon’s presence immensely and can’t wait to witness his future impact on the Tech family.