Monthly Archives: July 2015

Alumni Address to the SIA Class of 2015

Daniel L. Master, Jr. ’71

In just 4 minutes I hope to teach the class of 2015 just 2 more lessons before they take their leave of these hallowed halls.

  1. First Lesson:  You, our graduates, didn’t build the Staten Island Academy that you came to and it’s your responsibility to build the next Staten Island Academy.

Personal Story:  When I first came to Staten Island Academy 50 years ago, I attended my 6th grade classes in the old Stettinius Mansion that used to be just behind where we are today on the footprint of Crowe Hall.   I didn’t build that building, my parents didn’t build it.  It was built by others, but it was there for me and for my parents when we needed it. The following year I attended classes in the old Wall Street building in St. George.  I didn’t build it—my parents didn’t build it. But it was there when we needed it. Both of those buildings are gone now.  And at some point in the future—perhaps another 50 years?–the school buildings you sat in here may no longer be here.  It is your moral responsibility to build the next Staten Island Academy, so that in the future when students and their parents need this place, SIA will still be here for them—as it was for you in your time of need.

  1. Now if you’ve been trained well here, if you have learned critical thinking, you will question my assertion.  You’ll ask further:  “Why is it our responsibility?”

Personal Story:  For those of you who carefully perused your commencement program, you saw that my daughter Emma has a somewhat strange middle name: Aubin. It is not a familiar first name. It is not a family name associated with my family or my wife’s family.  That’s because I named my first child after Robert and Elizabeth Aubin—two of my teachers at Staten Island Academy when I was here so long ago.  They had both passed away many years before Emma was born.  But I felt –and still feel– that I have a debt to them that I will never be able to re-pay.

Your families and loved ones helped bring you here today and deserve much credit. But right now, Class of 2015, I want you to look at the faculty of Staten Island Academy—to those people at the very heart of this institution—to those people to whom you owe a debt that you will never be able to repay and so you will try to do so in your own meagre way by supporting the school in the future with your time, your money, and your talents.  God bless the members of the faculty of Staten Island Academy—past and present.  Because they have given you the ticket to your future—the ticket to the rest of your life.  And it’s a first-class seat!

 

Service

(A speech given at our awards assembly)

Nowadays, anybody with a computer and a credit card can donate money online and call themselves a “philanthropist.” While monetary aid is an important part to the continuation of many charitable organizations, it’s not the only part. In fact, it’s probably the least impactful form of charity to do. Why be a faceless donor when you can physically help those in need and see, first hand, the positive change you are bringing to people’s lives? Contrary to popular belief, money does not solve all problems and sometimes a helping hand, or a hand up, can go much further than a couple of bucks, or a hand out.
Throughout my first year at SIA, I was truly amazed and inspired by how philanthropic both the students and faculty were. While there were plenty of fundraisers, there were also numerous amounts of service opportunities that many, if not all the students, would participate in. What was even more surprising to me was the celebratory way in which everyone regarded their service. Here, community service isn’t something that is dreaded or procrastinated about; rather, it is something that we, as a community, get excited about. Over this past year alone, I have seen an immense amount of passion and dedication go into the service opportunities here from students waking up at 6AM to serve breakfast to the volunteer builders at project hospitality to the heated She’s the First debates to the class of 2015 going to the Dominican Republic to teach English to impoverished children.
As some of you may know, I was one of the 19 seniors who went on this remarkable trip and, once again, I was amazed by how passionately and diligently we tended to our tasks. From lessons plans, to teaching, to running afterschool camp, and everything in-between, everything we did there was done with love. In fact, one of the first things we learned when we arrived at the Outreach360’s headquarters in the Domincan was their service principles. These included focusing on the bigger picture and not just the impact the individual is making, jumping right in, serving and not helping, taking things poco a poco or little by little, and last but not least, communicating love. Based on what I saw and the many accolades we received from the Outreach360 staff, I believed we fulfilled all these principles exceptionally and then some.
Now’s time for a story to support my argument and tug at all your heart strings. It was our last day teaching and we were with the 5th grade going over a test. Around me, I had my usual crew of students: Nashnaly, Yulenni, Mery, and Eidan. Eidan was the only boy in the group and everytime he smiled, you couldn’t help but notice a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. In short, he was a little trouble maker, funny and bright, but a trouble maker. As we were going over the test together, Eidan used the back of his pencil to point to something on the paper and accidentally cut my finger. I left to go put a bandaid on and when I turned around I saw Eidan standing there with an earnest look on his face begging to see my hand. I told him I was ok and gave him a hug to show that I wasn’t mad. Right next to him was his friend Nashnaly who put a handful of candy in my hand and glanced over at Eidan who, now, had completely forgotten about my hand and was totally focused on my candy. She said, “This is for you, don’t share it with anybody else, only for you,” as she continued to death stare Eidan who we both knew was about to try to steal the candy. As funny as that situation was, when I reflected on it, it began to mean so much more. In that instant I knew that all the work I had done with these kids over the past four days had helped me fulfill the Outreach principles and create an unbreakable bond. Mind you, this is only one success story from the many I saw happening throughout the trip and that none of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for our SIA community.
SIA has provided the opportunities to gain first hand experience on the more impactful effects that putting a hand up has on both the service do-er and receiver than just simply giving a hand out. This community should be proud for all we do for our fellow man and continue to strive to do more to help make this world a better place.

Global Citizen

(Speech from Academic Awards’ Ceremony)

Good evening, parents, faculty, and students. I joined Staten Island Academy in the fifth grade and will be attending Smith College in the fall. I have been taking Spanish and Latin classes at the Academy for several years – my experiences in the classroom were more than just a graduation requirement to be fulfilled. Right now, more than 6,000 different languages are being spoken around the world. This number does not account for the ancient languages that are no longer in use, preserved in books, stone tablets, museum galleries, and scholars’ archives. Nor does it include the languages that exist in fictional realms like Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings. Truly, knowledge of English alone is not enough to survive a journey around the world, transcending both time and reality.

In his novel, The Book Thief, Markus Zusak wrote, “Words are life.” It is a powerful claim to make – and if this is true, then what could be more valuable than learning the words of someone else’s native tongue? Of course, understanding a foreign language requires much more than the simple act of collecting words as if they were seashells. Learning another language can shape unique experiences, lead to personal discoveries, and develop new friendships. In today’s connected and swiftly changing world, never has the long-distance exchange of ideas been more important to diplomacy, technological innovations, pop culture, and more. Knowledge of a foreign language fosters this global exchange, allowing individuals to communicate across borders and oceans.

Not everyone can have an overseas adventure. However, the resources are readily available for anyone to explore the unfamiliar terrain of another culture, history, and lifestyle. From classes, textbooks, mobile apps, and casual conversation with native speakers, there are so many ways for one to pick up another language. One does not need to be a world traveler in order to be a citizen of the world. Now, let’s take on some of the responsibilities of this role by using our new-found knowledge for the betterment of the world around us. Thank you.

Leadership

(Speech given at the Awards Night)

Good evening students, faculty, and guests. My name is Sophia and I am a current senior at Staten Island Academy. It is quite remarkable to say that I will be graduating this upcoming Friday. I joined this community at the mere age of four as a pre-kindergartener and now, 13 years later, I am culminating my time here.  I am considered a “lifer”, meaning I have attended Staten Island Academy for my early childhood, middle and high school education. My time here has definitely shaped me into the young woman I am today, and one of the major concepts I have learned is the ability to lead and be a leader.

Vice-President of the Student Advisory Council and Captain of the Girls Varsity tennis team are two examples of positions where I have assumed leadership in my community. Even though I can propose reforms for my school or take charge of a sport’s team, this does not mean this is the only way I, and others, can and have lead. According to the dictionary definition, leadership is “the action of leading a group of people or an organization”. However, this seems to connote a physical action- leadership is not only limited to this.  A person does not need a prestigious title or a loud bullhorn to lead. There are different forms of leadership whether it is a silent leader, a thoughtful leader, a courageous leader, an educational leader- the list goes on. There is no sort of requirement or list of rules regarding the type of leader someone can be, and as we have all heard several times, it is key to be a leader not a follower in all that you do. Not only does leadership promote success, it also allows people to establish themselves as individuals. We all must be our own leaders to really understand our true selves.

Warren Bennis once said, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality”. It is my goal to see each and everyone one of you as you approach your future endeavors in your adult, college, or high school careers to become your own sort of leader and translate your own personal visions into reality- We are the change we want to see in the world. I hope I will always hold close the values of leadership that I have learned and acted upon throughout my time here at Staten Island Academy and bring them with me as I commence my time at Barnard College of Columbia University in the fall. I am grateful for the framework I have developed here, and urge all of you to start building your own frame. Thank you.