“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Everyone must have the childhood memory of being attacked by this cliché question during family gatherings. My answer was always “a scientist!”. Please refrain from accusing me of being corny or uncreative. Since I was first introduced to the world, I could not think of another profession that provides so much meaning and happiness in my life. Scientific advancements make concrete, tangible influences by increasing our quality of life and making comfort accessible to the general public. Biology, chemistry, geology, all these natural sciences appeal to me, yet astronomy and physics fascinate me most. I could gaze at the night sky for hours and just wonder about how the stars move and evolve in the grand mechanics of the universe. My curiosity towards the guiding principles of the world we live in compel me to explore the realm of astrophysics.
Research is both the foundation and future of science. Passionate about astrophysical phenomena, I have always dreamed to do research in the area. Yet, as limited in terms of my scientific knowledge and resources, I did not expect to substantiate my studies in high school. SIA challenged me to reevaluate my potentials. This year, as part of the first senior class to participate in the Senior Signature Project, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to invest in my academic interests through the development of a thesis during a year-long research project.
Frankly, the starting phase of the project was difficult for me, as I was overwhelmed with a dazzling array of topics of interest and the prospect of being able to fully develop any of them as a one-person endeavor. . Thanks to the tremendous help of Mr. Crane as the project moderator and Mr. DeCorato as my faculty advisor, I finally found an achievable project of great interests and influences: an interactive educational video series on astronomy and astrophysics, with special focus on stellar evolution. The popularization of science has been my driving purpose as both an aspiring science student and a volunteer teacher. To explain an abstract, challenging concept in accessible language, the videos aim to invoke the general community’s interests towards stars, galaxies, and the beginning and fate of the universe. Some of the topics included are star formation, supernovae, quasar, black hole and Big Bang.
The project has only been made possible with the most supportive faculty here at SIA. So many teachers have generously offered me technical help, professional suggestions, or the sweetest moral support. I am especially grateful for Mr. DeCorato, who volunteers to meet with me multiple times throughout the cycle and always manages to enlighten me with his help and advice. His patience, good energy, and dry humor keep me passionate and confident about my work. The heartfelt realization that he is “passing on the kindness he experienced here as a student” inspires me to continue to pass on this proud tiger tradition.
The 2018 London trip was certainly one to remember. For the first time in SIA history, the largest freshman class traveled across the pond. It was certainly a new experience for all of us, and for many, it was the first time away from home. Getting off a 6.5-hour flight and heading straight to our first destination was exhausting. However, the adrenaline of being in another country with all of your classmates overpowered the fatigue. On the first day, we were lucky enough to witness Armistice Day, which is their version of America’s Veterans Day. We were silent for 2-3 minutes, intently watching the guards walk and commemorate the people who served their country.
After a jam-packed day, getting to the hotel around 9:30 was certainly a relief. As the days went on, we saw places like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon, The Globe, Tower of London, The London Eye and other breathtaking cornerstones of London. Learning about the history and background of all these places was interesting and being able to understand how they still play an important role in London today was even better. . We came into this trip as a group of eager freshmen, hoping to find our “people” for the next four years. We left the trip as a family. The days were long and I can confidently say I will never do that amount of walking ever again in my life, but I would do it all over again with the people I love most.
Staten Island Academy is highly regarded for its progressive and unique curriculum. Striving to teach subjects that are often considered out of the mainstream, yet an equally important part of a child’s education, the expansion of the ASL (American Sign Language) program in the Lower School reflects a desire to be inclusive and the development of a wider range of learning.
While some people approach ASL as an interesting challenge, others must incorporate it in their daily life. Mrs. Rifi, Kindergarten teacher, ASL teacher and parent of three SIA students, was born into a family with two deaf parents. Sign language was her first language. She believes that teaching children ASL as young as three or four years old “is very beneficial to them, helping them express themselves in different ways.” She tells her young students that instead of acting out, to use sign language to communicate, “I am mad.” Another benefit to teaching children ASL at a young age is helping them speak out when they are scared to do so verbally.
Learning ASL – even at a beginner level – enables students to develop the skills to communicate with people who do not use spoken word, and to reflect on one’s own life. Mrs. Rifi’s efforts, and the success of the program altogether, have prompted the hiring of a full-time ASL teacher, Aurelia Casey. Now taught throughout the Lower School, young students are able to connect with those that they otherwise would not be able to. Through this more interactive approach to learning, lower school students can take the knowledge they have accumulated and apply it outside of the classroom, communicate with others in a new way, and laugh while doing it!