Category Archives: Community

The 28th Anniversary of the Launch of the Hubble Space Telescope

By: Lea S. ‘20

The Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990. On April 24th, 2018, Hubble ushered its 28th birthday. During these twenty-eight years, it opened a window to observe the universe. It gave us a chance to travel through the mystical cosmic world. In people’s mind, Hubble is not only a telescope, it is also a sign, a legend, an era that many people can’t forget. At twenty-eight years old, the Hubble era is almost reaching an end. During its time in service, Hubble met many failures, such as aging equipment. So far, the astronauts have completed five high-profile repairs. Although the Hubble Space Telescope is a high-spending project, in many researchers’ opinions, the brilliant life of Hubble is also the golden age of astronomy research because, after each mission, people have had significant astronomical discoveries through the Hubble Space Telescope. Let’s recall our memory about the five-servicing mission completed for Hubble.Shortly after the Hubble was deployed in 1990, the observatory’s primary mirror was discovered to have an aberration that affected the clarity of the telescope’s early images. In that case, correcting the optics of the flaw in Hubble’s primary mirror was a task of top priority. The seven astronauts who were chosen for their mission received intensive training. As we know, the Hubble is the largest telescope in the world. Its size is equivalent to four big telephone kiosks and four pianos. As a result, it’s very difficult to repair. More difficult, the astronauts need to repair it in a weightless environment. The astronauts launched in December 1993. Then, new instruments were installed, and the major problem was solved. In addition, this servicing mission was the first time they conducted planned maintenance on the telescope. One of the most important things during SM1 is that COSTAR, which is the instrument designed to correct Hubble’s spherical aberration for light, replaced the High-Speed Photometer. Another significant thing is that the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) was replacing the telescope’s original camera. In a nutshell, these two replacements have resulted in a dramatic increase in the clarity of the photos the Hubble takes. The success of this mission not only brought extremely high praise to NASA, but also gave astronomers a telescope which is fully competent for space exploration.

Although the subsequent servicing missions have not been as dramatic as the first one, each time new capabilities have been added to the Hubble. The SM2 was launched in February 1997. It happened four years after the first mission and greatly improved the Hubble’s productivity from two aspects. First, they installed some new instruments which extended the Hubble’s wavelength range, allowing us to probe more distant reaches of the universe. Second, the replacement of failed or degraded spacecraft components increased efficiency and performance.

In November 1999, when the fourth of six gyroscopes failed, the Hubble temporarily closed its eyes on the universe. Gyroscopes are important because they measure the rate of motion as the Hubble moves and help the telescope retain correct pointing during observations. Without working gyroscopes, the Hubble “went to sleep” while it waited for help. As soon as possible, NASA decided to split the Third Servicing Mission into two parts, SM3A and SM3B. Through SM3A, Hubble became more fit and capable than ever before. They gave Hubble a big update, including six fresh gyroscopes, a more powerful and faster main computer, and many other new and improved equipment. SM3B was launched in March 2002. It was the fourth visit to Hubble. In this mission, Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) replaced the previous camera. This is a milestone in the study of astronomy because the Hubble would give people superb quality images through this camera. It means ACS would have ten times more discovery power than the camera it replaced. More importantly, it gave astronomers an opportunity to study the nature and distribution of galaxies in order to understand how our universe evolved.

The last servicing mission was launched in May 2009. During SM4, two new scientific instruments were installed – the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). With these efforts, Hubble has been brought to the apex of its scientific capabilities.

After these five servicing missions, the Hubble Space Telescope has become the largest and most accurate telescope ever built. It can take pictures of hundreds of stars with more than ten times the sharpness of a terrestrial astronomical telescope. The achievements of the Hubble are indelible. The Hubble is the faithful recorder of this charming universe. It is the eye for human beings to see the fascinating universe. Astronomers believe that the Hubble telescope will still deliver the goods and complete its historic mission until it is eventually replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope. Let us all witness the miracle that the Hubble will create for us for the rest of the year!

Happy Birthday, Hubble!

The Wild West at Academy Day

By: Cassandra C. ’17

Every year on a Saturday in October, Academy Day brings people from the SIA community past and present to campus for soccer games, raffles, and delicious food. Whether you’re two, twenty-two, fifty-two, or ninety-two, Academy Day is always a fun time. Several alumni came back this year to cheer on their former classmates and catch up with their favorite teachers.

For this year’s event, the theme of Academy Day was the Wild West. Every grade had their own appropriately-themed game, while the seniors all lent a hand at the barbeque with the money raised funding part of the annual senior service trip to the Dominican Republic. Nearly every student contributed some time to Academy Day, either helping set up, cleaning at the end, or running one of the booths.

img_2273

My favorite event of the day had to be when it was Ms. Crig’s turn to volunteer at the pie-throwing booth. While she was yelling, “You got nothing!” some students from the lower school managed to hit her square in the forehead with a whipped cream and graham crackers pie. And yes, we have pictures.

img_2283 img_2284

SAC Day Spirit

By: Cassandra C. ‘17

From the very first event, it was clear that this school year would include an intense competition in SAC for the house cup.

house student-teacher

In my four years in upper school at SIA, this was perhaps the most spirited I have ever seen our students: from painted faces, foam fingers, to a serpentine (?) mascot, everyone wanted to partake in the competition, even if they could not contribute athletically. Despite the events not going quite as planned due to the rainy weather, students still managed to enjoy the relays, penalty kicks, musical chairs competition, and the delightfully punny “Cheese the First” table.

artArt competition musicalMusical chairs

The overall winner of SAC Day was Methfessel House, taking 100 points, with Partington, Merrick, Stettinius, and Willard-Mundorf following in second, third, fourth, and fifth, respectively. As a comeback from a long history of lackluster house spirit, Merrick House was awarded 25 additional points, taking Merrick to third overall. The next event for the year will be the House Decorating Competition in December. As I’m sure Ms. Large would say, this year is going to be a great year for SAC! (Also, go Merrick House!)

meth stettinius

merrick

What It Means To Be a Tiger

By: Connor F. ’16

Commencement is a day of celebration, congratulations and excitement! But it will also be remembered with some tears, sadness, and long goodbyes. I always knew the day would arrive. However, I could never have imagined my path nor expect the journey the Class of 2016 all would take together.

I have been a student here for 15 years, and I can honestly say that Staten Island Academy has become my home away from home. It is a place that has provided me with amazing friends, trusted mentors, and countless memories that will last a lifetime. For every commencement since I was in the fifth grade, I have sat with the orchestra, listening to so many speeches that seemed to have very similar messages. Every year it seemed that at least one speaker mentioned that the high school years would fly by.  And they were absolutely right.

ConnorSal

It seems like only yesterday that I was that wide-eyed fifth grader thinking my commencement was so far away. However, it has arrived, and instead of simply re-telling you all just how quickly the time does indeed pass, I want to implore you to stop every now and then to cherish your time here! Not every moment is going to be a memorable, triumphant, or glorious one, and that is okay. Because of all those years sitting on the other side of this stage—watching, listening and learning—I have taken the words and advice I have heard so often and managed to slow down time as much as possible so that I can appreciate the people in my life every day, the experiences we go through, and even the difficulties we encounter together.

I now view my high school years through the rearview mirror, but I am ready to move on with no regrets because I have valued my time here.  I am not sure too many students value their high school years as much as they should. It seems that we want to move onto the next stage of our lives too quickly, but believe me when I tell you that the Academy is a second home that should hold a special place in your heart.

With this in mind, I feel compelled to share three ideals that have been important to me throughout my journey at SIA. First, I want you to know that it is possible for you to find the best in every situation. Try to understand that all your experiences, both the positive ones and especially the challenging ones, will shape you. These moments will be connected and become “the big picture” that is your life. In the book, Chop Wood, Carry Water, author Joshua Medcalf reminds us to, make sure the life we are living today, is a story worth telling in the future. I believe in living each day to the fullest.  A lot of times we are caught up in a moment or complain about a little discomfort, and we lose sight of what is really important. I challenge you:  when you feel uncomfortable or feel like quitting, find something positive for which you are grateful for in that situation.  For example, during our ninth grade trip to Fairview Lake, our class—not known for our ability to “rough it”—complained endlessly about mosquitoes, dirty cabins, and inedible meals. However, these moments helped us bond together, and by the time we got back to school, we had grown closer as a class. By recognizing the benefits of a difficult situation, we will make the most of our years and be able to look back on all of our great achievements.

Second, and one of the most important aspects of my years at SIA, is living a life of service. Not just the kind that is written down on a form and receives recognition at the end of the year. I am referring to the ideal that by serving others, we can change the world!  Always serve! Always look for ways to give in every interaction—with strangers and also with people you know. You must find a way to serve, as only through service and sacrifice can we become great! The Class of 2016 has found their own ways to serve, and I’m talking about service beyond our required internships. From the Bread of Life Food Drive to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, from Habitat for Humanity to the Wounded Warrior Project, we have looked beyond our own lives to help others, enriching ourselves and others in the larger community.

Finally, I want to share my thoughts on leadership since we are given so many opportunities to lead here at SIA. Whether in the classroom, on stage, or on the playing fields, we all have honed our skills of leadership. As president John F. Kennedy once noted, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” During my time in each division—Lower, Middle, and Upper School—I was able to model my leadership style by learning from so many dedicated and caring teachers, coaches, and captains. Some lead from the front, others from the rear. Still others show leadership without saying a word. Over the past four years, the baton of leadership has been passed to us, and our learning has been enhanced through our roles as team captains, as leads in plays, as House representatives, as SAC leaders, and as club founders and presidents. In following our passions, we have led others. Leadership then is an integral part of who we are. And since we are Tigers, we have learned to be strong, fierce and patient leaders.

class

Now, to the Class of 2016, commencement marks a new chapter in our lives. A chapter looked upon with anticipation, nervousness, and a whole lot of excitement. In the fall, we will all be off to our respective colleges and universities, ready and prepared for the challenges to come. I know we are prepared to serve, to lead, and to create positive change in the world. I hope to see each of you on the roads you choose to follow. After all we have been through together, we are connected to one another forever. Do not forget where you come from and when you get where you are going, do not forget to turn back around. Remember that the Academy is the home from which we all came.

The President and a Rock Star

By: Kevin C. ’16

In his commencement speech to the graduates at the University of Michigan in 2009, Larry Page, co-founder of Google, said, “It is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams…Since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition.” Ambition drives success. In my time here, I’ve learned firsthand that SIA instills ambition in its students. We all genuinely want to do great things and accomplish impressive feats, and this wouldn’t be possible were it not for the encouragement given by the faculty to take risks.

I remember being asked as a young boy what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I remember always giving the same answer—the President and a rock star. I wasn’t too sure how I would find time to do both, but I was determined to live that double life. Although I have pivoted on my dream, I still believe Larry Page’s advice to the Michigan graduates is important to take to heart. It’s easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams because no one else is crazy enough, or, ambitious enough, to follow them. We all have ambition within us, thanks to SIA, and now it’s time to put it to use and make a change in the world.

commencement

Three years later, at the same University, neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta said, “I think being scared is good.” I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Gupta, as I believe it takes confidence to be afraid. It takes confidence to take chances. It takes confidence to fail. Just as it has given me a drive to succeed, SIA has made me a much more confident person as a whole. Not quite confident enough to pull off Mr. Acquilano’s plaid pants, but confident enough to believe that being scared is in fact a good thing. I’ve probably heard it a hundred times by now, but it truly rings true—SIA is like a family. Its small size coupled with the individual attention we receive creates a close knit community that teaches us to be self-confident and self-aware just as a family would. Had it not been for this personalized care and attention, I would be ten times more nervous giving and writing speeches. But thanks to the Academy, I am confident enough to add Sanjay Gupta’s words to the recipe for success which has been fostered by this school over the past thirteen years.

Finally, at the University of Southern California 2012 commencement, journalist and activist Maria Shriver said, “Before you go out and press that fast forward button, I’m hoping, I’m praying, that you’ll have the courage to first press the pause button.” While we throw around clichés concerning following our dreams, it is important remember where we came from. As we embark on the next chapter of our lives, we need to keep close the people who got us to this point. Two weeks ago, I was at my older brother Kieran’s graduation from Stevens Institute of Technology and one of the commencement speakers gave some advice very similar to that of Maria Shriver. For every two steps forward, take one step back. While we’re bound to succeed and make remarkable advancements in the world, we can’t be afraid to stop and appreciate our families, friends, and Staten Island Academy for making us the intellectually curious and ambitious people we are today.

As I come to a close I would like to thank a few people. First, thank you to all the faculty that have helped form who I am today. A special thanks to Mr. Manske for helping me appreciate math once again, for teaching me how to find the spot on the backboard, and for believing in my abilities even when I did not. Thank you Mrs. Greenfield for providing me with the strongest foundation I could have asked for, for instilling in me my first curiosity to learn, and for putting up with my tears over the move from the early childhood building to Alumni Hall.

Thank you Mom and Dad for giving me the opportunity to attend such an amazing school and for supporting me for these past eighteen years. Thank you Kieran for setting a strong example of good character and maintaining focus on what’s important, and for always showing me the way.

diplomas

Fellow classmates, I urge you to take a moment and thank your loved ones. It’s been a privilege to be here, and I can say with confidence that no other school would have prepared me for the future like Staten Island Academy has. I have the ambition to pursue dreams that others aren’t crazy enough to pursue. I have the confidence to be scared. And I have the unparalleled love for this institution that would not be possible had it not been for its extraordinary faculty and community. This is the time of our lives where we are in control. All clichés aside, congratulations Class of 2016.

Class of 2016

By: Julia K. ’17

It’s that time of year again when we have to say goodbye to the seniors, the leaders of the Academy, and my best friends. I have gotten so close with the senior class this year and I am so proud of what they have accomplished as a whole. I am caught sitting with the senior class in their lounge at least once a day because I want to make each moment with them count. I hope that they will all stay in touch and have an absolutely amazing time at college.

goodbye

Watching most of my closest friends graduate will be one of hardest things I’ll ever do, but I hope we can all keep our friendships thriving. Staten Island Academy will miss the Class of 2016 because of their amazing leadership skills and success in athletics and academics. It is going to be so sad to watch the seniors graduate but this means that my class has to step up and have a positive influence on the rest of the school. Thank you seniors for the endless laughs and memories that will stay with me forever.

Decoding the Dress Code

By: Andrew B. ’16

At least once a week a comment or announcement is made by a faculty member about dress code at morning meeting. Despite this, a good portion of the student body continues to ignore the dress code, which allows for plain white, navy, gray, or maroon sweaters with a white or maroon polo. For male students, khaki, gray, or navy pants are required, while female students have the option of navy, gray, or khaki pants or skirts. Then, there’s formal which requires a crisp, white button down and navy blazer with knee high socks and flats for girls, while boys wear dress shoes and school ties. For the most part, students follow formal dress; however, regular dress code seems to be the largest issue. As I walk around school, there are days I cannot tell who is in dress code and who is in dress down. Some students don’t even own a polo and simply wear t-shirts. I have seen everything from a subtle black or beige to red, hot pink, and even, camouflage. A few days ago, I saw students wearing black sweatpants instead of khakis. If no one is following dress code, then why have it?

1

I speak from experience when I say I have stretched the dress code. I’ve worn worn every variation of white there is and several shades of grey. I’ve pushed the dress code with subtle neutrals like beige and black, but have gone as far as to wear a leather jacket, a denim jacket, and even olive green. The majority of the time I’m allowed to wear these items because it’s usually a neutral or subtle color. Now, by no means am I complaining about not receiving a warning or detention over what I wear, but I find myself wondering why we continue to mandate what students wear, when half the time it’s not enforced.

2 WINE


Several independent schools in the area have amended their dress codes in lieu of a much lenient one. Students at some of these schools are expected to dress “preppy.” Boys are not allowed to wear sweatpants or jeans, but can wear chinos or khakis in varying colors and styles. They also have flexibility in the color of the collared shirt they are required to wear—whether it be a polo or button down. Outwear and sweaters don’t have a specified color; they simply can’t have large logos or writing. For female students, any pants that aren’t leggings, jeans or sweatpants are allowed, along with skirts and dresses of an appropriate length. This sort of dress code offers students a better chance to express themselves through their wardrobe. With such a lenient dress code, dress down days would not really be necessary.

At some point or another, students at SIA have complained about dress code, but the dress code here is much better than at most schools with religious affiliations. While a more lenient dress code would be an added perk to attending Staten Island Academy, I think we are all grateful for the fact that a dress shirt and tie is not required daily. Who knows, maybe by next year the more lenient dress code mentioned in this article will be a part of SIA.

Mrs. Platis’ Last Model UN: The Final Chapter

By: Kaleigh M

Mrs. Caren Platis has been leading the Model UN club at Staten Island Academy for 18 years! As a rookie participant for the most recent Model UN Conference, it was amazing to see the results of the hard work and commitment she has put into this program over the years. All of the students are grateful and appreciate of everything she has done to make this program one of the best, which led to the assembly of SIA’s largest delegation in 25 years. Mrs. Platis put her “all” into every mock session, every paper she read and re-read, and every conference she led.

I recently had the great opportunity to ask Mrs. Platis a few questions about her years leading the Model UN club at SIA.  When asked what made her want to go back to Model UN every year, her exact words were, “The students and the faculty of course! What better way to spend a frosty January weekend each year than with my fun-filled colleagues and several dozen excited, sleep-deprived, food-focused teenagers, at a huge pseudo-political conference?”

MUN Faculty 2016

MUN Faculty 2016

Of course I had to ask Mrs. Platis what memory stands out to her the most throughout her 18 years of leadership. Her all-time favorite Model UN memory was when she and Mr. Weissman took a small delegation to Beijing, China in 2010. For this opportunity, they brought ten delegates who competed among 2,000 other students mostly from other Asian nations. There were two awards won among the ten SIA students, which made Mrs. Platis and Mr. Weissman very proud. Many people associate the city of Philadelphia with their famous Philly Cheesesteaks. Another fond memory Mrs. Platis has is the “Cheesesteak Eating Contest” they held for several years. One student ate a total of 10 Philly Cheesesteaks in one weekend. It is important to note the record is still unbroken to this day. Perhaps someone will break it next year.

Looking ahead, Mrs. Platis feels the best years of SIA’s Model UN will occur in the future, but I think we all know some of the best years and memories were experienced with her at the helm. I also asked Mrs. Platis what legacy she hopes to leave for the club and the next Leadership Team. She responded by saying that she hopes that she has, “instilled a sense of stewardship and honor” in everyone. Mrs. Platis also said that she always asks the leaders to leave the program better than they found it.

Passing the Gavel

Passing the Gavel

I wanted to make this article special so I asked a few students about their favorite memory from any past Model UN. Trip M (Grade 11) has been doing Model UN for the past three years and will be part of the Leadership Team next year as a senior. Trip begins to share his most memorable “Platis moment” by saying that Mrs. Platis is certainly legendary at Staten Island Academy. He states, “The most eventful ‘Platis memory’ I have is most certainly the fall of 2015, when Mrs. Platis broke her arm after falling over a student’s luggage.” He says that the students tend to blame Mr. Weissman for the incident. After this occasion, Mr. Weissman became known as the “bone crusher” and “the ticking time bomb.” Another Model UN memory that Trip remembers was talking to Mrs. Platis and the other faculty during his freshman year one night after his first conference. Trip said that he was alone in a large committee, but after he spoke to her he felt more confident in himself. Trip ended with saying, “I am happy to say that Mrs. Platis has played a major role in my development as a debater, but also as a person.”

I also asked Ryan D (Grade 12) who was on the Leadership Team this past conference what his favorite memory was from his four years participating in Model UN. Ryan’s favorite memory was very special and meaningful. He said his it was when Mrs. Platis appointed him, John H, and Morenike M to be on the Leadership Team for the 2015-2016 Model UN conference. This was a special moment because the three of them worked so hard in their years at Model UN working in small, intense committees. Mrs. Platis has made everyone’s Model UN special in one way or another.  Of course we had to find out what Mrs. Platis favorite memory was from her last Model UN conference at SIA. She said, “At this last conference I was very pleased to see a strong sense of harmony and cooperation among delegates, both new and experienced. We were thrown a few curve-balls this year, yet the students were flexible, responsible and positive.”

MUN4
I am sure that Mrs. Platis has made every Model UN a memorable one that is never to be forgotten. Something Mrs. Platis also shared with me is how grateful she feels to have been accompanied by Mark “the Bone-Crusher” Weissman who would sit with her in the hallways late into the night and make her laugh until she cried. Mrs. Platis will always be our fearless Model UN leader and we hope to live up to her legacy in the years to come.