What is Character?

By: Charlotte A. ’17

What is Character?

As the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.” So today think of me as a Greek philosopher, minus the beard and the toga, as we touch on the universal question: What is character?

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Character is defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” Every single person has their own set of beliefs and guidelines for how to treat other people, behave in certain situations, and make ethical decisions. These beliefs and guidelines for our emotions and behaviors that we display on a daily basis are what give us our personalities and our “character.”

Throughout your education everyone here has certainly had at least one English teacher who has talked about the importance of “characterization” in a story. “Characterization is the process by which the writer reveals the personality of a character.” I remember one author who wrote, “Unfortunately, characterization is one of the most difficult aspects of creative writing to master, because authors tend to naturally fall into the fatal trap of creating two-dimensional, cardboard characters. We may describe the grandmother in our story, for example, as kindly, with softly-curled gray hair, and a preference for polyester floral prints. Isn’t that how all grandmothers look? Of course not; that’s a stereotype. Good stories feature characters who turn the stereotypes upside down — people who defy expectations.” This quote really made me reflect upon Staten Island Academy and the character of the students that attend here. We defy expectations.

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I am what the Academy calls “a lifer.” I have been enrolled here since Pre-K. As I look toward senior year, I realize I have never once regretted staying at my home on the hill, because in my opinion, the community here defies those previously mentioned “expectations.” I have had the privilege of being raised in this community, and my character was shaped and molded as I made my journey through each grade. Kids who start attending SIA in middle or upper school are quickly integrated into our family and embraced with open arms, as we help them to understand how our community works – how our character evolves.

A person of character exhibits kindness, creativity and respect. They are accepting and nonjudgmental. They are principled, and have integrity. I am proud of my friends, the Academy community who are truly people of character. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again. Who knows great enthusiasms; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Staten Island Academy students do not sit on the side lines. As Teddy Roosevelt said, we are actually “in the arena.” And whether that arena is a stage, basketball court, lacrosse field, art studio, or a classroom, we defy expectations, we strive valiantly, and even if we fail, we fail by daring greatly. We are in the arena, an arena of great character.

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.

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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.

Victory on the Field: JV Lacrosse

By: Cameron C. ’17

Coming off a loss in the previous game against Tottenville, the Staten Island Academy JV lacrosse team captured an 8-3 victory over the Pirates. We knew we could get back at them and give them their first loss of the season. We practiced hard and had a definitive plan to take the win.
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“Pretend like this is a state championship game, shut down number 5 and number 12,” echoed the motivational words of Mr. Aquilano. Francesca Marchese ’19 and Cameron Corbett ’17 absorbed each and every word and dominated the defensive end. Every loose ball, we were there.

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“We intimidated them, and they went into the game thinking that they were going to win after our 6-7 loss in the previous game. Cameron took number five out of the game which completely shattered their game plan and our attackers started out strong,” said Francesca Marchese ’17 of the Lacrosse team. As the 25 minutes ran out of the second half, everyone felt a rush of excitement because we finally broke Tottenville’s undefeated record. I couldn’t ask for a better team!

You Can’t Buy Love, But You Can Love RENT!

By: Ms. Santino

It’s hard to believe people so young could display such maturity and depth of emotion. As the voices rose in a musical medley, singing “Will I,” the echoes of hope and despair rang true. Whether depicting the heated battles between partners Maureen (Alice G.) and Joanne (Alexa F.), the fiery spirit and unbreakable of Mimi (Yvonne B.), the friendship in the face of terrible disease amid Roger (Jahir H.) and Mark (Daniel B.), or the undying love despite death between Angel (Gabriel P.) and Collins (Trip M.), these students knew how to pull at the audience’s emotional heartstrings.

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While the stars of the show certainly shined, the rest of the cast and crew could not be ignored. Stellar performances from Grace A., Chris C., Tara M., Mia W., Mike T., Katarina R., and A’Mit L. stood out, but only name a few of the handful of superb actors and actresses on the stage. Ryan A.’s non-stop percussion performance accented the heartbeat of the show. Theater crew, including Assistant Director John H., and the ever unstoppable guru of the performing arts, Director Mark Weissman, put on the production of a lifetime.

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Now and Then

I danced to “La Vie Boheme,” laughed at “Take Me or Leave Me,” grooved to “Santa Fe,” rejoiced in “Seasons of Love,” cried in “Without You,” and cheered wildly at the “Finale.” As a high school student when Rent first appeared on Broadway, I grew up to the music of the show. It was edgy, different, and touched on chords especially present in that tumultuous time between childhood and adulthood. Seeing it performed by the Staten Island Academy students took me back to that time; although the play is as relevant now as it was then. It demonstrates a different side of theater, the kind that doesn’t shy away from difficult subject matter, but instead puts it on the stage for the audience to reject or embrace. No matter your take on the show, the give-it-all attitude from these talented teens cannot be denied and would win over even the staunchest critique. Bravo, SIA! Bravo!

Tech Week Diaries: RENT

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A Week in Review
By: Sophia A. ’17

Backstage during the rehearsals, the actors are working hard and so is the stage crew.  At the beginning of tech week, the heads of each wing created a cue sheet, consisting of time and placements for the stage crew to bring props out and place them on their designated spikes. This had props working on their toes. We have to make sure to give the cast what they need when they perform, and practice so that it’s perfect for the production. Overall, tech week was strenuous and stressful for the cast and crew, but this resulted in everyone pulling together to put on an amazing show!

Sunday’s Rehearsal
By: Alexa F. ‘ 16

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon began the long week we had all been looking forward to… Tech Week: Rent Addition. The five hour rehearsal ran through the entire show with stage crew joining the cast to plan and learn the placement of tables, chairs, props, and lighting. Since costumes had not yet arrived, running the show with them will hopefully begin Monday. The cast is especially looking forward to meeting  Adam Pascal, the actor who originated the role of Roger, and will be joining rehearsals Monday. During this rehearsal we will have a Q & A with Mr. Pascal and he will watch a few numbers of the show to give his feedback. So far, this week is starting off pretty strong with the cast anxious for opening night to arrive.

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?

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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.

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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.

The Science Olympiad

By: Sharukh K. ‘17

On Saturday February 6th, 2016, Staten Island Academy’s Science Club left campus at 5:30 AM and travelled all the way to Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, NY to compete in its annual Science Olympiad. This was only the Academy’s second year competing, being that the Science Club just started two years ago, and even though we are still developing as a team, we did a phenomenal job.

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Last year, which also happened to be our first year competing, Wesley D, ‘17 and Ryan A. ‘17 earned 10th place in the competition, “Write It. Do It”. In this competition, one teammate has to write a procedure to an experiment that the other teammate will use to complete it. Competing against schools like Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, and Staten Island Tech is not easy, but with our determination and diligence, we did it. This year, the Academy won two awards, one in “rite It. Do It” and the other in “Electric Vehicle”. In “Write It. Do It” Wesley D. ‘17 and Ryan A. ‘17 earned first place and in “Electric Vehicle” Wesley D. ‘17 and Trip M. ‘17 earned eighth place. Both of these events had around forty-five teams that competed and to place in the top ten, earning a medal is a great accomplishment; especially given it was only our second year.

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The Science Olympiad is much more than kids working hard and concentrating on winning. It is also a place where kids from high schools get to spend time with each other and enjoy the experience. Morenike M. ‘16 was willing to share her experiences and said, “I thought the Olympiad was definitely fun and a good educational experience. My favorite part was competing in Protein Modeling with Kevin G. ‘16 because we trained for it so we worked cohesively throughout the event.” Kevin G. ‘16 also shared his experiences and said, “The Science Olympiad was very fun and I enjoyed designing experiments, playing with chemicals, reflecting lights off of mirrors, and after the events were over, playing games with other kids on the Science Club and Dr. Ward.”

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Wesley D. ‘17, founder and leader of the Science Club, shared with us his thoughts on the Science Olympiad, “The NYC Science Olympiad is a chance for SIA students to compare their scientific prowess to some of the best schools in the metropolitan area. Last year, our single team placed 51st overall out of 61. This year, our first team, made up of all returning members, placed 33rd overall out of 63, while our new second team placed 53rd. I would say this is a huge and unprecedented improvement, considering it has only been two years. We will aim for twentieth or less overall next year. Hopefully, we can compete in states, which requires 7th place or less overall. Though we received medals for 1st and 8th in two events, we will need similar results in the other twenty-three events that also count towards our placement. My favorite part was watching everyone build and test their awesome devices for the events. It felt good knowing that many of us prepared heavily for the event, and thirsted for the win. Winning individual awards is great, but what I really want is one of the team awards given to teams who go on to states.”

Even though it was the students who won the awards, the only reason that the Science Olympiad ran so smoothly was because of our dedicated faculty members. On this past Olympiad, we had Mrs. O’Hara, Mrs. Meyer, Mr. Wollney, and Dr. Ward accompany us on the trip. This was sadly Dr. Ward’s last Science Olympiad being that it is her last year teaching at the Academy. She was also willing to share her experiences and said, “By far what I love the most about Science Olympiad is hanging out with all of my students and doing science outside of the our normal classes. The club really felt camaraderie this year. Each open lab was so relaxed and simultaneously buzzing with activity. This year I learned a great deal about self-propelled airplanes and electric cars and watched in awe as Philip and Patrick hit target after target with their air trajectory device in the atrium. Science is always fun for me, but spending time with my students while they show me their love of science is something I will always cherish.” Overall, the Science Olympiad is a fun event and hopefully we do as well next year as we did this year and enjoy the experience at the same time.

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.”

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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.

Model UN

By: Maxine V.

Model UN was a weekend filled with scintillating debate, hours and hours of conference, and loads of fun at the infamous Delegate Dance. As a rookie, I went into Model UN just hearing about it from the people who went in the previous years. However, I definitely wasn’t prepared for what I walked into late Thursday night. I watched as people entered into committee with stacks upon stacks of research, speeches, resolutions, etc. I soon realized that Model UN was more than the average person would consider a “club”. In order to be successful, you must research your given topic thoroughly until you know it like the back of your hand. Not only do you have to do research, but you must abide by the conditions assigned to you by your committee. That may mean representing a country you’ve never heard of before or having to place yourself back fifty years to when the committee was dated.

The committees range from ten people in a Crisis Committee to two hundred in a General Assembly. The competition is intense and all countries must be able to speak on their feet and quickly think of answers to questions being asked of them by countries with opposing ideas. As the committee sessions pass, the goal of the committee is to formulate a reasonable solution to the problem at hand. During the last day of committee, countries must vote on resolutions that clearly maintain order between all nations.

Staten Island Academy’s delegation was the biggest yet, with about fifty-five kids. While all of our delegates were outstanding, there were two in particular who received accolades for their contribution to debate. Trip M’ (Grade 11), won Outstanding Delegate in his committee about Pontiac’s Rebellion in which he represented Shawnee. John H’ (Grade 12) received a verbal commendation for his contribution to debate in his committee as well.

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Yes, hours (19 hours to be exact, I counted) of committee got to be extremely exhaustive towards the end of the weekend. However, the weekend was not purely filled with sitting in a room discussing politics. On Friday and Saturday night, the Model UN staff provided fun events for delegates to attend after a full day of working hard. While the Delegate Fest was a fun, low-key event, the Delegate Dance was the main attraction. On Saturday night, hundreds of delegates piled into a ballroom and danced with friends they had gotten acquainted with throughout the weekend. It was a great way to end the event with a little hard-earned fun.

MUN 2016 will be one to remember, not only because of all the fun we had, but because it was Mrs. Platis’ last year as moderator. Mrs. Platis has been doing Model UN for over twenty years and her last one was surely eventful. From a rookie’s point of view, I can truly say it was a great learning experience for me and I cannot wait to be back at Model UN next year!

Winter? Snow Day Fun!

By: Romy F.

Who would have thought the day would come where we would actually see snow? Considering it was 60 degrees on Christmas, people believed we had “skipped” winter. However, much to our surprise, the first snow day of the school year finally snuck up on us. Well I wouldn’t necessarily say, “snuck up,” since everyone knew it was coming, but most of us were just in denial. I don’t think anyone expected blizzard Jonas to be as bad as it was.

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Of course, Mother Nature decided to send the storm on the most inconvenient day of the year. All week as I walked the halls of SIA, I heard huffing and puffing about how “there won’t even be any snow” and “this blizzard warning is announced every year but there is never a real blizzard”. The two main concerns were that both the semi-formal dance and the SAT were on the day that the supposed blizzard was hitting NYC.

As Friday afternoon came around, word spread that the dance was postponed and that the SAT was cancelled. Suddenly, people began to realize this blizzard was coming and there was no stopping it.snow1

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The blizzard gave most of us a chance to do absolutely nothing. I’m pretty sure I’m speaking for most of the students at SIA when I say I stayed in bed and watched movies all day. As much as I enjoyed relaxing all weekend, Monday came around and school was, of course, open. However, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. No matter how many times we were told to stay out of the snow, it was nearly impossible to pass by the large piles without starting a snowball fight. So guess what? Some of the juniors started a snowball fight! Since it was 3 girls versus 4 boys, I think you can assume who won, but that’s beside the point. As we tackled each other in the snow, freezing our fingers off, soaking our uniforms, and drowning in the deep piles, it was the best time of our lives. It was nice to feel like a kid again, and although this blizzard was a pretty harsh one, we made the best of it. Jonas may have prevented us from one night of fun, but it left us with plenty of snow for many more snowball fights!