By Shanita Baker, Class of 2019
Photographs by Brandon Nixon, Class of 2018

The High School for Media and Communications, together with the publishing house Simon & Schuster, released the second volume of Rise, a creative arts and publishing collaboration that compiles the work of students. This volume consists of material by 51 students that contributed content such as book and film reviews, opinions on unity, and expressing their thoughts on how particular books were able to convey their voice. Students also created art that spreads positivity and their thoughts towards others in a ceremony located at the well renowned Morris Jumel Mansion on Jumel Terrace in Washington Heights on June 16th, 2017.

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Senior Victoria Tejeda at the Rise publishing party. Victoria illustrated the cover of the second volume of Rise.

Many people especially from the public were allowed to go share in the celebration of the students’ accomplishments. Media students, parents of writers, associates of the school and many more gathered at the mansion. Special guests that had taken time out of their day, came out to congratulate the writers were Yuet Chu, who is the Executive Director of Manhattan Field Support Center and Manhattan Deputy Borough President Aldrin Bonilla.

Once the event started, Assistant Principal Emel Topbas-Meja and Catholic Charities Community Schools Director Juan Rosa introduced Bonilla who shared his appreciation and astonishment towards the students’ hard work at the exhibit. Bonilla was so excited, he announced to the audience that the school would be granted $700,000 dollars towards the Media and Technology department to build a television studio. After that announcement, the audience was able to listen to the students read their work.

The students who were brave enough to speak and share their pieces delivered an amazing presentation, but it was seniors from the class of 2017, Yanmanuel Infante and Melissa Olivar, whose writing that was really an audience favorite. Infante brought a very comforting presence with a sense of interest due to the narrative he was talking about in his reading of “Fugitive From My Mind” in both English and Espanol while Olivar showed how powerful our thoughts could be with her personal writing “Hair” by turning her insecurities into a positive by discovering her passion. Then freshmen Courtney Brown and Fatou Kebe and Graduated Melissa Olivar shared their insights a being a published writer.

Brown answered with a simply “I feel famous.”

Kebe said “It felt nice knowing you’ve accomplished something.”

Olivar replied with “It was nervous at first, but it was nice sharing my thoughts and experience.”

Out of all the guests that were invited to the event, it seemed liked Manhattan’s Executive Director Yuet Chu was mind boggled by the students of Media’s visual and written art. When asked about her experience at the RISE, Chu responded with:

“I was moved by the talent and courage of all of the students involved with the event. I could not imagine being so poised and eloquent when I was your age. The pride was palpable.”

Leading with my follow-up question “What did you like about the function?”

Chu replied with “I appreciated the historical context of the venue and the serenity of the surroundings. I also liked that the event was student-centered and student-run. You have clearly earned the respect of the adults in your school-life”.

With her previous answer, it conducted me to ask about her reaction towards the students’ written work Chu answered with:

“I was moved by every piece. But Yanmanuel’s reading of his poem in Spanish and English was the most powerful. I immigrated to the US from Hong Kong when I was 6 years old and while I can still converse in Chinese, I have not kept up with the academic language. I was so impressed that Yanmanuel recited his piece so beautifully in both languages.”

Tieing with her reaction with the students’ visual arts being displayed at the exhibit Chu stated:

“I found the artwork interesting in so many ways. I appreciated the variety of the genre—from wonder woman to nature scenes … and the media – etchings, paintings, sketches. I love the cover art by Vicki – so exuberant and intense. I loved so many pieces but perhaps the rising crescent moon over blue waters is my favorite as my name means the moon.”

With all the great feedback Ms. Chu had given towards Media’s Huge accomplishment on celebrating the students, I decided to ask her how the event would be contributed towards the other Manhattan schools throughout New York; Chu answered with:

“I have had the privilege of attending many events in Manhattan schools, my biggest takeaway from your event was the sense of student-ownership. The adult were there to love and support you guys but the students were the show. There was a sense of authenticity that other events often lack because they are overly-produced.”

Since Ms. Chu seemed so pleased with the amount of time, planning, and effort we, as a small united community all took to make this extravagant count gathering to happen; I ended our interview with some words of advice to the students that shared their artwork and writing at the event?

“To the authors and artists, I say Bravo and felicidades! Thank you for sharing your talents with us. Continue to create and take risks with your artistic shelves. Don’t grow up too fast,” commented Chu.