If He Can Do It, So Can You!

By Marieme Jiddou, Class of 2019

Juan Rosa, known for his epic trips to colleges, love for students, amazing snacks and Media pride, is an alumni of the George Washington Educational Campus! He first started going to GWEC in 1999 when it was one school. When the schools broke into four, he attended the School for International Business and Finance, now called College Academy. Juan described himself as being very excited and happy to start his education on the campus. Juan was in the second graduating class of the four schools, and graduated in 2003.

Even though Juan was excited to start at the GWEC his parents had their doubts. GWEC gang violence was no secret to most who’ve lived in the Washington Heights neighborhood and Juan’s parents were no different. But they realized they’d rather have their child closer in case of an emergency.  

Juan came to the United States at the age of 10. He struggled with English but still wanted to be a teacher. That dream soon died out due to the influence of his environment.

Attending the High School for International Business and Finance, Juan was exposed to many business related courses and clubs. He participated in an organization called Virtual Enterprises, where students would be in an office-like setting and were able to travel within the country to Los Angeles and Washington D.C. to meet officials, and to countries such as Austria and France to present their businesses.

Juan was also affiliated with Catholic Charities and NJROTC at the time. Even though he admitted to only joining NJROTC to get out of gym, he later fell in love with the marching and the history that was taught through the course.

After graduation, Juan pursued political science as his major. He later decided on business, and completely forgot about teaching because he felt that business had more “structure” and “order.” Juan did a lot of charity work, working in business related jobs, daycare, summer camp and City Hall.

Later in life, Juan bumped into one of his older bosses who convinced him to take a job as part of Catholic Charities at Media and Communications. He started working for Media in March 2015, and has accomplished many goals for the school. As person who is experienced in many work fields, Juan’s advice is always to give the best of you in everything you do.

When asked about future dreams, Juan said he wanted to complete the television studio, where, “students of all ages and academic performance would be able to come in and use the studio and move forward in life.”

Another big dream for Juan is to change the educational system. He described his time at Media as eye opening. “As much of a joy as you guys are, you are also a lesson,” Juan said. He is convinced that the educational system looks only at a school, and not what’s within it. Media students have caused this enlightenment.

As a student who started Media around the same time as Juan, I can say I appreciate everything Juan has done in my three years of school. He took us on memorable trips that I will never forget, taught lessons we would never have learned in a classroom, and prepared us for the college process.

 

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The Education of Margot Sanchez

Lilliam Rivera the author of The Education Of Margot Sanchez visited the High School for Media and Communications in March, as a part of the school’s “What it Takes” lecture series.

Rivera’s debut young adult (YA) book The Education Of Margot Sanchez is about a young teenage girl who is desperately trying to fit into her expensive private school, obnoxious friends, a dysfunctional family, all while making the bad choice of stealing her father’s credit card which she must repay through a summer of working in her family supermarket, states the author’s website.

Rivera opened the event with a presentation about her life and what paved the path to her writing career. She explained that reading was embedded into her family’s tradition as she grew up which nourished her love for books. However, Rivera noticed that most books she read were not relatable to her life, ethnicity, or issues.

The author and young mother informed us, that growing up her father had already set expectations and goals for her, however, none of these goals interested her or her passions.

“There was no such thing as writing or being a writer. All of these things are meant for people who have money or white people. Definitely not hard working Puerto Ricans. We are meant to work hard and that meant not to go into the arts. That meant to not write,” Rivera explained.

Rivera then shared her life and college experiences, explaining the struggle of living alone in college without any family. “There were moments where I didn’t even have enough money to buy lunch,” Rivera said. This did not break the author’s spirit however.

She strongly believed she needed to write books that would relate to people of color and their issues. “I didn’t see any Latina or person of color, so I felt like my story didn’t count.” Rivera expressed that when reading a book as a young child and teen she never saw people of her ethnicity writing, which led her to want to see more people like her and the ones in her community  on book covers. That is why the cover of “The Education Of Margot Sanchez” is a teen of color and the main character Margot is a young Latina.

After the short introduction of her life, Rivera read a short excerpt from her book and expanded on the character Margot.

Rivera then opened up the floor to questions. Students were motivated to ask questions about the book and her personal life and took the opportunity to ask questions such as, “Was this book based off your experiences?” Rivera explained that some parts were based off of her life but she also wanted everyone to be able to connect with Margot and the 21st century issues represented in the book by making the setting of the story New York City, one of the most diverse cities in the world.

Rivera also expanded on the question by sharing how specifically the setting was in the Bronx. “The Bronx is often viewed as a bad place, but there are people who are falling in love in the Bronx, making families and art!” Rivera stated. She wanted to shine a light on the fact that the Bronx was a beautiful part of the city that holds a lot of memories and occasions which caused cheers from the crowd of students.

Rivera shared how important it was for her to hold the launch party for her book in the Bronx because it “inspired my book and story.”

After many questions from students, Rivera shared news of her second YA book she’s writing. “This book will be all about girl power, it’ll be about badass gangs made of girls running the streets. Of course I don’t support gangs, however this gang feels more like a family. It’ll be coming out soon and I think you guys will love it,” Rivera announced that the book will be coming out on the fall of 2018.

At the close of the lecture, Media students took a group picture with Rivera with The Education Of Margot Sanchez pins pinned on their clothes. The pins were a warm gift from Rivera to each of the students.

Peace In the Streets

The United Nations visited the George Washington Educational Campus to begin their “Peace In The Streets Global Film Festival” in February 2018.

According to the organization’s website, UN Peacemaker Corps mission is to create peace and tolerance among the youth.

The event drew a large crowd of people from all four schools. Principals, Assistant Principals, teachers and most importantly students. The event began with the organization’s Chairman and President of the UN Peacemaker Corps Carole Sumner Krechman speaking.

Krechman expanded on what they hope to achieve with this campaign. “You are our future,” she addressed the campus students. “We want the youth to use words not violence!” she stated.

The event organizers then shared videos created by teens about the injustice and conflicts they feel should be confronted from previous film festivals. Videos focused on different topics such as homosexuality, stereotypes, religion and world hunger.

Executive Director Suzanne Harvey then took the floor. Harvey spoke about the importance of youth taking leadership roles to resolve conflicts and making a “peaceful, compassionate, safe and tolerant” world to live in.

After the event ended I sat down with Krechman, she explained her story with teens which inspired her to start the campaign in the first place. “I owned a bowling alley where teens had a lot of fun but outside of the alley their lives were a mess!”

Krechman shared that the teens who visited her bowling alley had many issues such as transportation, acceptance from society and family issues, which led her to create the campaign and film festival to give them a voice.

The global film festival is now open for the 2018 year. Teens are given a chance to shoot an inspiring video to show their solution to world conflicts and the winner gets their video shown all around the world and on UN websites. For more information about the contest and previous winners go to

This is an amazing opportunity, for our generation who is already interested in the media world to have an opportunity to showcase their solutions for  world conflicts.

The Power of the People

“I might be just one person but I think just one person participating makes a difference.” This is the power of the people.

From Spongebob memes to walk outs and marches, the younger generation has been very vocal about gun regulations. Using various social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat to point out the issue of how easy it is to be able to own an assault weapon.

Without the interference of adults, many teenagers planned a walkout on March 14 in the memory of the February 14th shooting victims.

Students from different regions of the country walked out of their school for 17 minutes, some made posters, inspirational speeches, and some were silent to show respect to the deceased.

On March 24th, the March for Our Lives gathered teens to Washington D.C.. Thanks to Catholic Charities, 95 people from Media and Communications including students, staff, parents and community members were able to experience the march. Elizabeth Payero, a guidance counselor at Media, described the march as “powerful” and “positive.”

“The march was amazing because it sent the strong message that young people had the power to have a voice and make a change to gun laws,” Payero said.

Juniors Nile Garcia and Alex Florian also attended the march to voice their opinions. Florian said, “I don’t want guns to vanish, I just want better gun laws.”

Garcia said, just like his sign, he wants “Gun Reform Now!”

Besides the young marchers, the event also had young orators on the stage motivating the participants to take action.

“In my opinion MLK granddaughter’s speech was really powerful and eye opening,” said Garcia.

The granddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is Yolanda Renee King. In her speech, she shared, “Spread the word. Have you heard? All across the nation. We are going to be a great generation.”

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Media students and community participants join the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. (Jaylene Then/Class of 2018)
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The George Washington Educational Campus community show their support for ending gun violence. (Jaylene Then/Class of 2018)

Media’s Inaugural Poetry Slam

On Friday May 18th, the High School for Media and Communications had their first Poetry Slam during 9th and 10th periods in the library. The hosts and organizers were English teachers Lisa Denerstein and Peter Demarco.

This event was different from the Open Mic’s the school has had this year because instead of it being an open event, where you are allowed to perform whatever you want, it was a serious poetry competition. The participants had to come prepared with three pieces of their original work, because the slam was broken down into three rounds.

During round one,  12 competitors were welcomed to perform. In round two, many competitors were eliminated which left only three people to compete with each other. In the final round, Tenisha Terry-Moultrie and Tatyanna West competed for first place.

Media teachers Christopher Jarvis, Marilyn Ramirez, Jamilia Baly Harris and Catholic Charities representative Erik Perez were the four judges. Tenisha Terry-Moultrie won first place. “It was great! Tenisha’s piece was the best!” stated junior Nile Garcia. Terry-Moultrie’s prize for winning first place was Kendrick Lamar tickets.

Tatyanna West won second place and received a $100 Visa gift card.

Jarlem Lopez won third place and received a $50 Visa gift card.

Media students enjoyed the event.  “It defied the laws of creativity! Everybody’s poems were very creative,” said  junior Kiersten Custodio. Another junior Gabriella Sanabia said, “I loved it. Some words touched my heart.”

Congrats to the winners and congrats to Media for having their first competitive poetry slam!

 

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(From left to right) Ms. Ramirez, Mr. Perez, Ms. Harris, and Mr. Jarvis.
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Tenisha Terry, 1st place. (Ms. Topbas/Assistant Principal) 
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Tatyanna West, 2nd place. (Ms. Topbas/Assistant Principal)
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Jarlem Lopez, 3rd place. (Ms. Topbas/Assistant Principal)

Media Rises

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.