Introducing the 2024-2025 Big Sib Chairs!

The 2023-2024 Big Sib Chairs have announced the 2024-2025 Big Sib Chairs! Art/photo requests: photo of the new big sib chairs

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By Big Sib Chairs

Juniors Raaita Anwar, Rachel Alvarez, Ushoshi Das, Adeline Sauberli, and Munem Tajwar have been selected as Big Sib Chairs (BSCs) for the 2024-2025 school year. 2023-2024 chairs Kyle Hon Chan, Erica Liu, Eugene Park, Bishesh Shah, and Alex Zheng chose the new chairs based on their profound dedication to the Stuyvesant community. Both the incoming and outgoing chairs expressed optimistic outlooks for the future of the Big Sib Program.

The chairs must prepare for demanding responsibilities this year. “Being a Big Sib Chair is very different from being a Big Sib,” Liu said. “While Big Sibs mainly provide advice and friendship to new students, [...] chairs are supposed to lead in logistics, planning events, and corralling hundreds of people around the school.”

In the selection process for the new chairs, graduating chairs evaluated each candidate thoroughly in accordance with rigorous criteria. The process consisted of a written application, four letters of recommendation (from two freshmen, a teacher, and the applicant’s Big Sib homeroom leader), and an interview. Rather than looking for five individual candidates, the outgoing chairs searched for Big Sibs who would work well together as a group. “We were very focused on thinking about how the team dynamic would be between the five people. It’s very important to emphasize that Big Sib Chairs are a group of five, not just individual leaders, because all of the applicants are obviously leaders,” Chan said. “It’s important that this incoming class is going to have a bunch of different interests [represented]. It was very important to us to have five figures that everyone could look up to.” The former accomplished this by reviewing each applicant’s credentials.

Raaita Anwar runs track and cross country and writes for the Arts & Entertainment department of The Spectator. Passionate about volunteering in her community, Anwar runs volunteering programs as an ARISTA Events Leader, and co-founded Stars and Jars, a nonprofit organization that brings together generations by making origami stars. Anwar applied for the BSC position after being inspired by a relationship she developed with one of her Little Sibs. “[One of my little Sibs] joined track for the indoor season. [...] Having that experience with her as a teammate was a good way to see what happens when a relationship that forms within the basic program expands,” Anwar said. “[Being a Big Sib is] not something that’s just in a homeroom meeting, but also an aspect of a relationship you have outside that. That has been really rewarding to see and that’s what inspires me to make better changes in the program so we can improve the relationship between our Big Sibs and Little Sibs.”

Rachel Alvarez contributes heavily to the theater community at Stuyvesant, from Stuyvesant Theater Community (STC) productions to SING!. She participates on both the cheerleading and diving teams, and co-founded the Stuyvesant Filipino Club. Alvarez applied to be a BSC to establish more meaningful connections between Big and Little Sibs. “People who want to apply to be a Big Sib hear from other people who are Big Sibs that ‘It’s boring; you don’t really do that much,’ but I think that’s reflective of the people who do it,” she said. “Something we all want to change is the involvement that people have with their Big Sibs and their Little Sibs. We’re talking about putting on events and having interactions between them that are genuine and aren’t just because you’re a Big Sib, but because you care.” 

Ushoshi Das captains the Mock Trial and Moot Court teams. She also edits for the Writing Center, co-founded the Women’s Self Defense Club, and starts for the wrestling team. She became a Big Sib to give incoming freshmen a more welcoming freshman experience than she had. “I remember when I came to Stuy, I wasn’t close to any of my Big Sibs. They were all doing huge things in the community, and I just never saw them, so there were moments where I felt really lost,” she said. “When I applied to be a regular Big Sib, I was really excited to help others not feel the way I did. I feel like being a Big Sib Chair lets you do that on an even larger scale.”

Adeline Sauberli actively participates in STC, and writes for the Features, Humor, and Opinions sections of The Spectator. She is a Club and Pubs Deputy Director, and works in the Crisis Committee for Model UN conferences. Sauberli decided to apply for BSC inspired by interactions she had with her Little Sibs in the library, a place she had become connected with since freshman year. “This year, when I was talking to Little Sibs, I was really emphasizing that ‘if you don’t have a place you can go, I would strongly recommend going to the library.’ [...] I actually met Little Sibs who started going there every day,” she said. “Some of them are now library monitors, so we’re all working on the same team to shelve books. [...] The [faculty] librarians there are like ‘Big Parents’ to me, so now I feel proud because if I can’t answer a question, now the librarians are another resource they can draw on throughout the day.”

Munem Tajwar edits for the Humor department of The Spectator, manages the cricket team, and performs Bollywood dance as a part of SOS, StuySquad, and SING!. He applied to be a BSC after having a negative experience with his own Big Sibs. “My Big Sib [as a freshman] became a Big Sib Chair. They interviewed me [when I applied to be a Big Sib]. They didn’t recognize me. They read my name, and just didn’t know who I was, so I felt an initial disconnect from the program when I was applying. I was like ‘I don’t want to be that type of Big Sib. I don’t want to be a Big Sib who doesn’t remember the freshmen who are in their homeroom,’” Tajwar said. “I wanted to become a Big Sib Chair to also prove to myself that I can recognize the freshmen I know, which I think I’m doing a good job of. They might not wave back, but at least I’m waving at them.”

The BSCs received the news of earning the positions in person, accompanied with a surprise of each of their favorite desserts. This tradition was special not only for the incoming BSCs, but also the outgoing ones. “There was lychee jelly, cheesecake, and things like that. It was super cute,” Park said. “We were watching them eat in front of us, and it was super crazy to think that they’d be leading Stuy next year.”

The outgoing chairs pulled out all the stops, even traveling far and wide to ensure that each new chair had their favorite treat. “During my [BSC] interview, [they asked for our favorite dessert] and I had my answer locked and loaded. I was like, Mia’s Bakery in Brooklyn on Smith Street,” Alvarez said. “When they were giving desserts out, they said ‘I know you said a Brooklyn Bakery, but Brooklyn is really far.’ But Alex got it for me! He woke up an hour early to go to Brooklyn to get this strawberry shortcake.”

Shortly after the festivities, the BSCs began brainstorming plans for the upcoming year. They aspire to create more events that allow for Big-Little Sib bonding on a more informal level. “I think having events that are more flexible and more conversational where you get to know your Big Sibs outside of that position like a field day or a picnic. Something more casual,” Alvarez said.

Das had similar plans in mind, in the hopes of fostering dynamics that would make each Little Sib feel welcomed and content. “Along that line, I was also thinking about Big Sib-Little Sib lunch. Nobody’s obligated to go. The cafeteria is huge and loneliness can be an issue, and it’s just a place you can go without being judged,” Das said.

Stuyvesant can be a cutthroat environment, and the BSCs have thought about channeling that competitive energy though hosting contests between homerooms to create more team spirit.  “One of my recommendations was having a field day with everyone just so everyone has a chance to have fun […] I think having that competitive spirit helps to build really strong relationships,” Anwar said.

Tajwar added that these homeroom competitions are particularly important, as students graduate alongside their homeroom peers. “When we’re graduating, we go up with our homeroom,” he said. “I want to know the people around me who I’m going to graduate with.”

The new chairs are also particularly interested in ensuring that Big Sibs uphold their responsibilities, and live up to being the role models they signed up to be. They have already established a new policy in which incoming seniors must reapply in order to continue as Big Sibs, and are creating new policies to hold Big Sibs accountable. “Big Sibs need to absolutely know the name of everyone in their homeroom,” Sauberli said. “I want to test people, and we could do Little Sib name quizzes, or something like that. I think that’s important.”

In general, however, the chairs want to draw on the experiences of their fellow Big Sibs to develop feedback that can allow Big Sibs to learn from one another. “Across homerooms, Big Sibs should share [to each other] what worked well for them,” Sauberli said. “The actual planning of how to lead a homeroom can feel isolating [...], so we need more communication between Big Sibs.” She suggested holding meetings with homeroom leaders to discuss their experience with the program, and establishing feedback forms to frequently review.

Over the next few months, the BSCs will begin selecting the new class of Big Sibs. Like the BSC application, the selection process consists of both a written application and an interview. However, Big Sib interviews are distinct from the standard, in that they mandate applicants to perform an icebreaker at the beginning. “The Big Sib interview is such a unique concept, since you need to prepare an icebreaker, and it can be anything as long as it’s interesting,” Sauberli said. “Embrace that, and even if that doesn’t translate into you becoming a Big Sib, the experience of thinking about what you’ve been doing and how you want to help other people is really fun.” For the incoming BSCs, their Big Sib icebreakers ranged from a powerpoint about all the places in NYC that they’ve cried, to teaching a judo throw.

Above all, however, the chairs advise aspiring applicants to be themselves and have confidence in their abilities. “Don’t doubt yourselves. Don’t think you’re not social enough; don’t think you’re not smart enough. It isn’t true,” Tajwar said. “Don’t think you’ll be a bad influence, because everyone has a good thing to share with an incoming student.”

While the future has a lot in store for the incoming BSCs, the former chairs have full confidence that they’ll be able to succeed. “I’ve no doubt that this group of lighthearted, intelligent people will be great Big Sib Chairs,” Shah said. “Being our successors, they will always have us in their back corner, but I doubt they will need it often, and I know as a group they could conquer any challenge thrown at them.”