Leaving Behind a Legacy

Mixing personal life with school life, students explain what it’s like to have members of their home family be a part of the Stuyvesant family.

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There are many dynamics present in the Stuyvseant community: mentorship, friendship, romance, and rivalry, to name a few. However, some students have an extra layer of connection to Stuyvesant: a familial one.

Family relationships often influence a prospective student’s decision to go to Stuyvesant. Freshman Alexandra Ruinsky has two cousins and a step brother who have already graduated from Stuyvesant, but also a twin who is currently attending Stuyvesant. These familial relations have added pressure for Ruinsky to thrive in the same way her relatives have. “It made me more willing to get in and made me fight harder to get in because one of my cousins always joked that I wouldn't get in, and he already got in,” Ruinsky said.

In an e-mail interview, freshman Eva Lam agreed: “I have always ‘followed [my brother’s] footsteps’––we both were in the gifted class in the same elementary and middle school, and had the same teachers––it was sort of an instinct to immediately pick the high school he also went to.”

However, for others, having family at Stuyvesant wasn’t a significant factor in their choice of high school. “It didn’t greatly affect my decision to go, because [my brother] didn’t exactly say the best things about Stuy, but I went anyway,” sophomore Noah Rahn (whose brother, Leo Rahn, is a current senior) said.

For sophomore Caroline Stansberry, who has two older siblings at Stuyvesant (one current senior and one graduate), the shared experiences only strengthened their familial bonds. “We have significantly more to talk about going to the same school, and we can relate to each other a lot more, since we have to endure the same homework loads, annoying teachers, and unique experiences,” Stansberry said. “It has definitely brought us closer, since school is the majority of our lives from September to June, and we have that part of us in common.”

Older siblings at Stuyvesant, like junior Zoe Buff, are reminded by their siblings of their early years. “It’s déjà vu for me because I remember exactly when I was first coming into Stuy, and we have a lot of the same courses. So we can talk about that a lot, and it lets me reflect on my previous high school experience and how I handle my current high school experience,” she said.

Younger siblings use the experiences of their older siblings to guide (if not warn) them on how to handle the Stuyvesant journey. “Having an older sibling formerly attend Stuy has been a huge help for me, not just academically but health-wise too—I can learn from my brother how to manage my time well and such,” Lam said.

Since legacies are already familiar with Stuyvesant, they’re often given a leg up on their peers in the first few months of school. “I was able to hit the ground running a little more than other people in my grade,” senior Elizabeth Stansberry said. “I had [already] watched [my older brother] Timothy go through the processes of struggling with homework and procrastination.”

Although having a familial connection to Stuyvesant impacts many Stuyvesant legacies’ experience within the school, for some it’s turned out to be a minor contribution. “It hasn’t really impacted my school life. The one time was during homecoming when my dad went with some of his friends to watch the game, while I was [there] with my friends,” sophomore Emma Kwan, the daughter of a Stuyvesant alum, said. The experience her father had at Stuyvesant differed greatly from hers due to attending Stuyvesant in different eras of the school’s history.

Not only do legacies often have more emotional support, but they also have more guidance on which clubs and activities they wish to pursue. “[My brother and I] did have quite a few activities that do overlap. I’d say the biggest one would probably be theater. Alexander was in STC, and I most certainly also did STC. I’ve done cast, tech, stage, and now technical coordinator. I was able to go along that journey with him in a sense,” senior Katherine Lake, the younger sister of a Stuyvesant graduate, said. “He kind of helped me pick and choose and tell me what to look for.”

While many people have benefited from having a familial connection, Stuyvesant’s notoriously competitive environment can also lend a negative aspect to this experience.“There’s a lot of comparison, and that was something that was present in really any interaction I had with any teachers, any friends, [and] any shared teachers or friends [...] Who does what, who does it better, and that was very harmful, and that left a kind of legacy that I didn’t like,” Lake said. “We’re independent people, so it’s hard sometimes to deal with that.”

At Stuyvesant, a little family can go a long way. “It just helped build a bond between us. Fun things like teachers knowing who you are because they had your brother [have] made going to Stuy more special and more of a family thing,” Elizabeth Stansberry concluded.