My Experience At Stuy Summer Discovery

Issue 6, Volume 110

By Shaniyah Coull 

Before starting the Discovery Program (a six-week summer program that gave me the opportunity to attend Stuyvesant this year), I was skeptical about even being in the program. In my mind, I would be wasting my break from school by going to school. I decided to go anyway. I was really nervous, and I was filled with anticipation the first day. I couldn't even eat my breakfast.

I found the Discovery Program to be an informative and fun experience. The program itself was only 23 days long, every Monday through Thursday from July 1 to August 8. We had Fridays off, which was a blessing. Our day began at 9 a.m. and ended at 2 p.m. There were five hour-long periods for biology, math, English, theater, and lunch. Though 23 days sounds like a reasonable amount of time, the program dragged on a little bit, and I found it difficult to get up each morning.

The program was more so an opportunity for students who scored right below the cutoff score on the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) to get a feel of Stuyvesant. I think it would be great if the program were an open opportunity and experience for any incoming freshmen and sophomores with doubts or concerns about attending Stuyvesant. Unlike the SHSAT, the Discovery Program did not accept or deny each student based on his or her performance. As long as you had the desire to be a student at Stuyvesant, attended for a majority of the program, and did not struggle drastically, then you were deemed a good fit and admitted. That is at least how it felt to me.

I definitely felt pressured to complete classwork and homework assignments and arrive at school on time. The program itself mimicked the routine and daily life of a typical Stuyvesant student: we were assigned homework daily, took quizzes and tests, received grades on assignments, completed labs, studied, and took notes.

The general structure of each class was different from what I had experienced in middle school. There was a lot more fluctuation in the workload. In the Discovery Program, I usually got a page of homework each night from each class, as well as the assignment to finish any work from class. Most homework would be announced in class, and some could be accessed online. The whole aspect of homework and class resources being online is a rather new concept for me; I find it both efficient and bothersome because it’s easier to have a physical paper copy to refer to.

We had very few work requirements in English—we just read each night and would discuss the reading the next day. In math, we received a large amount of homework, the majority of which was on Delta Math, but there was a little variation from night to night. A lot of my peers would come to school the next day whining about how long or hard the math homework was and brag about how late they stayed up completing it alongside the other homework assigned. As for biology, we were assigned worksheets and videos for homework; the workload was reasonable.

My favorite class was definitely theater. Though it was uncomfortable for many of us when we first started, by the end we were all engaged and excited for the class every day. We even created our own short play that we performed for teachers and families. The plays were based on a Ms. Marvel comic about a Muslim girl named Kamala Khan who struggled with finding her identity, loving her culture, and dealing with the restrictions and stigma that society placed on her. The theater class was led by an outside program called Arts Connection that was added to Discovery Program so that they also showed the more creative side of Stuyvesant embodied in the clubs.

I was disappointed to learn that theater isn't an actual class at Stuy. I feel that it should be, because Stuyvesant is lacking classes in the arts, particularly for those who are less academically driven, and more for enjoyment and the pursuit of creativity. Classes such as Theater, along with the clubs that further interests outside of the classroom, would be a good step for Stuyvesant in the quest to be more balanced between the arts and STEM.

This past summer was the second year that the Discovery Program was run. From the first to the second year, there were drastic differences in what participating students had to do. In the first year, the basic requirements were just attendance, but in the program’s second year, we had assignments, took notes, and were given tests. I’d say things really came together in a rather short span of time, giving my peers and I in the program a genuine experience of what Stuyvesant is actually like.

What I struggled with most was consistently turning homework in on time and reaching school within a reasonable time, so that I could have breakfast and maybe catch up on anything I didn’t do or finish the night before. Essentially, time management was the source of all my problems. It’s a concept I understand but is actually something I have yet to grasp on a more literal level.

My struggles in the Discovery Program say a lot about its authenticity. As a current freshman at Stuyvesant, I am struggling with the same things I was then. I had difficulty following the curriculum for biology and math during the program, and I continue to struggle in those classes. I was definitely way better off in biology than I am in math; the same can be said now. These two subjects specifically have gotten me stuck because the curriculum is on a collegiate level. Even in subjects outside of math and biology, there’s a lot of information to take in. The intense workload from all my classes prevents me from devoting enough time to math and biology. Utilizing strong studying skills has been a key aspect of my experience in both the Discovery Program and my first few months at Stuyvesant. I have developed some pretty bad habits over the years and am having a hard time simply jumping into the habit of studying and reviewing notes daily and consistently taking good notes. I have always been aware that these were important practices, but their necessity became more apparent as I participated in the Discovery Program and attend Stuyvesant.

As a student, I’m not sure that my participation in the Discovery Program aided my transition to Stuyvesant. It may have gotten me accustomed to the Stuyvesant way of things so that I wasn't surprised during September. However, I am definitely struggling more than I'd like to be, and even more than I did in the Discovery Program. This makes sense because now it’s the real thing. Expectations, stress, strain, and workload have been dumped on me from the first day of school and have become progressively worse as the school year goes on and the end of the first semester approaches.

Everyone asks me how things are going, and honestly, things have been pretty rough. But I can only work to better myself and my stay at Stuyvesant.