Student Union Mid-Year Check-In
Issue 11, Volume 112
By Nikki Chen, Sakura Yamanaka, Ziying Jian, Christina Wang, Allison Zhao, Aditya Anand, Maggie Sansone
Freshman Caucus Co-Presidents Fin Ying and Andy Xian have strived to incorporate their four pillars of inclusivity, flexibility, communication, and collaboration into their initiatives during the first semester of school.
Ying and Xian built communication with the student body through e-mail, social media, and a suggestion form, where students can anonymously suggest ideas and ask questions. They also helped to host Chat n’ Chill meets, which are virtual gatherings on Instagram Live hosted by different caucus presidents.
As for inclusivity and collaboration, the pair brainstormed possible future events and are looking into partnering with other organizations to better represent the Stuyvesant community. The pair have also attended meetings with the Student Union (SU) to collaborate on several events and policies, which are still in their planning stages.
The co-presidents have also pushed for changes in these meetings, such as an updated earbud policy to allow earbud use in school. While this request was not approved, they plan to continue pushing for the requests from the freshman body. Along with meetings with the SU, Xian and Ying consistently meet with their cabinet to discuss their plans and ideas. “We host constant meetings with the cabinet departments in order to discuss and plan out objectives, some of which we are working on right now include the Valentine’s Day themed poetry contest, Black History Month posts, career newsletters, and the homework reinforcement project,” Xian said in an e-mail interview.
The Freshman Caucus Cabinet consists of the executives, which include the Co-Presidents, Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary, followed by six different departments: Events, Policies, Finance, Outreach Graphics, Outreach Social Media, and IT. Executives and directors were chosen by the Co-Presidents through a written application and an interview. Directors then recruited departmental members through the same process. The Chiefs of Staff manage the rest of the cabinet and the Secretary takes minutes during each cabinet meeting.
Despite the progress the pair has made, they have faced several obstacles along the way. “Our flexibility pillar has undergone the most change because after becoming presidents we have realized our limits and tried our best to voice important concerns, but also shift focus onto something that is more achievable,” Ying said.
Even so, the pair remains hopeful in overcoming challenges to serve the Freshman Caucus and carrying out their plans in the Spring semester.
Overall, the co-presidents aim to follow their initial goal, which is to “fix, find, and further” the concerns of the freshman body. They plan to hold an in-person event by the end of the school year and encourage freshmen to be active participants in the Stuyvesant community. While they acknowledge their limitations, Xian and Ying ensure that they will advocate for and continue to support the freshman student body.
Sophomore Caucus Co-Presidents Amanda Cisse and Margaret Mikhalevsky ran with three main values: advocacy, collaboration, and growth. Their campaign policies were centered around themed events, academics, and student awareness and representation. Their cabinet is composed of two Chiefs of Staff and directors for the Events, Finance, Socials, IT, and Internal and External Outreach departments, each with their own respective members, which are chosen based on a written application and interview.
In terms of their community building events, Cisse and Mikhalevsky hosted an ice skating event at Chelsea Piers before winter break with over 120 attendees. Additionally, they collaborated with Stuy Media in January to create a video titled, “Are Stuy Students Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” in which students signed up to be contestants in a trivia-like gameshow.
In line with their policy of advocacy, the pair implemented a Breast Cancer Awareness card-making event along with their heritage month series on social media to educate students about influential people of color. They are currently working on the Black History Month series. In the future, they plan to focus on body confidence and include more heritage month celebration series.
The main obstacle that the Co-Presidents faced was having a limited amount of activities due to the pandemic. “Our Gingerbread House Making Competition in collaboration with the SU, for example, was canceled due to COVID safety issues. In lieu of in-person events which we unfortunately can’t have at this time, we’ve been planning virtual ones,” Mikhalevsky said in an e-mail interview.
One of these virtual events included a virtual Jeopardy event, where players competed in teams of three for a prize of candy gift boxes. Information on such events were mostly updated on Instagram, Facebook, and sent to the sophomore class through e-mail.
Cisse and Mikhalevsky believe that adjusting to in-person learning is as important as connecting with peers. To make resources readily accessible to sophomores and to lessen the stress of upcoming examinations, the Sophomore Caucus made several websites that contained links to their elective guide for sophomores, a calendar to help keep track of upcoming events, opportunities in the Dear Incoming Stuyvesant Class of 2024 Facebook group, study guides for finals week, and a student directory with locations near Stuyvesant for students to visit and explore.
They also aim to start their virtual hall study initiative, as well as release more academic packages, such as the Missing Work Catch Up Plan, and an AP and Regents support package to help students. There are plans to add onto their collection of study guides, organize in-person practice tests, and start their language project.
For the Spring semester, Cisse and Mikhalevsky hope to incorporate more in-person events, including an outdoor spring movie night, picnic, field day, group soccer game, or Capture the Flag game. They also plan to release a masterlist of apps and sites to help students with time management and organization. They plan on continuing to be active on social media, along with repainting the Sophomore Bar and the Sophomore “I Was Here” wall.
Cisse and Mikhalevsky’s overarching goal is to help make the Sophomore experience more relaxing, with resources of academic assistance and a greater number of opportunities to connect with other students. They emphasize lessening the stress on final and AP examinations. “One goal that’s especially important to us is to have sophomores feel prepared for their end-of-year finals and AP exams since that’s a major source of stress for many people,” Mikhalevsky said. “Another one of our primary goals is to continue having events regularly to boost student morale and connection, as well as help people make good memories.”
As Junior Caucus Co-Presidents, Daniel Jung and Andrey Sokolov have focused on three main themes throughout the 2021-2022 school year: aiding the junior class through college applications, course selections, and final exams; hosting various leisure events; and improving the overall quality of life at Stuyvesant.
In helping to provide academic clarity, Jung and Sokolov created various guides for navigating through the school year. “Examples include our SAT FAQ, Spring Electives Guide, Precalc Finals Info, and Condensing Communications Compilation,” Sokolov said in an e-mail interview. The Condensing Communications Compilation is an initiative to provide the junior class with easier access to information released by the administration and other school organizations, such as the college office.
The Junior Caucus also prioritized hosting leisure activities and events, such as the Snowflake Competition, Stuy Feud, and Electives Bingo. During the Snowflake Competition, over 150 students made snowflakes and participated in the Giant Candy Cane raffle. In Stuy Feud, more than 80 students worked in teams of five to answer trivia questions over a span of two hours. Jung and Sokolov also posted an Electives Bingo on their social media accounts, with about 90 people sharing their bingo cards. “Our Electives Bingo, Snowflake Competition, and Stuy Feud have all been successful events, and we were so glad to hear that people had fun,” Sokolov said.
In addressing the concerns of the junior class, Jung and Sokolov have been working with the administration to change existing policies to be more lenient, one being the cell phone policy. The cell phone policy is an existing policy that currently only allows students to use their phones in designated areas such as the library. However, this policy has not been strictly enforced this year.
The pair is also working to enact new policies, such as establishing more gender-neutral bathrooms. The Junior Caucus brought this policy directly to the attention of students by sharing a petition on their social media accounts, garnering a large amount of support for the proposal. There is currently a subcommittee being made to direct implementation of the policy in the near future. The topic has also been discussed in recent Student Leadership Team meetings.
Additionally, after signing a contract with Yacht Owners of New York Inc., Jung and Sokolov confirmed that Junior Prom will take place on June 1. “We're most excited to plan for Junior Prom, which will be the most important event of our junior year,” Sokolov said.
However, the pair is most concerned about what COVID restrictions will mean for planning the event. “As of right now, our biggest concern is trying to find the right balance between safety and fun during the event. Hopefully, there are no new COVID strains by June,” Sokolov said.
Overall, Jung and Sokolov are looking forward to completing their future plans, such as releasing more guides, introducing more social activities to relieve stress, and developing more policies to benefit the student body.
Senior Caucus Co-Presidents Cynthia Tan and Elio Torres ran uncontested this year. They created a platform focused on supporting seniors with their college applications while still maintaining senior traditions and building school spirit through events and festivities. “As it is our senior year, we have been especially focused on building school spirit and planning major events such as prom and graduation [and] college preparedness and readiness, like through our alumni interviews and college workshops,” Tan said.
Tan and Torres focused on assisting their fellow seniors through the college process by hosting information panels and offering college essay editing through collaboration with the Writing Center to coordinate live Zoom sessions with alumni and peer editors. Additionally, they hosted a Q&A panel with Stuyvesant alumni involved in admissions at various prestigious colleges to give seniors an insider’s look as to what they could expect in college.
Another initiative Tan and Torres tackled was preparing students for college and job interviews. In collaboration with the Parent Association, this program had parent volunteers interview candidates for their jobs or colleges from which they graduated. “We had a really successful PA partnership and held over 90 student mock interviews with alumni. We wanted seniors to be prepared,” Torres said.
The Senior Caucus hopes to keep senior traditions alive despite the precautions and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Tan and Torres hosted a Senior Sunrise and continued the tradition of Second Term Senior stickers. “It's important that we reestablish our traditions, which includes going to Cipriani's for prom, having graduation at a large venue, and running it in similar ways to past years,” Torres said.
Tan agreed, mentioning the importance of celebrating the important milestones of their senior year. “Whether it’s in the park at five in the morning watching the sunrise together or coming in during second semester and getting that [Second Term Senior] sticker, it's just a beautiful moment to have together,” Tan said.
The Senior Caucus had to remain adaptable and organize events based on the circumstances of the pandemic. When after school activities were canceled due to the Omicron variant, Tan and Torres adjusted and planned events during the school day. For example, they held Senior Spirit days like Twin Day, Pixar Day, Anything But a Backpack Day, and Country versus Country Club Day. Additionally, the co-presidents took on the role of morning announcers, informing the student body each day about upcoming events, opportunities, and clubs.
The Senior Caucus is looking forward to upcoming events planned for the second semester such as Senior Crush List, Senior Sunset, College Rejection Wall, and Commitment Day. They hope these events will help seniors celebrate and process their final moments at Stuyvesant, while fostering a sense of community within the grade.
One setback the co-presidents have faced is trying to plan in-person senior events with a lack of precedent over the past three years. “The last Senior Caucus to have regular in-person events was three years ago. When we're looking to plan prom right now, we don't have the perfect guideline and the framework. We end up having to reach out to people that have been in college for three years already to ask them for instructions on how prom usually goes,” Torres said.
Though this is Tan and Torres’s fourth year working together in Caucus, they noted that the Senior Caucus has been an unique experience for them and led them to reflect on their previous years working together. “Senior year is very momentous in that it's our final year of high school and there's just so many milestones to celebrate,” Tan said. “But having [Senior Sunrise] to celebrate with people that we've been with for the last four years and actually getting to have it in-person meant a lot to both of us.”
Student Union (SU) President and Vice President Shivali Korgaonkar and Ryan Lee have focused primarily on maintaining traditions and events from previous years. They have also taken into consideration the mental health of the students this year, especially when creating and advocating for new policies.
In accordance with their goal to maintain past traditions, one example is the continuation of the Clubs and Pubs Fair hosted in September. As one of the first and largest SU events of the school year, the Clubs and Pubs Fair set a precedent for future SU events in terms of safety regulations.
Additionally, ensuring this event was successful was important to both Korgaonkar and Lee in showcasing their leadership capabilities to the rest of the student body. “[The Clubs and Pubs Fair] really put Ryan and I to the test in terms of leadership, as it was our first event as president and vice president,” Korgaonkar said.
Korgaonkar and Lee have also paid great attention to students’ mental health and community building. The SU has been actively working with the Student Leadership Team, composed of parents, teachers, students and the administration, to consider students’ mental health when creating school-wide policies. Some examples include the addition of two new social workers and an on-site therapist. They have also released a school-wide survey regarding counseling in school for mental health.
The pair have also worked on advocating for more expanded headphone and phone policies. “We’ve done a lot of clarification on [the policy]. We’ve gone through a lot to discover a sense of leniency compared to different years,” Lee said.
However, Korgaonkar and Lee also faced challenges caused by the pandemic. Due to concerns surrounding safety restrictions, administration imposed a ban on after-school activities. Korgaonkar and Lee recognized how difficult it is for clubs to be held virtually and still maintained the recreational aspect for students. “We want to make sure that club meetings are still engaging and fun despite having to be virtual,” Korgaonkar said.
The SU is currently working to include more gender neutral bathrooms and revitalizing homeroom days. They have been communicating with non-binary and non-gender conforming students to gain a wider sense of their experiences. As for homeroom revitalization, Korgaonkar and Lee hope to change the purpose of homeroom for students. “We want to change that to make it more useful to under and upperclassmen, in terms of length and more things you can actually do, such as guidance push-ins,” Lee said.
Korgaonkar and Lee have been working on making the SU more approachable. The recent opening of the SU room by the Senior Bar to non-SU members has been one such case, along with setting up a printing station within the SU room accessible to all students.
Given the circumstances, Korgaonkar and Lee believe they have worked well to address the concerns of the student body so far, and look forward to unveiling more of their policies and events in the Spring semester.