Stuyvesant to Host Virtual Camp Stuy Part I

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Camp Stuy Part I will be held on June 19 virtually through Zoom.

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In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition to remote learning this year, Camp Stuy Part I will be held virtually on June 19. In order to accommodate the large number of incoming students, Big Sibs, and faculty attending, the event will be held through Zoom.

The itinerary will be broken into two sections: a large introduction webinar hosted by the Stuyvesant administration, followed by individual homeroom bonding time between the Big Sibs and their Little Sibs. During the webinar, Principal Eric Contreras will give a short welcome to the incoming class, followed by statements from Director of Family Engagement Dina Ingram, Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel Services Casey Pedrick, SPARK Faculty Advisor Angel Colon, Black Student League and ASPIRA representatives, and the Big Sib Chairs.

The webinar will then transition to individual homeroom meetings through separate Zoom links for each homeroom. Students will leave the large webinar and enter their homeroom Zoom rooms, each with about 35 students and six Big Sibs, to familiarize themselves with the Stuyvesant community. “Incoming students will meet their guidance counselors, meet their Big Sibs, play virtual ice-breakers, and set up their Stuy [e-mails]. [T]hough it will vary for each homeroom, we expect most groups to be done by 5:45-6 p.m.,” junior and Big Sib Chair Elena Hlamenko said in an e-mail interview. After Camp Stuy Part I, each homeroom will establish a way to communicate with each other, most likely through a Facebook group or Messenger chat.

Under normal conditions, placement exams and logistical matters such as swim tests, music auditions, and taking student ID photos are conducted during Camp Stuy Part I. Because they cannot be conducted physically this year, other arrangements have been made. Students who wish to be placed in the second year of their chosen language will have a language placement interview over Zoom with a teacher. Families will fill out forms on Talos for swimming, math placement, and preferences for other classes. “Music auditions, similarly to the languages, are optional, and the incoming have been contacted, and Google Classrooms have been created to facilitate this process,” junior and Big Sib Chair Anaïs Delfau said in an e-mail interview. “The status of ID photos is unknown because this cannot be easily conducted virtually.”

Currently, the families of incoming freshmen are in the process of filling out information in the Talos portal so that they can begin the programming process and language placement interviews over Zoom. “I have already created and uploaded all the information to the Incoming Student Portal on Talos and sent incoming parents/guardians the link to their Talos account,” Ingram said in an e-mail interview.

A virtual Camp Stuy Part I may be advantageous, as a digital medium will reduce paperwork and allow for immediate assistance with e-mail set-up. Communicating with Big Sibs online may also be easier for some students than in-person interaction. “[Camp Stuy] is a much shorter event online (only two hours) compared to a full day event, so there’s less to plan, even if there are a lot more technical obstacles to overcome,” junior and Big Sib Chair Andrea Huang said in an e-mail interview.

Hosting a virtual Camp Stuy Part I comes with a set of new disadvantages. Communication with incoming students coming from private schools or those who do not have nyc.doe accounts proved to be a challenge, though was later resolved with help of computer science teacher Topher Mykolyk by making the webinar accessible to all e-mail accounts.

Communication between Big Sibs and the incoming students online may also be more difficult, though junior and Big Sib Chair Henry Michaelson remains positive. “We’re super confident in the Big Sibs that they’ll be able to help their Little Sibs during these especially trying times, and we hope that the Little Sibs are able to see that we’re all here for them,” he said in an e-mail interview.

Others have expressed concern about the possible lack of connection among the incoming students due to meeting virtually. “Stuff like this would probably make things a little more tense when we go back to school because we’d have [only a few] interactions with each other,” incoming freshman Henry Ji said in an e-mail interview. “We might not have a lot of time to socialize, and it’d be much harder compared to meeting people in real life. It might feel a little alienating and distant to do it over Zoom.”

Some incoming students have voiced concerns over programming matters, such as the instrumental and vocal auditions for the music groups at Stuyvesant. “I was really excited for [Camp Stuy Part I] because I knew we would have auditions,” incoming freshman Margaret Mikhalevsky said in an e-mail interview. “I wanted to audition for choir, but I don’t think that auditioning for chorus virtually will be a good idea because the audio quality won’t be good.”

Though the incoming freshmen will be missing out on the experience of physically being at Stuyvesant, many have felt the videos, including the virtual open house, have been an adequate substitute. “I was looking forward to seeing the school in person because I was unable to attend the open houses earlier in the year, and I still haven't gotten the chance to see the school itself or take a tour of it,” incoming freshman Farhan Khan said in an e-mail interview. “However, after viewing the videos that the school had sent me, I got a vague understanding of the school.”

Though Camp Stuy traditionally comprises Part I and Part II, Part II has yet to be planned due to the many variables unaccounted for. “As soon [as the Chairs] get more details and get closer to August, the traditional time it’s held, we will know what’s going on and how Camp Stuy Part II will shape up to be,” junior and Big Sib Chair Aki Yamaguchi said in an e-mail interview.

Despite concerns on a virtual start to their high school career, many are looking forward to starting their high school journey. “I am optimistic about bonding with the Big Sibs. The Big Sibs, from what I have seen so far, seem to be a very useful resource available to any freshman, and I think bonding with them is important, and I don't think that the distance is going to hinder that,” Khan said.

The Big Sib Chairs share a similar enthusiasm. “I hope freshmen leave Camp Stuy feeling excited for Stuyvesant and understanding the commitment of the school administration and upperclassmen student body (Big Sibs) to them,” Hlamenko said.