Welcome to The TSA Spirit! We started the elective with high expectations. A class of only six, we clustered around Carter’s round table and threw out ideas for articles. “We could write about politics!” we shouted. “Movie critiques!” “Explore the way that Irene damaged our community”. In the next classes we narrowed down our focus to things we know and care about, topics closer to home and our school community. As a team of seven we wrote and produces this magazine during elective. All contributed and edited to a diverse collection of writing pieces. So, without further ado, please put on some socks and shoes and then hold on to them! You are in for a humorous, informative and entertaining journey through The TSA Spirit. -The TSA Spirit Staff
Table of Contents
Adoption: What a Surprise! by Cora Swanburg
Adoption: What a Surprise! by Cora Swanburg I started wrestling with the notion of adoption and being adopted when I was about four. My mom told me as much as she could about the woman who gave me life; she told me about my 2 sisters and my half brother. She told me I was from Houston, Texas and that my birth mom, Monique, had placed me for adoption because she already had 3 kids. She was working and living with her mother and her brother who was and continues to be handicapped. At first I was amazed. “Whoa. I had siblings?” She gave me the two or three pictures she had of them: real people. Some of them even had the same skin tone as me, my family. But then I started to think, well wouldn’t they have kept me if they loved me? What was wrong with me? Why didn’t they love me? The relief of seeing pictures of my family vanished. It turned to hurt, anger, and a little disbelief. I carried these feelings until recently. I began to let go of those feelings in about 3rd grade. I got to meet them. Until that point I wasn’t sure why they hadn’t contacted me, but finally they did. My mom found my great grandmother’s obituary and did a Google search to find my birth family. The first time I met them I remember thinking how loving they were. They weren’t ashamed of me, but at the time I was born, it was nearly impossible for them to take on yet another human life. My birth father was a big Athlete in high school, he played Football and Basketball and went on to play college ball and went on to scout for colleges, coach AAU teams, and even was my sister’s personal coach her Junior and Senior year of high school which resulted in her too going off and playing college ball. But his dream was cut short by a knee injury. At that time, I think my mom truly believe he loved basketball more than his own family. He pretty much disappeared out of her life 3
entirely. In fact, they had to track him down to get him to sign the adoption papers. And even as a kid my half brother, was a trouble maker. Most of you know that he’s been in and out of jail since the age of 16. They had their work cut out for them. It was too much to raise a 4th kid. Knowing all these details helped me begin the process of forgiving. This has not been an easy thing to come to terms with. When I was visiting them in 2010, my birth father apologized to me over breakfast. He apologized for not having his act together when I was a baby. He honestly thought that it was his fault they had to place me for adoption. It’s easier for me to understand now why I was placed for adoption. Although the majority of the family doing well now, it wasn’t always like that. Through conversations with my birth mom and birth father, it has become more and more clear that they love me unconditionally and that the most loving thing they could have done for me was to place me for adoption. After years of knowing my birth family and beginning to learn how they fit into my life and I fit into theirs, they told me there aren’t just 4 kids. There are five. I wasn’t the first kid they had placed for adoption, I was the second. In fact the fifth child I knew. I grew up with him; he was one of my best friends. I was overjoyed but I felt as though they were keeping if from me for some reason. To have my brother so close to me for my entire life and to not know until 2011, the feelings of joy and hurt stayed with me. The day we found out we were related was a winter January evening, I had just gotten off the bus from Suicide Six, a popular skiing place, my mom was waiting for me when I got off the bus, something I wasn’t expecting her to be there. “I just need to talk to you for a second” I remember my mom saying “They found Zamir’s birth family.” “Yay! I said with excitement.” “And want to know the craziest part?” “Our birth families know each other?” “No, even crazier.” I guessed again. “He’s my cousin?” “No, EVEN crazier..” “TELL ME!” “He’s your brother!” I remember calling my birth mom right after I found out. She apologized over and over again telling me she wished she had never let us leave Texas. I knew that she was telling the truth. But I was still hurt. Later on I began to think, if we had known we were related would we have the same connection that we’d developed over the years? Or would we have just taken each other for granted. At least we finally did realize we were related. And how stupid, I should have figured out we were related sooner, there were such obvious signs. We have always fought like we were related to each other, and ever since I can remember he’s called me his little sister. Although I would have loved to know one of my best friends was actually related to me, we got to know each other on a different level than most siblings know each other. I think I cherish our relationship more than I would have if we had always known.
Coachella 2012 Highlights by Dakota Jensen
Exhibition Expert’s Experiences Seniors Suggest Strategies by Annabelle Roberts “You just can’t make seniors care,” claims Ysi Galdone ('12) while comparing the junior and senior exhibition processes. It’s true that every spring the nation-wide epidemic of senioritis grabs 12th graders hard. One way The Sharon Academy tries to combat this plague of skipping school and lagging behind on homework is with senior exhibitions. With a paper due in the beginning of April and a presentation the second week of May, the exhibition process reaches its finish right when students start to give up on high school. Some immerse themselves in the exhibition process, while others trudge through this seemingly useless assignment and never think about it again. As one senior described, they simply try to “pound it out and move on.” Junior and Senior Exhibition papers and presentations are graded on the same rubric and have the same criteria. Doing the same project twice is meant to improve students' presenting and writing skills, and seniors are expected to learn from their mistakes. However, for some a similar project two years in a row “seems redundant and repetitive.” “We know exactly how much work we need to put in,” says Dakota Jensen ('12), who suggests an alternative. Seniors should have a “senior interim for like a week, where we keep up with our classes but have to go somewhere and do something active with our exhibitions.” Nearby seniors responded to this addition with a chorus of excited “oooh”s
and “yeah”s. Interviewing experts, joining a protest, or traveling somewhere new were a few of the suggested ideas that could enhance a senior’s knowledge and overall exhibition experience. However, this idea needs more clarification before becoming an actuality, and it is certainly not the only improvement suggested by seniors. Some say presenting on a Tuesday would be better than a Monday, while others claim the entire project should be assigned and tackled in a shorter period of time. For every criticism, an equal number of people enjoy that same component. One student “didn’t use the exhibition elective at all” their junior year while another claimed the “exhibition elective was really helpful.” One student likes the amount of time given in the process because it, “allows me to get into it, and then lose track of it, but still have time to get back into it before it’s due” while another only comments that the whole exhibition process is “too much time!” Certainly for some it is “a complete waste of time” but for others the process is “enlightening.” Overall, most students are proud of the work they accomplished in the end. Even though it’s a lot of work, as one student said with a smile, “you think exhibitions are gonna kill you, but you end up killing it.”
Inappropriate? Student Government Addresses Concerns About Dress by Katie Spencer Hemlines are creeping at the Sharon Academy. As the school year has progressed, skirts have become shorter and necklines lower, and the school community has become collectively more uncomfortable. An Undercover Radio skit satirized the state of affairs at the last Thursday Night Café performance. In true TSA style, meetings have been called to address the issue. The first two were female-only gatherings. Faculty members and students debated, discussed, and disagreed on what constitutes inappropriate dress for school and what to do when someone’s clothing is making you or others uncomfortable. Teachers talked about implementing a stricter dress code or a uniform. The term “not in the TSA spirit” was thrown around with frequency. The meeting ended with the decision that more meetings were needed. The females decided it was wise to include more of the student body, so on May 3rd the Student Government called a general meeting about clothing at the school. Though the meeting was rather sparsely attended, both genders were represented, which leant a broader perspective to the proceedings. Firstly, the guidelines from the student handbook were read out: "Students are 7
required to dress appropriately. Clothing cannot be distracting, frightening, disrespectful, suggestive, too loose, too tight, or too short (for example, low cut shirts, spaghetti straps, exposed underwear, bared midriffs). If necessary, students will be asked to change their clothes. Shoes must be worn at all times. Hats may be worn in school at the discretion of staff. We ask parents to oversee these guidelines."
It was news for many people in the room that guidelines for dress are addressed in the student handbook at all - an indication of the amount of time people spend reading that piece of literature. Though the rules are not common knowledge, they provide a good starting point for teachers, who are responsible for talking to students about what is appropriate. Teachers contend that it is awkward to make any comments about what a student is wearing. Perhaps this task would be easier if teachers adopted the philosophy that Div. III History Teacher Carter Glass brought up in the meeting. "It wouldn't hurt", he suggested, "to worry less about hurting someone's feelings".
Student Travel at TSA by Grayson Levy
QuickTimeâ„˘ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture.
The Sharon Academy is known for welcoming exchange students to the community, but many TSA students have traveled abroad. Students like Cassie Lee, Mia Aldrich, and Jill Gramling all traveled abroad recently. Jill, a first year student, traveled to Nicaragua for a week. Mia, a junior, stayed in Colombia for a month. Cassie, also a junior, traveled to Guangzhou, Chengdu, Guanghan, and Beijing, China for two weeks. These are their answers to some questions about their travels: 8
Why did you choose to travel to the countries you did? Cassie: I was invited by a program I had worked with previously to do a follow-up visit at their sister school in Guanghan. It was a great opportunity to pursue my interest in Chinese, meet new people, visit old friends, and make connections. Mia: I wanted the chance to volunteer at an orphanage in South America. I specifically chose the orphanage FANA, because my family has ties there, as my brother and five of my cousins are adopted from Colombia. Jill: There was an opportunity for me to travel with Rotary International and help equip hospitals with medical equipment. What were your living and travel arrangements? Cassie: I lived with a family for 3 days, and the rest of the time I was in hotels. That was fine, but I felt more like a tourist than I would have liked to. Traveling was less than pleasant with 20-hour flights, but we were lucky to have translators, and everything went much more smoothly than I thought it would, considering that we had kids between the ages of 10 and 13 with us. Mia: Since I was not going through a program I needed to find a suitable place to stay that was safe and close to the orphanage. I was able to get in contact with FANA and they recommended several places, however getting in contact with them proved to be difficult. Another piece that was hard to organize was transportation to and from FANA. Part of the time I had a driver that picked me up in the morning and brought me back to the house that I was staying at in the evenings. Other days a woman who worked at FANA would come and get me. Did you experience culture shock upon arrival? Cassie: I did, especially with a 12-hour time difference and new food. The culture shock was much worse coming back though. When I was there I was more able to go for it during the day and get some rest, but when I got home all the differences between the US and China were made even more apparent. Mia: The first week that I was there, it was Semana Santa (Holy Week), and there were lots of families in the airport and holiday festivities going on. I don't think that I experienced a major culture shock but I did slightly. Jill: No, I was able to adapt quickly to their culture. Was it difficult coming back? Reverse culture shock? Cassie: YES. I still miss the food, the people, and the weather. I dont think I'll ever miss the public bathrooms. I'm going to be getting used to being back home for a while.
Mia: It was very difficult to come back. In the couple days leading up to my departure I began to become less and less excited to come home and wish more that I could stay longer. I do feel as though I experienced and still am experiencing some reverse culture shock. Jill: It was really tough to come back because I realized how much in my life I take for granted and also how many opportunities that I have in my life compared to the people in Nicaragua. What were some of your favorite moments? Least? Cassie: Visiting the Guanghan Honghua Foreign Language School, the sister school of the program I was a counselor at last summer. I was taking classes and playing with the kids, and I bent down to pick up a ball and suddenly became enveloped in a crowd of about 50 first graders, shouting in Chinese, hugging me, and wanting their picture taken. I also loved connecting with sophomores and juniors in Beijing, and spending time with the American kids on the trip who became like brothers and sisters. Mia: Everyday when I got the opportunity to bottle-feed a 7 month old his lunch. Another favorite moment was getting the chance to hear the 11-year-old girl whom I had been teaching English, proudly practice her newly learned words to the administration office at FANA. Thankfully I did not have many moments that I did not enjoy. One hard moment was when I first arrived in Bogotรก at the airport and the person who I was supposed to meet was not there. Jill: Every moment was excellent except leaving the country to come back home. I was able to meet people with amazing stories to tell about their lives and others who really needed the help that we could give them. What from your experience have you/did you bring back to TSA? Cassie: I'm hopefully going to bring a Chinese culture or language elective to the school next year, but mostly I'm still processing the trip right now. I hope to connect anyone interested in Chinese culture or education to some of the people I met. Mia: If you're passionate enough about something and wish to travel abroad, make it happen. Traveling alone forces you to learn a lot about yourself, things that you may or may not have already known. Plan ahead. Not only your travel plans but schoolwork and for other things that may come up while you are away. Jill: I now appreciate all the resources that we have in the school, even the horrible textbooks. In Nicaraguan schools, they are lucky if they have a 60-year-old chalkboard to write on, but somehow they make it work. What is your advice to students in the school that are considering traveling abroad? Cassie: The sooner you are able to embrace the new place you're in and just be in the
moment, the better memories you'll bring home. Don't say no too much. Just try things. Mia: Take every opportunity you can to learn more about the country you're in whether it's taking a small trip out into the countryside or meeting new people. Jill: I learned some of the most important life lessons while I was in Nicaragua, I ended up liking it more than in America and I have every intention of going back.
Ten Things College Guidelines Don’t Tell You by Caroline Atwood Take it from a wannabe expert. Getting your wisdom teeth out is more fun than applying to college. But luckily, here are some tips, not often found in college books, to ease you through the process. 1. Take all advice from parents with a hefty grain of salt. They applied to college thirty years ago. Things were very different back then; even the Ivies still had positive numbers for their acceptance rates.
2. Don’t judge a school based on its dorky mascot. All mascots are dorky if you think about it. But do judge a school based on its dorky students.
3. If you get rejected from a school – don’t give up on it. Keep harassing them until they accept you. Just ask Brian Tonks.
4. You will inevitably receive tons of pamphlets from colleges, some of which may be exceedingly prestigious. These colleges don’t want you. What they do want is your application so they can reject more applicants and lower their admittance rate. On the flip side, there are tons of schools who do want you, so apply to those instead.
5. If getting your wisdom teeth out is more fun than the application process then getting 11
your leg amputated is a much happier party than dealing with financial aid. Be warned.
6. Here’s a hint if you want to get accepted into a highly selective school – have your parents donate a building. Works like a charm.
7. If you come across any school that spells college with a “k”, it’s probably best not to apply there.
8. You know you’ve applied to too many schools if the total cost of application fees exceeds what you would pay for the first semester of college.
9. If you’re a male, I would recommend applying to either Smith or Wellesley College. They are both excellent schools.
10. Don’t rule out Clown College.
Best of Luck!