Just Keep Swimming: A Senior’s Perspective on Joining a Sport

By: Victoria Sogueco (leftmost girl)

I was nervous. Why wouldn’t I have been? There I was, little freshman Vic, walking onto the pool deck not knowing how to dive, continue on for more than one lap, or swim an IM. (Apparently, it’s an individual medley! All of the strokes!!) The pool was teeming with people who — gasp! — knew what they were doing and, as a result, I got cut.

My swim career might have ended there, but my parents didn’t want to hear any of it. Slowly yet surely, I got better. My stamina started existing, my butterfly didn’t hurt me so much, and my dive… well, it at least became legal. I started swimming in meets my junior year, where my team (go Aqua Jets!) competed against other local club teams. I was satisfied, really. Then, my parents suggested I “redeem myself” and try out again for Lauralton’s swim team.

I walked out again on Foran’s pool deck, memories of half-drowning flooding back to me as I watched team members glide across the pool’s surface. I leapt into the water and swam. And surprisingly, I was fine. Fran, the head coach, told me I was on the team after practice ended. I was pretty happy, to be honest with you, but I was also kind of worried. I had worn many hats in my life, but never one of student athlete. The fact that I was a senior also stressed me out — how would I fit in during my first and last year on the team?

My fears were eventually eased a few practices into the season. Sprints and kicks were cut with jokes and Coach Fran’s famous stories. Although tired after classes, we rode the bus to numerous schools for 10 meets and swam our hearts out, going 6-4 (wins-losses) for the season. Then, I got the chance to compete in SCCs and States with the team (where we got second place overall and where Cee Begg, Ashlyn Blessey, Claire Kehley, and Liz Long broke the school’s record for the 400 freestyle relay), and the team went on to go to opens, where Cee, Ashlyn, Claire, and Liz broke the school’s record for the 200 freestyle relay. 

Even though it was only for a few months, I’m grateful for the time I got to spend on the LH swim team. I got to play the part of The Jock™, introduced the team to Filipino lumpia, cinched my best time for the 100 breast, and made many happy memories that I’ll carry with me forever. My advice for anyone reading is this: it’s never too late. Whether you’re a freshman or soon-to-be-college freshman, now is the time and here is the place.

Open House

By: Lavender Cui and Cecile Wang

On October 6th, many prospective middle-school students and their parents visited Lauralton Hall for the annual Open House. Guided by Lauralton faculty, teachers, and students, these families got a chance to walk around the campus, learn about the history, courses, scheduling, and academic atmosphere of Lauralton, participate in fun events in classrooms, and check out our clubs and sports.

 

Campus Tour — Cecile Wang

As a student ambassador, I led two families who were very passionate about Lauralton; one family had an older sister who graduated from Lauralton. During the tour, these two families were most interested in the innovation lab, guidance office, and science room. Although it was a long tour, the information given was very helpful for the parents. For example, with the hands-on experience demonstrated, the girls got a comprehensive perspective of how our laboratory science courses are taught. I feel appreciative that both of the families I led enjoyed their visit to the Lauralton campus.

 

Orchestra — Lavender Cui

During the Open House, I was in C1, the orchestra room. We played our Christmas songs for people who come to visit. I think Open House was a successful event because it gave girls and their parents a chance to see the beautiful campus and our Lauralton girls’ passions. When they heard the Christmas songs we played, they enjoyed it and warmly applauded for us after a song ended. I feel so proud of the Lauralton orchestra. I hope that the girls who visited choose Lauralton as their high school; here, I’m sure they will meet lovely friends, take interesting courses, and enjoy an amazing high school experience.

 

My Experience in the UN General Assembly

WechatIMG338.jpegBy: Rebecca Peng

My Chinese grandfather with a Ph.D. in History., “talked the talk” regarding global political reform; now, I am learning to “walk the walk.”  Early this fall, I received an invitation to give a talk on the issue of intergenerational equality at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. 

Our society is progressing step-by-step, making strides in gender and racial equality. Now, it is time for us to start focusing on intergenerational equality. As students, we are seen to lack the vocabulary and technical skill to write bills, as well as the experience and ability to debate with adults. Therefore, most of the time, we’re watching adults do things that result in harmful effects that we, the new generation, have to deal with, such as climate change and the destruction of environmental resources. Adults seldom care about this, as the decision-makers in power have passed their primes and no longer have the same incentive for long-term thinking. However, the resources that they consume excessively and frivolously are stolen from us, the up-and-coming generation.

The phrase “all men are created equal” was written by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, yet centuries later it is still not true. I hope that in our society, equality can exist not only in gender, race, and minority groups, but also among different generations.

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9 Places in New York City You’ve Probably Never Visited

By: Sarah D’Alto

The best thing about living in the Fairfield County area is, debatably, being only an hour-long train ride away from Grand Central. Many of us have probably visited the basic tourist NYC attractions — the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park — but have you truly experienced everything the city has to offer? Here, I have compiled a list of unique spots that I enjoy visiting in the city.  

1. Alice’s Tea Cup, Chapter 2

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A long time favorite place of mine, Alice’s Tea Cup is a tea room offering an authentic Wonderland feel. It is easy to go through a pot or two of tea while staying here. You have the option to order delicious food alongside your tea; I personally suggest the Madhatter for 2. Their scones and tea sandwiches make the tea room the perfect touch to a dainty afternoon activity; it’s the prime spot for a date or a girls’ day out. Located on the Upper East Side at 156 E 64th St., it is not too far from Central Park or some fabulous shopping areas to enjoy after your lunch. 

2. Coney Island

Located in Brooklyn, Coney Island offers amusement parks, beaches, dining, and recreation to enjoy with your friends and family. Luna Park is a personal favorite of mine. It’s the best place to go on rides with your friends and have Instagram worthy photo shoots. Although it’s the farthest destination on this list, it is definitely worth the trip. Pro tip: run free on the Coney Island boardwalk, preferably on a hot summer night.

3. FIT Museum

This beautiful museum is located within a top fashion school, The Fashion Institute of Technology. The FIT Museum is a must-see even if you aren’t wildly interested in art or fashion. You never know what exhibit might be there, but I can promise you that it won’t be boring. Located within their beautiful Manhattan campus, the museum offers both a history of and fresh takes on fashion. 

4. Dover Street Market

A high-end fashion store with an unconventional set-up, Dover Street Market is located on 160 Lexington Ave, New York, NY. Headquartered in London with other shops in locations of major fashion districts including LA, Beijing, London, and Singapore, it is safe to say that Dover Street offers the most elite of fashion. It is set up in a rather strange fashion with multiple single room floors. Each room features a different layout, as if each level were a completely different store. Loosely themed, each room at Dover Street allows buyers or viewers to experience a different aspect of the store. With prices exceeding the average high schooler’s budget, Dover Street more closely resembles a museum rather than a go-to shopping destination; however, this does not diminish the fabulosity of it. 

5. The Whitney Museum

The Whitney is a beautiful museum filled with modern art. It attracts a younger audience with its wide array of medias on display ranging from videos to sculptures to traditional paintings. One phrase to accurately describe the Whitney? Anything but boring. It is big enough to offer something for everybody to truly connect with on a personal level, yet small enough to fully navigate in a day or two. The Whitney is, essentially, the Met of modern art. Located in one of my favorite spots of the city (the meatpacking district on 99 Gansevoort St.), the museum boasts a stunning skyline engulfed in a peaceful, quaint, and quirky neighborhood. Definitely one of my favorites on this list — even the most avid museum-hater will love the Whitney. 

6. Mood Fabrics Store

The world-famous fabric store used in the TV show Project Runway, Mood Fabrics is a one-stop-shop to the behind the scenes of fashion design. The fabric store is located on 223 W 37th St, in a dope neighborhood. Mood is a tightly packed store with every fabric, embellishment, lining, and patch imaginable. It is a great spot for blossoming fashion designers and avid sewers alike. 

7. The Melt Shop

Located in multiple locations across New York and Jersey, the Melt Shop offers many cheese delicacies such as grilled cheese and cheesy chicken nuggets (which, by the way, are superb). They also offer individually wrapped pickles larger than your head. Pro tip: try their vanilla milkshakes! 

8. Buffalo Exchange

With its original store in Tuscon, Arizona branded as having a unique take on used clothing, Buffalo Exchange will make you rethink your view on thrift stores. The successful store has franchises across the country namely in Seattle, (I’ve been to this one — it’s my favorite!), Brooklyn, multiple Manhattan locations, Philadelphia, Massachusetts, multiple spots in California and many more, Buffalo offers a large variety of fresh, funky clothing. Large stores with racks and shelves of all sorts of clothing ranging in styles from all different eras, are always fun to explore, and Buffalo is certainly no exception. Definitely an upgrade from your local Goodwill (although I love Goodwill) with high quality (sometimes designer!) items, increasing the pleasurability of the experience for shoppers. Definitely a personal favorite spot of mine, Buffalo is a must-see  for everybody from the pro thrifter to the newbie. (Editor’s note: I also 100% recommend Buffalo Exchange — I went on a wild goose chase to find it, bought nothing, yet walked out totally satisfied. -VS)

9. Yuca Bar

The Yuca Bar, located on 111 Avenue A, is a delicious authentic Latin American restaurant. It offers the best guacamole and salsa with the friendliest staff in the cutest building. Easily the best Latin food in all of Manhattan, Yuca is a must go to. Their arepas? Absolutely to die for.

 

Becoming World Changers

By: Hope Cheever and Carly Costikyan

3 years. 12 plane rides. 26 days. Over 100 hours of work – our first-hand experience in Guatemala with School the World. But what is it that inspires two high school students to travel halfway across the world to build schools and playgrounds during their February break? And what keeps them coming back year after year? Though we both have been asked those questions many times over the course of our three-year relationship with School the World, there never seems to be one right answer. A combination of the warm and welcoming people, vibrant culture, and the overall experience with School the World are just three of many reasons that keep us coming back and never wanting to leave.

While each of the three communities we have both worked in are unique in their own ways, the kindness we have been shown by every member of the communities never changes. On the first day you are welcomed with a ceremony surrounded by confetti, balloons, and other celebratory decorations. Each community does it a little differently with speeches from their leaders and students from the school. The children in each community are always so excited and grateful. Every day for about an hour we get to play with the kids at recess. The kids do not sit on phones or tablets, they would not even know what you are referring to. Instead, they play games like Duck, Duck, Goose (aka Pato, Pato, Ganzo), tag, and are absolutely obsessed with bubbles. We try and bring them little toys every day to play with during our week of work, and it is always amazing how these kids are fascinated by the simplest things. These optimistic and grateful children do not need a never-ending game of Candy Crush to keep them occupied or happy. 

One way we connect further with the community is through shadow visits. We visit the home of one of the children in the school, meet their family, and do some everyday tasks with the families. Some of the families we have visited have no electricity or running water but are some of the most grateful and giving people we have had the pleasure of meeting. The people in the communities make you never want to leave, but when it is time that you do, without a doubt, you leave with a fuller heart and a better understanding of the world.  

The intriguing, vibrant, Guatemalan culture is something that we have found to be so unique, and so different than anything you will find in the United States. The area in which we work, Santa Cruz del Quiche, comes from a large descent of Mayan influence. The traditional clothing, worn almost every day by women, and on occasion by men, is modest, yet, bursting with color, intricate designs, and sometimes even sparkles. The typical town scene with buildings coated in various shades of greens, pinks, oranges, and blues, embraces the vibrant personality of each individual. What we experience not only on the streets and radios, but during a special performance in our communities, are the wonderful tunes of Guatemalan music. A simple uplifting beat goes a long way and makes the perfect base for any one of their traditional dances. 

How could you not come back?! While some parents are hesitant to send their children to Guatemala on their own, we have always felt incredibly safe in our travels and welcomed by everyone we have met. Although we do work hard for long hours in the 5 short days we are at our communities, it is work that will never be forgotten and allows you to feel the impact you are making by building this school.

By the end of the week, we are able to see our finished product and celebrate the addition of better education with the entire community. These people understand the importance of education and want their children to have the opportunities that they, as parents, never had. Our past three trips with School the World have been completely transformational. Being welcomed into the homes and communities of the people themselves and being able to progress the education of the children in each community has made us extremely grateful for our time in Guatemala and we cannot wait to return next year! 

If you are interested in becoming a World Changer with School the World and traveling with Lauralton Hall to Guatemala in February 2020, please email info@schooltheworld.org. 

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Generation Scorned

By: Carly Weber

This generation has grown up surrounded by the ever-present, dark, looming threat of school shootings. I remember December 14th, 2012, when my parents were forced to sit down and explain to me what kind of person would raise a gun against defenseless elementary school children after the fatal attacks at Sandy Hook Elementary. I remember the countless other acts of violence that ensued throughout my adolescence; the news headlines with red increasing death tolls in the corner, the memorials filmed with shaky iPhone cameras, Instagram posts screenshotted and shared, and names that slowly dissipated from public knowledge. Mass shootings have continued to creep over our shoulders like fatal, silent shadows.

I couldn’t help be reminded of the kids and teachers that lost their lives and loved ones when yet another school shooter struck 5 years and two months later at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On November 27 of last year, I had the privilege of hearing recent Parkland graduate and cofounder of March For Our Lives David Hogg speak at Southern Connecticut State University about gun violence and how we as a young yet influential generation can come back stronger from such a tragedy. Hogg encourages action amongst young people and refuses, “…to let the cost of our freedom be the 17 people lost at our school.” Dwelling on tragedy will do us no good; now is the time to take action and contact local representatives in order to pass legislation that will end gun violence in schools once and for all.

Hogg spoke with wisdom and maturity beyond his years, accredited to his experience in talking with protesters that want him dead. As young people, often under the age of 18, its difficult to find a voice and make a change. However, Hogg believes that we are the most influential generation there is. Our unlimited access to the Internet and social media makes our voice powerful in a way like no other. We need to, as Hogg stated, “fight for those who no longer can,” and utilize our voice to the best of our abilities. Together, we can be the generation that ends gun violence.

Source used- NPR

https://www.npr.org/2019/02/13/694175068/ex-marjory-stoneman-douglas-students-quest-to-end-gun-violence?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20190213

 

Traditions of Chinese New Year

By: Cecile Wang

Happy Chinese New Year!

In 2019, February 5th is the first day on the lunar calendar, meaning that it is the first day of Chinese New Year or Spring Festival of China. This is the year of the Pig, which is the last animal of twelve Chinese zodiac animals. Chinese New Year celebration always starts on the Chinese New Year Eve till the fifteenth day of lunar new year. Let us take a close look to see how Chinese people celebrate Chinese New Year and their traditions.

 

  1. Family Feasting

On the Chinese New Year Eve, or on the first day of Chinese New Year in some reign of China, Chinese people will have a family reunion in their hometowns. Even though different regions of China have their own dishes, however, there is one dish, which is fish, will show up everywhere of China because “fish” means that wealth and luckiness will be leftover from last year for the new year.

  1. Red Envelope

Getting red envelopes is one of the most exciting traditions for Chinese kids. On the first day of Chinese New Year, kids can get red envelopes from their parents and grandparents. There is money in red envelopes. The amount of money usually ends with a 6 or an 8, which are lucky numbers in China. Kids sometimes will be asked to put red envelopes under their pillows at night during Chinese New Year in order to get rid of evil spirits.

  1. Spring Couplets

Spring couplets are lucky messages include bringing goodness and wealth written on red papers. People who are good at calligraphy will write poems by themselves, but most of the Chinese people will buy these in the stores. Before the beginning of Chinese New Year, people stick spring couplets on household gates. Chinese people think that spring couplets will bring them luckiness, money, happiness and everything good in the new year.

  1. Setting off Firecrackers

Setting off firecrackers is an old tradition in China, but it is not allowed in big cities because of air pollution. Chinese people believe that setting off red firecrackers can frighten evil spirits.

  1. Making Dumplings

Most people in China will make dumplings together with their family during the Chinese New Year. Traditionally, when Chinese people are making dumplings, they will put a coin in one dumpling, which is the “lucky dumpling”. And whoever has the “lucky dumpling” is the luckiest person of the year; and he or she will sometimes get an extra red envelope with money in it.

  1. Guessing Lantern riddles

On the last day of the Chinese New year celebration, there is a holiday called the Lantern Festival. There are a lot of lanterns hanging by the street on that day. Kids will come out at night and guess the riddles written on the lanterns. Then people will get together with their families and have sweet dumplings.

 

Are these sounds fun to you? Hope you understand the Chinese New Year traditions more deeply after reading this article. Xin nian kuai le! (Chinese pronunciation of “Happy Chinese New Year”)

The Problem With Fast Fashion

By: Sofia Cholewczynski

When you step into a clothing store, what do you look at first? Maybe you check the price tag, or pick up styles that you think are cute. Did it ever occur to you to check what materials the clothes are made of, and where they were made? Most clothes are manufactured outside of the US, especially in China, Bangladesh, and India. This contributes to a larger social and environmental problem: fast fashion.

Traditional fashion typically consisted of four seasons of clothing produced each year. Now, major retailers such as Forever 21, H&M, and Zara produce fifty-two seasons a year, which means new styles hitting stores every week. Fashion has become something many people believe is disposable. With trendy items being sold for incredibly cheap prices, many will buy a shirt, wear it for a month, and get rid of it once they’re done.

This toxic cycle is being supported by the cheap cost for labor overseas. Factory workers, most of whom are women, are forced to endure horrible working conditions, long hours, and very small wages ($2.00 a day). They breathe in harmful chemicals all day and have no position to speak up about their situation.

Fast fashion results in an increased need for cotton. Entire fields of cotton will be sprayed with Round Up, an herbicide produced by the company Monsanto. They have monopolized the agriculture industry by patenting their pesticide. Among other issues, weeds grow resistant to specific herbicides over time, which means that these farmers need to keep buying stronger spray from Monsanto. This spray might be linked with the high rates of cancer among farmers in India who are using this product without proper protection. The increased need for cotton has caused environmental and societal issues that many people are not informed about.

Many people have piles of clothing that they don’t want anymore, so they decide to donate them to charity. Great idea, except that only 10% of donated clothing is actually given away. Most of it is sent to developing countries, such as Kenya or Haiti, to be sold there instead. This disrupts the local clothing industry in these countries. Not everyone in Kenya wants American clothes, especially when the fabrics are obviously worn out and old. Many garments end up being burned in bonfires, which contributes to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Fast fashion is negatively affecting our lives as well. Readily available inexpensive clothing is contributing to our consumerist society, and we buy into it. We think that once we have that one pair of jeans, then we’ll be happy. Unfortunately, this atmosphere leads to unhappy people who are not content with their lives or what they have. People become poor because they spend all their money on inexpensive clothing because it’s there, and it’s cheap. Who can pass up a deal, right?

This is a huge problem, but it’s not without solutions. The best thing to do is reduce the amount of clothing you buy. Don’t buy into short-lived trends and purchase clothing you really love so that you’ll want to wear it forever. Support companies who are dedicated to helping the environment and society. Patagonia, for example, is very environmentally aware. Check the tags of clothing and find out where it’s been made. Donate your clothing to organizations you can trust. Consigning clothes is a great way to get rid of old garments and make money on what is sold. A recent trend has been “thrifting”, where people go to consignment shops or thrift stores to find cool clothing. Reusing clothing is great for the environment. Clothes are not disposable and should not be treated like trash. We have the power to end fast fashion by being aware of how it negatively affects society and actively working against it.

For more information on fast fashion and how it has become a worldwide problem, watch “The True Cost” on Netflix.

Looking Ahead at Lauralton

By: Biyeni Eusebio, ’21

Although it feels like school started ages ago, the fun at Lauralton has just begun. December has Christmas in the Mansion, our yearly Christmas party; even better, we have more than two weeks off for break in order to celebrate the holidays with family and friends! However, we do have to take midterms before the fun holiday adventures begin. January starts a new year (and new struggles), but also new ideas. As second semester rolls in, students get a fresh start with classes, activities, and as always during the new year, get to set new goals. February consists of break which, of course, makes it go by faster. For all you ladies who like to dance and be creative, March has semi-formal and spirit week. Spirit week brings the entire Lauralton community together with fun activities, costumes, and challenges. Then comes May for all the juniors and seniors excited for Prom! Located at The Waterview in Monroe, students at prom dance, sing, take photos, and enjoy the beautiful venue. And, of course, June eventually rolls around, bringing the end of the school year but also bringing more fun on the horizon.

 

Picture: Lauralton Hall Website

Find a Way with Diana Nyad

By: Maya Welber, Junior Editor ’20

In recent issues, my spotlight interviews have had as their subjects women who are larger than life, inspiring humanitarians who are accomplished and well known. This month’s interview features a woman who checks all of those boxes, adding some of her own. I recently had the pleasure of seeing Diana Nyad, a marathon swimmer, who swam over 100 miles (110.86 to be exact). Where was this epic swim, you ask? It was from a little island known as Cuba all the way to the mainland, Key West, Florida. Still not impressed? How about if I tell you it was her fifth attempt at completing this swim? Oh, yeah, and she was 64 years old.

According to Nyad (whose last name, according to her father, means “champion swimmer”), she was lucky, realizing swimming was her life’s dream at the age of five.

It was as easy as that. She started getting up at 4:30 am and doing 1,000 sit ups every night, until she was one of the strongest swimmers in the competitive circuit. The training was rigorous, but she embraced and thrived in it. However, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.

At only 14 years old, on the eve of a big race, she was molested by her coach, a man whom she considered a mentor and surrogate father. She lost her first race, a 100 meter freestyle. Her dreams were so big, yet had been eclipsed by this loss. Her sister asked her, “How long does it take you to swim the half moon of a pinkie nail?” Nyad replied perhaps a fraction of a nano second. Her sister then told her, “I want you to live your life as if you couldn’t do it that fraction of a pinkie nail better. Win or lose doesn’t matter; just give it everything you have.”

She took this advice to heart and, after a few Olympic medals and an illustrious thirty year career as an ESPN sportscaster, she got down to the business of marathon swimming. She started by swimming for eighteen hours and twenty minutes in a freezing, 48 degree Lake Ontario, then a record-breaking 28 hour swim around the Island of Manhattan.

But no matter where she swam, she always came back to her first failed Cuba-Florida swim at age 28. She started her final, fifth attempt at the age of 64. There were a multitude of challenges that came along with this race. For starters, a large chunk of the swim ran across the Gulf Stream, a 70-80 miles bandwidth of water where the currents were six times faster. Even stopping for thirty seconds for a sip of a drink could result in a perilous push eastward and off-course. Starving tiger and lemon sharks circled the water, sensing vibrations in the water 2 miles away. There was no light at night because it would attract Portuguese man-o’-wars and the painful stings of their tentacles. Nyad’s tight cap and foggy goggles didn’t help either; she searched for ways to keep her mind occupied, choosing to sing the Neil Young song “The Damage Done” start to finish 1,000 times. The song, originally lasting 2:03 minutes, became an 11 hours and five minutes long solo concert.

Expert scientists, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and even the New York Times all sent Nyad charts and graphs detailing why, due to human limitations, this swim could not be completed. Her response? “When you show me the same calculations and tell me they pertain to the limitations of the human spirit, then I will listen.” She had her team, 44 strong, and space telemetry from NASA showing where the eddies were, and wore a special silicone face mask to protect her from jellyfish stings. Most importantly, she had that unflagging tenacity that had served her well her whole life. Everyone has an other shore they want to get to in life. This was hers, not just physically, but figuratively and spiritually as well.

After the talk, I had the opportunity to talk to her one-on-one. I asked her if she could say one thing to us Lauralton girls, what would it be? She said, “Don’t let anybody tell you what your limitations are. You have to get real. You can’t say ‘Oh, tomorrow I’m gonna go to Mars.’ We’re not going to Mars yet, but don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it, that you’re not good enough, that you’re not smart enough. YOU decide. You look in the mirror and you look into your soul and you say, ‘If that’s what I want to do, no one’s going to limit me. I’m gonna do it.’”

You can find the rest of Nyad’s journey in her truly inspirational book, Find a Way.

 

Picture: Maya Welber