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Almost Twins

Almost Twins

screen-shot-2016-06-01-at-3-46-17-pmBy Phoebe Chase

I am the youngest of three children and the only daughter in my family, but some say I have a twin sister. We’re eerily similar and equally sociable. We have the same, somewhat strange, sense of humor. We’re the same height — five foot one and three quarters of an inch to be exact. Thirty years may separate us in age, but that doesn’t diminish the similarities between my mom and me. As a young teenager this was pretty embarrassing. I mean, let’s face it, what kid wants to look and sound identical to her mom? But one seemingly ordinary day last fall, that feeling changed.

My mom was taking me to her office. This was my first time seeing her in a professional setting. It had been 16 years since she had last worked in real estate development, 16 years since she had last worked at all. After a lifetime of my dad going off to work every day, and my mom raising my brothers and me, my parents divorced. We had to sell our home, and my mom returned to work in order to support our family.

When we arrived at my mom’s office, I was shocked to see her in this element — giving presentations in giant conference rooms to intimidating executives, fielding questions from employees, and collaborating with co-workers. At first I thought, “when had she become this person?” But then something eye opening and empowering happened. Watching her in action, I recognized that the way in which she operates at work is the same way in which she operates at home. My mom has a natural ability to thrive in any environment. She can be lighthearted and fun as well as assertive and successful.

It wasn’t a metamorphosis at all. It’s who my mom is. It is also very much who I am. I’m reminded of my family’s first holiday after my parents’ divorce. For as long as I can remember, holidays were hosted by my mom. That year we were celebrating at my dad’s new apartment with just my brothers and me. As Dad loves to recall, I picked up on the apprehension and took over by initiating conversation, doing my best to entertain everyone, and making them feel more comfortable. Within an instant, the mood shifted, and I seemed to transform nervous energy into laughter. I used to roll my eyes at this story. Now I realize the value in it. Without even trying, I had done for others what my mom had always done for me.

That day at work was an incredible catalyst. It changed the way I looked at my mom, and subsequently, the way I looked at myself – really, the way I looked at life. I suddenly understood what it must feel like to be an adult, to rely almost entirely on oneself. I had always been accustomed to having my mom at home, but I finally recognized that I needed to use my inner resources, my own innate qualities, just as my mom did at work. The ability to exert stability and confidence regardless of the circumstances was my biggest takeaway, and I now embraced my new found independence. I realized how liberating it can be to find success on my own and to make my own choices. Whether it’s acting as a source of reliability for my friends, being someone they can turn to for advice, or making tough decisions and going out of my comfort zone, I know that wherever I go in life or whatever obstacles I may face, I will always have this strength within myself. I now know that I am able to remain unwavering in who I am, which is why I am rarely seen without a smile on my face.

 

Phoebe Chase, a 2016 graduate of The Dalton School, is a freshman at Northwestern.

An Education that Starts with Morning Rhythms

An Education that Starts with Morning Rhythms

by Jordan Harris

 Jordan Harris - Class of 2014

A captivating rhythm draws me to five young boys drumming on plastic overturned buckets on the bustling streets of Downtown Chicago. I am on my daily commute to school. In one hour, I travel from a tree shaded suburban town to this rhythmic center of noise and motion. Moments that mirror my life often come alive on my commutes. For example, the drummers resemble the five siblings in the family I worked with during my first service trip to the Appalachian Mountains the summer before my sophomore year. I decide to drop money in the youngest drummers’ container and I see a joy spread across the boy’s face, reminding me of children I met on that trip.

School for me does not start in the classroom. My lessons begin the minute I leave my house. My commute now shapes my identity in ways I never imagined when I decided to attend high school in the heart of Chicago.

It starts with a 15-minute ride with Dad to the Metra Station followed by a 20-minute train ride to the heart of the city. On the train, I witness an architectural transition as buildings become higher and closer together, complimenting the fast pace enveloping everyone.

I arrive downtown and my commute continues.  I now walk the morning rush with Chicagoans of all races and classes as I head to the CTA bus stop a couple of minutes away. The world becomes larger, then smaller with this walk.  By the time I reach the bus stop, I find classmates coming from different places for the final 15-minute bus ride.

On one ride, I smell liquor on the breath of a man sitting a few rows away. He is lanky with scruffy facial hair, wearing a green army jacket, and holding a brown paper bag.  It is the week after Christmas break. Tis the season to join classmates and complain about homework loads. I describe my long paper on the role of children in the Civil Rights Movement when the smell of the man’s breath comes closer.  He then begins scolding all the kids on the bus saying: “Ya’ll kids shouldn’t be complaining about homework. I didn’t do none of my homework when I was your age and look at me now. Do that homework. Stay in school. Graduate. Make something of yourselves.”

By then, I was a seasoned commuter.  If this happened before high school, I would have felt uncomfortable in my seat and searched for another one towards the front of the bus.  Instead, I nodded at the man’s helpful advice.

Some scenes of my commute are as entertaining as a movie, yet my imagination must write the script.  I was waiting at the bus stop one morning when I saw a businessman in a full suit and tie riding by on his scooter.  Maybe he was a creative entrepreneur, or just a man trying to save money rather than taking a cab.  I could only imagine a day in his life.

I never imagined how adaptable my commute would make me.  On one cold January morning, the bus broke down.  The driver said another bus would arrive in an hour. My classmates and I decided to walk so we would not be late for school.  A brisk wind hit our faces as it became harder to see, and the cold made our noses drip and turned our faces red. Too bad the man with the brown paper bag could not see our walk through deep snow in single digit temperature weather. It showed the kind of academic commitment that might warm his heart.

My commute has strengthened my independence and adjustment to new situations. I now go downtown not only for school, but for other events as well. Thanks to my commute, I have branched beyond a suburban bubble and become more aware of myself as part of a larger community.

Jordan Harris,  a freshman at Northwestern University, is a 2014 graduate of Saint Ignatius College Prep.

 

 

Pokémon to Mediation

Pokémon to Mediation

By David J. Dent, Jr.

UntitledThe civil war intensified. My two teammates fired shots at one another. I buried my face in my palms, avoiding the crossfire. The battlefield was a dorm room at the California Institute of Technology two summers ago. Our mission, as students in a high school computer science program, was coding a game using the programming language, Python. We chose Lights Out, originally programmed by Steve Jobs. Yet our mission seemed impossible given the explosive arguments of my teammates, Goku and Vegeta.

Actually their names were Doris and Kim. Yet I can’t escape the memory of Goku and Vegeta fighting Majin Buu, the evil yet playful, fat, pink genie who turned people into chocolate in the action anime Dragon Ball Z. When I lifted my face to mediate the feud, I saw hints of Goku and Vegeta. If those two rivals, who hated each other, found a way to collaborate to defeat Majin Buu, then surely Doris and Kim could compromise. They merely disagreed on the way to grasp the game’s mechanics; Kim wanted help from professors while Doris demanded we code it ourselves.

I analyzed them beyond their arguments. Doris, proficient in coding, believed Kim was lazy. Unbeknownst to Doris, Kim, despite her strong math skills, struggled with coding and was thus insecure. After Doris stormed out of the room, I decided to privately teach Kim the mathematical aspects of Python. The game required two pieces of code, graphical and mathematical. As she became more confident in coding, I supervised Kim’s work on the mathematical side, while working with Doris on graphics.

The professors lauded our project. Perhaps we owe our success to those nights when I rushed home to catch anime on Toonami. Anime was the gateway to my passion for studying links between people, cultures, and ultimately, mediation. I was fascinated with the details, such as the strange “white donuts” Pokémon characters ate. When I got my first laptop, my wanderings discovered that these weird snacks were rice cakes, a Japanese delicacy. I continued diving into Japanese history and discovered inspiring figures like Oda Nobunaga, a daimyo who unified Japan in the Sengoku period.

My cross-cultural exposure went beyond cartoons to real life immersion in third grade when my family spent six months living in Rome. I attended AOSR, an international school where 50% of the students were Italian. Like me, the other half hailed from many different countries including Nigeria and Malaysia. I formed strong relationships with all classmates, learning to relate to people from different cultures by finding common ground. Little did I know, I was becoming a mediator.

My fascination with classical eras grew through visiting Castel Sant’Angelo and Paestum on field trips, and typical family tourist runs to the Colosseum and the Vatican. I returned home and began an eight-year journey in Latin in the fifth grade, drawn to the classics for explorations of how people resolved conflicts, and often comparing Japanese and Roman cultures. I would become the first to enroll when Browning later offered ancient Greek.

I realized I’m a connoisseur for the differences that make people unique when I faced the new challenge of high school. I left a coed school, which I attended since kindergarten for a much smaller boy’s school with a socially divided grade of 30 strangers. Despite my initial reticence, I felt like I was back in Rome at AOSR on the first day. I was comfortable, easily translating culture reading to social dynamics. Within weeks, I was friends with ostracized “nerds,” college-crazed “preppy” kids and Yankees-loving athletes. I rarely lift weights, but Janak, a bodybuilder who never watches anime, was my first buddy and remains one of my best friends. What I originally imagined would be a negative high school experience was rewarding and helped me to develop into the true mediator who resolved the battle at Caltech.

David J. Dent, Jr. is a graduate of The Browning School and a freshman at Northwestern University.

Why Northwestern?

Why Northwestern?

By Hannah Kliot

2014-03-29-201307171011914_4950269116358_176436841_nJunior year: I am in my bed reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, my mind wrestling to understand how two people could conspire to kill so many people. After reading Capote’s book, I begin to explore another massacre – Columbine – and, after devouring articles, books and movies on the event, I ultimately write my final English paper comparing the two tragedies. I was not always confident expressing my original ideas and analyses. I began my first year at Dalton as a timid English student, often afraid of my own narrative voice. Hard work and great teachers helped me develop into a passionate and confident writer who only writes a thesis statement after considering many perspectives that challenge my initial assumptions.

After taking an Urban Studies class through the Global Online Academy last spring, I could not help but wonder: What kind of student I would have become if I were solely dependent on the dollar menu at McDonald’s to satisfy my hunger?  My growth as a writer has never been compromised by nutrition. Many experts focus on test scores and classroom size when they consider the achievement gap in education. But what about the role of nutrition in educational disparities? How can limited access to fresh produce with vital nutrients impact the learning potential of children?  I am eager to bring these questions to SOCIOL 311 Food, Politics, and Society with Professor Susan Thistle and other classes in the Weinberg School of Arts and Sciences to explore cities and the American future.

My fascination with urban America prompted my own research on nutrition and access to fresh food in cities as part of my Urban Studies class. Our class worked on solving problems specific to different urban communities. Through the class, I explored highway pollution in Portland, Oregon; drug violence in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and food deserts in New York City. I see Northwestern as an ideal place to continue these investigations and grow as an urbanist with a focus on a new, large, midwestern city. My interest in these areas draws me to the Weinberg School’s departments of Global Health, Urban Studies, and Sociology.

The Chicago Field Studies concentration in Weinberg is an exciting option for a student with my interests and background in the social sciences in that my classroom experience would extend beyond the campus and into the city. I could focus on social justice, intern at a nonprofit or community-based organization and make a tangible impact on urban challenges. This would be a natural progression from my active participation in my school’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, in which I helped organize advocacy trips to Albany and D.C. to build affordable housing and prevent foreclosures.

My interest in science, and specifically my current biotechnology class, has sensitized me to the ethical challenges of scientific solutions to urban American problems. Our class recently researched different types of biofuels as alternative energy sources, which was a way to apply the information we had been learning in the classroom to real-world challenges. Classes offered in Weinberg such as Global Bioethics and Health, Biomedicine, Culture, and Society could give me further knowledge on the obstacles that scientists must surmount to be as effective as possible in our society. I could discuss and research solutions to these challenges with professors such as Michael Diamond, who specializes in Global Health Studies and has taught Managing Global Health Challenges.

As someone who enjoys writing, I am also eager to explore multiple platforms through which I can share my work on urban life. I am drawn to Northwestern because of the opportunity to take journalism classes in the Medill School of Journalism, which would complement my studies in Weinberg.  This would give me the chance to combine my love for writing and journalism with my passion for social sciences, urban studies, legal studies, and the Portuguese language and culture. Northwestern is a place where my many interests are not a hindrance in choosing between classes and programs, but rather a place where combining these interests is encouraged. Weinberg has a distinctly strong focus on undergraduate research in the social sciences. The annual Undergraduate Research and Arts Exposition celebrates this research. The Weinberg School is also one of the few schools across the country that offers a minor in Portuguese and Lusophone Cultures, a concentration that I am passionate about and hope to pursue.

While Northwestern’s proximity to Chicago has a great influence on my desire to attend the school, its location in the smaller town of Evanston is just as appealing to me. The sudden transition from a bustling city to beautiful, quiet suburbs on the North Shore is a welcome contrast from the completely urban environment that I grew up with in New York City. A smaller college town setting with easy access to a large city provides the best of both worlds, a distinguishing quality of Northwestern.

Northwestern’s size is distinctive in that it has all of the resources of a larger university while maintaining strong, personal professor-student relationships that I find crucial for successful educational development. Students’ happiness and passion were evident throughout my visit. My tour guide Mariana beamed as she explained all of the unique academic, social, and internship opportunities that she had at Northwestern. Students smiled walking past us on Sheridan Road, eagerly anticipating their athletic commitments, lunch with friends, or office hours with a professor. Everyone seemed to have a place in the school, and all students are brought together through the numerous academic, cultural, athletic, and social offerings. After all, where else can thousands of undergraduate students come together for a thirty-hour Dance Marathon to benefit a charitable cause? This event epitomizes the large impact that Northwestern has due to its number of undergraduates while simultaneously maintaining the feeling of a tight-knit community. Whether it is dressing up in all purple to cheer on the Wildcats, working on a group project with friends during lunch in Norris, or exploring restaurants in the town of Evanston and in the greater city of Chicago, there is no place where I would rather spend my next four years.

Hannah Kliot is a graduate of the Dalton School and is currently a Freshman at Northwestern University.

Cultural Combo: Bullfight and Bat Mitzvah

by Hannah Kliot

Imagine James Holmes, the man responsible for the Aurora shooting,  thrown into an Olympic-size stadium and stabbed by men on horses to the cheers of thousands of spectators. If that seems too brutal for someone who murdered twelve people, why is the massacre of an innocent bull worthy of a cheering crowd?

I could not escape this question in Portugal. I am a Portuguese-American – or, as some call me, the only Portuguese Jew that they have ever met. I was in for a shock when my cousin invited me to a bullfight while I was working in Lisbon for the summer on my own. While initially hesitant to witness the barbaric cheering of an innocent bull’s death, my curiosity and endless fascination with different cultures overcame my hesitation.

I met my cousin at the front of Campo Pequeno, the bullfighting arena, with my 10 euro ticket in hand. The plain-looking door belied what was behind it: a huge stadium lined with food vendors and excited spectators roaming the endless halls in search of their seats. It was the NFL or NASCAR of Portugal – people argued over seats and tickets and cheered loudly for their favorite cavaleiro, or horseback rider, before the fight.

The excitement was infectious; I could not resist it. I tried to imagine my mom at my age. She grew up in Lisbon and went to bullfights most Thursdays. For her, this tradition was akin to my family’s weekly ritual of exploring a restaurant in a different neighborhood. I probably inherited my innate distaste for bullfights from my dad’s side of the family; his mother is Australian and his father was Latvian. Both sides have inspired my perpetual thirst to understand different cultural customs. So naturally, I sat in the stadium consumed with a question: How can people watch the maiming of an animal as casually as Americans watch Eli Manning throw a football?

I came close to finding an answer to my question during the intermission. A young man no older than 25 approached and hugged my cousin. I immediately recognized him as one of the cavaleiros who had been fighting in the arena just minutes before. My cousin then spoke with an older man who looked strong and proud as the young man ran back to prepare for his second round of the fight. Later, she explained that the older man was the boy’s father who was a very successful cavaleiro when he was younger. Their families had an endless line of cavaleiros tracing back for centuries and it was a deep-rooted family tradition and a considerable honor in both their family and in their town to be brave enough to fight what was considered such a wild animal.

I looked at this alien young man in his gold embroidered costume and thought about how different we were. Then, with a wave of surprise, I realized that maybe we were not so different after all. I saw hints of myself in the young cavaleiro’s commitment to family heritage. I expressed this same respect for the other side of my family with my decision to have a Bat Mitzvah in honor of my grandfather. A Holocaust survivor, his Jewish lineage was of great importance to him and therefore to me, even though my mother is not Jewish.

A few months before the big celebration, my grandfather passed away. I chose to continue to study for my Bat Mitzvah – I knew it was what he would have wanted. In both scenarios of the bullfight and the decision to continue studying for my Bat Mitzvah, I gained a newfound understanding and appreciation for the cultures that make up who I am. While I am not going to be the next cavaleiro or a devout Jew, my appetite to probe and understand both cultures and society beyond normal expectations will continue to shape my identity.

Hannah Kliot, a 2013 graduate of The Dalton School, will be a freshman at Northwestern University in the Fall.

An Extracurricular Activity in 1,000 Characters Pt. 1

Construction Work in The Hamptons

by Nick Jacobson

The Hamptons: glamour, celebrities, parties, and… manual labor. Many people go to the Hamptons to vacation, but I spent my time there working for a construction company. I started the day with a white shirt that was always brown by the day’s end. For two summers, I worked ten- to twelve-hour days nailing in mahogany porches, painting garages lime green, and emptying out cobweb-infested sheds. I worked alongside older men for whom English was not the first language. When I returned to the comfort of Dalton in the fall, I understood that two hours of reading Native Son is an opportunity so far from the reality of the life of Bigger Thomas. Education frees me from Bigger’s world, as well as the tough lives of many of the friends I made on the job. For me, this work was a summer experience that gave me extra spending bucks. For my coworkers, this job provided financial support for their families. Not much glamour there.

Nicholas Jacobson just finished his freshman year at Northwestern and is a 2102 graduate of The Dalton School in New York, NY.

Hanging up the Badge

by Nicholas Jacobson

I glance at my watch. How much longer must I endure this crime against humanity? The repulsive noise tortures my ears. The simultaneous sound of Jewish prayer at Temple Emanuel cannot relieve the pain. I am the Serpico of gum, the chief of police of lip smacking, a ruthless tyrant in upholding this simple yet all-important law: “Thou shalt not smack thy lips when thou chewest gum.” The people even call me “Nick Castro” as I enforce the edict with an iron fist.

The time has come for me to fulfill my obligation to bring justice to this holy temple. For all I know, I am at a stable observing the cattle during lunchtime. Everyone knows that mastication obstructs tradition!

“Brian, for heaven’s sake, what are you doing? You sound like a damn mule. Try chewing like a normal person,” I whisper with the rage of a Trojan Spartan.

The eyes of my good friend Brian fix on me as he tries to incite fear. The duel begins. Silence prevails in the breathless vacuum that is the synagogue. The hostility of the showdown rivals that of a bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. However, in an instant, tension breaks as we both erupt into laughter, disregarding the Haphtarah in the background.

I once hated going to temple for the High Holidays with my family or to a bar mitzvah. It was easy for my attention to drift to my duty as the sergeant general of silencing horse chomping noises. I dismissed biblical stories as anecdotes with literary value, but was skeptical when rabbis imposed them as truth. It was mysterious to me that the members of my congregation turned to fairy tales as the guideposts of morality. I seemed to be the only one dumbfounded when my outrageous rabbi once tied a story of Moses to losing his car keys.

Despite my impatience with my rabbi, I can’t escape the influence of Judaism in my own life. My rabbi’s message struck me during his Rosh Hashanah sermon in 2009. “Religion and tradition are the backbone of discipline,” he said.

My subconscious immersion in Jewish culture instilled much of my discipline to achieve goals. I tamed myself to sit in services without looking for gum chewers. At 15, I forced myself not to bend my finger while playing a bar chord on the guitar. After six years on the football team, I no longer bit on play action calls as a linebacker. I now study Spanish vocab everyday for ten minutes instead of cramming for two hours before a test in my toughest subject. My discipline stems from the strong role of tradition in my life.

For years, I trained myself to endure the tradition of my family’s Sunday night dinner. The ritual includes my grandparents coming over for my mom’s home-cooked meals. My survival required the discipline to sport manners and respectful responses rather than go ballistic at times. The night begins with small talk about my sister’s horseback riding and my football team. Chat escalates to chaos in a matter of minutes. Conversation becomes a hazardous war zone. My grandpa asks me to play backgammon while my grandma interrupts to tell me about the seven different types of dipping sauces for the artichokes at Elio’s. “Excuse me” and “pardon me” are more infrequently heard than Mel Gibson’s blessing over the candles. Some people believe chivalry died in the twenty first century. I know it was murdered with an ice pick. Eventually, real debate ensues, ranging from Michael Vick to Rick Perry.

A few weeks ago, my sister was chomping the brisket at Sunday night dinner. The meeting of her lips created an earthquake with a loud sonic blast. Would I really allow my sister to distract me from the conversation over the debt ceiling? No, Nick Castro hung up his beret and put away his New York Gum Patrol badge a long time ago.

Nicholas Jacobson is a Freshman at Northwestern University and a 2012 graduate of The Dalton School.