Arts and Culture

Why Stuy

Stuyvesant High School is similar to a teacher you might hate when you’re in his/her class, but whom you love later because you leave more prepared for the immediately following challenges in life. For those who do not live in New York City or are unfamiliar, Stuyvesant is a public, specialized science high school located in Manhattan and indiscriminately only accepts the top 850 score-achievers of a standardized test (that middle school students choose to take at the beginning of their eighth grade). U.S. News ranks Stuyvesant as one of the best high schools in New York City, 58th in the nation, and 8th nationally for Science and Math. For a school so filled with good test-takers, students are not just passionate about grades. They learn to motivate themselves and the value in knowledge and its practical application. Stuyvesant is filled with students who care because they were the highest achievers in middle school; students have already learned in earlier schooling the praise and attention they get for doing well. In a way, Stuyvesant cultivates these motivations by creating an environment where being weird, passionate, and/or nerdy is okay.

Though it is known to be a science and math high school, it enables a strong English department of teachers who support Open Mic (such as slam poetry, stand-up comedy, and songs), many creative English classes (such as Detective Fiction and Science Fiction), and basic acting class. These teachers and my fellow students taught me the importance of writing effectively, and I took a number of awesome classes and participated in some cool projects. In sophomore year of high school, I took a Creative Nonfiction workshop. In senior year, I took Introduction to Acting (which allowed me to see five Broadway productions), basic Acrylic Painting, and basic Ballroom Dancing. The following is my final project.

Throughout my sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school, I also participated in Stuy Long Form Improv Club, and my best friend (contributor to WhatCulture! and editor and writer of a film review blog) taught me a lot about movies and music. In senior year, I also produced, directed, and acted in a video for a high school program I was involved in in order to help fundraise for the project through Indiegogo.

Currently, I am attempting to learn tap-dancing and running a personal website and food critic blog. Because my twin (fellow Stuy alumni) is a film and digital photographer who is proficient with Photoshop, I can set up a DSLR camera and studio (including lights, tripod and more) quite quickly. I have often modeled for her and dabbled in photography myself.

Stress and competition in this large accelerated education school taught people to prioritize–learn to prove your own importance because you cannot be the smartest and probably bull@$*# a little bit. Stuyvesant High School is what taught me that, contrary to what I learned in earlier public schooling, I am not the smartest kid in the world. I should not be cocky about my abilities and intelligence. What matters is not what other people think of me or how I stupidly judge others sometimes, but what I want for myself and what I am passionate about. I empower myself; I–not my parents–motivate me. In such a setting, I learn to excel by finding the things I love to do. And when I do, fellow classmates can help us along the way by either providing real competition. I learn how well people can do in their respective interests, and I am inspired by their passions.

As my fellow graduates and I have moved on to college, we find that though we are in schools (science and math focused or not) filled with intelligent people, most college students lack any interest for art and creativity the way Stuyvesant kids were so inspired by and mostly pursue it on their own, usually against the will of their parents. For the students of Stuy High, English and Art are almost guilty pleasures and means of procrastination. Intelligence allows them to bring in coherency, raw talent, and inspired risks that art requires, just as knowing the basics and common sense has helped them in other careers. With the advantage of an organized and successful alumni base, Stuyvesant is not bad for a public high school education.