Non-CGIers may not know that during period 2 on the third floor, a CGI student body of around 200 debate domestic and foreign issues, plan community events through various departments, and operate under their own government and constitution. After Tuesday’s brief presidential debates, CGI students still have many questions about the candidates running for President and Vice President. To help inform you, The Bull has given each presidential candidate an equal opportunity to answer questions about themselves and their candidacy.
Tell The Bull a little bit about yourself. Now that I’m 17 I just got my license, which is really convenient and fun. I am one of five – the middle child. I love my family, and I also love to hang with friends, especially my best friend Audrey. I love all things aquatic and have a passion for marine biology. Especially dolphins – I can ramble off random dolphin facts for days. After freshman year, I was lucky enough to train dolphins in the Florida Keys as a summer job (pretty cool!)
Why are you running for CGI President? I am running because I am the most qualified candidate and I have specific, creative and innovative ideas to make the Civics and Government Institute a better place, offer new opportunities to CGI students and create new student-run activities that the teachers support. I have discussed all of my ideas with the teachers already and they met my ideas with support. Woohoo!
What one word would you say best describes CGI? Intelligent. The amount of smart kids within the Institute is outstanding.
What was your favorite CGI moment? My favorite CGI moment was at the Sophomore PDL this year. I helped out in one of the rooms and I was so impressed by each of the sophomores. I can remember being really nervous to impersonate Malcolm X last year, and I thought all the sophomores did a marvelous job! I was so proud to be part of the Institute that night.
What do you think of the new Congress format? I absolutely abhor the new Congress format. Henry and I have a plan to change it, because writing long position papers and debating for three days straight on topics we can’t choose is not appealing. Congress is an academic endeavor and is factored into our period two grade, so the teachers input is final – regardless of who is elected President. That being said, I am ready to fight tooth and nail to get my plan into place. Henry and I spent three hours going back and forth, and we decided that the best plan for Congress next year goes a little like this: change the schedule to: Monday – Departments, Tuesday – Department Debate, Wednesday – Congress/Senate/EJ, Thursday – Electives, Friday – Electives. Then we must remove position papers and replace them with a stance paragraph. Every week, each student will pick a bill on the docket and write one paragraph with two sources describing their position. That way, if they are nervous while debating, they can just read or paraphrase their paragraph to the body.
Do you think CGI is politically balanced? No, CGI is not a politically balanced body. The students in our body come from primarily democratic households and we pass very liberal legislation, but there is nothing wrong with it. For that reason, I love going to Congress and using my experiences to stir up debate. A perfect example is when I brought up my Republican “birther” grandparents to change the tide of one of the Congressional debates this year.
Considering the changes made to 2nd period by teachers this year, how do you as a student propose to make substantive change next year? If elected, each grade will receive different benefits that all lead to one unifying theme: to make CGI a family. For incoming sophomores, this means letters, a BBQ at the President’s Home and sophomore seminars (small group learning and meet-and-greets with the upperclassmen) on the first two days of school. For juniors, it means class trips to DC or NYC to unify and solidify their place within the Institute. Also, juniors can take advantage of an Alumni Network (college age kids who went through CGI) to talk to real students of the colleges that they are going to apply to. For Seniors, Henry and I have promised a Senior Day, to honor the bonds that seniors have formed with the other students. Additionally, the winners of the CGI Scholarships will be given a chance to address the body and give parting comments to the Institute. For the Seniors who need it, extra credit will be offered to those who write a two page report on their buddy- on who they are and what makes them tick. Additionally, with Henry’s support, I want to make a new Community Service Connection with the American Red Cross. This year, I ran the Sandygram gift drive, and donated the money to the Red Cross. The Red Cross building is within walking distance to the school and they need our help, so we must develop a lasting connection. Also, I want to expand and re-vamp the CGI website, by providing incentives to departments that have active webpages. To attack the diversity issue, I want to bring in an expert like The Commissioner of the Education Funding Report of the State of New Jersey, Christopher D. Cerf (his nephew is a CGI alum) and discuss the issue in a question and answer session with CSJ and Mr. Cerf. Also, I want to emphasize and alter recruiting to show freshman that the honors level is an option, that SAT tutoring is available from your civic-oriented peers in CGI, that goals are met and everyone is self-assessed through mentoring each marking period and that CGI can become a family that supports you through the hardest years of high school.
If you had the power to change one thing about CGI today, what would it be? Just to quote Dr. Suess, (I don’t know why the question reminded me of his book) “If I ran the zoo…this is what I would do!” My vision for CGI is simple. I want people to walk into the LGI and smile, not frown and look sad like they do now. I want seniors and sophomores to form lasting bonds, and for each student to feel like they belong within the Institute. I want departments to prank one another, and for people to strut around in giraffe suits. I want students to spear-head projects and enact change within and outside of Montclair. I want CGI to become a family and for students to feel like they are really making a difference within the Institute and the community.
Are you in support of the changes made to CGI this year and the “new CGI”? I’ll admit, the changes made to CGI this year are drastic. However, I am ready to accept the “new CGI” for a few big reasons. First, the changes make logistical sense. I have been in Executive for two years and I realize that it is inefficient. Furthermore, I can adjust to the changes next year rapidly because most of my platform is social programs that I can put into place with or without scheduling changes in CGI.
What is your opinion on the amount of homework that is assigned in CGI classes? The amount of homework that is assigned in CGI classes can be overwhelming. That being said, the teachers are always available for extra help and classes are offered at multiple levels. If you are swamped in AP History, it is extremely simple to switch to honors.
What clubs or sports are you active in? I am on the Varsity swim team and Junior-at-Large for SVPA. I was in Showcase this year, Hairspray, and am a member of the Model UN and Model Congress club. I participate in Math League, French Honor Society, and am a founding member of the Knitting Club.
What do you do in your free time? I volunteer at the local animal shelter, am a Sunday school teacher, a member of the youth council of the NJ Red Cross, am a certified life guard and scuba diver. I am on the planning board and a Team Captain for Montclair’s Relay for Life. I swim on the YMCA Swim Team, and I am part of a traveling acting troupe called the Mental Health Players, that acts out scenes of mental illness and promotes education and mental well being. On top of that, I fit in time to hang out with friends, watch Alias with Audrey and (sometimes) sleep.
What is your favorite book, movie and food? My favorite book is Harry Potter, hands down, no questions. My favorite movie is Mulan and my favorite food is the combination of tomato soup and grilled cheese.
What is your #1 pet peeve? My number one pet peeve is ignorant people who refuse to gain knowledge and learn from others and their mistakes.