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Torus Teens Blog

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Dec. 14, 2017, 2:34 p.m.

I was in the 4th grade when I heard about auditions for my school’s choir. I didn’t know much about being a part of a choir - all I knew was that I enjoyed music and singing, so I decided to give it a shot. Several months later, I was performing my first of many choral concerts.

I remember my first performance like it was yesterday. Although I shared the stage with 30 other people, I couldn’t control my nerves. When the curtains opened and revealed the packed audience, I thought I was going to pass out right then and there.

Flash-forward 9 years later to my senior year of high school. I was still doing choir.

Being a part of Chorus taught me a lot.

I think many people join a sport in school (aside from simply just enjoying it) because they love the teamwork - working together to make amazing things happen. Because I had (and still have) no interest in basketball or volleyball or anything active for that matter, Chorus was where I learned and grew.

From singing the same line over and over again until it was perfect, to staying late at school for practices, to drinking endless amounts of honey lemon tea the week of a concert, it was all a part of the process. We failed and got frustrated as a team and we learned and improved as a team. There was no better feeling than performing what we worked so hard on throughout the entire year, on stage.

Throughout high school, my schedule was always packed with 10 period days, but Chorus was a class I refused to give up.

My high school chorus teacher always told us that she wanted the chorus room to serve as our safe haven - and it did. The chorus room was on the 8th floor of the school building, the very top floor, away from the stress and chaos of exams, projects, and assignments.

I don’t plan on doing any type of singing professionally in the future (I’ll stick to singing in the shower and karaoke), but being a part of Chorus for 9 years was an experience that I am so thankful for. Every choir I have been a part of has been such a supportive and inspiring environment. I am so thankful for all the people I have met and everything I have learned through it.

It’s amazing to look back and see how taking that one step, one opportunity, back in elementary school has changed my life. Chorus was more than learning to read music or practicing correct breathing techniques, it was about expressing ourselves, working together as a team, and spreading positivity through music.

  • Janet

Tags: Passion, Interest

Breaking the Barrier

Nov. 15, 2017, 2:53 p.m.

A couple of years ago, I was a shy, nervous wreck. I could barely speak up in class even though I always knew the answers to my teachers’ queries. Yeah, I was the shy kid. That didn’t stop me from trying or making friends, however. But what it did do was make me insecure and hesitant in every action or response.

It sucks to be the shy kid, but I couldn’t help it. I was genuinely scared of speaking up in front of everyone. What if my voice cracked and they laughed? Or what if I said something that was so dumb, I’d be labeled for life? In all honestly, thinking like that prevented me from doing so many things. Seriously, I barely even enjoyed prom because I was too scared to dance. Shy kids are usually labeled negatively, labels range from “stuck up” to “maybe this person has nothing going on in her head”. But, I wasn’t stuck up and contrary to the later thought, there was tons of stuff in my little noggin. The truth is, I had many interests, from social justice and writing to poetry, reading, dance, acting, and so much more. I wish I would’ve just gotten out there sooner and did what I loved to do without holding myself back.

little miss shy

Fast forward to a few years later, I started exploring what I was interested in and I really loved it (it also helped that I was allowed out of the house more often by then). I stayed after school and joined glee club. I also joined the Williamsburg Leadership center to explore arts after school activities. Some things I remember doing were a Three Kings Day show and a dance to “Under the Sea” for a summer intensive showcase. Yeah, I was actually doing it! Even if my voice cracked during singing rehearsal or if I didn’t put all my energy into the dance until the showcase, I still was still able to conquer one of my biggest fears every day. At first I had a friend go with me, which was great, but after a while when we stopped going together, I was able to do it on my own.

Getting to that point was such an important milestone for me.

spoken word

After getting really good at dance and singing, I gave acting and spoken word a go. I loved those two things, but had never performed them in front of a crowd. My love for the arts landed me a role in a choreopoem named, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf”, directed by an upperclassman at the time. It was such a groundbreaking project. You see, this was the first theater piece that starred non- theater majors. This may not sound huge to you, but trust me. Before this play, only select (predominantly White) theater troupe members were in the school’s productions. The choreopoem was a test to see if it was good enough. When I tell you that all three of our show nights were jam- packed and sold out, I ain’t lying.

I’m so glad I was able to just do it (yeah, Nike got it from me). Being scared doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It just means that when you think before you dive in, you’ll make a bigger splash.

  • Jailyn

Tags: art

The Beauty of Museums

Oct. 27, 2017, 2:30 p.m.

I experimented with a lot of different types of art before I realized that I like looking at art more than I like making it. Through experimentation, I’ve picked up a lot of skills, but I’m more excited to see what other artists make. For this, I can thank my friend’s teacher who made her go to a museum during spring break as homework. During my senior year of high school, I made it my mission to track down the best museums in New York City. Some museums were a hit or miss.

A lot of people like Museum of Modern Art or the Brooklyn Museum, but I prefer the Whitney Museum instead. I am loyal to it because of its aesthetic, the program it offered me in high school called Youth Insights, and the view overlooking the Hudson River. Just recently, they had their biennial and one of the striking pieces was the faces of a Jewish community on pieces of bologna. At some point, the bologna started shrinking and it made me think about what the artist was representing.

Another piece that intrigued me was one particular artist’s use of mirrors. They had mirrors on the ceiling and floor, and pieces of scenery on the sides. With the use of reflection, you were able to see inside the scenes. Some scenes were actually built upside down but looking in the reflections they were rightside up. It was super trippy because if you looked up or down, it seemed like the piece went on and on.

Another one of my favorite museums is the Cooper Hewitt. There, they give you a pen to save items in the museum that you like so you can look back at them when you’re at home. This museum was Andrew Carnegie’s mansion back in the day. I always enjoy going there because it makes you think. The last time I went there, it had an exhibit on why we need to save the earth and how we’re damaging it. They also have objects from the not so distant past like radios and old televisions. They have a room full of miniature staircases and it makes me hope that one day I’ll have a house so big that one of those staircases would fit in it!

The New Museum was a big hit when they introduced the Pixel Forest exhibit because it was so Instagram worthy. And because I love aesthetics, I just had to go. A lot of the exhibits during this time took advantage of dark and light aspects. I was in awe that something so simple could draw in so many people. I felt like a little kid in the forest. Now looking back, it looks like a scene from Finding Nemo.

Living in such a big city gives you an opportunity to explore so many different kinds of museums. If you’re not into modern art, try contemporary or interactive ones. Many have discounts or free student admissions. It’s a good idea to take advantage of it before you get too old!


Tags: Interest, museums, art

Volunteer To Make An Impact

Aug. 30, 2017, 2:39 p.m.

I believe volunteering is much easier when you are younger because you don’t care as much about earning money. As I grow up and receive opportunities to volunteer, I often question what I’m getting out of it?

The first time I volunteered was for Assemblyman William Colton. We picked up garbage along the sidewalks and alerted stores to clean up their storefronts. It was fun even though we weren’t picking up what we were suppose to. (We picked up a bunch of leaves and called it a day.)

Later on, I got the opportunity to volunteer for my cousin’s daycare. The reason I accepted? I needed volunteer hours for high school. Even though I believed I was overworked (I was a volunteer, I could’ve come on my own hours!), it was a learning experience. I was with fourth graders for eight hours a day, teaching them, preparing meals for them and learning from them. The bonds I created with each student in the class is something I always remember when I’m working with children. The experience pushed me to be a good role model, dress modestly, not to curse and always encourage the kids to do better. I didn’t know the impact that I had on them until they asked me if I was coming back during the school year to help. It was very rewarding to see that I had impacted someone’s life by just being in it everyday.

As a part of my school’s National Honor Society, I was required to volunteer for school events. A part of me loves running around the school setting up for Homecoming, Parent Teacher Conferences and other major events. At times it was mundane, but I got to bond with other members in NHS over our “struggle”. I also loved staying in school after hours. Since our school was so big, I felt like Harry Potter finding new passageways and rooms I had never known about.

Since I’ve transitioned to college, I am still actively volunteering, partly because my school requires us to give back ten hours each year. I’ve done various activities from helping out at food festivals to food drives to reading children stories and giving them feedback. As a people person, I love volunteering for things that require interaction.

I also love being behind the scenes and running around making sure everything is perfect. Perhaps that’s why I love being on executive boards of clubs. People only see the outcome, but there’s so much more work done to create the outcome that they don’t see, and that fascinates me. When you are on a board, no one really thanks you, but seeing your members having fun is the best reward.

Volunteers are what makes events happen and they don’t get enough recognition for that! Next time you’re at an event, thank the people helping out, most of the time they’re taking time out of their day to help make the event successful.


Tags: Passion, Interest, volunteer

Coding: A Whole New World

July 31, 2017, 4:22 p.m.

When you think of computer science, do you imagine a classroom where 95% of the students are male?

What if I told you that women were the first programmers? Would you believe me?

This was the first thing that I learned when I stepped into Cornell Tech’s WITNY (Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York) pilot program last summer. Along with myself, there were 29 other motivated young women ready to learn about design thinking and JavaScript.

We were first prompted with a problem: we needed to improve Verizon’s in-store experience for customers. With the help of Verizon developers, who were gracious enough to volunteer their time to help us design a prototype, we were able to present an app solution to Verizon executives. The Verizon developers were very helpful in explaining Swift concepts, which is the language Apple uses for their apps.

This was not the first time I was exposed to computer science, and it wouldn’t be my last. I learned HTML briefly while in middle school. HTML is the language for designing websites and webpages. Although I barely remember the lessons and assignments, I was fascinated by how websites were designed. I didn’t know that you had to write things on the computer to produce what you see on the screen. It was a whole new world. I remember a particularly challenging assignment, which was to design a website about yourself using HTML. My friend made the most aesthetically pleasing website...I was left in awe of what we have the ability to create.

I didn’t get much exposure to coding after that, but senior year of highschool I applied for and got into a program called CodeNow. CodeNow’s mission is to get high schoolers to learn more about coding, even if they’ve never done it before. I was able to expand my knowledge and create simple games like rock, paper, scissor. CodeNow also taught me Ruby, a language usually used for games. I struggled at times and got frustrated when the code wouldn’t run, but it was rewarding to see the final product. After that session, I was invited back to learn Swift, which WiTNY helped me learn a little bit about before heading in.

I wouldn’t call myself an expert in any of the languages I learned, but I would like to think I have the ability to read code and understand what’s going on. I’m a business and communications major and I really wanted to minor in computer science, but I realized there are so many resources out there, I don’t need to pay money to learn. If you have motivation and commitment, you can teach yourself using online resources.

I never thought I would end up pursuing computer science as a hobby, but I feel like I have an obligation to my community to keep learning. Somewhere between the first women programmers and now, the gender dominance switched. I’ve been to enough panels to know that there are many jobs available to women who have computer science skills.

I also believe coding is a valuable skill to learn. There are hardships to coding, especially when the code doesn’t run or, for me, when you can’t carry out the vision of what it looks like in your head. But the end product is rewarding - people get to interact with your products, and you’re essentially changing pieces of the world with your code. The computer science industry isn’t going anywhere soon, especially since new technology is being built all the time. It’s time to get on board and see what you’re missing out on!


Tags: Passion, Interest, coding