Friday, May 12, 2017

                                                         
May 15, 2017

Dear LoMA Family,

            For several years my husband Daniel has expressed some interest in getting a dog. While I generally like dogs, I had no interest and lots of reasons why it was a bad idea: our apartment was too small, I didn’t have the patience or time to house-train him, I didn’t want to have to wake up early or come home right after work to feed him, and who wants the expense? Really, they were excuses as the real reason was that I like my lifestyle and did not want to make a change that big. Then, a couple of months ago, we took care of a friend’s dog for several weeks. It wasn’t so bad. He was well-behaved, walking him was kind of fun and I was surprised by how nice it was to come home to him. Best of all, it was heart-warming to see how much Daniel loved the dog.
            Two weeks ago, we made the leap and adopted a Beagle-Whippet rescue dog named Malcolm. He is adorable, affectionate and silly. I now understand why people say dogs provide unconditional love. It is less work than I would have thought, and I can’t believe how quickly I have come to care for him. Instead of being the burden I had feared, he is a joy. I can’t believe how wrong I was, and regret all of the lost years we didn’t have one.
            This all makes me wonder how often I have been wrong about trying new things because I was afraid of change. Could I have been more of a performer or athlete? It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. I’m a pretty old dog, but LoMA’s students aren’t and they have so many opportunities. Some of the most rewarding moments for school staff is when we see students make big change: a young man who suddenly realizes that with more effort he can go from failing to making honor roll, a nervous student who shines on the stage in a school show or a shy young woman who becomes a student leader in LoMA Cares or Student Council. 
            Youth should be a time for discovery as children discover the kind of adult they will be, and school should be a place for safe experimentation. That is why I have helped to found two arts schools - the arts can be so central in developing one’s creativity while helping to form positive relationships. Likewise, the extracurricular activities and internships that we require provide opportunities to try out various interests as you discover who you want to be. The more you try, the more you can discover.
            Living in New York City and going to a school like LoMA opens up so many possibilities, but only for people who have the temerity to make a change. For too long, I let effort required and fears of change keep me from getting a dog. I regret it. Will you regret not studying harder, joining a club trying out for a team?

Change is good,


John Wenk

May 15            9:00                 Internship showcase
May 17            12:00               Sophomore trip to NYTW
May 17            10:30               Freshmen trip to St. Luke’s Orchestra
May 18            6:00                 Parents’ Association Meeting
May 19            1:00                 Grease for all students
May 20            7:00                 Grease
May 25                                    Junior trip to Philadelphia
 









Dear LoMA,
            Renowned American and captain of industry Tommy Callahan II once said, “In auto parts, you’re either growin’ or you’re dyin’—there ain’t no third direction.”  This week’s Shaka entry features the thoughts of two different Junior students about risks they took that paid off.  Enjoy.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Risk can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the type of risk.  A risk that I have taken that was very hard at the time but paid off was when I had to cut someone that I really cared about out of my life because I felt like they were endangering me and taking me down a path that could lead to real trouble.  I wanted to stay and help this person, but I knew that the best thing for me would be to leave and start fresh.  Sometimes you just have to do what’s right for you.  I knew at the time that it was the best choice, even when I was doubting my choice.  I started to see a difference in me and who I was becoming as a person.  I stopped being so angry with the world, and I noticed that I started to take big steps to improve myself and focus on myself a bit more instead of focusing on stupid things that would not take me anywhere in life.  People should take risks if they will benefit them, even if there is only a chance of them being beneficial.  Even if they are unsure, even when change is scary, risks should be taken because that’s how you live and learn.  You can’t grow without changing.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I took a risk just coming to this school.  I had never been out of my borough, and I didn’t like Manhattan, plus it was so far away from my home and my friends.  I really thought that I would never find any friends that I would like because Manhattan seemed so bougie and superficial, not real like me and my friends.  How funny is that to think about now?  I never see my old middle school friends, and pretty much life in the Lower East Side, other than sleeping.  It was also a risk to go to an Arts school.  I like the arts, and I am good at dancing, music, and drama, but to go to a school where everyone else was too?  No thanks.  To go to a school where I had to do well in my classes and I would have to make my art skills better?  Uh-uh.  And what if someone was better than me?  Before I came here, I thought every day would be like a competition in all of the arts, but it wasn’t.  If anything, everyone wants everyone to be better, and the teachers don’t make us compete.  They want everyone to get better the same, too.  I’m still too nervous to show my talents to others, but I feel supported, and I want to take that risk next.  So it turns out that I was wrong about the people here, Manhattan, what school would be like, and what my classmates would be like.  But I was right about the most important thing—taking that risk to come here.
Grow…or die,


Shaka

Friday, May 5, 2017

Teens and drugs

May 8, 2017

Dear LoMA Family,

I think that teenagers get too much of a bad rap from the media. Based on news reports, popular television shows and music, one would think that drug use, sex and alcohol abuse are rampant among self-destructive young people. Yet real research and my own observations over the past twenty years show a very different reality. Today, teens smoke, drink and have unprotected sex far less than they did when their parents and I were in high school. This may be one of the reasons why New York City’s high school graduation rate is at an all time high and teenage pregnancy is at an all-time low. The reasons for these changes may be complex, but the overall trend is indisputable.
The best source for what American teens do is the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Study (MFS). For thirty-five years, these researchers have been surveying 50,000 American high school students about drug use and health. Students may lie, but there is no reason to believe that they lie any more now than they used to, and its results are generally confirmed by the results of other large surveys. As these researchers have been asking 50,000 students these questions over four decades, they certainly paint a bigger picture than individual anecdotes do. And the picture looks pretty good.
When I was in high school in 1980, the majority of my classmates seemed to get high regularly and nearly everyone I knew had at least tried cigarettes. The MFS confirms this, saying that 60% of seniors reported trying pot and 10% smoked it daily. By last year, 40% reported that they had tried it and less than 6% smoked pot regularly. Abuse of illegal drugs besides pot has likewise dropped off from 43% to 25%. Cigarette use has dropped off even more dramatically nationally, from 32% to 17%. New York City’s teens are doing even better, as only about 12% of them smoke today. As good as the news on cigarettes is, teens are doing even better in moving away from alcohol use. When I attended high school alcohol abuse was so bad, some students would regularly drink before school and the MFS reports that 70% of seniors drank regularly. Today, that percentage is 42.
Despite all of the images of sex in the media, it seems that rates of teenage sex are dropping even more significantly than drug use. In 1980, 50% of males and 35% of females reported having sex. Today, only about a quarter of each gender has reported having sex before they graduate. Even more importantly, the vast majority of teens (80% of boys and up to 92% of girls) are using condoms when they do have sex. The results of this are reflected in the lowest teen pregnancy rate in 30 years - 0.7%.
All of this is not to say that there are not still significant problems with teen drug use, alcohol abuse and teenage sex. I’ve seen far too many LoMA students drop out or underachieve because marijuana smoking has made them lazy and apathetic about their studies. Likewise, I worry about how alcohol makes teens (and adults) do stupid things that can threaten their lives. AIDS and sexually transmitted illnesses may not be killing as many people as they used to, but they are still destroying lives. If we care about young people, we can’t be complacent about self-destructive behavior which is why we will continue to punish dangerous behavior and counsel our students to make better choices.
Thankfully, in the twenty-seven years that I have been teaching, I have been seeing increasing numbers of students make better choices, act more responsibly, and succeed in high school. Despite all of the negativity about teens, we need to remember that the great majority of our kids are making good choices.

Work hard,


John Wenk


Dear LoMA,
            This week’s Shaka entry is from the perspective of a Freshman on the topics from Dr. Wenk’s newsletter.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Drug abuse, drinking, and sex among teens are ruining the kids of tomorrow.  I don’t think any parent brought a child into this world for them to drink alcohol, smoke, and have a child before the age of 20.  I see so many young faces, like Emmett Till and the children killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, who had their idyllic lives taken away in a heartbeat.  And here we are, flushing ours down the drain.  I get that as teens, we want to learn more about our body and find ways to feel mature, but the level of maturity that can handle this stuff is out of our reach.  As we see all the time, this mischief should and will cease.
Keep a clear mind,

Shaka

May 9              11:00               Academic Achievement Awards
May 9              4:00                 Game/Karaoke Day
May 11                                    College Expo Trip for Juniors
May 15            9:00                 Internship showcase
May 16            12:00               Sophomore trip to NYTW
May 17            10:30               Freshmen trip to St. Luke’s Orchestra
May 19            1:00                 Grease for all students
May 20            7:00                 Grease