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Students share new year wish lists for education

Students’ multifaceted experience in school includes academic endeavors, extracurricular activities such as clubs and sports, and social and personal development. Newsday asked students who have appeared in the weekly “Way to Go!” section in 2015 for their “wish list” of how their educational experience could be improved.

Here is a sampling of their responses:

Victoria Bonavita, seventh grade, Robert Moses Middle School, North Babylon

“Being a student and member of the student council at Robert Moses Middle School, I always look for improvements. Even though my school has some things that make it special, there are some things that could change, such as more opportunities for clubs. For instance, bringing back the drama club would give my classmates an opportunity to express themselves in a more creative way.

“At lunch we are only served milk. Not every student likes milk and some are lactose intolerant. A student who prefers water would have to buy it. Since not everyone has the money to buy a drink, I think that a mini water bottle should also be a choice. Many of my classmates also agree that we need a bigger variety of food.

“Most importantly, I feel that orchestra should have its own room just like band and chorus. As a member of orchestra, I feel it’s unfair and uneasy. We are left to use the auditorium, which can sometimes provide distractions. Sometimes we get kicked out and have to spend half the period looking for a room to practice in. Not having a dedicated room greatly takes away from our learning experience. I feel that some of these changes would help make our year at Robert Moses Middle School a great one.”

Nicole Zito, senior, Hauppauge High School

“As a high school student, the exams that have the largest impact on college acceptance are the SAT and ACT. I think it would be beneficial if my high school offered a course available during either junior or senior year so that all students have access to the necessary preparation for these exams.

“Taking the class during school hours might minimize the stress level of an overburdened junior or senior who is already trying to balance tasks such as college visits and the application process with everyday academic and extracurricular demands. Enrolling in the class as part of the high school curriculum could also possibly decrease the time spent procrastinating and trying to avoid this daunting task.

“Typically, the expense of test preparation is the responsibility of the student through online programs, private tutors or traditional classes. An in-school SAT/ACT prep course would allow all students access to high-quality review at no cost, increasing everyone’s eligibility for scholarships and better school choices. In turn, my high school would benefit from its students’ increased SAT/ACT scores, which would lead to higher college acceptance rates.”

Epiphany Ramirez, junior, Walt Whitman High School, South Huntington

“I want to begin by stating that I have the privilege of attending one of the most diverse schools on Long Island: Walt Whitman. Without a doubt, it is a great school with amazing students and teachers. My ‘wish list’ below is based upon common challenges Whitman students face. I believe if Whitman acted on these suggestions, it would grow to be the exceptional high school I know it can become.

1) Implement at least one late school bus for students who want to be involved in extracurricular activities and do not have the means to get back home.

2) Provide more funding to clubs. It is proven that students who participate in clubs have a higher rate of college acceptance.

3) Hold more schoolwide gatherings, for example, an end-of-year student barbecue; this would help increase the sense of community within the school.

4) Allow students to pick their lockers based on their class schedules. This would make it easier for students to store their books, gym bags and sports equipment. I have not used my locker in the past two years because of how inaccessible it is.

5) Build a printing room just for students that would be open before, during and after school. This could give students a place to print assignments and projects.

6) Introduce live video announcements. Often, students are more inclined to pay attention to visual information rather than audios.”

Ariana DeMattei, sophomore, Westhampton Beach High School

“Every high school student either is or knows someone who is involved in numerous school activities. For me it’s Student Government, Interact, Key Club and tennis team. A student’s ultimate goal is to create a balance between academics and extracurricular. For me, these activities, combined with AP/Honors classes, consume my days and weekends, leaving little time to explore any other interests I may have. While I’m not against homework, for it reinforces the lessons done in school, I do believe that the combined amount given to us per night is excessive.

“A great part of my life is community service, specifically Backpacks For Fellow Students, an organization I founded in 2012. As my organization expands, the time I have to devote to it diminishes as the level of homework increases. I believe there should be a system where there is a specific day(s) designated for each core class to have homework and tests. This would allow for balance, and for the ability to plan. As a student your success is measured by your grades and test scores. For me, success at school should be measured by the development of the whole person, not just academics. This includes preparing one for the future. Stressing academics at the exclusion of everything else diminishes children’s ability to expand their social circle and find like-minded thinkers. It limits the time available to commit to community projects, as well as compromising ability to develop fundamental skills, including leadership, being a team player and the development of strategic or creative thinkers.”

Kayla Donegan, senior, Shoreham-Wading River High School

“For upperclassmen in high school, the decisions that have to be made become a large stressor in most seniors’ lives. Not only must we continue to excel in school, but we are also faced with the challenge of choosing the next path we will take in life. Continue our education or dive into the job market? A decision not easily made. How are we as students expected to select a path to pursue if we have never been afforded the ability to experience them? Luckily, I have been provided this opportunity through volunteering at Mather Hospital, where I learned about the environment and responsibilities I would undertake as a nurse, my career path of choice. However, I had to seek this experience myself. I believe schools should look to partner with local organizations and businesses in developing an avenue where students are afforded volunteer and intern opportunities as part of our high school education. Not only would students be given vital experience and insight into different fields of work, but also provided with social experiences that allow students a platform in making future decisions on becoming professionals and leaders.”

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