Interviews With the Class of 2021

by Ibukun Owolabi


May 31, 2021

One of the saddest parts of the school year is watching the seniors depart for college. Older brothers and sisters to many, the seniors are role models to all students in grades below them. Below are two interviews with seniors Benista Owusu-Amo and Rohan Prabhu in which they reflect on their time at BUA.

Benista was the treasurer of Student Council during her senior year, a member of the basketball team, a peer tutor, and a musician in Swamp Cats. Benista will be attending Harvard University in the fall. Rohan was a member of the basketball team, the soccer team, Futsal Club, and Math Team. Rohan will be attending Northeastern University in the fall. 

What stands out to you about your time at BUA?

Benista: The atmosphere of academia is something that is special at BUA. Students are genuinely interested in learning, and the faculty match that energy. And while there is this academic atmosphere, students are interested in so many other things, like music, drawing, and sports. BUA students have made my experience special because of the loving environment and how passionate students are. 

Rohan: What stands out to me the most about BUA is the experience I gained from being able to take BU classes in high school. I feel way more comfortable going into college [having done this] than if I had not done this.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a student at BUA?

Benista: Explore everything that you can. BUA, BU, and Boston have so much to offer in terms of classes, labs, events, and experiences, and I would encourage any student at BUA to make the most out of the time they have there. 

Rohan: One piece of advice I would give to a student is that you should always hold yourself to the highest standard. No one can keep you accountable more than yourself, and once you start putting in the work, the results will show.

Who is your favorite BUA teacher?

Benista: It’s really hard for me to pick a teacher that I like more than others because I’ve had so many great experiences with teachers that are unique to each of them. I will say that Dr. Proll is one of my favorites because I know her the best, and she has also been my advisor for two years. 

Rohan: My favorite BUA teacher would definitely have to be Dr. Formichelli. I have learned so much about writing and the world under her, most notably in her senior seminars Politics and Language and BLM Autobiographies.

What is your favorite BUA class?

Benista: Chemistry with Ms. Perrone was one of my favorites. I love chemistry in general and I thought that the structure of the class was fun. Tenth grade English with Dr. Proll was also great, and I discovered one of my favorite books of all time in that class! (It’s Frankenstein, by the way.)

How have your junior and senior years been affected by the pandemic?

Benista: The switch to remote learning and remote events was a large change, but I think that it was also an opportunity for me to reflect on and refocus myself. I picked up some new hobbies and also spent more time with my friends. Remote learning initially made it hard to get to see the seniors, but now with more in-person events, it has gotten much better.

Rohan: The pandemic has led to me becoming increasingly interested in medicine and epidemiology in particular. I have also started doing a lot more programming, since there are many internships open to high schoolers looking to become data scientists.

What are you looking forward to in college?

Benista: I’m looking forward to meeting professors and students from around the world who are interested in a variety of topics. I am also excited to explore interesting classes and eventually pinpoint what I not only enjoy, but could also use to best contribute to society.

Rohan: I’m looking forward to meeting new people and creating lifelong memories, just like in high school.

How do you imagine yourself using what you’ve learned at BUA in the future?

Benista: BUA taught me how to be a productive student and how to prioritize and manage my time. BUA also helped me with problem-solving and collaborative skills. All of these skills can definitely be applied to my college life and beyond.

Rohan: I imagine using what I’ve learned at BUA to get good grades in college.

Say your goodbyes to the seniors while you can. They may be leaving BUA, but they will never leave our BUA family. Good luck to the Class of 2021!

Classics Declamation Contest: Interviews With Declaimers and Dr. Alonge

by Ibukun Owolabi


April 25, 2021

While society becomes more modern every day, BUA has made classical studies a crucial part of the curriculum. All BUA students graduate with a rich knowledge of either Latin or Greek and ancient history. One of BUA’s proudest traditions is the Classics Declamation Contest, an annual contest in which contestants recite and act out a Latin or Greek passage.

The contest invites an international panel of three judges this year: classics professors Laura Gawlinski from Loyola University Chicago, Donald Lavigne from Texas Tech University, and Jack Mitchell from Dalhousie University. One of the greatest prizes BUA has to offer is the glory that comes with being the best declaimer at the school. BUA will also give the winner a book of their choice.

Before contestants declaim their passages, Dr. Alonge, a classics and history instructor and the host of the contest, will give some background information about each passage. The declaimers will recite their passages in chronological order; that is, beginning with the earliest Greek author and ending with the latest Latin author. After all have performed, the judges will pick a Latin and a Greek winner.

The contest will be held in a hybrid format this year: students and teachers are welcome to watch the declamations in person or via Zoom. In previous years, the entire BUA community attended the contest at an All-School Meeting. Dr. Alonge hopes that this year’s small in-person audience in the Black Box theater will have as much energy as an audience during a pre-coronavirus year.

The following are interviews with two declaimers and Dr. Alonge.

Madison Ho ‘24, Latin Declaimer

What passage are you reciting?

I am reciting an impromptu speech by Queen Elizabeth I in response to a disrespectful Polish ambassador.

Why did you choose the passage?

I chose to declaim this speech because I thought it was such an amazing comeback that demonstrated both the Queen’s oratorical skill and her no-nonsense policy towards the out-of-line ambassador.

Are you nervous at all? How have you been preparing for the contest?

Of course I’m nervous because I want to do the passage justice, but I also feel ready through practicing in front of my friends and teachers.

Jasper Millstein ‘24, Greek Declaimer

What passage are you reciting?

I’m doing a monologue from Antigone by Sophocles.

Why did you choose the passage?

I enjoyed reading the book in English during the fall semester, and I felt like this particular piece can be performed well and easily dramatized.

Are you nervous at all?

I don’t think I’m nervous. I’m looking forward to being able to recite it in person and hear everyone else’s passages too.

How have you been preparing for the contest?

I started by doing a full scansion of the passage in order to understand the meter, and since then I have been trying to memorize a few lines per day so that it’ll become fully ingrained in my memory.

Dr. Alonge, Host and Judge

How does it feel to have the contest virtual?

First of all, it won’t be entirely virtual. It will be like a hybrid class, essentially. The participants will perform in the Black Box Theater in front of a small in-person audience, and everyone else will be on Zoom watching via a camera. But some contestants who are remote students will be on Zoom, too. The logistics will be a little complicated, which goes with the territory of a hybrid format, but I wanted the declaimers to have the immediacy of an in-person audience — that’s something that last year’s participants said they really missed by doing their declamations by recording, especially those who had done it before when the whole school was in the GSU auditorium.

How are you helping students, whether it be with their recitals or their nerves?

I, along with Drs. Jewell and Larash, help students select their passages and provide them copies of the text and, if they choose something poetic, we help them learn the meter of their passage. I advise the students on memorization and delivery by sending helpful tips as well as advice about pacing their progress. As we get near the contest, I have every student do a run-through of their declamation for me, so I can give them any last-minute pointers (and so I know they’re ready). 

Nerves? Yeah, I always say I would never have participated in the Declamation Contest when I was in high school because of stage fright, so I can sympathize with their nerves. One of the best ways to deal with nerves is just to be really, really prepared (the same goes for tests, by the way). Another thing I stress is the importance of practicing and rehearsing in front of other people. If you’ve only practiced in your room or in front of the mirror to yourself, doing it for a crowd will have a very different feel, which can make people anxious. I also remind them that everyone in the audience is on their side and pulling for them. It’s a whole crowd of cheerleaders, and the atmosphere is always very supportive. That’s one of the things that makes it such a quintessential BUA moment. 

What will the judging of the contest be based on?

 Judging is based on accuracy, first and foremost: did you say all the words in the right order, and if poetry, in the right meter? But the judges’ decision comes down to delivery. Is there the right tone or feeling? Are important words emphasized to communicate the sense of the passage? Gestures are allowed, to reinforce the words, but no props. Again, there is one Latin winner and one Greek winner selected, but the decision is often really, really hard, because everybody does a great job. 

I will definitely be in the Black Box theater at 3:30 on Monday, April 26. Grab your popcorn and enjoy a wonderful day of Greek and Latin. Valete and χαίρετε!

The Classics Declamation Contest will be held at 3:30 on Monday, April 26. Limited in-person seating is available; if interested, please contact Dr. Alonge. A Zoom link for the contest can be found in an email from Dr. Alonge.

Dr. Horn and Ms. Brewster Reflect on Their Time at BUA

by Aparna Deokar


March 29, 2021

At the end of this school year, Dr. Horn, BUA’s American History teacher, and Dr. Harvey, BUA’s American Literature teacher, are retiring, and Ms. Brewster, Director of Operations and Finance, is leaving BUA for a startup. In the following interviews, Dr. Horn and Ms. Brewster reflect on their time at BUA.

What do you enjoy most about BUA?

Dr. Horn: I think what I enjoy most about BUA is that if you could really throw an intellectual red meat in front of the students, they would go at it. What I found over my long teaching career is that there’s a huge difference at every level between the people who really do the work and come prepared, and the people who don’t, and that first group is rarer than you might think. It’s probably, even in a place like Princeton, ten to twenty percent of the students in a given course. Generally, people take a course because of requirements, or because they want an easy course, and when you come to have a discussion with the class, only about three or four people really have much to say because they’re the only ones who’ve done the work. But at BUA, that has never been the case. Though not everybody does all the work all the time, most of the students do the work most of the time, and that’s the only place I’ve ever been where that’s the case, including places like Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, the College of New Jersey, the Brooks School, the Rivers School, and Phillips Academy. This is where that happens, and they do it with so much passion, enthusiasm, and joy, without the expected stress.

Ms. Brewster: I love getting a chance to work with students, especially being able to support students who have ideas. I also love the families I get to work with, who trust myself and all my coworkers with their students because the families are so kind, and the kids are so kind too. It’s also really exciting that we get to be part of Boston University too. We’re not really just a special small school, but a special small school that’s part of something really huge. And there’s amazing resources at BU that I’m going to really miss.

What do you enjoy about teaching? 

Dr. Horn: History is the field I’ve always loved because it’s so flexible and interesting. It really is an approach, rather than a subject, in looking at things organically rather than how they grew and changed. I particularly have always thought of history as the introduction to the liberal arts and to other fields. You can do the history of science or intellectual history, which, as the history of ideas and thinkers, is my favorite branch. I found it tremendous in college because I ran into so many thinkers and ideas I never would have in any other field. So for me, encountering the pragmatist philosophers William James, Charles Peirce, and John Dewey was a life-altering experience because I studied them for many years. I haven’t done much with that particular field at BUA because [tenth-grade history] is just a survey. But even in the “just a survey,” we read a whole day of debates from the Lincoln-Douglas debates. We get involved in discussions of Americans’ dedication to war and how it upsets democracy by reading the essays of Randolph Bourne. We get into ideas and thinking, and some of those ideas get into people’s heads and change their whole lives.

What do you enjoy about being the Director of Operations and Finance?

Ms. Brewster: I love that I get to learn about what the university is doing and the resources that it has and finding how BUA students can benefit from them. I use those opportunities and leverage those resources, so those are some of the things I love about my job because I get to be strategic and creative about the types of programs we might be able to offer. Though a lot of what I do is logistical and could be boring, it’s not because it’s in a school setting and I put the students and families at the center of what I do, and it’s all about trying to make their experience better.

What does being a teacher mean to you?

Dr. Horn: I never thought I was going to be a teacher. I never intended to be a teacher. I always hated school, at least until high school, and then I began to like it because we got into it and started reading interesting stuff. But now, I’ve had colleagues who say that they love interacting with students. I always tell my students, “I don’t love you at all” because first, it’s creepy, and second, I think it’s a little narcissistic to say that you love working with students and their attention, since it focuses on you rather than the subject matter. Instead, I come to love teaching when I and a student are talking about a third thing of intellectual interest and intensity, and that third thing is the subject. 

What was a memorable teaching moment of yours?

Dr. Horn: There are a lot, but there’s one I sometimes cite. Years ago, I had a freshman history class, and at that time we were reading some Socratic dialogues. I had assigned a paper that I first wanted us to talk about in class to get people’s juices running, and the topic was, “Would you or would you not like to have Socrates as a dinner guest?” I figured some people would say, “That would be great, with those wonderful conversations,” and others would say, “He’s a pain, and he’s always talking people into impossible situations.” Then suddenly I realized that there seemed to be a serious shouting match going on between these two girls. One was from India, and the other was a classic Irish Catholic Bostonian, but they weren’t arguing because of an East vs. West argument or anything like that. One thought Socrates was great, and the other thought he was just a pain in the neck. But anyway, the argument ended in a hilarious moment where one girl said, “Don’t say that of him, he’s so hottie!” and the other girl [became] dumbfounded. The room erupted in laughter, and that’s why it was so great, because you couldn’t have planned that. Two people were having this terrific argument, really getting into it, but going up against a worthy opponent. It didn’t matter who won because they had a grand time.

Has BUA changed you?

Dr. Horn: I think it has, but it’s hard for me to say. Sometimes it gets me really angry because some of us tried so hard for so long to make changes we thought would help, and so many different people came through into the place with more power than we had and said no or had their own ideas. But that is the complaint of old people anywhere. I also think I became a better listener and became better at working people around different plans. I’m a loose cannon, always have been, so I say things that provoke others, and I have a foul mouth. I grew up on the working class side of Cambridge, and I use all of that when I teach. People get offended, and recently I have found the emphasis on trigger words and microaggressions to be really tiresome, though I’ve become better at this. 

Ms. Brewster: BUA has changed, and it’s changed me with it. The types of students that come to BUA [now] are very similar to the kids that came to BUA fifteen years ago, when I started, in terms of qualities like their curiosity. But I think we’re able to do more and expand to more parts of the university in terms of partnerships [now]. And we’ve grown a little bit, though BUA is still a really small school. This has enabled us to have more robust clubs and activities, and I think in that way the school has really matured, just thinking about how clubs like Student Council are so involved in the student experience. Even with Zoom now, we’ve been able to try and expand more opportunities for students and families who live really far away, and I hope that’ll continue.

What do you leave behind at BUA?

Dr. Horn: That’s a tough question, because we all think we leave behind more than we do, and in a place like BUA, memory is only about four years old. As soon as there are enough students in BUA who have never encountered me, nobody will know who the hell I am! Some of the faculty will, and I have some very good friends in faculty here at BUA, so I’ll be leaving it up to them. But if there’s anything I have left in this school, it’s the fact that BUA is here at all. There were some very rocky times, early on, when some of us took some big risks. I also think I contributed to the atmosphere of the school, and though you can change and destroy it, it’s hard to, and it was even harder to build up over time that this is a serious place where everybody is having fun. There’s no difference in our minds between working and having fun with joyful inquiry.

Ms. Brewster: I leave behind a lot of great partnerships that I manage at BU and a lot of folks who really see themselves as partners at BUA who, before my role was created, operated very separately (although we do need to operate separately in some cases because we have different-aged students). I leave behind a lot of relationships that I hope will be sustained, with the families and students who receive financial aid, in addition to some of the more logistical pieces of my job, and I’ll be sad to leave those. I also love getting emails from people asking for help, and I get to help them, and that’s a fun part of my job. But I know that there’s lots of other people at BUA who like helping people, and it feels good to know I’m leaving behind a team who’s just as committed as I am to making sure that students and families have a good experience.

What are you looking forward to in your next chapter?

Dr. Horn: It’s a little scary. I want to be able to read as much as I want because teaching is exhausting, and you spend many hours grading papers and also preparing for what comes next. So I definitely want to read, but I’m worried I won’t know what to do with it, and I want to be able to write some stuff. I also have some speeches I gave to the Academy over the years, and I want to see if I can dig them up and turn them into a little pamphlet, since it’s just nice to have something you worked on show up in print somewhere. I also have never traveled all over the United States by car, and one of the first things I want to do when I’m “out” is to get into the car with some camping gear and travel places, having vacation during September and October when the weather is great and the leaves are turning colors and there’s nobody on the road. It just seems great to me. I’m older than I’d like and heavier than I’d like, so I have to do a lot of walking and biking to get myself in shape. Besides that, I’ve been playing [timpani] in the orchestra for many, many years, and I’d like to continue, if I can still move all the drums around. It’s all wide open to me, and though it’s kind of scary, it’s time to do it. I could have taught a few more years, I suppose, but I was getting mentally and physically tired.

Ms. Brewster: I’m looking forward to the creativity of my new role and to challenging myself and to working with a new team to build software for schools. I’m also excited to have a little more time to be with my family because there’s more flexibility in my new job than at BUA. I know I’m going to really miss BUA!

Immigration Reform: The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021

by Matthew Volfson


March 29, 2021

The United States Citizenship Act of 2021, sent to Congress by President Biden on January 20, 2021, attempts to make the U.S. immigration system easier for undocumented immigrants and immigrants generally. The legislation would give undocumented immigrants living in the United States a pathway to citizenship. It would also allow immigrants fleeing from natural disaster to be able to apply for and gain temporary green card visas to enter the United States. And the legislation would attempt to emphasize the United States’ commitment to immigration by raising the country’s immigration quotas and levelling the application field for entering the United States so that it is not biased against or in favor of any immigrant group. 

There are approximately 14.5 million undocumented immigrants within the United States. Experts say that it is difficult, if not impossible, to compute an exact number for the net cost of undocumented immigrants to the U.S. because of a lack of data on the undocumented population in America. Biden’s legislation would give all these immigrants the opportunity to “apply for temporary legal status… with the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes.” The legislation could also allow immigrants from areas such as the Maldives, currently only four feet and eleven inches above sea level, to come to the United States in the future in case flooding becomes catastrophic. It could encourage more individuals from war-torn countries such as Somalia or dictatorships such as Venezuela seeking a better life to come to the United States. 

This legislation has already passed the House of Representatives because the Democrats have the majority there — the vote was largely based on party lines. The legislation’s passage through the Senate is less certain because the Senate filibuster would require a supermajority, or two thirds of the Senate, to shut down the protest against the bill. The Republican Party showed its opposition to the legislation in the House: only nine Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Senate Republicans are likely to follow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who believes the legislation would “exacerbate problems at the border.”

Many BUA students are the children of immigrants; then, it comes as no surprise that BUA students are interested in immigration. BUA students seem to have a positive reaction to Biden’s legislation. Rohan Biju ‘23, a BUA sophomore and immigrant from India, believes that “everyone [should deserve] an equal chance at trying to come to the U.S. Of course, a person’s chance of coming to the U.S. shouldn’t be based on their country’s population or something else.” He believes that undocumented immigrants “[shouldn’t] get deported back immediately.”

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would attempt to stem any budgetary losses by the United States and clear any possible backlog of immigration cases because of an increase in undocumented immigrants. The legislation would essentially aim to regulate the immigration flow of undocumented immigrants by giving them an easier opportunity to come into the country. The same would go for regular immigration: the legislation would seek to increase the number of regular immigrants and make sure the applicants for citizenship are on a level playing field.

“Fact Sheet: President Biden Sends Immigration Bill to Congress as Part of His Commitment to Modernize our Immigration System.” The White House, January 20, 2021.

Higgins, Tucker. “House passes two immigration bills that would establish path to citizenship for millions.” CNBC, March 18, 2021.

Monroe, Annalee. “Does illegal immigration cost the U.S. more than $200 billion a year, as Trump claims?” The Arizona Republic, January 27, 2019.

Singh, Maanvi. “US House passes bill that would give Dreamers a path to citizenship.” The Guardian, March 18, 2021.

“The Maldives — The Land of Sun, Sea, and Sand.” The Maldives Expert, April 26, 2018.,10%20inches%2C%20making%20it%20the%20world%E2%80%99s%20lowest%20country.

“The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021.” Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, February 18, 2021.

“U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 Bill Summary.” National Immigration Forum, February 24, 2021.

“US Immigration: House Passes Immigration Bill Giving Dreamers a Path to Citizenship.” Immigration and Migration UK, March 22, 2021.

Wolf, Zachary B. “What’s a filibuster? Democrats may finally ax a relic of our racist past.” CNN, March 20, 2021.

Taking the Market Back, Stock by Stock

by Christian Asdourian


February 22, 2021

Wall Street was recently taken by storm when a group of Redditors skyrocketed the stock value of the retail store Gamestop.

In January 2021, a group of everyday people from a community forum called “r/wallstreetbets” on the popular website Reddit took it upon themselves to help alleviate the financial stress placed on GameStop. Their actions were a response to the tactics used by professional Wall Street investors who were planning on profiting from the decline of GameStop’s stock value. If you’ve seen the movie The Big Short, you’ve probably heard of the term “short selling” and may or may not have pretended to understand what it means. In essence, short selling is when investors sell stocks from a company with the knowledge that their value is going to decrease. They can then buy back the stocks cheaper and keep the difference as profit. When Redditors such as u/DeepF-Value and u/Stonksflyingup realized that GameStop was being heavily shorted, they began encouraging private retail investors, or individual, “little-guy” investors, to purchase GameStop stock. Before long, the cost per share of stock shot up to a whopping $483 at its peak from a measly $17 earlier in January. 

Melvin Capital, one of the hedge funds that was shorting GameStop, was forced into a short squeeze and had to buy back stock to cover their losses. They eventually left their short position on GameStop, with a loss of over four billion dollars in assets last month. But Wall Street was not going to go down without a fight. Initially, investment apps like Robinhood were the primary means that private investors were using to buy up GameStop stock, until these apps placed trading restrictions on GameStop and over ten other companies because of “significant market volatility.” This caused a massive uproar among the public and users of the app because of allegations of market manipulation. Several politicians voiced criticism of Robinhood’s actions, including Representative (D-NY) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called for an investigation into why Robinhood acted to “block retail investors from purchasing stock while hedge funds are freely able to trade the stock as they see fit.” 

Given everything that took place, I asked Jonas Rajagopal ‘21, club leader of the Stock Market Club, to share his thoughts on these events.

How do you feel about this whole situation? 

I thought the situation was exciting. It is always fun to see Wall Street lose (though they made back most of their losses later in the saga). I think the main problem is not what happened on Reddit. It is that big hedge funds have been able to do this without punishments. They can donate to politicians to prevent the rules from changing. For example, companies like the Motley Fool can buy a stock, then invent phantom reasons to say it will rise, and their followers will buy the stock, and they make a ton of money.

Do you think the future of stock exchange is in jeopardy? Why?

I do not think the future of the stock exchange is in jeopardy. There may be some regulatory changes to prevent events like this from happening again, but anyone saying that this is the demise of the stock market is overreacting.

What do you think about the responses from companies like Robinhood and Wall Street itself? 

Initially, I thought the response from Robinhood was unacceptable. As I have learned more about the situation, I believe they had little choice. I also think their PR was a disaster and they could have handled it better. I think the system failed the “little-guy” investors. I also think trading should have been completely stopped by the NASDAQ, not just on Robinhood, and not just to prevent selling the shares. 

As of now, the massive increase in value for GameStop stock has plummeted back to earth. Although the company and stock value is in a better place than when it started, this saga has a bit of an unsatisfying conclusion, especially to those who were hoping that the stock’s price would keep on climbing. Regardless, what happened with GameStop is a historical moment for Wall Street. Even the little guys can influence the stock market if they work together, and GameStop is only the beginning. 

Aliaj, Ortenca, Mackenzie, Michael, and Fletcher, Laurence. “Melvin Capital, GameStop and the road to disaster.” Financial Times, February 13, 2021.

Burbridge, Mark. “Redditors Vs Wall Street: The GameStop Situation Explained.” The University News, February 8, 2021.

Ingram, David and Bayly, Lucy. “GameStop? Reddit? Explaining what’s happening in the stock market.” NBC News, February 7, 2021.

The Laramie Project: Interviews With the Cast and Crew

by Ibukun Owolabi


February 22, 2021
Members of Drama Club perform The Laramie Project. Dr. Larash for The Scarlet Letter

On October 6, 1998, there was a horrific attack on the life of a young man by the name of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. The suspects, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney, kidnapped Matthew and viciously beat him because Matthew identified as gay. Six days after the brutal attack, Matthew Shepard passed away in Poudre Valley Hospital, leaving the world in shock. Henderson and McKinney were both found guilty of first-degree murder and were sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison. 

The death of Matthew Shepard sparked protests across the nation and was a catalyst for change. Many people in Laramie felt that no person should have to go through what Shepard went through because of their identity, a belief that was amplified by the countless protests in cities across America. On October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to “strengthen the protection against crimes based on the color of your skin, the faith in your heart, or the place of your birth… add federal protections against crimes based on gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”1

This year, Boston University Academy’s winter play, directed by Mr. Gardiner, shown on January 30, was The Laramie Project. The play, written by Moisés Kaufman in 2000, comprises a series of interviews with the townspeople of Laramie, Wyoming. The dozen or so members of Drama Club played over sixty townspeople, all playing multiple roles. 

This year, many clubs and sports had to adapt all that they were doing before to the “new normal.” Drama Club had the complicated task of producing an entire play in a Zoom room. As a new member of Drama Club, I asked my fellow cast and crew members to reflect on the making of the beautiful play. The following are interviews with members of the BUA cast and crew of The Laramie Project.

Mr. Gardiner, Director

What was it like to produce a play that would be performed online?

Exciting and challenging on many levels. Whenever you produce/direct a play, one of the questions is the style or look of the production. Producing a play online added a lot of new things to consider. How do you honor that this is a play, not a film, that’s presented virtually? Is there a constant look across the board? How do you differentiate locations, characters, passage of time, act breaks? How do you deal with the wide range of devices that people are using to rehearse and record? What platform do you use for presentations?  Yea. The list goes on…

How was the production process this year different from previous years?  

Rehearsals took place later in the day, since it was better to have actors home on a computer without a mask than at school masked and socially distanced. The performances had to be recorded at the beginning of the winter break so that we had time to edit the recordings together into a coherent whole by broadcast date. The actors had to be ready for performance earlier. In a normal year we’d have at least a couple of weeks after winter break to put the pieces of the play together. Those are just a few of the differences in the process this year.

In the process of putting the play together, what were some things you enjoyed and some challenges you encountered?

I was grateful to introduce students to a play and story that few of them had heard of before our production. The story of Matthew Shepard was a story of national significance and one I followed closely and was impacted by — and the play was and is an important landmark in American theatre. I also enjoyed meeting new actors and learning what they can do. [I’ve also enjoyed] seeing other actors I’ve worked with before stretch and grow as artists in ways that sometimes surprised me.

Challenges — hoo boy — just the technical difficulties, all of which had to be dealt with remotely, from “unstable internet connection” to not enough space for the actor to set up their backdrop comfortably. And of course, scheduling any after-school activity at BUA is always challenging. There was literally only one day I had the entire cast together.

Suzie Marcus ‘22, Stage Manager

What got you interested in being involved in the play?

I’ve always loved stage crew and was stage manager at my old school last year, so I knew I wanted to be involved again here. I knew the story beforehand. I had heard of the play and the real event. 

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play?

I enjoyed seeing people both remote and in person be able to come together to work on the play. I also loved the story and how everyone took it seriously and cared deeply about the subject matter.

What were some of the challenges you encountered?

Challenges were probably just related to communications and scheduling in general (for everyone), but for me personally, just remembering who played who off the top of my head was super difficult.

Jasper Milstein ‘24, Actress

What were your roles in the play?

I played multiple characters; my recurring role was Reggie Fluty. 

What got you interested in performing the play?

I’ve been acting for upwards of ten years, so any opportunity to be in a show I’ll take. 

Was there anything about the story that interested you in particular?

I think it’s an incredibly captivating and touching show. Obviously, it’s a tragic story, but I think that makes it even more important to keep sharing because hate crimes are still far too prevalent to this day. By sharing the story, [we’re] spreading more knowledge and bringing more attention to the issue. 

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play?

I think being able to dive into some of the more complex scenes and monologues was a lot of fun and provided challenges as an actor.

What were some of the challenges you encountered?

The remote aspect definitely provided some challenges in terms of communication and joint scene work but overall was not too bad to work around. 

Elizabeth Brown ‘24, Actress

What were your roles in the play?

I played a variety of roles throughout the show. All of the members of the cast played more than one role because of the nature of the show, which has around sixty-four parts. More specifically, I played Rebecca Hilliker, the Head of the Theater Department at the University of Wyoming; Father Roger Schmit, a Catholic priest; Aaron Kreifels, a college student who found Matthew Shepard; and Shannon, a friend of Aaron McKinney. 

What got you interested in performing the play?

I have loved performing since sixth grade, when I was in my first musical. Before I came to BUA, I had seen my siblings perform in a couple different shows, and I liked what I saw, so I decided to participate in this play.

Was there anything about the story that interested you in particular?

Before this show, I had never heard about the hate crime against Matthew Shepard, so the whole show was educational for me and very interesting. I also was fascinated by the close relationships that the members of the theater company were able to build with the people of Laramie.

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play?

I loved working with Mr. Gardiner, Kayleigha Zawacki, our video editor, and the rest of the cast on this play. Everyone was great and amazing to work with. It was also kind of cool to learn how to record a whole show from the comfort of my home.

What were some of the challenges you encountered?

It was of course very different doing a production on Zoom, and there were some kinks to work out because of that. Also, scheduling is always an issue, regardless of whether it is in person or on Zoom. 

Kasia Perks ’21, Actress

What were your roles in the play?

My roles in the play were Doc O’Connor, Zubaida Ula, Narrator, and Mormon Home Teacher.

What got you interested in performing the play?

I miss theater because it’s not as easy to do now, so I wanted to perform in this play. I’ve been in every production since freshman year, so it seemed like an obvious continuation.

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play? What were some of the challenges?

I enjoyed being able to act again and engage with a script, but it was hard to stay as focused as I would usually be in person.

While the recording is no longer available to the public, Drama Club did a spectacular job in carrying out the duty of bringing awareness to what happened to Matthew Shepard. In case you don’t believe me, I’ll leave you with the words of Mr. Kolovos himself: “I was struck not only by how well our cast handled the mature material, but also with how well they translated the experience to the screen. Within a few minutes, I forgot that I was in my living room watching a teenage cast.”

1 The entire speech was delivered at the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and is on Youtube under the title President Obama Commemorates Enactment of Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Double Masking Advised: The Increase in Coronavirus Variants

by Anna Augart-Welwood


February 22, 2021

It has been almost a year since the coronavirus was officially declared to be a pandemic, and many people are growing tired of social distancing. However, new variants of the virus have been discovered, sparking concern among public health experts. These mutations can possibly affect how contagious the virus is and the severity of the symptoms.

Every year, vaccine makers release a different flu vaccine that targets the mutation that was most common the previous year. It is unclear whether the same will happen with COVID-19. While viruses are constantly evolving, the new strains of coronavirus are more concerning because the mutations improve the virus’ so-called “spike protein,” a protein that penetrates host cells and gives the coronavirus its spiky surface. If this protein continues to evolve, the virus may eventually be able to reinfect people who have previously contracted it or have been vaccinated against it. This is because antibodies have more trouble binding to certain spike proteins, causing the virus to stay in the body longer. Similarly, certain mutations fit better into cell receptors, much like a key and a lock, causing the virus to be more contagious. For example, the B.1.1.7 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom is thought to be up to 70% more contagious than the original strain.

Researchers are unsure whether the recent increase in variants is because the mutations are more contagious, or due to holiday travel and superspreader events. Recent evidence suggests that these new strains are more dangerous. For example, the B.1.1.7 variant is thought to be 50% deadlier than the original strain; that is, the symptoms it causes are thought to be more severe. Pfizer has stated that their vaccine will be slightly less effective against the B.1.351 variant found in South Africa. Moderna believes that their vaccine will be effective against the B.1.351 variant, but not as much against others, so they are working on a booster vaccine.

While this discovery seems discouraging, there are still ways you can continue to protect yourself. Many people have begun to wear two masks after Dr. Anthony Fauci advised this practice on the Today show. According to the CDC, wearing a cloth mask over a well-fitting surgical mask can reduce up to 95% of exposure from possible COVID-containing respiratory droplets. The CDC also recommends a method that includes tying knots in the ear loops of a surgical mask and then tucking in and flattening the extra material close to the face, which makes the mask better fitting. Regardless of these new masking techniques and vaccines, people need to be more careful than ever. This could include allowing fewer people in certain spaces, including schools, along with increased vigilance and strict social distancing. Joie Liu ‘23 agrees that people need to act with more caution, or even just the same amount as everyone had at the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020.

Many people are feeling the pandemic fatigue that weighs us all down, and others have stopped following social distancing guidelines altogether. However, the vaccine is providing a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is important to remember not to lose hope. The best way to fight the virus is to continue social distancing and wearing your mask(s).

Brooks, John T., MD; Donald H. Beezhold, PhD; John D. Noti, PhD; Jayme P. Coyle, PhD; Raymond C. Derk, MS; Francoise M. Blachere, MS; and William G. Lindsley, PhD. “Maximizing Fit for Cloth and Medical Procedure Masks to Improve Performance and Reduce SARS-CoV-2 Transmission and Exposure, 2021.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 10, 2021.

Crouch, Michelle. “Most Common Symptoms of the U.K. Coronavirus Variant.” AARP, January 29, 2021.

Nirappil, Fenit. “Time to double or upgrade masks as coronavirus variants emerge, experts say.” The Washington Post, January 28, 2021.

Reardon, Sara and Smith, Dominic. “A Visual Guide to the New Coronavirus Variants.” Scientific American, February 11, 2021.

“The Coronavirus is Mutating: What We Know About the New Variants.” Healthline.

Zimmer, Carl. “7 Virus Variants Found in U.S. Carrying the Same Mutation.” The New York Times, February 14, 2021.

How Clubs Have Adapted to Coronavirus Restrictions

by Joie Liu


February 22, 2021

Across the globe, the coronavirus has upheaved the lives of billions. It has torn apart families and forced many to transition to a world online. Schools and extracurriculars have had to conduct education via a digital screen. Although Boston University Academy is extremely lucky to have the opportunity to have their students be in person for their classes, it is still no exception to the larger developments, and many of its extracurriculars have been hit hard. Most notably, in order to continue meeting, many clubs have needed to use online resources, though there are still a few clubs that have managed to find new ways to meet in person. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom has become one of the most powerful tools, allowing anyone to connect with others using only a computer. BUA clubs have taken advantage of Zoom and all of its features. Using Zoom, clubs have thought of creative solutions to problems, from breakout rooms to polls and even emoji reactions. In some ways, each club has had to forge its own path. Some, such as Mock Trial, Sustainability Club, and Computer Science Club, have taken routes that involve once-a-week online meetings. Others, such as Bullet Journal Club, have taken an approach with meeting times that vary. Larger clubs, such as Student Council, have also worked creatively to try to find ways to keep up with their duties. Representative Lizzie Seward ‘23 said that the climate has increased the motivation of Student Council members and that representatives are working harder this year to overcome the additional challenges and struggles that COVID-19 has brought. But although Zoom meetings are the best alternative, many still feel that they do not completely replace in-person meetings. Many students think that online communication changes the club dynamic, making it harder to connect and coordinate meetings. It is impossible to ignore these new problems. 

Although the large majority of clubs have chosen to hold meetings online, some have still found ways to physically meet. Most sports have tried to resume athletics with some alterations. All have been forced to have athletes maintain a distance of six feet apart from each other, and many have had to take extra precautions to follow rules surrounding multiple people touching a single object. Although students are happy to get any chance to play the sport that they love, these adjustments have changed the very nature of many sports, leaving students feeling unsatisfied and longing for more. This in turn has led to a lessened interest in playing sports and arguably less commitment from many players. However, after a long spring and summer without sports, many are excited to have the chance to pick up their favorite sport once again. 

Other clubs, such as Robotics Club and Fashion Club, have managed to find ways to continue their work in person. Taking over an empty classroom, Robotics Club has been able to meet most days to work on their creations. However, despite being able to meet in person, they have also had to face their own share of problems. Similar to sports, cancellations to competitions have lowered interest among both experienced and newer members, and because of restrictions, they have had to adapt to have only six people in a workroom at a time. Although they have had to deal with major setbacks, member Gabriel Romualdo ‘23 said that the situation has helped to “strengthen the team’s organization, communication, and productivity” and that many are “looking forward to a successful season ahead.” Fashion Club has also found creative ways to continue their work. Meeting in person in the art room to work on creations, founder Claire Hsu ‘23 says that the coronavirus hasn’t affected her club a lot. Instead, the club has found new ways to contribute to the climate, creating masks to sell and then donating the profits to charities in an effort to help others.

Whether holding meetings online or in person, clubs have adapted well to the pandemic, though the difficulties that have arisen from coronavirus restrictions must be noted. Clubs help bring the BUA community together at a time when it’s harder to come together, easier to become disconnected — that too must be noted.

The Class of 2021’s College Application Process — in the Coronavirus Pandemic

by Aparna Deokar


January 27, 2021

Many of BUA’s seniors were able to breathe a sigh of relief after the first week of January this year: COVID-19 has been a rollercoaster for everyone, from young schoolkids to elderly grandparents, and high school seniors all across the world are no different. To learn more about how the pandemic has affected BUA’s seniors and their college application processes, I interviewed Ms. Evans and Ms. Atkinson from the college counseling team for their thoughts on how the college application process has changed this year as compared to previous years, Saoirse Killion ’21, a humanities-focused student, and Aditi Deokar ’21, a STEM-focused student.

Unfortunately, tours for many colleges were canceled in junior spring and senior fall for the Class of 2021. Tours really help seniors to get a feel for college campuses and are often a source of inspiration for the common “Why this college?” essay, in which students write about why they’re interested in attending a particular college. Reflecting on her own essays, Aditi said it would have been “better to have more personal anecdotes about each college” and a better perception of the colleges overall — she had to steer her essays more toward focusing on academic influence than environment. Ms. Evans said, “It is different to not be able to really gain a sense of the surroundings of a campus. Even sometimes going through that process of getting into a car or getting on a plane and [going] to a campus — you can learn a lot about what feels right to you, how you might feel about going a little bit farther or closer to home.” Colleges tackled the problem of tours in many different ways, including virtual tours and detailed college websites. Saoirse commented that she “virtually toured all the colleges [she] was interested in.” She saw these tours and other online webinars, panels, and sessions as “very helpful” and said that they “made the whole college search process more equitable.” Similarly, Aditi noted that she was able to get a lot of information out of the college websites, which was the main source of information that she used, and she said that BUA’s alumni fairs really helped her as well. But she also said that the virtual tours were less helpful than normal tours, mainly because they were geared toward a wider audience. 

Another change from previous years was that a significant number of Class of 2020 students worldwide deferred their college enrollment to 2021; in other words, many of last year’s high school graduates took a gap year after getting accepted. This affects this year’s seniors, since to prevent the undergraduate class of 2025 from getting too large, fewer seniors will be accepted in many colleges, though the extent to which deferrals will actually affect this year’s admissions is uncertain. Ms. Atkinson said, “In our conversations in the fall with admission officers, [deferrals don’t] seem to be as big of a deal at most places our BUA students are applying as people might think.” Both Aditi and Saoirse touched on the fact that it was difficult to know exactly how much they were affected by deferrals, since the regular decision statistics have not been released. Aditi did mention that the college that she applied to early decision admitted fewer students than it had in past years and had a lower acceptance rate.

Test-optional policies have also made acceptance more competitive this year. The main change that test-optional policies initiated was that potentially lower-scoring students were able to apply to higher-ranked colleges, making applicant pools more competitive. These policies are by no means new; as Ms. Evans said, “Standardized testing has been under scrutiny for a few years anyway.” But many more colleges all over the world decided to give students the option not to submit standardized test scores this application season, since many tests were cancelled last spring and fall. Aditi elaborated on this, saying that she was “lucky to have gotten most of her standardized testing out of the way early,” but that she knew this was a problem and that it was a huge help to many students to have BUA hold a testing session. This testing policy seems like an upside for students unable to take the tests and students who may have scored lower than they desired, but for other students who were able to take the test and score well, their scores may have counted for less.

Acceptance rates are expected to shift this year as well. Students are applying to more colleges, and yield rates, or the percentages of applicants who accept their admissions offers, are decreasing. We expect colleges to accept more early decision applicants, who have binding acceptance contracts, to guarantee enrollment in the Class of 2025. However, we expect a decrease in early action (the nonbinding early application cycle) and regular decision rates, because the numbers of applicants in these cycles have significantly increased. “We’re hearing that especially at the most selective schools, there’s a significant increase in the regular decision rounds,” Ms. Atkinson said.

Comparing 2020 and 2021 admission rates from some institutions that BUA students often apply to illustrates these changes. Last year, Harvard had an early action admission rate of 13.9%, which decreased this year to 7.4%; last year, MIT had an early action rate of 7.4%, which decreased this year to 4.8%; last year, BU had an early decision rate of 31%, which increased this year to 43.7%, all as expected. Brown is the outlier: last year, it had an early decision rate of 17.5%, which decreased this year to 16%.

One last change that has happened very recently is the postponing of Ivy Day, the date when Ivy League colleges release their decisions for the regular cycle. After getting a significant increase in applications, all of the Ivy League colleges agreed to postpone Ivy Day from March 31 to April 6. This has in turn pushed the date for students to turn in their college decisions from May 1 to May 3. Aditi, when asked about how this would affect her, said that she’s glad the colleges will have more time to think about her application, but thinks that the main upside is that the decision deadline is extended, which is good for students appealing for more financial aid.

To end, Ms. Atkinson imparts a message: “Essay writing, engagement with colleges, and coursework — what kids choose to take while they’re at BUA and BU and how they do in those courses — those still tend to be the most important parts of the college application. And the BU Admissions agreement continues to be such a huge gift.” And to encourage everyone to keep their eye on the big picture, Ms. Evans says, “[Ms. Atkinson and I] are here to help guide [students]. At the end of the day, they’re going to be alright. I encourage students to just take it one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. [College] should be a great journey and experience. To the younger students — live in the moment, focus on what you’re doing right now, enjoy the learning.”

Who Got You Through 2020? Interviews With Teachers and Students

by Giselle Wu


January 27, 2021

2020 has not been a year that any of us would have asked for. It has been unexpectedly challenging, exhausting, and sorrowful. Worldwide, a devastating pandemic took the lives of more than two million people; in America, the issue of police brutality took center stage, and our democracy itself faced unusual challenges — in short, it has been difficult to find a bright side to 2020. But it’s important to remember that 2020 was filled with many loving and caring moments. And at BUA, we are grateful for all the support and positivity in our caring community during these times. In this spirit, please find below responses from BUA students and teachers to the following question:

Can you name someone from the BUA community who got you through 2020?

Mr. Kolovos:

It’s impossible for me to pick just one person! I’ll start with my colleagues on the faculty and staff, who have been working since the summer to envision what this unusual year would look like and have been so creative and flexible as we’ve made it happen. I think about all of the students who have accepted the new rules and changes joyfully; because they are taking this so seriously, we haven’t missed a single day due to COVID-19. And I’m so grateful to all the parents for how warmly they’ve welcomed me and how they’ve partnered with us. It’s been the most incredible team effort this year. What a beautiful example of what we can accomplish together.

Dr. Larash:

The short answer, of course, is everyone! Dr. White, Ms. Brewster, and Mr. Kolovos did so much to make things possible, as well as Mr. Curran and his IT team, who got us set up in August in preparation for the new school year. But as for “getting me through” — to me, that’s asking who are my companions on this strange, uncertain journey, and I have to say my students. I continue to be impressed by and grateful for their good humor, willingness to try out new things, and perseverance! In the classroom I found a community banding together in an otherwise scattered and fragmented year. I would particularly like to thank the staff and writers of The Scarlet Letter for their work all year, especially with the December 2020 issue, in giving us a record of and reflections on this strange year that has so tested us.

Ms. Hakimi:

The BUA tour guides definitely played a large part in getting me through the fall of 2020. Our tour guides have always played a huge part in welcoming prospective families to campus, and it was important for us to continue to spotlight this group even if we had to run a virtual admission process. Starting in the summer, a group of two dozen eleventh and twelfth-grade BUAers started working with our admission office to design a virtual information session that would teach applicants about our academic and extracurricular programs — all via Zoom. On average, they’ve run twenty-plus sessions a week and have hosted over 350 prospective families, all with a smile on their faces. We couldn’t do our work without them, and we’re grateful for their support of our admission efforts!

Dr. Jewell:

I relied on the moral (and sometimes technical!) support of all my faculty friends. In particular, Ms. Brewster has been a problem-solving powerhouse. She’s been on the lookout for ways to make things run smoothly, fill gaps in technology or equipment, brainstorm new ways to get things done — and she drops words of encouragement at just the right time. Dr. Taylor has been unfailingly kind: she stops in just to say hello, and she’s always happy to see other colleagues — which lifts my spirits in turn. She’s been generous with her time, Zooming separately with me to help me learn new technology and walk me through some things I’d never tried before. And Dr. Larash has been (as always) a voice of gentle support and enthusiastic encouragement. She always shares teaching ideas; she volunteers to demo and “guinea-pig” new technology and exercises with us; she celebrates little victories among students who are learning new things; and she listens and shares on those days when things are hard, which is important too.

And here’s who else got me through: my students in my classes. I was in awe of their flexibility and grace last year. At the end of our first remote week, I said to them, “Look what you just did!” And (not gonna lie) I teared up a little bit… and I think I saw that some of them did too. The knowledge that we were all doing our best, and giving each other room to do our best, was deeply comforting. And then, at the end of the semester, something else gave me a boost to last me for a while: the little notes students wrote, or left on their last pieces of work — just a little note here and there, but oh, so deeply appreciated.

Mrs. Brown:

I have been in awe at the work done behind the scenes by Director of Operations Paige Brewster. From working with BUA families on digital access to arranging new furniture in every classroom to attending hours upon hours of meetings with BU officials about COVID-19 regulations, Ms. Brewster has done amazing work getting BUA through 2020. When it’s all over, we should have a parade for her!

Dr. Formichelli:

I’ll shift the wording just slightly, if I may, so I can focus on friendship of equals, rather than a Virgil carries Dante type of mentorship. Within the BUA community, the person with whom I went through 2020 — shoulder to shoulder — is Jim Davis. Not only do I like him personally, by which I mean I enjoy talking about books, philosophy, and life in general with him, but there’s a deeper resonance, since we’ve shared some similar experiences (this year and last year), and our backgrounds are kind of a bond between us that often bring us not only shoulder to shoulder, but often eye to eye. I admire him as a teacher and thinker, but most of all as someone who has moral convictions, and the courage of his convictions. That’s not so easy to find these days, and it makes him that rare colleague and friend, prized even more for his rarity. He’d probably be surprised to hear this, but he also sometimes has a kind of Beckettian sanity and humor, which not infrequently makes me “Irish laugh.”

Sally Jamrog ‘23:

A lot of people got me through 2020, but my immediate family and my friends in the BUA community especially did. Like for most people (I’d imagine), 2020 was a hard year for me socially, so I’m extremely grateful that I was able to see my friends on Zoom during the summer and in person during the fall semester. This saved my year!

Madison Ho ‘24:

A group of people at BUA who have gotten me through 2020 is my freshman English class. The camaraderie I have found from surprising Dr. Formichelli with random costumes on Wednesday to having heated discussions about fish sticks is something I will cherish forever. Through the many challenges 2020 presented, I found that such relationships and friendships were what provided me with the most support. And looking back, I’m able to see just how much I gained in 2020.