When I first started De La Salle Academy (DLSA) I was pretty nervous. I remember when Brother Brian interviewed me and I thought he was such a tall huge man. I was pretty shy then but luckily he saw something in me, potential. I attended Holy Name and was only moving to the top floor to attend DLSA, so that location didn’t change for me at all.
Honestly, it’s been a long time since I started DLSA so I don’t remember much. I had heard of a new opportunity to attend a school for academically talented kids and applied and got in. My parents emphasized getting the best education I could receive so it was natural for me to apply and attend.
I walked to DLSA every day. I only lived six blocks away.
I remember Ms. Saito, my English teacher. I remember her drawing a mountain with trees on it and then erasing the trees, showing us what would happen as a result of erosion and flooding. I can’t recall why this topic came up but it has stayed with me as I have always been passionate about environmental issues. I remember taking a class with Brother Brian where he told us the story of how Nestle was an evil company because they deliberately pushed their formula onto poor mothers in South America, touting it as a modern way to feed their babies. In the end, the mothers couldn’t afford the formula and their breastmilk supply decreased, unable to feed their babies. I remember feeling how evil and heartless companies could be. I remember the late Mr. Marrero and his strange “very” ceremonies. Mr. Marrero hated the word very and he would cut out every very in someone’s essay and burn it in class. We had a very ceremony and everything.
Aside from the classes, I remember hanging out after school for hours. Brother Brian always allowed us to stay after school, knowing that many of our parents were still working by the time school ended. We all played soccer on Fridays (horribly I might add), and that was for many of us our first introduction to playing a team sport. Myself and two of my friends started throwing spitballs at people. We never got in trouble with Brother Brian for it and in the end we made him a giant spitball and wrapped it in wrapping paper. When we gave it to Brother Brian he couldn’t stop laughing, I was surprised at how much it tickled him. He had the spitball on his desk for years. After that he always called us the “rowdies.”
Brother Brian had a nickname for me at DLSA, he called me “Tough Tina.” At first I thought that he was making fun of me, but I realized later how tough I really was, and I look back in fondness that he pointed this out to me.
We used to volunteer at a local senior center on Fridays as well. I ended up becoming close friends with Melissa Carlo ’87 because we worked on a special talent show for the seniors. We got together every day after school to choreograph an original dance to Madonna’s song La Isla Bonita.
My biggest challenge while at DLSA was social and personal. In 6th and 7th grade I had a big group of friends but by the end of 7th grade we had a falling out. Unfortunately, that meant that I wasn’t part of the group anymore. Around the same time my father lost his job, and went home to New Hampshire for a while, leaving my mom and I together alone. She picked up a second job so I was home alone a lot and I wasn’t used to it. The good news is I kept one friend and we made new ones at DLSA. Eighth grade was truly the best year I ever experienced in the any school to date.
I went to the Loomis Chaffee School (LC), NYU and SUNY Binghamton. I attended grad school at SUNY Albany. DLSA was such a small school when I attended; I think we had 54 students in three grades. Nothing was really going to compare to that.
Attending LC was tough, I went through culture shock and was really homesick for NYC. Everything and everyone around me seemed strange. I think I was in a state of depression for two years, but I wasn’t willing to give up my scholarship to attend there. In addition, I really felt like the kids in my grade were way ahead of me academically and I was struggling to catch up. In retrospect, I realize I was tough on myself, and that I did better academically than I felt I did. My counselor pointed this out in my report cards but of course as a typical teenager I dismissed it. But he was right, I was hard on myself! By junior year I had matured enough to pursue my own interests and I started LC’s first environmental club and became yearbook copywriter.
As a testament to the excellent education I got at LC, NYU was a breeze. I started getting the straight A’s that I always wanted at LC. SUNY Binghamton was the same. DLSA was a wonderful and unique experience. Brother Brian called the first graduating classes “the pioneers.” We really laid the groundwork for the classes that came after us. Perhaps, you can say we were the foundation of the DLSA culture and community. DLSA filled a gap for many of the students that attended. We needed to be challenged more academically, and we needed a safe place to be ourselves in an often chaotic environment of NYC. As academically talented children, we were also pushed to get the best education and jobs we could get, but that looks different for each student. I have a Bachelors in Political Science and a Masters in Public Administration, but I no longer do work in that area. I want to tell the DLSA students of today to take advantage of opportunities you have, but it’s alright to change your mind (and you inevitably will, perhaps several times throughout your life). I have my own business in holistic health now and I love the work that I do. However, I have not completely given up on utilizing my education, and I hope to do government policy work again, ideally under a government that is compassionate and inclusive to all.