By Eli Karp
Volume 67, Issue II
It’s a constant thought in Maresca conversations. Somehow a former student comes up in discussion and whichever teacher is making themselves out to be ancient can’t seem to recall where that student currently is in the world. Leave it to The Briarcliff Bulletin to find out what some BHS alumni are up to. The Bulletin in particular has produced many successful people who were once Editors of this publication.
A five-question survey was sent to the former editors, covering high school to life after college aspects, and the BHS and Bulletin alumni provided some interesting responses.
Four editors, Jeff Zalesin, Erica Miller, Hannah Berkman, and Sam Chalsen, re- sponded, and they were able to provide a glimpse into life after Briarcliff High School. Jeff Zalesin was an Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of the Bulletin in 2010, Miller an EIC in 2011, and Berkman and Chalsen were co-EICs in 2008.
1.Where are you now/what are you do- ing for a living (if applicable)?
Jeff: I’m a first-year law student at Yale. Before law school, I was a reporter for Law360, a digital news service for lawyers.
Erica: I currently live in New Haven, Connecticut, where I work as a research assistant at the Play2Prevent lab out of the Yale School of Medicine. We build and test video game interventions that aim to provide adolescents with the knowledge and skills to lead healthier and safer lives. Hoping to further my goal of advocating for young people in the health context, I will be starting medical school next fall.
Hannah: I’m a communication consultant at a PR rm that works exclusively for progressive nonpro ts and foundations. In this role, I get to develop strategic communication plans, write op-eds, pitch reporters and conduct in-person training to improve how leaders talk about the important work they do.
Sam: I’m a screenwriter working in Los Angeles. For the last three years I’ve written on the Fox TV show SLEEPY HOLLOW, while doing feature screen-play work with my writing partner.
2.Where did/do you attend college? Jeff: I went to Pomona College in Cla- remont, Calif., and graduated in 2014.
Erica: I went to Cornell University, where I majored in Human Develop- ment.
Hannah: I studied political theory and French studies at Wesleyan University.
Sam: Harvard, [as an] English major.
3.Do you nd that Briarcliff High School prepared you well for life after high school? If so, what aspects?
Jeff: I remember being surprised by how well prepared I was to do my academic work in the rst year of college. The research and writing skills I learned from my BHS teachers have served me very well since high school. I’m also grateful for the opportunities I found at BHS to get involved in social and political activism. In retrospect, I do wish that social-justice thinking had played a bigger role in my high school education. It took me until college to see a lot of the connections between what I was learning in the classroom and the problems in the world at large.
Erica: Absolutely. I often look back on my years at BHS very thankful for the fact that I had teachers who cultivated my desire to learn but who also pushed me outside of my academic comfort zone. I really feel that I owe my teachers, Dr. Saar and Ms. Lee especially, my passion for intellectual exploration and exibility in the face of challenge. These qualities have steered and grounded me when college coursework or workplace responsibilities have proved dif cult.
Hannah: The academics at Briarcliff High School gave me a great foundation of knowledge heading into college
Sam: Yeah — obviously there were a lot of great teachers who really encour- aged me and set me on the path that I’m on as a writer (Ms. Mandel, Ms. Fishman, Mr. Driver, Dr. Banks and many others). Beyond that, though, I think BHS really trained me to get work done. In addition to the news- paper, I was involved with theater and chorus during high school. When you have a full schedule like that, you have to make sure you’re always buckling down and actually getting work done. Similarly in my job, you’re constantly writing under deadlines. You can’t sit around waiting to get struck by the muse, you’ve gotta churn out writing. I think BHS (and my perhaps overextended extracurricular schedule) did a good job preparing me for that aspect of my career.
4.Do you think the Bulletin helped/influenced you to where you are today? If so, please elaborate.
Jeff: Editing and writing for the Bul- letin may have been the most impor- tant thing I did in high school. Thanks to Ms. Fishman (that was her name back then) and the Bulletin staff, I got hooked on journalism and learned the basic skills. In college, I spent most of my extracurricular time working on the student newspaper, where I got to cover some fascinating stories and eventually became the editor-in-chief. After college, I spent two great years as a legal journalist, which encouraged me to think seriously about law school. It’s very unlikely that I’d be where I am today if not for the Bulletin.
Erica: Yes. In high school, I joined the Bulletin because I loved writing. When I think about it now though, what I really discovered in myself is a love for hearing, telling, and reacting to people’s unique stories. That passion underlies to my hope to become a sensitive, thoughtful, and meaningful physician.
Hannah: The experience in journalism I got from working on the Bulletin and then my college newspaper helps me understand the best way to connect with reporters on behalf of clients.
Sam: Yeah, I think the Bulletin really helped me develop a vital life skill known as “faking it til you make it.” When I started working on the Bulletin as a freshman, no one was there to really train you as a journalist (this was during the first Bush administration, before I’d even heard the words “Ms. Fishman”). Instead, you were encouraged to go out and write stories and gure it out as you go. If I needed to interview a teacher or Mr. Kaishian or students I didn’t know, I’d have to drum up some fake confidence and act like I knew what I was doing. It turns out, that’s what most of real life is (especially in my industry). When I started producing on set for SLEEPY HOLLOW, there was no training or guidance — but there were sometimes hundreds of people waiting on my decisions. So even if I felt like an impostor, I had to pretend I knew what I was doing, while learning on the fly — something I did a lot while at the Bulletin.
5. If there was one piece of advice you could give to current seniors/juniors, what would it be?
Jeff: I’m not sure I have much wis- dom to share, but I do remember feel- ing pressure in my junior and senior years to take as many AP classes as possible and participate in every ex- tracurricular activity. My advice: don’t. You’ll be happier and more successful if you prioritize things that are important to you.
Erica: At the risk of being cliché, I would just encourage students to embrace who they are, and to really explore and foster whatever they might be passionate about. I spent too much time in high school second guessing myself, and worrying about what others thought of what I did or decisions I made. I’ve found that being happy means doing what is good for me and gives me purpose. In short, just do you!
Hannah: Keep pursuing the things that interest you!
Sam: This will not be relevant for a few years, but you can cut this out and tape it into your wallet: When you turn 21, you will be able to legally drink. Suddenly you will be able to order a beer with a burger or wine with pizza. But, also when you turn 21, your metabolism also goes to crap, and if you add a thousand calories of alcohol a day to that, you will gain a lot of weight. It’s not worth it. Resist this urge.
Take note, students; these BHS alum- ni are doing pretty well for them- selves.