Chances are, at some point during your Stuyvesant career, you’ve asked a Big Sib for advice on what classes to take, how to make friends, or just for directions in navigating our huge school. Big Sibs, selected for their friendliness, approachability, and genuine enthusiasm for the school and its students, serve a critical role during Stuyvesant students’ first year. From being a constant presence at homeroom to leading Open House tours to attending all Big Sib Little Sib events, their job is to help incoming students adapt to Stuyvesant by serving as both friends and mentors to not only their own homerooms, but to the entire freshman class.
The Big Sib Chairs, the five leaders of the program, are responsible for selecting Big Sibs and for organizing all events, as well as for improving the organization. Chosen carefully by the graduating Big Sib Chairs, seniors Claire Adams, Stacy Chun, Brenden Collins, Joseph Frankel, and Swara Saraiya, these students must ensure that every freshman is taken care of. It is a job that requires a tremendous amount of work, but the newly instituted Chairs are more than ready to take on the work of the 2011-2012 Chairs and hope to mold the program into the most effective it has ever been.
Being a Big Sib has made junior Izzi Clark appreciate Stuyvesant much more. She wants to share that gratitude toward the school with her Little Sibs. “I feel like especially in recent years, some of the Stuy spirit has declined, especially with the administration cracking down,” Clark said. “I was so genuinely excited freshman year, and I want to make sure Little Sibs have that too.” Clark has been involved in Photo Club since her freshman year. She and junior Morgan DeFiore are planning to start the Art Gallery Club, for which she will be vice president. Clark is also the manager of the Hitmen, Stuyvesant’s varsity baseball team “because I can’t play sports but I like sports,” she said. She is a member of the Global Fund for Women, the Refugee Support Group, the EPIIC Club, and the National Japanese Honor Society.
Her favorite part of Stuyvesant is the community. “There’s so many interesting characters,” Clark said. “But in general, everyone’s just such a Stuy person.”
Clark loves her position as a role model, and she is looking for admirable qualities in potential Big Sibs. “Obviously it’s good to be outgoing, but I also feel like Big Sibs shouldn’t be too overbearing, because it’s more about making Little Sibs feel very comfortable in their environment rather than just talking to them,” she said.
During stressful periods in her life, Clark emphasizes positive thinking. “It works really well. If I tell myself I can do something quickly, I can do it quickly, as opposed to dreading it,” she said.
Junior Olivia Fountain’s Big Sibs were not as helpful and caring as she thought they could have been. Still, she appreciated “having that person to say hi to in the hallway,” she said. “That makes a difference, even if they weren’t the most involved, and they weren’t,” she said.
However, Fountain is a very involved Big Sib, both in school and out. Her younger sister will begin attending the Brooklyn Technical High School in the fall. This factored into her decision to become a Big Sib, because she wanted a program like it for young students entering high school like her sister.
“I think we have so much more potential,” Fountain said about the Big Sib program. She is keen on helping Little Sibs get to know others in their homeroom, instead of only the Big Sibs, regretting that she was not encouraged more to find friends in her own homeroom as a freshman. “There are three friends I’ve made this year only to find out later that they’re in my homeroom.” she said.
Along with Big Sibs, Fountain is an Opinions Editor of The Spectator, a member of the Photo Club, participated in Junior SING! Chorus, and plays the flute outside of school. Her position on The Spectator caused one of her Little Sibs to ask her for help in applying. “I couldn’t directly help him, but he applied and he got rejected, and I felt really guilty,” she said. “But I asked him for a recommendation anyway, and he was very gracious about it.” She thanked him, and he told her she deserved it. “It was just so, so rewarding,” Fountain said.
Fountain is adamant that potential Big Sibs should truly want to play active roles in their Little Sibs’ lives. “I’m looking for someone who’s just really, really friendly,” she said. “It’s so cliché, but someone who’s really easy to talk to and is just awkward enough to make me feel not awkward.”
“I was lucky; I had incredible Big Sibs,” junior Kevin Park said. He cites alumnus Billy Yang (’11) as being a huge influence on him, and an inspiration to become a Big Sib himself. “I thought that through being a Big Sib and being a mentor, I can give back to Stuy and I can give back to the community,” Park said. Referring to himself as “slightly ambitious,” Park thinks that the opportunity to choose the next Big Sibs is the best method of giving back to his school community. “I think [it] is a great responsibility,” he said. He is looking for “honesty and that drive to help others. We’re looking for those types of leaders that will be able to show these freshmen the path to how to go out on their own.” He also wants students who have good advice to give to freshmen.
Park is interested in changing what he calls a “common disbelief that as Big Sibs, all we do is Camp Stuy and the Open House and go to homeroom from time to time.” He is enthusiastic about organizing larger events akin to the Big Sib Little Sib dance.
An active member of the Stuyvesant community, Park is the Vice President of the Stuyvesant Student Union. “It’s a lot of responsibility to maintain all the clubs and make sure that the student body is happy,” he said. He is also a member of both the gymnastics team and the cheerleading team. A member of both SING! Boys’ Hip Hop and StuySquad Hip Hop, Park has had a passion for dance since middle school. He also completed the European Challenge and the Federal Reserve Challenge.
Park wishes all applying Big Sibs the best of luck. “The only thing I regret is that there are a lot of people in Stuy who are good for the job, and it’s really hard to slim that down to a final amount,” he said. “Honestly, if I could accept everyone, I would.”
“When I came to Stuy, I thought the Big Sibs were the coolest people ever, and I was like, ‘whoa, I want to be just like them,’” junior Ian Outhwaithe said. “I really, really liked the program, and I feel really invested in it also, so I just wanted to make the program as good as possible,” he said, referring to his decision to apply for Chair.
An acting enthusiast, Outhwaithe is a prominent member of the Stuyvesant Theater Community. He also plays the cello, and is part of the orchestra at Stuyvesant as well as one outside of school. He cites music as a huge part of his life. Currently, he high jumps for the Greyducks, Stuyvesant’s boys’ track team.
Outhwaithe emphasizes energy as an essential factor in assessing a potential Big Sib. “You have to be someone who wants to be a Big Sib, and [is] not just [thinking], ‘Oh, I want to be a Big Sib because I think it’ll look cool for colleges,’” he said. He wants the juniors and seniors of the program to serve as “someone who your Little Sibs can look up to, as a person, as a student, and as a Big Sib.”
Outhwaithe has a significant progression in mind for the Big Sib program: “One bigger thing we’re thinking about is helping other schools in establishing Big Sib programs,” he said.
As a student who is involved in many parts of the Stuyvesant community, Outhwaithe loves to expose the incoming freshmen at Stuyvesant to all of the incredible opportunities one can find here. “I like getting freshmen excited about Stuyvesant, because freshmen come to Stuyvesant and don’t know all the great things that there are to do here, not just in terms of academics but also extracurricular activities,” he said.
Coming to Stuyvesant from a small school, junior Fiona Woods credits her Big Sibs for making her transition as smooth as possible. “I really liked my Big Sibs, and they were really nice and helpful, and sort of guided me through my freshman year,” Woods said. “I wanted to pass it on.”
Woods stresses the fact that she wants Big Sibs who will be dedicated to the program and who will be aware of all of their responsibilities. She would like next year’s Big Sibs to be “outgoing, approachable, nice, and good role [models],” Woods said.
Woods is interested in continuing the proposition established this year called rotations, in which Little Sibs are put into small groups of five or six and are each assigned a Big Sib. This practice was designed to allot freshmen even more one-on-one time with a Big Sib and to help further develop the relationships between Big Sibs and Little Sibs. During these rotation meetings, a Big Sib has the opportunity to take his or her Little Sibs to extra- curricular activities or simply to grab a bit to eat or to hang out. “We were brainstorming a performing night style thing, a talent show,” Woods said. “Everyone loves talent shows.”
Woods’s main goal during her time as a Big Sib Chair is to ensure that “every Big Sib is doing their job, that all freshmen have Big Sibs that they can talk to and who care about them.”
Woods takes great pride in her work with the freshmen in her first year as a Big Sib. She feels rewarded watching students who have never known each other suddenly become close friends in front of her eyes. She enjoys listening to her Little Sibs’ stories about their favorite classes and their adjustment to Stuyvesant.
Outside of Big Sibs, Woods is involved in the track team, the swim team, and ARISTA, Stuvyesant’s chapter of the National Honor Society. Because of all these activities, Woods sometimes has to find a place to breathe and cope with stress. “I laugh. Make yourself laugh and make other people laugh, and everything is better,” she said.