NJROTC and performing arts students at Linden High School’s recent open house, when middle-school students and their parents learned about the many programs and opportunities they will have at LHS.
By Gary Miller
Linden High School hosted an open house last week to show middle-school students and their parents all the school has to offer and what it means to be part of the LHS family.
Faculty and students told the visitors about the wide-ranging academic, service and social programs available at LHS, many of which they may not know about.
“Who we are is perhaps different than who you think that we are,” Principal Yelena Horre told about 100 guests in the high school auditorium.
Here are some of the programs highlighted at the open house:
>> INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE
International Baccalaureate is the most rigorous course of study offered at Linden High School. Juniors and seniors can select either the course study, where they pick and choose which courses they want to take, or the diploma program, in which students take the entire IB curriculum.
The diploma program involves taking six courses in both junior and senior years, in English, a foreign language, history, science, math and an elective.
“It’s about being motivated and wanting to do better and wanting to excel academically,” said Bernadette Bottino, director of the IB program.
Students must pass a test for each subject at the end of their senior year to acquire the IB diploma. The test also gives them a head start on college credits.
“When they pass those tests, they can go into college with nine credits,” Horre told the middle-schoolers and their parents. “That’s a huge benefit to you.
“I think that IB is something that is so unique to our school,” she said. “They are more prepared for college, and they go in with college credit. The IB program is something so spectacular, that is so special that we offer here at Linden High School.”
In addition to course study, there are three additional requirements for diploma candidates:
– All students must take the Theory of Knowledge class. “It’s really a university level class, and it’s run like a university level class,” Bottino said. She explained that there are not a lot of assignments and that the class involves a lot of discussion and journal writing, as well as a paper and presentation. “All the kids love it; it’s their favorite class,” she said. “And the students really learn.”
– Students must complete an extended essay, which is like a college-level research paper. Bottino meets with students once a month about the essay, and they have a mentor who helps them with the writing.
– Students must complete a community service aspect known as Creativity, Activity and Service, which includes five projects in each of their junior and senior years. As an example, senior Miesha Burnam spoke briefly about her “Socktober” project this year in which she sold packets of colorful socks to raise money to give prosthetic legs to needy amputees.
“This is the heart of the program,” Bottino said.
Commander Boyd Decker and some of his top cadets spoke about the benefits of the Navy Junior ROTC program, founded in 1986.
“It’s really become a mainstay of this high school and the community,” Decker said. “This year we’re proud to have approached 475 kids who have voluntarily joined the program.”
He explained that to join NJROTC, a student just has to tell his or her counselor that they want to take it as opposed to gym.
“But it is a much bigger commitment than gym,” Decker said.
He sought to dispel the myth that only those interested in joining the military should join NJROTC.
“There’s absolutely no military obligation,” he said. “The Navy sponsors the program, but this is a school program. We work for the school. … We’re a citizenship and leadership development organization. We’re trying to teach these kids to reach their highest potential and to challenge them.”
“We consider ourselves a family, a second home within the school. They’re going to have five military instructors and also the kids themselves, looking out for each other to make sure your child succeeds in high school.”
Some of the student leaders of the NJROTC spoke, as did two freshman cadets, to give middle-schoolers an idea of what to expect.
Senior Jet’aime Thompson, the student commanding officer, said she was timid and quiet when she started but that NJROTC transformed her.
“I was taught leadership qualities and I made a family,” she said. “I made brothers and sisters who always have my back. I made father figures that I never imagined. That’s what our five instructors have done for us.”
Senior Bermuda Pierre, executive officer, said NJROTC also helped her overcome shyness after she moved to the United States from Haiti.
“This program helped me to take a stand and become confident in everything I do,” she said. “I love this program. It really feels like a family.”
Junior Maurice Faulk, regimental drill master, said he had a different issue before joining NJROTC.
“I wasn’t shy, and I wasn’t timid. But I was very unruly,” he told the assembly. “As far as not following rules, getting suspended from school, grades were in the gutter. Then coming to ROTC really whipped me into shape. … I’m a living example of how this program changes people. I go from a kid who is disrespecting teachers, talking back to his parents, to a kid who makes his bed every morning with nice, neat hospital corners.”
Senior Janali Casanas, command master chief, said she is enlisting in the Marine Corps, but has a head start. She will be starting as a private first class with a higher pay grade because of her work in NJROTC.
“I have friends that enlisted and they said, ‘I went to boot camp and I didn’t know anything. We did drill, we did this, we did that,’ and I said, ‘I already do that in ROTC.’ ”
The assembly featured a performance by the Linden Dance Company, made up of the top dancers at the high school. This opened the floor for members Nathania Sampaio and DeAnte’ Britton to list the programs offered in fine and performing arts, including art, drama, dance, concert band, marching band, and Madrigal singers.
“At Linden High School, we teach children, we don’t just teach subjects,” Horre said. “For some children, where they’re going to excel is at dance, for some children it’s going to be in the arts. We want to make sure to give them every opportunity.”
Horre then introduced dance teacher Barbara Brady, who is among six finalists for National Dance Teacher of the Year.
“She really does exemplify the level of the staff at Linden High School,” she said. “It is that level of professionalism and expertise that I am so proud to present to you.”
The number of clubs at Linden High School makes it difficult to remember them all. Among those mentioned to the middle-schoolers was the National Honor Society, language clubs and honor societies, Educational Support Team, Fashion Against Bullying, art club, badminton club, Civil War Roundtable, American Red Cross, DECA entrepreneurs club, Future Business Leaders of America, drama club, and Gay-Straight Alliance.
“We have a club and activity fair every year so that the students can learn about everything that we offer,” said school counselor Samantha Kosty. “It’s important to get yourself out there, step out of the box, meet new friends.”
Senior Ayanna Brant said she there are a multitude of opportunities to get involved, to either find your true passion or to just become a more well-rounded student.
“They give you a better relationship with the community and with the people in your school so you can understand a better way to look at the world and what is out there,” she said. “As Ms. Kosty would say, you have to think globally but act locally. Get involved in whatever you can get involved in.”
Horre also touted the many foreign language clubs and honor societies, and the chance they offer for overseas travel and “true emersion” into another culture.
“It’s more than just visiting a country,” she said. “It’s so much more than just a vacation.”
Kosty gave a quick rundown of the many academic opportunities students have aside from the International Baccalaureate program.
Along with the core courses of English, math, science, history, foreign language, and gym/health, as well as fine and performing arts, there are several practical arts classes available. Those include graphic design, TV/video, modern food, modern clothing, and parenting.
LHS also offers a two-year engineering program, a three-year electronics program that offers certification before graduation, a computer science program that includes an Advance Placement course, and a cosmetology program that offers certification.
The school also offers a unique opportunity in process technology in partnership with Middlesex County College and the Phillips 66 Bayway Refinery in which students can complete the program with a job as a process technician at the refinery.
In their junior year, students can also opt to attend the Union County Vocational Technical School for a half-day to gain access to more programs.
And if it all seems overwhelming, there is plenty of help available in the School Counseling Office.
“You’ll have a counselor that will be with you for four years,” Kosty said, “so you’ll be able to build a great relationship with them.”
Junior Brooke Beyer and senior Christian Oquendo spoke briefly about the opportunities in athletics, which include:
Fall sports: Football; boys and girls cross country; boys and girls soccer; girls tennis; cheerleading; and girls volleyball.
Winter sports: Boys and girls basketball; boys and girls indoor track; boys and girls bowling; boys and girls swimming; cheerleading; and wrestling
Spring sports: Baseball; softball; boys tennis; boys and girls outdoor track; and boys volleyball
“When you’re on a team, you build a bond that’s like nothing else,” Oquendo said. “I know that everybody’s got each other’s back. It’s like family.”
>> LHS FAMILY
“We’ve heard over and over that this is a family,” Horre said. “ROTC is a family, athletic teams act as a family, the dance company kids make a connection. That’s what I want you to take away from here.
“I can talk about ROTC, about the Dance Company, about all the academics, about all the opportunities for students. But what I really want to focus on is our students. What drives me every day when I come into work, this place that I love so much, are these students. They’re the most amazing individuals. I love these kids. They are empathetic, they are kind, they are strong, they are successful – they are a family.”