Sixteen Bishop O’Dowd High School seniors were recently named commended students in the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program.
Riley Cooke, Fernando Fine, Alexis Hager, Torrey Hart, Cameron Hub, Isabella Johnson, Marie Leone, Eric Liu, Amy Mao, Anna McAneny, Thomas Myers, Ryan Poon, Isaac Roth, Ryan Seideman, Rebecca Sklar and Nathan Woods are among some 34,000 students throughout the nation being recognized for their exceptional academic promise.
Although they will not continue in the 2015 competition for National Merit Scholarship awards, the commended students placed among the top five percent of more than 1.5 million students who entered the competition by taking the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).
On Friday, October 17 at the varsity homecoming game halftime show we would like to honor breast cancer survivors. If you are a survivor or would like to honor a survivor please email Marguerite Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Download the Cheer Breast Cancer Awareness flyer »
On Tuesday September 23rd, more than 100 Heads of State/Government leaders (including President Obama) and over 800 leaders from business, finance, and civil society, attended a one-day UN sponsored Climate Summit in New York City. According to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (who also chaired the one day summit), “the purpose of the 2014 Climate Summit was to raise political momentum for a meaningful universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015, and to galvanize transformative action in all countries to reduce emissions and build resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change.”
Leaders were instructed to arrive with “bold ideas” to slow the rise in global temperatures, and to work together to crystallize a global vision for advancing climate action in eight areas: Agriculture, Cities, Energy, Financing, Forests, Industry, Resilience, and Transportation.
Encouragement for bringing bold ideas was spurred by the “People’s March,” which refers to the thousands of rallies occurring across 162 countries between September 21-24. The largest march took place in New York City on September 21st with estimates of up to 400,000 people attending (see NY Times coverage here).
Although our own students could not attend, O’Dowd’s Students for Sustainability (S4S) committee/club partnered with other Bay Area youth activists (who rode the People’s Climate Train from Oakland to NYC). These partners represented O’Dowd by carrying our S4S banner in the New York People’s March (see picture to the right).
Unlike in the past, this UN Summit is considered successful for a number of reasons: it marked a turning point for leaders in recognizing the climate change is real and is here now; the summit proved that genuine real world “green economy” solutions are already possible and happening and on a global scale; and lastly because the summit reassured world leaders that the movement in favor of action on climate change is gathering momentum fast so it is best to get out ahead of this movement.
This summit also showed the world that pledges to tackle climate change are no longer about empty rhetoric but about real measurable action. Echoing this sentiment, Secretary-General closed the summit with these words, “I asked for bold announcements from Governments, business, finance and civil society in five key areas. The Summit delivered. This Summit was not about talk. History is made by action. And now we have seen that the world is ready to act.”
Rebecca Alexander ’97 Doesn’t Have Time for Self-Pity
She feels an urgency to do as much as possible before darkness and silence become her reality.
Doctors predicted that Rebecca Alexander ’97 would be completely blind and deaf by the time she was 30. That milestone came and went, and, at 35, Alexander isn’t wasting time wondering what the next day will bring. She feels an urgency to do as much as possible before darkness and silence become her reality.
The Manhattan resident has a thriving psychotherapy practice, teaches spin classes, competes in extreme endurance races, and recently published “Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found.” (Penguin Books)
Diagnosed in college with Usher Syndrome Type III, a genetic condition that affects about 20,000 people in the United States, Alexander is gradually losing her vision and her hearing.
“And I was very self-conscious. I didn’t want anyone to know I had hearing loss.”
Alexander’s challenges started in sixth grade, when she began to have difficulty seeing the chalkboard. After a series of grueling tests, ophthalmologists identified the cause of her vision loss as retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disorder in which the cells in the retinas slowly degenerate. There is no cure.
At about the same time, Alexander began to experience hearing loss, which her family attributed to multiple ear infections she had as a child.
An audiologist termed Alexander’s audio impairment “a cookie bite of hearing loss” and recommended a hearing aid for her right ear – which Alexander resisted wearing for a couple of reasons. “When I wore the hearing aid I could hear the fibers rustling when I walked on the carpet. And I was very self-conscious. I didn’t want anyone to know I had hearing loss.”
The first time Alexander wore the hearing aid was in high school – in Bonnie Sussman’s AP history class. “Ms. Sussman speaks very low and I have better hearing in the high frequencies,” she said. “In class I would pull my long brown hair over my ear so nobody could see I was wearing a bulky hearing aid.”
After graduating from O’Dowd, and a month before she was to leave for the University of Michigan, Alexander took a fall out of a bedroom window and fell 27 feet onto a stone patio below after a night of drinking.
“It’s hard to say if the alcohol or my eyesight caused the fall,” she said. “I broke nearly everything and was in a wheelchair for months. The doctors were amazed I’d survived – although they seemed certain I’d never walk normally again. I did five months of nonstop physical therapy. But I’m still in pain every day from the injuries I sustained.”
After recovering, Alexander attended UC Santa Barbara for two semesters before transferring to University of Michigan, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in American Culture, with a focus on Ethnic Studies.
Coming to Terms with Dual Sensory Losses
Just after moving to Michigan, Alexander experienced a significant dip in her hearing. She saw an ear, nose and throat specialist who diagnosed her with Usher Syndrome Type 3.
“There’s no question that had I not had as much therapy as I did I wouldn’t be able to live as productive a life as I do now. “
Alexander was devastated to learn that she was not only going blind but deaf, too. “I was in denial,” she said.
In order to make up for the progressive loss of two senses, Alexander vowed to be as perfect as she possibly could in other areas. She put tremendous pressure on herself to excel academically and became obsessive about her physical appearance. She developed an eating disorder.
With the help of therapists, Alexander gradually came to accept her situation. “When I was in college I never could have imagined myself being in the place I am now – with such limited hearing and vision. Yet I am much happier than I ever was at that time,” she said. “But it’s taken a tremendous amount of work to come to terms with my condition and accept it.”
Alexander went on to earn a dual master’s degree in public health and clinical social work at Columbia University, became fluent in sign language, and was a social worker at the School for the Deaf in Brooklyn.
She later graduated from the American Institute for Psychoanalysis before launching a psychotherapy practice in Manhattan.
“There’s no question that had I not had as much therapy as I did I wouldn’t be able to live as productive a life as I do now. I definitely wanted to be able to give back – so to speak – to be able help others in the way that I was helped in my own process,” she said of her career choice.
Practically, she adds, the work environment of being in a quiet, enclosed room and working one-on-one with a client is ideal for someone with hearing and vision loss.
Adjusting to New Circumstances
As her hearing and vision decline, Alexander is constantly adjusting to her new circumstances. “A normally sighted person when looking straight ahead has 180 degrees of vision I have just about 10 degrees now,” she said. “I use a cane now, mostly at night because my night vision is most affected.”
She also received a cochlear implant – a small, electronic device that can help provide a sense of sound to someone who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing – in her right ear in 2013, and had to re-learn how to hear. “It took a lot of listening therapy and patience,” she said.
She likens the progression of hearing and vision loss to cooking on a stove. “Either my hearing or my vision is on the back burner and whichever one is not on the back burner is on the front burner. I’m just trying to deal with whatever is the most pressing at the time,” she said.
“As soon as you become more comfortable with a change in circumstances, things change again.
You have to take it one day at a time and deal with things as they come
You have to take it one day at a time and deal with things as they come,” Alexander said. “This is my reality. I don’t have time to sit around and feel sorry for myself. If I did that I would be missing out on what I’m able to do now and would never be able to live a fulfilling life.”
Sharing Her Story
In September, Alexander was featured on the Today Show and The Meredith Vieira Show and made appearances at Bay Area bookstores promoting “Not Fade Away.”
“What I found in my own process is that the more comfortable I’ve become with my situation the more comfortable other people have become.”
What Alexander is hoping people take away from the book is that part of the human condition is trying to deal with whatever life throws our way.
“For me, Usher Syndrome is the card I was dealt and I can’t just not live my life because I’m going deaf and blind. For others it may be a debilitating or terminal illness or the loss of an important person in their lives,” she said. “Whatever the case, you just have to do the best you can to live your life to the best of your ability.”
Additionally, she hopes the book encourages others to accept their circumstances and not spend so much time and energy hiding who they truly are.
“What I found in my own process is that the more comfortable I’ve become with my situation the more comfortable other people have become,” she said. “It’s a big sigh of relief when you can finally be out there and not have to hide who you are.”
In 1991, Shaka Senghor shot and killed a man. He was, he says, “a drug dealer with a quick temper and a semi-automatic pistol.” Jailed for second degree murder, that could very well have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t. Instead, it was the beginning of a years-long journey to redemption, one with humbling and sobering lessons for us all.
Circle shapes and ruled straight lines were overlapped, drawn in various sizes and cut off at the edges for the background design. Students then filled in the newly created shapes using pen & ink. The ink textures and patterns were applied in a full range of value, and defined through “implied” lines. A striking contrast allows the shapes to be defined within the creatively composed arrangement decided by each student.
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