A Clean Break For the 2017-2018 ARISTA EC

Arista EC
Photo by Vivian Lin

“In the long run, we want ARISTA to serve the purpose of adding to and building up your character,” ARISTA President Nicholas Li said. “That’s one of the things we want to focus ARISTA into becoming: not just an organization for your college applications, but an organization that holds actual meaning.”

The 2017-2018 ARISTA Executive Council (EC) is comprised of juniors Nicholas Li, Sophie Feng, Luola Chen, Ryan Siu, and Selina Zou. They will serve as ARISTA’s President, Executive Vice President, and Vice Presidents of Tutoring, Web Development, and Events, respectively.

Previously, ARISTA was a chapter of the National Honors Society (NHS), a nationwide organization of high school students who exemplify the four pillars of scholarship, character, leadership, and service.

However, seniors Evelyn Gotlieb, Julia Ingram, Rodda John, Giselle Garcia, and Sharon Chao, the former EC, determined that they would not renew Stuyvesant’s membership with the NHS, and went on to ratify ARISTA’s Bylaws on Thursday, June 1, in conjunction with Principal Eric Contreras and Faculty Advisor Jo Mahoney.

The EC had been unknowingly adhering to ARISTA Guidelines, which were created by an organization much like the NHS that was located in New York City during the 1980s until it went bankrupt.

“I brought to the attention of the EC back in January or February that we were not in compliance with the NHS Constitution, and I started writing our Bylaws at that point in time with the goal that we would break away at some point in the future,” John said. “The way I had originally written [the Bylaws] was that we would stay in the NHS, but would purposefully ignore the specific tenets that did not apply to us. [This] wasn’t necessarily the most legal thing to do under the NHS [Constitution], but it was what we had decided was best.”

“Most of the high schools in the city do not [follow the NHS Constitution], but due to a complicated situation, we are not renewing our membership to the NHS,” Feng said. “Contreras was supposed to read all of the applications, but you can’t really expect him to read 300 plus applications in a school of this size. It’s almost impossible.”

Though the EC declined to comment on the context surrounding this “complicated situation,” Li asserted that this turn of events is a welcome change. “Stuy[vesant] is one of the most unique schools in New York City and nationwide, so I feel like it wouldn’t be the best for students to be  subject to [the NHS’s] general laws. Instead, we want to create a Stuyvesant Honors Society in which our programs and our Bylaws reflect more of our community,” he said.

Changing the dynamic within ARISTA is the EC’s primary goal.“We are all trying to take this approach to becoming more [relatable] and less separated from the normal members of ARISTA,” Chen said. “Many of us have proposed bonding events so ARISTA members feel like they are a part of this overarching organization. [The former EC had] awards to recognize the most dedicated members of ARISTA.”

To highlight the pillar of service, the EC plans to restructure the events requirements in order to encourage members to volunteer for a spectrum of events. “This year, members will hopefully work with a diverse set of organizations. While changes are not set in stone, we’re hoping that somehow we’ll be able to work [toward] this goal and foster a stronger spirit of volunteerism in ARISTA,” Zou said in an e-mail interview.

“We want to get new events into ARISTA that not only are more fun for the volunteers, but will also hopefully create a more meaningful experience on both ends: our volunteers and the people that receive the work that they do,” Li said.

In fact, when asked to describe their most meaningful experience in ARISTA thus far, each member of the EC spoke of a time that accentuated the collaborative nature of the organization.“One of the best things about ARISTA is that you can create these long lasting connections with people inside and outside of school and from all different walks of life,” Chen said.

Chen is working to bolster the effectiveness of the Tutoring Committee and better encompass these values. She also recognized that historically, peer tutoring has been a requirement that members struggle with successfully completing, and in order to remedy this, she hopes to find more effective alternatives to one-on-one peer tutoring.

Her primary goal, however, is to implement a system within the already pre-existing anonymous pairing system on their website that assigns tutees to tutors based on the teacher. “It resolves a few issues that I have encountered this year while tutoring,” she said. “Many teachers often teach at different paces and emphasize different aspects of the curriculum, so it’s really hard to find a meeting ground where the tutor is able to offer the tutee what they need in a tutor. It also helps the tutor go into teaching at ease. They aren’t just trying their best, but are prepared.”

With this growing dependence on the ARISTA’s online presence, the Communications Committee was absolved this year and replaced with the Web Development Committee. “The roles of the Communications Committee tended to be [making] Facebook posts, [advertising] events, occasionally [making] posters, and [making] a promotional video,” John said. “We’ve been shifting toward using the websites to manage the organization, not only for ARISTA, but for the [Student Union’s] ID website, application website for Big Sibs, and the Parent Teacher Conference website. All of those functions were managed by me in conjunction with the Web Development Committee.”

Siu plans to build on the efforts of John by making their online interface more user-friendly. ”We want to change the fact that you have to make separate accounts for all of these different websites, so it’s easier to access,” he said. “Right now, we want to speed up the process of checking AIS sheets and essays.”

The EC hopes that their efforts will positively color the experiences of ARISTA members and emphasize the importance of the four pillars. “By making all these changes, we can give ARISTA the actual depth to become this meaningful high school experience that isn’t a chore for people, but a life changing experience that people can take something away from,” Li said.

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