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We’re giving it our all, will you?

 

We did it. We’ve accomplished our first big goal. The Millennium HS Alumni Association is finally a bona fide 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

But we won’t stop here. There’s so much more to accomplish and so many alumni to celebrate–like you.

This is why we’re participating in #GivingTuesday, and we hope you will too.

Today, we’re working to raise funds to help MHS replace some projectors in their classrooms. Every single dollar donated today will go toward enhancing a student’s educational experience at our collective alma mater.

Please follow this link to lend a hand.

Your support is vital in helping us fulfill our mission to reinforce the Millennium High School community through its strong and successful alumni base. We can’t do this without you!

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Alumni Spotlight with Sarah Simon and Kyla McLaughlin (’13)

The Alumni Spotlight is a new feature of the Alumni Advisor, our email newsletter, where we sit down and chat with a Millennium HS alumnus about their lives after Millennium.  We announce when we plan to write the next feature, so please feel free to nominate yourself or another alumnus by shooting us an email with your name, contact information, and a brief description as to why you think you should be in the spotlight for followup.

This issue’s spotlight is a double feature focused on Sarah Simon and Kyla McLaughlin, both graduates from the class of 2013. Sarah and Kyla shared a serendipitous experience as the two attended different colleges since graduating from Millennium HS, and reunited in the same English-teaching program in Quito, Ecuador. The MHSAA took some time to interview them about their lives abroad, how it’s changed them, and how their connection to MHS helped them along the way.

 

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(Photo slideshow of Kyla and Sarah in Quito. Photos alternate between Kyla and Sarah’s experiences, with Kyla first and Sarah following in that order.)

1] Tell us about yourselves. (Where did you grow up, what year did you graduate, and what college journey did you take after MHS?)

Sarah: I grew up in Manhattan, in a neighborhood called Yorkville (some people lump it under the Gossip Girls-reminiscent “Upper East Side,” but they’re just on the wrong side of history there). I had always gone to schools in my neighborhood, so traveling down to MHS on the subway every day was a milestone for me. I graduated with the class of 2013, and then went to the State University of New York at Geneseo (SUNY Geneseo), where I graduated in May 2017.

Kyla: I’m a Brooklyn native, Windsor Terrace to be exact. I loved growing up in a city, near a park, surrounded by culture and diversity. I graduated from MHS in 2013. I decided to leave big city life for four years and attended Kenyon College in Ohio, studying Spanish and Sociology. I graduated in May of 2017.  

 

2] Tell us more about your story of how you two met abroad. How did you both feel about having someone you know doing the same thing in a foreign country and city?

Sarah: It was a funny coincidence. I was in Quito, Ecuador, teaching English through a program called WorldTeach. While sitting in the teacher’s lounge (I remember it vividly), I saw Kyla on the list of volunteers-to-come that the organization had sent us. I then Facebook messaged her to confirm that the Kyla McLaughlin on the list was the Kyla McLaughlin I was thinking of. I was stunned — “el mundo es un pañuelo”, it’s a small world (the meaning’s the same, even though it translates verbatim to “the world is a handkerchief”.)

When Kyla got to Quito, it was the beginning of her year there and halfway through mine. I was just looking forward to seeing how her experience went, and offering advice. I think I was so eager to offer advice that I offered too much.

Kyla: Sarah and I had lost touch after high school, so it was a pleasant surprise to know someone from my past was going to be sharing this experience with me. It was such a small world coincidence that we ended up doing the same program abroad. During her time here, Sarah was a guiding light for me, extremely helpful when I faced a new challenge and she had already dealt with something similar. She and I got to reconnect and it was really natural. I am happy that we rekindled our relationship and got to share this experience together.  

 

 

3] Tell us more about what you’re doing now.

Sarah: As of right now (Nov. 2018), I’m in NYC waiting tables, taking the dreaded GRE exams, touring grad schools, and waiting until March. Why March? Well, from March-November 2019, I’ll be traveling to Uruguay on the Fulbright to, you guessed it, teach English once again.

Kyla: As Sarah said previously, I arrived in Ecuador in February and will be here until December. I am in my last cycle of teaching English in Quito. It’s definitely bittersweet and I cannot believe that my time is almost over.

 

4] What made each of you want to teach English abroad? How did you come into that situation?

Sarah: I communicate my reasons through un dicho, a saying: “No fue el pez que descubrió el agua” – “it wasn’t the fish that discovered water”.

It just makes the most sense to me to leap out of my comfortable world for a little while, before deciding on grad school and a career. Also, in college, I committed myself to falling in love with Spanish. Yes, I logically arrived at an emotion, realizing how important it was to know this language. Many touted Spanish’s “marketability”, and sure – being multilingual is like sticking a gold star on one’s resume or LinkedIn page. But I also started to recognize the urgency of working with individuals who represent a marginalized group, constantly under- and misrepresented in society and the media.

Kyla: As a college senior, one of the most challenging things is deciding what to do next. Leaving the comfort of four years in the same place with mostly the same people is difficult. I had previously decided that I wanted to live abroad and be in a Spanish-speaking country. As someone who majored in Spanish, I wanted to continue using it and improving. I also did not want to immediately go into the working world nor did I want to go to graduate school right away. As such, WorldTeach was a great option for me because it allowed to pursue my Spanish, live abroad, and ultimately, gave me the opportunity to try something new. I had never taught before and this was a scary, but exciting challenge for me. This became my post-college gap year, the chance for me to go out in the world and explore as well as work with people who wanted to learn English and use it, just like my desire to learn Spanish. I knew where these students were coming from and wanted to be a part of that journey.

 

5]  What is the most rewarding about it?

Sarah: Teaching and living in Ecuador for a year has been one of the most satisfying things I’ve done; I had to adjust to the external world so much that I’m coming out a more secure and flexible person because of it.

Kyla: I have learned an extremely important lesson here: any challenge that I face, I can overcome. While I feel connected to my students, my friends, and my colleagues and have tremendously improved as a teacher and Spanish-speaker, there have been many obstacles for me during my time in Ecuador. Sometimes, it feels like everything bad happens to you and you can’t control it. Much of life is like this, for everyone. However, I’ve learned to find ways to turn initially negative things into positive ones. I think that I couldn’t have survived my time here without this ability and it’s something that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life.

 

6] What are the greatest challenges?

Sarah: Exactly what brought me the most satisfaction – adjusting to everything, feeling alone at times. But you work to become your own advocate, go out there, make more of an effort to speak with people (in your second language, too!), and make/find your happy place. This is a place you’ve never been, and you have to figure out not only how you’re going to survive, but how you’re going to be happy.

Kyla: I have always been extremely tenacious, but Ecuador has challenged and continues to challenge my tenacity everyday. I was the sickest I’ve ever been in my entire life here, and from something that I love, food. Dealing with illness while being abroad was extremely difficult sometimes. However, I found my inspiration through my students and my desire to teach. Even though there were some bad days, being sick actually made me a lot stronger.

Teaching can be rewarding, but is also very challenging at times. As I said earlier, I had never taught before, much less English. At first, when I was suddenly in charge of a room full of students and their English education, I was nervous. With time, these nerves disappeared and I realized that I have the chance to make my classes educational and fun. My students rely on me and that’s something that I keep in mind when any challenge arises.

 

7] Let’s talk about skills. What skills do you think are most essential to teaching abroad? What did you have to learn to achieve this goal?

Sarah:

  • Flexibility
  • Discipline
  • At least an intermediate level in the host country’s language (or an amazing resilience to communication challenges)

Notice how I’m talking about personal skills here ⅔ times – the skills you have governing and operating yourself as a person. It’s hard to say how they’re learned, but MHS surely challenged me in these areas.

Kyla:

1) Flexibility – Sarah is completely right. If you are not flexible while teaching abroad, you will not succeed. New things happen every day and a lot of time, they’re unexpected. Flexibility is so important because you need to be able to go with flow and think on your feet, especially when something unexpected happens..

2) Patience – There are so many challenges when teaching and living abroad. Being patient is key because being new in an unfamiliar place where the language may or may not be one that you know can be frustrating. Not understanding right away or making mistakes are both part of the process and this definitely goes hand in hand with flexibility.

3) Being Open-Minded – Living in another place gives you the opportunity to get to know that place and its people. Being abroad introduces you to different ways of life, usually different from your own. Maintaining the idea that everything will be exactly the same as what you’re used to from your home country is not the way to go into teaching abroad. Things are going to be different and challenge your opinions and customs, but being different doesn’t mean better or worse.

All of these skills I’ve learned over time through traveling, teaching, living abroad, school, etc.

 

8] What was your proudest moment about teaching English abroad?

Sarah: That my students and I still talk.

Kyla: I’ve had multiple memorable moments as a teacher. One was when I helped two former students prepare for graduate school interviews in English. They were both so nervous about them, but I guided them through the process and asked them potential interview questions. Both of them are now in graduate school in Spain. Another was when a student told me that I was the best English teacher he had ever had and that made me feel really special and proud of what I had achieved in the classroom.  

 

9] What is on your wish list for your future?

Sarah: Besides more nameable things like the Fulbright in Uruguay, mainly just my preferred mix of predictability and unpredictability. I have a “five-year plan” for myself, but I’m open to twists, too.

Kyla: I have always wanted to make a difference in the world, whether it’s in New York, in the United States, or abroad. While I am not sure what I want to do next after Ecuador, I hope to be helping people.

 

10] What advice do you have for other alumni/current MHS students about teaching abroad/college/work/life?

Sarah: Do it because you feel like you need to – both for yourself and for others. And if you don’t have that feeling, do some reading on current world affairs, as well as on the legacy of colonialism. And if you’re getting ready to work/study abroad, work your language ability up to at least the intermediate level. Once you get there, make friends with people who don’t speak English all the time.

Kyla: You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to know what you’re doing for work or where you’re going to grad school. You just have to find something that you’re passionate about and pursue it. Take advantage of any opportunity that sparks your creativity, your curiosity, your dreams. Whatever you decide to do, commit to it. College, work, teaching abroad, all of these pursuits are what you make of them. Go in with an open mind and just try something new. Even if it doesn’t work out, you at least tried and can move on to bigger and better things. The world is literally your oyster.

 

11] Are there any skills MHS taught you that you took with you into this career?

Sarah: I trace back my love of learning to MHS. I just wasn’t a committed student until 9th and 10th grade, when I had wonderful teachers who helped me sharpen my study habits and whet my curiosity to learn. Teachers who will always stick out in my memory are Ms. Pickering (Global History), Mr. O’Neill (Geometry), Mr. Garfinkel (English & AP English Language), and Mr. Lamonte (Bio-Chem). Without this mixture of teachers and timing, or at a school where I didn’t find the ingredients I needed, my grades wouldn’t have improved, I wouldn’t have gone to the college I went to, etc. Maybe I wouldn’t have been enthusiastic enough about learning to seek out becoming a teacher abroad.

Kyla: I appreciated the work and effort my teachers put into my education. Teaching has made me appreciate them even more. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. I have always loved learning new things, especially ones that challenge my thought process and make me think critically. MHS, along with my college education, my support system, and my experiences put me on a path to where I am now.

 

 

12] Did either of you partake in the Foreign Exchange program at MHS? If so, how did participating in that program help you in the future?

Sarah: Ah, yes. The Ecuador February ‘13 trip – little did I know it would only be a precursor.

Kyla: I went to Peru in 2011 with Foreign Exchange. Subsequently, I have returned to Peru twice. I spent a summer in college volunteering with the YMCA, the organization MHS worked with during my first time in Peru. I recently went back on vacation and got to reunite with some of the friends I had made. Foreign Exchange Peru was one of the first trips that I took where it wasn’t simply about tourism; it was about making a difference and helping people. This was an extremely important travel milestone in my life and I’m really thankful for the experience. It helped shape the way I view the world and my place within it.

 

More on Sarah:

https://www.geneseo.edu/news/sarah-simon-17-earns-fulbright-teach-uruguay

Instagram: @ssimon8

 

Alumni Spotlight with Claire Matern (’08)

The Alumni Spotlight is a new feature of the Alumni Advisor, our email newsletter, where we sit down and chat with a Millennium HS alumnus about their lives after Millennium.  We announce when we plan to write the next feature, so please feel free to nominate yourself or another alumnus by shooting us an email with your name, contact information, and a brief description as to why you think you should be in the spotlight for followup.

ClaireClaire Matern graduated from MHS in 2008 and now runs A Cheesemonger’s Daughter, a lifestyle company that teaches beginners in the kitchen to be fearless and to cook with their five senses.  The MHSAA took some time to interview her about her journey and to learn about her secrets to success. You can follow Claire on Instagram, YouTube, or sign up for her mailing list!

 

1] Tell us about yourself. (Where did you grow up, what year did you graduate, and what journey did you take after MHS?)

I grew up in Park Slope, Brooklyn and graduated MHS in 2008. After graduating I went on a real journey for college—and changed my mind a lot.

I moved to London in September 2008 to begin my degree in fashion journalism at London College of Fashion. After an unhappy year (loved and still love London, but the course wasn’t for me) I moved home and took a year off to explore my options.

Inspired by a former staff member at Millennium, Tami Farber, I applied, was accepted to and attended Global College (now LIU Global) and moved to Costa Rica for my second college experience. There I lived with a host family for the year, traveled extensively through Costa Rica and Panama, spent time with multiple indigenous communities and studied Global Studies with a specialty in environmental and indigenous studies in Latin America. It was an incredible year, but about half way through my second semester I again felt the nudge to return home to New York—instead of continuing on my GC route which would’ve led me to India.

So after finishing the year in Costa Rica I moved home and applied to the Fashion Institute of Technology. I wasn’t accepted into the BS International Trade and Marketing program I had originally wanted (international transfer credits were too difficult to translate) so instead got my foot in the door at FIT and accepted my offered position to the associates program in Production Management. I did that 2 year degree in an accelerated 1 year and reapplied for the ITM bachelors, was accepted, and graduated with a BS in International Trade and Marketing with a double minor in Latin American Studies and Economics in 2014. While at FIT I was also the President of the Entrepreneurship Society.

Since 2014 I have worked on and pivoted on many ideas, most recently launching my company A Cheesemonger’s Daughter which started as a pet project in the fall of 2014.

 

2] Tell us more about what you’re doing now.

I recently launched my food lifestyle company A Cheesemonger’s Daughter. What started as a blog and hobby has evolved drastically and I pivoted wildly with it over the years. From autumn of 2017 I have fully rebranded with a Youtube channel (A Cheesemonger’s Daughter) with weekly short cooking videos, a website (acheesemongersdaughter.com) and most popularly, Instagram (@acheesemongersdaughter) where I post daily content, weekly Stories breaking down simple dishes, and host 4 monthly takeovers on large lifestyle platforms. My mission is to show you how to trust your gut to feed your gut. I empower you to cook intuitively using your five (plus common) senses, encourage you to learn new skills and respect you to choose what, when, and how you want to eat.

I am currently working on a book proposal for my first cookbook.

 

3] How did you get into building your brand? Why did you decide to go down this path?

I think entrepreneurs are born. I started down this path because I never saw any other option. Entrepreneurs are weighers of risk, who often try to avoid it, but in my opinion entrepreneurs at heart are problem solvers. I see a problem with how my generation approaches food, cooking, and their kitchens and instead of ignoring it, or trying to solve it in a way that’s being done, I am building my own solution. I could never imagine going to work for someone else, putting in all my creative and physical energy into a different company, and going home at the end of the day.

I think about my company constantly. I write sentences to my book when walking, doing laundry, on the subway. I develop recipes or brainstorm revenue streams while running errands. I plan my future office space while jogging. I didn’t really get into building my brand—building my brand is my life.

 

4]  What is the most rewarding about it?

When people reach out to me, thanking me or wanting to share something they made because of how I showed them and taught them to approach their kitchen. I got a message recently that said “your perspective is so unique, and truly teaches people to be confident and self sufficient in the kitchen.” That’s the most rewarding thing to hear, and motivating to keep going.

 

5] What are the greatest challenges?

Remaining self-motivated. Choosing to build my own company is on me. If I get up and laze around on Facebook then nothing has happened to get me closer to my goal. And days can be challenging when you feel like nothing is happening. It’s sometimes a challenge to remain driven and tenacious when you don’t actually know if what you did that day is getting you closer to what you want. Building a company is a bit of blind faith and trust that you’re doing the right thing.

 

6] Let’s talk about skills. What skills do you think are most essential to building a brand? What did you have to learn to achieve this goal?

Presentation skills and public speaking skills are beyond useful. Take an improv class, find a coach, take a group class, practice. Make sure you can stand up in front of a crowd, a couple people, at a networking event, or in a bar and be able to present yourself the way you want and convey your idea concisely.

Write lists. If you see it, you will do it. Write daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, and I try to set myself a 90 goal as well.

The ability to pivot. Pivot is my favorite word. In life, business, school, any situation should be approached with the idea of being adaptable and flexible. Find new opportunities in anything and when faced with an obstacle, don’t look at it as a problem but instead as an opportunity to find a solution. My favorite piece of advice a professor gave me was to take “small but smart steps.” He used the analogy of a baby learning to climb a staircase. Do something, if you fall or fail, iterate, try again, and see what happens. Continue to make small adjustments based on small actions.

And then there’s skill and knowledge in knowing what you’re not good at. Acknowledge that you can’t do everything and build your team and support network based on that. For example, I style and shoot all the stills for my content but I knew I wasn’t good at film and editing. So I found a filmmaker and editor who shared my vision, makes me feel comfortable and who I can collaborate and work well with to make the videos happen. Thinking more broadly, I had to find a lawyer and accountant who I liked and could do the trademark and registering for me because I didn’t want to tackle that alone. Find professionals who you can build as your network and base.

 

 7] What was your proudest moment about ACD? 

About a year after first starting the blog, an article and recipe I wrote was published on vogue.com. As someone who for most of her life thought she would wind up in the fashion industry and studied fashion journalism, having a byline on vogue.com was the ultimate “made it” moment. Never would I have thought that when a dream was realized it would have nothing to do with fashion or clothing, but it was my way of achieving that dream.

 

8] What is on your wish list for the future of ACD?

I have big plans for A Cheesemonger’s Daughter. I have recently trademarked and registered the company. As I mentioned, I am working on my first cookbook and have 5 future ones roughly outlined. I want to develop ACD into the food lifestyle company the Millennial generation does not have, and fill the niche of the trusted go-to voice in the kitchen for the Millennial market.

Future plans for the company include continued web and video content, television, future books, an app, a kitchen and home wares product line, and a foundation. I strive to make A Cheesemonger’s Daughter a for-profit, for-purpose company.

 

9] What advice do you have for other alumni/current MHS students about entrepreneurship/building a brand/hard work/life?

Be nice to everyone, because you have absolutely no idea where your next lead or contact will come from. Some of life is hard work, some of it luck and timing, but most of the opportunities I’ve gotten are from people I knew, or people who I was connected with. Keep yourself open to receiving opportunities from anywhere.

And it sounds cliche but it’s a good reminder: if you have an idea that you want to grow it’s a mental game. You have to commit to it 100%. Run into with full force, and better yet, if it makes you nauseous and nervous and excited all at once then you’re going in the right direction.

 

10] Are there any skills MHS taught you that you took with you into this career?

Are exhibitions still a thing? The exhibition process helped me. Taking an idea, having to develop it and then present it—that’s my life everyday now.

Welcome to the Alumni Advisor!

This is a copy of our first email issue of the Alumni Advisor. If you’d like to sign up, follow the link here.

Welcome!

We’re excited to share our first official newsletter with the extended Millennium HS Alumni community! The Alumni Advisor will be your first stop for communication on all Association-related news, announcements, and updates. Thank you for signing up and getting involved!

MHS School Supply Drive

WishlistGraphic

We’ve gotten a lot of questions on how alumni can give back to the MHS community, and here is your first chance!

Your donations through this Amazon Wish List will go directly to MHS and directly into a classroom in need. Purchase what you can, or share it with friends and family!

Click here to shop.

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Interested in becoming a mentor?

We will be holding a special meeting for those interested in joining a pilot program to become a mentor to current MHS students in the 2017-2018 school year. If you’d like to hear more, please email us at millenniumhsalumni@gmail.com.

10930032_1012745265405663_8055551702299477492_nHelp us create a logo!

Calling all artists, graphic designers, and phoenix lovers, we’re looking for a new logo! We’d like to establish our identity and need a visual element to work with. Please email us as soon as possible at millenniumhsalumni@gmail.com.

If we gain enough interest, there will be a voting round!

Click here to make a general donation to the MHSAA. 

*If you are donating through this link above, please select Alumni Association from the dropdown menu. Don’t forget to ask your respective companies about corporate matching and thank you in advance for your support!