Elaine Wen

Not Pictured
Elementary School: Not in the United States
Upper School: Not in the United States
Upcoming Plans: University
Area of Study/Interest: International Relations & Political Science
Career Aspiration: Someone who makes a tangible impact

Favorite subject at CRLS
History Through the Headlines with Mr. Cohen, AP World with Dr. Lam, and AP U.S. Government and Politics with Ms. Williams-Giordano

Why is it your favorite subject?
Beyond Dr. Benjamin Cohen's captivating character and unparalleled ability to connect with his students, he has truly cracked the code on how to teach a class. Headlines challenged my analytical abilities and how I interact with society through showing me that the most enriching form of education comes from conversations with others. Headlines and Mr. Cohen (or "Benji" to his mates) taught me to not talk just to talk and how intricate our lives can be, despite the black and white binary humans easily fall into. This class was one that made me excited to wake up every day and go to school, eager to see what complex debates and thought-provoking discussions we would engage in today.

AP World and Dr. Lam reintroduced the joy to be found within learning. With her swift repartee and extensive intelligence (ranging from academic to life wisdom), Dr. Lam exemplifies how historical education is more than just memorizing dates and events. She taught me how history is about understanding human nature and how every step we take marks an impact on the world around us. I deeply respect her ability to knit collaboration, learning, and joie de vivre into the fabric of a single class. She is an icon for a reason and someone I grow to admire more and more every single day.

AP U.S. Government and Politics with Ms. Williams-Giordano was the class that made me decide what field I wanted to pursue. As someone who didn't grow up in the States taking my first U.S. history class, I entered this class with hunger, but apprehension. With her no nonsense teaching philosophy, but ample support when needed, Ms. Williams-Giordano and Ms. Hassey, our student teacher, reoriented how I saw political science. They presented government in a lens I had yet to experience: one that centers the people over the institutions. As a student taking the class and as the Teaching Assistant for it the following year, I found myself passionate about the subject. Passionate about comprehending and educating how politics weaves ideas into solutions that ameliorate the very society of people the government was conceived from. 

Favorite CRLS Staff Person
Ms. Williams-Giordano, Mr. Gupta, Ms. Shin, and Tricia Gomes

What makes that staff person so special?
Ms. Williams-Giordano (Ms. WG) is who I want to be when I grow up. From being our Student Government advisor for all of my four years to teaching three life-changing courses to advocating for trailblazing education equity on a national level, Ms. WG creates impacts and brings grace with every step she takes. I recall her telling our class sophomore year, "Everybody has their own Hallmark movie story, but how you persevere through it and what you make of your life is how you become who you are." Her powerful demeanor, however, is one that lies above a heart which truly cares for each and every student. Ms. WG has supported, comforted, and cared for me whenever I've been struggling and someone who has been my role model since I was a freshman. Whether it be knitting a hat in my favorite color or sending an encouraging message, Ms. WG has been a rock in my life during a time of immense uncertainty. I would not be who I am today without her and, for that, I am and will remain eternally grateful.

Mr. Gupta is a hilarious and thoughtful genius. Never have I ever met a teacher who has taken such steps to care for students' mental health. His AP Chemistry challenged me in a way I had yet to encounter, but through long days at office hours and his patience with my incessant questions, I altered my approach toward classes, but also toward academia as a whole. He helped me realize the pure happiness that can be found in learning, the happiness a grade-savvy school can overlook. He is always willing to engage in a philosophical chit chat, and his support for me both academically and personally will never go unnoticed. Be sure to ask him about his numerous amusing stories and know that he has one of the most kind hearts our staff has to offer.

Ms. Shin is the older sister I never had. As an advisor for Pan Asian Club during a time of immense transition, Ms. Shin not only brings enthusiasm to everything she does, but an empathetic soul behind it. Any time I was having a bad day, I popped by Ms. Shin's who provided sage advice filled with what I needed to hear, regardless of whether I wanted to hear it. Ms. Shin seeks to build long-lasting and genuine relationships with people and has become a friend just as much as a mentor for me. I find anyone who gets to call her their friend truly fortunate.

Tricia Gomes is light in human form. She greets every student with a smile every morning in the cafeteria brightening days with each one. Quick with a witty comeback or a sweet compliment, Tricia is an integral staple in the CRLS community. Food service workers are rarely given the credit they deserve, and Tricia is among many who bring that much more cheerfulness to our school every day. I will greatly miss her.

Extracurricular activities, clubs, school-related activities
Students of Color Coalition, Student Government, Pan Asian Club, Model United Nations, Debate Team, Traveling Chorus, Register Forum.

What were some of the out-of-school time (O.S.T) programs that you participated in anytime between grades 6-12?
Cambridge Youth Council, Family Policy Council, Asian American Resource Workshop, Massachusetts State House, Campaign Coordinator.

How did being enrolled in any O.S.T. program(s) contribute to your success both in and out of high school?
These activities have all allowed me to observe the legislative process from an active and individual-focused perspective. Cambridge Youth Council & Family Policy Council taught me how to turn ideas into real change such as obtaining free bus and train passes for all CRLS students or providing free menstrual products in the Cambridge libraries. Working for the Asian American Resource Workshop, Massachusetts State House, and as a Campaign Coordinator, I got to recenter the individual person component of policy work. In advocating for an evicted Asian elder, teaching about our state government, or responding to constituent emails, I harnessed the skills and knowledge obtained in the classroom to the lives of real people. The aforementioned pursuits all bettered my work ethic, organization, but personal emphasis on highlighting human stories in everything I did, which I attribute to the majority of my success.

What did you like most about CRLS? Why?
There is a chance for learning in every single corner! Chats over ice cream with a peer, classes I've never heard of, fascinating opportunities, and unique clubs have all broadened my world view while allowing me to grow so much as a person. If you remain keen and keep an open mind, there are an infinite amount of ways CRLS can enhance and expand your perspective on life. Never stop learning!

What is something people unfamiliar with CRLS should know about the school? Why?
Keep searching, but never forget how far you've come. CRLS hides a slew of untapped opportunities that are only available if you actively pursue them. Sending hundreds of emails to anyone I could find, asking upperclassmen for advice, and even trial and error are behind the experiences I gained the most from during high school. Moving to Cambridge my freshman year with immigrant parents, it was tempting to fall into complacency watching how many people could leverage connections or pre-existing networks I couldn't access. However, the staff, the students, and the Greater Boston community are more than willing to lend a helping hand, but you must be intentionally searching and chasing for that to happen.

What advice would you give incoming freshmen about CRLS?
First of all, you've absolutely got this! I know high school is incredibly daunting, but I assure you that you will find your people and your place within no time! Here are some of the best lessons I wish I could tell 14-year-old Elaine:

1. Society around us tends to treat learning and education as a means to an end. We get good grades to get into a good college. We get into a good college to get a good job. We get a good job to make money to have a good life. We often forget that learning is an end itself. The minute I began treasuring knowledge over a mark was when I began to find school, learning, and life the most vibrant and rewarding.

2. Make sure you have a way to derive your own personal happiness! Joy won’t always come from external sources so don’t wait for things to happen that will make you happy. There's a difference between living and surviving, and life is short, so go live it!

3. Your voice is one of the most powerful things in this world and I urge you to use it. Cambridge is one of the most open and supportive communities for youth advocacy, so strive to make an impact because you can and you should! I've always hated how people say that young people are the future, because young people are the now. We are not gonna change the world tomorrow, young people are changing the world today. You are changing the world today. 

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