2013-06-12 / Features

Lifelong Astorian Publishes Book On Academic Success


I have always been proud of my accomplishments as a student. In 1999 I became valedictorian of Stuyvesant H.S., one of the best public high schools in New York City. Later I graduated from Columbia University with the highest GPA in my class, picking up a number of awards along the way: Best Performance in Columbia’s Core Curriculum, Best Senior Thesis in History on a non-U.S. topic, Phi Beta Kappa, and summa cum laude, to name a few. I got my master’s degree in art history from NYU on a fellowship, and I later earned a second bachelor’s degree in computer science from Columbia. Over the years I developed many skills and ways of thinking that helped me excel in school and which I share in my new book, The Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College (Naperville, Il: Sourcebooks, 2013).

My academic career may have led me to some of the best schools in Manhattan, but the foundations for my success were laid right here in Queens. I am an Astoria girl, born and raised. I was brought up with the rumble of the El train in my ears and a view of the Hell Gate Bridge from my window. I attended P.S. 166 from kindergarten until fifth grade, where I was taught by a long line of dedicated and caring teachers: Ms. Davenel, Ms. Krich, Ms. Altschuler, Ms. Papadapoulos, and Ms. Goldstein. It was here that my love affair with reading began, without which I could never have succeeded in school.

I was extremely fortunate to be accepted into P.S. 122’s Gifted & Talented program for sixth through eighth grade. This was one of the warmest, most positive learning environments I have ever known. It was here that I warmed up to Shakespeare, stud ied my first foreign language, and above all, developed an insatiable desire to read everything I could get my hands on. The enriched instruction at P.S. 122 helped me get into Stuyvesant, with most of my classmates also getting into great NYC high schools. Earlier this year, when the Department of Education was threatening to curtail the G&T program at 122, I spoke at an emergency meeting in defense of my alma mater. I am glad to say that the DOE has decided not to go ahead with its planned changes to this longstanding program.

Even when I started going to school in Manhattan, I was thankful to retreat to the relative peace and tranquility of Astoria every evening. I took frequent study breaks in Socrates Sculpture Park and learned how to play the violin from a neighbor who lived across the street. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the high quality of public schools in Astoria saved my parents from having to send me to an expensive private school. Above all, I think that living in a close-knit, hard-working community such as Astoria helped keep me grounded and focused.

While attending Columbia, I continued to stay close to my hometown by interning for The Queens Gazette. I reported on news throughout the borough and even wrote an article that made the front page. This was a wonderful experience that honed my writing skills and reinforced my dream of becoming a professional writer. Since then, I have accomplished my lifelong goal of publishing a book, and I hope that many more are on the way. I am currently working on a historical fiction novel, Ariadne Dances, which was just named a finalist in the acclaimed James Jones First Novel Contest.

I am proud to be from Astoria and am grateful for all the advantages it has given me. I still live in this incredibly diverse, ever-changing neighborhood and don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

Stefanie Weisman is the author of The Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College (Sourcebooks, 2013). It is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine booksellers. Her Web site is www.valedictoriansguide.com.

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