The International High School

Mastery Statement

"If you only knew how beautiful my country is!"

My name is Lavinia Voicu-Sprincenatu and I am 18 years old. I was born in Romania in April 7, 1986 in a city located in the south of the country called Craiova. Romania is a middle-sized country in Eastern Europe. Romania's neighbors are Bulgaria in the south, Yugoslavia in the south-west, Hungary in the west, Ukraine in the north-west, Moldova in the north-east and the Black Sea in the east. Romania is one of the richest countries in natural resources in Europe and has one of the oldest civilizations in the world.

I have no brothers or sisters and I am pretty okay with that. Sometimes, I wished I had an older sister so I could share everything with her. My family lived very decently in Romania and I had everything I wanted.

I did gymnastics to build my body and muscles. A few years after that, I went to tennis. My tennis career is probably the best memory I have. My tennis coach was very interested in me when he saw my qualities as an athlete and he really wanted me to have a tennis career. He was training me in the summer every day from 8:00 AM until 12:00 PM continuously. At 12 I went home, ate and slept. I would wake up at 3 or 4 PM and I would be in the court playing until 9 PM. This was the routine for the summer. During school time I played less. My tennis skills became very good and I was on my way to become a real tennis player.

In Romania, school was really hard. In 7th grade before I left the country to come here I had in school about 16-17 subjects. Some of the subjects were Romanian language, mathematics, history, geography, physics, chemistry, biology, botany, two foreign languages (French and English) art, music, etc. In order to be a good student you had to stay late, until about 12 AM, to study your homework. In order to be a perfect student, which did not actually exist, you were supposed to stay until later I believe. In Romania teachers never told you that you were perfect even if you were because they wanted to encourage you to be even better. Teachers were excellent. There was never a time when students asked for explanation because they were very explicit and very concrete. The discipline in Romanian schools was very strict. There was absolutely no disruption of the class. I was an average grade student and I always tried to keep that up. In Romania I started 7th grade before I came to the U.S.

I came to the United States on November 9, 1998. At the beginning I wasn't happy about leaving my country at all but I thought things will be pretty much the way they were in Romania. I was wrong but my life here is not bad. I came to this country with my mother because my father was already here. He came here on April 24, 1992. It was a long time since we lived together and this is why my mother applied for a green card. A few months before we came here, my mother won the green card. I was very happy that I will get to see my father again.

When the plane was above New York and I looked down, the appearance did not make a good impression on me. One week after I came here, I went to the USTA (United States Tennis Association) to continue with my tennis career. When I went there a very good coach played with me to see my abilities. Then he became my coach both during the program and private. After a couple of weeks of training with him he told me that if I would have a little more control over the ball I could easily beat Martina Hingis, which was the number one female player in the world at that time.

Two weeks after I came to the U.S., I went to school. I went to a school that was a few blocks away from my house. There they wanted to place me in 8th grade because the level of education in Romania is much higher but they did not because I didn't speak English. In my class, there was a Romanian girl and she helped me at the beginning because I couldn't speak. After finishing 7th and 8th grades with success, I had to go to a high school. I had to apply to eight high schools. One of the high schools that I applied to was the International High School at LaGuardia Community College. I was accepted here and at some other good high schools. Most of the people in my class went to Grover Cleveland High School. Since I knew that the reputation of that school was not good I decided to come to our school only because the Q39 bus would stop in front of my house, bring me in front of the school and vice versa.

On the first day of orientation, I met Mr. Bret. When I told him that I play tennis he immediately wanted me to meet Mr.Burt. On the last day of orientation when we had to choose our clusters, I met Ms. Allison. She convinced me of going to the cluster called Origins. Origins was one of my best years in this school. The teachers were good and I learned a lot. I had art and I liked it. It was interesting and I think a little important. I learned about colors and what to do with them.

Science class was very pleasant and interesting. Ms. Jennifer was very sweet and I liked working with her. In her class I learned about human biology.

My other class was math. I never liked math so I didn't really like Ms.Arlene's class.

Last but not least I had my best class. It was history and linguistics taught by Mr. DeFazio. He was my best friend, he made me love history a thousand times more than I did and he helped me become the person that I am today. I have to say that I learned a lot from him, he taught me how to speak English better and he taught me one of the most interesting things someone could learn. It was linguistics. Even today I use in my speech some of the expressions and language that he uses.

Also this was the year when I became friends with Ms. Allison, my guidance counselor. She became my other friend. She helped me with everything that I needed, and when I needed it.

My second year here I was in Connections. Connections was not a difficult cluster. My best class there was Mr. Bret's history class. It was a repetition of Mr. DeFazio's class, but more detailed. His teaching style was just like in Romania, lecturing.

I also liked Ms. Rachel's and Mr. Simon's English class. I had the opportunity to write essays, make poems and play music. It was a very relaxing class.

Math and science did not please me very much, but I found them important. Ms. Margareta and Ms. Betty were very good teachers and I have to say that I learned a lot of things from them.

My last two years of school were in the cluster named American Dream. Here I liked all of my classes equally the same. I learned American history in history class. We also did some native language projects. That was the best time for me to learn the history of America, because I had a good teacher, Mr. John. He explained everything in depth and I understood and learned a lot. His teaching style is very similar to Mr. Bret's.

In science we did a project about garbage for the first semester of the school year. Starting with the second semester, we studied a little human biology. It was very interesting and important, and Ms. Alison knew how to make it a fun class, even though from outside it seemed like a boring class.

Last bun not least, there was Ms.Green, the English teacher. She was an excellent teacher and she helped me a lot with everything including my English skills. Even when I was speaking to her, she would stop me and correct me. I thought that was very useful. In my junior year, my first year in American Dream, I had one of the best experience in my life. This was internship. I had internship for about 3 months at Frank Sinatra High School, since I want to become a teacher. I had the opportunity to watch great teachers teach, and I had the opportunity to teach a class myself. It was a beautiful experience, thanks to Ms. Noreen who put a lot of effort in changing my life.

The second year in American Dream, was slightly different for me. First of all, I had a college math class (math 096), not a high school one.

In history and English, we studied Native Americans. In history we talked about the history of the Native Americans, and in English, we studied about their customs, we read myths from their cultures, we watched movies about them, and so on.

In science we studied human evolution and natural selection. This was one of the best things I studied through out my four years in this school, along with linguistics. We watched two incredible movies on these two topics, we examined skulls for the human evolution project, and we examined populations for the natural selection project.

Also in my senior year I was accepted in the program called Young Citizens Center. The two advisors Theresa and Jenny were wonderful people especially Jenny. She helped me a lot with my college essays and applications; she helped me with my projects and so on. In YCC I will start a project hopefully based on health issues since this is what I want. To be more specific the issue that I am interested in is alcohol, alcohol abuse and alcoholism. School for me in the United States was very easy. I grew a lot by working and helping teachers and I've changed a lot too. By working with teachers not only I improved my English skills, I also learned to be a better worker. I did not have a lot of friends, people of my age. Teachers were my friends.

The International High School has given me the opportunity to improve my language skills, to take college classes and to earn the respect of others. Who I am today, is an example of what a spectacular education and an incredible set of teachers have turned me into. Once I couldn't wait to get out of this school and now I become anxious only thinking that I will leave.

Soon, I'll be in college and this makes me a little nervous. I am thinking of two careers, teaching and psychology, but I am still not decided. I am trying to stay positive for the future and I am hopeful for the best.