The Benedict News Spring 2021 Edition

Newsmagazine published by student journalists at St. Benedict's Preparatory School in Newark, N.J.

Newsmagazine published by student journalists at St. Benedict's Preparatory School in Newark, N.J.


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Spring 2021

Benedict News Editorial Board Spring 2021


Father Edwin Leahy ‘63, O.S.B.


Reuben Kadushin Sam Pineda

News Editor

Isabel Garcia

Copy Editor

John Mollozzi

Online Editor

Geovanni Lopez

Op-ed Editor

Yohangil Nolasco

Features Editor

Ethan Brady

Design Editors

Israel Small Anthony Mosquera

Staff Writers: Terrence Allavo,

Luke Amoakah, Alex Benanti,

Sovereign Brown, Emilio Calle,

Andy Chuquirima, Francisco Correia,

David Decker, Jorge Izurieta, Joseph Jumbo,

Kevin Ortega, Kiana Perez, William Register,

Guitze Rodriguez, Kolby Samuels,

Simarpal Singh.

Guest Writer

Fr. Albert Holtz’60, O.S.B.

Photographers: Erick Garcia,

Jorge Izurieta, Justin James, Shelley Torres

Designers: Gary Hunter, Luis Suriel

Guest Artist: Mr. Richard Gallerani

Artist: Jerson Morantus

Photo Editor

Krithik Rajasegar

Cartoon Editor

Grant Parker

Social Media Editor

Davion Cottrell-Miller

Sports Editor

Adrian Vasquez

St. Benedict’s Preparatory School

520 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard

Newark, N.J. 07102


Follow us on IG: @graybeepublications

Faculty Adviser

Ms. Kitta MacPherson, MFA

Assistant Faculty Advisers

Br. Bruno Mello, n-O.S.B Ms. Elizabeth Lodato, MFA

Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

Keeping the Hive Humming: How the Gray Bees Fought the Pandemic

Editors’ Note for Benedict News Second Edition

Dear Community:

In this Second Edition, “Keeping the Hive Humming: How the Gray Bees

Fought the Pandemic,” the staff of The Benedict News portrays the still-vital life of

the Hive, partially post-Matrix and lived, while precautionary and socially

distanced, seemingly in defiance of the physical threat of COVID-19. Our

reporting shows that Gray Bees are unwilling to allow this pandemic to “get us


Our First Edition, “The Gray Bees Enter the Matrix,” featured stories about

our first steps into the virtual world. We had just been getting used to our new

normal of fully remote learning and the odd sensibility of nearly 100 percent

virtual interaction.

Keeping the Hive Humming: How the Gray Bees Fought the Pandemic

Table of Contents

In this Second Edition, we catalogue how Benedict’s is fighting back,

whether it is through an aggressive COVID testing policy, a determination to

keep The Last the Good community Day connected through a daily virtual Convo, a push to expand 6

the Conversio: Hive’s noted Giving Counseling Kids a Chance program, to Connect or even a coordinated effort to offer an 10

on-property Medical Experts learning of Color program Tell Benedict’s: for some. And COVID we Vaccine also are Safe telling individual 12

stories Normal of Again? students who have risen above amazing obstacles, caring for families 15

with Q&A COVID, with Dr. or Cassidy: reinventing “Benedict’s themselves Finest as Hour” COVID removed their dream activities 16

from SBP Survey: them. “Yes” to Vaccinate, “No” to Mandating Shots 25

The Convo Makers 26

Staying As Together: this edition A Photo goes to Essay press, there are student leaders who have returned 28 to

the COVID property, & Me forming groups in cohorts in classrooms where they attend classes 30

virtually. Benedict’s Vaccination Turns Pandemic rates are on high, its Head but -- the Through world is Acts still of facing Love the challenge of 31

COVID A Silver variants. Lining Hope is evident: Students are looking forward to the prospect 34

of Why an Vaccinate? in-person Commencement and the resumption of in-person classes for the 36

2021-22 Students academic Survive COVID-19 year.


Health Disparities Among Communities of Color: A Crisis 39

When We the hope Abnormal you enjoy Becomes this edition. the Norm: Counselors Find Ways to Help 42

When COVID Strikes a Family: A Survival Story 44

When This is Over Sincerely, 46

Chalk Talk Reuben Kadushin SY and Samuel Pineda SY 49



Keeping the Hive Humming: How the Gray Bees Fought the Pandemic

Table of Contents

The Last Good Day 6

Conversio: Giving Kids a Chance to Connect 10

Medical Experts of Color Tell Benedict’s: COVID Vaccine Safe 12

Normal Again? 15

Q&A Keeping with Dr. the Cassidy: Hive Humming: “Benedict’s How Finest the Hour” Gray Bees Fought the Pandemic 16

SBP Table Survey: of Contents “Yes” to Vaccinate, “No” to Mandating Shots 25

The Convo Makers 26

Staying The Last Together: Good Day A Photo Essay 286

COVID Conversio: & Me Giving Kids a Chance to Connect 30 10

Benedict’s Medical Experts Turns Pandemic of Color Tell on Benedict’s: its Head -- Through COVID Vaccine Acts of Safe Love 31 12

A Normal Silver Again? Lining 34 15

Why Q&A Vaccinate? with Dr. Cassidy: “Benedict’s Finest Hour” 36 16

Students SBP Survey: Survive “Yes” COVID-19 to Vaccinate, “No” to Mandating Shots 37 25

Health The Convo Disparities Makers Among Communities of Color: A Crisis 39 26

When Staying the Together: Abnormal A Photo Becomes Essay the Norm: Counselors Find Ways to Help 42 28

When COVID COVID & Me Strikes a Family: A Survival Story 44 30

When Benedict’s This Turns is Over Pandemic on its Head -- Through Acts of Love 46 31

Chalk A Silver Talk Lining 49 34

Why Vaccinate? 36

Students Survive COVID-19 37

Health Disparities Among Communities of Color: A Crisis 39

When the Abnormal Becomes the Norm: Counselors Find Ways to Help 42

When COVID Strikes a Family: A Survival Story 44

When This is Over 46

Chalk Talk 49

Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

Photo by



Sunil Das

SY, Senior




“Last Good Day”

By Andy

Chuquirima and

Jorge Izurieta

On March 14, 2020, St. Benedict's Prep was on a normal running schedule. No one seemed to think

much of a deadly disease quickly spreading throughout the world, and killing thousands of people by

the day. Although the day was set up for normal classes, the buzz of the disease, COVID-19 filled the

halls. Students were worried, some were scared for their lives, many thought it was a joke. A year later,

many are still at home learning virtually through our laptops awaiting the day that we can be fully

mask-free and be together again. To commemorate this one-year anniversary of the Hive going virtual,

we have interviewed student leaders and faculty from St. Benedict’s to capture their remembrance of

their “last good day.”

Sunil Das, Senior Group Leader

Sunil Das SY plays on the Varsity soccer team and the St. Benedict’s CrossFit team. Sunil

recalls being in the HAB gym in Convocation doing the regular routine last year on March

13. “You know the usual: prayer, attendance, announcements, and usually Fred’s

daily speeches.” Sunil would soon receive the news that, to protect St. Benedict’s students

and staff from infection due to rising COVID-19 cases in the Greater Newark region, the

school would shift to virtual learning for two weeks. Initially, the announcement filled

Sunil with joy.



“I thought it would just be for two weeks and I would essentially be getting a break,” he


What Sunil thought of as a rest period turned out to be much more extensive -- more than

a year of remote learning, with most high school students learning from home and

teachers moving between occasional lockdowns and longer periods of running virtual

classrooms from the property.. Although COVID-19 hasn't fully disappeared, students are

slowly, with proper precautions, being cleared (after testing negative for COVID-19) to

return to the property to attend classes and participate in their activity requirement. This

opportunity has given the chance for Sunil to enjoy the school environment again, regain a

piece of his Senior year, and make as many memories with friends and teachers as


“Oh man, it feels good to be back, I missed this place,” he said. “Walking up those stairs

and opening the 520 door on my first day back, holds a special place in my heart. I'm going

to miss this place, man.”

Mr. Stephen Adubato,

Religion Teacher

Mr. Stephen Adubato, a religion

teacher and moderator of the

Gray Bee Ministry, remembers

his last day being in school -

Friday, March 13, 2021 --

attending a faculty meeting,

where most teachers appeared

alarmed and worried with the

outbreak of disease.

“I remember during the faculty

meeting I just started scribbling

down notes for how I was going

to do virtual class, I was just

thinking on the spot,” he said.

Photo by

Jorge Izurieta

Mr. Stephen




The meeting focused on

discussing current events and

planning for the future. Mr.

Adubato recalled being in

Convocation in the HAB, where

Headmaster Fr. Edwin Leahy ‘63

O.S.B. explained what the next

few weeks were going to look

like according to plan. After

7 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

Convocation, Mr. Adubato had his First Block class having to explain a situation that he

was totally unfamiliar with, and all he was able to do was pray for everyone's health and

wellbeing. Like many faculty, Mr. Adubato has been teaching from his classroom,

reaching students virtually. Recently, however, at the encouragement of Fr. Ed, Mr.

Adubato has hosted a few student leaders in his classroom who “attend” their classes from


“With students here, I am very content,” he said. “It's just weird to be a year without

students but it's like, wow, I miss this!” Looking ahead, Mr. Adubato anticipates some

challenges in re-adjusting to managing a classroom filled with teenage students. Doing so,

he said, should “be troublesome but hopefully fun at the same time.”

Samuel Pineda,

Blue Section Leader

Samuel Pineda SY keeps a busy

schedule as he is Blue Section

Leader, Editor-in-Chief of The

Benedict News, and vice

president of tutoring for the

National Honor Society.

Samuel was in his third block

class with the chemistry teacher

at The Hive. “I was with Dr.

Lansang, and he was the one

explaining how everything

would go down,” he said. Like

many others, Samuel thought

that the virus would not be as big

and dangerous as the world now

knows it to be.

“I thought it would just be for

the first two weeks,” Samuel said.

“I was pretty confused on how

things would work virtually with

having to wear our uniforms and

all that.”

What he has missed most over

the past year is the

camaraderie with buddies.

“Eating with friends,’ he said.

“When I was home, that was the

one thing that was missing.”



Mr. Joshua Aune,

Benedictine Volunteer

In August, St. Benedict’s

welcomed three

Benedictine Volunteers

from St. John’s University

in Minnesota, part of a long-standing

tradition. By that time, the Hive was

in full virtual gear.

Going back to last spring, however, matters were not as smooth for at least one of the

volunteers. Mr. Joshua Aune, who is presently teaching Microbiology to remote students

from a classroom on the property, experienced an unsettling last “regular” day of college.

He was sitting in his physics class, speaking with his lab partner, preparing to run an

experiment. He recalled feeling that he and the other student were the only “sane ones, ''as

everyone around them buried their faces in news sites and blogs.” His physics professor

though, did not seem to be bothered. “As the professor walked into the room, he states that

he has heard the rumors of online school,” Mr. Aune said. “But he is just going to teach his

lesson as usual.”

Moments later,, an announcement by university leaders that the school was moving

immediately to a virtual format because of COVID-19 hit the internet.

“The morale was low, and people were crying,” Mr. Aune said.

While others rushed to get home, he stayed in class with his microbiology professor and

his friend, the physics partner, and talked for hours.

Mr. Aune regrets the impact the pandemic had on the closing days of his Senior year and

on his 2020 college graduation ceremony. “One thing I wish I could have done before

going virtual,” Mr. Aune said, “would be to finish out the year with my classmates and

experience all of the perks that come with the last days of being a Senior in college.”

He is sad he missed saying goodbye to all the people he met in college that made it such

an unforgettable experience. He added, “It was one of those days where I will never forget

where I was when it happened for the rest of my life.”

9 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021


Giving Students

a Chance to


By Ethan Brady and David Decker

At St. Benedict’s Preparatory

School during the pandemic,

“Conversio” is a program that was

developed to give students struggling

with the remote learning format an

opportunity to improve their academic

performance by returning to the

property. In Latin, it means “conversion

to a new way of life.”

Photo by A Gray Bee

Dean of Students John Rowe enjoys a light

moment, with Phoebe on his shoulder. Mr. Rowe led

the development of Conversio at Benedict’s for students

who were not adapting well to remote




Given St. Benedict’s emphasis on the value

of community, Conversio puts the principle

into practice by giving students a chance to

connect with each other again.

“The value of Conversio, I think, goes far

beyond just the academic component,” said

Mr. John Rowe, SBP’s Dean of Students.

“We all feel that sense of isolation and

that lack of community. And it’s difficult.

As much as we tried to recreate it through

(virtual) Convocation and through classes

online, there’s still that piece I think we all

admit is missing.”

Students come to the property to avoid

distractions and to improve better academically.

“It’s not a tutoring program,” said

Ms. Charlsey Sheib, a school psychologist.

“It’s basically to provide a safe, structured

environment so they can just focus on their

academics. We tried to give them that environment

so they can succeed but, just like

anything else, it’s up to the individual

whether they want to succeed.”

Students are reacting well to the program,

faculty said.

“Conversio has helped me with my life and

helped me concentrate more in my classes

rather than being distracted at home,” said

Erick Gonzalez UD1.

Participating students are improving their

academic performance.

“Overall, grades are getting better and positive

results are coming from teachers,” said

Mr. Sylvers Owusu, one of the teachers who

has been actively working with Conversio

students. “This shows that we are gaining

back motivation and community that we

once had before the pandemic and it feels

like we are slowly getting it back.”

School officials started Conversio at the beginning

of Fall Term.

Students from the Boys Division “attend”

their classes virtually, via laptops, from the

cafeteria, while members of the Girls Division

do the same from the library.

The biggest challenge in starting the program

was convincing parents to overcome

their fear of COVID-19 and trust school officials

to have safeguards in place. “Parents

and students are rightfully anxious,” Mr.

Rowe said. “You just have to watch the news

to know that this is a very real health threat

and parents are cautious about their kids

coming back to school.”

Fears abated once students started to attend

regularly. “I think that the students see the

value in it and continue to come regularly,”

Mr. Rowe said.

In the morning during school days, Conversio

students attend online classes until

1 p.m., eat lunch, and then participate in a

structured study hall.

“During that time we help them with any

work for academics and make time for them

to have after-school sessions with their

teachers,” Mr. Owusu said. “Some kids are

improving. Some need more motivation

and, to help them improve, we need to pay

more attention to them.”

Conversio students are required to undergo

COVID-19 testing every other week at the

school’s test center in the HAB gym.

There have also been some unintended benefits

from Conversio.

“A lot of the freshmen didn’t have the

Overnight,” said Ms. Sheib, noting the

cancellation of the Overnight and some

other in-person freshmen experiences due

to the pandemic. “They missed having

much of the stuff that normally takes place

and so they couldn’t really form or build

those relationships and bonds with each

other, which is you know super important at


Conversio, Ms. Sheib said, has given some

students an unexpected opportunity to form


The program has also given administrators

insight on how to manage the eventual transition

back for the entire student body.

“I think it gave us the opportunity to test the

waters to bring guys back in a safe, effective

way kind of incrementally,” Mr. Rowe said.

“The students took to that immediately as if

they never left.”

Conversio has also brought together students

who may normally not be in the same


“Guys who might ordinarily participate in

the life of the community in different ways

-- guys on different teams who may not normally

cross paths with each other -- have the

opportunity to interact during Conversio,”

Mr. Rowe said. “I think at the end of the day

it strengthens community.”

Photo by Erick Garcia

In Conversio, students come to the property to avoid

distractions and to improve academically.

11 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

Medical Experts of Color Tell Benedict’s Community:

COVID Vaccine Safe

By Alexander Benanti and Adrian Vasquez

Staff Photo

Medical experts and top SBP administrative leaders provided a live streamed forum on COVID-19 and

vaccine safety in December. Pictured, from left, (top row) Associate Headmaster of Community and

Leadership Dr. Glenn Cassidy, Dr. Harold Guadalupe ’86, Emergency Medicine Physician, Dr. James Cleary

’91, Medical Oncologist, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, (middle row) SBP Headmaster Fr. Edwin Leahy ‘63

O.S.B., Dean of the Girls Division Analisa Branco, Dean of College Guidance Didier Jean-Baptiste, Esq.,’86

and Dr. Joseph Mosquera ’72, Internal Medicine Specialist, (bottom row) Dr. Jamal Gwathney, Senior

Advisor, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps., Dr. Nii Darko ’96, Host, Docs Outside the Box

Podcast, Foreign Language Department Chair David Rodriguez’86.)))

“Right now we're in a really dark period where COVID is really resurging and we're

seeing hospitals fill up,” said Dr. James Cleary ’91, a Medical Oncologist at the

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Massachusetts.

This was Dr. Cleary’s insight on the current position America is in right now, as the

country tries to navigate through this pandemic. Dr. Cleary said he has never dealt with a

disease like COVID-19 before. He gave his insight on where America stands in terms of

fighting off the virus during one of two live streamed discussion panels on COVID vaccine

safety hosted by St. Benedict’s.

The events were conceived by St. Benedict’s leaders to inform community members clearly

and concisely about a decidedly complex and controversial topic.

“In a conversation in early December with Fr. Ed, we were talking about the vaccine and

whether or not people would get it and what it would take,” said Associate Headmaster

of Community and Leadership Dr. Glenn Cassidy. “I think people are tired of hearing the

talking heads on TV and people that they can't relate to. And quite frankly maybe it would

help people from our community, especially African Americans, Latinos, others that maybe

come from poor neighborhoods if they heard from doctors that came from the same

neighborhoods, came from the same school as them, who looked like them and could

speak the same languages as they did.”



Dr. Cassidy organized the panel, composed

of St. Benedict’s alumni who are

physicians and infectious disease specialists

and other medical leaders. Dr. Cassidy said

he didn’t screen the panel but left the

question of each panelist’s stance on the

virus unknown. He said he wanted the St.

Benedict’s community to hear the panelist’s

raw thoughts and ideas.

School administrators and teachers also

participated on the panels to assist during

separate sessions held in other languages

including Creole, French, Spanish, and


One panelist, Dr. Harold Guadalupe ’86, an

Emergency Medicine Physician, bemoaned

the fact that in his hometown of Dayton,

Ohio, minority families with low incomes

that are living in multigenerational

households are being infected with

COVID-19 more rapidly than others.

Dr. Chris Pernell, Chief Strategic

Integration & Health Equity Officer at

University Hospital in Newark, shared that

she lost 11 members of her team due to their

daily exposure to patients with COVID-19.

Dr. Jamal Gwathney, a Senior Advisor with

the U.S. Public Health Service

Commissioned Corps assigned to oversee

prisons in San Diego, Ca., expressed his

concern for prisoners due to how close the

prisoners are to each other every day and

how the virus is able to spread more

efficiently throughout prisons.

After introducing the participants and their

backgrounds, Dr. Cassidy questioned the

panel and opened up the event to questions

from the viewing audience.

The looming question of the evening was

whether the vaccines currently available

from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson &

Johnson are safe and effective. All panel

members agreed on the safety and

effectiveness of the vaccines and

advocated that everyone be vaccinated

against the virus.

As the population of students attending St.

Benedict’s are mainly African American and

Hispanic, their views, and their family’s

views on the vaccine are crucial to fighting

the pandemic, panel members said. There is

distrust between the minority communities

and medical products endorsed by the U.S.

government, according to several panel

members. The skepticism is legitimate,

according to Dr. Pernell, tied to past medical

ethical atrocities such as the Tuskegee

Institute experiment where young black

men died in medical experiments. There is

also extensive misinformation circulating on

social media about vaccines, panel members

said. And many people have safety

concerns, due to how quickly the vaccines

were produced. Dr. Cassidy, in a separate

interview with the Benedict News, said he

had been initially leery but was convinced

by panelists’ statements about how the

COVID vaccines are based on decades of

research on antiviral products, including an

earlier vaccine for Ebola.

On the issue, Dr. Mosquera went on a brief

rundown on how vaccines work and what

vaccines have accomplished in recent years.

“Smallpox used to be killing 100,000 a year

and we haven’t seen it in decades,” he said.

“The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are only

different in how they can be stored, but they

are essentially the same.”

The doctors then went on to talk about the

effectiveness of the vaccine. Most, if not all,

of the doctors marveled at the

bioengineering breakthrough of this

vaccine. This is mainly due to the fact of the

short time period that the vaccine was made.

The panel members pointed out that there

are viruses that we have and still face that

have no vaccines, but the COVID-19

vaccine was fortunately able to be made in

one to two years. The vaccine itself is 95

percent effective in defending its host

13 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

against COVID-19. Dr. Cleary stressed the importance of this figure and how even though

people who live in the modern world are so used to things being 99 percent effective that

95 percent is also outstanding.

“In college I wish I saw 95 percent effectiveness,” Dr. Cleary said. “We celebrate 15 percent

effectiveness, so this vaccine is created from the world’s best and brightest minds.”

Panel members talked about how the virus has hit the country and the entire world hard.

It is a dark time in human history, with hundreds of thousands in the United States alone

dead. Many people like Dr. Pernell have lost loved ones and co-workers to the virus. At

times it seemed to some that the virus was growing too powerful. However, now, the

panelists said, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the vaccine. With

millions of people starting to get vaccinated, there are hopeful signs that we may soon

return to normalcy, that we will be able to achieve herd immunity and defeat or contain

the virus, and finally put an end to the pandemic. However no matter how much progress

doctors make towards defeating the virus, some said, it will be for nothing if people don't

do their part and get tested and vaccinated.

“You should trust that if there are people who are still skeptical out there, please don't

make a decision based on what you're seeing on social media whether its by WhatsApp,

Instagram, Facebook, or sometimes even on TV,” said Dr. Nii Darko ’96, a panelist who

hosts the podcast “Docs Outside the Box,” speaking about the importance of being

vaccinated. “Please make sure that you talk with your doctor before you make a decision

and if you don't have access to get to a doctor, you can go to local urgent care.”

Staff Photo

St. Benedict’s live streamed a second night of discussion on the COVID-19 vaccine with some returning and some

new participants. (Top row: from left) Dr. Glenn Cassidy, Dr. Chris Pernell of University Hospital, Newark,

(Middle row:) Dr. Jamal Gwathney, SBP Headmaster Fr. Edwin Leahy ‘63 O.S.B., and Dr. Frantz Pierre-Louis,

Infectious Disease Specialist, (Bottom row) History Teacher Mr. Louis Laine, and Dean of College Guidance Mr.

Didier Jean-Baptiste.)))



Will our lives ever be normal again ?

By Terrence Allavo

COVID-19. It’s the most talked about subject on the surface of the earth at the moment.

As of right now, it has even taken on the severity of the devil on the list of enemies of Humans.

It is definitely the most unexpected disaster that fell upon us in 2020.

COVID- 19 is a new virus identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. It is part of a

large family of viruses common in people and many different species of animals. Even

though the flu had its own casualties, the Coronavirus is powerful and deadly.

Its emergence represented a huge turn of events because people had great expectations for

2020. Most of those expectations were based on the fact that it was 2020, the year that had

the same number twice.

This generation will never experience that again before we die. It can definitely be qualified

as unexpected and deadly. It took the lives of many of our family members and

friends, locked us in our own houses, and bestowed major fear upon us.

The lockdown contributed greatly to that fear. We all became scared to go out even for simple

walks outside. We became hostile to company and contact with other people. Due to

that our lives changed. Our norm has been redefined. We have been confined to living our

lives through our screens. Work, school and events such as marriages and birthdays have

all been celebrated online.

Now even our faces have a required piece of cloth. Masks are part of our way of dressing.

We now fear each other due to the almost undetectable presence of the virus. It’s needless

to say that our new normal is a lot different than what we were used to.

But now I believe we are all asking ourselves the same questions: Will our lives ever be

normal again? When will this nightmare be over?

But there is a little glimpse of hope that keeps us going. The hope that things will get better.

Not normal but better.

It will not become normal because of the rate at which the virus keeps mutating and we

still do not know which other variant will appear. We are just going to have to create another

new Normal.

15 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

Benedict’s “Finest Hour”:

Dr. Cass Talks Strategy

in School’s Battle Against COVID

When Quitting Isn’t an Option

Photo by Krithik Rajasegar

Taking a COVID test in the HAB

gym has become a rite of

Wednesday afternoons.

By Francisco Correira

On Jan. 28, 2021, Francisco Correira SY interviewed Dr. Glenn Cassidy, Associate Headmaster of

Community and Leadership, about St. Benedict Prep’s efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic to

protect the community’s health and maintain operations. In a wide-ranging conversation, Dr. Cassidy

talked about St. Benedict’s approach to the crisis, how he came to grow more confident about vaccine

safety, how SBP’s COVID testing center started, and what to expect in the coming weeks and months.

This interview has been edited for brevity.

Q) Francisco Correira: How is Benedict's serving as a model to other schools when it comes

to dealing with the pandemic in an educational setting?

A) Dr. Glenn Cassidy: I have said from the beginning and I would continue to say that,

when it comes to what schools are doing through this pandemic, I think that Benedict’s is

on the upper end of the curve. I really and truly do. And by curve I mean if you just think

about schools that are really going out of their way to schools that are doing basically

nothing. I think we are definitely on the upper end of the curve. And I have said in other

interviews of this nature that I really believe a lot of what has happened over the last year

really demonstrates Benedict’s in our finest hour. We have done lots of great things over

the years but I think what we have done through COVID might be some of the best work

we have ever done.

15 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 2 Spring 2021



Q) FC: Has your experience as a Benedict’s

man helped you at all in dealing with all the

stress and responsibility that came with the

pandemic and how we as a community are

dealing with it?

A. GC: I’m sure it did. If you think about it,

first of all, Benedict’s hates a quitter.

Quitting isn't an option right now. We have

got to push through, we have got to do it.

And that’s something we were all taught as

freshmen and there is no doubt that is

ingrained. It’s just not in my mantra to quit.

The second thing I would say is that the

whole concept of community -- brotherhood

and sisterhood -- really makes a difference

as well. People have been able to rely on

one another and pull on one another and as

result of that we have been able to

accomplish great things. So the whole

attitude of Benedict’s has played perfectly

into this situation.

Q. (FC) When were you assigned duties to

manage the pandemic in the school and why

were you chosen for this role ?

A. (GC) Assigned is an interesting word. So

we, like all schools, have crisis plans. And

part of that is that you should have a

designated individual who is considered the

Incident Commander, so that if something

happens like a fire alarm, a security

incident, anything, there is one person who

is responsible for that response and for that

whole situation. It’s probably no surprise to

you that that is my role in the school. When

there is a fire alarm I'm the guy that's

responsible, when there is a security thing

I’m the guy that’s responsible. When

COVID-19 came to a head in March (2020)

we had a bit of a conversation. It was very

quick. Should we treat this as a crisis or

should we treat this as something else and

we decided to treat it as a crisis. And I use

the term “crisis” in the sense of being an

emergency. And since I’m the person

responsible for emergency management, I

took the lead on what was happening. So we

did that early in March (2020) and it took off

from there.

Q. FC: What was your understanding of

COVID-19 when you were chosen to deal

with the pandemic at Benedict’s?

A. GC: There was a big learning curve for

everyone in a very short period of time. So

the quick story is that when COVID went

from being just something that was

happening overseas and maybe a couple

of West Coast cases to something that was

more of a concern was towards the end of

February (2020). We had gone to Holland (as

part of the school’s exchange program with

a high school in Castricum in the

Netherlands). While we were on that trip,

the numbers started to grow both here and

there. Before we even got back, I started to

get some emails and questions from people

if I knew how I could help and offer any

guidance. I did not know much other than

some pretty simple things that I was

reading. But, while we were away, I did

receive an invitation to a webinar to

understand more about COVID, which was

offered by a physician and an attorney, both

familiar with school situations. I attended

that webinar the day we got back where

I learned a lot more information about

COVID and how the virus works. From

there, it was literally just reading, reading,

reading, going to different websites and

staying on top of different reports. And the

biggest thing was over the summer where I

took a course from John Hopkins

University on contact tracing and that course

was all about the virus and how it spreads

and how to talk to people that may have

gotten COVID as well as how to talk to

people who may have been exposed, what to

tell people to look for, and how to tell them

to watch their symptoms, what the isolation

period means, what the quarantine period


benedictnewsonline.org 16

17 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

Q. FC: What was the school's view on the


A. GC: So we got back from Holland a week

and a half before we went to remote

learning. We came back around March 5 and

then on March 13 we had our last day of

school in person. So when we first got back,

the feeling that week was still ‘Why are

people making such a big deal of this?’ Even

my own attitude was, ‘People seem to be

going crazy about this thing.’ If you

remember, by that time there were only a

couple dozen cases in the whole U.S. And

we’re saying, why are we making such a

big deal out of something when it has only

affected so many people? And then the

numbers kept growing exponentially. So

that by the beginning of the second week

we were starting to have daily conversations

about what we might need to do and how

we would do it. And it felt like everyday

that week things started to explode. There

was more information coming out, there

were more places shutting down, and, as

much as we were trying to maintain a sense

of normalcy, we quickly realized that we

were not going to be able to just keep doing

what we had been doing. And, by the end

of that week, there were growing concerns

from parents, faculty, and students. We had

a couple of elementary students who started

to come in with masks and gloves. This was

before people were even told to wear masks

and then by the end of that week when we

had already started to really consider that

we might need to go virtual, some other big

organizations announced that they were

going to start being all remote. We decided

to do the same the following week. And the

week after we did it (the Newark Public

School system) did it and other places as


Q. FC: How hard was the shift to virtual

learning and can you speak on how the idea

came about?

A. GC: So that is an area in which I was

much more of a spectator than a leader. That

effort was led by (Associate Headmaster for

Academics) Ms. Michelle Tuorto,

(Director of Technology) Mr. Dexter

Lopina, and members of the curriculum

committee, which is made up of all the

department chairpeople. In that second

week of March, we started to speculate

whether or not remote learning would be

necessary. Mr. Lopina had already sent out

a survey to students to find out what their

home capabilities were in terms of internet

and computer access. Soon after that there

was a meeting with the curriculum

committee to talk about what remote

learning would look like if we did it. The

committee came up with all the standards

like being in uniform and being on camera

the whole time and what the day-to-day

would look like. If you remember, we went

to that three-day-a-week schedule. They

came up with all of that in literally one

meeting, maybe two. And then within a

couple of days Mr. Lopina had put together

a whole workshop for the faculty about how

to use Google Meet and Google Classroom.

A lot of teachers at that time were not using

Google Classroom. So Mr. Lopina put some

stuff together and we had a workshop with

the faculty on how to do that. So there was

a lot of work that happened in that week

to get ready for the possibility of having to

go virtual. And then when we got to that

Thursday afternoon (March 12, 2020) we

made the decision that we needed to go

virtual. We were able to make the

announcement to everybody on Friday

(March 13, 2020) and that's why we were

able to transition so quickly to online

learning on Monday (March 14, 2020.) This

was only possible because of the hard work

that had gone in from a lot of people to have

everything ready the week before.

Q. FC: What were some of the challenges

in the beginning and what are some of the

continuing challenges?

17 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 2 Spring 2021



Dr. Glenn Cassidy, Associate Headmaster of

Community and Leadership, has been the

Photo by Krithik Rajasegar

architect of SBP’s battle against COVID. One of

his many duties has been to manage the COVID

test site on Wednesdays on the property.

A. GC: There were a bunch of families that struggled early on, I don’t think it’s as much

now, who did not have reliable internet access at home. Some had no internet at all

because they just relied on their phones. Some didn't have enough devices. So maybe

you have four people in the house but only one or two laptops. Well now all four people

are trying to work on the laptop at the same time. If people did have Wifi maybe it wasn't

strong enough to handle multiple devices to do all this type of work at once. Space became

an issue for a lot of families. If I’m in class and my brothers are in class right next to me,

we can’t hear because we’re both talking and listening and there's too many things and the

parents are trying to work and they’re on the other side of the table. So those types of

issues came up. A lot has been resolved by now. Again, Ms. Tuorto, Mr. Lopina, and

Associate Headmaster Dr. Ivan Lamourt did a lot of work on getting hot spots in people’s

hands if they didn’t have the internet at home and ordering a lot more Chromebooks

that we were able to lend to people who didn't have enough devices at home. And then

certainly by September (2020), we started the whole Conversio program where students

benedictnewsonline.org 18

19 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

could come and take their classes here. Even

though they were still remote, they didn't

have to rely on their home internet and deal

with distractions at home. So those are some

of the challenges that came up technically.

Emotionally, this whole format is really

tough on a lot of us and it has taken a toll on

a lot of people. Motivation gets really hard.

And I think the biggest challenge for us at

St. Benedict’s is the community challenge.

We have done so much over the years to

focus on bringing everyone together and

being a community and it’s so hard to do

that in this format. So therefore we have

done what we can with (virtual) Convo and

Group time, trying to have a lot more online

activities. All of those things have been real

efforts to maintain community. But nothing

replaces what happens in Shanley Gym.

Nothing replaced what happens in the

hallways. Nothing replaces what happens

on the field. So that has been the biggest

struggle and a lot of us are talking about

what we need to do or keep doing over these

next few months to make sure the

community does not disintegrate. That we

are able to maintain the community aspect.

Q) FC: What resources do you use to keep

up with all the new information regarding

the pandemic? State laws? Health concerns?

A) GC: I signed up for alerts from the CDC

(U.S. Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention in Atlanta.) I signed up for alerts

from New Jersey’s COVID dashboard page

as well as NJ.com’s COVID alerts. So those

are my first three sources of information

because I get text message alerts when there

are changes to things regarding COVID. So

I look for that. And then I just keep my ear

to the ground, I don’t watch a lot of news

just because news can get overwhelming. I

do get headlines on my phone from a few

different sources so I will scan headlines

and what happens is if I see a headline

that is indicating that there is some sort of

change then I go and read the story and go

and look for more information. Typically

that means going to the CDC website or

going to the N.J. Department of Health

website and trying to get more details about

something that maybe I missed. We also

have a couple of doctors that we work with

who have been great sources of

information for us and I’ve been able to call

up a few people and ask ‘Hey, I’ve been

hearing about this, what do you think?’ or

‘How does this affect us?’ So that has been

really helpful as well. We also do get

information from the New Jersey

Association of Independent Schools, the

Office of Nonpublic Schools, and the

Archdiocese of Newark. There are times

where it gets overwhelming and you have to

close it for a while and then look at it later.

Q) FC: How did the community react when

the school started last summer to bring

different groups of students to the property?

A) GC: We had a good response. There

were a lot of students who did come and it

seemed like those people were generally

comfortable with it. There were some

families that because of medical conditions

or age of others in the home didn't want

their kids to come in but by and large the

overwhelming majority of the freshman

came in. There were really no issues with

counselors. Those families were willing to

send their kids in. But the big difference

was that it was outdoors and we knew by

late summer that outdoor transmission was

nowhere near as dangerous as indoor

transmission. I also think that since then we

have done a lot more to really reinforce

precautions and to really provide

information to families. I send out

Honeywell alerts that say ‘Hey, we have

someone with COVID’ and I have heard

from a lot of teachers and parents that those

messages really make them feel more

comfortable because we are telling them

what is happening and we are not just

19 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 2 Spring 2021 20


hiding it. Some people get a little concerned

about those messages. I understand, but,

in general, people say that they have been

happy to get those messages because at least

they know we’re telling them things. I think

that’s a big deal.

Q) FC: When and how did the idea of

testing regularly at the school come about?

A) GC: So a couple weeks before

Thanksgiving, Dr. Lamourt, Ms. Tuorto,

and I were having a meeting and we were

talking about the concern about surges in

COVID cases after Thanksgiving and again

after Christmas. And so in those

conversations we said ‘Wouldn’t it be great

if there was a way to get everybody tested?’

So Dr. Lamourt reached out to contacts and

we ended up working with Dr. Kamran

Tasharofi, medical director of the Union

County Healthcare Associates in Rahway.

Dr. Lamourt called him and asked him if

we would be able to set up a testing date for

early December to be able to test students

and teachers after Thanksgiving and he

agreed. So Dr. Lamourt connected me with

Dr. T. So we then connected the next day

and I said, ‘Well I’d love to do something

every week’ and he said, ‘I thought we were

doing this one time.’ But he said we could

do it weekly. And that's how it developed.

He told me it would not cost anything and

not be a burden on families. He was very

clear about that up front. I was very clear

that that was part of what we had to do. He

and his staff have been amazingly

responsive to us. Just about anything we

have asked they have done. They give

results back to us very quickly. Almost

always results from tests taken Wednesdays

are back on Fridays. There was virtually no

objection from administrators to the idea

that we wanted everybody working on site

-- faculty, staff, and students -- tested at least

every other week and athletes to be tested

every week. This was because of athletes’

close interactions with each other and

especially without masks on. And that's

how we got to where we are now.

Q) FC: Did you have any doubts,

personally, about getting vaccinated? Did

you have thoughts? Fears? Questions?

A) GC: As an EMT, my first vaccine was the

last week of December and the day after I

got the vaccine my arm did hurt quite a bit.

Other than that no. Now people have been

joking with me that I should prepare for a

rough weekend if I’m getting my second

shot tomorrow. Some people have had more

severe reactions to the second dose. In some

cases those reactions have mimicked symptoms

of COVID. Some people have shown

no reaction. It's important to note that just

because people have those symptoms, it

doesn't mean that they have gotten COVID.

Your body reacts to the vaccine itself. Any

time you put something in your body, your

body reacts to it and the first reaction is to

protect yourself from it. So it's not

uncommon for those things to happen.

Photo by Krithik Rajasegar

As part of a requirement of returning

to the property for classes or

activities, students and staff have to

be regularly tested.

21 benedictnewsonline.org Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 202021

time that there was to evaluate the vaccine.

Nevertheless, despite my hesitancy, I also

recognized that if it's the only way out of

this whole damn mess that we are in, then I

guess I'm going to have to get vaccinated.

It’s that simple.

Photo By

Krithik Rajasegar

SBP School


established a COVID

testing center, right

in the HAB gym, on

the property as a

way of safeguarding


In a conversation in early December with Fr.

Ed we were talking about the vaccine and

whether or not people would get it and what

it would take. As we talked we said ‘You

know, I think people are tired of hearing the

talking heads on TV and people that they

can't relate to. And quite frankly maybe it

would help people from our community,

especially African Americans, Latinos,

others that maybe come from poor

neighborhoods if they heard from doctors

that came from the same neighborhoods,

came from the same school as them, who

looked like them and could speak the same

languages as they did.’

Q) FC: Which vaccine did you receive?

A. GC: Moderna. Initially, I was very

concerned about the speed with which the

vaccine was developed. One thing that I

always trusted about it was to say that I

think we are in a time in history where the

heads of the drug companies would have

been very foolish to allow a vaccine to be

released without properly vetting it. They

know that ultimately it would wind up as a

class action lawsuit and it could really cost

them a lot. So I was always kind of

confident that the testing of the vaccines was

going well. I was just concerned about the


21 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 2 Spring 2021 22

So we put together expert panels for

livestreamed presentations in late December

made up of some of our alumni and some

other connections that we have. And we

were able to get seven physicians from

different backgrounds, many of whom went

to St. Benedict’s and many of whom came

from the Greater Newark area, to do a panel

and to tell us their thoughts. Going in we

didn't ask them what they thought of the

vaccine. We didn't ask if they wanted or

didn't want people to get the vaccine. We

wanted people to hear their raw thoughts.

That's exactly what happened.

If you watch those videos online you will

hear those doctors talking and the

information that convinced me. Well there

were a lot of things that involved me. But

the first thing that convinced me was Dr.

Guadalupe, who I went to (Benedict’s) with,

by the way. Dr. Guadalupe was speaking

and he said what I think is really important

for people to realize about these vaccines

is that the research into these vaccines is

not new. It's been going on for thirty years.

What’s happened is COVID has given us

the reason to bring that research into reality.

To turn the research into actual vaccine

doses. So that was one of the things that

really changed my mind about the vaccine.

They did not start in March and say let's

come up with a vaccine. They’ve been doing

this for thirty years. So this was just

applying the previous research to the

current situation.

The second thing that really spoke to me

was when they said that they are not

injecting you with viral cells. Most

vaccines, if you know how they work,

actually (inject you with) the dead cells of a

virus. They can't harm you because they're

dead. But what they do is they tell your

body to develop antibodies to their

appearance so that your body is ready to

fight off anything that looks like that. Well

this is not what this vaccine does. This

vaccine is made up of what they call

messenger RNA. And what that does is it’s

just a message to your body to look for a

particular protein that's on the outside of a

viral cell and to effectively nullify that

protein. If you think about a car and all its

pieces, there are some pieces that you can

take off that really matter, but there are

some pieces that if you remove them the car

won't run. Well what this vaccine does -- it

takes out one of those major pieces. Like

taking the transmission from a car. Those

two things were what really sold me on

taking the vaccine.

Q) FC: Is the vaccine safe to take?

A) GC: Everything that I have read and

everything that I have heard absolutely says

the vaccine is safe. I am inclined to believe

that at this point. Do I believe that there

may not be some side effects we learn about

later? No, there may be, but I believe that in

general, it is safe.

Q) FC: What has this experience been like

for you personally having to be the lead

administrator in regards to the pandemic at

Benedict’s? Mentally? Physically?


I’ll go back to what I said about this

being our finest hour. I don’t think I would

want to do this anywhere but Benedict’s.

I think it would be even that much more

stressful. We have gotten very talented and

very committed people here and when you

think about people like (Dean of the

Middle Division) Mr. James Duffy,

(Associate Headmaster for Academics) Ms.

Tuorto, (Associate Headmaster for Student

Life) Dr. Lamourt, (Dean of Counseling) Dr.

Sinclair Davis, (Dean of Students) Mr. John

Rowe, (Director of Admissions) Mr. Mario

Gallo, (Dean of Administration) Mr. Mike

Scanlan, and (Director of Facilities) Mr. Luis

Ramos. We have people who have really put

forth a lot of effort and a lot of knowledge to

be able to get us to where we are today. Yes,

I have worked very hard over these last

several months, and yes, I feel it. I am

drained but by no means do I feel like I am

the only person who has done that. I feel

like this would have been impossible to do

were it not for everybody else doing what

they do. So my job is just to steer the ship a

little bit. Fr. Ed ultimately sets the direction,

with me saying, ‘I think we should go right’

and him saying, ‘Okay, go right.’ But other

than that there have been a lot of people. I

didn't even mention (Director of Freshman

Formation) Mr. Craig White and (Freshman

Leader) Akhir Crenshaw SY and the

freshman faculty team, and all the work

they all did for the freshmen. It has just

been incredible to watch people just take

part of their own subset of what's going on

here and say ‘All right, we gotta make this

work’ and run with it.

benedictnewsonline.org 22

23 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

Q) FC: Do you have any final comments?

A) GC: First and foremost I would want to thank one, all of the people I referenced earlier.

I also want to thank everyone who has been involved: every faculty member, every

administrator, every student, everybody that’s been involved because it has been

incredible to be a part of this. I also want to encourage us all that, sadly, this situation is

not going to go anywhere anytime soon. We are still going to be dealing with COVID for

a while. I firmly believe we will be able to start bringing more people together. We will

be able to start putting people back in classrooms. I firmly believe that will be happening

by the summer. But I don’t know that we are actually going to be able to put everyone in

Shanley gym or the HAB gym and have a Convocation. I don't think that we are going to

be able to do that anytime soon.

So I encourage us to do a few things. One, to be patient. Two, to not lose faith and to not

lose hope, and to not lose sight of what St. Benedict’s is and has been. And then three, that

all of us need to work hard on how to maintain the St. Benedict’s community throughout

whatever the length of the pandemic is and beyond. So when we have the opportunity, and

there will be a day when we will be able to put everybody back in the gym, we will need

Convocation to feel just like it did in March of 2020, and that is going to be a real challenge

because we haven't done that for a year and it might be a lot longer before we can actually

do that. And a lot of the students by next year, will have never attended a Convocation like

that. The freshmen have never done it. Next year's freshmen wont have done it. So if we’re

not able to do that early next summer, you're going to get to the point where more than half

of the Prep Division has never done a Convocation in person. So recreating that feel is

going to be really tough. So I encourage all of us to be thinking about how we hold on to

that and how we recreate it when the time comes to be able to do that.

And last is, continue to keep yourselves safe. Follow the precautions, do what you can.

When restrictions are eased up a little bit, allow yourself to enjoy life to the extent that you

can but do it safely. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into bad situations where you're

indoors with a lot of people, and you're not wearing masks. That is just not the way to go.

So adhere to the precautions and allow yourself to live. And, as restrictions are lifted, you

can allow yourself to live more but be safe about it.

23 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 2 Spring 2021



‘Yes’ to Vaccinate, ‘No’ to Making it Mandatory, Survey Says

By Adrian Vasquez

Photo by Neal E. Johnson of Unsplash

It has been almost a year since coronavirus began to ravage the world and change life as we

know it. Hundreds of thousands of lives, in the United States alone, are now gone due to

the virus. The virus has caused multiple problems. With the creation of multiple

coronavirus vaccines, however, the country may be starting to see the end of the

pandemic. The advent of the vaccines may be raising new issues: Will people take the

vaccine? Should they be forced to?It takes years to make a vaccine but the coronavirus

vaccine was made in under a year. Many have praised the speed of creating the vaccine but

others are skeptical on whether or not it’s safe. There is a lot of distrust for the vaccine due

to misinformation, dark medical history such as the Tuskegee incident, and other factors.

According to Pew Research, 60 percent of Americans say they definitely or probably will

get the vaccine. Meanwhile 39 percent say they probably will or definitely not get the


In a poll conducted by The Benedict News at St. Benedict’s Prep, 42 out of 67 survey

participants (62.7%) said they have trust in the vaccine and 25 out of 67 (37.3%) of

participants said they do not trust the vaccine.

At the time of the writing of this article, 19.3% of Americans have been vaccinated.

However, that is still far behind the 70-90% of Americans who have to be vaccinated in

order to achieve herd immunity. Another question is then raised, should the vaccine be

mandatory, when available, to be able to achieve herd immunity and for us to be

completely safe.

It is perfectly legal to be able to mandate the vaccine. In Jacobson vs. Massachusetts, the

U.S. Supreme Court said it is legal for states to enforce vaccine laws and mandates. Dr.

Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, however, told Newsweek,

"I'm not sure it's going to be mandatory from a central government standpoint, like federal

government mandates. But there are going to be individual institutions that I'm sure are

going to mandate it.”

Rutgers University recently became one of the first universities in the country to announce

it will require proof of vaccination from any student entering in the fall.

Dr. Fauci said he believes that in the future, company officials and even some governments

might require the vaccine to ensure safety of employees and the general population. There

are already talks about the creation of a COVID-19 passport in order to travel.

As for schools, Dr. Fauci in the interview with Newsweek said that it is ultimately up to

city and school districts to decide upon whether or not to mandate vaccinations.

However vaccine mandates are highly controversial and do not have much support. In the

survey conducted with members at St. Benedict’s Prep, 61.2 percent of participants

opposed mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in order to come back to school and 38.8

percent supported it.

However, right now, government officials, like New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, are saying

the main task is to get as many people vaccinated as possible before making any


25 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

The Convomakers:

What Virtual Convo Means to Them

By Luke Amoakoh

Virtual convocation is a means for the St.

Benedict’s Prep community to feel

connected. But how do the people running

it feel about its effects? Asking the people

who are in virtual Convocation every day, I

got some insight into this.

When interviewing Transfer Leader Reuben

Kadushin of the senior class, he explained

to me how virtual Convocation was formed

from a student’s point of view. He

briefly talked about how Agnes Aghanwa

and Sunil Das (the senior group leaders of

the Girls’ and Boys’ Prep Divisions,

respectively) would send out a list of names

for the roles of Convo. He stated that it was

based on group rotation, so that

representatives of every group in the school

can participate. He shed light on how the

addition of the girls contributed to fair

representation. He, along with the others

I have talked to, established how it only

made sense to add the girls to convocation

and that their addition was smooth. When I

asked him about how connected he thinks

that people are to virtual convocation, he

touched on the effort that group leaders

made for students to watch Convocation.

According to him, how attentive students

are to Convo is the responsibility of the

group leaders. When asked about how

impactful he thinks virtual Convocation is,

he highlighted that it is repetitive compared

to in-person Convo: “The problem with

virtual Convo, right, it’s kind of the same

people on it ...and there’s no real way to get

the entire community involved. Whereas in

[in-person] Convocation, you literally have

the entire community involved…

Convocation in person is a lot more, kind of,

intense, right, there’s a lot more

back-and-forth between the students and



the leaders. And just that general interaction

was completely severed off when we went

online, where it’s only leaders. There’s no

“Get quiet” time, there’s no yelling, there’s

no afterschool Convo, there’s just no

disruption because both parties aren’t even

in the room.” He touched on how virtual

Convo requires different skills and how the

alumni coming there was a bonus. He stated

there is nothing quite like in-person Convo.

My last question for him was whether he

thought that in-person Convo was

repetitive. He explained that he thought it

was at times, but both in-person and virtual

Convocation brought people together


Agnes Aghanwa is the next person I got into

contact with, and she provided information

about virtual Convocation, her viewpoint of

being another student and from her

position as Senior Group Leader of the

Girls Division. She explained to me that

the order of virtual Convocation was based

on in-person Convocation and that certain

elements like the affirmation, were modified

to better accommodate the platform. Student

leaders contribute to how virtual Convo is

set in stone, members of each group show

up to run prayer, and it’s a cycle. Agnes

stated that the Girls’ Division came into

Convo the same way as the BoysDivision

did, with the Girls Division running Convo

on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the Boys

Division running Convo on Mondays and

Fridays. When I asked about how connected

she thinks people are to virtual Convo, she

responded: “I think that the entire community

is connected to Convocation. It is one

of the things that sets our school apart from

most other Catholic schools. We meet as a

community every day and alumni are able

to participate and play an active role in it.”

She elaborated that it’s a part of the school’s

identity to be connected to Convo,

highlighting the Middle Division as well.

When I asked her how impactful she

thought virtual Convo was compared to

in-person Convo, she said: “Although I

have never been to in-person Convocation at

school, I know for a fact that Convo

virtually does not touch as many people

as it does in-person. I have heard multiple

stories about students singing and rocking

each other back and forth to regular

Convocation songs, and unfortunately, that

factor of togetherness isn't as strong as in

regular Convocation, in person.” She

focused on the positive effects of virtual


Finally, I questioned two members of the

faculty, Chemistry Teacher Dr. Dennis

Lansang and Director of Technology Mr.

Dexter Lopina, on what they had to say

about how virtual Convocation started

and its impact. Dr. Lansang explained how

prayer was made to be first in virtual

Convo so that Group Leaders could have

time to check attendance. He also explained

that the members of the Girls Division just

had to do their group draft and become part

of the Convo rotation, which was as easy as

the Middle Division being added to Convo.

Mr. Lopina said: “... before [the] girls were

drafted into groups, leaders from the Girls

Division were present daily for attendance

and another leader was usually assigned

one of the other roles -- Prayer Leader,

Psalms, Prayer of the Faithful,

Announcements.” When asked about how

connected he thinks people are to virtual

convo, Dr. Lansang responded: “The

alumni are very involved in responding (on

the live chat via YouTube) and Mr. Lopina,

Dr. (Glenn)Cassidy, and I monitor the live

chat during the broadcast. (Headmaster) Fr.

Edwin can also see what is being typed into

the live chat and he frequently comments

about what is typed in the chat. It's almost

like he is having a conversation with the

online audience.” He also touched on how

others are lively in the live chat -- a number

of people who are frequently active on it.

Dr. Lansang and Mr. Lopina agreed that

students are not as connected to virtual

Convo as they were to in-person Convo. Dr.

Lansang also made the point that people

were disconnected from Convocation even

when in person, bringing up how certain

students didn’t pay attention, were sleeping,

or were texting during it. He said it was up

to the individual to decide how involved

she/he will be in Convo, but he also made it

clear that Convocation is meant to nurture

the community of Benedict’s. He proceeded

to say that the impact of virtual Convocation

is present but not as strong as in-person

Convocation. He said in-person Convo can

never be beat, but the virtual version is still

good for bringing the community together.

He concluded: “Virtual Convocation has

become such an important part of the

alumni interaction that the administration,

and Mr. Lopina, and Dr. Cassidy, and I have

promised to keep the broadcasts going on

YouTube even once we come back to live

[in-person] Convocation. We need to

involve more students to run these

broadcasts/live streams in the future

because this is a student-run school.”

Photo by Krithik Rajasegar.

There is no replacement for in-person

Convo, according to those who created

virtual Convo to unite the community

during the pandemic. But virtual

Convo has other benefits, giving a way for

others, like alumni, who would otherwise

not have the chance, to participate, those

organizing virtual Convo say.

27 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

“Staying Together”

A Photo Essay

By Krithik Rajasegar

With photos by Krithik Rajasegar, Sovereign Brown, Jorge Izurieta, and Justin James

Over the past year and especially recently, members of the St. Benedict’s

community found ways to keep Benedict’s culture alive. Whether it was by running

Group meetings virtually, holding sports events off the property, staging a Drama

Guild production outdoors, having student leaders coming to the property in small

groups, or streaming a celebration of the Benedict News’ First Edition, students


Jorge Izurieta, Group Leader for Fr. John

Doyle (lower left), and Andy

Chuquirima, Group Leader for Fr.

Cornelius, have been attending classes

virtually while stationed in the

classroom of English Teacher Mr. Brian

Delaney. The student leaders, who tested

negative for COVID-19 and maintain

social distancing protocols, returned to

the property at the request of

Headmaster Fr. Edwin Leahy ‘63, O.S.B,

who wants to slowly, safely return

students to the property.

The SBP Swim Team resumed attending

meets this season, exciting many

students. In a recent meet against

Bloomfield High School (shown), the

Gray Bees triumphed.



After holding a live streamed production

last fall, the SBP Drama Guild staged a

live outdoor production this spring,

producing two one-act plays, Anton

Chekhov’s “The Marriage Proposal” and

Edmond Rostond’s “The Romancers.”

Longstanding Groups from the Boys Division and newly formed Groups from the

Girls Division gathered daily virtually for Pre-Convo and twice-weekly for Group

Meets by virtue of Google Meets. Above, Group Leader Kyron Parker and Assistant

Group Leader Josue Reyes catch up with other members of Fr. Thomas Long.

Print copies of the Benedict News are

usually distributed at Convo in the

Shanley Gymnasium. With COVID

precautions making it impossible to

meet, editors and staff of The Benedict

News live streamed a celebration

publicizing the electronic publication of

their First Edition, thanks to the effort of

Director of Technology Mr. Dexter


29 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

COVID and Me

Have you ever loved something even before

you deeply get into it?

That’s how it was. My plan was to come to

the U.S. to finish my studies and play

soccer. Before 2020 started, I promised

myself that this was going to be the year

of my life. Unfortunately, my expectations

were shut down.

The prospect of getting into a new school

and coming to the United States was

something my family and I prepared

ourselves for throughout the year, mentally

and physically, praying to God as we sent

all the documents needed to apply to St.

Benedict’s Preparatory School.

I remember it as if it were yesterday, still

speechless and so grateful. One Saturday

morning I was deep in sleep; my mom

suddenly woke me up, crying and smiling

at the same time. Right away I started

praying for the dead!

Instead, the application results had arrived.

I had gotten into St. Benedict’s. It was a

relief. It was exciting. I had always gone

to the same school since I was a child, and

going to a different school in a different

country was amazing. So I just had to wait

for the current year to conclude to travel to

New Jersey.

My expectations met reality. I loved the

beginning of 2020. It was a whole new vibe

and, like everyone else, I thought I was

going to kill it this year. However, like

everyone else, I began to think differently

on March 12, the day the Coronavirus

pandemic started in the Dominican


By Guitze Rodriguez

I thought it was a joke at first. Then a

one-week quarantine turned into two, then

three, then four weeks, then months:

Everything suddenly stopped. The U.S.

Embassy in DR closed its doors. I was stuck

and anxious, unable to travel because I

could not get the exact type of visa I needed

to come to the school. Everything now was


A virtual school year ensued, good for some,

terrible for others. The school year started

off completely virtual, and as you may

think, I was completely lost at the

beginning. The pandemic forced me to

avoid interacting with new people, which is

heaps easier if done physically. I was still in

DR taking classes, plus, I could not attend

soccer tryouts.

Finally, I was able to participate in tryouts,

and I was able to make my way to St.

Benedict’s. And, to make this year even

more ridiculous, when I got here, I found

out that, due to the intensity of the

pandemic in New Jersey, the soccer season

had been cancelled.

I never imagined a first day of school that

could be virtual. At first, I was quiet and

uninvolved during my first classes. Under

normal circumstances, I would have liked to

pass through the famous corridors of St.

Benedict’s, walk from classroom to

classroom, and joke around with my

classmates. It felt kind of boring but

amusing. I was sitting for five hours on the

same chair listening to someone talking. It

did not seem appealing at all.

I spent every day after school in my normal



not-spectacular bedroom. It literally became

a workshop. But still, I took advantage of as

many opportunities as possible. I worked

out in my room with the fitness club, joined

different meetings, did a bunch of

homework, kicked my soccer ball around,

and carried out many other activities,

including acting in the Drama Guild’s

spring production and writing for this


I cannot imagine how many pounds I have

gained during this pandemic, but there’s

always something great to learn from

experiences in life. I believe that everything

happens for a reason. Maybe the world

needed a break, as well as we did, from all

the stress and work we used to deal with

before COVID-19. There was much loss,

pain, and tragedy. But the water in Venice

cleared out, demand for green energy jobs

increased, and several more positive

developments took place during this year.

But most importantly, this year changed

our way of thinking. Sometimes people put

aside the main aspects of life and let

secondary things dominate them. Let's

reflect and just love everyone around us

and try to see and overcome obstacles in life

with a positive and confident mindset, and

as they say “Let go and let God.”

Illustration by Grant Parker

31 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

Benedict’s Turns the Pandemic on Its Head -- Through Acts of Love

By Fr. Albert Holtz’60, O.S.B.

I like to picture the St. Benedict’s Prep

Community as a set of concentric circles,

each fitting inside the next larger circle, like

a bullseye target. In the center is the

monastic community that has been here

longer than the school, and of course

founded and still acts as the spiritual hub

of St. Benedict’s. Moving outward you

have the academic community of students,

teachers, staff, and parents. Then there’s the

larger circle of thousands of alumni, friends

and supporters. Somewhere inside these

circles you have to locate the members of St.

Mary’s Church and the NeoCatechumenal

community sponsored by the monks. And

the neighbors who come to the Food Pantry,

and others who I’m leaving out.

In the center of the bullseye is the monastic

community, which has been the least

affected by the COVID pandemic. The

monks’ routine of daily prayer and Mass has

continued unchanged, although we do wear

masks and sit six feet apart as we pray. The

monastic schedule of meals, recreation, and

meetings has continued as well. St. Benedict

says somewhere in the Rule that “It is by no

means good for monks to go about outside

of the monastery.” So he would be proud of

us Downtown Monks over the past year.

Every time I’m in church praying with my

brother monks, I sense ripples of grace and

blessings and God’s love spreading outward

through all those circles to every member of

the wider “community,” from

Kindergarteners to the oldest alumni.

A few years ago, PBS aired a 90-minute

documentary about the Abbey and school,

entitled “The Rule.” Two different friends

of mine who saw it made the same remark

to me about the school: “What I sensed all

during the movie was a lot of love.” These

were people who had never visited us, but

they caught the spirit of the place, thanks to

the Bongiornos who did the documentary.

When visitors step into our bustling

buildings, many of them feel it right away

-- that spirit of love that we all have for one

another, expressed in so many ways, such as

student leaders caring for younger students,

group members building bonds with their

brothers in their group, or the way teachers

and counselors give themselves selflessly to

the students.

You would imagine, then, that the pandemic

restrictions and the emptying of the Prep

and Middle Division buildings would have

put an end to all that love as we switched to

virtual everything. However, I, at least, got

a pleasant surprise when just the opposite

happened to our community.

Over a year ago, on the first day of virtual

learning, the SBP community kept right on

praying together at Monday morning



Convocation with all the students and

faculty in attendance. We never missed a

day of Scripture readings, Psalms and songs.

Then before long, something very special

began to happen. Members from the wider

circles of our community began attending

Convo with us: Alumni of St. Benedict’s and

of Benedictine Academy, elders, and friends

of all ages. Friends and alumni started to

join us from countries around the world

including Israel, the Netherlands, Brazil,

and Mongolia. Many of these visitors,

especially alumni, have been participating

in Convo via the “chat” that streams

alongside the video, emphasizing even more

the feeling of shared community.

Did you ever ask yourself what draws these

people back every morning at 8:00 a.m.? I

would say that it is the same thing that my

two friends saw in the documentary, or that

visitors feel when they enter our buildings:

Love. The love shows itself at Convo in the

praying and singing, in the chatter and the

chat, in the corny jokes, and the sense of

family. The members of our extended

community know that SBP Convo will be

there every day at 8 a.m., reflecting, I

suppose, the monks’ vow of Stability of

Place. Interestingly, none of these people

would ever have known about our daily

Convocation had it not been for COVID-19.

They would not have this special little boost

to get them started on their day.

So, “In the Midst of It All,” as Rev.

Winstead’s song puts it so appropriately,

our St. Benedict's community, with the

special addition of the new Girls’ Prep

Division, has turned the pandemic

experience on its head. While others are

feeling alienated and separated, the

pandemic restrictions have prompted us to

create new ways of creating bonds, and of

extending those bonds of love until they

embrace the entire globe.

In the midst of the pandemic, the Lord’s

grace keeps reaching out through all those

circles of community with the message

of the Gospel carried in the words of our

songs, “You Gotta Love People. You can’t

choose who to love!” and, “Stay Up! Don’t

let nothin’ get you down!” and of course,

our informal pandemic motto, “In the midst

of it all.”


Fr. Al is the author of six books of

spiritual reflections, including “Pilgrim

Road: A Benedictine Journey Through

Lent,” and is currently Novice Master and

Director of Formation to new monks in

Newark Abbey. He made his final vows as

a monk in 1967 and was ordained a priest in

1969. With his master’s degree from

Columbia University’s Teachers’ College, he

helped design the “new” St. Benedict’s in


Photo by Neal E. Johnson for Unsplash

“Every time I’m in church praying with my brother

monks, I sense ripples of grace and blessings and

God’s love spreading outward…to every member of the

wider “community,” Fr. Al writes.

33 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

Finding a Silver Lining in


By Kiana Perez

The morning of March 13, 2020, was like

any other day we had had that fateful

year. I had awoken at 7:30 a.m., my usual,

and got ready for school. With everything ready,

I headed downstairs to meet my best friend for

what would become, unbeknownst to anyone,

our last day of normality.

The COVID-19 pandemic stormed into all of

our lives with guns blazing and with it, came

its sidekick: Quarantine. Quarantine at first

was only supposed to last two weeks, but that

short amount of time quickly transformed into

months -- without interaction with the outside


While drawing was not a new hobby for me,

I enjoyed the feeling of nostalgia I had that

brought me back to the days when I was


It allowed me to find peace in my day while

also being proactive at the same time. Drawing

also helped me spark the creativity inside of me

that had gone untouched for quite some time.

Cases spiked and people were forced to remain

isolated at home. Being cramped at home for

such a long time became a chore for many and

people became desperate for something to ease

their boredom. Desperation led many to take up

activities they fell in love with such as painting,

sewing, cooking, baking, and various other

creative outlets.

I, for one, decided to pursue more drawing

during the quarantine period. I took stills from

popular shows, animations, or movies and drew

them to the best of my ability. The satisfaction

that came with the finished product encouraged

me to keep doing more until pages of

notebooks were filled with sketches.

Photo by Mounzer Awad from Unsplash



Another interest I developed over the course of the pandemic was baking.

I joined the Baking Club in the fall of 2020 and it gave me something to

look forward to at the end of a long week. I had never baked or cooked , so

it was exciting to work hands-on with recipes and appliances I would never

have worked with otherwise. Through baking, I found myself getting

closer to my grandma as she is the baker of the household. She helped me

figure out how to use the oven and mixers, though warily at first, and I am

pleased to say

that it has gone

well so far.

Quarantine gave

me the

opportunity to

branch off into

different new and


activities that I

otherwise would

not have tried

until I was

older. The

creative side of

me that I lost as

school got more

stressful was

reignited and

now I can carry

new skills

proudly on my


Photo by Calum Lewis from Unsplash

Another interest I developed over the course of the pandemic was baking.

I joined the Baking Club in the fall of 2020 and it gave me something to

look forward to at the end of a long week. I had never baked or cooked ,

so it was exciting to work hands-on with recipes and appliances I would

nev-er have worked with otherwise. Through baking, I found myself

getting closer to my grandma as she is the baker of the household. She

helped me figure out how to use the oven and mixers, though warily at

first, and I am pleased to say

that it has gone

well so far.

Quarantine gave

me the

opportunity to

branch off into

different new and


activities that I

otherwise would

not have tried

until I was

older. Th

e creative side of

me that I lost as

school got more

stressful was

reignited and

now I can carry

new skills

proudly on my


35 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

Photo by Calum Lewis from Unsplash




By Emilio Calle

COVID-19 has affected everyone's lives

in the world, whether you're an adult

or child. The pandemic started with 16

COVID-19 cases on March 16, 2020 and

has grown to more than 100 million cases at


It has been more than a year since the

first case COVID-19 case appeared in

the U.S. I knew that we were going to

be in this pandemic for a while due

to history, most notably the Spanish

Flu pandemic which lasted two years.

But I really thought we would have

been able to return to normalcy by

this past December.

At this point, the U.S. has

had more than 30.4 million

cases of COVID-19, and

more than 550,000

deaths from


according to

the New



Photo by Hakan Nural for Unsplash

I blame the scale of this destruction on

neglect in addressing the pandemic by

previous U.S. President Donald Trump.

Instead of the President taking on the

situation, he shifted the work to state


On Dec. 11, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug

Administration issued the first

emergency use authorization for a

vaccine against COVID-19. This allowed

the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to

be distributed in the U.S.. The

FDA authorized the vaccine to

be used in citizens 16 and older.

The COVID-19 vaccine is given

by injection to the muscle. The

vaccine is administered in a

two-dose series given three

weeks apart.

Many Americans find

themselves asking

whether they should

vaccinate. I believe

that the vaccine

helps Americans

protect themselves and

their loved ones

and friends that

are vulnerable

to the virus.

If you decide

to take the

vaccine, we

could return

to normal life

more quickly.

According to

studies so far,



immunity conferred by the vaccine lasts at least three months.

Some may consider the vaccine to be a risk due to the many unknowns about the new

vaccine. However, if you do vaccinate, you will lower your chances of contracting the virus.

“You get up to 95% immunity against the virus which can protect you from getting the

infection and/or serious effects,” said Dr. Enoc Fernandez, who works at University

Hospital in Newark. “I believe that 95% is better than nothing and for now it's our best

hope from protecting ourselves and everyone else around us. Many stray from the vaccine

but they should do the exact opposite.”

The lesson for us should be this: Instead of avoiding the one thing that can possibly save

us from this deadly virus, confront it. Be the heroes, America needs. Be the brave souls that

help stop this virus.

do the exact opposite. Instead of avoiding the one thing that can possibly save us from this

deadly virus, confront it. Be the heros, America needs. Be the brave souls that helped stop

this virus.

Students Survive COVID-19

Written by Sovereign Brown

As COVID-19 continues to be an issue in

today’s world, many people are still falling

ill with COVID-19 or know someone who

has been afflicted. Within the St. Benedict’s

Prep community, many people are exposed

to COVID-19 on a daily basis and even

some students have been sickened by

coronavirus infections, despite precautions

and frequent testing.

An individual’s COVID-19 test results are

not always obvious. Although a person

may appear healthy and not experience any

symptoms, they can still be COVID-19


Alex Guerrero SY noted that when he had

COVID-19, he did not experience any

physical symptoms: “I consider myself

pretty lucky to not have experienced those

symptoms. A lot of people are unfortunate,

and I think I was able to overcome this


On the other hand, others experienced the

symptoms at a heightened level. “My throat

would be sore sometimes,” said Maria

Correia, FY. “I would wake up in the middle

of the night with my head hurting. But I did

get a temperature in the 100s.”

Among the experiences of community

members with coronavirus, some said that

COVID-19 took a toll on them mentally and

emotionally, as much as physically. “I was

always the type of person who thought my

relatives were going to be with me forever,”

Cristine Alvarez, UDII said. “I knew death

was coming, but it never really hit me that

it can be around the block, anyone can die


37 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

In these uncertain times, staying well

mentally is just as important as physical

health. “The experience changed my mind

mentally on how to live everyday as if it was

your last, because you never know when

someone is going to pass,” Alex added.

During these trying times, finding

emotional support is crucial to young

people’s well-being, whether they have

been directly or indirectly affected by

COVID-19. Maria found support from her

family members and especially through her

relationship with God: “I prayed to Him,

and He was always next to me by my side,

helping my family carry on through difficult



Most people who fall ill with COVID-19

eventually recuperate. When one emerges

from the sickness, there is a breakthrough

moment where one feels their physical

condition and mental state improving.

“You felt like you were one of those lucky

people who made it because I thought only

old people are dying, and I’m safe,” said

Cristine. “But you hear about babies and

teenagers dying through COVID-19. So

when I overcame it, it felt good because I

was lucky.”


Illustration by Grant Parker

Health Disparities

Among Communities of Color:

A Continuing Crisis

By William Register

and Kolby Samuels

Photo by elCarito for Unsplash

39 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

The medical history of the United States

has not been fair for many, and these issues

have become both ignited and illuminated

by the COVID-19 pandemic. The disparity,

mistreatment, and neglect of Black and

Brown Americans plague the healthcare

system of the United States, according to

many studies, and this has led to a

significant racial disparity in terms of which

communities have been harmed the most by

this virus.

In other words, people of color are dying at

a significantly higher rate than White

Americans in the United States -- and this is

no coincidence: These current racial

disparities signify a history of trauma and

neglect in communities of color.

In the past, there have been many

instances in which Black people were

treated as test subjects for experiments,

according to a leading physician, Dr.

Michael Straker. He said people such as

James Marion Sims, who is regarded as the

“Father of Modern Gynecology,”

experimented on Black women without any

form of anesthesia -- and of the many who

were tortured during these experiments,

many were killed.

“Those in power never viewed us as equal,

they never viewed us as human,” said Dr.

Straker, an African American gynecologist

and obstetrician with a practice in New

Jersey. “They did not believe we deserved

the same amount of respect or care.”

Dr. Straker, a graduate of Johns Hopkins

University and the Mt. Sinai School of

Medicine, points to a warped belief

underlying these lethal practices -- a false

notion that Black people feel less pain than

their White counterparts. This belief, he

said, continues to inform medical practices


He cited a June 2019 study published in the

American Journal of Emergency Medicine.



In the study, researchers examined data

from 14 previously published studies of

pain management in American emergency

rooms that altogether included 7,070 White

patients, 1,538 Hispanic patients, and 3,125

Black patients. Compared to White patients

in the study, Black patients were 40% less

likely to receive medication to ease acute

pain and Hispanic patients were 25% less

likely, the analysis found.

Physicians in the study may have been

choosing which patients get pain relief

based on conscious, unconscious, and

implicit bias as well as negative stereotypes

based upon race, ethnicity, and class, Dr.

Carmen Green, a professor of

anesthesiology at the University of

Michigan schools of medicine and public

health in Ann Arbor, told Physician's


“We tend to be more sympathetic to those

who look like us,” Green said. “Overall,

racial and ethnic minorities tend to receive

lesser quality of care, have lesser quality

health insurance, have decreased access to

care, and experience diminished outcomes

that lead to disparities.”

Consequently, something like visiting a

doctor for a checkup may not be so

straightforward for members of the

African American community, Dr.

Straker said. There is a seed of deep

mistrust of healthcare that was planted

during slavery in the United States, and

this trust has yet to be earned back, which

means, he said, the tree from that seed is

still growing today.

A more recent example is the Tuskegee

Syphilis Study, an experiment that involved

600 African American men being injected

with syphilis, which was incurable at the

time. These men were recruited under the

false promise that they were receiving free

medical care and treatment for whatever

CDC photo

This historic photograph, created sometime around 1932, shows participants in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. In

this particular view, an African-American man was being x-rayed, while in the standing position.

occurred following the experiment. The results were horrifying. The doctors watched as

people suffered from the effects of the illness: some went blind, others passed it onto their

relatives, and died from either syphilis or the complications that stemmed from the


According to Dr. Straker, these are far from being the only instances in which Black people

were the subjects of a medical experiment, and these repeated occurrences have created

generational trauma and a mistrust of healthcare services in the African American


There are problems, he said, that need to be addressed in relation to public health. During

the height of the pandemic, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention, Black people were nearly two times as likely to die from COVID-19 than their

White counterparts. Moreover, Black people disportionately suffer from diseases such as

diabetes and heart disease. A growing body of evidence indicates these serious disparities

can directly be traced back to systemic racism in America.

41 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

When the Abnormal becomes the Norm:

Counselors Find Ways to Help Students


By Simarpal Singh

Photos by Krithik Rajasegar

St. Benedict’s Counseling Department has expanded its services during

the pandemic to include more family sessions, and online meetings.

Here, Dr. Sinclair Davis, Dean of Counseling, advises a Benedict’s

student during the pandemic.

Over the course of the pandemic, many teachers have noted frustration at the challenging

task of managing classrooms remotely, citing higher than normal incidents of student misbehavior

that have included a near-total lack of engagement in class, repeated tardiness,

being off-camera, and failure to be in uniform.

According to one of St. Benedict’s top psychologists, such student behavior, while presenting

difficulties, is a normal response to an abnormal situation.

“One of the major problems that affected students during the lockdown was bad habits,

sleeping late, staying up on their phones, waking up late, being late to class, not turning

on cameras,” said Dr. Sinclair Davis, the Dean of Counseling at St. Benedict’s Prep.

“However, it’s

not entirely

students’ fault

because it was

how they’ve responded

to the


Teachers and


shouldn’t be

terribly taken aback when witnessing such behavior, Dr. Davis said. These actions represent

a natural response to being locked in every day for an extended period. “You can’t

possibly be mad at a student who’s been locked in (his) house, not being able to be at (his)

peak,” Dr. Davis said. “Students need to go outside to get some fresh air and hang around

with their friends.”

The lockdown was the biggest obstacle that prevented students from going about their

daily routines, he said. This has been a major problem as students lost their motivation,

consistent routines, and concentration, which in turn affected their education negatively.

“Athletes, for example, were forced to lock down and it was very difficult for them to

adapt,” said Dr. Davis.

Beyond the feelings of repression caused by the pandemic lockdown, students also suffered

from the anxiety natural to anyone fearing the loss of a loved one. When one consid-



ers how communities of color have suffered the effects of the pandemic disproportionately,

Dr. Davis said, students have had solid reasons to be fearful. Some students lost family

members, a grave challenge to anyone’s psyche, he said.

“It wasn’t only the students, actually this affected the whole Benedict’s community,” Dr.

Davis said. It was very hard, he noted, for everyone to stay optimistic during a time when

cities like Newark at times led the region in cases and rates of infection.

Many students,

Dr. Davis said,

have experienced

bouts of

depression and

anxiety during

this prolonged

period of stress,

which in turn

adversely impacted

their performance in school. Acknowledging the severity of the pandemic and its

outsized impact on students’ mental health, St. Benedict’s Counseling Department, led by

Dr. Davis, devised a strategy to improve matters.

First, members of the Counseling Department made themselves accessible and available

by sharing their emails and phone numbers with the community. “Being available to everyone

helped a lot,” Dr. Davis said.

In addition, the Counseling Department offered family counseling for those who requested

it. There was a great need for it, Dr. Davis said, and many requests. Being available for

not just students but the whole St. Benedict’s community helped many, Dr. Davis said.

The third major initiative the Counseling Department had to undergo was to move from

counseling members of the community in-person to an online format.

Counselors also had to find a way to serve the community while maintaining safety procedures.

“In-person counseling was better because you would see the student and the

student would be open to everything he or she wanted to say,” Dr. Davis said. “ In other

words, there was no one to judge what the student was saying because they were in a room

with me.”

In contrast, with online counseling, students may not have the kind of privacy necessary to

speak openly. “They may feel uncomfortable talking about certain topics,” Dr. Davis said.

Despite those challenges, the Counseling Department found a way to move forward and

hold online sessions. “Counselors stopped worrying about matters they couldn’t control,”

Dr. Davis said. Students realized instead, Dr. Davis said, that, most of all, “their health

matters more to us.”

“Helping each other out during this time was the most beautiful thing we ever experienced,”

Dr. Davis said.

43 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

When COVID Strikes: A Survival Story

By Joseph Jumbo and Geovanni Lopez

“Once I had to handle the house flood alone,

I realized how hard the Coronavirus had

affected my life,” said Benedict News Online

Editor Geovanni Lopez UD2.

For nearly two frightening months earlier this

year, Geovanni’s family grappled directly

with the COVID-19 virus. The ordeal started

on Jan. 11, of this year, when Geovanni

received what he would ultimately find

out was a false-positive result for the virus.

A week later, his father tested positive for


Geovanni’s father provided the main income

for the family, so his illness and inability to

work full-time meant the family would face

severe economic hardship. “He was not being

paid as much as usual,” said Geovanni.

On top of causing financial worries, the

disease brought discomfort to the household

by forcing the rearranging of what was usual.

To avoid infecting the rest of the family,

Geovanni’s father isolated himself in an attic

bedroom -- Geovanni’s bedroom. Geovanni,

having lost his room, was forced to find

another place to sleep and study. But the

highly infectious disease made that difficult.

Within days of Geovanni’s father contracting

the illness, Geovanni’s mother came down

with COVID. This also meant that Geovanni’s

grandmother, who lived with them, had to

Photo by Onder Ortel for Unsplash

take precautions, too, especially since the

disease affects the elderly so harshly.

“I had nowhere to go… I thought of sleeping

on the floor,” said Geovanni.

Geovanni is grateful to his godfather,

who gave him an inflatable bed to sleep

on. For the next few weeks, Geovanni took

full responsibility for the house. He found

himself doing tasks his mother and father

would usually perform, such as cooking,

cleaning, or washing clothes. His parents had

also taken the bathroom with the only shower

in the house, meaning that Geovanni had to

go to his godfather's house to bathe.

Geovanni cared for his parents and kept

the house in order while keeping up with

schoolwork. Just when his parents began

feeling better, recovering from the virus,

Geovanni learned that his sister, who lives

nearby, contracted the Coronavirus. She

had just given birth to a daughter. Having

COVID-19, Geovanni’s sister did not want to

put the newborn at risk.

After two weeks of recovery, Geovanni’s

parents took charge of the baby since

they now had built immunity to the virus.

However, Geovanni’s parents were not

in good shape to take care of the baby.

“They were extremely fatigued and weak,”

Geovanni said. “I was worried for them.”



When COVID Strikes: A Survival Story

By Joseph Jumbo and Geovanni Lopez

His parents stayed at his sister's house for a

few weeks until his sister could get cleared by

her doctor to return.

For those weeks, Geovanni was home with

his grandmother. Once again, he took

full responsibility for the house, all while

maintaining his school work.

And, just when Geovanni thought matters

couldn’t get any worse, they did. His house


“The pipe broke, water was running… my

dad usually takes care of these things,” he


Geovanni had to take care of the flooding.

Fortunately, he reached the landlord who put

a stop to the flooding.

Then, right after the plumbing problem came

the snowstorms. During Geovanni’s time

alone with his grandmother, two consecutive

snowstorms hit New Jersey. He became very

adept at shoveling.

It took almost two months for Geo to get a

sigh of relief. “I felt privileged, I was glad my

parents were back,” he said. “I missed them.

I’m glad we got through it, but this was an

experience I will never forget.”

Like Geovanni’s family, many low-income

families have been disproportionately

affected by COVID-19 both in terms of high

rates of illness and economic hardship.

In the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic

has taken over half a million lives. The

pandemic has been highly damaging to the

workforce, leaving many Black and Hispanic

household members jobless. In fact, in a

survey conducted by the Washington, D.C.-

based Urban Institute, in which institute

staff queried more than 9,000 adults, the

institute concluded: “Roughly 43% of parents

living with children report they or a family

member has lost a job or work hours due to

the pandemic. That includes 62% of Hispanic

families, 50% of black families, and 36.5% of

white families. Just over half of low-income

families and one-third of higher-income

families reported job losses.”

Job losses or losses of time on the job during

the pandemic have made it difficult for lowincome

families -- on a national and local

scale -- to pay for necessities such as housing,

food, medical care, and other underlying


45 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

When This is Over…

By Zemi Rodriguez

Having to stay home for over a year now

and not being able to do what you want has

everyone waiting for the day when we can

all go outside and do everything we wish.

Students at St. Benedict’s have been eager

to get out and have fun with friends and

family. They want to do the things they

took for granted before the virus forced us

to stay home. Virtual learning has a lot of

people wishing they were in school with

friends. No one expected to be away from

doing what they used to do, such as going

to school, going out with friends, playing

their sport, etc. for over a year. At this point

everyone just wants things to go back to the

way they were and wants to enjoy every day.

When this is over, what are you going to do?

If you get asked that question, you may find

some answers are so random, but sometimes

it's a normal answer that surprises you.

Everyone's plan after the pandemic is so

different and interesting, as some students

from the News Production class talk about


Luke Amoakoh SY:

I’d make plans to go to hang out with my

friends in public places. I would make plans

to see any movies in theaters that I’m

interested in at that time. I’d take more

walks breathing outside without a mask. I

would do these things because if the

pandemic was all of a sudden over, it would

be liberating. It gives room to do more fun

activities without the fear of catching a


of bringing COVID back to my household.

However, when it's all over I plan on

hanging out with my friends by going to

waterparks and just having fun in general.

Also, I’ll start bringing my dog to dog parks

more often so that he can socialize with

other dogs and get rid of his playful energy.

I would like to enjoy my last year as a teen

before turning 18.

Ethan Brady SY:

When this annoying pandemic ends I will

go into another building without a mask,

go see some family members that I haven’t

seen in a while, and hug and shake hands

with friends. This time has been very

annoying for me and doing these things will

make me feel way more better than today.

Going into another building without a mask

will be great because it will bring back all

the great memories to when I used to do that

before without thinking about it. Seeing

family and more friends would also make

me feel way more happy. Also shaking

hands and hugging with them would be

great because that will show that we all

missed each other.

David Decker SY:

What I plan to do when the pandemic is

over and why….

It is very simple -- to go into a store without

a mask on and buy a bunch of stuff that I

would normally buy now for my late night

drives. The day when the mask mandate is

gone is going to be great. I can't wait to walk

into a 7-Eleven or a QuickChek or a Wawa

and buy food without the need to wear a

mask. I truly can't wait and hope that day

comes sooner rather than later. I truly

cannot stand wearing these damn masks


Alex Benanti UD2:

This past year I was very diligent in not

going to meet other people out of the fear

45 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 2 Spring 2021



Krithik Rajasegar UD1:

I plan to do many things when the

pandemic is over, like everyone else. But,

mainly, I have a few in mind. I would like

to go to a packed concert of one of my

favorite artists. The reason why is that

music has been really helping me kill time

and to entertain myself when I’m alone or

doing something with friends. Music is

most definitely there, from going to the gym

or going to the park, or just during doing

homework. And it’s just been too long since

I’ve been to a concert. Way too long. I was

planning on going to concerts and festivals

during 2020 but COVID happened and

ruined everything. So that would be my

main thing I want to do once this is all over.

Simarpal Singh UD2:

What I plan when the pandemic is over is

to go out and play soccer with my friends.

During the pandemic, the only people I

have played soccer with were the St.

Benedict’s team and I was unable to play

with my friends because my mom didn’t

feel comfortable about it. So I couldn’t play

with my friends and have fun. However,

playing alongside Benedict’s was really fun

also, because it’s really competitive and

I love competition. We would have four

teams and the team who beats everyone

gets to go home, while the losing teams

run. Whenever this pandemic is over, I plan

to play with my friends and show off my

growth as a soccer player.

Adrian Vasquez UD2:

When the pandemic is over I am still going

to be a little precautious (washing hands

constantly and using hand sanitizer).

However, I am going to go out and spend

time with my family and throw a party. It

will be a big party, and it will go on until

5 in the morning. Then after the party, I

would see if I could go on vacation to

Colombia or Miami. There I would just

have a great time and visit places. The

pandemic has taught me to not take even

little things such as family gatherings for

granted. You have to go out, have fun, and

live your life; because you only live once. So

go out and live your life to the fullest.

Jorge Izurieta SY:

What I plan to do when the pandemic is

over and why…..

What I plan to do when the pandemic is

over is have a big reunion with my

family, WITHOUT the worry of getting

sick. I would also like to hang out with my

friends and just hang out like old times. I

think I would also like to go to places like

the supermarket, without a mask just to be

able to feel normal again. The thing I would

be most excited about is going to a concert

and seeing my favorite artist along with

many other people in a crowd, no matter

how bunched up we would be.

Bryan Lala SY:

What I plan to do when the pandemic is

over is travel to Ecuador and visit my family

because I was usually going every year and I

haven’t gone last year due to it. I would love

to take the mask out forever because masks

are just so annoying. I would start going out

with friends and more to the park. I would

want to take my parents out somewhere and

have fun with them as well.

Photo by Adi Goldstein of Unsplash

47 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021



49 Issue 2 Volume 3 Spring 2021

The Benedict News Magazine is published during the academic year by the

students of St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, N.J. Our mission is to

provide a voice for the students and provide news of concern to them in a balanced

and fair manner. The Benedict News Magazine and www.benedictnewsonline.org

abide by the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists. The editorials

reflect the views and opinions of the The Benedict News Editorial Board only.

The Benedict News Magazine and www.benedictnewsonline.org belong to the

Columbia Scholastic Press Association, Quill and Scroll, the Garden State

Scholastic Press Association, Quill and Scroll, the Garden State Scholastic Press

Association and the Journalism Education Association.

Keeping the Hive Humming: How the Gray Bees Fought the Pandemic

We thank our patrons for their support, including: Joseph Bakes;

Table Carol of Contents Ann Campbell; Noreen Connolly; Robert DiQuallo; Jorge Estrella;

Henry and Agnes T. Hooper-Gottlieb; Jill D. Hall; Adrian Kachmar;

The Thomas Last Good J. Kilkenny; Day the Lucas Family; Olaniyi Q. Solebo; and Diane Curcio Walsh. 6

Conversio: Giving Kids a Chance to Connect 10

If Medical you would Experts like to of be Color a patron Tell of Benedict’s: The Benedict COVID News, Vaccine please Safe contact Editors-in-Chief 12

Normal Reuben Again? Kadushin and Sam Pineda at benedictnews@sbp.org. Thank you to the 15

Q&A with Dr. Cassidy: entire “Benedict’s SBP community Finest Hour” for your support.

SBP Survey: “Yes” to Vaccinate, “No” to Mandating Shots





Staying Together: A Photo Essay 28

Keeping COVID & in Me mind the values of integrity, brotherhood, and community stressed 30 at

St. Benedict’s, Turns the Pandemic mission of on The its Head Benedict -- Through News is Acts to represent, of Love in truth, context, 31

and A Silver fairness, Lining the news which it covers. It also aims to give students a chance 34 to

Why have Vaccinate? a voice not only within their community but also in the world beyond. 36

Students Survive COVID-19 37

Health Disparities Among Communities of Color: A Crisis 39

When the Abnormal Follow Becomes us on the Instagram! Norm: Counselors @graybeepublications Find Ways to Help 42

When COVID Strikes a Family: A Survival Story 44

When This is Over 46

Chalk Talk 49



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