Founding editors of Colonial Times, now in 11th grade, talk growing up

COLONIAL LIBRARY — Eight high school juniors travelled various paths after leaving Colonial, all of them looking for the best way to journey out of childhood. One changed cafeterias to find the right friends. Another found the right friends through shared passions. A third survived what felt like mortal embarrassment on the first day of middle school. A fourth saw the importance of kindness.

The Pelham Memorial High School students, founders of the Colonial Times in 2011 along with several other students and eight of the paper’s first editors, spoke to the newspaper’s current staff in late May.

The students—Manon Bushong, Claudia Dodge, Daniella Cherner, Sam Rodd, Francesca Di Cristofano, Daniel Bernstein, Lindsay McNamara and Henry Driesen—returned to Colonial to talk about what growing up is like from fifth grade to 11th.

“As you grow older, you’re going to find that people who you worshiped are actually not good people,” said Daniella, who runs cross county and track and is a musician. “Kindness is not the same thing as being nice.”

Others told stories about learning hard lessons and dealing with embarrassment.

“On my first big science test of high school, I got 55 percent, and my teacher told me to drop the class,” said Lindsay. “But I started asking my teacher for help. It’s going to get harder, but you’re going to get smarter. Learning is about adapting and changing.”

Lindsay is on the varsity field hockey and softball teams and a member of the National Honor Society (NHS).

“I showed up to my first day of middle school with my pants on backwards,” Manon told the Colonial students. “I thought, ‘This is the end.'”

Manon is also a member of the NHS and plays varsity volleyball.

The eleventh graders suggested the Colonial students experience different things and try them early to get an idea of what they’re interested in.

“When you’re young, try a lot,” said Henry, record-holder in the mile and trophy winner in forensics tournaments. “Really follow and do what you want to do. When I was in seventh grade, I was wearing a scarf, and I thought I was going to do theater. Start early because it will benefit you in the future.”

Daniel told the newsroom, “People ask you what you want to be when you grow up. I recently told them, I want to go to Mars. People laughed, and in all honesty, it is kind of funny. It is ridiculous, but the point is, I think that if it weren’t for the fact that people would laugh at it, I wouldn’t want it. It’s achieving the impossible. Try to achieve the impossible and create new possibilities.”

Daniel heads PMHS’s model UN organization, is in the NHS and plays for the football team.

“Middle school is a great time to figure out what you want to be when you grow up,” said Claudia 

“Things are going to be different,” said Sam. “The things you love may not make you cool in the group.” Sam, an NHS member, has had lead roles in Soc ‘n’ Buskin performances and county-wide theater groups. He was the winner of PMHS’s “Visions of Oz” writing contest.

The Colonial Times’ founding editors spoke a great deal about keeping friends and finding friends once middle school starts.

“When I was in middle school, I tried out for a lot of things, and my friends changed because they found their passion,” said Claudia. “You’ll find friends who pursue the same paths as you.” Running for the PMHS winter track team, Claudia broke the record in the 600 meters. She has also scored 65 goals in lacrosse and is in the NHS.

“In sixth grade, I sat with all my friends in the cafeteria, but within two weeks, I moved to the other cafeteria and made a whole new set of friends,” said Francesca, who plays varsity volleyball, participates in science research and is a member of the NHS. “The whole thing repeated every year, and it is still happening in eleventh grade. The important part of friendship is that you keep your friends around that make you happy.”

The original editors were responsible for several firsts at the Colonial Times, including the first story filed from a school bus returning from a field trip and the first print edition, put out by 12 editors.

“I wasn’t even sure (the print paper) was feasible,” said Rich Zahradnik, the newspaper’s advisor.

They were also the first winners of Colonial’s Outstanding Journalists Award and are honored on a plaque outside Mrs. Tonya Wilson’s office.

Lark Martin, president of the Colonial Student Government and a fifth grader, said Daniel’s statement “really does make me feel like I can achieve the impossible. I want to be President (of the United States) when I grow up, and it really inspired me to do that.”

Student Life Editor Claire Van Praagh said Daniella’s comment about the people you worship not being good “makes me feel like there’s going to be ups and downs in your lifetime, and you just have to keep going.”