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Alumni Corner


Alumnus Shares Entrepreneurial Tips at MS

Robert Karp, a Briarcliff High School Class of 2015 alumnus, recently visited the middle school’s new Entrepreneur’s Club members.

Karp, who is currently a student at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, is the founder and chief executive of Miles Ahead, a high-end travel advisory firm that he operates while attending school full-time.

During his visit, Karp described his business model and answered questions about the challenges he has faced as an entrepreneur and his plans for the future.

“I like being creative,” he shared. And while he plans to scale Miles Ahead, he added, “Ultimately, I want us to stay a service business.”

The students were curious about all aspects of his business, including how he finds employees, how he plans to upscale and how many of his clients return for a second time.

Karp said his passion for the travel industry started when he began playing a flight simulator computer game as a child and continued to grow as he learned how vacations are planned from his relatives. He encouraged the middle school students to consider participating in the science research program when they enter high school – a three-year course that he took to continue pursuing his passion. His project, “A Network Flow-Based Approach for Post-Merger Airline Hub Consolidation” earned regional and even national recognition.

“Intel was a great experience,” he said. “You have to manage your own time and what you do determines what you get out of it.”


Epstein’s Love of Dance Lives On

Rebecca “Becky” Epstein, a 2009 graduate of Briarcliff High School, has always loved to dance.

“I have been dancing since I was 5 years old,” she said when she returned to BHS for the 4th annual Alumni Career Experience on Nov. 23.

At BHS, Epstein was a standout member of the dance program and was named Outstanding Senior Dancer. She went on to major in dance at James Madison University, with a focus on teaching. She now teaches dance to elementary students in the Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia and is enrolled in the University of Northern Colorado’s online master’s program in dance education.

Epstein and her students participated in the international Dance for Kindness initiative and Back-to-School Bus Tour with U.S. Department of Education Secretary John B. King this past September.

“She has taken her career to extraordinary places for someone of her age in this field,” said BHS dance teacher Diane Guida.

Becky Epstein is pictured below with her dance company, along with U.S. Department of Education Secretary John B. King, as part of the Back-to-School Bus Tour kickoff in Washington D.C. in Sept. 2016.



Alumnus, Broadway Actor Returns to BHS

Briarcliff High School alumnus David Perlow (Class of 2003) recently returned to discuss his Broadway acting and directing career with current students.

During his master class, Perlow critiqued BHS drama students’ performances and answered questions about his time starring in “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Wicked.”

View the below video for more from Perlow’s visit.






Berger, Gualdino Return for 2015 Dance Concert

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BHS Alum Offers Playwriting Insight

Emma Flihan’s recent visit to Briarcliff High School gave current drama and film students the opportunity to learn about playwriting as part of the higher education experience.

Flihan, now a junior in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, said her application to the program wasn’t initially planned.

“I decided to apply to Tisch last minute,” said the 2012 alumna. “I used my plays from the Drama Club here at BHS as my portfolio in my application.”

Flihan also spoke with students about her experiences working at the Tribeca Film Festival, reviewing off-Broadway shows, stage managing and writing.

Her work as a member of the Drama Club was just one way she was involved with the arts in Briarcliff.

“I did the middle school musical, and I always loved performing,” she said.

Flihan offered current students advice for writing dramatic plays and provided background about playwriting theory. She also offered several resources that she learned about at NYU to help with playwriting.




“Sleepy Hollow” Screenwriter Returns to BHS Roots

Sam Chalsen left quite an impact after he graduated from Briarcliff High School in 2008. Teachers from around the district stopped by Nov. 25 to say hello to the alumnus as he prepared to speak to current students about his career.

“Sam was probably one of the most brilliant students to go through Briarcliff,” said English department coordinator Jamie Mandel. “He’s very gifted; he’s incredibly creative.”

While at BHS, Chalsen was active with the student newspaper, chorus, drama club, plays and other creative outlets.

After graduation, Chalsen went on to Harvard University, where he harnessed the creative talents he explored at BHS by delving into screenwriting.

A year after graduation, he found himself working as a production assistant on FOX’s hit television show “Sleepy Hollow” in Los Angeles.

He credits Mandel, his drama club teacher, for helping him discover his love of writing for the stage.

“I like writing with action in mind,” he said. “That’s why I like screenwriting – because it’s alive.”

In a workshop for current BHS students, Chalsen spoke about the process of screenwriting for “Sleepy Hollow,” sharing photos from the writers’ room for the show and the sets, shot in North Carolina.

Students asked questions of Chalsen, including, “How do you come up with titles for the episodes?” and “How do you decide how to break up the [plot] of the entire season?”

Student Sydney Agona, stage manager for the school’s productions, said she learned a lot from Chalsen.

“I thought it was really cool how they organize their thoughts,” she said. “I watch complicated shows like ‘Once Upon a Time’ and find it fascinating that they have different storylines that intertwine.”






Fischer’s Research Highlighted in New York Times

Lessons learned in his Advanced Placement Statistics class earned Briarcliff High School graduate Jack Fischer recognition in the New York Times recently.

“I love it when I hear of students who take what they learned here and apply it to a real-life situation,” said Annmarie O’Brien, a BHS math and science research teacher. “It gives credence to the course’s relevance to everyday life.”

Fischer, now a sophomore at SUNY Binghamton, said he became interested in the media’s attention to public colleges and universities versus “the Harvards and Dartmouths of the world” during his personal college search.

“I researched [this topic] using multiple regression during my freshman year,” Fischer explained. “The big problem is that some schools are obviously much better than others, and it's hard to measure that. Even if you have the rankings of schools, it's hard to compare them directly. They're different sizes, rankings don't match up, etc. It quickly gets arbitrary and meaningless. As we discussed in AP Stats, you can use mathematical modeling to solve problems like that.”

Added Mrs. O’Brien, “By quantifying the variables of interest, Jack was able to do the statistical analyses to see if his results were significant.”

According to Fischer’s research, the New York Times more often covers highly-ranked colleges and universities. He also noted larger higher education institutions, more liberal schools and those closest to New York received more mentions.

Fischer told Times editor Margaret Sullivan that while his hypothesis was correct, he believes public institutions deserve more coverage in order to help increase their visibility.

Mrs. O’Brien offers praise for Fischer’s initiative and motivation.

“It’s no surprise to me that Jack is taking what he learned to the next level,” she said. “He was always a thinker, very creative, and not one to shy away from difficult tasks. On top of that, I think all of the faculty would join me in saying what a good person he is, always polite and appreciative of his opportunities. He has a very bright future ahead of him.”


Photo Credit: Duncan McInnes


Zimmerman’s Passion for Art Lives on After BHS

Madeline Zimmerman, a 2013 graduate of Briarcliff High School, is on track to earn an economics degree from Harvard University.

Despite a challenging course load, she has found time to indulge in her passion for art, a passion born out of taking Roxanne Ritacco’s college-level Drawing & Painting Fundamentals class at BHS.

For Ritacco, hearing of her former students’ hands-on immersion in the art world reflects a primary purpose for art teachers.

“The impulse to create lies at the heart of what makes us human,” Ritacco said. “This is particularly evident in the minds and hearts of young students. Stimulating this impulse is one of the prime goals of teaching.”

Over the summer, Zimmerman — now a college sophomore — went backpacking in Europe and visited Israel, Turkey, France, Spain, Scotland and Italy.

“The photos I took were inspiring,” said Zimmerman, who also hosted “painting parties” with classmates while at BHS. “So — as I am sure happens with many artists who travel — I decided to paint one of the places I visited.”

The adjacent painting by Zimmerman is based on a photo she took of the iconic Eilean Donan Castle in the Scottish Highlands.

Zimmerman credits Ritacco’s class for the inspiration and appreciation she felt as she visited new places. Ritacco noted that introducing art students to historic works of art can encourage them to create more provoking work.

“When students begin to develop control over their materials, when they see that they, too, are able to organize the visual field and evoke a powerful response, they are empowered,” Ritacco said.

Zimmerman’s post-high school journey certainly exemplifies this theory.

“It definitely made me appreciate the art history you sprinkled throughout lessons during my years in your class,” Zimmerman told her former teacher. “I want to let you know how much I appreciated your class and everything it gave to me. My best friends in high school came out of your class, and we still get together on a regular basis to work on our art.”


Tuesday, March 20, 2018