Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Cowboy Rides in on Sandy’s Tail

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

by Kelsey O’Connor

Two Sandys rode into town in the first week of November. One was a hurricane, but the other was a horse ridden by “Cowboy for a Cure” Johnny Warnshuis. If you thought cowboys riding into ghost towns could only happen in Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns, you are gravely mistaken. Johnny arrived with Sandy at the Essex Equestrian Center in West Orange on Friday, asking for a stall for his horse for two days.


Johnny’s 4,370-mile mission to spread awareness about Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) started on March 28, 2011 in Reddington, California. His mother Sally inspired the mission. Three days after a routine flu shot, Sally was completely paralyzed from the neck down. Johnny moved her to many different hospitals over four months before she was finally diagnosed with GBS, an inflammatory disorder of the nerves around the brain and spinal cord. Once Sally was set up with a caregiver, Johnny decided to raise awareness about GBS and hopefully help other people who have been diagnosed.


His final destination was New York City, and his journey has not been easy. Johnny has faced mountain lions, gone days without food or water, and been injured many times. In his words, “It has not just been physical, but also an emotional and mental triumph to get through this.”


The Cowboy for a Cure could not have made it without the countless people he has met on his journey, or the generous strangers who offered him places to spend the night and lodge his horses. Johnny says, “The journey has totally restored my faith in humanity and God.” While he started out alone, he now has friends for every twenty miles across the country. Johnny says that the greatest part of the experience has been meeting wonderful people. His mom shares, “To have strangers just say, ‘Come in our house and stay,’ it’s amazing.”


As he approaches the finish line, he is joined by his mother, thanks to donations from Johnny’s friends, supporters, and a generous couple from Oklahoma. The couple, Jill and Roy, saw Johnny riding on the side of the road, bought him a cup of coffee, and invited him and his horses to stay. Now, they are a part of his team.


And because every great story has a romance, along the way, Johnny met Sherree, his fiancée. She ran the website from Nevada, but joined Johnny when he broke his ankle two months ago in Pennsylvania. Once his journey ends in New York, they plan to marry. “We’re all on a wing and a prayer for sure,” he says with a laugh.


Johnny rode out of West Orange and finally crossed his finish line in New York in early December.


To learn more about Cowboy for a Cure:

To donate for or learn more about GBS/CIDP:


Interview with Evan Draim, Youngest Delegate to the RNC

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

1) When did you first become interested in politics and why? Can you remember a specific incident?

I have been interested in politics for quite a long time. As a graduation present from middle school, I remember asking my dad to take me to the Virginia State Republican Convention. I attribute that interest in politics to my family background. Having grandparents who immigrated to the United States from Hungary as political refugees has allowed me to appreciate this great country and all the opportunities it has provided my family, and I want to work to preserve such opportunities for future generations of immigrants.

2) What elements of conservative Republicanism appeal to you specifically – do you have any favorite hot-button issues, or pet policies?

For me, conservatism is about returning America to her traditional, Constitutional foundations. As a second-generation American, this resonates with me because I view it as my duty to preserve the uniquely American principles of economic freedom and individual liberty for which my ancestors came to this country. Although those principles were established long ago, I feel that preserving our limited form of government is still relevant and beneficial for young Americans like myself today who want more independence and autonomy as we grow up, rather than having more decisions centralized for us in Washington, D.C. Finally, I feel that conservatism’s emphasis on localizing government enables student voters to have more of a voice, because with our busy schedules, students can usually only afford to influence our politics on a local level.

Education is a major issue for me, and I apply my Constitutional conservative views to find solutions to that problem. For instance, I oppose the existence of a federal Department of Education, which I feel has taken control of the school system out of the hands of local communities, where students and parents have the most control, and shipped that authority to a board of unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. All school districts have different needs and abilities, and their one-size-fits-all approach to governing has forced many school districts to cancel their well-rounded curricula in order to fit the edicts of that federal agency. This President [Obama] has bragged about his support for federal assistance to aid students going to college. However, those same students would not require federal assistance if this administration’s actions did not drive up tuition costs so high. The President has kept states from utilizing their energy resources, the revenue from which could be put towards lowering college tuition costs.

3) Do you find that you get confronted a lot by other kids for having such strong beliefs? How do you respond?

Originally, yes. I think many of my friends thought that it was stupid for me to have such strong opinions as a student since they doubted the ability of young Americans to influence politics. However, after witnessing me win election as a RNC delegate, many of them have realized that younger voters can have an impact in shaping our national debate and political dialogue. That has motivated more of my peers to get involved: knowing that their voice can count. Seeing that happen, I think, is the most positive aspect of this entire experience for me.

An Interview with Sarah Bradley: Marathon Runner

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Recently, MKA has received the news that Sarah Bradley, senior, completed the New York City Marathon. The following is an interview in which the young runner chronicles her experience.

1.     So, Sarah, what inspired you to run the marathon in the first place?

My biggest inspiration is my father. I cheered him on in 2009 when he participated for the first time, and I felt such a thrill as a bystander.  I thought it was incredible that my dad completed it, because at the time, I could not imagine embarking on such a journey myself. In addition to my dad as an inspiration, the supportive cheers of the spectators and the many helping hands inspired me to run the marathon.


2.     How has running track & field and cross-country prepared you for the marathon?  

Running track and cross-country helped prepare me for the Marathon tremendously.  My coaches, Tom Fleming and Alden Basmajian were very supportive during my training. I knew I was in the right hands, because Coach Basmajian is an experienced marathon runner and Coach Fleming is a 2-time winner of the NYC Marathon. I am very thankful to have such wonderful coaches, and I would not have been able to do it without them.


3.     Can you give a description of the race?

The hardest part for me was going to bed the night before.  I had a lot going through my head about what could go wrong, and the fact that the race was actually about to happen after months of training and anticipation was an incredible thought.


The beginning of the race was pretty intense because people were anxiously running around me everywhere. But after I ran over the first bridge, it became less claustrophobic and I began to enjoy myself. I gave millions of people high fives and people who didn’t even know me were cheering for me all over the city (I had my name on my shirt, which helped).  In the beginning of the race it was hard to look ahead and imagine everything I had to accomplish, but once I completed 18 miles and continued to work my way closer to the finish line I began to have faith in myself that I could finish the 26.2 miles. I completed something that I originally never thought I could do, and it felt incredible.


4.     How has completing the marathon affected your life? Can you apply any lessons that you have learned from completing the marathon to your life?

Completing the New York City Marathon affected my life in a positive way.  It was the longest and most extraordinary journey I have ever embarked on.  I believe anyone can run a marathon as long as they have the right mindset. Completing the Marathon made me realize that I could push through any obstacle.  It’s surreal to know that I finished something that originally seemed impossible.


5.     Do you plan to run the New York City Marathon again?

Despite the time commitment it took for me to train for it, I would definitely run it again, maybe even next year, depending on where I attend college.


Danielle Charpentier ‘13 Staff Writer

Harlan Coben Visits MKA

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Harlan Coben, renowned author of over 20 novels, including the world-famous Myron Bolitar series, was the book fair speaker at the Middle School this year.  Coben, who grew up in New Jersey and played basketball at Amherst University, is a powerhouse in the world of adult thrillers.  Now promoting his first young adult novel, Shelter, Coben granted the Academy News an interview after his book fair signing.

Academy News: What were your favorite books to read as a kid and what authors inspired you to start writing?

Harlan Coben:  You know when I was younger, like elementary school age, Roald Dahl and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory were my favorites.  I loved Madeline Engel, who wrote A Wrinkle in Time. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, those were the books that I would probably list which were most influential from my childhood.

AN:  When did you know you wanted to become a writer for a living?

HC: When I was in college, in-between my junior and senior year, I worked a job as a tour guide in Spain, which was my family’s business.  One day I sat down and said, “Man, I need to write a book about this experience.”  And I did and it was a terrible book, it was pompous and pretentious and self-absorbed, but from that experience I got what I can only call the writing virus, which is a little bit like when you play basketball and you just want to do it all the time. I just had to keep writing and trying to get better.

AN: I know your parents died when you were in college.  How did their death affect your writing?

HC: My parents died when I was in my twenties and I had already been writing by then, so I don’t think it affected my first writing so much.  But it did affect my writing now. I think unfortunately I’m a better writer because of it.  Tragedy does unfortunately make you a better writer, as any experience will.

AN: Where did the character Myron Bolitar come from?

HC: Well I’m really not supposed to admit it, but he’s me with wish fulfillment.  I played college basketball and he was a much better college basketball player.  He’s faster, stronger and funnier.  He thinks of a line I wish I had thought of.  However, I do have him beat in two areas: I am a better dancer and I have had better luck in my love life.  I have been with my wife for many years, and Myron’s love life is a disaster.  I have a family, and that’s something he has always wanted.

AN: So if you and Myron Bolitar were combined, you would be the perfect guy?

HC: Yeah that would be awesome; [laughs] it would be a little too much.

AN: Most of your books take place in the local NJ area; how has growing up in NJ influenced your writing?

HC: Well it’s my setting.  You know there’s this old expression, write what you know, and this is the life I know. I sort of have a romantic vision that parents want to go out and have a home and raise your kids here; this is kind of the American dream.  So I like to take that American dream and mess it up a little bit for these people.

AN: You seem to consistently be able to churn out quality book after quality book; do you think you will ever run out of creative ideas?

HC: I think that every time. When I finish a book a little voice in my head says, “That’s it, you’re done, no more ideas.” And what you learn is that voice is wrong; it’s like a boxing match where you threw every punch you have, and you now you can’t even move your arms.  You rest a few days and then you bounce back.

AN: What advice can you give to an aspiring writer?

HC: This sounds so simple, but it’s just to write and keep writing.  You’re going to make mistakes but that’s OK.  Quantity will inevitably make quality.  The same way you may play basketball now, you couldn’t play with the pros.  Eventually if you keep doing it you will get better.

The Distinct Duo!

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

“The faculty is great and really dedicated to their mission. There is no reservation for helping kids. MKA has a wonderful environment and I am so honored to teach here,” explains Dr. Tsai. One of MKA’s most unique teachers, Dr. Tsai dedicates herself to teaching Chinese 2 and 2 Honors and Biology. She is honored to be in the strong house and is enjoying teaching students at a private school far different from her previous school in Lincoln, Nebraska.

In Nebraska, Dr. Tsai taught at a public school for twenty years where, just like here, she taught Biology and Chinese. Dr. Tsai heard of MKA through Mrs. Cramer, and during a visit, she noticed that MKA seemed new and fun. When it came to her attention that the school needed a part time Biology and Chinese teacher, she decided to start a new life in New Jersey. Dr. Tsai shares, “Here I feel the students are well taken care of by their teachers. They appreciate their education, and they most definitely enjoy studying more than most of the public school kids I have taught. So far, Dr. Tsai has really enjoyed her time at MKA. When asked what her first impression was, she responded, “small and beautiful.” At the previous school where Dr. Tsai taught, there were close to 2000 students, so MKA was a big change in environment and size.

Finally, when asked who she would trade places with for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional she answered, “I don’t want to trade with anyone else because I believe as we come to this earth, this is the life that we are supposed to live and this is the chance we have to make it the best.” Following this philosophy, Dr. Tsai plans to fully utilize her life at MKA to make whatever and whoever around her better through teaching Chinese and Biology, a distinct duo!

Puja Singh ‘13 Staff Writer

Freshman Spotlight: Carrigan Miller

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

We all remember the feelings we had entering the Upper School as freshmen.  The anxiety, the fear of the unknown, the excitement for a fresh start and a new campus.  Reflecting on it now, one realizes how innocent we were to the stresses and demands of our school.  Currently dealing with these conflicting emotions is MKA’s own, Carrigan Miller.

What is it like going from being one of the oldest students at the middle school to the youngest here?

Well, it’s kind of weird because it’s like a flash back to 6th grade because I know a lot of the juniors from football in sixth grade.  So it just kind of feels like 6th grade all over again.

Are you worried about academics at all?

I am a little bit, but it doesn’t feel significantly harder than 8th grade.  I mean, it is harder and your teachers expect more, but right now I’m not too worried about that.

What kinds of things have you heard about freshman year before coming here?

I don’t know, I was kind of afraid of hazing, but as it turns out, it is completely awesome.  Like, it isn’t actually hazing, it’s just playful.  I ate nine brownies in two minutes at football and that’s really an accomplishment that I’m proud of!  But all of the traditionally “un-fun” things about the ninth grade have actually been pretty fun!  I mean like wacky teachers and stuff, it’s been fun.

And how has the upper school been so far?

I’m really liking it. I feel like the schedule, kind of, I don’t want to say encourages procrastination, but it allows it.  Because if there is some day where you really just want to go home and sleep, then you can do that, and do your homework for that night the next day.  I think that’s cool.

What do you expect from your freshman year?

I expect that I’m going to do well academically, better than I have in the past, and that I’m going to learn a lot.  This year more than other years I feel really excited to learn, to show up at school and to go to class, you know?  And it’s a weird feeling that I’ve never had before!  But when I’m in class I’m like, I want to be in this class learning things.

 Jake Kleinbaum ‘14 Issue Contributor

Part 1 of 2: Meet some of MKA’s Newest Members

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Billy Lennon ’12

Issue Contributor

Ms. Currie is a freshman biology teacher.  She attended MKA throughout high school, and continued to coach swimming and substitute teach after graduation.  When she heard a spot opened up in the science department, she figured she’d throw in an application and see how it went.  Though she applied to other schools, she knew she wanted to remain a Cougar when she got the job at MKA.  When asked about the comparison of attending and teaching, she said that Mr. Hrab will always be Mr. Hrab no matter how many times he asks her to call him George.  Misbehaving students should probably think twice in Ms. Currie’s classes; she has recently begun attending kick-boxing classes, and her stance on corporal punishment is currently unknown.

Dr. Krishan, a math teacher, has taught at the University of Michigan, business schools in Penn State, and spent time on Wall Street as a research analyst and an investing strategist.  While the excitement of Wall Street was nice, Dr Krishan’s true passion lies in teaching.  His favorite part of teaching is the moment where students no longer simply know the answer to a question, but the logical process in which they come to the answer as well.  He loves to travel.  His motto is: Be the best you can be, whatever that is.  Simply put, he asks students just take a risk and follow what you are passionate about, much like he did leaving Wall Street to return to teaching.

Dr. Holt joins us after teaching at Westfield high school, a much larger high school than MKA.  Dr Holt is well known for his field in chemical research, which includes the discovery of certain toxins in sea squirts and sea sponges that have made waves in the fields of cancer research, most notably his creation of a treatment for Ovarian Cancer.  Dr Holt loves to run and bicycle, and has a dream of biking from coast to coast and of biking the Appalachian Trail.  He has done research in France in Louie Pasteur’s own lab, and would love to return some day.  He asks that everyone live every moment, and to remember that every day, as mundane as it may seem, is in fact unique and should be enjoyed to the fullest.

Next issue: We’ll be interviewing more new faculty, administration, and staff!