This conversation has been edited and abridged for clarity and includes interviews with seniors from the Symposium class and Symposium teacher Anastasia Sullo.
Emma Barringer and Ashley Buckingham: What made you decide to apply for the Symposium?
Ilianna Brett: “Seeing the classes from last year and, especially because of Mr. Martino being the Symposium teacher last year, made me want to apply. Mr. Martino was very complimentary of the class, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of that. It was really important for me to take it since I’m graduating this year and have always wanted to join it.”
Nick Tippner: “I wanted to apply to Symposium because of the amazing opportunity to wholeheartedly dive into one author’s work. It was a unique opportunity I couldn’t pass up”
EB and AB: What is your favorite part of the Symposium so far?
Liv Stevens: “My favorite part of Symposium is being able to work with all of my classmates and discuss what we’re interested in. I also enjoy being able to express my creativity through many different outlets.”
Leo Zhang: “My favorite part of Symposium so far is the unique experience of interdisciplinary learning and the meaningful connection I can make between her language and other artists.
EB and AB: What do you want the community to know about Ibi Zoboi?
Dhruv Suryadevara: “I want the community to know that not only is she a brilliant writer, but she is also an amazing poet. I also want the community to know that her books are targeted towards a younger audience and her themes are modern and relevant to today’s societal issues.”
Alisa Ruban: “I want the community to know that she dresses in a different color every week.”
Ava Cashman: “Ibi Zoboi’s works highlight so many amazing themes, generations, communities, and emotions that there is truly something for everyone. Her captivating writing style and creative mind make each story an engaging read.”
EB and AB: Which book has been your favorite so far and why?
Audrey Karasik: “I would say that my favorite book so far has been in some ways Pride and in some ways Star Child. For me, Pride is an extension of my love for Pride and Prejudice, which I have read and watched since my adolescence. Star Child presented something new to me as I had not had prior exposure to Octavia Butler besides Kindred. I appreciated the way that she used both poetry and prose to encapsulate both Octavia’s life and spirit; her poetry in my opinion is her strongest asset.”
Chelsea O’Donnell: “I would say that my favorite book so far is Pride. I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice, but I’m familiar with it, and it has been fun to analyze the story in a modern context.”
EB and AB: What are you looking forward to?
Anissa Lewis: “I’m looking forward to reading Punching the Air because it was written with Yusef Salam who is one of the exonerated five.”
Keysy Lopez-Diaz: “I am very excited to finish Pride. Pride has been a really fun book and it has helped me to further understand Ibi Zoboi as a reader. It has been my favorite book so far and I cannot wait to read how it ends.”
EB and AB: What is your advice to people who are considering taking Symposium next year?
Allie Acaro: “I really recommend applying for the Symposium because it’s been a great experience. In no other English class have I been able to focus so much on one author and I really enjoy finding the connections between her work and what inspires her. My advice for someone considering applying for Symposium is to be passionate about the author because I’m really inspired by Ibi Zoboi, so it’s easy for me to dig deep into different aspects of her writing and her aspirations.”
Samir Patel: “My advice for people who are considering taking Symposium next year is to be open to new ideas and perspectives. I have learned in symposium that there are many ways of interpreting the same piece of text, but hearing what other people’s opinions are is very valuable to understanding it yourself.”
EB and AB: How has your experience been teaching at the Symposium so far?
Mrs. Sullo: “Amazing, I just leave the classroom feeling so inspired by the Symposium students. It’s just the highlight and I am honored to work with all of you, it feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
EB and AB: What made you choose Ibi Zoboi as the author?
Mrs. Sullo: “First and foremost, I was really excited to have an author who is writing for young adults. We’re a 6-12 school, so to have an author that could really reach that entire audience, I was really excited for. Just to have someone who thinks about the people she’s writing for, that was my first goal. After that, IZ covers so many timeless themes and she does it in such a fun,creative way and I thought it would just be a real joy to read and analyze her texts.”