Oral Histories

Bethliz Irizarry, Jasmine Kwasa, Anisha Vyas, Troy Nelson, Ariel Liu, and John Stark

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Bethliz Irizarry, Jasmine Kwasa, Anisha Vyas, Troy Nelson, Ariel Liu, and John Stark



Five members of IMSA's class of 2009 - friends and former roommates - speak with John Stark, former German teacher, at their five-year reunion. Bethliz Irizarry first visited IMSA while in middle school and then applied once she was in high school. The other four interviewees all came to IMSA as freshmen, or 'shmen. Jasmine Kwasa comes from the south side of Chicago and applied to IMSA at the same time as she was applying to other high schools in the city. Anisha Vyas says the challenge of coming to IMSA, as well as the greater opportunities, attracted her. Ariel Liu had an older brother who attended IMSA and she also wanted more opportunities and to be with other "nerdy" students.

Liu says after the anticipation of coming, the first day felt like summer camp. Kwasa participated in Excel, which helped her get to know people and transition into the new environment. Vyas said that being a 'shmen didn't feel that different at the time, but looking back on it, it seems like it was more challenging because they had less time to prepare for college. Kwasa says that most days being a 'shmen didn't make a difference, and she also had to deal with other factors, including race, and gender, and being from the city, but once in a while she did wonder if having a freshman year of high school would have made a difference.

In terms of extracurriculars, Kwasa says she was very involved, including with the Peer Multicultural Educators and as a student ambassador. Vyas tended to be more involved in one thing at a time. They also all participated in Diwali and Lunar New Year. Irizarry took up fencing, which then became a big part of her life in college. They were all academically involved and studied together as well. They reflect on how they learned a lot from each other.

Looking back on class experiences, Irizarry says Russian classes stand out for her. Kwasa says a lot of teachers were influential: two English teachers, Ms. Townsend and Mrs. Cain, stand out in her mind, as well as Don Dosch, in biology. Vyas also fondly recalls Mrs. Cain, and how her class challenged her to do better work. Liu recalls pulling all-nighters working on projects for Dr. Victory's history classes, and in retrospect, she is now a web developer and that's where she first applied her interests in that field to her academic work. Kwasa also found Dr. Victory's classes challenging, but once she understood the purpose it transformed how she saw her work.

During intersession, Kwasa and Vyas both went on trips to Paris as part of the French class. Kwasa also recalls and intersession class on education reform in Chicago public schools, something she remains interested in. Nelson didn't travel abroad as part of an IMSA trip, but as a result of what they learned in Spanish class, she and Irizarry participated in a volunteer program providing health care support in Nicaragua. Vyas and Irizarry also took part in an exchange program with a school in South Korea.

Overall, they reflect on the value of the IMSA experience - from friendships, to being challenged academically, and learning how to work collaboratively.

Duration: 38:33




careers, English classes, history classes, humanities, science classes, friends, extracurriculars, Student Inquiry & Research, summer programs, international travel, intersession


Oral History


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Bethliz Irizarry, Jasmine Kwasa, Anisha Vyas, Troy Nelson, Ariel Liu, and John Stark