Where We’re From
By Asher Bank and Raphael Wood
In a recent address to the student body, Head of Upper School Jose De Jesus claimed that “our diversity, wherever it may came from, and however long it has been in the United States, is the very foundation of the strength of our school and the biggest source of pride for my being a part of Packer.” To celebrate that diversity, The Prism surveyed students and faculty alike hailing from a slew of different nations and ethnicities. From La Libertad, El Salvador to Kent in the south of London, Georgetown, Guyana to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Packer, located in a city often branded “a cultural melting pot,” proves to be no anomaly.
Ramon, the elevator operator, is a friendly face in the Upper School that students see everyday walking to and from class. He immigrated from the Dominican Republic to the United States on July 27, 1978.
“I moved here because I wanted to have a better future here in the United States. There is more opportunity here, and better pay,” he said. “The biggest thing was to adapt to this country, the language, the culture, because when I came here I spoke very little English, so it was quite hard.”
Ms. Iberraken, dean of the ninth grade and science teacher, lived in Kent, England until the summer of 2012 when she moved to New York City with her husband. She was immediately surprised by the cultural differences between New York and London.
“Firstly, people like my accent here, ” she joked. “Also, I find in New York people are much more outgoing. Whether you are in the subway and people start talking to you or you go to a shop and people offer help, or just generally meeting people, New York’s just a bit more in your face, but in a good way.”
She returns to London often, and realizes each time how different New York has made her.
“They had closed one of the tube stations in Central London, so there was a massive queue of people waiting outside, and in typical British fashion, no one spoke to each other, everyone just got their newspapers out and waited in silence,” she said. “No one knew what was going on, but it was just like acceptance of “oh okay sure,” and suddenly I found myself being like, ‘What’s going on? What’s this? Why aren’t we being let through?’ Like, wanting to ask questions and I was like, “Ah! I’ve changed. I am becoming a New Yorker.”
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Lou, Packer’s hallmaster, is best known for his warm smile that welcomes people into the building. Lou was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, but was raised in Brooklyn and has lived in the same neighborhood ever since.
“I left [Puerto Rico] when I was two. I didn’t grow up there. I grew up here,” he said. “One of the few Puerto Rican traditions I remember was my mother and her aunts during Christmas would make certain traditional Latin dishes. All the aunts would get around the table and cook together.”
La Libertad, El Salvador
Santiago lived in a small town in El Salvador named La Libertad, which means liberty. He decided to move to U.S. in 1981 when he was 16 to avoid a violent civil war that made El Salvador dangerous to live in. He maintains a connection to his native country through food.
“I still try to eat traditional El Salvadorian meals, which would be steak, rice, and beans, and also we have a food named ‘pupusas,’” he said.
Lukas Martin, a twelfth grader at Packer, moved to Brooklyn and started attending Packer in the middle of high-school during the summer of his freshman year. Lukas highlighted a major difference between the U.K. and the U.S.s’ education.
“I think it’s definitely a different school environment. It’s a lot easier, less competitive. Lots of like hippy-dippy people who love complaining,” said Lukas, “It is one of the main things I picked up on, but it is good. People are pretty nice here.”
Gabi (‘17) was born in America, but moved to São Paulo, Brazil when she was one year old. She lived in São Paulo for 11 years until moving back to New York at age 12 in Feb. 2012. Even though she was returning to America, she was still surprised by the advanced “infrastructure” and the safety of New York.
“I am able to take the subway by myself at night or with my friends and not have to worry where, as in Brazil my parents would have to drive me anywhere because it wasn’t very safe,” she said.
In 2012, when Guy was 11, he immigrated from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
“There are a lot of norms in America that are not a thing in Haiti,” he said. “For example, looking at the person in the eyes when you’re talking to them. In Haiti you are supposed to look down because it is seen as disrespectful to look at someone in the eyes, especially someone older than you.”
Eon (‘17) moved from Georgetown, Guyana in 2007.
“I don’t know why we moved. Just one day my parents told me to pack,” he said “I guess it was probably about having a better life or better opportunities for me.”
He spoke strongly about cultural differences between Guyana and New York.
“Back in Guyana I didn’t have to worry about racial profiling and stuff like that or any type of discrimination,” said Eon.
Tessa was born in a small town in Ontario, Canada named Carleton Place. She moved to New York for the start of high-school because her dad’s job got moved to the U.S.
“The biggest difference are that canadians are much nicer,” she said. “Also, the canadian thanksgiving is at different time in the year, and we celebrate it then, instead of when you guys celebrate it in the States.”
Trinidad and Tobago
Ben Crane – Cameron Crane – Louis Levin – Ali Boag
Rida Pavia – Jose De Jesus
Jing Jing Kneale