Every day is a Second Chance

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
Winston Churchill

I grew up with my grandmother’s little girl. At the time that I started living with my grandmother, she herself had a baby; therefore she raised us together, making her in my eyes my sister.

Growing up together wasn’t easy. We were so different in so many ways yet my grandmother ALWAYS dressed us the same. And trust me I HATED it. The photo albums are filled with pictures of my sister and me wearing the same dresses my grandmother made. We looked like identical twins if it weren’t for the fact that her complexion is more of a caramel tone.

We were almost always at odds and there were times we would actually ‘throw down’. My grandmother was so fed up at times that she would just let us ‘have it out’.

Today I live in peace with my sister and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for her despite all of the heartache and tears. She has given me two nephews that I adore but of course when I was little, never did I stop and think of the future, so I gave in FULLY to sibling rivalry.

We competed at EVERYTHING. It was more like a race, who did what better and the added pressure of being the first ones to go to college in our family was torturous. My grandmother at the time wasn’t any help. I can still hear her say ‘Why can’t you be more like your sister?’ This just upset me even more. And what was worse is that she used to say the SAME thing to my sister. If it wasn’t our grades, it was how we kept tidy, or our eating habits or how we treated her, my grandmother somehow fed that sense of competition within us and today for me it has manifested into an overachieving teacher.

But before now, when I was younger and in middle school and high school, my competitiveness made me my worst critic. I felt as if it were the end of the world when I failed in school. The need to make my parents proud, not to mention outdo my sister and contradict every other family member that swore I would fail, was what made me work hard and every time I didn’t succeed made me want to give up.

There were no success stories in my family, just mediocre decisions made by the older generation and my grandmother would constantly point them out. ‘You don’t want to end up like your aunt with a lousy job and three kids, cause she didn’t finish school or your uncle that has seen the inside of a jail cell more times than I can count, runnin’ with the wrong type of people.’ This was the way she gave advice. And it burned in my mind, so deep that I made sure my grades were my priority, because I wanted to be different than them. I wanted a better future for myself.

And after a while I learned to WANT all of these things for me, not for my grandmothers sake or to surpass my sister’s achievements or to challenge my families predictions about my future but because I deserved to achieve anything I set my mind to have or be.

As long as I don’t give up, there is always tomorrow and I can do it.





From the inside OUT

I invite you on a hunt…. It will help you understand where I’m coming from. Find the 1992 yearbook and look for my picture.

When people see me they cant tell what I am. This will be my fourth year as a full time teacher and never has a new student guessed correctly, despite my last name.
‘Chavez? What are you Ms.? Mexican?’ Yes, you could think that. Hopefully you have learned about Cesar Chavez and remembered he was a Mexican-American Activist and made that connection. But No, I’m not Mexican.
‘I know! Asian Ms. You’re Chinese or Filipino!’ I get that also, because of my almond shaped eyes but No, I’m not Asian. Usually by this time they give up and I give in – hint – when I speak Spanish that’s when you can discover exactly what I am.

My parents were from the Caribbean and South America and met here after having moved from their countries. I was then born here in New York City, making me a first generation American. I actually returned to live in the same neighborhood I grew up in, very close to City College, where I also went to school. The truth is that even though both of my parents are Latino, both of their countries are so different. They speak Spanish differently, eat different foods, keep different traditions and even have different types of music.

I know I have mentioned my grandmother. She was the one that raised me since I was two, due to my mothers passing, her daughter. This meant that I had to spend most of my young life between my maternal grandmother and my dads family. This was when I discovered the differences between them. And tried my best to adapt and comport myself when in the presence of either family.

While one family was loud the other was quiet and calmer, especially the women. ‘Young ladies aren’t loud’, my dads mom use to say. This today makes me laugh, not only because I don’t share that belief but because I, the loudest one in my family, is named after her! My grandmother Rosa is probably turning in her grave.

The family I grew up in comes from an island in the Caribbean, with vivacious music, warm friendly vociferous people, vibrant colors and rich foods made mostly from vegetables, tubers and meats when island countries are mostly known for eating seafood.

My fathers family on the other hand is more reserved; I would describe them as more conservative in their ways of thinking. The music I heard in his mothers house was more somber, with lyrics that sang of heartache. They weren’t the warmest of individuals but they did stress the importance of being cordial and gracious. Although their country is located in South America, their small town was on the coast, therefore almost everything on the menu was seafood.

The loss of my mother prompted my grandmother to feed me all of the time as a little girl. She somehow felt guilty and today I understand, but at the time it created really bad eating habits. Today I am paying for those habits and I want to share the lessons learned with you in the hopes that you not make the same mistakes.

What I learned:

  • That there is a direct connection between your physical health and your mental health – healthy bodies=healthy minds
  • Eat healthy and abundantly in the morning to keep your body going longer throughout the day
  • Choose foods that are grown from the earth not from a factory – banana, apple YESpotato chips, soda NO
  • The types of foods and drinks you consume affect your hair, nails and skin – the natural vitamins and minerals found in these foods help in their aspect and growth
  • Deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals can contribute to memory loss, lack of concentration, anemia, fatigue and in some cases depression (Consult your pediatrician)
  • All of the choices you make now when you are younger will affect you in the future
  • When you eat well you FEEL great!
  • To sum it up – What you put in your body is ultimately what you will get in return, treat it right

I know it can be hard sometimes to follow these rules but its easier to start now than when you are older. One piece of advice that might help – Start slow, with little changes. Exchange the bag of chips for an apple or pear; drink the low-fat milk instead of the whole milk in the cafeteria; drink MORE water (great for the skin)

So how did I survive my families, you might ask? I juggled my senses between two cultures from infancy, that are so disparate even if Latinos are considered all alike. I walk away with all of the positive. I relearned to cook and feed myself in a more healthy way and I move more, walk more, take the stairs if all I have is one or two flights, maybe three. Being active also helps your body and mind.

From my grandmothers family I take away the lively music of her island and dance every chance I get. I create the fish dishes from my fathers town for my cousins. I remind myself that I come from joyous people despite their poverty and laugh as loud as I can regardless of my paternal grandmothers warning. For her I behave like a lady, always walk straight and suck in my stomach, and only in her memory, sometimes I’m not so loud.





Are the Best things in Life Free?

You’ve probably heard the saying or even heard the song ‘The Best things in Life are Free’ by Janet Jackson and Luther Vandross back in 1992.. well maybe not, but maybe your parents have. If you haven’t, I suggest it, its pretty cool.

What does the saying suggest?

What are the Best things in Life?

Are they really Free?

If you count Love, you could be right. If you count Loyalty, you could be right. If you count Friendship, you could be right. Or maybe not?

When we speak of Love, like the love your parents feel for you, that is certainly free. They love you unconditionally, no strings attached. There is nothing you must do in order to have that from them, therefore it is free. I bet there is nothing they wouldn’t do for you, if they could. I can confirm my grandma loves me this way; she’s certainly the best thing in my life.

What about Loyalty? Is that free? Are you loyal to people just to be loyal? Or are you loyal only to those that are loyal to you? Would you then conclude that your loyalty is NOT free? I can say that I am loyal at first, with everyone. If after a while I feel I can trust you, then my loyalty is yours. After many life lessons I trade loyalty for trust, making it NOT free.

Now think about your friendships. Would your friends remain your friends if they didn’t show they loved you or were loyal to you? Would you remain friends with others if they couldn’t trust you or if you betrayed their trust. In friendships as in all relationships their must be an equal reciprocity. Just as you would want a friend to love you, care about you, confide in you, trust you and be loyal to you, it is only right that you be the same to them.  All of this work that goes into maintaining a friend! That sounds like a lot of work! Which makes it NOT free.

So whats the conclusion?

That aside from Love, irrefutably the one best thing in life that is free, everything else requires work. Other things in life such as loyalty and trust and good friends need your constant care and attention. If you want to have it, you’re going to have to work at it.

And what would be the best thing in H.S. Life? Good Grades!! And yes guys, this too is not free.

Good grades need constant care and attention!

Look at it this way – Neglect your grades and do nothing (FREE) will equal Failing grades YET Care for your grades and apply hard work (NOT FREE) will equal Good grades.

After all, why be lax about the one thing that can get you into the college or university that can lead you to the career of your dreams??

                … and also make yourself and your parents proud. It will be like paying them back for all of their hard work and Love. Hmm.. does that mean Love isn’t free?




To Dress or Not to Dress

One of the questions asked to many of you when interviewed was ‘Why Fashion? Why do you want to come to Fashion High?’

I know I made it a point to ask because your answers would ultimately reveal your true desires and feelings about Fashion. And I received many different answers but I can honestly say that your enthusiasm as you responded spoke volumes:

  • ‘I love how what you wear, says a lot about you without you having to say a word.’ – said a shy young eighth grader from Brooklyn.
  • ‘I love how when I dress into something pretty, it changes my whole mood and I instantly feel good about myself.’ – answered a very candid young lady from the Bronx.
  • ‘I want to become the next hottest designer out there. Have my name in everybody’s closet.’ replied a very direct and confident young ninth grader from Queens.

Fashion is all of these things, from a form of expression to some, to a stimulus for others and even the destiny for those with the talent and unrelenting drive.

It is my honest wish that ALL of you obtain success with whatever it is you believe to be your future.

And for that successful future you must dress the part.

“Dress how you want to be addressed.”
Bianca Frazier

When you begin to understand that what you wear is influential, then your choices as to what to wear takes on a whole new perspective.

Reflect upon everything you own, every article of clothing that you wear and when you wear them.

  • What is the message that you are conveying?
  • What do you believe your clothes say about you?

Fashion is indeed powerful. This power is recognized by so many in today’s society, from the many reality shows that feature it, to the many artists that enjoy mentioning designer names in their songs, like the recent Jay-Z homage to Tom Ford. Who’s Tom Ford? Research!

“Dressing well is a kind of good manners, if you ask me. When you’re standing in a room, your effect is the same as a chair’s effect, or a sculpture’s. You’re part of someone’s view, you’re part of that world, and so you should dress well. I find it’s a show of respect to try to put on your best face and look as good as you can.”
Tom Ford

Many designers have a say on the importance of dressing well.

“There is a real vulgarity in the way women dress at the moment. They show off too much and try too hard. They don’t understand where the line is between sexy and vulgar. I know where that line is.” – Roberto Cavalli

And not just designers but movie icons as well.

“Your clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman but loose enough to show you’re a lady.” – Marilyn Monroe

I believe she said it best.

At Fashion High we strive to maintain a highly motivating learning environment that has education as its primary focus and halt unbecoming fashion as a distraction, all without discouraging our students need to express themselves with their sartorial talents, after all this IS Fashion High!



The First Day of School

I can bet any amount of money that every one of you is carefully thinking about ‘What will I wear the first day of school?’

What can I possibly sport that can make me stand out? Make me look unique? Show the rest of my classmates and/or upper class men (sophomores, juniors) that I have style and know about Fashion?

Coordination is key. What colors? What Top? Belt or no belt? Sneakers or ballerinas? Hair Up or Blown-out? So many decisions to make and the clock is ticking.

Now aside from coordination, one really important skill you can develop is preparation. The ability to prepare yourself for anything will make you invaluable. Preparing yourself physically doesn’t only assist you with feeling good about yourself, it also has a positive effect on your success. The term ‘Dress for Success‘ comes from a well known book from the seventies that goes in depth about this topic.

So speaking of Preparation, arrive PUNCTUALLY at 9:00 a.m. and report to your Official Class (Homeroom) on Monday, September 9th. You will remain in your Official class till 9:40 then follow a Regular Bell schedule *click on class schedules below* starting with 3rd Period.
You will receive word on what is your Official Class by the end of August. This is a full day of school and you will receive your program cards (class schedules that inform you of what room you must go to according to subject and time period) as well as your Metro Cards for the semester.

Remember to bring on your FIRST DAY OF CLASS:

  • Your beautifully dressed self with a big smile, a full belly and ready to take on the day
  • The yellow Envelope that contains all of the Admissions Documents. They need to be completed and signed by your Parent/Guardian – This envelope was within the folder that was given to you at Orientation or mailed to you.
  • A bookbag, backpack or large purse with an 8 1/2″ x 11″ notebook and pen/pencil for writing down important information that will be given to you
  • A supply list was also included in the folder given, please refer to that list for additional supplies

Your parents have probably purchased supplies already and it’s o.k. but if they haven’t its also o.k. Its best to be informed by your teachers as to what you will need right away and what can wait to be purchased. Also depending on your major, there will be specific items that you will need to purchase, therefore there is still time.

Lastly, I must write that in a perfect world, the kind of world I wish existed, every one of you could have everything you wanted (provided you deserved and worked hard for it) and had the means to have the latest in fashion and come dressed to the nines your first day of school. But as someone that was raised by a single grandmother on welfare, I, personally know that not everyone has that opportunity. So I concentrated on what really mattered and focused on the genuine purpose of school, my education. Not that I wouldn’t have done so anyway. My grandmother was very strict about my studies, therefore really had no choice and today I thank her for that. She taught me to judge someone not by what they wore but by how they treated me, themselves and everyone else.

“Hold dear to your parents for it is a scary and confusing world without them.”
― Emily Dickinson




Welcome to Fashion


I want to welcome you to my school; my name is Ms. Chavez. Some of you might remember me by now because I may have been the teacher that tested you or saw your portfolio when you first came to Fashion to audition. It was nice meeting you, it genuinely was although I might not remember everyone, I know I will get a chance to see you again.

I wanted to take a couple of minutes to write to you. I feel that you can get to know a lot about anyone or anything if you communicate through the written word. It sticks around longer than the spoken word.

I want you to notice that I wrote ‘my school’. I wrote ‘welcome to my school’. That is very important because along with it being the place where I work, it is where I went to school. Yes, Fashion High was also my high school. I survived the same four years you will face. And looking back now, I want to share them with you, in hopes that my experiences can serve as a ‘Do’s and Dont’s’ that could assist you with the days you will live when you enter our building.

I have come to realize that when you are better informed, and put the information to good use then SUCCESS can be guaranteed.

And after having chosen us as your school, I wholeheartedly believe that is your future.