After 18: Danielle Hopkins

Starting second semester

The view from the 13th floor of a residence hall at Barnard College in New York City. — Danielle Hopkins

Every year The MV Times asks four recent high school graduates to write about their experiences during their first year after graduation. Danielle Hopkins graduated from MVRHS in 2017, and is attending Barnard College in New York City.

My second semester of college has been going by so much quicker than the first. While I still find myself discovering new things about my school and New York City, I finally feel like I can begin to call myself a New Yorker. I feel comfortable navigating the subway system, I can give advice on where to get the best coffee near school, and Morningside Heights is starting to feel like home. However, there are many things I know I have yet to discover and explore. With school and growing commitments, finding the time to take in the city around me has become ever more difficult.

Danielle Hopkins and her friends after watching Black Panther opening weekend.

I am now the secretary for the Black Theatre Ensemble at Columbia University, which has been an incredible experience so far. I am not participating in any performances this semester. Instead I wanted to use my free time to learn more about what happens behind the scenes of a production and what it takes, as a student theater group, to get a show off the ground. It is challenging work that sometimes can feel as if there will be no reward. However, the rest of the executive board and I are very excited for this semester’s show. We are putting on a student-written one-act festival called “Black to the Future.” There are four one-act plays, each written by a different black student, all centering around the idea of Afrofuturism. They are set to be performed April 13 and 14. I am amazed at the pure genius of my peers, and how they were able to create such relevant, intriguing, and beautiful pieces. They have put a lot of time and energy into the production, and as an executive board member I am excited to help give them the space and logistics needed for the creativity to come to life.

This semester I am also a Barnard Student Admissions Representative or BSAR for short. I applied for the position last semester, and was fortunate enough to receive a spot. As a BSAR, I lead tours for incoming or interested students, I work in the admissions office answering phones and emails, and I host students at our open house events. My first tour will be on Monday during my spring break. The training for becoming a tour guide was extensive. They expect a lot from us BSARs, as we are often the first face an interested student will see, and it is important that we represent the school in an honest way. The script for the tour itself was difficult for me to memorize, and my first practice tour took only half the alloted time. As I practiced the script and became more comfortable with the material, it became easier, and after my second practice tour, I felt ready to start giving real ones.

I also recently started babysitting on Tuesday mornings through Barnard Babysitting. Barnard Babysitting is a great program where families in the area can list that they are in need of a sitter, and students who went through the babysitting training can send in their references and information if they are interested in the position. This is my first babysitting job through the program, and so far it has been going well. It is nice to be getting some additional money through both being a BSAR and babysitting, because NYC can be very expensive. Whenever my friends and I want to go do something, we always realize that we probably don’t have the money to do so. Everything is expensive, especially when you live in such a wealthy and privileged area as Morningside Heights. It can be easy to get wrapped up into going out to eat often, and going to do expensive activities downtown. I like to think of myself as pretty conscious of my spending and money management, but I have caught myself going over budget on excursions. Working has helped to balance out these spending habits, but most of my friends and I have had to find alternative free activities to do, since none of us have the funds to live our full New York City dreams.

When I am not working or figuring out logistics for the one-act festival, I do in fact go to class and work on homework. My class schedule this semester is incredibly interesting, and has helped me in figuring out what I would like to major in: history. All my classes this semester have helped me to view the world around me in such an interesting and different lens than I previously had.

I am taking a first-year seminar course called “Race, Science, and Reproductive Justice,” which consists of us reading 30 to 40 pages of scholarly articles, reading news articles, and watching documentaries all circling around reproductive justice in the past and present, and the implications of the future. We have learned about eugenics, the forced sterilization of minority women across the country, and the institution of marriage itself. It is a challenging class that I am so grateful I have the opportunity to take. I am continuing my pursuit of learning Spanish with another 5:40 class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which can be frustrating when my friends want to go somewhere on a Friday night and I cannot join them because of my class that does not end until 7 pm. However, my professor is wonderful, and I have been learning so much from both him and my peers.

My favorite class of the semester so far is my “Intro to African History” class, which has helped me to remember why I loved history so much as a freshman and sophomore in high school. While taking this class, I have come to have a deeper understanding of the importance of the past and how it has shaped our future. It is something I never want to stop learning about, and something I could see myself dedicating most of my schedule to. I am also taking “Acting the Song” to continue with my love for theater; psychology to finish up my science requirement; and Qi Gong to fulfill my PE requirement. Surprisingly, I have found connections in all of my classes to one another so far.

I am currently on a much-needed spring break after a week of midterms and papers. But even during that hectic and stressful week, I still found myself appreciative of where I was in life, and the opportunities I have been given.