CATS Academy Courier

"A Trusted Students News Source with an International Twist"



L3 Innovation Challenge: The Human-Side of STEM

By Le Dong Hai “DoHa” Nguyen

Best described as a design-thinking bootcamp that mimics a hackathon, the L3 Innovation Challenge is an annual competition hosted by YouthCities in partnership with Boston Children Hospital and LabCentral. During this ten-week bootcamp, students work in teams to create technological solutions to real-world problems. This year, students had to use smart textiles to create prototypes and actual products that addressed pediatric healthcare concerns. Seven students from CATS participated in the competition and, on November 14th, presented their ideas to a panel of health care industry specialists, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists.

CATS students attending the L3 Innovation Challenge 2018 at LabCentral, Cambridge, MA

The spotlight is on, and the eyes of more than one hundred people are on us. Holding the 3D Prototype of SOGAI, which stands for System Of Glucose-Detection & Automatic Insulin-Injection, we gradually move onto the stage for our final presentation in the Youth CITIES competition. Adrenaline that had been accumulating for the past seven weeks of the competition urged every single word on the tip of our tongue to erupt.

This is the story of DoHa Nguyen, Jiho Choi, and Serafina Mei, who have applied Smart Textile, 3D Printing technology and comprehensive research on type 2 diabetes to create the SOGAI and mySOGAI app. The project got the team into the Final Round and was verbally commended by the judge-Dr. Kate Donovan, the Director of Immersive Technologies at Boston Children Hospital, as the Best Research.

Five other CATS students had revolutionary products as well. Anastasia Dvoryanchikova and Alex Shevtcova’s Diaperstic earned Anastasia the individual Award of Rising Innovator. Mia Huynh, Malak Elaouinate and Luisa Maia were complimented by Mr. Peter Parker, the CEO and Co-Founder of LabCentral, for the highly visual prototype of their project, TEMPA Temperature Regulating Children Suit and MyBABY TEMPA App.

Every Wednesday during the eight weeks of the L3 Innovation Challenge, our CATS Team were taken by Mr. O’Donnell to LabCentral in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here, students from dozens of high schools in the Boston area were divided into groups with the goal of turning innovative ideas into real products that would solve demanding medical problems. We had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from students of different schools, to meet with our mentors (VIP industry experts in various fields from medical entrepreneurships involved with cancer treatment to Biometrics), and to widen our perspective and respect for backend scientists, who quietly devote their resources and knowledge for a better world. At LabCentral, where the contest was hosted, we saw marvelous laboratories and R&D centers in a 70,000 square-foot historic, MIT-owned facility. I could not help but think that never before had Isaac Newton’s famous saying been so clear and convincing: “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.”

The experiences we gained from this competition went beyond the scientific knowledge accumulated from top-notch experts. It broadened and changed our perspectives and attitudes towards STEM as a field of endeavor. I found it realistic, practical and very demanding. Awards, compliments and recognition, albeit valuable and deserving, are just the tip of the iceberg that made this eight-week rigorous journey worthwhile.

Thanksgiving at CATS

By Serafina

It was November. Winter came much faster this year than expected. Snow did not want to wait, it came early desperately falling from the sky.  My classmates could not wait, either as they started booking their flights home for Thanksgiving. Later their hands would be busy dragging the heavy, stuffed suitcases with tiny wheels on bumpy roads. For most of my classmates, their goal for Thanksgiving was clear: visit family, have fun, go shopping, or just get sleep.


I wasn’t planning to travel anywhere and wanted to treat Thanksgiving Break as the last refuge before the upcoming overwhelming finals week. I was going to celebrate Thanksgiving at CATS. Thanksgiving is not a festival celebrated in most Asian countries. Many students at CATS, including myself, are not familiar with the customs and meaning of Thanksgiving. Yet my friends got into the spirit of the holiday and attempted to make a turkey using a microwave, which ended up a mistake that should never be repeated.


The loud noise of the outside world like music at Karaoke, the chatting voices at a restaurant, and the rumbling noise of vehicles seemed to emphasize and contrast against the silence in the dorms—the school seemed forgotten and faded away. Fortunately, although many rooms were left vacant, we did not feel lonely. The emptiness of campus was offset by the little surprises— a special promotion prepared by the Dining Hall as well as the delicious dinners held by many dorm parents on their floor were heartfelt. The were also several shuttles to stores, outlets, and the mall where we got to experience the most crowded time of the year at a shopping mall.


I do not regret giving up sitting by the fire and surrounding myself with relatives during Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, I learned about Thanksgiving in a new way. Staying at CATS during the break taught me to customize and reinvent my own holiday—be it having an adventure to Boston with close friends for the first time or buying gifts for family and friends during Black Friday on my own dime. My Thanksgiving Break added to my wonderful experience of studying abroad and became one of those memories that makes me smile whenever I recall it.

Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

By Jessica Ngo

I read the novel Paper Towns by John Green. The novel takes place at Jefferson High School in Orlando, Florida. It focuses on Quentin’s life: school, friends, band, and his girl crush Margo Roth Spiegelman. Margo has been Quentin’s friend and neighbor since they were two; she is a well-known, smart, full-of-adventure girl. The beginning of the novel is a turning point in the two main characters’ relationship. One night, Margo goes to Quentin’s room to ask him for help with her eleven-part revenge plan on her ex-boyfriend, Jase Worthington. She needs Quentin to be her driver. That night, Quentin’s feelings for Margon blossom. Margo, however, disappears after that night, leaving only clues for Quentin: The poem “Sing My Song” by Walt Whitman, a picture of Woody Guthrie, and an address. Fearing that she died, Quentin, Radar, Ben, and Lacey 

try hard, day and night, to find her around the town. On graduation day, Quentin accidentally finds Margo through her website about a fictitious town called Agloe in New York. When everyone visits Margo’s place, they feel unwelcome, as it turns out that she did not want to be found.

Book Review: Paper Towns by John Greene  

Continued from the Printed Version

The clues she left were messages to let them know she was fine. Margo asks Quentin to stay with her in New York, but his responsibilities in Orlando prevent him from staying. The two friends part company in peace and promise to keep in touch.

Paper Towns is fictional, but the way John Green delivers the story it seems so real, especially the ending. Green creates characters that highlight the emotions of high school well, which allows readers to empathize with them. Quentin is a sweet and sensitive person who wants everyone to be happy. On the other hand, Margo is a smart and independent girl who has a plan for her life outside of Florida. At the end of the book, as Quentin is about to kiss Margo, the thought of his responsibilities back home stop him; he cannot leave everything behind to go with her. As for Margo, she cannot give up on her dream and return to a place with too many sad memories. Having to make the choice of leaving someone they love to pursue their dreams and take responsibility for their own lives is what makes this story thoughtful and realistic. Green takes seriously the high school student’s point of view about school anxiety, parents, and career in creating the novel’s setting, which is relatable to high school students today. Green does an excellent job sending a message about the importance of balancing friendships with reality in an interesting and fun way.

Despite the excellent character development in the book, I would love to know more about Margo. The story is told from the perspective of Quentin, the main character. But learning the story through only his words gives an incomplete picture. The whole story is about Quentin’s journey to find Margo using clues that he believes she left. Without knowing Margo’s thoughts and feelings, I feel there are not enough clues and evidence for readers to solve the mystery of her disappearance on their own. Furthermore, readers would have a better understanding of this second main character if we heard more from her throughout the story. If Margo had more dialogue, we could gain a better understanding of this unique and original high school student.

I would highly recommend Paper Towns to anyone who loves mystery and adventure. Students who are strong English language learners, but want to improve their vocabulary should also read this book. Most of the words are not too difficult, but there are still some new words that you can learn. For me, this book was both entertaining and a great way to learn a language without getting bored.

Is It Worth Running for Student Government?

By: Anastasia Dvoryanchikova

Running for a Student Government office can be a great learning experience.  Although politics, in today’s climate, has been taken to an extreme, a school election is far different. Many might consider running for office an undesirable experience, but they would be wrong.  Campaigning can be associated with stress from competition, doubts and an unbreakable desire to win no matter what. However, it does not have to be this way, the situation is complex and there is much to be learned by campaigning for a student office whether or not you win the election.

Competition is an inevitable part of running for any elected position, because at the end there can be only one winner. But between the day when candidates are announced until the day when people vote, there is campaigning to be done: making posters, slogans, and organizing different activities to draw voter’s attention. There is also a process of getting to know people who you haven’t known before. Since every candidate must expose his or herself to become known in order to be elected, they must  become more active in events around the school. In this way, it is easy to get acquainted with more people. Elections are also about thinking in creative ways because candidates want to stand out and be more recognizable. Candidates must use their skills to figure out how to target their audience. They must determine what can fit into their budget and still be efficient reaching potential voters for the campaign. You also need to learn to use your individuality to shape your campaign by figuring out what makes you who you are and incorporating that into your message.  

Finally, the campaign process is a test of you as a leader.  You need to show you care about the school, its students and making positive change.  Improvement will not happen on its own, being an officer is about representation of the student body and making improvement. So, running for  a student government office is not what people would normally think. Sure it is fun, creative and social but it is also an indescribable and unforgettable process of personal growth and social development.  At the end, what really matters is the process, not winning the election.

Socializing at CATS

By: Nuray Salina (Lead Reporter)

Making new friends and involving yourself in a new social environment can be fun, but also intimidating. It is important to be willing to meet new people and have a positive attitude every day. As CATS students, who live in the dorms on campus, we spend a large amount of time socializing with each other. This interaction helps make us more responsible, open-minded, and adaptable now and for our future lives away from CATS.

Our school provides us with an environment to develop and grow through our interactions with caring teachers, coaches, administrators, and house parents. Despite the friendly environment, some students can have trouble adjusting to new people and new environments. My first recommendation is, don’t worry. It is normal to experience uncertainty in a new environment hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from home.  I have looked at the core of this problem and will give you my thoughts on how to get the most out of your social life at CATS.

An abrupt change, like leaving your home and your parents, has a big effect on everyone. Since most students at CATS are international, we had to leave our home-countries in order to study in the United States. I have noticed this can result in some students feeling lonely or homesick. There are many supports in place at CATS to help you adjust and feel like you are at your second home! Here are some tips to banish the homesick bug:

  1. Involve yourself in the school community. Try to join one of the school’s clubs or organizations, like the student government, or the school newspaper or consider becoming a peer mentor! In this way you can socialize with peers who have similar interests. Fun activities and group projects will help you to become closer to your fellow griffins. Another option is to join a sports team, where you will have fun playing a sport you enjoy while meeting new people.
  2. Try to be positive. Positive people are optimistic, very pleasant to talk with and easily attract new friends. Try to express positive energy everyday. Smiling is an easy way to do this and it makes people want to be around you!
  3. Find people with similar interests. For example, do you and a friend like playing the guitar? Go, and play guitar together. Seek ways to improve your performances together. I know you will enjoy it! Expand your group of friends and add a lot to your social life!

Lastly, know that you are never alone at CATS Academy Boston. There are supports in place at to help you adapt to your new surroundings and develop lifelong friends. Seek out Ms. Reihl, a teacher, house parent, or an administrator if you are having difficulty. They will all be there for you!

CATS Across the Pond

By: Jackie Kovalcin, a former CATS Boston Student

I made the jump across the Atlantic (actually, more like a seven hour flight), about three months ago as I transferred from CATS Boston, USA, to CATS Canterbury, UK. It was three months ago that I boarded a transatlantic plane with a new, never-before-stamped passport and a heart full of hope. I had never left the USA before, although after living and studying at CATS Boston for a year, I felt as though I had travelled the world vicariously through the lives of my international friends.

CATS Boston opened my mind to the international world, and my travels to CATS Canterbury allowed me to immerse myself in it. Like CATS Boston, CATS Canterbury is a melting pot of young people from dozens of nationalities. You can’t walk through the halls without hearing at least three different languages. The staff is just as welcoming as CATS Boston, and upon arrival help you move in and get settled in the lovely accommodations. This was a nice touch to my first impression of the staff and facilities. The dorms, or “accommodation”, at CATS Canterbury differ from the three dorms of CATS Boston in that they are much smaller, more intimate, and further scattered (with only a handful being on campus). I was quite lucky in the accommodation placement and now reside in the “Knights” dorms- a selection of luxury apartments just a brief walk from the main campus. I am a “head of house” (a leadership position comparable to a dorm prefect). I was lucky and got a large, well-lit room with a spacious closet, a comfy memory-foam mattress, and my own bathtub. I live quite comfortably and have enough more than enough space to relax and study after class.

Here at CATS Canterbury there is a wide range of different courses offered. Prospective students have the option of five programs: the IB (which I am currently enrolled in, and am enjoying very much), A-levels, University Foundation Program (UFP), GCSE’s, as well as Pre-program. Although the courses of the students differ, there is still a certain cohesion to the school community. We are divided by accommodation, and not “house colors” like at CATS Boston. Through “well-done” cards handed out by teachers and dorm parents, students here at CATS Canterbury are able to compete with each other’s’ accommodations and earn “house points”.

As much as I appreciate the effort of the “canteen” as they call the cafe where they serve student meals here at CATS Canterbury, I would have to say that the selection of food at CATS Boston was much wider. There’s a part of me that misses waiting in the sandwich line or being able to make a salad as I pleased. And I’ve got to say, I do miss the warm chocolate chip cookies at the meals at CATS Boston more than I’d like to admit. Both CATS Boston and CATS Canterbury have helped shape my international perspective in a real-life manner. They individually have their highlighted features, as well as their limitations and areas for improvement.

CATS Food Waste Challenge

By: Maria Monterio Attie and Nicholas Mikellides

Food waste is a very serious global issue that happens all over the globe. After witnessing the food waste issue in the CATS Boston dining hall, it became quite apparent that the United States is one of the most wasteful countries in regards to food.  When our teacher, Mr. Walecka, assigned us a Contemporary Issues project to raise awareness of about a global issue our topic was obvious. We chose to tackle the food waste issue at CATS and make students, faculty, and staff more conscious about this serious issue.

How did you decide to raise awareness for this issue?

In order to raise awareness, we concluded that the best option would be to show to the community at CATS how much food we actually waste. Once we received the support of Mr. Angell, Mr. Pendley, and the Aramark team, we created the idea to weigh the food waste from CATS for a two week stretch. The first week we decided the students would not be aware of the project, whereas the second week we would make students aware. We ended up discovering that we waste around 675 pounds of food in five days. We then compiled this information and create a video to put on the advisory homeroom announcements. After displaying the results, we started a campaign to create as little food waste as possible for another five days.

What were the results of the campaign?

Unfortunately, the results were not as good as we expected. The CATS community wasted 670 pounds of food during the second five day food challenge span. There was only a difference of a mere five pounds.

Why did the results not change?

After analyzing the unfortunate results, we started wondering why the waste continued to be practically the same. After talking to some of the students and teachers, we concluded that the waste continued the same due to the lack of community serious towards the issue and because some people were not “used to” the cafeteria food.
What can the CATS community do to solve this issue?

The CATS community could be more conscious about what they are wasting and why they are wasting the food in the first place. After this presentation, we could talk to the cafeteria and propose recipes and cooking styles many of our students are used to eating. Our final solution would be to have a house competition and whoever wastes the least amount of food would win house points.


Finally, it is our conclusion that the CATS community contributes greatly to the problem of food waste. It is really important for us to initiate change amongst all of our international students from all over the world. If people here become more conscious of this serious issue, they will, hopefully, spread this idea to different countries and help create less food waste.

Scholars Visit Berkshires

By: Maya Stoilova

Two weeks ago, Mr. O’ Donnell and the Scholars Program, visited MASS MoCA and Williams College. “That was an amazing experience,” said a student when we left the prestigious museum. The museum was full of contemporary art, which helped elicit feelings of emotions and creativity. Many of the talented art students from our scholar group felt inspired. The trip also included a powerful experience to Williams College. Mr. O’Donnell didn’t forget to remind us to work hard and apply there (for all seniors – Williams College turns out to be just as good a BU and NYU). Overall, we spent a lovely day in the company of our dear friends surrounded by the beauty of nature and art.

Men’s Fashion According to CATS Students!

By: Nuray Salina

Fashion is a very spectacular avenue for self-expression. We often watch changes in female trends and fashion, but we might rarely notice the evolution of male fashion. Some people argue that men should not follow fashion, because they say, men have fewer choices on how to dress.  But, I disagree. There are some at CATS Academy Boston who agree with me.

I talked to four well known and fashionable male CATS students who make radically different style choices.  I sought their fashion advice. Here is what they recommended:

  1. Do not be afraid to experiment. If you got bored with your everyday appearance, maybe it is time to change something like your hairstyle?

Look at famous actors and models, for instance, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Hugh Jackman or David Beckham, whose haircuts are very stylish and elegant. Would they look as good without their distinctive hairstyles?

  1. Find your style. Try to figure out what kind of clothes fit you well and make you look your best.

Some guys like wearing oversized hoodies and baggy jeans that really don’t fit them. A reexamination of style might be needed.   It is easy to look better in an usual shirt with classic pants. The best way to find your style is to go to the shops and try on different clothes. Take a friend and let them help determine your style.

If you are looking for stylish and fashionable clothes, you might find them in shops such as Anti Social Social Club, Supreme, Hugo Boss, Boy London, Thrasher, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Zara and Kenneth Cole. These shops offer a big choice of fashionable clothes for young men.

  1. Add accessories to your outfits, but they should be tasteful, not extra-large.

Fashionable accessories should not be big like the giant jewelry some entertainers wear. Good watches, stylish sunglasses, luxurious cufflinks or a classic black hat are excellent examples of what to consider.  It could be whatever you want.

Men’s fashion is every bit as important as women’s.  So, men should try to make an effort to look good and up-to-date. But, also keep in mind that, “Style is what you carry within yourself, not what you buy,” according to Stefano Gabbana.

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