Tag Archives: Feature

Lempert seeks more welcoming atmosphere

By Julieta Soto

San Diego, CA

Immigrants help make Princeton a better place to live. That’s the message second-term Mayor Liz Lempert emphasized recently in a sit-down interview in her office. 

Lempert, who began her second four-year term as mayor in January 2017, said she aims to create a more welcoming atmosphere for immigrants in the town of nearly 32,000. She enlists the help of organizations who hold events to reach out to minority groups to inform them about resources and their rights. 

That welcoming attitude isn’t only good for the community, but also benefits public safety, Lempert said. Immigrants in Princeton aren’t the source of a lot of crime, but do tend to be victims of crime because assailants assume that undocumented citizens will be too scared to report, she said. To make immigrants feel safer, Lempert said, the town’s police officers are specially trained to build relationships and trust so witnesses feel comfortable talking to law enforcement. 

“If you’re the victim of a crime, we don’t care what your immigration status is,” she said.

Lempert said Princeton is technically not a sanctuary city, because there is no jail in town and thus law enforcement does not face a choice about whether to send detainees to the Immigration and Custom Enforcement. Instead, Princeton is a sanctuary city in spirit, and Lempert aims to make it a place that feels safe and welcoming to immigrants, many of whom have been living in the town for generations.

For Lempert, immigration is personal. Her grandparents were Polish immigrants who experienced culture shock when they arrived in America as teenagers, then managed to build a successful life in America. 

Growing up in San Francisco also showed Lempert the value of a diverse population. “I grew up in a place that was multicultural and that just seemed normal and you see the advantages of that,” she said. 

She has found those same benefits in Princeton, where she said residents speak nearly 50 different languages at home. She loves that her children are able to interact with people from diverse backgrounds. “You can’t learn things like that in a book,” she said. “It’s like there’s something different about having a relationship with somebody, being able to talk to them about their experiences and I think it helps you see where you live in a broader context.”

Teach for America alums recall ‘trial by fire’ of first days in class

By Zahrea Smith 

Dudley, NC

For the first few weeks that Luke Goodwin was teaching for Teach for America, he felt unprepared. 

Goodwin, 32, a Princeton alumnus, said the only teaching experience he had was a “bootcamp” given by the national program. 

 “The first weeks were trial by fire,” he said of teaching history at Felisa Rincon De Gautier Institute for Law and Public Policy in Bronx, New York. “The students were skeptical. I had just graduated and was teaching a couple of 21-year-olds.”

Despite recent controversies surrounding the Teach for America program, such as claims that it’s a resume builder and allegations that TFA teachers are replacing current staff at the schools they serve, two recent participants, including Goodwin, said the program was a positive experience. 

Teach for America is a national teaching organization founded in 1989 by Princeton University graduate Wendy Kopp. Frequently dubbed TFA, it’s a program in which students of select colleges or universities can be deployed to underserved and underemployed schools to teach for two years. As a result of the program, Goodwin said he was even inspired to get a Master’s degree in education. 

Another participant, Dylan Ackerman, 26, worked at a high school called Mariana Bracetti Academy in Philadelphia, Pa. teaching environmental sciences. Ackerman also coached a sports team at the academy. 

Ackerman applied for the program early in his junior year at Princeton and was able to prepare for teaching the next summer. Like most TFA teachers, he completed a five-week training course to prepare for the school year. 

“People in TFA being underprepared is neither right or wrong,” he said. “You’re not prepared until you’re in the classroom. We’re as good if not better than other teachers. No teacher is completely ready.” 

TFA has more resources, and they make sure their teachers understand the community they’re going to be teaching in beforehand, Ackerman said. “You can’t serve your students adequately if you have no knowledge about underserved kids,” Dylan added. 

Another controversial issue surrounding TFA is that there’s sometimes friction between teachers with four-year degrees and TFA teachers. Ackerman said that there are misconceptions surrounding the program, namely that TFA makes it so teachers with four-year degrees get replaced. 

“Those who were laid off weren’t replaced by TFA teachers,” Ackerman said. “Once people actually learn something about the program that’s truthful, they think it’s a good program.” 

Goodwin, a history major, learned about the program through a TFA recruiter his senior year of college. He said his first semester teaching was “rocky.” 

“I feel bad for my first semester students, I was so inexperienced,” he said. 

After the first few months, he said he gained a significant amount of confidence which helped his teaching. 

Goodwin said that TFA is an organization with the goal of promoting social justice. He said his colleagues at school weren’t dismissive of him, but rather “warm.” 

“I wish I could’ve partnered with some of them,” he said. 

When asked about the controversies surrounding the program, Goodwin said he felt too disconnected to give accurate feedback. 

Instead, Goodwin complimented the program and said that TFA makes sure that grades say something meaningful.

Small World forges community around coffee

By Ronell Austin Jr.

Detroit, MI

On the outside of Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street in Princeton, mint green paint creates a safe haven for customers. Inside, between walls of red brick and shiny wood, calming music plays while patrons sip coffee, eat cookies, and type away on their computers. Despite its status as one of Princeton’s most popular coffee shops, Small World feels like less of a business and more like a community. 

That’s exactly what founders Brant Cosaboom and Jessica Durrie intended when they started the cafe, which has two locations in Princeton, general manager Vincent Jule said. On a bulletin board inside the shop, employees post photos of people wearing Small World Coffee merchandise at places around the world, like the Eiffel Tower. 

That sense of community is cultivated by Small World’s employees. Jule, 39, started working at Small World in early 2001 when his friends helped him get a job. He has worked at the coffee shop because he feels welcome, and he likes how the business runs. Jule, who even met his wife at Small World, appreciates how Princeton embraces its local coffee shop. “The pride of feeling like you’re a part of something is something that has been a part of Small World from the beginning,” he said. 

Another employee, 34-year-old Alexis Lucena, feels a sense of belonging at Small World. “[It’s] really fun because it’s fast-paced,” she said. “It’s about team and family, and being a part of tradition.”

Though there is a Starbucks nearby, Jule believes people choose his cafe because of the community’s support for smaller businesses. “There’s a loyalty there,” he said. “They’re welcomed and appreciated.”  

Even the ordering process at Small World is done in a more traditional way. At big chain coffee shops, employees often type orders into a computer. But at Small World, employees still talk directly to each other. When customers order at the register, the cashier calls it out to a barista nearby. 

But Small World also stands out for its signature product: coffee. The cafe uses Arabica and Robusta beans sourced from all over the world. Small World also offers a variety of food options, including sandwiches, vegan cookies, and gluten-free desserts. Management tries to avoid copying the competition. “We don’t necessarily respond to trends because the philosophy of the coffee is what’s important,” Jule said. “It’s better to perfect what works instead of expanding on new trends.”

Customers appreciate the sense of connectedness they feel at Small World. Rick Flagg, 56, from Princeton, said the cafe offers a “great environment.” The shop’s charm also draws customers from beyond Princeton. Visiting from Washington, D.C., Patrick Caldwell, 32, chose to have his coffee at Small World over other options. The atmosphere at a place like Starbucks, he believes, is generic—especially compared to the “positive energy” of a safe haven like Small World.

“People are mirrors,” Jule said. “What you put out to people are what you are going to get back.” 

The intimacy of Small World

By Adilene Sandoval 

Mattawa, WA

The story begins with two people living in different parts of the world, who shared a desire to create a small place that brought their community together. Jessica Durrie grew up in Rome, Sao Paulo, and Melbourne. Brant Cossaboom spent his youth in Spain and Korea. After meeting while working at an espresso shop in Ann Arbor, Mich., the two strangers fell in love and moved to Princeton. There, they opened their very own cafe near campus, which they named Small World.

People often say “it’s a small world” when describing an unexpected encounter, or when they find something that connects them to other people. Small World Coffee has both. Inside the cafe on Witherspoon Street, conversations blend in with the calm soothing music, while orders are taken. On one wall, the phrase “Small World Around The World” is encircled by photos from people wearing cafe T-shirts in various exotic destinations. When a customer walked in on a Monday afternoon, general manager Vincent Jule greeted her by saying, “Hey, it’s you again.” 

The cafe is well known for its philosophy, which spreads in a simple, genuine form—through its own customers—attracting people from all over the world. “Making people feel good, that’s advertising for us,’’ Jule said, in reference to the shop’s advertising tactics. “It’s a welcoming environment for everyone.” People enter to pause their busy lives and enjoy one of life’s simple things—coffee. 

The look of the cafe has changed since it was founded in 1993, but Jule said Small World’s philosophy has stayed the same: First, provide people with a cup of coffee. Then, influence their lives. He encourages his employees to be genuine with customers, project positive vibes, and remember the regulars’ names—and their orders. According Alexis Lucena, who has worked at Small World for the past four years, the job is all about starting peoples’ days off right. “We have more in common than we think,” Lucena said.

“It makes me the happiest when people who have moved away come back,” Jule said. He explained that people are drawn back not only by coffee, but also because Small World remembers them, and people like being remembered. Today, Small World stands as a reminder that it is indeed a small world after all. 

Nominee seen as threat to abortion rights

By Myrna Moreno

Phoenix, AZ

After Anthony Kennedy announced in June that he was retiring from the Supreme Court, President Donald Trump made good on his promise to appoint a justice who would uphold conservative values, nominating D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Republicans are thrilled with the opportunity to appoint another conservative justice to the highest court; Democrats, meanwhile, are fearful that Kennedy’s replacement would lean further to the right. But Princeton University politics professors Charles Cameron and Keith Whittington say they do not expect much to change with Kavanaugh on the court.

“The shift in the median is very tiny,” Cameron said. Like four other justices on the court, Kavanaugh is a conservative, originalist judge. Whittington agreed: Observers should not expect huge changes, he said, because the court is exchanging a conservative for another conservative.

Although Kennedy was appointed by a Republican president, he sometimes diverged from the court’s conservative wing, becoming a crucial swing vote. He voted with liberal justices on cases about gay rights, abortion, the death penalty and affirmative action.

Kavanaugh, 53, is more reliably conservative, which means that there will likely be more conservative court decisions. Liberals fear his confirmation could change the balance of the court—tilting it even further to the right—for a generation.

But Whittington said things won’t change too much. Kavanaugh, he said, is very careful with cases that are very controversial, taking “small steps rather than big steps.”

Because conservatives will continue to dominate the Supreme Court, abortion-rights supporters are concerned that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that cemented a woman’s right to get an abortion, might be overturned. Both Cameron and Whittington predict the court will never completely overturn Roe v. Wade, but they both concede the conservative justices could chip away at abortion rights in other ways. Cameron believes that the court might allow greater restrictions on abortion, while Whittington said the justices could undermine the ruling by “nibbling away on the margins.”

Ultimately, Cameron said he doesn’t “think Trump gives a damn about the Supreme Court,” crediting the Federalist Society, which grooms reliably conservative judges and pushes for their installation on the court, with his selection.

Cameron said Kavanaugh is thoughtful, humorous, and articulate. But politically, his appointment fulfills a major conservative priority.

“Kavanaugh,” he said, “is the perfect candidate for Republicans.”

Small World wins fans with each sip

By Christina Maldonado

Gallup, NM

The cool air inside Small World Coffee invites Princeton locals and visitors into a different world. 

The outside walls and a small portion of the entrance is mint green, sandwiched between brown brick walls. The menu is not displayed on television screens, but rather on a black chalkboard with round letters and small doodles of coffee cups. The left side has a bulletin board with posters pinned up for various community events, while T-shirts hang on one wall. The area is filled with people sitting and holding engaged conversations. 

General manager Vincent Jule, 39, first started working at the Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street in 2001. In college, Jule saw the cafe as just a “good job to pay the bills,” but it soon became a core part of his life. Jule knew the previous owners, Jessica Durrie and her husband Brant Cossaboom, so he feels committed to carry on the native atmosphere of the cafe, which opened in 1993. 

Jule is invested not only with the business model of the cafe, but also the ethics. Small World tries to pay its employees well, offering a rate significantly above minimum wage, plus vacation time. The team has become invested in the lives of their customers, and a place where people routinely start their day.

Alexis Lucena, a Small World barista, sat on a small brown bench on the right side of the main Small World entrance. Lucena, who will celebrate her fourth anniversary on the job next week, describes her job as “fast-paced” and “fun.” To Lucena, Small World provides a sense of teamwork, family and community. Customers keep coming back because they’ve made memories in the cafe. 

Back inside, the majority of customers are having conversations among each other, it’s thunderous from the talking. Footsteps echo through the space, baristas shout orders, customers talk over one another, and the entrance swings open and closed. Austin Hounsel, 23 and a grad student at Princeton who is originally from Texas, is sitting near the stairs with his laptop out. Hounsel said he comes to Small World “seven days a week.” He said the cafe is a cozy environment, so it’s a great place for both being with friends and getting work done. 

The cafe has pictures on the wall with the caption, “small world around the world.” The exhibit shows photos of customers wearing Small World T-shirts in front of buildings and monuments all around the world. Customers who bring in a photo earn a free coffee. Yet the people in the pictures all return to this cafe in Princeton because the environment is warm and, in the words of one regular quoted on the wall,  “You made me feel like I never left.”

Alums thrive in journalism

By Mauricio Vazquez

Dallas, TX

Back in elementary school, Gabriel Debenedetti would race outside every morning to grab The New York Times. He started with the sports section, so he could discuss the previous night’s events with classmates. Soon, he started reading the other sections too. Eventually, that young reader would go on to cover politics for New York Magazine.

Though Debenedetti is busy covering national politics, he found time to return to Princeton University, from which he graduated in 2012, for a conversation with students from The Princeton Summer Journal. Debenedetti mostly writes articles that shed light on the less salacious and sensationalized side of politics. He aims to report on important political events across the country that might not be as widely covered.

Sure, other topics might generate more buzz, but he knows his job isn’t to write viral stories. Debenedetti writes to educate others. “There’s not really a world in which people will not continue to need the news, and to need to know what’s going on around them,” he said.

Megan Garber feels similarly. To Garber, a culture writer at The Atlantic and a Princeton alum from the class of 2002, staying informed is crucial to one’s sense of self. “How can anyone achieve their full potential if they don’t understand the world?” she asked. Like Debenedetti, Garber sees her role as a journalist as educating others on current events so they can navigate the world as informed and thoughtful individuals.

As a culture reporter, Garber covers a bit of everything. When asked about her latest story, she mentioned a review she was writing of the new romantic-comedy movie, Dog Days. This is something that many forget about journalism today: Though heavy political events dominate headlines, there are writers covering fun, lighter topics, and that’s just as important. Many people grow tired of reading about so much negativity every day, and sometimes a funny movie review adds some much needed levity.

It’s a strange time to be a journalist. In the current political climate, some Americans are skeptical of the media and like to discredit reporters. And the “fake news” phenomenon doesn’t make the job any easier. Though the incentives to go into journalism might seem slim, the hunger for credible and well-researched reporting is precisely why we need more journalists.  So why are journalists like Debenedetti and Garber important? Because they speak the truth—something we desperately need.