Maggie Borgen, an 18-year-old Montclair native founded the podcast titled Second Semester Seniors during her senior year at Montclair High School before graduated this past spring. Inspired to ensure that her fellow students had access to vital resources regarding their all-encompassing senior year of high school, she launched her podcast at the height of the pandemic when students were struggling to figure out the basics like how to apply to colleges, managing stress, how to plan for their future, and more. Maggie will be attending Boston University College of Communication and Kilachand Honors College in the fall and will major in Film & Television. Read on to learn more about Maggie and the Second Semester Seniors podcast.
A Chat With Maggie
The Montclair Girl: What was it like growing up in Montclair?
Maggie Borgen: It has been great growing up in Montclair and being part of a vibrant artistic community with a strong civic culture. However, as I grew up, I also learned more about Montclair’s underlying issues, such as the history of discrimination that still needs to be addressed. I am happy that some of these issues have been discussed more in the last year. I believe it’s important to recognize the positive things about Montclair while acknowledging the ways the community needs to grow further. I am grateful to have grown up in such a supportive community.
Some of my favorite memories involve making short films. I fell in love with filmmaking at a young age and I was constantly recruiting friends to be in my movies. For example, I created a superhero trilogy that starred my brother and friends from the neighborhood. We filmed on our street and in the park next to Clary Anderson Arena. To me, filmmaking is about community, so I definitely feel connected to Montclair as the backdrop for my neighborhood short films.
MG: What do you like to do for fun?
MB: I enjoy writing (songwriting, screenwriting, journaling), singing, and playing guitar and ukulele. I am also the Founder & Director of In Harmony Montclair, a nonprofit that organizes teen benefit concerts to support local charities. I enjoy collaborating with other teens to develop musical performances and organize shows.
MG: Tell us about the podcast + what inspired you to start it?
MB: The podcast has interviews and audio reflections to highlight what it was like to be a high school senior during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also shares tips for managing the stress of the past school year. Some topics include waiting for college decisions, what it was like having my first in-person day of school since March 2020 being on June 1st and an interview with my guidance counselor. I was inspired to start the podcast after speaking with my classmates this past winter and realizing that a lot of us had the same stresses, which we might not have known if we had not had that conversation in class. I wanted to create a podcast that could help other seniors feel heard. There was also a lot of coverage of the seniors who graduated in 2020, but not as much of those of us graduating this year. I decided to document the experience.
MG: How did you come up with the ideas for the episodes?
MB: I came up with the ideas based on issues I saw in my own life as a second-semester senior, as well as issues faced by my friends. For example, the episode about tips for waiting for college decisions developed from my conversations with friends. I found their ideas for managing the process to be very helpful, so I wanted to share them.
MG: How did the school faculty and students react/respond to your podcast?
MB: My teachers were very supportive. Montclair High School shared the podcast link in the daily newsletter when it was featured in The New York Times Education Briefing. I really appreciated Mrs. Testa providing a guidance counselor’s perspective on the college application process, and I learned a lot from our interview.
MG: Will Second Semester Seniors just be a 6 episode series or do you plan to expand on it?
MB: Second Semester Seniors is a six-episode series, along with an Epilogue. The plan was always for it to conclude by the end of my own second semester. I am open to podcasting in college, but I’m also interested in pursuing other methods of storytelling, such as creating a web series or short film.
MG: What has this experience taught you (running the podcast)?
MB: I saw the resilience of all of the seniors and how this past semester – and year – has been a time of growth and reflection. I also saw that, while a lot of us have similar experiences, you cannot boil down all of our experiences into one idea of what it was like to be a second-semester senior. My podcast focused on students in New Jersey, and in just one state, the seniors had varying experiences, especially depending on whether their school was hybrid or online.
MG: What is your favorite restaurant in Montclair?
MB: I love the Walnut Street area. Two of my favorites are The Corner and Saveur Créole. My grandmother says that the food at Saveur Créole reminds her of her childhood in Haiti. I especially love the black mushroom jasmine rice and the baked macaroni and cheese gratin. Another great restaurant is Mesob.
MG: What is your favorite boutique in Montclair?
MB: I think that Velvet Lush has a well-curated selection. For jewelry, Noellery is my favorite local store. Giftbar is one of my go-to’s for birthday gifts for friends.
MG: What do you love most about Montclair?
MB: I love the rich artistic community and diversity. As I mentioned earlier, I have organized benefit concerts through In Harmony Montclair. The community has been incredibly supportive of our work. For example, Central Presbyterian Church has donated space to us for past concerts, and Outpost in the Burbs has loaned us some of their lights.
MG: What is your favorite thing to do in Essex County?
MB: Walking in Montclair with friends, going into the different stores, and sometimes getting a bite to eat. I love all of the different shopping areas in Montclair and exploring new boutiques and cafés.
MG: Tell us about another business in the area you admire.
MB: I admire Cornerstone Montclair and how they build an inclusive environment and support the community through their work. I love their unique gift options and artwork from local artists.
MG: What is your favorite outdoor place to spend time in Essex County?
MB: The lookout at Eagle Rock Reservation is my favorite. I also went to The Waterfront, which is a part of the South Mountain Recreation Complex, and loved it.
MG: What is your favorite place to work out in Essex County?
MB: I like to take walks around my neighborhood, something that I have really come to enjoy during quarantine.
MG: Where do you go out with friends in the area?
MB: Pre-pandemic, my friends and I did game nights at each other’s houses but with the pandemic, we have spent more time hanging out in each other’s backyards.
MG: What is something you think needs to come to Montclair?
MB: I know that this was discussed as a possibility before, but if it is not happening, there should be a creative co-working space. It would be great for there to be a community space to work on creative endeavors and collaborate.