Science’s Superman – Out to Save Our Minds


Angie Yang

Mr. Cogliano, our school’s new social worker, encourages students to take a moment to “breathe.”

It’s a plane! It’s a bird! No – it’s Mr. Cogliano.

As students and faculty sink into the new year with the old ‘Bronx Science state of mind,’ the school’s new mental health social worker, Mr. Cogliano, sports a radically different state of mind–one of mindfulness. An avid celebrator of the unique practice, Mr. Cogliano is on a mission to save stress-ridden students through mindfulness-education, one teen at a time.

Mr. Cogliano works in Room 035D2, which has been transformed into a cozy sanctuary furnished with stress balls, a toy Zen garden, and ambient music. Students can visit him throughout the day to talk, thanks to his open-door policy. “What’s important is that it’s confidential,” he says. He wants his room to serve as a safe haven. It is recommended, however, that students first see their guidance counselor before being redirected to him.

While professionally an experienced social worker specializing in mental health and substance abuse, Mr. Cogliano himself is an easygoing, passionate character. In his spare time, he enjoys watching movies, listening to classic rock, and playing on old-school game systems (he admits to a love for Nintendo). “He’s genuinely an amazing person and always has such a positive vibe,” said Ryan Yam ’19. “And his office is such a relaxing place.”

But Mr. Cogliano is more than a typical school social worker. He has a profound interest in the implementation of mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR. The brainchild of University of Massachusetts Medical School professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is generally defined as intentional, non-judgmental attentiveness to your immediate surroundings. “It’s all about staying in the present moment, being completely aware.” said Mr. Cogliano.

“It’s all about staying in the present moment, being completely aware.”

Not surprisingly, he has big plans for Bronx Science: to launch various 10th-period groups based on important topics or issues that the students themselves think should be addressed, such as domestic violence. One group would revolve around learning to use mindfulness as a stress-reduction technique, through guided CD-sessions. “[Mindfulness] is a simple process,” he insists. “The hard part … is doing it regularly and effectively.” Sometimes, a room may be set aside just for relaxation, with dimmed lights and calming music.

Bronx Science students have long been in need of programs like this. Mr. Cogliano insists that being in such a high-achieving, competitive school guarantees a level of self-imposed stress. That academic stress, combined with various teenage stressors, puts students in a position where proper management is crucial. “It’s not that stress is bad,” argues Mr. Cogliano. “It really depends on how the person deals with it.”

Considering his ambitious plans, it hardly feels like Mr. Cogliano is just settling in. He remarks that the move-in has been delightful. “Everyone’s friendly, and students are really respectful, really involved,” he noted. “There’s an amazing culture, a real community.”