At Berkeley Carroll's annual Leadership Dinner, trustees, current and past parents, and grandparents, enjoyed dinner at the Picnic House in Prospect Park! Current students Brianna J. '20 and Julian A. '20 spoke about what their time at BC has meant to them.
See more photos here: https://bit.ly/2oxE0CL
Brianna J. '20:
Good evening Dr. Waller, faculty, trustees and parents,
My name is Brianna Johnson. I am a member of the Class of 2020, and I am honored to share my Berkeley Carroll experiences with you tonight.
I would like to help you to picture me a couple of years ago. A 5'2, 12 year old with a radiant smile on her face. This euphoric young girl had just completed 14 months in the Prep for Prep program. I was bursting with energy.
Now I would like you to look at me today, much older and wiser, but still standing at 5'2 with the same radiant smile and exuberant energy.
Why was I and am I so jubilant? My excitement came from and comes from the place that makes me a student. The Berkeley Carroll School.
On my very first day, in September of 2014, I could barely sit still on the bus on the way to BC. Finally, I walked through the glistening doors of 181 and pinched myself. This school was the most beautiful place I had ever seen! There were brightly colored and decorated walls and smiling security guards ready to welcome me.
My first classes were... memorable.... My math teacher played music with his nose and taught us songs to remember different formulas. To keep us engaged with the readings of To Kill A Mockingbird and 12 Angry Men, my humanities teacher, with whom I remain in touch, offered us Triscuits and stuffed animals who she felt we personified---mine was a bulldog. In science, we personified planets during the Big Bang. And my Spanish teacher helped us cultivate a love for the language through music games where we listened for missing "letras en canciones." Coming home that day, I could not stop talking about how magical my first day was. I quickly went to bed so the next day would come faster.
This energy carried itself through my 8th grade year as, accustomed to the school, I stepped into new roles, becoming my 8th grade representative, continuing the dance program I had joined in 7th and taking big risks like traveling to Wyoming with my grade. I even did the unthinkable and traveled without my family, internationally to Costa Rica, practicing my new found love of Spanish.
My freshperson year brought new friendships and new opportunities such as New York at Night excursions where we had just a little too much fun and the wide array of co-curriculars where I could dive into my many passions. , I of course joined the Dance Club. I became involved with the JV GIRLS BASKETBALL TEAM and Spirit Squad, teams that would follow me until my senior year and that truly epitomize the heart of a Lion.
Activism was at the core of my sophomore year, as I became co leader of the People of color affinity group and facilitated my first BC TALKS, moments that not only taught me ethical thinking, but also true leadership and inclusion. And while high school felt busy, the love I had for coming to school never left.
Junior year was, to date, the most amazing year of my high school experience. I continued my passion for activism through my leadership in affinity spaces both in
and out of school. I also found my way to the Equity Council , and, as grade representative, spearheaded the junior waffle fundraiser, a radical idea brought to the grade reps to raise money for our class. I must say, that out of the many institutions I have attended, Berkeley Carroll is by far the most supportive of student ideas and creativity. We were able to have a waffle assembly line complete with syrup, strawberries, chocolate chips and so much more through the support of our dean, Ms. Finigan, Ms. Moore and the entire kitchen and maintenance teams. The most rewarding part of that idea coming to life was seeing how quickly my grade and the school came together for one another. We exchanged syrupy smiles and warm thank yous, uplifting one another in a
time of need. This connectedness and intertwining of empathy and community was at the heart of our school then -- and later on in Junior Year as we grappled with the tough realities of racism and its impact. Along with the Equity Council and other students of color, we were able to schedule and lead programming to help open everyone's eyes to the experiences of students of color in white institutions, as well as to find healthy and productive ways to heal our community after a challenging moment.
Now, after 5 years of leadership, excitement and learning, I want to bring our attention back to that bubbly 5'2 12 year old and compare her to the 5'2 young woman she has become because of this institution. That girl was excited to learn and was open to the many new opportunities. That girl walked off the bus into the doors of 181 with pride as she eagerly entered the classrooms where she was able to develop and nurture her many passions. That girl knew she was in the right place from her very first day and that girl has the same fire for this institution that she did 5 years ago.
As I enter my senior year, everything is bittersweet. I know my entire educational career has built up so that I will be one day ready to leave the nest but part of me is very sad. I can not see myself without BC. The place that gave me love for books and cultures, the school that let a young girl from Canarsie become a community leader and a talented dancer. The institution that quickly became my home. That is the key thing about this place. Berkeley Carroll is a home to me. It has been a warm and welcoming place since my first tour of the building and has shown me nothing but love, acceptance and support in good times and bad. Just like that 12 year old girl was eager to come back every day, I still almost never want to leave BC (just ask the security team when I usually leave the building). Berkeley Carroll is truly special and I am honored to be a part of this community and soon graduate from the institution that gave me everything I could dream of and more.
Julian A. '20:
For the past two years I have been part of the Key Society, a group of juniors and seniors that gives tours to prospective students and their families. As part of my key society profile, I had to describe Berkeley Carroll in one word. I chose "transformative." When I first got to BC, I hadn't yet discovered a true passion for any particular subject. But now, as I begin my senior year of high school, I really have.
When I stepped into my 9th grade English class, Myths and Legends, Mr. Sanchez's energy was infectious. Whenever we'd come across an extraordinary passage or sentence in Toni Morrison's Sula, for example, Mr. Sanchez would call our encounter "riding the wave." He'd circle the classroom with a cardboard surfboard as we read the sentence aloud and appreciated the rich language and imagery. I thought back to Mr. Sanchez's surfboard when reading Willa Cather's "My Antonia" in 11th grade and was struck by a sentence about pumpkins: "I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more." I was amazed by how this simple yet idiosyncratic sentence could resonate for me so strongly. I love language because of moments like these--images that are surprising or unusual and can speak to you beyond reason.
In Will's World, my 10th grade Shakespeare class, Dr. Hughes would often quote from A Midsummer Night's Dream: "It must be your imagination then, and not theirs." In that class, we'd perform absurd comedic scenes from "Twelfth Night," delivering soliloquies while standing in garbage cans. It might sound silly, but beneath these antics, my teachers were conveying an essential lesson: studying literature is an act of discovery.
In the fall of 10th grade, in the midst of Will's World and my growing interest in English, I met with Ms. Moore and asked her how I might extend and deepen my engagement with literature. She came up with a way to let me start taking 12th grade English classes in the spring semester of 10th grade, even though no one had done it before. I took Satan in Literature, in which we read and analyzed works from Milton's "Paradise Lost" and Dante's "Inferno," to the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil."
Berkeley Carroll has been flexible, always supporting me in pursuing my very particular interests. My papers have ranged from "We Three: The Dangers of Close Reading in Twelfth Night," a seven page analysis of the significance of a single painting referenced in "Twelfth Night," to "Disremembered and Unaccounted for: Reconstruction in 'Beloved,'" in which I put a Nina Simone song in conversation with the Toni Morisson novel.
As I began taking additional English courses in 10th grade, Dr. Hughes (who's here tonight) became an influential and inspiring mentor. I have taken all of the classes he teaches: Will's World, Satan in Literature, Coming of Age in the Novel, Shakespeare's Frenemies, and now we are working on an independent study together--writing a scholarly article on "Great Expectations" with the hopes of submitting it to a graduate-level Dickens journal. We are currently immersed in scholarly articles applying Freud's theories to the study of plot. This project has been in the works for a couple of years, and it's exciting to think about contributing to a larger scholarly discussion in my last year of high school. Thank you Dr. Hughes for being so generous, and for igniting what will be a life-long passion for reading.
It is often said that a great teacher can change lives. And Dr. Hughes, you've changed mine. Berkeley Carroll has also allowed me to explore new environments to further develop my writing skills. For example, I attended young writers conferences at Kenyon College and the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College where I met other high school writers and established authors. These programs have inspired me to continue writing and reading. Since 9th grade, I have been a part of the Blotter, the school newspaper, and this year I'm the Editor-in-Chief. I have loved covering school events and working to help give students a voice in Berkeley Carroll. One memorable moment was doing a photo-essay on the school walkout for gun reform on the 20th anniversary of Columbine.
After the walkout, I wrote a political poem about school shootings which is being published by Hanging Loose Magazine this fall. My work on the Blotter more generally inspired me over the summer to write an op-ed. I wrote about the dangers of the internet for children--specifically about a traumatizing experience from when I was nine. I submitted the op-ed to the NY Daily News and the piece ran in August. Writing -- for classes, for The Blotter, for outside publications -- is more than a hobby or an interest: it has allowed me to channel my emotions and make meaning out of them.
Though I have focused on literature and writing in my time at Berkeley Carroll, I also have appreciated how I'm able to specialize without giving up the broad realm of experience that I find meaningful. I have run cross-country and track, played basketball, and also taken engaging classes in math and science.
I'm now applying to college, and look forward to majoring in English. Because of the strong foundation the extraordinary faculty and curriculum at Berkeley Carroll has given me, I feel prepared and excited for the future.
I don't know whether I want to be a poet, professor, journalist, or some combination of the three, but I will always be grateful to Berkeley Carroll for helping me to discover who I am.