Years and grades at BCD – 1982-1988; 3rd-8th gradeWhat are your fondest memories from BCD?
My fondest memories include, unfortunately, frequent trips to the assistant principal’s (Mr. Douglas) office. While I may have been considered a difficult kid at BCD, my intent was never malicious. The lessons learned from Mr. Buttenheim, Mr. Douglas, Mr. & Mrs. Fawcett, Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Livsey, Mrs. Sadhigi, and so many more were truly formative in who I am as an educator. When I am in the classroom or abroad with a difficult student, I often think back to the many times I wound up in the principal’s office at BCD and the advice I received. I cannot help but have patience and understanding for my students and I often find myself internally smiling as I think, “please, I invented that one!”Where did you go once you left BCD?
I attended George School in Newtown, PA, graduating in 1992. I then went to Trinity College in Hartford, CT, graduating in 1996 with a BA in History. Finally, I attended Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY, graduating in 2001 with a Master’s in Education. I have traveled quite a bit over the years, primarily to the Caribbean, Mexico, and southern Africa.Where are you living now?
I live in Mamaroneck, NY
What are you doing now?
I am a middle school history teacher at Brunswick School in Greenwich, CT. I also run a non-profit called Leadership Exchange www.lecommunity.org. In 2003, my family created a non-profit called Somarela to provide direct support to AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in southern Africa. Prior to his death, my father was planning to move to Botswana to not only become a pilot working with various conservation projects, but also to set up a basic needs center for street children. From this grew Leadership Exchange. Every summer we lead service learning trips to Botswana and Zimbabwe, providing direct aid and support to organizations that meet the needs of children at risk and their families. In the past, we have painted schools, tutored, and built a number of pit latrines. We built a home for a family this past summer.
The mission of Leadership Exchange is twofold: to focus on the social, emotional growth of teenagers and adults through cultural exchange and service-learning trips, and to advance humanitarian work in developing nations through direct funding. Leadership Exchange is a global community network that connects individuals of various socio-economic backgrounds. Through service learning trips and exchange programs, participants are able to learn about and understand members of their own peer group who come from disparate backgrounds. Through dialogue, focus groups, team building, and shared experiences, students find similarities beyond their differences and identify the advantages and influence they possess to have a positive influence on their local and global communities.
What are your plans for the future?
This spring we will be traveling to Haiti with students from Monument Mountain Regional High School. The plan is to work with a local school on building a computer center and painting, in addition to exchanging ideas and cultures. This pilot trip will hopefully lay the groundwork for future trips to Haiti, further extending our network of assistance and exchange. I am also eager to begin bringing students from Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Haiti to the US. We are an exchange program and while we have had students from Botswana visit the US in the past, I would like to make it an annual event. The concept is identical to the current format, where youth from developing countries visit the US, do family home stays, and provide direct assistance to service organizations here. These exchanges help dispel myths and allow kids the opportunity to find similarities in peers outside their comfort zone, both domestic and abroad. Ultimately, Leadership Exchange seeks to improve the leadership capacity of youth to function in a global society. We recognize these trips as an important piece of adolescent development and aim to improve global consciousness and social justice awareness of the participants. These trips have been a transformative experience in the lives of our students, adult chaperones, and the organizations with whom we partner. Ultimately, we were compelled to act as responsible global citizens—to use our economic and educational resources and privilege to reach beyond the local to the global community. We learned that privilege must not only be accompanied by responsibility, but more importantly, must be tempered by compassion. None of us will ever forget the experiences we shared.
How do you think your time at BCD influenced the choices you’ve made?
BCD instilled in me a strong sense of community, responsibility, and compassion. Mr. Douglas, et al., always supported me despite my every attempt to thwart their assistance. As I mentioned earlier, I was not an easy student to have in the classroom. The teachers at BCD never gave up on me and gave me many of the tools I use today as an educator. BCD taught me what it means to care for someone other than myself. It took a while to sink in, but ultimately, I was able to use these skills to build my program and develop my ability as a teacher.
What about your time at BCD are you most thankful for?
BCD gave me the room to mature as a student and always supported me through my many struggles as a learner – I am incredibly grateful for the patience and support of the school. However, I am most thankful for the friendships that developed at BCD. I still have many very close friendships that started as early as 3rd grade with Mrs. Valentine.
What advice can you offer current students at BCD?
Take advantage of every moment they have with their families, their friends, and the school. BCD is a wonderful and safe place, but sometimes we lose sight of what we have. It all goes by so fast, we need to focus on slowing down. This is an exciting time and information is right there at the literal touch of a button (or iPhone screen). It’s easy to become desensitized to the noise. Stop. Look at a sunset. Say thank you to the store clerk. Tell your parents that you love them. Recognize the privilege that you have and use it for positive change.