Years and grades at BCD 2000-2003 (BCD2S, grades 10th-12th) What are your fondest memories from BCD?My most cherished memories from my time at BCD come from the two language trips we took to France and Spain my sophomore and senior year. I had never traveled without my parents and I had certainly never been as far away as Europe. I used my Spanish skills outside of the classroom for the first in Spain and I saw my first castle in France. Through these trips, BCD brought to life for me a world previously known only through books and movies. To stand alongside my friends on top of the Eiffel Tower and overlook the entire city of Paris or to eat tapas and watch a flamenco performance in Seville were life changing experiences. BCD awakened in me a passion for travel and adventure—a passion that has significantly guided the direction of my life ever since.Where did you go once you left BCD?After BCD I needed a break from academics, so I took a gap-year and traveled to India where I volunteered in the slums of New Delhi teaching Kindergarten. During college I spent two summers volunteering at a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center in the Amazon jungle of Ecuador. In 2008 I graduated summa cum laude from Smith College with a BA in Spanish.  I received a post-graduate fellowship from the Spanish Ministry of Education to teach English for a year at a language academy in Cadiz, Spain. In 2009 I returned to the Berkshires and had the privilege to work for several months at BCD in the Admission Office. Since 2010, I’ve proudly served with the Peace Corps in El Salvador doing youth development work.

Where are you living now?You’ll currently find me in the rural farming community of Cuisnahuat, Sonsonate, El Salvador. The name Cuisnahuat comes from the indigenous Nuhuat language and, according to locals, means “Place with three springs of water”. I live with a Salvadoran host family, my seven aguacateros (street dogs) and one gallina(chicken) named Carlota.

What are you doing now?The focus of my Peace Corps work is youth development.  I design, organize and manage activities to help children and adolescents: develop healthy lifestyles, gain life skills, learn strategies to successfully navigate the workforce and generate income, and be more active in their community through involvement in local organizations and public service. One of my favorite projects was an empowerment camp I helped design, organize and manage for nineteen at-risk Salvadoran girls.  I taught lessons in goal-setting, leadership, self-defense, sexual health, family planning, HIV/AIDs prevention and self-esteem. I am currently working on a parent-child reading program in the local school to help combat the 60% illiteracy rate in my community, and mentoring five recent high school graduates to receive USAID scholarships in order to go to college in the United States.

What are your plans for the future?  My time as a Peace Corps Youth Development Volunteer is scheduled to end in April, 2012. However, I’m hoping to stay with the Peace Corps in El Salvador for another year as a regional leader.  I’ve also applied to work in consular affairs for US embassies in Latin America. Either way, I’ll be south of the boarder for awhile longer.

How do you think your time at BCD influenced the choices you’ve made?  My three years at BCD were the most demanding three years of my life. In fact, my first few semesters at Smith College were easy because I had already done equivalent academic work in high school. However, BCD taught me more than just the quadratic formula or to appreciate the poetry of Emily Dickinson—I was taught how be active in my own learning and to solve my own problems. BCD provided me with a supportive environment and then challenged me every day to step outside my comfort zone and take intellectual risks. I learned how to think analytically and creatively and, most importantly, trust my own judgment. Furthermore, BCD made me realize that self-development goes beyond the classroom. I was encouraged to get involved in my local community through public service and also to explore the world beyond the Berkshires. If it weren’t for BCD I might have never started doing community service or traveling the world.  I credit BCD for inspiring me to join the Peace Corps.

What about your time at BCD are you most thankful for?  I am thankful to BCD for giving me some of the best teachers in the world. It wasn’t until later that I realized how lucky I was to have teachers who were both experts in their fields and accomplished educators dedicated to their students. BCD faculty were more than just my teachers, they were also my mentors and cheerleaders who never doubted my potential for excellence even when I was overwhelmed with self-doubt. I will forever be grateful to Señora Dockery-Perkins who encouraged me to be “a person in the world and of the world” and Mr. Clifford who taught me to not let fear of failure stop me from trying something new or difficult. Whenever I teach now, I remember the way my BCD teachers made learning interesting and the material relevant to my world, and I try to emulate their style as much as possible.

What advice can you offer current students at BCD?  BCD is a very special place. I’ve visited many schools and communities throughout my travels and no place is equal to BCD. My advice to current students is to take advantage of everything BCD has to offer. You won’t like it all or be good everything, but you’ll never know if you don’t try. Also, be in competition with yourself and not with your friends. When life gets rough it won’t matter who scored the winning goal or got the best grade— what matters most will be the support of your friends and the good times you’ve shared together.