On Activism

By Craig Gemmell, Head of School

Revisit days this past week and lots of exciting news. I’ve been smiling as a result. I’ve been smiling, too, because our current students have been looking up and out more – up to increasingly bright, blue skies. Out to a lake that is more watery and less icy by the day.

Students have also been looking up and out to the broader world more lately; I’m not sure why. I think a number of moments of violence and sadness in America and the broader world have functioned for them like a dip in a cold lake: they’re a bit more awake all of a sudden.

Regardless of the reasons, I’ve had a steady stream of students passing through. Sioni Ayubu  ’18 has come by to talk about how she could bring to Brewster her work with a United Nations commission charged with supporting women’s rights around the globe. Sophia Foye ’20 and Brayden Morris ’18 were just in yesterday, asking permission to organize today’s wearing of uniform tops as an expression of sympathy for a Saskatchewan town’s tragic loss earlier this week. Led by Mia Ventola ’19, another group is organizing a walkout next week to reflect on the Parkland shooting and the means by which our students can be a small part of the solution. Yet another group is interested in hanging awareness-raising art in Estabrook. I’m looking forward to who appears at my door next and why.

In all of these conversations, we’ve focused on the whys and hows of activism. How, I ask, can these moments be inclusive of all viewpoints and promote discourse and not factionalization? How can these help us to build community here? How can these help us to prepare our students to build community wherever they live for the rest of their lives?

And in all of these conversations, I’ve been utterly heartened to see that our students are not behaving like cliche’d millennials in that none of their engagement, their activism, is about them – for our conversations reflect not a shadow of solipsism. Just a desire to elevate awareness, build bridges, care for others, speak honestly, listen respectfully. Perhaps such thoughtful engagement emerges from the particular culture here – nurturing of individuals in context of well-understood community norms – respect, responsibility, and investment. Perhaps we are reaching our students; and perhaps such is why our students are reaching out to the broader world deftly.

Many believe me crazy to do the work I do given how complex the world as we know it is. I laugh inwardly when I hear such cracks because I and those with whom I work all seem to carry about a singular, implicit assumption that guides us: we work with the kids we do in the manner that we do because we believe deeply that our work can shape them so that they can serve a world that needs the best versions of our graduates – and I feel in my bones that we are so on the right path to this end.

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Brewster Announces Karen Boykin-Towns as Commencement Speaker

Brewster is honored to announce that Karen Boykin-Towns will be its 2018 commencement speaker on May 26. Boykin-Towns is vice president of corporate affairs for Pfizer Innovative Health, leading the biopharmaceutical company’s public affairs, government relations, policy, and communication efforts worldwide. A life member of the NAACP, she also serves as the vice chair of the national board of directors and chairs its National Health Committee.

Rising to the top of Pfizer’s ranks, Boykin-Towns has built a reputation as a strategic, results driver operating in complex business and government environments. In her 20 years with the company, she has held leadership roles in government relations, public affairs, and global policy and has the distinction of having served as the company’s first chief diversity officer. In that role she was instrumental in implementing a global strategy that resulted in the company being recognized as leveraging diversity and inclusion as a competitive advantage in its operations in over 100 countries.

Previously she served as deputy director of the New York State Senate Democratic Conference and legislative director and then chief of staff for local senator David Paterson, who went on to become governor of New York.

Boykin-Towns leads a very active civic life. In addition to her work with the NAACP, she is a Brewster Academy trustee, co-chairs the Business Council of New York State, and serves on the board of Friends of Thirteen Public Television. She is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. and The Links Inc.

Boykin-Towns holds an MBA from Baruch College/Zicklin School of Business of the City University of New York and a bachelor’s degree from the College of Mount Saint Vincent where she graduated with honors. Over the years Boykin-Towns has been recognized with many awards and accolades and has been featured in publications such as Businessweek, Crain’s, Diversity Inc and the Network Journal among others. In 2016 Savoy Magazine named her one of their “Top Influential Women in Corporate America” and most recently she was featured on the cover of  African-American Career World’s Winter/Spring 2018 edition for the story: Top African-American Business Leaders Pave the Way.

Boykin-Towns and husband Darryl C. Towns reside in Brooklyn, New York, and are the parents of Trinity ’19 and Jasmine ’13.

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RAK Club Donates $1,000 to Kingswood Youth Center

March 30, 2018 – Brewster’s Random Acts of Kindness Club (RAK) presented $1,000 to the Kingswood Youth Center at an all-school assembly.

This is RAK’s second sizeable donation of the year and second major donation to a local organization serving the local community. RAK members raised the money from their Valentine’s Day fundraiser.

In December RAK donated $1000 to Families in Transition’s Hope House, scheduled to open later this spring in Wolfeboro.

Wolfeboro police officer Peter Llewellyn, who is the Governor Wentworth School District resource officer and a member of the Kingswood Youth Center Board of Directors, accepted the check on behalf of the Center.

During the assembly, the top 10 community service students (service completed during this school year cumulative through the winter trimester) were recognized with a “crown” and presented gift bags with treats and gift cards for their efforts. The students (and their hours) are Anya Found (96), Momoka Fujishima (70), DuiDui Yue (67), Abbigayle DiVigglio (47), Hailey Buffington (47), Michelle Su (44), Olivia Papp (38), Monica Zhang (37), Sage Cordy (36), and Brianna Brown (34)

Also at the assembly a Special Olympian athlete spoke on behalf of Special Olympians New Hampshire (SONH) and what the experience has meant to her. She shared her gratitude for the support of those involved with unified sports and also of being selected to represent New Hampshire at the USA games in Seattle this summer.

The Brewster Best Buddies Club plans to raise enough monies to sponsor an SONH athlete for the summer games with a school dance (DJ’d by an SONH athlete who is a DJ) as well as through small donations from students and faculty and staff.

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