I began attending
Boston Prep back in 2005 as a sixth-grader. I vividly remember walking into class. I noticed there was a sign that said "Oberlin College Class of 2016" on it. “2016?” I thought, wondering why these people thought it would take us so long to make it through middle school and high school. But little did I know the mission of Boston Prep was to go beyond middle and high school. My teachers already had a clear vision that I would be a part of the college graduating class of 2016 before going to college had even crossed my mind.
Stubborn, resistant, impulsive and misunderstood—those are some words I could use to describe myself at that point in my life. I was the student who purposely stepped out of line, just to see how far I could go and still get away with things. I challenged almost every teacher I met, yet they refused to give up on me. Eventually, I started to listen and believe what my teachers were telling me. High school was when I began to want to apply myself. I was no longer focused on making people laugh and testing my teachers’ limits. Instead I tried to be part of the community my teachers tried so hard to build. I joined the varsity basketball and soccer teams, which helped motivate me and hold me accountable for my behavior. For the first time in my life, I made honor roll. Everything wasn’t a complete turnaround, though. My attendance slipped, and I missed more school than I should have. But like they’d always done, my teachers continued to push me, no matter how much I resisted. They challenged me, setting high expectations for me and holding me accountable for them. When I made bad decisions, they followed through with consequences, and they were also there to support me in making things right. They believed in me, and although I never really admitted it, I believed in them. Thanks in large part to my teachers’ understanding, optimism and enthusiasm, I graduated from Boston Prep in 2012.
College Showed Me How Important My School Was
I could not really appreciate Boston Prep until I had graduated and started at Franklin Pierce University, where I studied criminal justice. In high school I felt like my teachers were always on my back, but later on, I realized that they only had my best interest at heart. I stayed connected with Boston Prep through college, with teachers checking in on me regularly as part of the Persistence Project. Being able to have access to book stipends helped me tremendously, as well. I worked hard, and just as my sixth-grade homeroom banner had predicted, I was a member of the Class of 2016. Now, I work for the Department of Children and Families as a social worker. I am guided by the ethics and mindset that I learned over the years at Boston Prep: That people can change and grow with the right supports and community in place. I am incredibly grateful for Boston Prep. I genuinely believe that being part of a safe, supportive community made me who I am today. I was able to be a part of a community that genuinely believed that I would succeed and reiterated that message to me on a daily basis. And that is something that all children should have. Now that Boston Prep is expanding, reaching more students, I could not be more excited for more students to have the strong community and education that all students deserve.
Excerpted from a speech by Boston Prep alumna Sasha Barthelemy (Boston Prep Class of 2012, Franklin Pierce University Class of 2016). Full speech in both text and video form available here.