Gillian Giangrande transferred at the beginning of her 11th grade year to Brookewood from a prestigious public high school in Connecticut. Read to find out what she thinks of Brookewood’s different style of education.
(1) Describe the school you went to in Connecticut. What was its emphasis?
I went to a large public school (with about 3,000 kids) and the emphasis was mostly on personal success. We had nationally ranked academics, with a couple dozen kids going to Ivies every year (and another couple dozen going to Notre Dame, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Tufts, and other ivy type schools). Kids succeeded in a county, state, and very commonly at a national level in sports. In addition, students were recognized at an international level for their academics. One of my closest friends who I swam with won the 2015 Google Science Fair; she created an inexpensive, temperature-independent test for the ebola virus. The public school helped me to think critically and connect my learning to the greater world.
(2) What do you find different about the education that you’re receiving at Brookewood?
Because Brookewood is a liberal arts school, it values the development of the entire person, not just as a critical-thinking student. My teachers were amazing back home, and they knew me well, challenged me, and definitely had a huge impact on the person I am now, but the school as a whole didn’t know me well. I could walk into my headmaster's office and he would have no clue if I was a student at the school. Brookewood is unique in that every teacher, even if you don’t have a certain one, knows you at a personal level.
At my other high school, there were over 200 courses I could chose from, and after you met your requirements you can chose to specialize. At Brookewood I have done the opposite. I had to stop specializing in subjects, and start developing as a whole student. I didn’t see the value in developing as a whole student because I didn’t understand why it’s important to be a well-rounded student. I started to see it when my success branched outside the math and science classrooms. I loved how I could go from having a conversation on limits, centripetal force, to talking about the summa, to the use of perspective in paintings. I realized the reason we strive to be a liberal arts school that develops the whole student is because knowledge is how you connect with one another. If you specialize in high school, it makes it harder to connect with others.
(3) How are you able to keep up with swimming at Brookewood?
Keeping up with swimming at Brookewood is challenging but it definitely makes it a lot easier that I have such an immense amount of support from teachers. I swim 6-8 times a week usually 2.5+ hours a day. Balancing morning practices, afternoon practices, dryland, and taking all the AP’s Brookewood has to offer is hard, but this past year, I’ve had more teachers support me and help me develop plans for time management. They’ve helped me achieve my goals in and out of the classroom by keeping me focused on the now, and not stressing too much about the future. They’ve instilled in me a balance that will help serve me when I go on to swim in college. Even though Brookewood doesn’t currently have a swim team, they’ve set it up so that I could swim attached to St John’s College High School and still have the opportunity to compete for brookewood.
(4)Do you think religious education is important in the school setting? Why or why not?
Before I came to Brookewood I didn’t. But once I did I realized it is the most crucial part of an education. Theology is the study of God and all of his creation. I laughed at Mr.Booz last year during the first week of Fundamentals of Christian Theology when he said this will be the most important class you are going to take in school. I said, “ahhaha--thats funny because religion classes are easy.” As time went on, I realized why he said it was the most important class; it shapes who we become. If we don’t understand the whole reason we are on this planet we lose sight of why we’re doing what we are doing. The purpose of us living is to live a life that brings out Christ's missions of ourselves,to evangelize, and lead as many people to heaven as possible. I attest a lot of my growth to my family, friends, teachers, Fr. Dan at St. Andrews, but I think mostly to what I’ve learned in Mr.Booz’s Theology class. I’ve learned what love is, and have been challenged to think selflessly and more intensely. Mr.Booz says, “to love someone is to desire the good for them, and want to bear their crosses for them--to suffer for them. It is easy to want good things to happen to someone but it’s hard to love him/her enough to want to take on his/her suffering.” I have seen my heart grow for others, and I no longer gain the most happiness from myself, but from when I view others’ success--how much more exciting that is!
(5)Do you think an all-girls education is important? Why or why not?
Yes, and no. I do think that is important to go to school with boys before college because it is different than going to all girls school. In life, you aren’t divided between boys and girls and you need to be able to work well with them. But I do see a value in single sex education. It allows us to be who we are without worrying about boys’ opinions of us. It allows us to develop confidence in ways that we can’t if we’re surrounded by boys.
(6) What do you want to study in college and what career path do you see yourself in?
After my year at Brookewood tutoring a number of girls, I’ve realized I have a special gift with that and have considered maybe majoring in math, my strongest subject, and becoming a teacher, so that I could influence kids and shape them the way teachers have shaped me.
(7)What are some of your favorite things about Brookewood School?
Definitely the people. I love that I can come to school, and expect to be greeted by everyone with a glowing smile. I can talk to my teachers about anything, and they offer honest and helpful advice. I love that my friends have known me a year but love me and treat me as if we’ve known them my entire life. Teresa Petruccelli (2016 alumna) told me when I came to Brookewood that my life would never be the same because of all the people. She couldn’t have been more accurate. The people at Brookewood have changed me, and there's not a doubt that they will stick with me for the rest of my life.
Two episodes come to mind when I think about the cheerful servitude of the faculty and staff at Brookewood. Last year, when I was having car troubles, Mr. Hawley helped me and took me to get my brakes fixed. And every time my Jeep died on me, he would help! At no other school would the Executive Directory take a kid to get her car fixed and offer his help even in the summer heat!
Another time was two weeks after Mr. McPherson had a heart attack, he took 15 loud 11th & 12th grade girls up to Boston for four days. There was a LOT of singing and dancing (and, of course, we let him get in a couple Bruce Springsteen songs)! At no other school would the Headmaster of the school bring 15 teenage girls up to Boston in the van (for 8 hours) by himself after having a heart attack 2 weeks prior--what amazing commitment Mr. McPherson has!