Sasha Barthelemy, graduate of the Boston Prep Class of 2012 and the Franklin Pierce University Class of 2016, spoke at Boston Prep's annual gala, The Toast 2018. Below are her words and a recording of her powerful message.
I started Boston Prep back in 2005, and I vividly remember coming into school late on the first day and being asked where my belt was. And I was a little confused by that. But the next thing I knew, I found myself sitting in an office with a bunch of empty folding chairs, wondering why my mother would send me here and why these people cared so much about a belt, if my pants fit. My mother finally brought my belt into school, and I was finally able to go to class. As I walked into class, I noticed there was a sign that said Oberlin College Class of 2016 on it. And now I'm 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 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 college had even crossed my mind. And let me tell you, my journey was not easy!
Over the years, I managed to find my way back into that office with those folding chairs quite often. 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. My demerits rapidly piled up, detention became the new recess, and send outs were a part of my everyday routine. Watching Mr. Lester turn the phone around and say, “Call home," was something I heard way too often. I can comfortably sit here and say that I challenged almost every teacher I crossed paths with. And although I challenged with my behavior, people refused to give up on me. At times, when I felt like I was misunderstood, my 7th and 8th grade advisor, Ms. Crowley, took the time to really get to know me. I could share with her some of my craziest stories about my family struggles, my internal struggles, and more, and through all that, she still supported me.
With the move into high school, I slowly started to believe some of what my teacher had been telling me. I began to want to apply myself. I was no longer focused on making people laugh and testing my teacher’s limits, but trying to apply myself into this community my teachers were trying so hard to build. I joined the varsity basketball and soccer teams and that helped motivate me, as well as hold me accountable for my behavior. It was the first time in my life I made honor roll. I started to feel like I was a part of the Boston Prep community. I received many virtue awards, and I started to see a change in the way my teachers viewed me. This was the first time in my life that my mother was getting phone calls that were beyond my poor behavior and missed assignments and were about my positivity.
Everything wasn’t a complete turnaround though. Although my grades and my behavior improved, my attendance slipped. I was late to school almost every day, and I missed more days than I probably should have been. Especially senior year, once the college acceptances came rolling in, I was ready to move on. But like they’d always done, my teachers continued to push me, no matter how much I resisted. Ms. Wright, Mr. Henning, Mr. Dobberfuhl, Ms. Huang, Ms. Harkey, my coach Ms. Skrivan, and most importantly Dr. Wolff – They all challenged me, setting high expectations for me and held me to them right up until the end. When I made bad decisions, they followed through with consequences, and they were also there to support me in making things right. They supported me as I became an adult. 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 made it through a challenging senior year, and I managed to graduate from Boston Prep on time in 2012.
I could not really appreciate Boston Prep until I had graduated and went Franklin Pierce University, where I studied criminal justice. At the time, I had felt like my teachers were always on my back, but later on, I realized that they only had my best interest at heart. Little things like a belt and being on time actually matter in the real world.
And so at Franklin Pierce University, I was an active member in the community. I joined many different clubs, participated in many events, and branched out of my comfort zone and made friends with people who I wouldn’t have imagined being friends with prior to enrolling. I befriended my professors rather than pushing them away, and even became friends with the college President. I created a community for myself as well as a network.
But I stayed connected with Boston Prep. Greg Henning, a former teacher of mine, continued to push me and supported me throughout college. Ms. Wright also continued to check in on me regularly. Being able to have access to book stipends helped me tremendously. I worked hard, and just as my 6th grade homerooms banner had predicted, I was a member of the graduating class of 2016.
So what now?
I continue to give back to my community. I work for the Department of Children and Families as a social worker, and my main goal is to help strengthen and keep families together whenever possible. Being able to be a part of an agency that has the power to make such a great impact in people's lives is a big responsibility. My work is guided by the ethics that I learned over the years at Boston Prep, as well as a mindset that people can change and grow with the right supports and community in place.
Today, I am incredibly grateful for Boston Prep. I genuinely believe that being able to have a safe community made me who I am today. I was able to be a part of a community that genuinely believed that we would succeed and reiterated that message to me on a daily basis. I can honestly say that the phrase we repeated so many times while holding hands is true. Effort does determine success. But I would like to add that having a strong community is also key. Personally, I could not be more excited for the expansion of Boston Prep and for the ability for more students to have the strong community and education that all students deserve.
I want to say thank you for this tremendous honor. I want to take a moment to thank all of you that are here today because without your substantial contributions, we would not be where we are today. So, like I said, thank you!