“You’re a Firecracker” by Genesis De Los Santos ’15

Genesis De Los Santos ’15 was one of two students voted by her classmates to speak at her graduation on May 29, 2015. At Nobles, Genesis was a Prefect, Middle School Mentor and travelled to India, Vietnam and Cambodia.  She matriculated at Harvard College in the Fall of 2015 but returned to Nobles this past fall for the first annual Family Dinner with her family. The following is a shortened version of her graduation speech, “You’re a Firecracker.”

Genesis De Los Santos '15

I walked into Nobles on a dewy September morning in 2011 with fear glistening in my eyes. The bus ride was a quiet one. At least, for me it was; seniors, juniors, and sophomores in the back were bustling with excitement for the first day of a routine that would repeat itself for nine more months of the year. I walked into Nobles afraid, and in some ways, I walked into Nobles believing that this would be the worst four years of my life.

I was a stranger, and I felt alone amongst my peers. Little did I know, some of them were feeling the same type of teenage anxiety that was overtaking me. The first weeks of my time at Nobles were spent underneath the counter of the front desk. In fact, every afternoon that fall, right after thirds field hockey practice, I would run to Mrs. Burr. In this small office and under her watch, I felt at ease. And it was there, under the counter, beneath the mailboxes, and with a stuffed dog that I first started to see myself at Nobles. It was also there, while I was taking my daily nap, that I first met Mr. Henderson.

Every afternoon, right when I jumped off of the bus and slammed the car door, tears would start flowing down my face. My father never managed to form the words “How was your day?” or “Como te fue?” on his lips, because my tears conveyed exactly how my day had gone. In many ways, I was afraid of Nobles because I thought that I had to hide who I was. Everyone around me seemed to be making friends and transitioning with ease. Much of my freshman year was spent feeling distanced from the people around me.

I can remember the suffocating heat of the summer of 2005 vividly. The landline rang straight through the summer and into the fall. Each day, I watched my mother in prayer. The flicker of the candle illuminated our small apartment’s kitchen; the blue tiles glistened under the candle’s light. I watched my mother suffering as she shrank under the pressure of possibly raising a family on her own. My father had gone on a short trip to visit my grandmother in the Dominican Republic, the place where both he and my mother were born. Yet, his trip was cut short when an 18-wheeler struck his car and left it in shambles, and my father was under the debris. That summer, he went through two consecutive comas.

As the oldest, I was expected to help my mother around the home and with my siblings. As my mother worked back-to-back shifts that fall, I made sure my siblings ate at least one bowl of cereal every night before bed. Even as my mother fell deeper into desolation, I held my head high, in hopes that carrying her responsibilities on my shoulders would alleviate her despair. Most days after school, my siblings and I would climb the cream-colored staircase all the way to our third floor apartment. Once inside, I would mount a chair to reach the cabinet and pull out some Froot Loops. By the time my mom got home from work, the table would be cleared, the dishes would be done, our homework packets would be placed neatly into our folders, and the last page of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat would be read.

This was the way that my household functioned until late November. My father came home in time for Thanksgiving and, after three surgeries, had fully recovered, but this experience has never left me. It has shaped the person I am today. Now, I catch sight of my mother wobbling into the house after a long shift of cleaning hotel rooms, leaning against the wall for breath, and I watch as my father’s wrinkled face droops with a desire for sleep. In these moments, I realize that I carry their dreams and their faith; I carry them. I constantly balance the life that I live at Nobles with my household responsibilities, which include taking care of my five-year-old sister while my parents work weekends and providing the emotional support that my mom and dad cannot always offer to both my thirteen-year-old brother and sixteen-year-old sister.

In order to find a place at Nobles, I had to be open about who I was at home and I had to allow Nobles to continue to build upon that person. In order to liberate my voice from the chains that prohibited it from freely forming words, I had to allow Nobles to be a part of my life. If you asked me to pinpoint the exact moment when Nobles became my home, I would not be able to tell you. Perhaps it was the first time I made an appearance in an MSA video talking about my heritage, or maybe it was the time during an SLC election that I said, “I brought the party to the people.” It might not have been either of these moments. What I do know is that Mrs. Burr said these words to me: “You’re a firecracker.” And from that day forward, I allowed myself to be vulnerable and I gave myself, my quirks, my all to this community.

I’ll leave you with this: the other day, I spent some time sitting under my counter in the front desk. The dog isn’t there anymore; the mailboxes are still the same gray color that sparkles when it catches the light. Perhaps a couple of new names have been added here and there as faculty members come and go, and the blue-green rug is just as rough as it was freshman year. In that moment, sitting beneath the counter with my legs crossed, I searched for closure, and I looked to say goodbye to the 14-year-old girl that pondered if she would ever belong. Yet, here she is, and for this, I say thank you, thank you to the class of 2015 for being there for me, for truly being “all in this together.” Thank you for opening your arms and your hearts and accepting me and accepting those around you. You’ve caught me even when I’ve fallen flat on my face, you’ve brushed my shoulders off, and you’ve helped me free my voice. And it is because of you and the Nobles community that I will never again allow myself to waste time underneath counters. We might be leaving 10 Campus Drive for today, but it will always be in our memories, it will always be our home.

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Ambrose Faturoti ’99: Voice of the People

An abridged version of the following article appeared in the winter 2016-17 issue of the Nobles magazine.

Ambrose Faturoti

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
—From “Let America Be America Again,” Langston Hughes

“The greatest lesson I learned at Nobles was how to recognize, cultivate and share my voice,” says Ambrose Faturoti ’99. “I learned how to enter conversations respectfully without compromising my truth or assuming I had all the answers.” Now, as program director for the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), he is using his voice to advocate for underrepresented communities in a political maelstrom that jeopardizes their path to citizenship.

Faturoti’s own parents migrated to Boston from Nigeria when his father was pursuing his doctorate in economics at Boston University. Faturoti recalls his father working diligently with him on his letters, and always his family’s firm belief in the value of education. Those lessons took hold, and Faturoti excelled in advanced programs at various Boston public schools. Mentors at the Steppingstone Foundation, and later at Nobles, continued to support his achievements.

Faturoti is thankful for his Nobles education, but is also honest about the adjustment he faced coming from an urban public school and a community of more modest means. “It was the first time I realized how much some families had, and how much I didn’t.” Grateful for parents who provided all that he needed, he nevertheless awoke to “socioeconomic difference and the blind spots these respective experiences engendered.” He found fellowship and understanding in affinity groups Brother 2 Brother and the Multicultural Students Association. He also developed as a leader through experiences with Nobles faculty, staff and coaches, deeming those relationships the school’s “special sauce.”

In 2005, Faturoti came back to Nobles as an English teacher and diversity coordinator after earning his B.A. in English and African and African American Studies, and a master’s in English and American Studies from the University of Virginia. “Returning to serve as a resource for students and families who may have been feeling what I felt as I came through Nobles was gratifying. I appreciated the opportunity to share the strategies that helped me succeed, and hope I was able to pay forward what I received,” he says. He also pursued outside service opportunities to help teach young people “how to operate as stakeholders in their local communities.” Those experiences have proven invaluable to the youth and outreach work he still does at his church in Mattapan and with MIRA.

In 2009, Governor Deval Patrick recognized Faturoti’s contributions to his community, selecting him as his special assistant and director of the Governor’s Urban Agenda. He says the role opened his eyes to “the ways talented, well-intentioned leadership can impact lives for good.” Two task areas he found the most powerful and personally meaningful were criminal records reform and immigration. “Unfortunately, efforts to appear ‘tough on crime’ incentivized a lot of bad policy.” Determined to change that cycle, the governor’s team sought “to promote voices demanding a second shot at reentering society through accessing gainful employment.” The 2010 CORI Reform bill “banned the box” on employment applications that proved prohibitive to candidates with records, restricted who could view records during the employment process, and reduced the time after which state criminal records would be sealed for felonies. “This fight was really a victory for advocates for fair and rehabilitative sentencing policies, and for scores of people who deserve a second chance at building a life, even if they have made a mistake along the way,” says Faturoti.

The team at the governor’s office also blocked a federal immigration program called “Secure Communities.” The program, which sought to merge the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (formerly INS) database with that of the FBI meant that individuals whose records were pulled for even minor infractions, like driving without a license, could be targeted for deportation. The governor’s office and a strong network of advocates coordinated statewide town hall forums; polling Massachusetts residents showed that 75 percent opposed the program. A subsequent letter from the secretary of public safety to the Department of Homeland Security “changed the trajectory to target violent, undocumented people for removal: a win for families. As a child of immigrants, this win was really personal to me and shaped my interest to continue advocating for these communities after leaving the office,” says Faturoti.

Faturoti continued his advocacy as program director at the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants (ORI), an organization seeking to promote integration by helping clients learn English, gain financial independence and find community. “Refugees and asylees remain some of our most vulnerable neighbors and have often seen terrible things before ever reaching us. After undergoing rigorous vetting that lasts around 26 months, they are looking for a welcoming place to start their lives again—lives that they didn’t ask to be interrupted. The least we can do is attempt to provide them the welcoming environment any of us would want for ourselves. I believe this work is in line with some of our most deeply held social, religious and humanitarian ideals,” Faturoti says.

On a typical day at MIRA, Faturoti communicates regulations to his members, answers public inquiries about resources available to refugee and immigrant communities, plans or leads technical assistance trainings to support organizations in Massachusetts serving those communities, or gives interviews to media outlets about refugee- and immigrant-related policy. His work promotes citizenship, job readiness and adult basic education services. “There is no greater reward than a recently naturalized citizen reporting that they registered to vote for the first time,” Faturoti says.

On Nov. 9, 2016, many hoping to one day cast those votes as new Americans woke to a tenuous climate regarding immigration. Whether they came seeking asylum or educational opportunities for their children, or to reunite with their families or support those back home, they are questioning their future. “Our greatest fears amid the changing administration are the plight of the 11 million undocumented individuals here in the United States. Due to the inaction of Congress, this is a really uncertain time for them. Right now, we are focused on protecting the rights of our most vulnerable neighbors as the new administration begins and are willing to partner with anyone interested in championing their concerns,” Faturoti says.

Faturoti, a scholar of American history with a comprehensive understanding of the current backlash against immigrants, is disturbed by what he sees. “The most troubling aspect of the global refugee crisis is undoubtedly the vast information gap that exists in our country. In order for a refugee to ever land on our shores, they go through extensive, exhaustive vetting. Despite the facts involved, sensationalism prevails, and it shocks and saddens those of us who spend time assisting families in their efforts to rebuild their lives. The most vulnerable among us are victimized and revictimized, scapegoating their struggle to score political points,” Faturoti says. He cites the troubling example of the hotline established by Attorney General Maura Healey to report bias-related threats on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016; the hotline received 300 reports of harassment in Massachusetts by week’s end.

While Faturoti acknowledges challenging times ahead for immigration reform and the communities he serves, he is fiercely optimistic about the change that concerned, involved citizens can bring. He has a charge for Nobles students: “The world-class education you are receiving from brilliant, compassionate educators has already prepared you to lead in civic engagement. The leadership Nobles works to cultivate in you is sorely needed at times like these. For those interested in supporting the practical and compassionate integration of refugees and immigrants, I would encourage you to learn where your elected leadership stands on issues you care about, and if you don’t like it, pick up the phone and call their office. If they are holding a town hall, attend. Volunteer for causes and candidates for public office that move you. Most important of all, recognize that you have a voice and take the courage to use it to serve others. Leadership for the public good hinges on courage.”

–Kim Neal

Find out more about MIRA

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Robert Pinderhughes ’67

Robert Pinderhughes ’67 was recognized as Nobles first graduate of color during the first annual Family Dinner on November 16th. When asked to share a few words with the 200+ attendees, he offered the following thoughts:

“I just want to say It’s a moving experience for me to come and see this many people of color in the house. When I was here it was a very isolating experience. I told people at my table some of these details but connecting with people on this is extremely important for students who are going through the experience and if students feel isolated you need to reach out to somebody and connect with somebody and help that interaction build your understanding of who you are and what your true value is. Nobody can give that to you but you and if you don’t do it, you get lost in the process. It took me a long time to realize that. I could go on for a long time talking about my experiences here but I am keeping an eye on the time. I do appreciate the recognition even though I don’t think I did anything exceptional. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. But I do I do feel that my experience, whatever it was, was worth this time coming. I am very happy to see everyone.”

Noble and Greenough School

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First Annual Family Dinner

November 16, 2016, was a historic night for Nobles; it marked the First Annual Family Dinner, the largest gathering of people of color in the school’s 150 years. Despite 240 guests who overflowed the dining hall, the atmosphere felt intimate and the mood, buoyant. From the graduates, families and students, to faculty and staff who came together, everyone had one reason for coming: to connect. That was the vision of Devin Nwanagu ’05, a beloved Nobles graduate who was part of the development office team when she unexpectedly passed away in December 2014. As Nwanagu’s hopes were honored, so was Nobles’ first graduate of color, Bob Pinderhughes ’67, who shared a glimpse into his past at the school.

Graduates, students, parents and faculty of color shared their stories.

Graduates, students, parents and faculty of color shared their stories.

Co-Deans of Diversity Edgar De Leon ’04 and Erica Pernell described Nwanagu’s vision and impetus for the gathering, their work at Nobles, and some historical and social context of Pinderhughes’ attendance at the school. Then, mixed tables of graduates, current families and students, faculty and staff took turns to share and listen to each others’ stories of identity spanning cultures and generations.
Just one week after a presidential election met by a spectrum of passionate reactions, many among Nobles’ community of color expressed that the timing of the event couldn’t have been better. The long-planned dinner was originally expected to have a turnout of about 50. The five-fold increase of guests belied a deep desire for connection, and the thoughtful program by De Leon and Pernell laid the groundwork. Director of Graduate Affairs Greg Croak ’06 cares deeply about the vision his friend Nwanagu sought to fulfill, and has worked on behalf of the graduates of color committee; he was instrumental in making the event possible.

De Leon said, “Today is a recognition of the greatness that people of color have brought to this place over the last 50 years. Tonight also marks the beginning of the next 50 years. Just as Bob Pinderhughes’ bravery shaped this place, our bravery in this current moment will shape Nobles forever.”

Noble and Greenough School

Reflecting on the event, Pernell said, “It was an incredible multigenerational gathering that reminded us all that our struggles have not changed—that we still share them—and that we also share the joy that comes out of resilience.”

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Kasib Sabir ’03 Speaks to Boston Muslim Young Professionals (BYMP)

In June 2015, Kasib “Skip” Sabir ’03 sat down with Boston Muslim Young Professionals (BYMP) to talk about his advice for younger people, titles for his hypothetical memoir, and Islam’s influence on his life.

While at Nobles, he was a prolific visual artist and risk-taker in both Ceramics and AP Drawing classes. Sabir demonstrated elite speed and strength on both the football field and the basketball court. An M.C. by trade, he stirred hype for Milton Weekend by jumping onstage and freestyling at pep rallies.

After graduating from Nobles, Sabir studied early childhood education at the University of Delaware and history at U Mass Boston, where he received his degree. He is a case manager for the Boston Public Health Commission and is committed to serving the needs of disadvantaged youth and adults, including homeless, emancipated youth and special-needs populations.

 

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“A Bold Moment” by Abbey Anderson ’14

AbbeyAnderson14

Abbeygale Anderson ’14 was one of two students voted by her classmates to speak at graduation. At Nobles, Anderson was an officer in the Multicultural Student Association, a leader in Sister 2 Sister and a founding member of Students for Socioeconomic Awareness. She was also a boarder, prefect, a varsity rower, a Chinese language scholar and received The Nash Prize for Executive Ability. She traveled to New Orleans and India on community service trips and was involved in CivicWeek, a service-learning program at Northwestern University. The Global Online Academy course examining HIV that she took at Nobles inspired her Class I Project with a gastroenterologist at Beth Israel. She matriculated at Dartmouth College in the Fall of 2014. The following is a shortened version of her graduation speech, originally delivered on May 30, 2014.

A Bold Moment

“When I was 7, I moved to Brooklyn, New York from Jamaica. One night I was walking back to my broken-down apartment building, walking the same trail I usually walked with my babysitter.  Outside of the elevator, Andrew, a 14-year-old family friend who lived in the same building, stood beside another teenage boy. Andrew was filled with rage.

I backed away gradually. I thought, ‘What is this boy, this friend I have followed and admired, about to do?’  There was a bulge in his pocket, and because I knew him well I was aware that he carried a knife. He used his thumb to slide the knife open, and with no hesitation, jabbed it into the stranger’s breast. He glared at me and ran away, leaving the stranger to die on the hardwood floor in the hallway in front of me.

That night, two police officers found me in the corner of my pink floral bathroom. In the fetal position, I stuck myself between the off white tub and the toilet. They said, ‘Can we ask you a few questions about what you saw, honey?’ Remember, I was 7 at the time; they treated me with delicacy. When I opened my mouth to speak nothing came out.

They asked another question. I tried to speak and nothing came out. A third question, and this time I spoke with a stammer. I stuttered so badly they gave up and left me to fall asleep that night in the bathroom.

Ever since that night I have stuttered. My mom has never been able to afford a speech therapist, but we tackled my speech impediment in different ways. I spoke slowly. I sang when I just couldn’t get out the words.  I paused, took a breath, and started over. I still struggle with stuttering.

The first time I really had to confront my stuttering at Nobles was during our U.S. history debate. Each person gets a topic and a stance to argue. My topic was super PACS, and I argued that super PACS were unconstitutional—that they lead to the domination over many by a few.

I had to start with an opening statement of about 150 words. I completely butchered it. I’m sure no one could understand me, but I kept going.  This time, I couldn’t speak slowly, I couldn’t sing the words, I couldn’t pause, I knew I just had to keep going.  I refused to let Ms. [Marcella] Maldonado down; even more, I refused to let myself down.  It was time to speak. Eventually, I got much more comfortable. My stutter became minimal. And I kicked butt.

When I was a junior and realized I had Mr. [Bob] Henderson for AP European History, I went to his office to warn him that I have a speech impediment. When I told him this, Henderson looked and me and said, ‘And? So what?’ Thank you for that response; it made me realize that I do not need to apologize for something that is a part of me.

Being at Nobles, I have been given the opportunity to be who I am without any apologies. Nobles has become a place where I can take risks. It is a place where I am no longer afraid to put myself in front of a crowd and speak with all my imperfections.  My stutter will remain with me, and that’s okay.

To my teachers: I have never felt more supported and loved in any environment. When I first came to Nobles, I was angry. Angry that I knew no one. Angry that I always felt a little behind my peers. But you allowed me to realize that this anger was fear of not fitting in, fear of not fulfilling expectations.  You helped me turn my fear into fuel. I’m not angry anymore. I’m motivated, I’m inspired, I’m grateful.

To my mom: I would not be up here if it weren’t for you. My mother came here, from Jamaica with 75 cents in her pocket. She used this money to call me, the daughter she had no choice but to leave behind for a while. I appreciate the risk and struggle you’ve been through to give me such phenomenal opportunities.

To my little brother, Jordan: I love you. You push me to be a better role model every day. I hope you’re proud of your big sister.

To the class of 2014: Our class is bound by the legacy we have shaped this year. I will cherish the laughter and the memories. I know that this will probably be the last time that we are all together. Thank you for giving me the courage that I need to speak without hesitation.”

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Letter from the Dean

Tejada-8457 (1)Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to attend numerous Nobles graduate events in various cities. At these events, graduates from all backgrounds are interested in finding out how the landscape of diversity has changed at Nobles throughout the years. The truth is that the landscape has changed a great deal even during the seven years that I’ve been working at the school.

This work is constantly evolving and we are always reevaluating our program and how it best serves all of our students. Graduates, and especially graduates of color, are also interested in hearing about diversity statistics, specifically the number of students of color who are now at Nobles.

Many are both surprised and thrilled to hear that Nobles is now comprised of twenty-eight percent of students who self-identify as people of color.  They are even more surprised to hear that the diversity of our faculty reflects that of the student body—about a quarter of our faculty self-identifies as people of color.

This conversation usually leads to graduates sharing their own experiences around being a student of color during the era they attended.  Many of these memories are framed around the sentence, “I remember being one of a few students (if not the only student) of my specific identity. ”

Our conversation then usually evolves into not only the changing demographics of the school but also the programs and initiatives that have developed in order to support a diverse community—affinity groups, diversity clubs and organizations, professional development, community discussions, curriculum work, etc.  Graduates enjoy hearing about the breadth of our program and stories such as the one about of our affinity group for males of color being in need of a larger meeting space due to the number of students (about forty boys) who voluntarily take part in the program.

Every year all Nobles faculty members design at least one diversity goal that they are interested in working on throughout the year.  Students also lead and design a variety of initiatives throughout the year.

One of our main goals is that everyone in our community finds a way to connect to our diversity program—it is a central part of our mission and everyone has a role in this work.

Sincerely,

Steven Tejada

Dean of Diversity Initiatives

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Opening Letter from the Chair

RobertaOsorioI am pleased to announce the reformation of the Graduates of Color Committee (GoCC). This group is designed to build affinity for all graduates of color: Graduates of African-American, Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Indian, Native American and bi-racial descent, among others. We hope this group strengthens connections between graduates of color and continues your lifelong relationship with the school.

After a hiatus, Devin Adanma Nwanagu ’05 reestablished the committee in the fall of 2014. Her energy and determination brought together a dedicated group of graduates to carry on the work.

Devin’s passing on Sunday, December 14, 2014 shocked us all. She will be remembered for the ways that she touched each of us who had the privilege of knowing her. She left a massive void in the Nobles community, but we are buoyed by the light that she shone on us all and that inspires us to keep working on the things important to her. As such, the members of the GoCC are dedicated to a successful revival of the committee’s work.

Furthermore, her family, classmates, and friends have established the Devin Nwanagu ’05 Scholarship Fund, which will be awarded “with preference given to female students of color, who, like Devin, bring dedication, motivation and sportsmanship to the Nobles classrooms and playing fields.” As a testament to Devin, we are encouraging everyone to make a donation to her scholarship. To do so, specify “Devin Nwanagu Scholarship” on this donation form. Any size donation will go a long way towards fully endowing the fund and securing Devin’s legacy.

If you would like to join the Committee or update your information, please write to GraduateAffairs@nobles.edu.

Sincerely,

Roberta Osorio ’97

Chair, Graduates of Color Committee 

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