I wish I had gone to Dana Hall School. I find myself having this thought or saying this out loud at least once a week. In my role as the Director of Community, Equity and Inclusion, together with our Admissions team, I am charged with spreading the word about our school to families who might not know about independent schools, or that a Dana Hall School education can be a reality for their daughters. Why is it that so many families do not know about our school? I turn to my own story for answers. I did not know independent schools existed when I was growing up, and I certainly did not know anybody who had gone to independent schools or boarding schools.
This did not phase me until I got to college and realized that I was not ready for life after high school. My brillant, #ladyboss roommate graduated from boarding school. I am grateful that she was so prepared as I benefited from her experience. She understood the value of connecting with professors during office hours to extend her learning. She managed her time like an expert and knew how to meet new people and nurture early-stage friendships. I secretly wondered if everybody who graduated from independent schools woke up fierce, with a latte in hand and to-do list that always managed to get done. Why wasn’t I ready? What did I miss?
My parents are Cuban immigrants. They fled Cuba in 1959 because of the Revolution led by dictator Fidel Castro and have never been back there. Like many Cuban immigrant families who left during that time, my family was not able to bring anything with them to the United States beyond what they could carry. My family was in a new country, and English was not their first language. Additionally, the educational opportunities were different in the United States, and independent schools were not on their radar. My family values education, but there was a gap of information and access.
My family was privileged with their migration story. They chose to leave Cuba and were granted status as political asylees and welcomed into the United States because of the tense political situation between the United States and the then Soviet Union (this is a story for another blog post). My point is that my parents did not know how to navigate the independent school world because they did not even know what independent schools were. They still do not fully understand the differences between public, charter, faith-based, private and independent schools. The governance structure of an independent school like Dana Hall allows for us to make decisions quickly based on the latest research and our experiences as educators. As educators, we have access to the best professional development opportunities thanks to our generous community. This is one of the many things that makes the student experience that much better at Dana Hall.
As an alumna of a diocesan, Catholic, all girls’ school, I enjoyed so many things about my school community. I credit my school for the bonds of sisterhood I still cherish with many friends. But, now as an educator, I look around at Dana Hall and cannot help but wonder how my life might have been different had my family known about this opportunity. It is frustrating to think about how many families think Dana Hall School is out of their reach, or not realistic for their family. Yet, I know how much stronger and better we are as a community and learning environment because of the many backgrounds and stories of each of our students and families. This is one of the many reasons I love my job. While I did not go here, it is great to work here and make this a reality for other families like mine. Now I just have to figure out how I can get a class ring!