Outreach to prospective students takes many forms at Brooklyn Friends School. In addition to strong partnerships with organizations such as Prep for Prep, Teak, A Better Chance and many others, the school’s enrollment office is active at school fairs and family events throughout New York City. Earlier in the school year, on Oct. 5, Director of Admissions Outreach Crystal Backus ’96 teamed with Associate Director of Diversity and Institutional Equity Russell Marsh to attend an LGBTQ fair for Brooklyn families. The fair and panel discussion included representatives from Packer (the host) Berkeley Carroll, St. Ann’s, Brooklyn Heights Montessori, Poly Prep, Saint Ann’s and BFS. “There used to be a fair in Manhattan but it hasn’t happened in a few years so we welcomed this opportunity,” explained Crystal. She and Russell also brought along BFS parent Barbara Senecal-Davis who assisted Crystal and Russell during the fair and participated in a panel discussion with other parents.
“The hope is that we will continue to participate in this with even more community interest,” explained Russell. “Over the years a lot of LGBTQ families that are looking for a good school, with good values, have come to a place like BFS but time and again I’ve also heard them say, ‘I want to know that we’re not the only ones. I want to know that my child will be welcomed, that our family will be supported.'”
“It’s important to show that we’re an inclusive community that supports all families, and that there is a community here to welcome everyone and help newcomers connect with families and affinity groups,” Crystal added. “The fair is another way for people to talk about this school and their experiences.”
Russell nodded. “The best part of the event was hearing from the parents. Their experiences are often different from their kids’ experiences in terms of meeting other parents and building friendships at the school. I’m happy to say there were no horror stories. At none of these schools did parents say they were treated as outsiders, but that they’d like to see more LGBTQ families.”
Barbara has been a BFS parent for four years. She and her partner selected BFS because a relative had attended a Friends school in Rhode Island and loved it. Barbara and her family were drawn to “the Quaker philosophy of education as well as the diversity,” she said. “Diversity is important to me, as well as my identity as lesbian as what that means for my family. I love the diversity of BFS and the ways in which not only students but parents and families are encouraged to challenge themselves to think about others and ways to make change for a stronger community where we are not just ‘all the same’ but embraced, heard and seen for our differences.”
Since joining the school, Barbara has served continuously on the PAT’s Diversity Committee and spent two of those years as the committee’s co-chair. “I enjoyed the event held at Packer” she said. “It was a great way to dialogue about GLBTQ life in independent schools in Brooklyn and to explore strengths as well as areas of growth. It was wonderful to see so many GLBTQ parents interested in the process and exploring options for their families.”