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For Friends and Families: The PAT College Fair

“It’s the first of its kind and I don’t know of any other schools doing this,” said College Counseling Director Terry Kung.

Terry was speaking of the first annual PAT College Fair, which took place on March 9, 2019 at the Upper School.

The brainchild of Terry and PAT Co-President Sabrina LeBlanc, the fair brought together 7th-11th grade families to discuss the college admissions process from the point of view of Brooklyn Friends School parents. “Who better to learn from about colleges than the people who went to them?” asked Sabrina.

Piloted last year by Sabrina – with her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania – the community-building event was a huge success. “Ever since my time as the Chair of the Brooklyn Friends Fund,” said Sabrina, “I’ve been thinking about how to advance a spirit of community at BFS, especially across divisions.”

Over bagels and coffee provided by the PAT, families chatted before opening remarks from David Buckwald, who has, as Terry put it, “a unique comprehension of admissions, from preschool to college.” David is the current Director of Admissions and Enrollment Management at Avenues: The World School, and a former admissions director at Columbia University and Bates College. David spoke to families about how important it is to utilize a “resource-rich” community such as the one he was addressing. He also discussed the need to “be in partnership” with an admissions committee and the relationship that is formed when a student applies to a college.

Families then proceeded to individual workshops with parent panelist representing the Ivies, the Small Liberal Arts, the Big States, the Big Privates, RISD (Rhode Island School of Design), and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

“This is really great,” said Sabina Hemminger, speaking of how much attention her son, 8th grader Baurice, was given by the Ivies panel. Sophomore Chelsea Parker shared “My mom and I enjoyed hearing from different alumni of different colleges because it helped to expand our choices of where to go. It was helpful to know these people are in our community and are able to reach out!”

“The main point that I think people should take from this,” said Ed Oliver, BFS Board of Trustees Co-Chair and HBCU panelist, “is the fact that we have a really diverse community of folks that have had a lot of different experiences – whether it’s college experience or professional experience – and because we have such a tight-knit community, it’s a great way to tap into the community and find out the information you need. You don’t have to go very far to find those resources if you look around the BFS community.”

“I was really happy to meet some other parents – not only from my alma mater – but other folks who I see around, said parent Jonny Belt, who represented RISD. “This is a great school that happens to have a lot of really creative and smart parents who have a long litany of jobs and things that they’ve been doing for a lot of years. It’s good to know that you’re not only a parent of a kid but you also have a career and you’re willing to share. I like the inclusiveness and warmth about the whole thing.”

In addition to bringing together families from various divisions, the event promised to give students an insider’s access to information in the college application process. “It’s really hard to select a college,” said Sabrina. “My mom ruined every family trip we took with college visits, starting when I was 11. I hated it at the time, but it was incredibly helpful. All that data helped me begin to understand how all these incredible institutions were different and [I could] begin to refine my options. I see this as more data to help [students] see what is possible and also to begin to refine lists.”

Sabrina also talked about uniting parents of different divisions and the goals of the PAT. “One of the most important missions of the PAT is to foster a sense of community among parents at the school. This event brings parents across divisions together in support of our students. Seems like a perfect fit to the mission. And it’s a great use of the resources of our parent body.”

Terry agreed. “While BFS has five divisions spread across three buildings, busy schedules have a way of keeping us to the ones we are directly tied to.” She continued: “The PAT College Fair was an incredible coming together of our community. It’s amazing when parents across divisions come together to share their own college experiences and, essentially, highlight the value of a tertiary education with middle- and upper school families. Such occasions further energize and inspire me in the work that I do, and, as a BFS parent, fuel me with gratitude for my third grader’s magical experience in our second home.”