A Profile in Philanthropy and Volunteerism: Barbara Senecal Davis
Anyone who knows Barbara Senecal Davis is accustomed to seeing her at almost every event at Brooklyn Friends School. As a longtime parent and volunteer, Barbara and her family have been at the School for eight years. While she currently serves as a Lower School VP alongside Avani Kadakia, she has co-clerked and been on several committees at Brooklyn Friends, including the Brooklyn Friends Fund Parent Committee. Her volunteerism and dedication to BFS is what first drew me to Barbara, but what really caught my breath and inspires me is her personal story.
Growing up in western Pennsylvania, Barbara had a childhood that could be described as a quintessential ‘country’ upbringing. She happily recalls spending most of her free time playing outside on acres of land and riding trail-bikes through the woods. She remembers that during the winter months her family used a wood-burning stove to heat the house, where she lived with her parents and older siblings.
Her father, mother, and both grandparents worked in the steel mills until the industry collapsed. With education being a cornerstone of her childhood, Barbara’s father began working at Thiel College in the hopes that one day, Barbara and her siblings could attend school there. She indeed attended Thiel as an undergraduate and went far beyond to pursue a doctorate and Ph.D in New York City. Barbara currently serves as the Executive Minister at First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York.
Echoing her father’s passion for education, Barbara shared the hopes and dreams she now has for her two daughters at BFS. In telling her story, I began to see BFS through her eyes. What drew Barbara here and keeps her at BFS is the community. Simply put, Barbara says that BFS feels like home. She loves the changemakers curriculum, appreciates that every teacher has the agility to answer questions around social justice and equity, and believes fiercely in our growth mindset. Her deep love for BFS comes from trust. Barbara expressed her gratitude that she doesn’t have to worry about her children being treated differently here because they have two moms.
The promise of a good education that her father instilled in Barbara now comes full circle. Attending her undergraduate school on an educational waiver because of her father, she draws a parallel with how the financial aid program at BFS empowers families like hers to be here. Growing up in a culture where you didn’t talk about money, Barbara finds it empowering to have conversations about economic diversity, what it feels like, and not just what it looks like. In her words, Barbara says she gives to the Brooklyn Friends Fund because she “believes so deeply in the work of this place. I would encourage everyone to give to the Fund and not worry about the amount. There’s something in the givingthat speaks to the desire to build community.”
I am grateful to have learned Barbara’s story and am honored to share it with you. Every member of BFS has a story to tell. Together, we become one story. Our lived experiences contribute to this tapestry we create together as one community, one BFS with infinite impact.