Every year at this time we take a moment to drop in on the newest BFS Merit Scholars to see how they’ve fared in their first year in the Upper School. Class of ’19 scholars Violet G., Maxine S. and Asca A. weighed in on their newfound freedoms, opportunities to speak out, and increased academic rigor.
Brooklyn Friends School awards up to three merit scholarships annually to eighth graders who are continuing into Upper School. These scholarships are worth $10,000 for each year the student is enrolled in the Upper School as long as they consistently demonstrate strength in scholarship, service, and behavior.
Violet, who entered BFS in fourth grade, weighed the pros of making new high school friends with the horrors of more tests, “specifically midterms,” she lamented, “but I really liked the system that the school had this year.” She’s been particularly enjoying algebra and her history class. “I find the French Revolution really interesting,” she said. “It’s sometimes hard to imagine that these things really happened, and for some reason I like memorizing dates and quotes.” She also likes the subject enough that next summer she plans to attend a French immersion summer camp.
She’s also been diving into after-school activities including playing JV volleyball this past fall and acting in the Upper School play, Lucky Number 11 this spring. “I played a slightly self-absorbed and clueless model who complains that being beautiful isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” A few years ago she got a real-life taste of acting when she played one of the ensemble cast in Wes Andersen’s feature film Moonrise Kingdom.” “I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I played the smallest role ever and you can barely see me but it was an amazing experience.”
BFS lifer Maxine started in the blue room at age three and has been through many changes at the Pearl Street school building over the past 12 years. She was particularly psyched to be part of the inaugural class in the Upper School’s Lawrence Street building this fall. “The new building is amazing,” she said. “I really enjoy the freedom that comes with being in high school. My classes have a different teaching structure than what I’ve been used to, which definitely makes each class unique and challenging in its own way. My favorite part has been the opportunity to meet new people and make friends with those in their sophomore, junior, and senior years. Just walking down the hallway and having people from all different grades say, ‘Hi Maxine!’ makes me so happy.” She was downright blithely effusive on this point. “When I was younger and in the Pre and Lower School, I always looked up to the older students so now being able to call them my friends is really nice.”
On the other hand, being in such a small, close-knit community with the same people almost daily from preschool to puberty does have its social drawbacks. “The social aspect of attending school can be tough at times,” Maxine admitted, “because everyone is going through something, whether it’s friends, family, puberty…You have a support group and everyone is very close but…I still find that social dynamics can be hard to navigate.”
Academically, she’s particularly excited about the history courses offered in Upper School. “Since fourth grade I have been most passionate about history,” she said. Not surprisingly she’s on the Model UN team and was a power player on the Varsity Volleyball team last fall. Outside of BFS this committed athlete also plays on lacrosse teams. She takes jazz dance outside of school and choreographed and performed in the BFS dance concert.
Asca, (pictured at top) has been at the school since second grade and is also deeply involved with extracurricular athletics. “For the past few years, my life has been revolving around rhythmic gymnastics,” she said. “It’s a sport where a gymnast performs a routine with one of the 6 apparati: ball, ribbon, rope, clubs, ball, and floor. I practice around 16 hours a week in Flushing and compete in local, regional, and if qualified, national competitions.”
Her passion and busy schedule limit her involvement in school committees and clubs but she maintains her school spirit in other ways. “My first year in high school has been going great, both academically and socially,” Asca said. “My favorite part is the freedom that I have. With this comes responsibility but I enjoy this sense of authority that I have over myself.” Academically she has discovered a previously untapped passion for advanced sciences. “I’ve particularly gained interest in physics. I love how its properties play a role in my daily life and the satisfaction I get when I finally understand why something happens.”