My reflections on Prep For Prep's 30th Anniversary

Yesterday was an historic day for Prep For Prep. The program celebrated its 30th anniversary. The celebration took on two crucial components. A convocation was held at Columbia University where various key figures in the Prep community spoke, were honored and reflected on the impact of the program during the past 30 years. The program also received an official proclamation from Mayor Michael Bloomberg recognizing Saturday November 29, 2008 as Prep For Prep Day. A new award was even created in honor of Prep's founder Gary Simons.

The other aspect of the celebration involved an alumni dinner at Riverside Baptist Church. It was a great time. Having the chance to reconnect with some crucial figures in my life, as well as create some new connections was amazing. It was great to see the community come together and really let loose in the spirit of the occasion.

Every alumnus who spoke at yesterday's convocation was asked to describe their most important Prep memory and why it impacted them. It was great hearing so many different stories and being able to connect with them. My most important memory occurred during my second summer. My advisor Freddy, who traditionally was a very calm and collected guy pulled me out of class to give me my interim grades. I notoriously was a sub-par student in Prep, but my worst subject was History. Freddy had asked me a few days before how classes were going. I didn't mention that I was failing History. When Freddy pulled me out and showed me my grades, he tore me apart. And I deserved it. He did not do it because I was failing necessarily. He did it because I did not admit to him that I needed help. The reason that this moment stands out for me is because of what Freddy did after he yelled at me. He dapped me up, told me to get focused and go work harder. He did this with kindness. This moment was crucial for me in my future dealings with my advisees and students.

Looking back at what Prep has accomplished over the past 30 years, it is undeniable the importance of this organization. It is amazing to think that the idea for Prep For Prep started as an idea by one man who believed in the value of education and the need for underrepresented people to get the best education in the world. Today the idea seems completely normal, but in the mid 70's when disparities were much more obvious than they are today, the idea was avant garde. The ability for Prep For Prep students to succeed in their various walks of life is a testament to the rigor of the program, and the commitment of so many to its success.

During yesterday's convocation, Deputy CEO Peter Bordonaro gave an amazing speech. I have heard him speak a few times, but yesterday he was on point. He described the election of Obama and the beautiful yet difficult time in which we live. He remarked how many considered Obama's education elitist. The use of the term elite was pejorative. The kind of education Obama received should be considered standard. I believe that this crucial point touched us all.

At the end of the day Prep For Prep serves as a tool for so many. In places near and far from Seattle to South Africa people have used the model as a way to change the educational system and create the new generation of leaders. I can only hope that as the program enters its next 30 years that the ideals that it stands for become more commonplace. It is my hope that a program like Prep won't need to exist because education will be equal. I hope that day is not far off. But in the meantime I am extraordinarily proud to be a part of a community of leaders, intellects and most importantly family.

Happy Birthday Prep! Who knew 30 could look so good!


Christine Capota said…
I think one of the many things that sets Prep apart from the rest is its sense of community. As I sat in the audience I felt like I really truly *loved* every single person in the audience and on stage. And even as I looked around me and saw people I didn't know greeting one another and taking pictures, I felt so happy that the Prep comradery is being passed on for generations to come. I just still can't describe how lucky I feel to be part of such a wonderful organization. Now if only Gary Simons were there...I would have loved to see him.

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