Megan Bearden is an associate dean of students at AF Brooklyn High School. As we continue to celebrate our seniors this week, Megan reflects on one of her student’s journey and shares the importance of creating welcoming spaces for all students in school.
We have this event called “Senior Signing Day” where our seniors declare what college they will be attending after graduation. They all get about 30 seconds to thank the people that have helped them throughout their lives. Some give longer speeches about their journey to this point. As you can imagine, it’s a day full of pride, reflection, and motivation.
This year, one of my seniors shared her journey in finding herself and how hard it was to share her true self with her family. When she got to the part about school being her safe place to find her true identity as a Jamaican lesbian, she broke down in tears because she knew that at AF Brooklyn High she would still be loved and cared for no matter what. As educators, we are responsible for ensuring our students get the academic lessons they need. But we’re also here to support them as they find their own way in this world. My student’s story touched me because it served as a reminder that the hate in this world is real.
The worst rejection is the rejection from people who are supposed to love us. So many times, we see this play out in black families with people that identify as anything other than straight. This is still a struggle for me, as well. Thus, making her story in some ways… my story. It’s hard to believe that the thing that makes you unique in this world, the thing that feels the most natural, the thing that we really didn’t even ask for, can make you feel lonely, depressed, and misunderstood.
It is so important that all students take PRIDE in who they are and what they bring to the table. We must rally behind them as they find their way. Everyone’s path isn’t the same. There isn’t a “one size fits all” model when it comes to getting life right. We don’t need to make mini versions of ourselves. All we can do is create safe places for our students to bloom because it might be the only space they have. I’m so proud and excited to see my student walk across the stage being proud of who she is, and it’s an ever bigger honor to do this work that impacts so many lives.