Life After Ripon – Amy Browender ’13

Amy Browender '13Chapter 6: As One Year Ends, A New Chapter Opens

[Editor’s Note: Amy Browender ’13, Kyle Ruedinger ’13, Elizabeth Brown ’13, and Jessie Lillis ’13 are writing alternating monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their post-graduation experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life After Ripon!]

As my last installment in this series, it’s hard to know how to start this and where to end. The last twelve months of my life have passed more quickly than any other I can recall, and on some days I’m still not sure how I got here so quickly.

As I write this, my sentences are punctuated by a consistent ping from my “Coach” Facebook page; my students had their graduation ceremony yesterday, and new photos from the day’s celebration are being posted every few minutes. It’s hard to believe that the school year has already come to a close and that my term of service will be over in just a few short weeks. This last year has been one of immense growth, interspersed with many challenges, realizations about myself and the world, and victories and accomplishments that were celebrated collectively. I’m lucky that I was able to share all this with friends (both old and new alike) and, most importantly, with my students.

What I hadn’t quite realized before this year was the incredible resiliency that human beings possess. I’m in awe of the stories that my students and their families have shared with me, and seeing their determination and optimism demonstrated each and every day gives me great hope for the future. We’re a motley crew, and we’re made up of so many personalities and unique experiences. When I look back, I’ll think about this cohort as one of unstoppable energy. Among my 34 students, we had one Gates Millennium Scholarship winner, two Eagle Scouts, a future Red Hawk, and an overwhelming number of private scholarship recipients whose total winnings add up to nearly $60,000. Each of them belong to our next generation of leaders, and I’m truly privileged for having worked with them.

It wasn’t always good news, though. As the year progressed, I also gained something that I didn’t expect: anger and disenchantment. Seeing vital programs in our schools under-resourced or eradicated due to budget cuts or loss of funding doesn’t do anything but punish the students who need our help the most. At the same time that Minneapolis taxpayers are required to concede to an unacceptable 59 percent graduation rate from their public high schools, they are also required to accept that $150 million of their tax dollars will be funneled into a brand new stadium for a professional football team. Why are our values so backwards, and how and when will change come? This may reek of naiveté, but most days I think our education system needs to be razed and completely overhauled – just like that old football stadium the new one is replacing.

The silver lining here is that my outrage is a consequence of my paying attention. This year has shaken me from my complacency, and while it’s exhausting to be frustrated by such big-picture issues, I’ve found that being present and continuing to think critically is the best way to utilize my education, continue to learn, and try to make some positive change in my corner of the world. I’d encourage you to do the same.

Due in part to the overwhelmingly positive year I’ve had, I’m thrilled to share that I’ll be returning to College Possible and the same high school for a second year of service, and will be reprising my role as a Senior Coach once more. Come August, I hope to build upon the knowledge I gained at Ripon and throughout this year with my new cohort of students. The thing I’m most excited for, however, is to see what they have to teach me.

If you should ever find yourself in the Twin Cities, are looking to broaden your network, or are searching for a new email correspondence, please do reach out. I’d love to hear from you. Thank you for reading!

Amy J. Browender ’13
amybrowender@gmail.com

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