Meet Brooke Alumna Weedyna Jean

Brooke Newsletter

Weedyna offers her perspective as a Brooke Alum

Just as 2020 has been a challenging year for our current Brooke community, we acknowledge that it is also an incredibly difficult time for our alumni, especially those who are starting and continuing their college journeys. Through our Office of College and Post-Secondary Success, we have consistently been in touch with Brooke alumni working to help with unique and emerging needs where we can, whether that’s meant support on technology, financial aid, mental health, or all of the above. We reached out to Weedyna Jean (Brooke Mattapan ’15, Northeastern Class of 2023) to talk about Brooke, her college experience so far and her decision to help mentor the Class of 2020 as a peer advisor. Here’s what she shared!

When did you start school with Brooke?

I started Brooke in 2011 as a fifth grader at Brooke Mattapan, back when they shared a building with another school. I remember doing track and later joining the basketball team in the eighth grade. Later on in middle school, I participated a bit in mentoring and providing tips to the younger kids entering middle school. We would give them tips and strategies to help them with reading, math, or completing their homework.

Where did you go to high school? What was that transition like?

From Brooke I went to New Mission High School in Hyde Park. The transition was so good! While I was more shy back at Brooke, I started to find my voice, to raise my hand and ask questions. I noticed that everyone had different levels of preparedness for high school – for example, because I took Algebra 1 back in eighth grade, I didn’t need to in high school. I did basketball again my freshman year, picked up debate, joined the track team as a junior and made it into the National Honor Society chapter. I also wanted to be an example to the younger students through my academics and community service.

Where are you in college? What was that transition like?

I’m currently at Northeastern University as a pre-med student (I’ll be a rising sophomore this fall). Knowing my family’s financial situation, I aimed for schools where I’d be most likely to get a full ride and worked really hard to make sure my grades lined up.

The transition to college was rough in some ways. I felt like New Mission had every support you’d need. You could ask different teachers for help knowing they were a part of the community. I felt more on my own at college, and had to learn and teach myself many things. With studying, I had to figure out what worked for me: I didn’t like loud spaces, so I preferred the library to my dorm, and set time aside to do my work there. Pre-med requires a lot of reading, studying and labs. I had to balance my extracurriculars – like CSO (the Caribbean Student Organization) and my dance group- with my work, exams, labs, essays, research papers and all of that. I have OCD, so I’m very particular about keeping organized. I was able to bond with a friend on campus who also has OCD and she has been really supportive. I learned a lot overall about balancing studying with setting aside free time.

 

What lessons did you learn, what mistakes did you make/feel you’ve grown from?

I can get distracted easily sometimes when studying in a group! More than once this past year I’d take ‘red-eye’ cabs back to my dorm after a long night studying so I wasn’t making the walk alone. Also, to beat the morning rush I had with my 4 other roommates every day, I’d set an earlier alarm to make sure I could get to the bathroom we shared in our suite. Breakfast (food specifically) is also such an important source of energy for me getting through the day (I also drink coffee, but it just doesn’t do much for me). As far as support, office hours were a challenge for me to attend. I’d have to figure out which of my classes were recorded and go to office hours instead, which I did for chemistry, a class in my major.

How has Brooke supported you in college?

They’ve supported me so much. Ms. Holden is usually an email or a text away to help with anything. She helps make sure I send in my transcripts when she needs them. The care packages we get during the year are cute. And they really help too. In addition to my (Northeastern) advisor, she has been really helpful with figuring out how to deal with a pre-med requirement I missed as a freshman this year.

How has COVID impacted your college experience?

COVID impacted it badly. They sent all students home. Most of my teachers switched over to just giving us assignments to hand in, rather than zoom lectures like my friends had. I’m checking off classes I could’ve taken anytime, but missing out on major requirements that needed to happen on campus. Because of that, I’m 2 classes behind. I’m hoping I can take one of the classes I’m missing before the MCAT to help me get internships and research opportunities later on. For now, I have to hope for the best.

Where were you finding community at school? How do you find your community now?

In transitioning from New Mission, which was a small community of mostly Black and brown students, I realized Northeastern was a predominantly white space. It was definitely a first for me and a wake-up call to find people who look like me and relate to me, who I can rely on personally and socially.

The students who received scholarships at Northeastern were broken into smaller groups that stay together until graduation, and that’s a community I became close to. We’ll do social things sometimes on weekends, and I also study with them on school nights. It’s led by two older students who organized meals and shopping trips and other things like that. I’m really close with three other girls in my class year too who came from Boston Public Schools and had mutual friends. In terms of social events, the Caribbean Student Association and our dance group brought popular artists to campus before social distancing happened. Otherwise, I jump between a few different friend groups with different interests, as all my friends don’t have everything in common.

Have you taken an active role in the current moment to advocate for social justice? If so, what has that looked like for you?

A group of Northeastern students put together a petition for changes at the school to help current and future students understand why we are protesting and why this is a moment in history- I put my name on that. That petition included requiring students to take a class on African-American History to help us understand why the issues Black and brown people face in this country are systemic and societal. In a group chat for the pre-med students, despite my fear of criticism I also spoke out, because views were coming out that I wasn’t deserving of my education – they felt I was less academically capable as one of two Black pre-med students in my class. I knew that I needed to speak for myself (despite not wanting to be stereotyped as an ‘angry black girl’) because I know I deserve to be there. If it’s not stopped, moments like these lead to students expressing ignorant views and believing they’re okay.

Why did you sign up to be a mentor for entering freshmen from the Brooke High Class of 2020?

I signed up to mentor incoming freshmen because we didn’t have this when I was at Brooke, at least not at this level. When I went to high school we had a bit of mentoring. I was told some things, but I also spent a lot of time this year finding out what works for me. It’s especially important because not every student succeeds, studies, or even speaks about things in the same way. Learning about diverse experiences matters. We also know that these students, like us, are considering whether or not to begin their college experience this year on campus, which is a tough decision both personally and financially and in some ways, an important milestone. Our job is to help them with this decision and offer advice on specific topics like time management and avoiding procrastination. Overall, I want them to know that there isn’t a set track – everyone is different and they will need to experiment, take risks and try new things to find their success.

What are your goals for the future – as you view your future, what are some of the things you hope for?

I want to be a doctor because I want to help people. My family comes from Haiti. When I was growing up, what I wanted never really changed in part because I had so much support from family.

I will be the first doctor in my family, and something about that bothers me. I feel like my family overall is very resistant to visiting the doctor for their health, especially the women in my family. I’ve also read and heard about the difference in medical treatment black women often receive, for example, with childbirth. I’m interested in becoming an OB/GYN, to both build a health support system in my family, and also to make money to help them financially. In helping people, I feel that I see the best side of myself.

 

MORE BACKGROUND ON OUR

Programming for Brooke Alumni

Brooke has always had an alumni support program offering advising, college guidance, and financial aid support to our graduates. This year, our alumni program is supporting our first ever Brooke High School graduates, who began their college journeys this fall.

Given the extent to which COVID-19 not only impacted families’ finances and health outcomes, but also students’ living arrangements, Sarah Holden (our Director of College Success and Post-Secondary Support) focused this past summer and fall on providing the following services:

  • Surveying alumni to identify and fulfill technology needs (laptops, internet service) where possible
  • Directing students toward mental health resources and support
  • Providing assistance with navigating the financial aid and housing decision processes
  • Bringing together a group of older alumni (like Weedyna above) to lead “College 101” peer advisor sessions for the Class of 2020 via Zoom in July