Alumni Voices

Once a BCL learner, always a BCL learner. This has always been the vision. Before COVID, we had hoped to establish a tradition of gatherings and reunions…but the pandemic pulled the e-brake. Recently, after years of waiting, we were finally able to host an in-person alumni event. 

On December 20th, just before the Winter Break, more than 30 alumni came back to the ONE Center. Amazingly, we had representation from BCL1, BCL2, BCL3, BCL4, BCL5, BCL7 and BCL8. Burlington City & Lake Semester co-founders, Peter McConville and Andy Barker, were present as well. We feasted on pizza, clementines, and sambusas (made by the mothers of alumni Dadir and Ali – BCL3 and BCL7, respectively). It was wonderful to catch up with everyone and hear what they’ve been up to.  

BCL cultivates a sense of potential, and now that so many alumni are out in the world, it’s great to see that potential being realized. We always love to hear what is happening for these amazing people we have spent hours with–and what parts of BCL are still alive for them. 

BCL Alumni Lunch in December

Of course we had to circle up and ask a check-in question. (Andy came up with one off the top of his head: “What is something that has made you cry or laugh recently?”), and a few shout outs and appreciation were shared. We always end every gathering with an invitation for alumni to not be strangers, and to consider visiting… 

…so we smiled when Mariah (BCL7) walked in the door the next day! We love when alumni join us, and Mariah was able to share some stories about the transition to college life.

We also continue the tradition of inviting alumni to share their post-BCL wisdom with students at the end of the semester. On the last day of BCL9, we hosted six alumni. BCL staff stepped out of the room so that it would feel more authentic and less facilitated, and each time we came back we were shooed away. No one wanted to end the conversation. We know that they talked about how to adjust to a full-time BHS schedule, to college life, to the work world…but wherever else the conversation went is great. We’re honestly grateful for each outgoing BCL group to have the support of the BCL alumni.

It was great to see Lulu and Rhiannon

Another value of BCL alumni is their unique perspective on the program’s impact. We are always looking for feedback, and spend innumerable hours discussing evaluation data and daily exit card data with the goal of continuous improvement. Those data sets are useful, but but one of the best ways to learn about BCL’s impact is to invite alumni to reflect and share their insight.  As we enter our 10th semester of BCL, it’s a great moment to pass the mic to a few alumni. 

Fingers up for which BCL group you were in!
It feels like it was just yesterday when these folks arrived for Morning Meeting.
Many more came by than were captured in this photo!

Signe Daly recently reached out to a number of alumni, and asked them a typically-BCL (open-ended, personally meaningful) question:

What is something that you learned in BCL that has been helpful in your life?

The work we did with cultural anthropology has helped me think about outside perspectives and their importance to a full picture. BCL taught me the importance of being able to make a physical separation between tasks to reset my brain, especially for reflection.

– Sebastian Holcroft, BCL2

The connections I have made with community members through BCL have been super helpful in my networking efforts.  BCL introduced me to the academic world of complex systems. I am now working towards my Journalism degree in UVM’s Department of Community Development and Applied Economics with a minor in Food Systems. BCL taught me the value of community connection– not only through working with community partners, but the connection between other students, teachers, and community members.

– Ella Farrell, BCL4

Reaching out to teachers and peers to form connections is usually worth it and results in making meaningful connections.  Doing things that I am interested in and enjoy instead of things I think I “have” to do [also] makes working feel less like working.

– Famo Haji, BCL1
Signe and Famo (who is spending her spring semester in Denmark!)

Work isn’t just work, it’s also community! To learn not just what I’m  studying but the world around me.  Making connections can help you in so many ways throughout your life and that is what makes community cohesive.

– Eva Edwards-Stoll, BCL1

I learned how to get along with people that are different from me; making connections with people; how to work with various partners; drawing connections between industries; and being a curious learner [about] the information these professionals have.

– Jensen Daly BCL3

We were able to get a more detailed story from Julius Dodson, BCL1, about his experience working for an internship while studying at Howard University. 

This fall, I had the opportunity to visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art to talk with leaders in the arts integration field about how educators can better utilize the arts in K-12 education.

During the convening, I got to meet with numerous arts integration stakeholders who each brought unique expertise to the table. Although hesitant at first, my BCL experiences working alongside community artist Mary Lacy empowered me to share my experiences and offer insight as to how arts integration within public school systems is a beneficial tool for both educators and students.

The opportunity inspired me to continue to advocate for experiential and place-based learning methods that engage students on a deeper level, leading to meaningful and dynamic learning.

– Julius Dodson, BCL1
Julius in BCL1 speaking at our THRIVE! public art event, December 2018
Julius at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR, Fall of 2022

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