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Alumni Profiles

Working in Ghana to Support Children with Disabilities

Mariko Yamazaki ’03

As a doctor of occupational therapy, I love to analyze and adapt the activities that shape a person’s identity, self-worth, and role within a community. I work with families of children with developmental disabilities to maximize participation and success in daily meaningful occupations, such as playing, exploring, and participating in school.

Since 2009, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work in Ghana with incredible children, parents, students, teachers, and colleagues who share one vision: to make the world a better place by empowering people with disabilities. Ghana made history in 2006 by passing their Disability Rights Act. In a social-centric culture, the dream to include people with disabilities, give them the chance to build lives of their own, and offer opportunities to truly contribute to their community is powerful and revolutionary. I’m inspired and humbled by the stories, friendships, and lessons I bring home after each visit.

Each year in Ghana, I help coordinate an international externship for USC occupational therapy students. They apply clinical knowledge to advocate and teach others in support of people with disabilities. My colleagues and I assess children with disabilities and teach families to support developmental needs through activities, exercises, equipment, and environmental modifications. We work with staff at Mephibosheth Training Centre, a boarding school for children with disabilities in Apam. We educate and collaborate with community-based rehabilitation workers, who work to empower people with disabilities by connecting them to local resources and support networks. This year, we also collaborated with head teachers of the country’s first occupational therapy program (established 2013) at the University of Ghana. We hope to continue supporting their program while allowing them to develop their own unique professional identity. We are challenged to utilize our clinical knowledge while moving fluidly within a different cultural context and helping in a way that is relevant and empowering.For the past decade, Ghanaian disability rights workers have been blazing a trail of advocacy, community education, and social change. The movement continues to expand, with stronger connections between locally-driven programs and less reliance on outside support. A growing number of Ghanian scholars and community leaders promote disability rights with a focus on love, humility, and respect.

Mariko Yamazaki, OTD, OTR/L, SWCAt Brentwood I learned to always ask questions and actively pursue adventure. Working as a team member (playing basketball, pullingBilly Budd all-nighters, and even canoeing at retreats) taught me to speak my mind and lead by example, but also to serve the group by being humble and remembering the bigger picture. I learned to apply lessons from a single experience to my everyday actions. I’m reminded daily that I can always learn more about myself, my community, and the world around me. I’m constantly re-evaluating my role in Ghana. I’m learning to simultaneously consider small details and the larger context, to ensure that my work (locally and internationally) is empowering, meaningful, and sustainable for the individuals and communities I serve. I’m thankful for my Brentwood experience… and I look forward to a lifetime of staying curious!

Doctor of Occupational Therapy
Brentwood Class of 2003

www.mephiboshethinghana.org

Becoming “Doc Springer”: My Work With Veterans

Shauna Howarth Springer ’93

I didn’t intend to get adopted in my late thirties but it happened nonetheless. Over the past decade, as I have worked with hundreds of veteran patients, I have been adopted into a fierce and beautiful Tribe of warfighters.

Hunter Temple, who was both Head of School and our cross-country coach between 1990-1993, was fond of saying, “make a difference.” As my life has unfolded, I have seen how depth of meaning and purpose is something more precious than material wealth. And in this way, I have been uniquely blessed to find such purpose in working with veterans.

About a decade ago, I entered the VA system as “Dr. Springer,” a term which immediately conveys that I have spent a large chunk of my adult life in school. It doesn’t tell you whether I am good at what I do (or not), and it doesn’t tell you whether my patients trust me to walk with them through the valleys in their lives (or not). Over my time at the VA, I became not “Dr. Springer” but instead “Doc Springer,” a term used in the military to indicate a trusted combat medic. I’m not a medical doctor, but the translation to navigating the emotional terrain of Veterans’ lives is very meaningful to me. As I became their “Doc,” my Veteran patients trained me up and helped me understand how to walk with them.

A year ago, I resigned my position at the VA in order to expand the impact of my mission to serve those who have served in the military. I accepted a job at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a field-leading non-profit that supports those grieving a military loved one. Within TAPS, I am the Senior Director of TAPS Red Team (www.taps.org/redteam), a new division of TAPS that provides training and consultation on suicide prevention, intervention and postvention. We just launched the TAPS Institute at TAPS’ new Headquarters in Arlington VA, and are currently seeking funding to officially launch this year. During the past 10 months (our “soft launch”) we have been asked to provide hundreds of consultations to active duty units, veteran service organizations, health care entities, business organizations, and special forces convenings. In addition, we recently offered a targeted suicide prevention program to a group of Marines in a unit that has been highly impacted by suicide and other losses. We also ran point on an arm of the mental health response for the recent tragedy at the Veterans home in Yountville, CA.

In addition to my work at TAPS, I serve as the lead subject matter expert for a monthly live television program called Veterans Voices (www.co.contra-costa.ca.us/5163/Veterans-Voices). We have put out a number of innovative programs on topics like suicide prevention, high-dose caffeine use in the Veteran population (I drank a Red Bull on live TV, broke out in ugly red splotches, fought the urge to cuss people out for the rest of the show, and stayed highly alert for 48 hours), moral injury, traumatic brain injury, and collaboration between veteran service organizations. As a part of this work, I had the opportunity to interview some fascinating people, like former pro wrestler and traumatic brain injury expert Chris Nowinksi and Karl Marlantes, best-selling author of Matterhorn and What it is Like to Go to War, two books which, in my opinion, are national treasures.

Another line of work is a collaboration with Marine Corps Veteran Brian Vargas. Together, we have developed some innovative suicide prevention strategies and our work has been featured on KCBS radio and television (NBC nightly news). Our partnership to help save lives and the story of The Warrior Box Project (www.warriorcode.org) led to an interview for the NPR podcast Snap Judgement framed around the question, “If someone decides in an impulsive moment to end their life, is there anything that has the power to stop them?”

Finally, as someone who now feels called to serve Veterans, I also volunteer for a wonderful organization called Team Rubicon (www.teamrubiconusa.org). Team Rubicon deploys teams of veterans and civilians on disaster response operations. California has seen more than its share of natural disasters in the past year, and I have been deployed to assist with the recovery for both the San Jose floods and the fires in Northern California. I credit these experiences as profoundly helpful in shifting the way I view and work with Veterans.

Brentwood school’s partnership with the VA is a powerful opportunity to work with members of a Tribe who have pledged to serve our country. If you remember just one thing from this brief profile, it would be this: If you want to make a difference, you need to take some risks and get into the trenches with those you are hoping to walk into the light.

Doc Springer, Brentwood Class of 1993

Two Friends

Matt Halper and Eli Sones '11

It started in Ms. Kurosaka’s “Senior Seminar” class back in 2011. The two of us were sitting in the corner one day cracking up while we tried to come up with names for the musical group we thought we should form. We didn’t even have any of the software, hardware, or knowledge we’d need yet, but the first order of business was to come up with the perfect name. After brainstorming dozens of cringe-worthy options, we finally looked at each other and thought, “Should we just be Two Friends?” And it could not have felt more right.

We met right away in a 7th Grade P.E. class at Brentwood, and quickly became inseparable. Over the next six years, we did your typical best-friend stuff with our group of friends: sleepovers, sports, video games, cracking jokes in the back of classes, and of course always talking about music. Matt grew up playing guitar and had recently joined the Brentwood Concert Singers as well as Mr. Hilbert’s AP music theory class. Eli had played the clarinet in Mr. Crocker’s Middle School jazz bands, but soon dropped the instrument and began focusing on making mashups and DJing in his free time. So there we were in Ms. Kurosaka’s class, knowing that we only had a couple months left at Brentwood before heading off to college, and working on music together felt like a natural, fun challenge to embark on. We weren't playing sports in college and it only felt right to replace one focus with another.

It was around this time that we had also been gradually introduced to electronic dance music by friends and siblings. The genre felt fresh and exciting, and the experiences we had together watching DJs at events like Coachella throughout high school reinforced how electric the atmosphere was, no pun intended. So basically on a whim, we did a Google search to find which software we should purchase if we wanted to become electronic dance music producers, and with that, our journey as Two Friends officially began.

Over the next four years, while Matt was studying at Stanford University and Eli at Vanderbilt University, we would send ideas back and forth and video-chat daily. We perfected bootleg Skype calls, manipulating the preferences so that we could only hear the audio that was coming out of each other's music software but couldn't actually talk to each other. Neither of us majored in music; Matt chose Product Design and Eli majored in Human and Organizational Development, but we took music-related classes when we could and spent as much of our free time as possible developing Two Friends, obviously mainly on the music side but also on the business and branding sides. We’d take advantage of every holiday break when we were back home together in LA, treating every day like it was a full-time job. We set up a very make-shift studio in Matt’s basement where we’d write songs, collaborate with vocalists, and produce songs and remixes. And then back to the long-distance grind until the next break—we had our groove down.

Towards the second half of college, we had some solid momentum going for us. One of our remixes was in the daily rotation on SiriusXM’s flagship dance music station, nightclubs and fraternities across the country were starting to reach out about performing, our current managers brought us on to their roster, and it finally felt like everything was really starting to click. We were really close to graduating so we didn't really have to consider dropping out too much, and just focused on buckling down for one final year of the tricky balancing act between music and school.

Fast forward almost three years since college graduation, and now we get to wake up every morning grateful that our biggest passion is also our career. It is often surreal; just the other day we flew to Paris to DJ on a rooftop club while the sun was setting. In March we finished our largest headline tour yet, selling out most of the shows in some of the biggest venues we've played in—something we could only dream about when first starting. During most weeks, we’ll be in our studio (still in Matt’s basement, although renovated quite a bit) during the weekdays writing and producing, and then we’ll head out of town on weekends to perform at places all over the country—festivals, colleges, nightclubs, and concert venues. We’d be lying if we said it was all fun and games. The biggest challenges come from the travel and time commitments; you don't really have a traditional weekend because you're busy in the studio during the week and playing shows or on airplanes during the weekend, so it's really seven days every week. In 2017 we played 82 shows, and this year we’re on track to hit 100. And on the music side, it often gets very stressful trying to create and/or finish songs while we’re constantly moving around and juggling different projects. But the thrill we get when we hear people at shows screaming along to lyrics we wrote, or when we hear a song of ours on the radio while driving around, or when we get to meet fans in cities that we otherwise may have never visited makes it all EASILY worth it.

When we think about what’s ahead, if we can keep doing what we’ve been doing and continue to grow, we’re going to be two very happy guys. We’re working our butts off to make better music, play bigger shows, work on bigger collaborations, and take Two Friends to the next level. I think it all boils down to a pretty easy assessment. Is it fun? The answer for the past seven years has been a massive yes, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon. Because at the end of the day, we really are just two friends doing what we love.

I see the World with Open Eyes

Flynn Coleman '99

Several years ago, I had the honor of coming back home to LA to accept Brentwood School’s inaugural Women in Sports award. As I walked across the gym and up to the podium to give my speech, I recalled looking out at the bleachers I had sat in so many times. And I thought about the path I had taken that had brought me to this day.

That journey began at Brentwood. During my junior high and high school years I was fortunate to have some incredible experiences traveling. I built schoolhouses in Fiji and homes in Mexico, and lived with a family in Italy for a summer. On these adventures I learned the value of stepping outside your comfort zone and choosing the road less taken. Most importantly, I met people who significantly impacted the way I viewed the world, and who opened my eyes to the beautiful, pulsing diversity and humanity that connects us all.

When it came time to choose a college, I could have followed my classmates and friends and gone to a higher ranked school I had been admitted to, but something in my gut told me to go another way and find my own story.

In my sophomore year, when I was deciding where to study abroad, I again chose a less popular destination. Studying with a member of Chile’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, playing on a men’s soccer team in Santiago, and working with a women’s collective of artisans and entrepreneurs who had come together to rebuild after an era of severe human rights abuse awakened my passion for international human rights and gave me immense perspective. I learned about love and loss, and about what it takes to reconstruct societies, communities, families, and how when we come together we can overcome anything.

When I spoke at Brentwood, I talked about Cambodia, where I was posted as a Luce Scholar. I remembered the girls who would come out to watch me play soccer, mesmerized by seeing a woman out there on the field with the men. Those evenings on the pitch also informed my work with survivors of genocide and advocating on behalf of women looking for brighter futures.

And thus a pattern emerged – some of my most vital education came from the communities I lived in instead of the institutions I attended. So I next decided against Yale for graduate school and opted for another course. I spent part of my time as a law student in Senegal, volunteered in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, threw holiday parties and brought gifts for children in earthquake ravaged Haiti, and bonded with chimpanzees working at a primate rescue sanctuary in Spain. And my time living in Ireland and the Netherlands, the UK, Geneva, and Hong Kong showed me how to connect my work, research, and studies in culture, politics, literature, human rights law, and foreign policy with the daily joy and suffering of people in their struggles and triumphs.

It is these unconventional choices, connections, and life experiences that have led to me to my current career as an international human rights lawyer, author, teacher, social innovator, founder and CEO, ethical fashion designer, and the founding fellow at NYU Law’s Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship.

It can be difficult to hear your own voice amidst the crowd. When I spoke about the future of humanity, human rights, and technology from TEDx to Atlanta Symphony Hall, the sounds reverberated through the auditorium. There is always a moment, right before you begin to speak, when the stage is bright and the house lights are dim, when you wonder if you’ll forget it all. But you don’t. If you’ve practiced enough, if you’ve lived it, if you have people in the audience who will cheer you on regardless of whether you stumble or soar, if you remember what got you there in the first place, the causes that make you feel alive and the people you want to support, then the words come, the ideas come.

And if they do not, if you falter, you can still get up again. You can flip the page and write your next chapter. You can turn your biggest fall into a chance to pick yourself up, wipe off the dirt, the blood, and the tears, and start all over again.

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” ~ George Eliot

Your life is the story you tell the world. And with each moment, each experience, we write another page.

What I have learned, from conversations I’ve had with people around the world, from survivors of war crimes and injustice, to friends in a little-known part of the Italian countryside, and on soccer fields worldwide, in government buildings and homes in villages across the sea from where I grew up, is that we all deserve the opportunity to make our own choices about our lives, and to have our voices heard.

Be brave enough to take your own whirlwind adventure. To have the courageous conversations you need to have. To be vulnerable with someone you love. To be kind to a stranger. To change your mind. To try again.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

In the grand scheme of it all, we are just small specks of dust. But recognizing this can free us up to live the life we dream of, to do things that matter, because ultimately that’s all we have. Times marches forward. We can’t go back. But we can catch glimpses of who we want to be, who we are still becoming, and let that spark guide us ever onward.

As I finished my speech in Brentwood’s gym that day, again I gazed out at the bleachers, and saw my friends and family, students and teachers, alumni and coaches. I heard them cheering, clapping, and whistling.

So each time I face an important decision, I try to muster the courage to choose the bold route, to try something new, to help another when I can, to throw off the bowlines, to be brave with my heart, to do what I think I cannot do, because they are always there. I feel the warmth of family and friends, the compassion of strangers, and I am inspired by the resilience and valor of people I’ve met along the way. You are never alone, and actually the more freedom you feel the less alone you become. If you have the will to explore, to dream, to discover, to seek your own path, you’ll always find your way home.

***

Biography:

Flynn Coleman is an international human rights attorney, an educator, an author, a public speaker, a social entrepreneur and innovator, an ethical fashion designer, a mindfulness, innovation, and creativity teacher, a social justice activist, a former competitive athlete, and a founder and CEO. Flynn is also the inaugural fellow at the Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship at NYU School of Law.

Flynn speaks five languages, and has worked with the United Nations, the United States federal government, and with international corporations, universities, and human rights organizations around the world. She holds a BSFS from Georgetown University, a JD from UC Berkeley School of Law, and an LLM from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has also studied at La Sorbonne, the University of Cambridge, Trinity College Dublin, La Universidad de Chile, Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar, Senegal, and Université de Genève.

Learn more:

flynncoleman.community
Twitter: @flynncoleman
Instagram: @flynncoleman

Finding the Next Path

Armando Pulido '15

Armando Pulido '15 and I have kept in touch across the country since he graduated from Brentwood. He was recently chosen as one of nine Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows (MMUF) at Dartmouth College. According to their website, “MMUF addresses under-representation in college and university faculties by supporting the pursuit of PhDs by underrepresented minorities and those who have otherwise demonstrated alignment with the MMUF goals.” When I learned of this prestigious honor, I wanted to hear more from Armando about the program, his plans, and how his Brentwood experience prepared him for this opportunity. We chatted in August right before he left to begin his junior year.

How to Tell a Story

Steve Leckart '98

We English teachers are passionate about stories and spend our days teaching them, encouraging our students to delve deeply into the structure and meaning of a work of literature and to become more adept themselves at the craft of writing. Over a year ago at a Brentwood alumni event in San Francisco, I caught up with my former A.P. Literature student, Steven Leckart '98, and invited him to come speak sometime at Brentwood about his work as a journalist and filmmaker. I was thrilled when he contacted me and told me he had moved to Los Angeles for his work and was available this spring.

Steven's engaging presentation included a forthright recounting of the ten years it took from college graduation to the success he is enjoying today, which he attributes to "a combination of being very lucky and very stubborn." He admitted that earlier in his career, he had debated quitting but, due to his talent and tenacity, "eventually I got better and doors opened." After a period of time working in the music industry, he honed his writing skills at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and at an early stint at Wired Magazine, ultimately becoming a freelance writer for publications as wide ranging as the New York Times, Esquire, GQ, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Maxim and Epic. More recently, he has also written, directed and produced documentary films. Steven has traveled worldwide to report on such topics as biotech, controversial treatments for military veterans with PTSD, 500 reviews of wondrous doodads for a website called Cool Tools, people competing in the Google Lunar X-Prize, a $30 million competition for someone to land a rover on the Moon (for executive producer JJ Abrams), and Tower Records, the record chain that went out of business. Although he couldn't yet divulge the details, he indicated that he is writing a two-part documentary for HBO about Muhammad Ali.

Steven's determination to live, breathe, and even eat what he writes about emerged in his entertaining descriptions. He recounted how, in researching the daily life of a pro mascot for the Giants, he himself learned the moves, donned a costume and performed at a game; when he investigated changes in the US Army's training program for recruits, he signed up for a brief stint, training in advance before subjecting himself to the tough program and then suffering from exposure to tear gas. Another challenge came when he wrote a story about the world's hottest pepper. He met a man who grew them and who overcame serious addictions, finding religion in the process. As Steven puts it, "Because I was willing to eat the pepper, the guy told me about the angel," making for a memorable story. The students watching the agonizing video of Steven eating that pepper were squirming in their seats.

I proudly listened to Steven share the evolution of his career, in the process encouraging the students to work hard and never give up, and I was especially gratified as he mentioned more than once that the vital skills he learned in his Brentwood English classes, such as character analysis, clear written expression, looking for connections, or, as he put it, "finding out what is someone's story" are the very ones he uses today.

1) From listening to your presentation at Brentwood on April 18, it was clear that getting to the point of being established and successful doing what you love was not a smooth journey. You commented that “being very lucky and very stubborn” werekey factors. What other qualities or experiences had an impact on you? What were some of the key turning points in the evolution of your career?

The first time a magazine bought me an airline ticket so I could report a story was a big turning point. In that case, they sent me to an Army base in rural Missouri. The idea was for me to participate in four days of basic training alongside actual recruits. My itinerary included tear gas exposure training and a night infiltration course where we were expected to crawl 100 yards while machine guns fired live rounds over our heads. The night before I arrived on base, I couldn't sleep. But I figured that if I returned home with a half-decent story, the magazine would keep sending me places. And they did.

2) You have described how you have lived, breathed and even eaten what you write about. Could you talk about some of your most memorable experiences working on your articles or films?

I was a producer on a documentary called Moon Shot where we spent nine months traveling the world interviewing people who are building robots to send to the Moon. During filming, we wound up climbing pyramids in Mexico, touching both the Berlin Wall and Wailing Wall, walking through abandoned neighborhoods in Fukushima, Japan, and watching the moonrise from a mountain village in rural India. Along the way, everyone on the crew became quite close. When I wrote for magazines, all of my travels were solo. Now I get to see the world with friends.

3) When you are coming up with subject matter, what kinds of stories inspire and energize you the most?

Characters who find themselves in over their heads, either by choice or by accident, are always fascinating.

4) In what ways, if any, did your education at Brentwood lead you to and prepare you for the work you do now?

My job is to gather all the disparate pieces of a true story, look for themes, symbolism, and patterns, and then unpack what it's all really about on a deeper level. At Brentwood, we did the same thing when we read novels and wrote papers. I also worked on the newspaper for four years, which forced me to start trying to learn how to interview people.

5) What advice would you offer our current students, especially those who are intrigued by the idea of a career in journalism or film?

Be prepared to fail. Some projects don't pan out at all; others require overcoming setback after setback. Either way, I always try to figure out why something went wrong and learn from it.

--

Steven Leckart
http://stevenleckart.com/

Manny Benton

Manny Benton '08

My experience at Brentwood is not something you can so easily put into words. How could I say that it changed my life or that it made me who I am? If only I could somehow bundle words like enormous and tremendous, transformation and metamorphosis, altruism and gratitude. If only I could send a hug through words, or have someone feel my tears of gratitude through a paragraph. Or maybe in 500 words or less tell someone thank you in a way that touches there heart and moves their soul. If I found these words so easily, then I'd give them freely. So instead I say that I walked through Brentwood’s doors with the weight of the world on my shoulders and no clue of how to navigate its terrains. With no benchmark to gauge the worth of the diploma I held I approached college with that same weight only to find that with every step I took those chains fell off.

The brain I cultivated in a world where knowledge is power took its first bloom at the East Campus of Barrington Place and continues to flourish in my current state. With every morning I rise and ask myself, "How Powerful Could I Be?" only to be greeted by the man in the mirror who believes there is someone better I can become. "Bring that person outside of you today!" says the face staring back at me. As I turn around to rise to the occasion and understand the new person I've become, I’m reminded of the foundation I've been given. Whether listening to the cheer of the crowd with a piece of rubber in my hand while passing the bronze eagle on my way to the field or putting charcoal to canvas in the south quad, my strength has come in my foundation.

With every path to greatness, hard work is inevitable, so the hard work we seek is hidden between the smiles of the faculty and staff who take a relentless approach at providing students with a delicate balance of real world experiences and the answers to face them. Tie up the minds of these hard workers and pour them into students like concrete in the foundation of a building. There you will find a stronghold that can withstand the tests of time. Those are the alumni who now face the world with their chin up high and feet cemented into their foundation. With such a foundation I'm challenged to ask, "How Powerful Could We Be?" I'm sure I could speak for all alumni when describing the enormous gratitude we feel. I wish I could articulate our appreciation for the altruism conveyed as we are propelled into metamorphosis. If only I could say thank you for the tremendous appreciation we have for the transformations you've made in our lives. If only I could share all this with you in only 500 words or less. If it were possible, I would. So instead I simply say, thank you!

From Brentwood to Naval Academy to Military Medical Career

Michael Green '93

So many amazing opportunities I have had in my life are a direct result of my attending Brentwood. The school provided a comforting but challenging environment that prepared me for life.

I entered Brentwood in 1987 and although my elementary school was 98.9% African American, the transition wasn't as much of a culture shock as it should have been because most children at this age are just as uncomfortable, goofy and clumsy as I was. I played sports and made friends quickly but academics were much more challenging. I didn't see a problem getting a C or two but my mother certainly did. I learned this lesson when she received my lackluster report card. That day I discovered my athletic ability came directly from my mother whose quickness and agility chasing down a 12-year-old boy is matched by none. Did I mention my mother drove me to school past burning buildings during the L. A. riots because she didn’t believe me when I said school was cancelled?

Brentwood offered me the opportunity to succeed but did not provide any handouts. Both the teachers and coaches held students and players accountable for their actions and their effort. When I arrived at the Naval Academy I had no doubt I had the tools to succeed.

The Academy accepts students from all 50 states, bringing with them varied backgrounds, religions and personalities. Being one of seven African Americans in my grade at Brentwood, baptized Catholic and living outside the neighborhoods of my classmates taught me to embrace all types of people quickly.

I was fortunate to play on the Men’s Basketball team and we experienced some success the school hadn’t seen in a while. While I played sparingly until the end of my freshman year (similar to my experience playing football and basketball in high school) I relied on the lessons I learned as an athlete at Brentwood. Put on your uniform, go to practice, listen to your coaches and things will turn out for the best. Over the next four years our team played in the NCAA tournament twice, an accomplishment that I would never have been a part of if not for Coach Brown’s and Coach Ingram’s mentorship.

Two deployments at sea, the tragic events of September 11th, a marriage and three beautiful children later, I entered medical school at the University of Maryland at Baltimore at age 30. After 4 years of medical school, 4 years in residency and deployments to Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, I’ve become a Navy Emergency Medicine Physician serving with the greatest fighting force the world has ever known - the United States Marine Corps.

I met so many wonderful people while I was at Brentwood. Genuine, funny, sincere and kind-hearted people that I am proud to call my friends. Tough but caring teachers that recognized my potential and wouldn’t settle for anything less than the very best I had to offer. My time at Brentwood holds a very special place in my heart.

Chasing Politics in Front of the Camera

Katy Tur ’01

Katy Tur is a correspondent for NBC News covering the 2016 Presidential Election. Tur was formerly a foreign correspondent, crime reporter, tornado chaser, and “defensive specialist” on the Brentwood JV volleyball team.

In the Brentwood School Aerie yearbook, I announced I was destined for the Supreme Court. In college, I decided that what I actually meant was the operating room. But as it turned out, I’ve spent my career in front of a camera.

I’m a TV reporter. Is that an odd leap? A terrible fall? Not really. I always knew I wanted a job where the course of someone’s life was on the line. Now, you could say I found one where the course of everyone’s life is on the line.

I cover Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.

I’ve chased the Republican front runner through more than 100 cities across America, where I’ve ordered more than a 100 sides of fries, and heard thousands of his followers cheer, jeer, and chant his signature lines. Build a wall! Bomb the sh-t out of ISIS! I’ve interviewed supporters dressed head-to-toe in cammo and others dripping in diamond jewelry. I’ve been to Iowa. Sixteen times.

This wasn’t supposed to be my life in 2016. I had been living in London, working as a foreign correspondent reporting from Indonesia, Nepal, and the Swiss Alps. At home in my flat, I hung my last painting and planned a Sicilian dream vacation with my chain-smoking, scooter driving, French boyfriend. I was a cliché. It was wonderful. And then it was over.

As I write this, my shoes, clothes, and couch are in a shipping container somewhere on the Atlantic, en route to a storage unit somewhere in America. That’s where it all will stay until Donald Trump is or isn’t our 45th President. Both his future home and mine are in your hands, dear voter.

But if you really want to get into it, Brentwood is to blame.

I mastered the infamous “Brentwood 5 Paragraph Essay,” and once you figure that out, you can do anything. I’m kidding. But I’m not. Brentwood gave me a very particular set of skills: the ability to research, synthesize, and simplify complicated and often dull information, and then find a way to make it compelling.

Oh, and the ability to do it fast. Like 10 minutes ago fast.

These were not skills I had when I showed up for my first day of 9th Grade, pimply, nervous, and out of breath from the school’s stairs. But the teachers hounded me. Mr. Lysaght drilled conformity, then creativity. Mr. Koransky showed me the joys of American Politics. Mrs. Wallace taught me to push through my hive-inducing stage fright and deliver an oral argument. (I still believe Heathcliff was redeemable.)

I cried and kicked, but by Graduation Day, I had it locked down.

I made some pretty cool friends, too. When a blustering billionaire called me “little Katy” in front of millions, they came to my defense. “Hey Donald, only we get to call Katy little.”

Living a Flexible Life

Peter Sanders '94

No two days the same. I suppose that’s the closest thing to a mantra I would have, were I the mantra-having type. It’s a theme that has woven throughout my professional career, and is true today, as I sit in my office at Los Angeles Fire Department Headquarters.

For the past two years, I’ve been the Department’s Public Information Director, a fancy title for chief spokesman, and the first civilian to hold the position in the LAFD’s 130-year history. Much of my life has prepared me for this job, but I hadn’t really factored Brentwood into that equation until July 29, 2014, when I found myself standing knee-deep in torrents of water on Sunset Boulevard.

A huge pipe had ruptured a short while before, sending millions of gallons of water cascading down Sunset and onto the UCLA campus. I was dispatched with my colleagues to handle the swarm of media that had descended upon the scene as the geyser of water shot unabated into the sky. Standing there, I reflected upon how had I driven that stretch of Sunset Boulevard hundreds of times to and from Brentwood and how all these years later it seemed so surreal to be knee-deep in a catastrophic flood on a crystal clear summer day.

As I think more broadly about how Brentwood impacted my life, one word comes to mind: flexibility. Brentwood provided me the flexibility to pursue disparate interests and allowed them to develop or fade at a natural—if compressed—pace. Journalism, theater, English, and creative writing were subjects and experiences I pursued with some passion.

My resume now reads like a dizzying kaleidoscope; paramedic, journalist, Deputy Mayor, Navy Reserve officer, Public Information Director.

As a paramedic I got my adrenaline rush while leaning the art of working quickly but never hurrying. No two days the same. After a few years as a medic in San Francisco and then Austin, Texas, I pivoted and returned to LA and grad school at USC, with the goal of writing for The Wall Street Journal.

I knew nothing about business and cared even less about it, but I loved writing and nobody in newspaper journalism did it better in the early aughts than the reporters at the WSJ. I was hired as a reporter there in the autumn of 2004.

Seven years later I’d had my fill at the Journal and moved across the aisle to media relations. Politics was a foreign planet, but I liked the idea of the hustle and bustle at LA City Hall and soon enough I had another title as the Deputy Mayor for Communications. Two more years, no two days the same.

In 2011, I joined the Navy Reserve as a Public Affairs Officer. I was assigned to a Naval Base Coronado, doing media relations and public affairs for the United States Pacific Fleet. The Navy is a hulking and terrible bureaucracy, but dynamic, powerful and perfectly efficient at just the right moments. It’s ideal for part-time work and I enjoy doing my small part of service.

Naturally, in the Navy, no two days the same.

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Alumni Relations Department

Emily Ellis

Emily Ellis

Director of Alumni Relations
Josh Melnick

Josh Melnick

Assistant to Alumni Relations and the Annual Fund
Dave Velasquez

Dave Velasquez

Director of Alumni and Parent of Alumni Engagement