As part of a special series of Alumni Spotlights, we at De La Salle Academy, asked some of our alumni to focus on four words that we believe encapsulate what it means to be part of the De La Salle community. This month, Reade Rossman, ‘12, focused on the word reflective, and shares a compelling and thoughtful reflection of her time at De La Salle Academy.
Fall was crossing the cityscape when the New York Times published an article about us. We gathered around Page 24, sweat staining our collared shirts from the mad subway dash, to read the first sentence together out loud: It is 8:30 a.m. at De La Salle Academy, a private school in Manhattan for academically talented poor children, and classical music is humming through a boom box that harks back to the 1980s. We laughed because we were the children they are writing about, and the radio was surely humming, but we did not feel dated. I felt, quite to the contrary, like I was on the cusp of something new.
You should know that as the only child of a single mother, I was raised on alone time. It taught me to love thinking and spending hours inside my head. It gave me my fascination with the origin of things: time to imagine historical and literary mythos of all kinds. My nerdiness, I would venture to say, was not new. What was new was being surrounded by kids who were also obsessed with learning. It was not until De La Salle that I found a sense of belonging—a community with which to explore questions of myself and the world around me.
Of the many opportunities we were given to do this, our class retreats at De La Salle were perhaps the deepest moments of engagement with ourselves and each other. I’ve kept my marble notebooks from nearly every one of these events, but our eighth-grade weekend stands out in my mind as uniquely special—a group of kids on the cusp of adolescence, hopeful and ambitious about what the world would look like and how we would move through it after middle school ended.
A week after the boys’ retreat, the eight-grade girls embarked on a yellow school bus, traversing upstate along the river until the George Washington Bridge was but a speck and Brother Brian’s no-phone policy had delivered us unto our fifth game of “I Spy.” It was Fall at this point, the beginning of our last year, and so we arrived at this idyllic corner of the Hudson Valley with a mission in mind. How, the faculty asked us, would we lead the school? And perhaps most importantly, what type of leaders did we want to be? Looking back, these were big questions to ask 13-year-olds, but then again, the charm (and difficulty) of De La Salle was that it demanded answers. We were given the time to explore our worldviews, to tinker and edit with the support of faculty—but for most of us, our time at the school demanded a level of self-actualization that few other places have asked of us since.
This two-day retreat consisted of multiple small group sessions where we gathered in circles with faculty members to discuss our time at the school as well as our aspirations for the upcoming year. During the day, we cried and laughed and thoughtfully debated. At night, we retired to our beds to eat snacks and stay up far later than allowed, giggling and sharing stories. By the time we departed the next day, we had pages upon pages of notes as well as embarrassing group photos (this was the dawn of the point-and-shoot camera and I can’t help but remember us being required to wear dress slacks). To this day I often read through those notes for a dose of nostalgia and occasionally a good laugh. Eight months later we would all depart, me heading off to California for boarding school and my friends scattered across New England prep schools and Upper East Side private schools. We would head to college, and then begin our careers, but not without the irreplicable and hard-won practice of personal responsibility and thoughtful reflection.
After De La Salle, I headed out west to attend the Thacher School in Ojai, California (think cowboys, camping, and orange groves—very different from NYC) before getting my BA in American History and Literature at Harvard. As a college undergrad I was heavily involved with the Kennedy School Institute of Politics. I am currently working in PepsiCo’s New York office before heading back to Cambridge to pursue my MBA at Harvard Business School. I run and write in my free time and remain involved in legal advocacy/criminal justice reform.