Just a room away from the loud hustle and bustle of Wilder Dining Hall at lunchtime, students sat silently, hunched over a table in the Keating Room yesterday, writing. Each was completely absorbed in thought, or perhaps memories, as their pens flew.
It wasn't an essay test or pop quiz that got the students who strolled into the room focused so quickly, you see, it was the chance to write letters to friends in the recently graduated Class of 2016 as part of Brooks' Care Package program.
The alumni office sponsors the initiative, which sends every 2016 graduate at least one personal note from a current student or faculty member, a card from the alumni office and Brooks School "croakies" for sunglasses.
"We want the Brooks community to extend past the four years that students spend on campus," said Assistant Director of Alumni Programs Carly Churchill '10, who heads up the program, offered off-and-on for the past eight years. "This is a great way to stay connected with our youngest alums and to send them a little reminder of Brooks in their first semester of college or wherever they are right now." Our school "is such a special place," she adds, "and to get a package in the mail while [you're in a new place] can be very comforting."
Churchill should know. She received one such care package after she graduated and recalled, "it was such a pleasant surprise."
That little pick-me-up is exactly what two of the Brooksians who jotted a note to a friend on Tuesday hope to deliver. Sarah Camp '17 wrote to say hello and, "See you soon," to a former dormmate. "She goes to one of the schools that I'm applying to," explained Camp, "and I'm going to visit her there."
Shannon Ryan '17 penned a pal that she wishes was still on campus. "I was a new fifth-former last year, and he was so welcoming and helpful," Ryan said. "He was always there for me. I wanted to let him know that I miss him."
For the alumni who receive a care package, knowing that they are missed back at Brooks is not only a comfort. Allison Barry '13 said that when she opened her gift, freshman year at Washington and Lee University three years ago, she felt it was a call to action, too. "You get wrapped up in your new school, and this reminded me to reach back out to my friends," she said. "It reminded me of the great sense of community at Brooks, and I really loved it."
The gift is "pretty unique," Barry continued. "None of my friends in college received letters from students at their old school. It was awesome to get handwritten notes and feel like you were cared for. It just made me feel loved and that I'd made an impact on others, [considering that] that they were still caring about me."
The care package Harry Hawkings '10 received gave him a reminder of Brooks that he still holds close today, literally. "When I went to college at Trinity I had a few Brooks classmates in my class, but ... getting a package from those current students made me feel like I still belonged to the community, which was a cool and nice thing for the school to do," Hawkings said. "I still keep the keychain that I got in my package my freshman year on my keys."