Creativity and an appreciation of the arts are central to the Washington Latin education, and the focus on trying out different artistic media pervades the curriculum. Fifth and sixth graders take theater with Mr. Baldwin. Seventh and eighth graders have art with Ms. Malchionno, theater with Mr. Birkenhead, and the eighth graders can also join choir or jazz band with Ms. VerCammen. Through high school, students continue to pursue arts through photography, and advanced art classes with Ms. Coleman and Ms. Malchionno. Creative writing extends across the curriculum, with opportunities for original writing in various disciplines. Many students also hone their writing skills through work on the school newspaper Sumus Leones and literary journal Open Mic.
As such, it is no surprise that many Washington Latin graduates explore careers in the arts for their careers, building on interests they acquired while enrolled here. Below is a sampling of some of our alumni doing amazing work in theater, music, film, photography, and journalism.
Class of 2012 graduate Autumn Yancey-Estime works as a Talent Coordinator for Vanguard Management in Los Angeles. She received her BA in Cinema Production from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA. She also writes scripts and cultural opinion pieces.
Class of 2013 alum St. Clair Detrick-Jules shared her book “My Beautiful Black Hair” with faculty and families in this year’s speaker series. She developed her love of writing in creative writing and English classes at Latin, and refined her craft at Brown University. She is also a filmmaker and her documentary “DACAmented” won awards at several film festivals. To read more about her work, visit her website.
Class of 2015 graduate Emily Hall became enamored with work in the film industry, and is a television post production coordinator and video editor for the Netflix Series “YOU.” She is also a video editor for the Tastemade global, digital food and travel network. She previously worked as the post production coordinator for the HBO Max series “Our Flag Means Death.” As a student at Washington Latin she started doing her own freelance photography, video and graphic design business, and her work has appeared in Forbes, NBC News, Huffington Post, Photographer’s Forum, and Washingtonian magazine. Even when she was in middle school, Emily enjoyed making documentaries about her classes and teachers at Washington Latin, a passion she continued at American University. To see more of her work, visit her website.
Class of 2014 graduate Brandi Clarke enjoyed her work in the school choir with Ms. VerCammen, and is pursuing a career in music. Since graduating from the College of Wooster in 2018, she has been using the stage name Brandin St. Clair, and she performs live, and has recorded several videos including “Golden Eyes,” and “Lioness,” available on Spotify. Clarke performed this past Thursday at the music venue, The Pocket, on North Capitol. Several of her music videos feature her classmates from the class of 2013 and 2014.
The original founder of Washington Latin’s school newspaper Sumus Leones, class of 2014 member Cuneyt Dil, has continued to hone his skills as a journalist. After continuing to write for the school newspaper at American University, he most recently is writing for Axios as a Washington DC reporter. Dil covered California and West Virginia state government for the Associated Press, and Washington DC politics and government for the Washington City Paper. To read some of his recent publications, go to his page on the Axios website.
Several more recent graduates are earning money in the arts while they complete college. Shelby Griffith, a member of the class of 2019, who performed vocals with the Jazz Band at Latin, is studying popular and commercial music at Loyola University in New Orleans and sings backup for rapper Ncognita. She also performs at Tipitinas in New Orleans with an ensemble and performs with a band named Fuse. Hear her recording with the Loyola University musical group Smiling Faces.
Some of our current students have distinguished themselves with recordings that can be found on iTunes and with artwork on display in local galleries. But that can be a topic for another week….
Peter T. Anderson
Head of School
At Washington Latin, we view education as an end unto itself, with each new idea, concept, or theme helping students further develop their humanity. I am overjoyed because we have so many alums who have returned to work here. In today’s letter, I want to share a sampling of graduates’ post-college experiences, especially in educational settings or grad school.
Not surprisingly, considering our school’s credo “discite servaturi,” many students choose to continue developing their education by focusing on service to others. Many have pursued education, counseling, and social work after college. Class of 2013 graduate Sarah Washington, earned a master’s in social work from Columbia University. One of our middle school counselors, Avant Griffith (‘13) earned her master’s degree in School Counseling from Trinity Washington University. Middle school dean Dayla Tucker (‘13), earned her master’s degree in social work from Fordham. Christiana Bockarie (‘12) completed her master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Aacha Gregg (‘16) is pursuing a master’s degree in student affairs and higher education at Miami University.
Others are indulging their curiosity about history, language, culture and politics with an eye toward changing the world or gaining a global perspective. Desmond Austin-Miller (‘13), earned his master’s degree in oral history from Columbia. Ali Malik (‘12) is currently attending The School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Tim Hursen (‘13) is in a master’s degree program from George Washington continuing his studies of Arabic, a passion he first acquired as a student of Mr. Porcelli at Latin. Sylvie Ashford (‘17) is continuing her education in international policy at Stamford University in a masters program. Nathan Hanshew (‘16) is attending American University’s School of International Service as a graduate student within the Ethics, Peace, and Human Rights Program.
The sciences continue to be an area of passion for former Latin students. Angel Huynh (‘13) has recently completed a master’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Masters at Georgetown and is starting a job at the National Institute of Health. Marvin Browne (‘12), after teaching math at summer school here a few years ago, is completing a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA, and his classmate Shakilur Rahman earned a master’s in engineering from Virginia Tech. Micailah Guthrie (‘16) started a master’s degree in public health and community health sciences at Tulane this year. Sam Anderson (‘17) is studying atmospheric sciences at Indiana University Bloomington.
Still other former Washington Latin students are considering a future in leadership and pursuing degrees to help them develop self-expression, organizational skills, and other leadership skills. Jennifer Jimenez (‘13) earned a master’s degree in Sports Leadership from Northeastern University. Marissa Johnson (‘14) earned a master’s in nonprofit leadership at U Penn. Solomon Hassan (‘15) is studying industrial organizational psychology at the University of Maryland, while his classmate Yahaira Galvez is studying creative writing at the same school. Finally, Dominique Cravens (‘17) started law school at Washington & Lee University.
While we are confident that these students will use their education in the future to change the world, lead, analyze, connect and serve, the simple act of studying and building knowledge is reward enough.
Peter T. Anderson
Head of School
We sat down with a few of our longtime African American faculty members to reflect with them about their experiences at Washington Latin as teachers, and how their identity and personal experiences have helped inform and inspire their practice in and out of the classroom.
Reading specialist Brittany Lee-Bey applied to Washington Latin in 2016 after meeting some of our high school students on a Learn and Serve trip to Zambia. She was inspired by the analytical and creative way these Latin students spoke and wrote. “I liked how they seemed like thinkers who thought deeply about what they were there for,” Ms. Lee-Bey said. Though Ms. Lee-Bey had originally considered going to law school after majoring in government and black studies at William & Mary, she was motivated by the desire to share her love of reading with children. Ms. Lee-Bey was particularly taken by the school’s focus on literacy when she was first interviewed. After learning about Dr. Diana Smith’s decision to obtain an additional adolescent literacy certificate after completing her doctorate at UVA, Ms. Lee-Bey was inspired to complete a second master’s degree in reading instruction there as well. The chance to share the work of diverse authors with students has always been an area of joy for Ms. Lee-Bey. Right now she is reading the book Patina by Jason Reynolds in her sixth grade class. “I want to inspire my students to read by seeing themselves in the texts. Having these conversations about cultural nuances has been great, and I didn’t feel like I had those kinds of conversations as a student growing up in Fairfax County.”
Seventh grade history teacher Mr. Wills joined the school in 2015, but was already familiar with some of the long-time Latin teachers. He had taken a summer course at Ford’s Theater on the Civil War with former eleventh grade history teacher Tom Hagerty and had actually taught fifth grade science teacher Ebony Dorsey’s older sister, who was a 6th grader at Nannie Helen Burroughs Elementary at the time. “I met Ebony Dorsey, when she was in 3rd grade,” remembers Mr. Wills. “She would come into my classroom and read the books. I recognized her and I remembered her when I joined the school though I had not seen her for so many years.” Mr. Wills, a native of Washington, D.C., says his own personal experiences in local public schools and his Philosophy major as an undergraduate at Catholic University inform his practice as a teacher. “My own personal journey helps me connect to people I embraced as role models,” said Wills. “People like Henry Louis Gates, Martin Luther King, Cornel West, and jazz musicians like Duke Ellington.” He is also inspired by his parents’ work in local civic organizations to integrate his childhood neighborhood of Hillcrest. “They taught my brother and I the importance of service, of being an engaged citizen, of respecting the laws of the country. They also taught us how to protest in a positive and nonviolent way, so that people will listen to you,” recalls Mr. Wills, who tries to share the same message with his students.
Sixth grade civics teacher and history department chair, Lawrence Staten, was also drawn to Latin by his personal background in classical education and his commitment to the community. Staten attended St. Paul’s School in Baltimore where he learned the Socratic method and then majored in political science, astronomy, and theater at Vanderbilt. He learned about Latin from family friend and former head of school Martha Cutts, and joined the school in 2010. After working on two federal political campaigns, and as a lobbyist and a public policy researcher, he feels that the classroom at Latin allows him to combine his interest in history with his flair for the dramatic. “I take a great deal of joy in bringing history to life for students who never had the experience before,” says Staten. “Latin allows me to bring my authentic self to the classroom. One of the things I try to focus on is how African history and African American history is a core part of history itself. We start our [6th grade Civics] course by looking at the origins of civilization in Africa, and weave the narrative throughout history, about the role of the Islamic empires and how they saved the classical traditions after the fall of Rome. It shouldn’t be siloed to the month of February, it needs to be constantly told throughout the academic year.”
Peter T. Anderson
Head of School
Washington Latin’s annual celebration of African American history and culture is well underway. Teachers across the school are focusing on the achievements of African American scholars, artists and scientists and encouraging students to think critically about how these heroes from the past inform our present life and experiences. Below is a sampling of some of the exciting work happening this month.
In Mr. Bane’s fifth grade English class, students are immersing themselves in an online “Museum” exhibit entitled “28 Epic Days of Black History.” Each day’s journey links to a reading about a literary or historical figure, from Oprah to Maya Angelou, to the “Harlem Hellfighters” (part of the 269th infantry in World War I). The class is also watching the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” analyzing the identity of the Laurence Fishburne character named Vinny.
In eighth grade English, Ms. Breitman and Ms. Haywood started a six-week research project on Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes. The project involves reading 10 of Hughes’ poems, researching his personal life and the historical context of his words, and writing an analytical essay about the hidden aspects of his life that are revealed through his poetry. Librarian Sereena Hamm developed a specific digital Library Guide for students to access sources for this project. In eighth grade history, Mr. Byrd’s students are also doing research and making slideshows of their findings.
In the Upper School, Mr. Yonker’s Latin classes are engaged in a study of African American Classicists, starting with Dr. Anna Julia Cooper, the namesake of Washington Latin’s new campus opening in 2022. His class will also study Helen Maria Chesnutt, a Latin teacher in Cleveland, Ohio, who taught Langston Hughes; West Indian classicist Edward Wilmot Blyden, who was a professor at Liberia College; and professor John Wesley Gilbert, who attended the American School in Athens, and who produced the first map of Ancient Eretria.
Our study of African American history is not limited to the humanities. Ninth graders in Mr. Torrence’s physics class will write research papers on African scientists and their contributions to their respective fields of learning. This will happen in the last two weeks of the month after students participate in the science fair. And beginning today, I am launching a series on Twitter entitled #blackatlatin. You can use the hashtag or follow me @WashLatinHOS.
Of course, the study of African American leaders, artists, and writers is not limited to the month of February. Students in ninth grade English started the year reading an Afrofuturistic text “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor, followed by Chinua Achebe’s novel about pre-Colonial Nigeria, “Things Fall Apart.” Sixth, seventh, and eighth graders each read books in the first semester by African American author Jason Reynolds, and students in eleventh grade history study the Civil Rights movement in the spring. Seniors engage in a spring research project on racism and the justice system.
Our value of and commitment to diversity is grounded in a classical mission that embraces diverse experiences and perspectives. Through this study of African American artists, classicists, writers, activists and scientists, our community is better able to make meaningful connections in the modern complex world.
Peter T. Anderson
Head of School
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