#becauseofCJ: Reflection from Carmen '11

Young alumni are sharing how they are succeeding after high school in our #becauseofCJ series. Through your gift to the Annual Fund, you make this happen. When you do, more Eagles can soar! Read Carmen's story below, and consider making your gift today.

Dear CJ Community,

I would like to start by saying a huge thank you to everyone that has made my education at Chaminade Julienne possible. I loved being a CJ student, being challenged in my classes, playing on the tennis team, and cheering on the eagles from the student section at countless sporting events. But as my years as an alumni fly by, I realize more and more what a blessing those four years were and how many doors they have opened for me. I know that many of the gifts I have now would not have been possible without your generosity and dedication.

For me, going to CJ was never a question. My grandparents, Ed and Dorothy Regan were graduates of Chaminade and Julienne, and my grandfather was Chaminade’s principal and head football coach in the 1960s and 70s. My mom, Peg Regan, is also a Julienne graduate. She met my dad, Jim Brooks, while they were both teaching at CJ. At the end of this school year, they will have served a combined 78 years of teaching English and Spanish at CJ.

Although my becoming a CJ student was no surprise, I never could have expected where my years as an eagle would take me. My junior year, my classmates and I were told we had a 25 hour community service requirement. Through the service fair, we were introduced to dozens of service opportunities at different organizations in the Dayton area.

When I learned that the Life Enrichment Center was seeking a student studying Spanish, I was immediately interested. At the time, I was taking Spanish 3, and I hoped I could eventually pursue a career where I would use the Spanish language; although, I really didn’t have an idea of what that career would be.

My role was to provide childcare while parents attended free English as a Second Language classes. I helped children with their homework, read books to them, and played games with them. There were times when the language barrier was an obstacle, but we found ways to talk around the words we didn’t know. Sometimes that meant drawing a picture or acting something out. Along the way, we managed to learn more Spanish and English from each other. I was so happy to apply the Spanish skills I learned in the classroom in a real world context.

That 25 hour service requirement eventually became how I spent every Tuesday and Thursday evening my junior and senior year. Even though I had already fulfilled my hours, I continued going to the Life Enrichment Center because of the relationships I formed with those children and their parents. I was intrigued by the stories of how and why they moved to the U.S., and impressed by their dedication to learn the English language and provide better opportunities for their children.

I had thought about education as a career path before; it was hard not to considering I grew up in a family of teachers. But my position in those ESL classes gave me such a strong sense of purpose. The skills taught in ESL could be valuable to people of all different careers, cultures, and age groups. It could help bridge the gap of social and economic inequality.

I am currently in my fifth year of teaching English as a Second Language. I work at a high school in  central Illinois, where I have the pleasure to work with over a hundred students from Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico. I use my Spanish every single day to communicate with my students and their parents.

What I love most about teaching ESL is that, although I am considered an English expert, I am constantly in a position of learning myself. My students enjoy teaching me new Spanish words, and comparing our different cultures. My subject area also enables me to be an advocate for my students and their families. In its mission statement, CJ pledges to develop its students into life-long learners. This career, which I was led to because of CJ, constantly challenges me, humbles me, and encourages me to grow.

The ministry and service department is something that truly sets CJ apart from other high schools. Students are able to more deeply understand the material taught in the classroom, whether it’s religion or a foreign language, because they can use it in their own community.

I am so grateful for my years at CJ, and to all of you who make this community so incredible. I will always think of it as the place that led me to where I am today. I can only imagine how many other people have found their passion and purpose because of what CJ has to offer.

Carmen Brooks, Class of 2011