Alumni and Careers

Jamilah Gregory '10

Jamilah Gregory

Class of: 2010

I went to a large public high school in Concord, New Hampshire and as a member of the first generation of my family to attend college, I am very grateful to now be a recent Bowdoin graduate with a degree in Latin American Studies and Spanish with a Minor in Teaching!

Tell us about some of your experiences with community service in Latin America.

My sophomore year I led a spring break service trip to Ecuador where I helped build a playground at a school with an indigenous community in an rural region of the country.  I never expected that I would return to Ecuador about a year later! During my junior year I began taking Education courses in combination with courses for my Spanish major and I discovered my passion for teaching….To combine my love for Spanish, working with kids, serving in an international setting, and my new-found love for teaching, I opted to gain fluency in Spanish during a summer volunteer experience at La Fundación Campamento Cristiano Esperanza (Camp Hope) in Ecuador. A Preston Public Interest Career Fund Summer Fellowship and the Global Citizen's Grant funded my 11-week internship during the summer of 2010.

Tell us more about Camp Hope.

Camp Hope is an educational non-profit and orphanage for children with disabilities in Quito, Ecuador. Located in an underprivileged, industrial area of the city, Camp Hope provides attention, recreation, rehabilitation, education, spiritual support, and vocational resources to economically, physically, and mentally challenged children to enable them to attain their goals of independence and integration into society. I taught lessons to K-7 students in English, Photography, and Bodily Systems, translated for visiting medical professionals, developed an English curriculum for future volunteers, co-taught CPR and First Aid, and assisted with daily routines and therapy for children with severe autism, cerebral palsy, and other disabilities.

Do you have a particular experience that you would like to share about Bowdoin or LAS?

I am so thankful for the opportunities Bowdoin has provided me with over these past four years to really be engaged in the community in profound ways and to build lasting connections…The internship at Camp Hope was one of the most incredible experiences I have had the privilege to enjoy.  It has profoundly impacted my future goals and career plans - affirming my desire to be a teacher and serve in underprivileged communities. I learned how to better teach students with special needs and accommodate students at different levels in the classroom, and I gained a deeper understanding of the unique strengths and faults of non-profit organizations.

One of the most memorable aspects of my internship at Camp Hope is the quality of the relationships that I built with the children and staff at the foundation. Having a great relationship with the kids, earning their respect and love, and setting a good example is so important in one’s ability to teach. I believe the positive relationships I shared with the students contributed to their desire to learn. Also, through strong ties made with the teachers and staff, we mutually dismantled cultural stereotypes and stigmas...Working with children who could not hear, speak, or feed themselves, let alone smile or hug me, made me confront the deeper issues surrounding my personal motivation to serve.

Sean Campos '10

Sean Campos

Class of: 2010

When I first came to Bowdoin, I was unsure of what I wanted to study, and what I wanted to do with all of this opportunity. Around this time, my first-year social house buddy, then a co-president of the Latin American Student Organization, told me personally I should consider coming to their weekly meetings. With that, I launched down a path of involvement with the group that has, in many ways, opened my eyes to where my interests and greatest potentials lie. My first year at Bowdoin, I also took a course entitled “Chicano/a Literature After WWII,” which was taught by a visiting Consortium for Faculty Diversity Fellow. The course dramatically heightened my interest in pursuing academic work in addition to the civic involvement with which I was becoming more familiar.

Sean Campos

This first year proved to be very positive for me, even though I had the typical anxieties of beginning a college career, because it sketched out a blueprint of the things I could pursue and offered me a strong network of diverse individuals to provide support. Though my years at Bowdoin were spent darting around from class to meeting, and back and forth, it was very much through LASO that I became familiar with the school and its operations, and the students that make it a rich, distinct place.

Over the years, I served as Vice President and President for the organization, going through levels of heightened activity and moments of re-evaluation. Repeatedly, we would have to ask ourselves collectively, “why are we, as students, organizing around these issues?” These questions led to extreme growth as both a student and a leader for which I am infinitely grateful.

Also, through the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship which I was awarded in 2009, I planned several individual research projects related to Chicana/o and Latina/o art and culture, some of which will guide my work as I plan for post-graduate education. Perhaps most important to me are the two Alternative Spring Break programs I participated in and organized in Immokalee, Florida (which received continual funding from the McKeen Center for the Common Good and Latin American Studies). During week-long trips, we worked with a group of students and community members in Florida in a number of social services oriented around the large migrant worker population. During these trips, I saw many of the struggles and injustices I read about in my Latin American Studies-impacted coursework firsthand, while simultaneously blended the two complex notions of “service” and “learning.”

Nell Sears '97

Nell Sears

Class of: 1997

Major(s): History

Nell Sears '97 is Principal of Paul Cuffee School in Providence, R.I. She graduated in with a BA in History (at the time, Bowdoin didn’t offer a major in Latin American Studies).

Tell us about Paul Cuffee School and your work there.

Paul Cuffee School is a public charter school in Providence, R.I., founded in 2001 and named for Paul Cuffee (or Cuffe) who was a ship captain in the late eighteenth century. His mother was a Wampanoag Native American and his father was a freed slave, originally from Ghana. Cuffee is credited with founding one of the first integrated schools in the country in nearby Westport, MA. I've been at Paul Cuffee School for eight years; I helped to design and start our middle school. Our school reflects the demographics of the Providence Public School district; roughly 75 percent of our students are Latino, and over 75 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch. It's been exciting for me personally to be able to stay connected with Latin American cultures through my students and their families. We provide an engaging and rigorous academic program with a heavy emphasis on developing a thoughtful and supportive community and fostering in our students the desire and the tools to effect positive change in the world.

What are your biggest challenges as principal of the school?

One major challenge is resources. In Rhode Island, charters do not receive funding for capital costs, which translates into insufficient buildings. Though our amazing teachers can work in almost any conditions, space impacts teaching and learning in many important ways. A great way to illustrate the inequities in our education system is to look at the educational spaces in poor districts next to those in wealthier districts. Poverty is also a huge challenge for our students and for our families. Students from poor backgrounds often come with more stressors and fewer resources, which means that they have to work much harder to succeed academically.

How did Bowdoin prepare you for your current position?

There are three main aspects of my Bowdoin experience that come to mind. First, I think Bowdoin helped develop my ability to prioritize. During my four years, I participated in a lot of activities outside of the classroom. Juggling those demands on my time meant that there wasn’t always time to do everything as perfectly as I would have hoped, but I learned how to make reasonable choices about where to focus my time and energy (don’t worry, Professor Wells, I always read every word of the books you assigned). In education, the job literally never ends. Teachers and principals could work twenty-four hours a day and still not be finished. It’s critical to be able to decide when to stop or what needs to take a backseat for the time being.

Second, the love for Latin American history and culture I developed at Bowdoin and through my study abroad program has definitely given me more context for my Latino families’ experiences and culture than I would have had otherwise. Studying Latin American history at Bowdoin also fuelled my passion for working for social justice through education.

The Bowdoin College Upward Bound (UB) program was extremely influential in my career path. That is where I first encountered up close the class-based inequities in our education system and came to understand how essential college preparation is for poor students. I learned the basics of teaching and learning, and it was at UB that I first became hooked on the power of a supportive, engaging, and challenging educational community to change students’ lives. I imported many wonderful traditions from UP to my own school; in many ways Paul Cuffee’s middle school was modeled after Bowdoin Upward Bound.

What path did you take to Cuffee after leaving college?

I guess I'd say it was a circuitous trip. When I graduated, I really couldn't have predicted that I would go into teaching. I had worked at summer camps and at Upward Bound, but until I spent some time working in an office at a nonprofit, I thought I would go to law school. Frankly, I just couldn't get through the day sitting at a desk. I really missed working with young people. After that experience, I made my way toward teaching; I worked at an adolescent crisis shelter in Lewiston, a private boarding school outside of Philadelphia, and a public school in rural New Hampshire.

What suggestions do you have for current undergraduates about how to succeed in teaching?

The first thing to realize is that teaching is extremely demanding-- both intellectually and technically. The public perception of teaching right now is a very negative one, and it doesn't do justice to the intellectual and creative skills that good teaching requires. I would encourage current undergraduates to take full advantage of everything Bowdoin has to offer; study anything and everything that is exciting and interesting. In my view, a solid liberal arts background is the best foundation for teaching. Before graduation, spend some time with children—work at a summer camp, volunteer in a classroom, or walk down to McClellan and talk to Bridget Mullen about working at Bowdoin Upward Bound for a summer or two. After Bowdoin, look for a teaching program that is very practice- based rather than theory-based. Being a good teacher takes experience and exposure. It’s like riding a bike; reading about how to push the pedals doesn’t get you up the Pyrenees in the Tour de France.