by Brianna Safe, Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship Associate
The subtitle for this year’s seminar theme easily could have been something akin to: “How to Talk About Rejection and Failure in a Room Full of People.” Talk about vulnerability… Rejection can be hard enough to acknowledge on our own, let alone in a social context where comparisons and self-appraisals inevitably creep in, despite our best efforts. It’s a loaded topic by virtue of its innate capacity to conjure some of our deepest feelings of self-doubt, confusion, shame and disappointment. But it’s also that power that makes it a word worth talking about, especially in communities where the myths of perfection often linger amidst high personal, academic and social expectations, both real and perceived.
From March 15 – 17, the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship community gathered at the DoubleTree in Downtown Los Angeles for the 16th Annual Bradley Seminar. With over 270 guests, this was our largest event to date, representing over 30 states spanning from Maine to Colorado to Hawaii. Scholars, alumni, parents, staff and educators explored this year’s theme, Perspective – how it shapes our perception of ourselves and the world around us; how experiences of disappointment and rejection make it difficult to reframe our failures; and how resilience and mindfulness can offer strategies for navigating life with clearer perspective.
Our keynote speaker, Dr. Lauren Marlotte, Assistant Director of Training for the Division of Population Behavioral Health and Nathan Family Resilience Center at UCLA, shared her own perspective and research for developing healthy resilience, using tools like social connection, physical activity, and emotional regulation in times of toxic stress. Through cross-generational conversation, small group workshops and community activities, seminar guests continued to explore these questions throughout the weekend. CDB seniors initiated a project called the “Rejection Wall,” an activity aimed at providing visibility on the topic of rejection, both academic and interpersonal, by inviting the community to share their own experiences and advice in writing. Scholars and parents alike were able to waive reservations and mutually contribute to these conversations, creating a spirit of solidarity and connection.
On Saturday afternoon, guests scattered around the local area for field trips and activities. CDB freshmen and parents ventured out from Little Tokyo to Pasadena via the Gold Line Metro (a personal favorite!) for an inaugural visit to the IEA headquarters, The Barder House. Older scholars participated in various live-action puzzles at Escape Room LA. If you’ve never done an escape room, I highly recommend this location – their themes and production value make the thrill of the countdown that much better. Parents, guests, and alumni visited nearby museums (Japanese American National Museum and Geffen Contemporary at MOCA) and explored the local charms of Little Tokyo, the Arts District and Downtown LA.
No CDB seminar would be complete without senior speeches. Always a highlight of the weekend, this year was particularly memorable as it marked the first graduating class since the program’s expansion in 2014. With 27 scholars, this is the largest senior class to date in CDB Scholarship program history. Coincidentally, 2014 was also my first year with the selection process – I still remember vivid details from various interviews that summer, my own nerves at times in competition with those of the interviewee. As this year also designated my last year with the CDB program, it was a fitting denouement to close out this final seminar weekend in tandem with the senior class of 2014. Their speeches spoke wisdom and humor in equal measure to their intelligence, passion, and ambition. Most, if not all, thanked Bonnie for her years of guidance and emails, trademarked by bold typeface and exclamation points en masse – a CDB tradition. The spirit of gratitude and authenticity was overwhelming. Not only from the graduating class, but the entire Caroline D. Bradley community. Reflecting on this year’s event, one scholar wrote: “I feel like CDB has been a part of my life for much longer because of the deep friendships I’ve forged within the organization and the way I’ve been able to grow as a person due to this broader supportive community.”
My hope is that, like this Scholar, every individual who participated in this year’s event feels that sense of community and connection. I know it is a feeling that will stick with me in continuity.
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If you aren’t familiar with the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship, you can read more about this life-changing opportunity on our website. Since 2002, the program has identified over 250 highly motivated, gifted students across the country, providing merit-based tuition to the high school program that best meets each student’s personal and academic needs – private, public, charter, boarding, early college, online and homeschool hybrid. The seminar provides a meeting place annually for these students and focuses on personal growth through themes and topics which encourage conversation, connection, and authenticity.