by Brianna Safe, Resource Coordinator
“Attention is the doorway to gratitude, to wonder, to reciprocity.” – Robin Wall Kimmerer
The annual Bradley Seminar is a place where you can’t help but pay attention. In the blink of an eye, it has come and gone. The Seminar is significant because it brings together some of the most interested and accomplished national merit-based high school scholars; it provides a venue for Caroline D. Bradley Scholars, parents, educators and professionals to connect, discuss issues of intellectual, personal, and global interest; and it strengthens a community that they will continue to influence and rely upon in perpetuity. I love it precisely for its strength of attentiveness – a weekend filled to capacity with such extraordinary individuals, challenging conversations, and genuine connectedness demands we lay distractions aside and keep our eyes open. Wide open.
The 2016 Bradley Seminar commenced in Pasadena, California from March 18 – 20, hosting over 180 participants from across the country. The weekend events kicked off on Friday afternoon, welcoming the Class of 2014 Scholars to The Barder House, a space rife with symbolism for the CDB community. Dedicated and named after the Scholarship’s generous benefactor, Sarah D. Barder, it was donated to the Institute for Educational Advancement in 2011 by Ms. Barder to serve as the home base for IEA, as well as a meeting place and touchstone for the IEA and the CDB community.
Following a welcome dinner and introductions, parents attended a session led by Dr. Jim Delisle, while Scholars and Alumni participated in ice-breakers and a hotel-wide scavenger hunt. Among the various tasks that teams were instructed to complete were items like, “find something at least 100 years older than anyone on your team” and “record a video of everyone on your team doing 20 jumping jacks in unison”.
Each year, the Seminar is guided by a different overarching theme intended to serve as the focal point for thought and conversation throughout the weekend. The 2016 theme was Finding & Cultivating Your Voice, which pursued questions like: What am I passionate about and what matters? What does it mean to have a voice and how do I share these passions with a community, local or global, in meaningful ways?
KR Sridhar, Founder, President, and CEO of Bloom Energy, explored this theme on Saturday morning through a keynote presentation on the relationship between voice, passion, and resilience. Betsy Jones, IEA President, guided intergenerational conversations between students, parents, visiting educators, and guests to examine the Seminar theme in smaller intentional groups. These discussions channel incredible value for their ability to bring a diverse group of individuals together as equals to discuss issues of common interest. One Scholar noted, “The table talks helped facilitate open and serious conversations… The topics addressed were relevant to my life, especially the topics in the intentional conversations.”
Saturday night featured workshops and panels led by CDB Alumni and parents, educators, clinical psychologists, and consultants covering a range of topics: American Misconceptions of Giftedness, Career Paths, College Counseling, Finding Your Voice Through Depression, Intensities and Sensitivities, and Mindfulness.
While the day was bookended with content-heavy sessions, Scholars and parents were able to relax through various outings on Saturday afternoon to the Griffith Observatory, Huntington Library & Gardens, and EscapeRoom LA.
As the Seminar concluded on Sunday morning and good-byes became imminent, I reflected on the wonder of the weekend. I recalled Kimmerer’s words on attention, gratitude, and reciprocity as I watched the generosity of the CDB community extend outward in the form of financial support and volunteerism to the IEA community. This only confirmed my feeling that when we come together and pay attention – when we put down our phone, participate in our environment, engage in what it means to be present – something happens. As Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.” I can’t help but agree.
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