B.E.S.T. Summer Scholars 2023

August 1, 2023

One of the highlights of the summer for B.E.S.T. is our annual Summer Scholars Program for newly enrolled, rising middle and upper school students. This summer, over the course of five weeks in June and July, 26 of our newest B.E.S.T. students participated in our robust and dynamic program that provided a solid foundation in academics, athletics, and the arts, coupled with meaningful transition programming to support their independent school experience this Fall.

In her inaugural year as Summer Scholars Director, Ms. LaShanda Lawrence of the St. Paul’s Schools, and her talented faculty, built a supportive and thoughtful community for our Scholars who engaged in rigorous academics, art, athletics, public speaking and transitions while having fun, enjoying fieldtrips, and building lifelong friendships.


Outward Bound

During their field trip to Outward Bound, Scholars had a chance to assess their personal limits through activities that pushed them outside of their comfort zone. Team-building activities included games that built a foundation for collaboration, communication and trust with the ultimate challenge of conquering the climbing wall. Here, Scholars challenged themselves while cheering and supporting their fellow students through the experience.

Field Trip to the Hippodrome

Each summer, one of the elements of the program is a trip to the Hippodrome Theatre. Our Scholars had the opportunity to unlock their creativity and develop a deep appreciation for the power of self-expression. They were guided by experienced instructors who introduced them to the fundamental principles of theater, such as body language, vocal projection, and the art of storytelling. These activities have not only nurtured their confidence in public speaking but have also encouraged them to step out of their comfort zones and embrace their unique voices.

By engaging in theater exercises and workshops, our Scholars gained a profound understanding of the art of communication. They discovered how body movements, facial expressions, and vocal variations can convey emotions and messages effectively. Furthermore, they honed their skills in character development, learning how to step into the shoes of different personalities, and bring them to life on stage.

Field Trip to Skateland in Putty Hill

Scholars loved the opportunity to lace up their skates for a fun afternoon at Skateland in Putty Hill.

Virtual Visit to the Lillie May Carroll Jackson Museum

During their virtual visit to the Lillie Carroll Jackson Museum, Scholars toured Lillie Carroll Jackson’s historic home and learned about the Civil Rights Movement in Baltimore. Students learned about Juanita Mitchell, the first Black woman to receive her law degree from University of Maryland School of Law, and Margaret T. Carey, a wealthy white woman, who fought against racial injustice when it was unpopular to do so.

Storytelling Workshop with Dr. David Fakunle ’05

Scholars were thrilled to participate in a workshop led by B.E.S.T./Friends School Alumnus, Dr. David Fakunle ’05. He is a self-described “mercenary for change,” willing to employ any talent and occupy any space in the effort to elevate people of African descent and anyone who feels divested from their truest self. Dr. Fakunle ’05 earned a Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and prior to doctoral study, earned a B.A. in Psychology and Criminology & Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the co-founder and CEO of DiscoverME/RecoverME, an organization that utilizes the African oral tradition to encourage the claiming of one’s narrative for personal and organizational growth.

During his workshop, Dr. Fakunle introduced Scholars to the importance of having their own personal narrative. He used his storytelling expertise to illustrate the power of developing a sixty-second narrative that focuses on where one comes from and where one is going. This was an impactful session for our Scholars.

Living History: A Walking Tour of Roland Park

Gretchen Martin, Assistant Middle School Head at the St. Paul’s Schools, led Scholars on a walking tour of Roland Park. During the tour, Scholars learned about the history of the Enoch Pratt FREE library, what that meant for Baltimoreans, and what the current library means for the community. Ms. Martin led Scholars through Gilman School’s campus and shared information about the Carey and Finney families, both of whom had a commitment to the education of Black students. As the Head of Gilman School from 1968 to 1992, Redmond C.S. Finney (pictured below with Gilman / B.E.S.T. students) played a pivotal role as one of the Founders of B.E.S.T. more than 35 years ago.

Continuing the tour along the Stony Run trail, Scholars learned about Roland Park’s commitment to keeping green spaces for its community. Ms. Martin also discussed the importance of having a walkable community, a market that sells fresh food and vegetables, and bike paths.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Workshop with Michael Powell and special guest, Jonathan Elliott ’21

Led by Michael Powell, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland, Scholars participated in a two-day workshop centered on creating identity maps, finding joy and claiming power in independent schools. Boys’ Latin and B.E.S.T. Alumnus, Jonathan Elliott ’21, connected with Scholars by sharing his independent school experience and the importance of getting to know the faculty and administrators in their school community. Mr. Powell encouraged the Scholars to reach out to their DEI directors this summer to introduce themselves, and to seek them out when they start at their new schools this Fall.

Summer Scholars Virtual Art Gallery

Closing Ceremony

The culminating event of the five-week program was a Closing Ceremony Celebration honoring the academic achievement and new-found friendships that our Scholars developed over the course of the summer. Starting with an Exhibition of Learning, families were invited to view artwork and reflections on novels read, and even do a tasting of the chocolate the Scholars made in STEM class. Scholars presented highlights from their academic coursework, including creative videos and projects that enhanced their learning experience. Students were presented with a certificate of completion, a B.E.S.T. bag as well as a lacrosse stick, thanks to the generous donation from STX.

Featured guest speakers included B.E.S.T. and Bryn Mawr Alumna, Serena Cooper ’21. Serena, who now attends USC, shared words of wisdom and encouraged the Scholars to keep an open mind, try everything, stay grateful, and take the leap knowing you are not alone. She emphasized the importance of relying on the network of faculty and administrators at their Independent School for support, and she expressed her pride and excitement for their journey ahead.

B.E.S.T. Board President, Karlo Young closed out the morning by enthusiastically engaging with the Scholars. He shared a reflection on his own upbringing in Baltimore, celebrated the Scholars, and reminded them as they embark on this new journey that competence breeds confidence – and that with their already-existing competence, draw on that to try new things and build their confidence. His parting message was that he was always there to offer his encouragement and support.

A Huge Thank You to Our Remarkable Faculty!

Summer Scholars wouldn’t be possible without the dedication and talent of the Summer Scholars faculty and staff! This summer, our Faculty and Alumna intern were instrumental in making the Summer Scholars experience engaging, impactful, and a space for our students to learn, grow and connect. Thank you for supporting our newly enrolled students and providing them with the tools necessary to help them feel ready for their transition to their new schools! We know our students will be successful as they begin their independent school journeys – thanks to each of you!

LaShanda Lawrence, Summer Scholars Director, Transitions and Public Speaking
Andrew Avallone, History and ELA/English
Fitz Hardcastle, Math
Antoinette Haegrich, Art
Erikka Jones, STEM
Will Nicklas, Language & Culture/Athletics
Kendall Brown ’23, Intern

With Sincere Gratitude for Our Supporters!

We are extremely grateful for our generous Summer Scholars Program funder for making this experience possible for our students.

Thank you to STX for giving each member of Summer Scholars a new lacrosse stick and other equipment!

To Our Amazing Students:

The priority of Summer Scholars is to ensure that as the newest members of the B.E.S.T. community, each of you feels ready and excited for the transition to your new school in the Fall. Congratulations on all your accomplishments this summer in the classroom, the athletic field, the art studio, and in the many other ways you connected with your fellow students and faculty. Our Member Schools are so fortunate to welcome each of you into their community! And we are so proud that you are part of B.E.S.T.!