It Takes a Village: Celebrating the Middle School Cardinal of the Year and Her Family

Grammy-recipients and major league MVPs often cite a litany of people to whom they credit their success: family members, friends, teachers, neighbors, etc. When I sat down with Brooke Lane, the 2018-2019 Brilla College Prep Middle School (BCPM) Cardinal of the Year, and her mother, the same sentiment came across: Brooke is a stellar student and a young woman of strong character because she has a village of people challenging and encouraging her. Like winning a Grammy or being named MVP, earning the title of Cardinal of the Year is highly prestigious. The award is given to one student at each campus who best exemplifies all four core virtues. The recipient must have a noteworthy academic standing and be recognized by his or her teachers as an example for other scholars.

Brooke and her mother, Mrs. Jennifer Lane, at the Shine Awards

With lively music and happy chatter in the background, I spoke with Brooke and her mother on Back to School Night. Brooke was eager to meet her teachers and reunite with her friends. Her seventh grade year was set to start off on a high note: as the Cardinal of the Year, she would ride to Brilla on the first day of school in a limousine with Carlton. After telling me how excited she was for the limo-ride, Brooke told me that she was shocked when she found out that she was named Cardinal of the Year at the Shine Awards, an elegant dinner for families and staff that concludes the school year. Her mother, Mrs. Jennifer Lane, echoed Brooke’s response, “I was so happy and started crying! I was like, ‘Mr. Larsen [Principal of BCPM], you’re not supposed to shock me like that!’” Brooke’s father was, in the words of Mrs. Lane,  “ecstatic” when he heard Brooke’s name announced. Parents of Brooke’s classmates congratulated Brooke and her parents, and, thanks to an announcement on BCPM’s Facebook page, Brooke’s big news spread. Mrs. Lane received many congratulatory messages from friends and family. When I asked Brooke why she thinks her teachers voted her Cardinal of the Year, she thought for a moment and responded with an example of how she lives each of the four core virtues. Her teachers agree. Mr. Larsen said, “[Brooke] consistently exemplifies all of our virtues, specifically courage. When presented with the opportunity, she takes on leadership opportunities, such as when she ran for and served on student council, as well as participating in culture event presentations. She is a student that always knows when to ask for help for herself or to push the thinking of her peers.” 

After exiting the limo, Brooke and Carlton pose for a photo outside of BCPM on the first day of school

When I asked Mrs. Lane and Brooke what their favorite part of Brilla is, they agreed: the teachers. Brooke described Brilla teachers as fun and “strict in a good way.” Her mother shared how grateful she is for the way the teachers support her—whether it be answering phone calls or texts whenever she has a question or teaching her ways to instill the core virtues at home during Coffee & Conversations, a monthly gathering for Brilla families and teachers. In fact, it was a teacher who brought them to Brilla in the first place. In the summer of 2013, Mrs. Lane was working as a crossing-guard at 144th Street and Willis Avenue, right outside the campus of Brilla College Prep Elementary School (BCPE). A few days before the school opened, Mrs. Lane crossed one of the teachers. The teacher thanked Mrs. Lane and then asked her to spread the word that there were four available seats for first grade. Within a few hours, Mrs. Lane completed the paperwork for her own daughter, Brooke, to register at Brilla as a first grader.

Now six years after that fortuitous conversation at the intersection of 144th Street and Willis Avenue, Brilla is a huge part of the Lane Family’s life. This year, all of the Lane children are enrolled in Brilla schools: Brooke in seventh grade at BCPM, Cuyler in second grade at BCPE, and Dylan in kindergarten at BCPE. As for Mr. and Mrs. Lane, they take every chance they get to be involved in the community by attending Parent Universities and volunteering through the Family Involvement Committee (FIC). While Dylan’s time at Brilla is just beginning, Brooke’s is coming to a close. Next June, she and her classmates will make history as the first graduating class from Brilla Public Charter Schools. Although that day will be sad as it will mark the end to such a joyful, formative time in Brooke’s life, both Mrs. Lane and Brooke look to Brooke’s future with optimism. We at Brilla likewise look forward to seeing what Brooke does in her bright future and are honored to be a part of the village that will help to get her there.

From left to right: Cuyler Lane III, Brooke Lane, Mr. Cuyler Lane Jr., and Dylan Lane

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Danielle Schirripa is Executive Associate of the Brilla School Network. In her role, she assists the Executive Director in establishing systems and processes for Brilla’s external communication and fundraising. She studied Mathematics and Philosophy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Originally from Boston, MA, she enjoys spending time at the beach and watching the Red Sox. 

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