Lessons in Compassion, Culture, and Creativity Headline Start to Student Speaker Series

The 2019­–2020 Upper School Student Speaker Series began this month with three eloquent presentations on three unique experiences. The Student Speaker Series invites any member of the Upper School to address fellow students, faculty, and staff about a subject or personal experience that is important to them and which they believe should be shared in a public way. It is a testament to the emphasis that Nightingale places on public speaking that these students are not only excited to speak in front of their community, but do so with confidence and poise.

In their presentations, students reflected on how eye-opening they found their individual summer experiences to be. They each urged fellow students to seek out opportunities that may seem challenging or outside their comfort zone, as they are often the most rewarding and life-changing.

Tutu Jereissati ’20 served as the first student speaker. She presented information on her internship this past summer working at a prisoner rehabilitation program in her home country of Brazil. Her passion for criminal justice became clear after an internship with the ACLU in summer 2018, which led her to the Gerando Falcoes organization located near São Paulo in summer 2019. Tutu was a part of the "Recomeçar" ("Restart") team for three weeks and her work included three main responsibilities. She met with the program’s participants to ensure their experience was a positive one, she attended national business conferences in the hopes of establishing future partnerships and employment for participants, and she observed government meetings in São Paulo to learn about efforts to aid the criminal justice system.

Reflecting on her experience, Tutu noted that, “the best thing about my internship was not only the work I got to do, which I hope to continue in my future but the people I met. My boss and co-workers were the most passionate, kind, and smart people I have ever met. They welcomed me with open arms and gave me the best experience they could provide. I learned about how non-profits function, how to create a career in a non-profit, and how systemic the problem of mass incarceration is. The biggest takeaway I learned is that most ex-felons are not bad people; they are good people in inhumane situations that led them to extremes.”

Lula Zeid ’21 shared with the Nightingale community reflections on her six-week immersion in Madagascar with the program Where There Be Dragons last summer. During her time in Africa, Lula lived with two families, one from a rural village in the highlands and one in a vibrant coastal city, in addition to traveling the country with a small group of fellow travelers learning about the country’s culture, language, religion, environment, and much more. While she was abroad, she completely disconnected from life in New York City which changed the way she looks at her own life and the world.

 “90% of Madagascar’s population lives under the poverty line,” noted Lula, “and the box office value of the Madagascar movies is worth more than the entire GDP of the country. And while being witness to the effects that had on one of the most compassionate peoples I have ever met was truly heartbreaking, I was also so incredibly humbled and honored to have seen and lived through the resilience and unparalleled kindness of Madagascar.”

Thea Berman ’20 presented on her time studying architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design this summer. In addition to her architecture classes, she also took drawing, design, and critical studies courses which ignited her creative passions. She delighted the audience with funny stories of her professors and fellow classmates and shared her gratitude for being surrounded by hundreds of people every day who were committed to the arts as a way of life.

For Thea, the lessons learned this past summer were not all academic. “Growing up I saw a really specific model of success—which was someone who made a lot of money in business or law. But realizing my love and passion for architecture this summer made it really clear that I want to pursue a career in art, and that it’s a completely viable path as well.”