The Black Excellence Challenge

Although being black in a boarding school presents its own set of unique challenges, it also produces many success stories. BLISS announces The Black Excellence Challenge to put a spotlight on the wide-ranging achievements of Black students in our schools. Pictured below is a couple of the winners of this challenge and some more information on them. To see more of these exceptional students, look at the BLISS instagram. If you want to nominate your friend (or even yourself), DM us @blissummit.

Meet Desmond Teague!

Desmond is a four-year senior at the Hotchkiss School who lives in Poughkeepsie, NY. He began studying music in the fifth grade, teaching himself to play the bass and the guitar. In fact, Desmond has learned to play ten different instruments with varying levels of mastery and draws inspiration from other musicians of color, such as Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, and Nina Simone.

Desmond describes his decision to come to Hotchkiss as eye-opening. Although beginning his journey at Hotchkiss, he was unsure about his identity, he came to understand the importance of embracing himself by engaging in school clubs like BaHSA (Black and Hispanic Student Association) and others alike.

Desmond's musical talents have been put to use at Hotchkiss through numerous performances, even helping to organize the student music showcase "SMS" for the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 years. Aside from music, Desmond runs track and pole vaults at Hotchkiss. he is also an avid reader and painter and enjoys building and repairing instruments.

Feel free to congratulate Desmond on his nomination: @lil.teague355 and check out his music account @dteaguemusic.

Meet Bre Barrett!

Breanna is a two-year junior from Kingston, Jamaica and has found tremendous success at The Lawrenceville School. She plays percussion in both the Philharmonic and Collegium Orchestra at Lawrenceville, fences on Lawrenceville's varsity Sabre fencing team, co-heads the Caribbean Students Association, and is a high honors student. Bre was accepted to the Hutchins Scholar program which introduces students into Molecular Biology. This summer at Stanford, she will be creating RNA lines that target genes involved in diabetes.

Coming from a majority Black country, Bre experienced difficulty transitioning to a PWI. However, she believes that her transition was made easier with clubs like Alliance of Black Cultures (ABC), Black Women at Lawrenceville (BWaL) and various diversity and inclusion initiatives led by DivCo(Diversity Council). To any Black student looking to attend boarding school, Bre would say that embracing her culture and identity played a major role in her adjustment.

Congrats on the nomination! Follow her insta: @breannaenb

Meet KemKem Ogbuefi!

KemKem is a four-year senior from Chicago, Illnois, and has committed much of her high school career to medical research and human rights advocacy. At Portsmouth Abbey, she involves herself in a wide array of extracurriculars, co-heading the Cultural Awareness Committee, the Model UN Team, and the Human Rights Club.

Kem Kem has pursued an abundance of service opportunities within the last year. In addition to interning at a cardiologist at the Boston Children's hospital, she traveled to Lagos, Nigeria on a grant from Portsmouth. There, she taught topics in science to young girls at a transitionary school. Next year in college, she plans on studying biology, global health, and Spanish.

Black students at Portsmouth have less of an opportunity to become involved in affinity spaces and support groups - KemKem attributes this issue to the extremely small Black population. Black students are often deterred by uncertainty when attempting to create spaces of their own. As KemKem puts it, "Nobody was going to help us make the community stronger, it was up to us." Fortunately, the Black community at Portsmouth embraces a collective identity - now, they have to take the next step of establishing a club!

Don't forget to congratulate KemKem on her nomination! @kemkem.og

Meet Michael Codrington!

Michael is a Prep 9 alumn and mentor. He attended Philips Academy Andover from 2014-2018 where he received a 3-year letterman in football and a 2-year letterman in track. He was an active member of 2 a capella groups and an improv comedy group on campus and spent 3 years dedicated to theater. In 2018, Michael published his own poetry book in August titled Speak Your Truth.

He went on to receive the Jack Kent Cooke College scholarship and a full ride to Howard University, an HBCU in Washington DC, where he held the position of captain for the track and field team, he holds the title of All MEAC Academic for 2019-20, and spends his free time volunteering for JustUs, a community service organization dedicated to mentoring and teaching incarcerated youths.

Congrats on the nomination Michael!