Overcoming Challenges ~ METCO Seniors Look Ahead

April 28, 2021
Three Bedford High School METCO students – Angelica Jones, Ty-Janae Brewster, and Nekeria Ransom – are all looking forward to college in September.

Resilience in the past. Reflection on the present. Excitement about the future.

Confidence in themselves.

Three Bedford High School seniors unwound in the BHS METCO room this week, sharing personal accounts of navigating and overcoming challenges and setbacks. In a few months, all expect to be enrolled in the state university system.

Angelica Jones and Nekeria Ransom joined the Class of 2021 in sixth grade. Two years later Ty-Janee Brewster arrived. They are among seven METCO seniors at BHS.

“Many could say that they had difficulties that should have deterred them from being successful, but I rather say that their determination excelled them to success,” said Akil Mondesir, Bedford METCO director. “I consider myself fortunate to be watching them fulfill their dreams, receiving their diplomas, and moving on to college.”

Jones said she “decided for myself” to enroll in METCO when she reached sixth grade. “I was in foster care throughout middle school and the beginning of high school,” she related. “Then I moved back with my mom… We don’t really get along that well.”

Soon she was back in a foster home. “Moving from place to place” is tough; when you have to figure out how to get to and from your METCO bus, it’s worse. There were times when the state Department of Children and Families “was pushing to change to a school in Boston – because it would be easier for them.”

“It was hard seeing friends,” she said. “The DCF required background checks just to have a sleepover.” When students suddenly were forced into remote learning in March 2020, she discovered she didn’t have Wi-Fi in her foster home. “BHS gave me a ‘hot spot,’ but I still missed a couple of weeks.”

Ransom said her sister was two years ahead of her in Bedford METCO. Their mother had died; the children were living with their grandmother. Then “there was an accident,” she said, briefly overcome with emotion when trying to explain how her grandmother, too, passed away.

Jones and Ransom are varsity cheerleader captains; they joined in 10th grade. “We definitely met a lot of people,” Jones said. “If you’re lonely, do a sport. It was nice for me to get out of the house, wherever I was at the time.” Ransom had a good time as well. “I saw what they were doing and I said, ‘Why don’t we do it? I want to toss people up in the air.’”

Brewster said she also “grew up in the foster care system.” When she came to Bedford in eighth grade it was “during my second adoption — the first one didn’t go so well.” Almost five years later, she said, “I’m in a way better place than I was before.”

“It was hard because everywhere I turned in other schools I attended, people looked like me,” she explained. Initially in Bedford, she felt “kind of like an outcast.” Teachers “have helped me grow accustomed to Bedford. Even playing softball one season helped me realize I can do these things. I never saw myself playing softball for a school when I was younger.”

“I get a lot of help from faculty members here that I go see every day,” Brewster said. “They’ve always been really supportive.” During her year at John Glenn Middle School, “I was really struggling to get caught up, trying to make friends and fit in.”

Asked who helped them deal with their challenges, all three women immediately mentioned Mondesir – they call him “Mr. M.” For Brewster, it began as soon as she arrived – just “seeing him and being able to talk to him every day.”

Mondesir can empathize with the women; his story is similar to theirs. He lost his grandmother, his primary caregiver when he was a METCO senior at Bedford High. “They have continually demonstrated to me that obstacles in our path are never bigger than the challenges or the outcomes and that their belief in themselves has made them more determined and unstoppable to attain them,” he said.

Ransom also credited her guidance counselor and “my aunt, who took me in” for their help and support.

Brewster added almost casually, “I recently found out I have glaucoma – I thought that was something you might get when you’re 80.” It began with severe headaches, and the illness was discovered when she was fitted for glasses. Between medication and laser surgeries she hopes the glaucoma can be stabilized. “It will keep my eyes from exploding,” she explained.

The women are well aware of the issues of equity and justice enveloping the nation. Brewster shared a thought with the Bedford community. “Just asking the questions of ‘What can we do? How can we go about it?’ That’s the first step. It really matters. Then the next step is having conversations with people who want to listen.” The pandemic, she acknowledged, has distracted from that process.

The women agreed that high school history books are written from a White perspective. Basically, Black history is bullet points – slavery, Reconstruction, civil rights – they maintained. “Just because I’m the only Black person in the class doesn’t mean I’ve had all these experiences,” Brewster said. Jones agreed. “You can hear the heads turning.”

The women agreed that their African-American literature class was their most enlightening academic experience.

Although BHS soon will be behind them, they are advocating enhancements of the METCO program. For example, sometimes after team practice, there’s no late bus and student-athletes end up taking public transportation back to the city, they testified. And there have been occasions when they were already en route to Bedford when they learned that school was canceled by snow.

Then there was the time when an aerial photo was scheduled for the student body. “We wanted to be in that photo,” Jones said. But the METCO bus departed before the shot. “There’s a sense,” she said, “that the town could do more.”

Jones said she will be studying biomedical engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. “My brother’s mentor had a list of work opportunities and I was really interested,” she explained. “You can develop medical technology, prosthetic limbs, and try to advance that.”

Ransom will be studying at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She said she will most likely major in biology and aspires to “something in the medical field. A doctor is what I have said since I was little.”

Brewster will matriculate at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, majoring in psychology with a double minor in sociology and business. She is part of UMass Dartmouth’s College Now program “for kids who have a hard time believing they could be good students.”

She is considering a career in law, but she is not ruling out teaching. This year, through the BHS Guidance Department, she worked as a teaching assistant at the middle school – seventh and eighth grade Spanish and sixth-grade math.

“I have always been a social person and at middle school, they enjoy it – I can see how happy they are to have somebody older,” she related. “They think high schoolers are like gods. They ask me questions all the time. I might actually want to get into teaching. This is a chance for me to give back. It has played a ginormous part in what I want to do. That experience has helped me figure out what Bedford is all about.”

Mondesir was reflective. “As the end journey of early morning wake-ups, long bus rides, and even longer days slowly approaches, I think about the road that these three young ladies have taken to get to this point, and I cannot wait to see how much further they will push themselves and go.”

“Hidden gems shine even brighter when found, and I believe that Angelica, Ty-Janae, and Nekeria—albeit hidden to many, have always shined bright in my eyes and to those who have supported them throughout the years.”

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

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Danita Kelley-Brewster
May 19, 2021 2:18 pm

I am the mother of one of these students. I am so very proud of these young people. They have been through much and learned to survive, but survival isn’t, nor should it be the goal of the education system. We should want ALL children to thrive in their environment. Referring to these teens as women, is inappropriate. This is not just my opinion, the research shows that black children and teens are often sexually objectified. Are white children and teens referred to as women?

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