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On Belonging at Park

By Ildulce Brandao-DaSilva, educator at The Park School and parent of two Park students

The Park School
On Belonging at Park

My father named me Ildulce (Il dool’ see) after the two women he loved; my grandmother (Ilda) and my mother (Dulce). Children at Park call me Ms. B. I am a first generation American, and all my life, I have sought to answer, ”Where do I belong?” I am both American and Cape Verdean.

Education has been at the core of my journey. My immigrant parents didn’t have that benefit, so they prioritized giving their own children a strong education. My siblings and I attended Catholic schools K-12. Belonging to a strong Cape Verdean community, my friends and I went to church together and school together. After Cambridge College, I became an educator, and as a parent living in that same community, I signed my daughter up for the same school I had attended, only to find it was closing.

My Roxbury neighbors are my people. We didn’t want to leave our community to get our children a good education. I knew people who had attended Steppingstone or METCO, who spent hours on buses to attend independent schools out in the affluent suburbs. That education led to great careers, yet I didn’t think this was an option for us at all — I’d seen the price tag!

Then a Roxbury friend told me that she’d enrolled her daughter at The Park School. She told me about Park’s financial aid, after school programs, and extracurricular opportunities. I thought, why not give it a try? Park accepted us, and gave us the financial aid we needed. 

When families ask if Park is a place they would belong, I tell them Park is for people who believe that educational excellence, inclusivity and belonging, and social-emotional learning are equally important, no matter who we are or where we come from. My family brings our true authentic selves to Park and shares that with the community, and it has embraced us. My daughter truly loves being a Cape Verdean girl in a community that appreciates her. And, until you peel the onion, you don’t know what you will discover — we discovered many other Cape Verdeans at Park!

My daughter loved the community and campus from the day she arrived in PreK. Moving between the city and Brookline and encountering cultural differences from her lived experience so far, she is learning to maneuver situations that I’m only just learning about as an adult. 

My son came to Park three years later and is thriving. Seeing my children’s opportunities made me realize that I too can choose my own journey as an educator. When Park posted an opening for Assistant Division Head, I thought, why not give it a try. And they hired me!

Working here in a position of leadership, I know that my children and other children of color have the benefit of imagining, “That could be me someday!” I’m proud to show them they too can be a leader in a community as wonderful as this. 

As a person of color, when I say my kids go here, some ask, “How’d you get in?” That question seems to imply, “You don’t belong there.”  I disagree. I know my family brings something special to the Park community. Park values diversity, believing it broadens perspectives, enables growth and progress toward inclusivity, and builds a better community. We are invested in Park’s community and in our children’s successful future. I love that my children are broadening their perspectives and being challenged in what and how they learn. That’s why we picked Park.

Park families need to prioritize investing financially in their children’s education and contributing to Park’s culture. The paperwork that demonstrates financial need takes some time, but completing it ensures that if Park offers your family admission, it comes with the financial package that makes it possible for you to choose Park. I had already been paying for parochial school and believed that investing in my children’s education was important. The opportunities and resources that Park provides made it all worthwhile.  Sure, it means making choices with your money. I choose my children’s education. 

I’m excited for the journey ahead. I can’t wait to see who they’re going to become with the foundation I have set up for them. My son says he’s going to be the 57th President!