“My mom always taught me to be independent and to not worry about other people and be myself, be by myself and help myself in life,” says buildOn student Bevann Bryan.
Bevann grew up in Jamaica before moving to the United States when she was about nine years old. She says that life was less fast-paced then, but that she faced challenges in her personal relationships. She remembers being taught to be very private, never really had any friends and was often by herself.
For some, learning to be independent is an important step, but for Bevann, it came with a price. She often felt isolated and closed off to others, which led to strained relationships with many of her peers.
“I think me getting into fights at school came from just be being arrogant and believing that I wasn’t equal to everyone else, feeling like I was better than my peers,” she said.
On the days that she did show up to school, Bevann could be found acting out in the back of the classroom instead of being engaged with the teacher. She was often getting into trouble and “not mentally there,” even when she was physically present that day. She was seemingly indifferent to academics, where learning was far from her first priority.
Bevann is now a senior year at Kolbe Cathedral High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She is also a member of buildOn and says that her life has improved dramatically since she joined the program two years ago.
“I was more worried about social life, then I joined buildOn. One of buildOn’s key things is education, so I definitely started paying attention to school more, actually showing up to school, being on time and actually paying attention, which helped raise my grades up,” she says.
Her relationships with her peers also improved and she says that the friends she has made through buildOn that inspire her the most. One of these friends unexpectedly prompted her involvement in buildOn in the first place. And, it’s a funny story, she recalls.
Bevann was walking down the hallway when another student approached her asking where the buildOn office was. She did not know, but offered to help.
“We ended up finding the office and he said, “Now, come inside with me.” I ended up going inside and he just started talking,” she says. “He pointed me out and said, ‘You’re in charge of this, you’re coming to this.’”
The student was referring to an upcoming service project. And while it took a little more prompting for Bevann to get involved, including an early morning phone call that weekend, Bevann was soon hooked and her personal transformation began. Today, she has completed over 400 service hours through buildOn.
“Growing up…I didn’t really care about other people. I was selfish and in my own bubble and not realizing the problems that need to be fixed in the world,” she says. “Joining buildOn, that was a big thing for me. [Realizing] you’re not the only one living here, not the only one with problems.”
She found connections and strength within her community that she had not had before. She began to accept other people and learned to value service and giving back, without expecting something in return. Bevann started paying attention in class and spending more time in school, even making honor roll for the first time during her junior year.
“I would definitely be the old me [without buildOn]…kind of closed in, selfish, not caring about anyone else’s feelings. I’d probably be in the principal’s office all the time getting in trouble,” she says. “I definitely won’t have the friendships. The friendships definitely changed [me] into the person I am and the person I am proud to be.”
Bevann is still independent, but has learned the power of a supportive community instead of fending completely for herself. She is driven by service and hard work and knows that it is still possible to do what makes you happy and shape your own path as you grow older.
“Break the box, break the chains, and definitely achieve the things you want to achieve and do what you feel is is best. That’s one of the great things in life. If you’re not happy, you don’t have anything in my opinion,” she says.
And her story is truly one of transformation.
“My biggest accomplishment is finding myself, learning who I want to be, focusing on who I want to be and not what everyone else wants me to be,” she says.
Join the movement to create a #BetterBack2School and empower more students like Bevann through service and community building.
Posted September 12, 2014 in Stories by buildOn