Brandilyn Dumas ’99
Real Estate Attorney, Greenberg Traurig, New York City Office
Higher Education: B.A., cum laude, Duke University; M.S.T. Fordham University; J.D. New York University School of Law
Volunteering: Past Board Member, National Summer Learning Organization; Trustee, Harlem Link Charter School
Supporting WT: Morewood Giving Club Member, and Financial Aid Endowment donor
Q: How did you end up going to WT?
A: I was in a public school in Pittsburgh, and although I did well academically, I muddled through sixth grade. It really wasn’t a place that was supporting my needs. I remember having a counselor who came up to me in the hallway one day and said, “You don’t belong in this school.” She made me take a test to go to Winchester Thurston and I was fortunate to receive a partial scholarship to enter WT in seventh grade. The rest is history.
Q: What did you know about WT at that point and how was it when you arrived?
A: I actually didn’t know about WT before the counselor demanded that I take that test! I was nervous about catching up and to some extent fitting in, coming from the neighborhoods I grew up in. I did know I wanted to do well. What WT students had done in sixth grade was very different from what I had done in sixth grade, but I received the support and the quality teaching that helped me to catch up.
Q: How did WT prepare you?
A: More than the rigor that prepared me for all of the academic environments I have been in, WT shaped my independent thinking. I was an educator with Teach for America right out of college. Thinking back about my student experience at WT, I remember it being the type of environment that, as a teacher, I aspired to create. I experienced self-directed learning that has allowed me to make meaning out of information myself rather than it being given to me.
The scope of options open to me would have been dramatically different had I not attended a quality school, one that emphasizes both culture and learning.
Q: What are some of your most meaningful school memories?
A: I have so many! I was one of the few kids who didn’t have resources like a computer at home and when I had to type up a project after school in the library, Ms. Bitterolf stayed around to help. I enjoyed the out-of-classroom experiences in addition to the classes; I did every single school musical from seventh to twelfth grade and that was always a highlight of my year. It helped me craft my identity as an adult.
Q: You clearly place a lot of importance on education. What would you like to tell people about that?
A: Because of the fundamental role that education played in my life, I understand the access that it affords. There isn’t anything like it. The scope of options open to me would have been dramatically different had I not attended a quality school, one that emphasizes both culture and learning. I want those experiences for other kids and try to think of ways to contribute my slice to that effort. I prioritize my giving and service to support education.
Q: What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
A: Helping my 22-year old brother (born the year I started school at WT) navigate college is shaping up to be one of my proudest accomplishments. He’s a great kid but he wasn’t especially excited about college when he got there. My experiences helped me articulate how essential education is in opening doors. Being able to convey that to him changed his outcome.
I’m also really proud to have been selected into NYU’s competitive scholarship program for students who are the first in the family to pursue a graduate or professional degree. The space Winchester provided for me to be an extrovert blossomed into leadership, the primary selection criteria.
Q: You’re a member of the WT Fund’s Morewood Giving Club, and have given generously to support an endowed fund for financial aid. Why do you choose to give to WT?
A: There are so many other kids like myself who, given the resources and opportunity, could flourish at WT. I want to do my part to make sure the resources for that are there. If I didn’t go to WT I believe my set of circumstances would be different. I am incredibly fortunate for the opportunity I was given and to the extent I can, I want to make opportunities available for others. Someone made me a priority and said, “We don’t want that kid to not attend this school.” I’m still deeply touched by that today.
Financial Aid at WT in 2016-2017
million dollars awarded
of the student body
students received transformational financial aid, covering 90% or more of the cost of a WT education.