Brattleboro Union High School Class of 2017: Senior reflects on community and how to enact change

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Editor's Note: The Reformer solicited area high schools for a senior to profile. This suggestion came from Brattleboro Union High School.

BRATTLEBORO — Jon "Jack" Spanierman isn't your average high schooler. He's a senior, a soon-to-be graduate at Brattleboro Union High School. When he sits down to talk about world affairs, he contemplates how technology is keeping the world from "living." Then again, as Spanierman willingly acknowledges, he comes from a "unique" place — BUHS is all about community.

"I think they do a good job at making an environment that's all inclusive," Spanierman said. "Our principal is always making terrible jokes ... it's just a very friendly community."

Spanierman was awed with the ability of BUHS's staff and faculty to build a community. Spanierman came to Brattleboro from the Grammar School in Putney. He was surprised by how quickly the kids invited him in and made Brattleboro feel like home. He feels like his experience at University of Vermont, in Burlington, will be similar.

"I have a love for Vermont," he said. That's one of the reasons he's excited to attend UVM in the fall. "Burlington itself is amazing because it has all the aspects of a small town community but elements of a larger city as well," he said. Spanierman's brother already attends UVM, so Spanierman knows he'll have a support system there if he needs it. Spanierman hasn't declared a major yet, but he's going into the Integrated Social Science Program.

"I really have no idea what I want to do with my life," Spanierman said. "But I know I want to make a difference."

He's excited about the chance to delve into the material further and for the small class sizes offered through the ISSP program, which is all about world concepts and problems. Each class has a max of 19 students in it, Spanierman said, and he'll will be living with other students in the program. The program offers courses on everything from capitalism and human welfare to global gender inequality.

Climate change and public education are two subjects Spanierman is passionate about. He's been paying attention to the current political climate of the U.S. In Brattleboro, and in Vermont in general, Spanierman feels like there's a unique opportunity to get involved in politics. "We're lucky enough to know our senators, know our governor," he said."That's a totally quirky part of Vermont that I think is amazing."

In Burlington, he feels like he'll have a similar voice, but that he might have even more connections being so close to Montpelier. "I'd love to, who knows, work with my colleagues in Burlington in a few years and start a new revolution to bring America together," he said.

Spanierman feels the education he received at BUHS has prepared him with the critical skills he needs to delve further into his education. Teri Appel is one of the teachers who stands out to Spanierman.

"I attribute a lot of my love of learning to Ms. Appel," Spanierman said. "I think one of the most important professions is being a teacher ... If you make learning fun I feel like you can inspire a passion for learning and that subject; that's what happened with me."

Appel is an English teacher, and she helped inspire a love of reading and literature in Spanierman.

In Appel's class, Spanierman said, students would sit in a small circle to discuss literature. "It was almost like a book club," he said. "It was a super tight knit little literary community." He said they still meet every now and then to catch up about their lives.

Spanierman's favorite author is Mark Twain.

"Hukleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, those are classics I think everyone should read. They're kind of just staples in our society," he said. He said Mark Twain's books are commonly misconstrued as being racist, but if people dug further into the text they'd find a different message.

"He's making fun of people who are racist as opposed to being racist," he said.

The adults at BUHS happily dote on Spanierman, but he remains humble. He seems almost embarrassed when asked to list all of the activities he's involved in. Spanierman said he might be "too involved." He's a Student Rotarian at the Brattleboro Rotary Club, he's been in band and chorus for years, he's in the Jazz Workshop, he's made it to the All District Band, he's a part of an a cappella group that performed at Strolling of the Hefiers, Shoulder Narrows, he's the vice president of the BUHS chapter of National Honors Society, vice president of the student council and he's a member of the athletic leadership council. "I just always find myself here," he said, referring to school. "Gordon, the security officer will be like 'Why are you here all the time?'"

Spanierman still finds time in his busy schedule to finish all his homework and spend time with his family. When forced to talk about himself, Spanierman said he thinks he's lucky. He credits where he's at to "wonderful" teachers and his parents. He's close to his family.

"[They're] a huge contributing factor to my success," he said. He always has sit-down dinners with his family. "Parents being involved in a kid's education is really good," he said. He said his parents have always been adamant that he care about school. "I'm eternally grateful for them," he said.

Even though Spanierman acknowledges the different adults in his life who helped get him to where he is, he credits himself and all students for their accomplishment.

"Graduating high school and going to college is definitely an accomplishment," he said. "It's not a given. I'm proud of myself and I'm proud of my peers that have reached this part of their lives."

He thinks his peers will go on to do great things."We're a force to be reckoned with," he said.

Harmony Birch can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext.153. Or you can follow her @birchharmony.

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