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Alumni and Faculty Profiles

Bringing about a World that Ought to Be

At Friends Seminary, our mission is to "prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be." Each month, Friends will profile an alum or faculty member (current and former) who lets their life speak. Together these profiles tell the story of Friends Seminary's mission in action through the individuals who have spent time here.

List of 3 news stories.

  • Bless Reece '18

    “We have to understand what the world is and that we have the power to restructure what things can be in the future.” Bless Reece ’18 is a prison abolitionist and rising junior at Williams College. At college, she is working to create change by sharing information about the criminal justice system and creating opportunities for empathy. 

    Bless, a psychology major, is a leader of the Converging Worlds campus club. This small but determined group partners with Black and Pink, an organization that pairs penpals from inside and outside prison. In February 2020, Converging Worlds brought Reinventing Reentry to Williams. Reinventing ReEntry conducts reentry simulations in order to educate about life post-incarceration. “I thought the idea of a simulation was really interesting; it’s hard for people to envision these processes because they don’t see the humanity in it. I didn’t know if a simulation would feel like a game, but we talked about ways for it to remain serious. It definitely grounds you to remember this is what people really go through.” Students and faculty were given identification cards as part of the simulation and asked to complete multiple tasks during the 90-minute session. “You’re waiting in line for the majority of the time. Some people were yelling. It definitely makes people feel personally attacked in a lot of ways.” Bless also completed a research project over the course of her winter study, culminating in a booklet titled “Returning Citizen’s Reentry: A Second Chance “ on the issues facing those who have been formerly incarcerated. 

    Bless believes that information is key to radical social change. “In a lot of ways, knowledge is power because there’s a lot of history that people don’t know about this system.” At Friends, Bless was deeply influenced by Director of Diversity and Inclusion Jason Craige Harris. “Jason has had a real impact on me. In his class, we were introduced to Michelle Alexander (author of The New Jim Crow).” Jason also introduced Bless to the leaders of Reinventing Reentry, helping her to bring the reentry simulation to Williams. 

    Throughout her booklet, Bless has inserted sections titled “Keep Your Head Up” which serve to inspire the reader and to highlight possibility. The work of an activist can be demanding; but Bless remains hopeful about the future. When asked about the ways the COVID-19 crisis has made an impact on prisons, Bless replied, “A lot of people want to get back to what normal is, but because this pandemic is so far reaching, it’s exposing all these cracks in the system that no one was paying attention to before. I think that instead of moving back to what we perceived as normal, we have an opportunity to move forward with prison reform.”
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  • Larry Carter

    What do you recall about your first day at FS? 
    I don't recall the first day, per se, but I know that I was nervous. I had taught in a school where the students were predominantly African-American and Latino, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in a setting that was so very different.
     
    What has been the most memorable experience of your FS career? 
    A few things come to mind: (1) Being scolded by Eva Stengel, the math department chair, for running up the stairs because I was late to class. When she reprimanded me, I told her that I was a teacher, not a student (it was my first year), to which she replied, “Young man, I don’t care who you are! Do not run in this building!” Nowadays, one would say that I had been “roasted.” (2) The first time I taught the “A” section of pre-algebra that had a predominance of 7th graders, four or five 6th graders, and two 8th graders. It was memorable because a colleague at the time, Jono Schrode, who could wrap circles around me mathematically, had somehow been tapped to teach the “B” section. I was extremely anxious about how I would fare, but I did all right in the end. (3) Playing the flute with the 5th and 6th grade ensembles in the Winter and Spring Concerts. I started playing the flute when I was 30 years old; Rochelle Itzen was my flute teacher. Bob Rosen eventually became my ensemble teacher as I moved up the ranks to Chamber Players. The experience of being in his classes meant that I had to work my time around my own teaching duties with that responsibility. I haven’t tried playing the flute in years, but it was a great time!
     
    Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 
    Blessedly retired!
     
    Which Quaker value speaks to you? 
    I love the Silence of Meeting.
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  • Laura Fruitman '02 | The Right To Shower

    “The more we can sell, the more we can give away.” Laura Fruitman ‘02 is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Unilever and Founder and General Manager of The Right To Shower, a social enterprise brand founded on the belief that cleanliness is a fundamental human right. “When we think about people who are experiencing homelessness, we think of food and shelter as immediate needs—and they are—but, hygiene and health are important for a sense of dignity, a sense of self.”

    The Right To Shower sells thoughtfully crafted body wash and bar soap nationwide through major retailers like Whole Foods and Amazon. Its business model is designed to provide a sustainable revenue stream to their non-profit partners; 30% of the profits are directed toward NGOs providing mobile shower services. Its main partnership is with Lava Mae a nonprofit that began by converting decommissioned buses into mobile shower units in San Francisco, CA where only 16 public restrooms exist to serve more than 7,000 people experiencing homelessness. Today Lava Mae advises others on how to set up mobile showers and how to create a culture of radical hospitality. “Everyone who comes to a mobile shower is called a guest. Each person is given a clean, safe place to take a shower, a fresh towel and The Right To Shower soap.” Through partnership with Lava Mae, The Right To Shower has supported the establishment of mobile showering units across 18 cities in the United States. 

    The Quaker testimony of Community pervades Laura’s work and leadership. “That’s what we do with The Right To Shower. We believe in community and everyone is a member.” This deep commitment to community inspired Laura’s participation in The World’s Big Sleepout in December 2019. In 56 cities across the globe, people joined together to sleep out in public spaces, raising awareness and funding for the homeless community. In New York, participants slept out in Times Square. “It was very intense. I spend a lot of time thinking about homelessness, but I’d never spent a night on the streets. You are so very vulnerable. It gave me a new perspective and an increased sense of empathy.”Laura traces the roots of her activism back to Friends. “All my service credits at Friends were working in shelters. The idea of invisibility, that people are not seen, was and is really upsetting to me.” 

    Laura is using her talent and experience as a professional to build a new kind of business model that honors the dignity in every person. “We all have an ability and responsibility to take care of our community; you have a choice and you can vote with your dollars.” Through her work with The Right To Shower, Laura is helping to bring about a world where the right to cleanliness and communities of care are accessible to everyone. “We have a responsibility to the people we live among: we are all people, we all share rights, we all have an inner Light.”
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