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Alumni Spotlight: Jessica Goldberg (Class of 2011)
By: Head of School Elizabeth Zurlinden
Great Stories. Great Graduates. Introducing our Alumni Spotlight Series...
Stories. They are one of the best parts of my job. I get to listen to stories about tooth fairy visits, recess boo-boos, soccer team successes, field trip discoveries, homework woes and much more. I love hearing all about the lives of our students. Recently, many stories I have found great delight in are those of our Rossman alumni, the students who skipped down the halls of our school years before I arrived. Their memories of Rossman and the passions they pursue beyond our walls both inspire and encourage me. Our Rossman alumni represent our storied past and remind us of what is truly important as we care for our students today. I don’t want to keep these stories to myself, so from time to time, I will share my conversations with you.
For our first Alumni Spotlight, let me introduce you to Jessica Goldberg, Class of 2011. On a recent trip to Nashville, I was honored to meet Jessica, a sophomore at Vanderbilt University, for a cup of coffee between classes. We even included Ms. Menees in the fun through FaceTime. Enjoy the following interview with a remarkable young woman and Rossman graduate.
Jessica, name a few of your favorite Rossman memories.
“A favorite Rossman memory that sticks out distinctly in my mind is donning the coveted red cape every year before the Holiday Program. I am convinced that there is magic in that special evening, from the spotlight beaming on us as we stepped onto the risers, to joyfully singing “Hot Cup of Cocoa,” to reuniting with family and friends for celebratory cookies and lemonade after the show.
Another highlight of my Rossman experience includes gathering with friends every morning in Mrs. Crosson’s art room throughout my Upper School years. We would work on art projects and chat with Mrs. Crosson about anything and everything, with laughter and smiles filling the air. I remain very close with Mrs. Crosson to this day, which is a testament to how Rossman bonds last a lifetime!”
What is your favorite Rossman tradition?
“My favorite Rossman tradition would have to be inviting Rossman alums onstage to sing the Rossman-spinoff version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” during the annual Holiday Program. As a student, I felt so warm and loved when past and present Rossman students gathered together, even if only for one song, to remember the joy that is Rossman. During my high school years, I was still brimming with glee and giggles as I belted out the tune with my fellow alums, careful to omit lyrics in the appropriate places and perform the hand motions that I still know by heart today.”
Is there a Rossman teacher you had a special connection with or who had a great impact on you?
“This is an extremely difficult question, as every Rossman teacher with whom I was lucky enough to engage in the classroom had an immeasurable impact on me. I still feel deeply connected with so many of my Rossman teachers, and the following are just two instances among many of my teachers touching my life.
Mrs. Crosson, my art teacher for all of my years at Rossman, had an immense impact on me. She not only sparked my creativity and cultivated my love of art, a discipline that I continue to pursue even into college, but more importantly, she instilled in me the values of kindness, patience, dedication, and joy that she brought with her to the art room. In our daily gatherings in the art room before school, she was my confidante, mentor, supporter, and biggest cheerleader. My connection with Mrs. Crosson has extended well beyond my Rossman years, and I am so grateful to have as wonderful a figure as she in my life.
Another Rossman teacher with whom I strongly bonded and maintain connections today was my sixth grade homeroom teacher, Ms. Menees. Ms. Menees truly fostered my love of writing and inculcated in me the confidence to share and take pride in my work, as well as to ruminate deeply on ideas about which I am passionate and express myself through such a powerful medium as the written word. To this day, I still consider Thurgood Marshall (the subject of my Hero Paper) as my hero, and my pet peeve is the same as expressed in my Pet Peeve Paper (gum sticking to the bottom of my shoe in movie theaters). Not only did Ms. Menees shape my writing abilities, but she more significantly nurtured the bubbly personality, confidence and thoughtfulness that define me today. I followed in her footsteps by matriculating to Vanderbilt University, and I hope to impact children’s lives in the same way that she shaped mine and the lives of countless others. As I pursue a career in pediatric medicine, I intend to treat patients and their families with the same compassion, understanding and open-mindedness modeled by Ms. Menees.”
How did Rossman prepare you for secondary school?
“Rossman prepared me exceptionally well for secondary school at John Burroughs School by providing me with unparalleled academic preparation and the strength and commitment to stay true to my values. Rossman teachers develop in their students a tireless work ethic, curiosity in learning, and the importance of seeking help from teachers and asking clarifying questions regarding classroom lessons. As a result of the solid learning foundation built by my Rossman teachers, I excelled academically during my high school years and took advantage of every learning opportunity available. Moreover, Rossman education transcends academics. By impressing upon me and instilling the four tenets of kindness, honesty, respect and responsibility, I possessed the courage and confidence to make the right choices throughout secondary school. Secondary school can present students with a new set of social and ethical challenges, and my Rossman character education guided me to act with integrity, empathy, emotional security and self-discipline.”
Are there aspects of your Rossman education that you still draw on as a college student?
“From Rossman, I learned the importance and value of hard work and an inquisitive outlook, which are the keys to academic success in higher education. My eight years at Rossman facilitated the development of exceptional time-management skills and the importance of tailoring my study and learning strategies so as to maximize my unique strengths. Rossman emphasizes partnership and teamwork, and its collaborative (as opposed to competitive) learning approach has served me well as a student at Vanderbilt. College demands independence and initiative, both traits that my Rossman education provided. Beyond academic preparedness, my Rossman teachers taught me to be a truly kind human being, an active citizen and a leader in the community who is equipped to enact substantive change in the world.”
What do you hope to pursue professionally in the future?
“I am completing a pre-medical course of study in college and hope to become a pediatric surgeon. One goal of mine in pediatrics includes fostering children’s development in the myriad of ways that my teachers at Rossman molded me.”
I know you are very humble, but share with me some of the awards you have received, including secondary school, college or community awards.
“In secondary school at Burroughs, I was a Gold Medalist on the National Spanish Exam (2015-2017), placing first in the Midwest competition in 2015 and first in the St. Louis region in 2016. I became a National Merit Scholar, as well as an AP Scholar with Distinction. I received national awards in 2016, including Princeton University’s Princeton Prize in Race Relations and the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award (1 of 14 recipients nationwide). These national awards recognized my nonprofit organization, Performing for Pencils, that I founded in 2013.
At Vanderbilt University, I am a member of the Ingram Scholars Program, through which I am a recipient of a full tuition 4-year merit scholarship recognizing academic excellence, leadership, and commitment to community service. As an Ingram Scholar, I participate in 20 hours of monthly community service, as well as a weekly honors seminar. During my freshman year, I was named as the winner of Vanderbilt’s Fifth Annual Jewish Studies Essay Writing Competition for an original essay of mine in 2018.”
Please share the genesis of your idea to create Performing for Pencils.
“After discovering as a volunteer teaching assistant/tutor for Aim High St. Louis that incredibly smart and talented middle schoolers from disadvantaged backgrounds could not afford basic school supplies, and consequently, their ability to succeed and excel in school was compromised, I took action. As a lifelong theater performer, I seized the opportunity to take my passion for performing and unite my community in battling the problem that 90,000 kids in St. Louis start school each year unable to afford essential school supplies. In fall 2013, I co-founded Performing for Pencils. This nonprofit builds bridges of understanding and inclusiveness by hosting an annual talent show, bringing together kids from 100 high schools representing a diverse group of racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Donation of a new school supply constitutes your admissions ticket into the show. Achieving our $70,000 goal in donations at year-end 2017 reinforces and confirms the power of diversity and inclusiveness to facilitate the growth of our polarized city.”
What was your favorite…
“Spaghetti and Texas toast!”
Holiday Program song?
“Hot Cup of Cocoa”
“My favorite field trip was the fourth grade field trip to Lafayette Square. I absolutely adored exploring the streets of a part of St. Louis to which I had never before ventured, admiring the unique houses and capturing the beautiful architecture I encountered there on paper. Culminating in a delicious picnic lunch with my classmates, the day was perfect! Additionally, coloring my sketches with watercolors in the weeks following the field trip allowed the trip to come to life and the memories of the experience to stay with me.”
“My favorite grade level was definitely the sixth grade. I thrived as a leader of the Rossman community and took to heart the importance of setting a good example for my younger peers. Crafting the sixth grade motto, acting in the sixth grade plays (in which I impersonated one of our homeroom teachers, Mr. Holmes), and bonding with my class during Sixth Grade Camp and Space Camp are some of my fondest memories of the year.”
Any advice for Rossman students or parents?
“My biggest piece of advice for Rossman students and parents is to make the most of the Rossman experience by befriending as many fellow peers/parents as possible. Your lasting relationships with teachers, administrators, classmates and parents will constitute a safety net and an ongoing source of comfort and support for you throughout the years ahead. Immerse yourself in the Rossman community and all it has to offer through extracurricular activities such as sports teams, becoming a Room Parent, volunteering in the library, supporting the auction, participating in Jump Rope for Heart, and so much more. The bonds formed with the members of the Rossman community last a lifetime. Rossman is not just a school; it is a family.”
Complete this sentence. Rossman is ______.
“Rossman is home.”