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Class of 2020 Graduate Brenna McConnell Dreams of Becoming a Prosecutor. Her Passion for Public Service began with RHS Speech and Debate.
As a student at Randolph High School, the Speech and Debate team taught Brenna McConnell how to express herself and experience the world around her. While most students across the country become successful in debate through private coaching or camps, Brenna was determined to become successful on her own. For four years, she challenged herself to become the best that she could be. Along the way, she learned many life lessons. “Being a woman in debate was a great way to build my confidence in a forum that is dominated by male competitors, Brenna said. “Debating has taught me so many crucial life lessons, including resilience, communication skills, and analytical thinking. My personal growth and maturity have been inextricably tied to my growth as a debater, and this is what makes me so proud.” Her internal drive to constantly improve in the academic sport in combination with the support of her coaches, Mr. Quinn and Mrs. Burke, and teammates led to qualifying for Nationals in World Schools Debate in both 2019 and 2020. She placed consistently in local competitions as a senior, and went to quarterfinals at the Harvard Speech and Debate National Tournament this past year. This fall, Brenna is using her passion for speech and debate as part of her post graduate studies. She is currently attending Colgate University where she is studying International Relations in her pursuit of one day attending law school.
Colgate University is recognized as one of the nation’s most prestigious universities. Ranked 17th in the country by U.S. News and World Report in the liberal arts, Brenna chose Colgate for its strong International Relations program which has been ranked 16th in the nation by Niche. “Colgate has amazing professors, and they have a small class size and student body that are conducive to active classrooms that are my favorite environment to learn in,” Brenna said. “Their liberal arts approach to academics is super appealing. Colgate was also a fairly easy choice for me to make because their challenging academics, alumni connections, and career service infrastructure make it a great stepping stone for me to hopefully apply to and attend law school in the future. Some other reasons why I knew Colgate was the one for me include the fact that they have a debate team, they have a community orchestra, their location in New York is beautiful and an area I already know and love. They also have great school spirit and athletics for their study body size.”
In addition to International Relations, Brenna intends to minor in Economics or French. She believes doing so will help diversify her area of expertise when she one day attends law school. After law school, she has dreams of becoming a prosecutor. Brenna hopes to advocate for communities by prosecuting criminals and getting justice for victims and families impacted by crime. In addition, she has her sights set on Washington D.C. where she would like to advocate for legislative changes and reform.
Brenna is looking forward to taking many new, unique, and interesting classes that will expose her to different perspectives and concepts that she has not seen before. She is currently taking political science courses along with freshman seminar. Brenna hopes to become a part of Colgate’s speech and debate team. The university has already hosted several virtual events explaining what the club will look like during the pandemic and it has given her the opportunity to connect with other interested freshman. In addition, as a violinist since she was in the fourth grade at Shongum Elementary School, she intends to become a member of Colgate’s orchestra where she will continue to include music as part of her life.
As she begins this new journey and chapter, Brenna intends to do so with integrity. It is the most important attribute she believes a person can possess, and it is a character trait that has been a foundation of how she has chosen to live her life. “Oxford Languages defines integrity firstly as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness” and secondly as “the state of being whole and undivided.” This concept is so important to me because I think it perfectly encompasses both honesty and morality, which contribute to our human ability to be united and cooperate. To me, integrity is about being a good person. Someone who is trustworthy and strong in their morals is who I hope I can be, and continue to work towards every day, and these types of people are the ones who I respect and look up to. Seeing everything that has been happening in the world since the start of the pandemic, I think we all could work on practicing integrity so that the world can be a better, safer, and more harmonious place.”
Brenna learned the importance of integrity from her parents who she describes as “industrious, loving, kind, and honest people.” She credits their constant support coupled with their realistic expectations to push her towards the things that she wanted to pursue as being critical for her to flourish as a person. When we asked Brenna what class or teacher she was most inspired by at RHS, it was difficult for her to select just one. She chose to share four with us that had a significant impact on her life. “My sophomore year Honors U.S. History class with Mr. Lonie was an early favorite. I may be a little biased because I love history in general, but U.S. History was such a fun class. Mr. Lonie always had such great energy in the classroom and made what is a dull subject for some people super engaging and interesting. The history memes bulletin board was excellent from this class. My junior year AP Language and Composition class with Mrs. Kessell was also amazing. I was pushed outside of my comfort zone, I got to read so much wonderful poetry, and I seriously improved my writing skills. Mrs. Kessell was always super caring but kept us on our toes with challenging content. My senior year AP Government and Politics class with Mr. Quinn was another favorite. Mr. Quinn always took the time in class to connect what we were learning about to current events, and that was so refreshing to learn about the relevant history of today to complement the curriculum. Government was a fun class for me especially because I finally got to have Mr. Quinn as a teacher after knowing him from being the head coach of Speech and Debate. My senior year AP French class with Madame de Bourmont was my final favorite. Her life advice, wise perspective, and bubbly energy made learning French such a joy. Our class only had eight students, so the little community we had there gave all of us the space to practice speaking, reading, writing, and understanding French in a safe space, alongside a wonderful teacher who really cared about us as people.”
Brenna hopes that current and future Randolph High School students will focus on exploring their strengths and passions as this has significantly helped her as a post graduate. “Figure out your interests, but don’t stress too much about having it all together. Your future path to college, trade school, a gap year, the military, whatever it may be, will work itself out, so do not get too caught up in the need to feel like you already know what you are going to do with your life. High school is the time to start figuring out your broad interests so you can do more self-exploration later down the line.”
Congratulations Brenna on all of your success. We can’t wait to see all that you accomplish at Colgate and beyond.