Intrepid Dreamers

 

Reflections from Devareaux Brown

Steppingstone 1991 / Noble and Greenough School 1997 / Williams College 2001

Devareaux Brown ’91, now director of technology at Nobles, his alma mater

While it’s now 30 years since his Steppingstone journey began, “I still have vivid memories,” Devareaux Brown says.

Dev can still picture his young classmates bunched in the elevator at the Massachusetts College of Art, the program’s initial host site. When its doors opened on one of the upper floors, they entered a new world.

In fall 1990, the small group of intrepid dreamers, the very first Scholars, bonded quickly.

“We were an eclectic group,” he says. Half of them were from families of immigrants, many on a path to being first-generation college students.They hailed from Fields Corner and Roxbury and South Boston. The bus that drove them to and from their classes traversed city neighborhoods that were, in many ways, their own isolated worlds. Undeterred by whatever racial or ethnic tensions divided the city around them, the Scholars embraced what brought them together. Inside the bus, “we were family,” he says, even if outside sometimes kids threw insults—or rocks—at them as they drove by.

“We were all smart kids…and we knew it,” Dev adds with a laugh.

Dev with “Mr. D.” and 1991 classmates Natasha Velickovic, Morenike Adams Shelton, and Alain Davis

MILESTONE HANDSHAKES
As Steppingstone celebrates its milestone 30th anniversary, the 1991 Alumnus paused to reflect on his path from Jamaica to his role today as director of technology and coach at the Noble and Greenough School, his alma mater.

Reminiscing about his own life milestones, Dev thinks of a series of “handshakes,” each of which welcomed him into new opportunities. As a fifth grader, he shook hands with Sintelle Taylor, sitting with his parents at a Steppingstone interview with her.

Closing his eyes, he pictures the adults he met at Steppingstone, from “Mr. D.,” Michael Danziger, and his co-founder, John Simon, to Sintelle, their early partner in program development, to teachers like Lewis Bryant, a legendary educator at BB&N whom Dev’s gone on to serve with on the board of the Henry Buckner School in Cambridge.

Together, “they were invested in making our lives better,” he says.

Dev and siblings with their proud parents

HIS STEPPINGSTONE FAMILY
His parents shared that investment. Dev was born in Jamaica, the oldest of four, separated by only five years. His family immigrated to the United States, landing in Boston in search of a better life and education. “As soon as we settled in, my mom was on a search for an educational edge,” he remembers. A passionate teacher in her native country, she dove into research and often seized on opportunities for academic enrichment.

When they considered Steppingstone for Dev, it was still an untested idea, but in spite of all of the unknowns, they took the leap. His three Alumni siblings–Dane ’92, Denver ’94, and Donavan ’95–quickly followed in his footsteps as early Steppingstone Scholars.

Dane, Donavan, Denver (top), and Dev

To Dev, being a Scholar gave him an invaluable core of knowledge and experiences. When he walked into Nobles in 7th grade, “it was a culture shock,” he recalls. “It was like I went through a portal,” entering almost a different universe. Yet Steppingstone had prepared him academically and socially for the transition. “Without it, I would have struggled.”

It didn’t stop with preparation. “I had a support system,” he says gratefully. He and his fellow Scholars had Saturday tutoring sessions and advisors to turn to. When it came time to look at college options, he joined eight or nine of the inaugural class on a tour of schools with Mr. Danziger.

“They were there shepherding us along the way,” he says. “It never felt like you were just dropped off and left on your own.”

Playing football at Nobles

OPENING DOORS
Over time, he has seen Steppingstone evolve to meet the shifting needs of the students and families at the heart of its mission. He also realizes that the educational landscape has changed dramatically. Three decades ago, while independent schools were expanding their commitment to diversity, many had yet to develop the systems and relationships to achieve that goal. As Dev reflects, admission officers saw Steppingstone as something of a feeder program.

Looking back, he doubts any of the first families had a clear idea of what an independent school really offered. “Steppingstone served as a guide to this new world.”

Teaching at Upward Bound

What hasn’t changed? Steppingstone “opens doors and gives access,” Dev says. It always has.

In thinking about today’s Scholars, he wonders aloud how different their journeys would be without Steppingstone and the options it provides. “It continues to be a key for them,” as it was for him, “a key to educational access and resources and opportunities.”

He believes that the most extraordinary students, whatever their circumstances, often rise and stand out. Yet he worries about the many kids today from marginalized communities who may be overlooked, despite being bright, curious learners and good citizens. With the right support and preparation, they could excel. “They could become the best person they could possibly be,” he adds.

DOING WHAT HE LOVES
A roundabout path has led him to forge a career in the independent school realm. After graduating from Williams College, he went to work in software development at Meditech, outside of Boston. A standout athlete in school, he missed being around sports and began volunteering as a coach at Thayer Academy.

Coaching Nobles lacrosse, with assistant coach David Medina, Steppingstone ’99

A decade later, initially lured by his love of coaching, he landed back at Nobles. As he learned, the school needed not only a football coach but a system administrator on the technology staff. He proved a perfect fit for both.

Two years ago, he expanded his responsibilities, taking on the job of director of technology. He also has a hand in teaching, introducing kids to his passion for tech. For several summers, he’s taught computer science for Upward Bound.

Coaching football and lacrosse still gets him outside, away from his desk and working with kids. “I get paid to do what I love,” he says.

Working with today’s Nobles students

In the last couple of years, in taking on the role of technology director, he values the shift to being more strategic and less reactionary. He also reflects, as a person of color, what being in a leadership role represents to others. As Dev explains, he pauses to tell a quick story. A facilities crew member dropped by recently and asked to chat. He came in and closed the door, and shared what it meant to him to see Dev’s successes. He wanted to say, “I’m proud of you.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, “I feel like I’ve gone through five years,” he adds. In his two decades of working in the field, he’s never been as busy or challenged. When his school began to plan its response and rethink its structures, technology ran through everything. As stretched as he was, “I loved the research, the collaboration, and the critical thinking about how technology can be leveraged as a tool as we had to quickly adjust to virtual and hybrid learning,” he reflects.

Dev and Shaquanna and family

Oh, and on top of it all, he and his wife, Shaquanna Brown, welcomed their second child, born in July 2020!

To Dev, he’s right where he belongs professionally. “I love my team and co-workers and love being on this campus and in the educational setting,” he says.