Senior Celebration: Class of 2021 Spotlight

May 26, 2021
Hannah Alper

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Class of 2021

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I remember when I was a newer BBG and throughout the years as I explored my passions and the incredible impact this movement would have on me, I looked up to the seniors in such a unique way. I feel like so many people can relate—there was just something about them that was intimidating and inspiring, bold and brave. I think we all wanted to bethem (but still forge our own path) inside and outside of BBYO at one point or another. It’s still surreal thinking that as I sit here today, I am getting ready to graduate high school and BBYO and start fresh at university. We as seniors are the people we looked up to when we were looking for our place and our people—weird, right?

Speaking of weird, it’s been a pretty weird year. This past year may not have been what we expected, but the unpredictableness of the world will never take away the lessons we learned, the people we met, and the memories we created as Alephs and BBGs over the years.This truly is a place like no other. There are so many amazing people that are taking so many cool paths next year, and we wanted to spotlight just a few of the seniors to share their lessons, their memories, and their advice for all of you who will be continuing your BBYO journey. Let the Senior Spotlight begin!

What are you doing after high school?

Hannah: Western University for Media, Information and Technoculture

Lawrence: Northeastern University for Computer Science

Ruby: Syracuse University for Television, Radio, Film, and Management

Jared: I’ll be taking a Gap year to serve as the 97th Grand Aleph Godol for BBYO, then following my term I will be attending Syracuse University to pursue a degree in International Relations.

Emma: I will be going on Young Judaea’s Year Course experience in Israel. Then, I am committed to Florida State University beginning in the fall of 2022.

How has BBYO impacted you? How have you changed as a person and a leader since you first joined?

Hannah: Before BBYO, I was always cautious to present my full self to people; my awkward side, my funny side, my kind side, my activism side. I felt that in order to get friends and be successful, I had to almost mask at least one side. Looking at myself now, I am an unafraid and confident person and leader, and I know that to experience all the good parts of not just BBYO, but life, I have to be completely and fully myself. BBYO also helped me discover and honour my Jewish identity and that has become another important side of me.  

Lawrence: I think it's really set me up for the future and knowing how to be mature. It was really important to learn how to compromise, think critically, and make crucial decisions with other people. That's something really important that I see a lot of people don't have today. Overall, knowing how to be a better person and think things through, rather than just jumping in.

Ruby: One of the biggest ways BBYO has impacted me is with my Jewish identity. Before BBYO, I didn’t really have a Jewish identity. After my Bat Mitzvah, I was just happy to be done with it and like, not go to Hebrew school again, but then BBYO made me love my Jewish identity more. I also learned what my leadership style was in BBYO, because before that, I didn't want to be a leader in any way. I didn't want to take charge or do anything. But then I did. Honestly, because of BBYO, I'm a better writer and a better public speaker.

Jared: I came into BBYO as a shy 8th grader, and am (somewhat) departing as a confident leader and somebody who is ready to take on the world. The people I’ve met, the network I’ve built, and the experiences I’ve had in this organization have impacted me greatly, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

Emma: Because of BBYO, I have connected with so many people from a myriad of places, and I have been empowered to give back. I can confidently say that the anxious girl I was when I joined in eighth grade has blossomed into a woman who knows her worth, speaks up, and is not afraid to be a leader.

What are some of the things that you learned in BBYO (skills, life lessons, friends,etc.) you will take forward into life?

Hannah: How to advocate for myself. I like to think that I am an expert at speaking up and advocating for others as a leader, but I always had a hard time (and still do sometimes) putting my own beliefs first. Thanks to BBYO, I have become confident in using my voice for my ideas because I knew I was there for a reason. Also through the ups and downs of leadership in BBYO, I learned to face conflict and confrontation head on and turn it into a conversation instead. Lastly, I know that in almost anywhere I go in North America and even elsewhere, I will always have an amazing friend I can visit because of the international experiences I have been lucky enough to participate in.

Lawrence: To never be afraid to approach somebody new and interact with as many people as possible. When I first joined BBYO as an 8th grader, I was the kind of kid who wouldn’t wave back to somebody if I never met them before and they said hello, and BBYO was the place where that all changed. I learned how to be comfortable in my own skin and that I brought something valuable to the table. Now, I have no issue waving back if somebody I don’t know says hello.

Ruby: Any experience that you’re in or anything that you do, you make your own experience. you can't just sit around and wait for something to happen. If you want to make friends in this organization, you have to make them yourself and put yourself out there.

Jared: Everything, that’s the answer. Cherish everything you gain from this organization because it can only help you moving forward.

Emma: BBYO has allowed me to gain skills with public speaking,facilitation, problem solving, working with others, and delegation, to name a few. I am so grateful that I’ve gotten to work with those in my chapter, region, and even the International Order. I have learned so much, made countless memories, and made friends that I know will last even after I graduate from BBYO.

Favourite memory?

Hannah: At Winter Retreat 2019, there were a couple of seniors who were crying because it hit them that their year was winding down. Their friends started hugging them and it quickly turned into this huge spontaneous songcircle. It reminded me of the incredible community we have, and the reason why we’re all here—the people. Just two weeks later after the IC dance, I was walking back to our hotel with a couple of my Aleph friends, and then they started crying because once again, it hit them. We sat in the hotel lobby for at least an hour exchanging funny chapter memories, laughing and tearing up allat the same time. You just don’t get that anywhere else.

Lawrence: It’s all the little moments that really bring me back. One in particular was when I was serving as chapter Godol, and the rest of my board and I were setting up early for our chapter overnight. We were all getting hype and playing music, and then all of a sudden, somebody played Overnight by Logic because it was the chapter overnight. We all started dancing and had the biggest smiles across our faces. I just remember the pure euphoria amongst the six of us, so excited to run that overnight. It was like 10 seconds, but it was just so fun. You can't trade that for anything.

Ruby: New member weekend. That was the first time I had a leadership role in the council, like on the council or regional level. It was really cool, I felt like a camp counselor honestly. MIT Mom was my favorite position and at New Member Weekend, it was filled with 8th and 9th graders and I was in 10th grade and I was older than all of them. It was me and six other mentors my age and I felt like I was making an impact on the younger members.

Jared: Has to be Perlman summer 2019 or IC 2020 in Dallas, those are 2 experiences I will never forget.

Emma: My favorite BBYO memory is a program that a mock chapter ran at my CLTC. I feel that this program really allowed me to bond with everyone on my CLTC and had a very large impact on me. Even for those who do not attend CLTC,everyone should go into programming with an open mind and ready to be inspired and affected.

Advice for younger Alephs and BBGs in BBYO, what's something you wish you knew when you were younger that you want to leave your legacy on?

Hannah: Leadership is not a position or title, it is an action or example. Also, if you want to make the most out of everything BBYO has to offer, you have to put yourself out there and be completely yourself. It’s a safe space where people accept and welcome you for who you are. Don’t be afraid to ask for help on anything whether it’s from your peers or your advisors/staff; asking for help is a sign of strength. Lastly, live in the moment and be in the present. Don’t spend too much time worrying about a milestone or an event you’re planning rather than enjoying the way there with some of the best people you’ll meet.

Lawrence: Always stick with your chapter. It never betrays you. It's the thing from my whole five years that I never felt turned its back on me. You have those 30 or 40 guys that you can really just go with every week and know that once you step into the room, you’re loved and respected and people like youthere. You just know that that's your place to shine. I was very gifted and blessed to be in the best chapter in the world, being able to be surrounded by guys who love me and appreciate me. Stick with your roots and don't forget where you came from and really just try and make the chapter the best thing that it can be.

Ruby: Take every opportunity possible. If you want to run for board, run for board. Even if you think you're going to lose, you never know if you don't even run at all and you're just going to regret it if you don't run. So do it. Just take chances, put yourself out there and take on leadership roles.

Jared: Try as many new things as you can. Step outside your comfort zone, goto that summer program even if you know absolutely zero people going. My biggest regret was hesitating to attend events or run for board positions because I cared too much about not knowing anybody or not being successful. You only go through BBYO once, so go make the most of it.

Emma: Don’t take your time or unique experiences in BBYO for granted and definitely don’t let yourself feel consumed by what others think. In and out of BBYO, do what you want to do, surround yourself with positivity and kindness, and make the most of your time in high school and/or BBYO. There is too little time to dwell over the little things!

What’s your mantra? Words to live by:

Hannah: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."—African proverb

Lawrence: When you're interested in something and you're on your path towards something, you will find others too.

Ruby: Make someone smile today.

Jared: If you’re having a bad day, I guarantee there’s somebody who’s day has been 50 times worse than yours. Be grateful for every experience you attend, and every person you meet.

Emma: My mantra comes from Hannah Montana. Though silly, I truly believe that “life’s what you make it, so let’s make it rock” is an amazing mantra because it shows that YOU are in control over your own life and have the ability to carve your own, unique path.

Thank you seniors for all the work, time,smiles, and laughter you have put into this movement. Despite this year being as different as it was, the Class of 2021 has made an impact inspiring others for years to come. It’s clear that we are unstoppable. As we prepare to blowout our BBYO Life candle, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t signify the end of your BBYO journey. The friends you have made are your friends for life just as we are becoming BBYO Lifetime members—that is what a brotherhood or sisterhood is all about.

Hannah Alper is a BBG from Lake Ontario Region and has been an activist and author since the age of nine.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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