On Belonging at Park

in Fall 2022 by
Ildulce Brandao-DaSilva

My name is Ildulce (Il dool’ see) Brandao-DaSilva.  My father chose my name.  He named me after the two women he loved; my grandmother (Ilda) and my mother (Dulce).  Children at Park call me Ms. B.  I am a first generation American, and throughout my entire life. I have sought out the answer to,  ”Where do I belong?” I am both American and Cape Verdean. 

Education has been at the core of my journey. My immigrant parents didn’t have the benefit of education themselves, so ensuring that their own children received a strong education was a top priority. They thought private school was the right answer, and so my siblings and I attended Catholic schools from Kindergarten through Grade 12. My family was part of a strong Cape Verdean community in Roxbury, and my friends and I all went to church together and to school together. I became an educator after graduating from Cambridge College, and when I became a parent myself, living in that same community, I signed my daughter up for the same school I had attended only to find that the school was closing. I had to look for an alternative.

Roxbury is my home.  My neighbors are my people. We didn’t want to have to leave our community in order to get a good education for our children. I knew people who had attended Steppingstone or METCO, who spent hours on buses to attend independent schools out in the affluent suburbs. That education led to great careers, yet I didn’t think this was an option for us at all – I’d seen the price tag!

Then a friend of mine in Roxbury told me that she’d just enrolled her daughter at The Park School. She told me about Park’s financial aid, after school programs, and extracurricular opportunities.  I thought, why not give it a try? Park accepted us, and gave us the financial aid we needed.  

When families ask me if Park is a place where they would belong, I encourage them to think about what they value most and what the school values. I tell them Park is for people who believe that educational excellence, inclusivity and belonging, and social emotional learning are equally important, no matter who we are or where we come from. My family brings our true authentic selves to Park and shares that with the community, and it has embraced us. My daughter truly loves being a Cape Verdean girl in a community that appreciates her. While we assumed we would be the only Cape Verdeans on campus, we have actually discovered so many others! Until you peel the onion, you just don’t know what you will discover.

Park is for people who believe that educational excellence, inclusivity and belonging, and social emotional learning are equally important, no matter who we are or where we come from.

My daughter loved Park from the day she arrived in PreK. She loves the community and the campus. She moves between being a city kid and a Brookline kid, and is learning about aspects of the community that are different from our lived experience so far. She’s learning to ask other people about their cultures, for instance, what do they call their grandmother? Or, what food do they cook? I love that she is being exposed to so many differences at a young age. She is learning to maneuver situations that I’m only just learning about as an adult.  

My son came to Park three years later and is thriving. Seeing my children’s opportunities made me realize that I too can choose my own journey as an educator. When Park posted an opening for an Assistant Division Head, similar to seven years ago when we applied to the PreK program, I thought to myself, why not give it a try. And they hired me! 

Working here in a position of leadership, I know that my children and other children of color have the benefit of seeing a woman of color leading the division. They can imagine, “This could be me someday!” I’m so proud to be able to show them that they too can be a leader in a community as wonderful as this.  I take pride in being a role model.

Click the image above to watch Ms. B in action at Lower Division Community Meeting

As a person of color, when I say my kids go here, some ask, “How’d you get in?” That question seems to imply, “You don’t belong there.”  I disagree.  I know my family brings something special to the Park community. Park values diversity, believing it broadens perspectives, enables growth and progress toward inclusivity, and builds a better community. We are invested in Park’s community and in our children’s successful future. I love that my children are broadening their perspectives and being challenged in what and how they learn. That’s why we picked Park. 

Park families need to prioritize investing financially in their children’s education and contributing to Park’s culture. The paperwork that demonstrates financial need takes some time, but completing it ensures that if Park offers your family admission, it comes with the financial package that makes it possible for you to choose Park. I had already been paying for parochial school and believed that investing in my children’s education was important. The opportunities and resources that Park provides made it all worthwhile.  Sure, it means making choices with your money. I choose my children’s education.  

When I look at all the opportunities my children have at Park, I feel I’ve made a great decision. I’m excited for the journey ahead. I can’t wait to see who they’re going to become with the foundation I have set up for them.  My son says he’s going to be the 57th President!

Artwork by Miranda (Kindergarten)

A version of this story was featured in the October 13, 2022 issue of The Bay State Banner.

Ildulce Brandao-DaSilva was named Assistant Lower Division Head in 2021. Student Life and Social Emotional Learning are a centerpiece of her work at Park. She is the parent of two Park students.