From left: Saishree Mupparaju ‘22, Principal Brown and Karleigh Patton ‘21
On a day where we reflect upon the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and celebrate those who work to create a more equal society, we’re so proud to announce that Exeter Township Junior High’s principal Mr. Alex Brown has been recognized nationally as a “Daily Point of Light” for his volunteerism and development of youth leadership in Berks County through his board advisory roles in VOiCEup Berks and Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading (YVCR). Through those organizations, he became involved in the founding of STAR (Stand Together Against Racism) during the summer of 2020, which started as a series of student-led Zoom meetings with concerned Berks teens [including former Exeter students, Karleigh Patton ‘21 (right) and Saishree Mupparaju ‘22 (left)]. Under the leadership of Mr. Brown and other board members, Ms. Patton, Ms. Mupparaju and other students in STAR quickly grew the organization beyond Berks and now have dozens of STAR affiliates around the United States and Canada that engage hundreds of people annually in initiatives and projects supporting racial equity.
As an educator, coach, administrator and volunteer leader, Mr. Brown has spent his entire career working with and listening to kids. Throughout that journey, he said he came to appreciate their “can-do-anything” mentality that allows them to tackle and achieve goals that adults sometimes don’t believe are possible. So when the founding student members of STAR saw an opportunity to expand their organization’s mission and messaging beyond Berks by creating a website, podcasts, social media challenges, documentaries and more, Mr. Brown knew they could be encouraged to take action and be successful with whatever they put their mind to. “Kids don’t see barriers; they don’t see obstacles. They say, ‘This is what we want to do, and that might be in our way, but we’re going to around it.’”
When you talk with Ms. Mupparaju and Ms. Patton they say that their leadership development is thanks to Mr. Brown’s belief that young people can be empowered to tackle difficult work and to dream the impossible. “He really shows us the sky’s the limit. He shows us that things we don’t think are possible are actually possible,” says Ms. Mupparaju, who is now a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Ms. Patton, who is now a student at Kutztown University, emphatically agreed, “Voices of youth tend to get shut down much more quickly. I think there’s a stigma that the youth voice doesn’t have the power to make true change, and Alex shut that down immediately by telling us we could absolutely make this happen, we could absolutely do this, and we’re going to do it together.”
Mr. Brown’s work as a youth volunteer leader was brought to the attention of the Points of Light organization by Ms. Christi Terefenko, who serves as the Executive Director of STAR and VOiCEup. In their leadership roles, they’ve engaged 594 youth in 6,279 hours of community service in and around Berks County. The “Daily Point of Light” is a national recognition and awards those who “act on their power to do good every day, using their hearts, hands and minds to help strengthen communities and solve persistent problems,” and is awarded by the Points of Light organization, which was founded by president, George H.W. Bush, and is an international non-profit that works to solve social problems through volunteerism.