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The powerful connections and shared values of the Bancroft community — past and present, local and global — have come together this week in a very special experience that embodies our mission to foster “lifelong learners, teachers of others, and citizens of an increasingly complex global community.”
On Thursday, January 25, Bancroft welcomed alumnus Quanuquanei “Q” Karmue ’01 home to Shore Drive for a two-day visit. Q was here to gather expert insights and recommendations from nine Upper School English students who had volunteered to be “first readers” of his 400-page manuscript, Witness. Targeting young adults, Witness recounts Q’s circular journey from Liberia, West Africa, where his family’s comfortable life was shattered by the civil war in the 1990s, to America as a refugee and eventually a Worcester City Scholar at Bancroft, to founding of the Save More Kids organization, which is helping the children of Liberia today (savemorekids.org).
Q needed an authentic audience to know whether his manuscript was going to resonate with this age group, and by all accounts, this collaboration was an overwhelming success. Both sides came away with greater compassion, understanding, gratitude, and awe.
One of the student readers, after meeting with Q for the group debriefing, said: “As I read Witness, I found myself feeling the struggles and emotions of this memoir through the excellent writing and storytelling. But I now know that I didn’t understand its reality until I sat down with Q and heard the story behind the story. I was awestruck by him and the experience of reading this book and discussing it with its talented author moved me deeply and profoundly.”
For his part, Q was moved by the depth of insight he gained from the students. “They were amazing. They were so smart, so articulate, so on point. They really got it. I know now that Witness can inspire young adults to see that they can impact their community, that they can put tentacles out into the world and change lives for the better. I want to take it to every school now!”
This uniquely Bancroft story came together with the help and encouragement of many in our community. Q’s former English teacher Liz Johnson encouraged him to contact Bancroft. Q reached out to Alumni Relations Director Lynn St. Germain, who spoke to English Department Head Martha Fortier. In turn, Martha recruited the nine volunteer student readers (and several faculty members, as well), and enlisted the videography skills of senior Penh A.
Of course, it was the students themselves — Julianna Boyson ’19, Page Cassidy ’20, Watts Herideen-Woodruff ’19, Hallie Kamosky ’19, Abby Mann ’19, Esther Merritt-Boone ’19, Tyler Papula ’19, Abbey Roering ’18, and Ken Wu ’19 — who were the stars of the show. They were able to do good work, support a fellow member of the Bancroft community, significantly advance a project with global implications, and learn powerful lessons about facing adversity, resilience, and giving back, not to mention African history, the plight of refugees, writing, publishing, and so much more.
Q has always been generous with his time in supporting the School, and we were proud to be there for him. His two-day agenda also included a Networking Breakfast with fellow alumni, parents, and faculty and staff, plus a campus tour with Charlie Alecsiewicz, lunch with his faculty readers, a personal interview with Ken Wu for his Independent Study on Worcester’s refugees, another interview with Tyler Papula ’19 for the February issue of Unleashed, a presentation to our 8th through 12th graders, a visit with the 6th and 7th grade World History students who are beginning a unit on Africa!
“My mother always says ‘there’s nothing better than coming home,” said Q, “and Bancroft will always be my home.”
Related: We featured Q in the Bancroft Bulletin Winter 2014-15 issue, starting on page 14: “Q Karmue ’01: Bearing Witness and Easing Burdens in Liberia.” CLICK HERE