Having grown up as a tri-sport athlete and an All-American collegiate competitor, Jessica Brown certainly understands the value of teamwork.
Almost 30 years later, she continues to embrace it every day.
Since her competitive college years, Brown has traded in her cleats for a clipboard at the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush in Millbrook. She now serves as principal of the creative and performing arts high school in the Far Northeast, and has also implemented its various athletic programs.
“Athletic programs give students a sense of school spirit and teaches them to be part of a team,” said Brown, who has served as Benjamin Rush’s principal since the school district converted it to an arts school in 2008. “It’s intellectual. You have to think about strategies. And it teaches camaraderie and leadership.
“I think just being a principal, you have something similar to the coaching role that I learned from being a captain,” added Brown, who went to Kenyon College in Ohio and was team captain for the lacrosse and field hockey teams in the late 1980s. “You learn how to be a team player and be a leader when needed.”
Brown’s past accomplishments are certainly helping her build a future at Benjamin Rush. They’ve also helped her earn a place in the Kenyon College Hall of Fame.
Brown will join the 24th class of inductees for the hall of fame ceremony during homecoming weekend in September.
“I was so shocked and honored when I found out,” said Brown. “It is just such an honor to be chosen.”
She played four years of varsity lacrosse and field hockey at the school, serving as team captain for both squads during her senior season.
In 1988, she broke the school record for most goals scored in a single lacrosse season with 50 — a record that she held until 1992, when Cary Loomis netted 53 goals.
On the lacrosse field, the former offensive wing was a three-time All-American, two-time All-Region selection and was selected as her team’s most valuable player three years in a row.
As a goalie for the field hockey squad, Brown has the third-most career saves in Kenyon College history, with 601. She was a two-time All-North Coast Athletic Conference honoree and was named as the team’s MVP in 1985.
“I loved playing both lacrosse and field hockey,” said Brown, who graduated from college in 1988. “It gave me versatility. In field hockey I was goalie, so I played defense, which is totally opposite from playing a wing. I liked the fact that I played positions so different from each other.”
These days, Brown is still very much in the game. She’s helped introduce six athletic teams at Benjamin Rush over the past three years.
The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, located on Knights Road, opened in 2008. There were 115 students enrolled in its inaugural class.
“I remember hearing from the kids that there are no sports here,” recalled Brown. “It’s a totally new experience in a new school. You’re setting tradition. The students picked their own mascot — they chose the Knights, because we’re located on Knights Road. They voted on colors and picked black and purple. For this first class, especially, it will be a special time, because they helped create the tradition in the school.”
This school year, Benjamin Rush will salute its first graduating class. The school has expanded to 520 students.
The school’s four varsity programs encompass girls volleyball, girls soccer, and boys and girls basketball. The two newest teams — boys baseball and girls softball — have junior varsity squads.
According to Brown, many of the Benjamin Rush athletic programs should expand within the next few years, but there are two major factors that must be considered.
“One, it’s based on what the students would like and if we have enough students who want to participate. We’re a small school; we can’t offer everything,” Brown explained. “And in terms of adding sports, obviously funding needs to be considered. It’s been challenging in this climate with the (school district’s) budget crisis, but we’re hopeful.”
Rush’s athletic teams compete in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association. The school also offers a co-op program with George Washington High School that allows its students to try out for any Eagles programs that are not offered at Rush.
“I think it’s so important for schools to have athletic programs,” said Brown. “It teaches them how to lead and gives them confidence. That self-esteem can transfer to the classroom and the school in general.” ••
Editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org