Dear Casey – On your 11th angelversary, I share this letter I wrote about 100 days before you left us, not knowing the fireball that was about to come. Your guidance counselor at Redwood, Mr. Kelly, asked me to write about you so that he could incorporate it into his college recommendation; he was new and didn’t know you very well. Eleven years later I wouldn’t change a thing. You were about being true to yourself, being authentic and not selling out. You were a far bigger person than I ever was. I never showed this to you because I thought it might embarrass you.
You will never ever be forgotten. We love you.
September 18, 2007
Mr. Randall Kelly
Redwood High School
Dear Mr. Kelly,
To really appreciate Casey Brooks’ unique qualities, strengths and talents, you need to look beyond the resume and the quantitative record of her work and activities. Unlike those who may be seeking to manufacture the ultimate resume, get a ticket punched with the right name school, or follow the path of least resistance through high school and college to the real world, Casey is a genuine seeker of academic challenge. This became evident to me when we took college tours (e.g. Reed College, Bennington, Bard, etc.) that featured “graduate” level thesis projects as a graduating requirement. I was somewhat intimidated by this but Casey was energized by it. That was a major revelation for me about who Casey is as a person. She is seeking an academic stimulus that has somehow evaded her in high school, even though she took 2 AP courses last year and 3 this year. It seems that the challenge of AP courses only begins to get her engaged.
Many of her teachers, since middle school, have commended her on her writing. There are probably many excellent writers at Redwood, but I think Casey has a special talent of weaving together a very compelling piece of writing. She demonstrates an ability to hook you in, to take positions that may not be popular, and to reveal an unusual depth of thought in her subject matter. There are no specific examples that come to mind, but in general Casey’s thought, analysis and strong opinions have been especially evident in her writings for history, politics, literature and economics.
When looking at Casey’s extracurricular activities, it might appear on the surface that she has not contributed as much as she could. There is probably some truth in this, but it is also true that she prefers to participate when she has a genuine interest or passion, not because she is simply looking to impress. As an example, this past summer, she desperately wanted to attend a 2-week seminar at Brown University focusing on environmental and political science issues. She preferred this over a trip to Hawaii or Europe as some of her friends did. Unfortunately she wasn’t accepted to the Brown program. Disappointment is a good, though painful, learning experience.
While some kids may have already found their passion in life, she is still looking for hers (like most of us). She wants to make a difference in the world, but is still looking for the right path to achieve that goal. She would love nothing more than to go to a small, rigorous liberal arts school, and maybe onto graduate school. I believe that at the right college she will truly blossom. But don’t take my word for it. Talk to her cheering squad at Redwood – Paul Ippolito, Bernadette Rattet, Mitch Cohen and others.