Brathwaite kids are top of their class
When Westbury High School senior Gabrielle Brathwaite is introduced as salutatorian at the Westbury High School graduation on June 24, it won’t be the first time a member of the Brathwaite family is introduced as one of the top students of their class. It won’t even be the second or the third. Gabrielle follows in the footsteps of her two brothers who were valedictorians at Westbury High School, as well as her mom, who was second in her high school class.
Gabrielle’s brothers, Julien and Brandon were valedictorians of their senior classes, in 2012 and 2014, respectively. It was a high standard to live up to, and one Gabrielle worked hard to meet. “I was very excited when I heard I was salutatorian. My brothers were both valedictorians so it was on my shoulders to meet their expectations,” Gabrielle said. “Ever since middle school I was third, so I was working to get higher than that.”
The admiration the youngest Brathwaite has for her older brothers is obvious. Her voice beams with pride as she recounts their accomplishments and the influence they’ve had on her.
“My eldest brother Julien is a prime example of what I want to try and accomplish. He’s always motivating me to do my best,” Gabrielle said. “Both of them have been a great influence.”
As she navigated through challenging classes and a heavy workload, Gabrielle notes that her family was a tremendous support. When she was younger, her dad, an accountant, was her go-to person for math help and as she got older and started taking classes like calculus and trigonometry, her brothers would help her understand the course material. The two also provided emotional support and guidance when she became overwhelmed with the coursework.
“It was a safety net for me to fall back on. Whenever I needed help or felt frustrated, they would give me advice and help me get through it,” Gabrielle said. “It was nice to have that reassurance.”
She recounts one particular example in ninth-grade, as part of the Cradle of Aviation program at the high school where she was taking advanced classes like physics, which is typically a course taken in 11th- or 12th-grade. She had failed the midterm and didn’t understand the material, and says at that point, she had just given up.
“My brother Julien sat me down and said him and Brandon had gotten through it and he gave me advice on how to study and meeting up in study groups,” Gabrielle said. “I did that and my friends and I started meeting up every week to study. I started understanding the material and by the time the final came around, we all passed.”
Not only did Gabrielle follow her brothers in their academic achievement, but she’s also heading to University of Michigan in the fall to pursue an engineering degree, just like Julien did and Brandon is currently doing.
Julien graduated from the University of Michigan a few weeks ago with a degree in industrial operations engineering. He had an active student career at Michigan, participating in internships at Chrysler and JP Morgan, a study abroad program in India and several campus initiatives. In July, he will be starting a job in the finance division at Microsoft’s offices in Seattle.
He said his parents instilled in him the importance of education at a young age and he was motivated to succeed by a desire to help others, as well as have financial security.
“I want to be able to have a very profound impact in the world and I think it will be in the finance sector,” Julien said.
Like his brother, Brandon is also pursuing a degree at the University of Michigan in industrial operations engineering and will be spending his summer doing research in the field. Having Julien lead the way was extremely helpful, said Brandon, not only in adjusting to college life but finding inspiration.
“I had somebody who could walk me through the ins and outs for school, it made things easier as far as adjusting to college life,” Brandon said. “I always look at my brother and see the things he’s doing and it’s very motivating.”
Now Brandon is looking forward to being that type of example for Gabrielle when she joins him at Michigan in the fall. The encouragement and support that comes from the family has been a motivator for the Brathwaite kids all throughout their lives.
“Ever since we were young, my parents told us that as long as we try and put our minds to something, we can achieve,” Gabrielle said. “The whole family motivated us and said if we want to do something, we can do it. That stuck with me.”
Brathwaite matriarch Chrislyn, said she and her husband Jeffrey, always tried to instill in their children that education was the number one priority.
“I always said you have to use your brain. No one else can use it for you,” said Chrislyn. “I’m very proud of my kids. We let them know what was expected and they worked hard and achieved it. They did what they had to do and they reaped the benefits.”
And though they’re out of the house, the encouragement and support keeps coming.
“My mom calls me every week to check up on me and see how things are going,” Brandon said. “Those conversations put things in perspective, it makes me realize who I’m going to school for and the people I want to make proud.”
And while there are plenty of accomplishments to be shared in the Brathwaite home, the focus will be on Gabrielle on June 24 as she graduates from Westbury High School. The 17-year-old is not only an exceptional student, but also a member of the National Honor Society, Art Honor Society and active member of the Westbury United Methodist Church youth group. She’s also captain of the softball team.
“My best memories of high school were playing softball. My softball team is like a mini-family,” Gabrielle said. “I love going out on the field and playing with them every year.
The camaraderie between the team has been amazing the past four years.”
Her love for engineering was sparked last year when she attended a weeklong summer camp at Bucknell University.
“I really love technology and I was thinking about doing mechanical or industrial engineering so I would go into that field and make things that will change the world,” Gabrielle said.
And while graduation is still a month away, she knows she’ll have help gearing up for the big speech.
“I haven’t even started thinking about that yet,” Gabrielle admits. “But I’m sure I’ll go to my brothers for advice.”