Los Angeles, CA–When Kamarie Brown was a freshman at Crenshaw High’s STEMM Magnet, she wrote something down on a piece of paper and gave it to her guidance counselor. It stated that she wanted to become the valedictorian of her class. Three years into her high school journey, Kamarie was well on her way of achieving this goal.
Then, during her junior year, the coronavirus pandemic halted life as we knew it.
The program that Kamarie was locked into on the road to becoming the valedictorian of her class was disrupted as school was now within the confines of her home, absent from the support of faculty and staff at Crenshaw High.
“It was not easy and my senior year was an extra barrier, given that the pandemic hit us it was like did I actually want to achieve this goal that I had since the 9th grade but I don’t like second place. So, I had to really tap into my inner Kamarie,” she detailed. “I really had to paint my own path.”
Kamarie says one of the best strategies that helped her was learning to advocate for self, as well as time management. This included knowing when to set boundaries and when to limit her online activity to focus on her school work.
“I’m still a teenager and I still have a social life but I had to learn to turn off social media when it came to academics,” Kamarie expressed.
Her dedication and focus paid off. She walked the stage last week for an in-person ceremony, delivering the 2021 commencement speech to her peers–who persevered–completing their high school requirements during such uncertain times and global turmoil. Kamarie says that although she was only able to invite two people, she is grateful that her graduation was not held online or she would have felt that all her hard work went unnoticed.
In addition to graduating with a 4.4 G.P.A., Kamarie is a recipient of the Jordan Brand Wings Scholarship and is off to Spelman College in the Fall, where she will be pursuing a degree in Sociology. A billboard was erected along Crenshaw Boulevard, publicly highlighting Kamarie’s accomplishments as a local youth. Her beautiful face has also been engraved in a mural on the building of Community Coalition in South Central.
“It definitely is an honor. It still feels surreal till this day. To have a billboard and a mural makes me feel that I am making a huge impact not just in the district but nationally. And it makes me feel like I must be doing something right and it just encourages me to just push even harder,” said Kamarie.
“Just having my face etched into the community–that’s something that is forever going to be there. There is no taking Kamarie away from where she came from especially considering there is a lot of gentrification going on.”
Rightfully honored by her community for her academic achievements, Kamarie also received praise from Vice-President Kamala Harris whom she shared space with via zoom.
When asked what drives her, Kamarie replied that the peers of her generation are what really inspire her.
“So many are using our voices in a way that benefits us. That’s what truly drives me. I see a lot of youth engaged in different organizations or starting their own businesses or just being young advocates. And it’s like, wow. We are really doing this?”
As a member of Community Coalition’s South Central Youth Empower through Action (SCYEA) program since the 9th grade, Kamarie has gained the necessary tools and language to advocate for not only herself, but those in her community. During 2020-2021 she was selected as the first Black-woman Los Angeles Unified Student Board Member, advocating for safer schools, equity in education and access for herself and her peers.
When Kamarie is not head first in her academics, you can catch her shopping, reading poetry or spending time with her small-knit family. She wants to spend even more time with them now, as she prepares to leave to another state for college in a couple months.
Before starting her freshman year at Spelman, Kamarie has plans to attend Rolling Loud Miami with friends this summer.
“I’m really excited words can’t explain. I feel like I will bring a piece of me to ATL. I am just so excited to be around such Black greatness and success. No school highlights and prioritizes authentic, unapologetic Blackness like an HBCU does which is why it was a must for me,” said Kamarie.
As Kamarie begins a new chapter and sets out to achieve greater heights for herself, she holds dear the words of her grandmother who always encouraged her to go further after graduating high school. She says that her grandmother still tells her till this day, that education is something that no one can ever take away from you.
“I’m a first generation college student and my family tells me all the time, ‘you broke the generational curses in the family.’ That in itself does something to me because it’s like, it took all those generations and years for someone in my family to do something. That really encourages me to keep going.”