Jaylen Bowens, Dawson Class of 2021
Junior at Bishop Gorman High School
Keynote Speaker at the Enrollment Management Association Annual Conference, September 2023
Good morning, everyone. My name is Jaylen Bowens, and I am representing the independent schools Alexander Dawson and Bishop Gorman. I was at Dawson for five years, starting in the fourth grade and graduating from there. The next step was high school, and Bishop Gorman seemed like the right fit, with a lot of my friends opting to go there as well. I also chose Bishop Gorman because my brother attended there, graduating with the Class of 2019, so it made sense to continue the legacy there. Furthermore, I heard of their several extracurricular opportunities and knew that it would sharpen my college resume. I also heard about the various electives available so I knew I could truly incorporate my interests into my daily life as a student. The school spirit is another reputable aspect of the school that caught my eye, with breathtaking pep rallies and the student section cheering with all of their might for sports, especially the football team. Lastly, I figured that the connections I would make would be lifelong, building a post-graduation community and looking back with nostalgia at alumni reunions.
Being the new kid in an independent school in the fourth grade was a circumstance that certainly needed some getting used to. Coming from a public school in Henderson, I had no connection to The Alexander Dawson School at Rainbow Mountain. At the start of the year, I’ll admit there were some times where I felt like the odd one out, conflicting with classmates about how to play games at recess, and being lackluster to engage in class while others raised their hand whenever deemed to participate. However, this would all change with one person at the center of it: my fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Myster. Throughout the year, she could sense that I felt like an outsider if you will. She would pull me aside after class to check on me, ensure I was adjusting properly, and with her help, I could say that was possible. She made it a point to include me in class activities, encouraging me to speak up and make my presence felt. In turn, I would say this allowed me to branch out and establish friendships with my classmates and throughout the School – most of these friendships withstanding to this day – as well as become a leader in the classroom to strive through middle school and my high school career so far. This single connection I established with Ms. Myster, the first teacher of my independent school days, led me to landing on the Honor Roll through every one of my middle and high school years to date, being inducted into the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) and Challenge Success at Dawson
, receiving The G.B. Henderson Award, named for Dawson’s founder
, which set me up to be a speaker for my 2021 graduating class, and being awarded the Student of the Year in my Honors Spanish 2 class at Bishop Gorman in sophomore year. I could say that the groundwork was truly set for my leadership by being in Ms. Myster’s class. Additionally, I could say that I felt this same feeling of being the outsider once again as I walked into the gates of Bishop Gorman. From around 40 people in the entirety of my eighth-grade class to there being around that same amount in just two of my classes, I could say that it was once again something to get used to. However, with the influence of Ms. Myster, a teacher I recollect to this day, it was an experience I became prepared for and that has allowed me to further progress in high school.
When I was in the sixth grade, I was invited to be a part of a team that, regardless of being in the program for just three years, will always resonate with me. The team was Challenge Success. Composed of multiple K-12 schools throughout the nation, Challenge Success is a Stanford University-affiliated program
that aims to give a stronger voice to students and develop strategies to improve student life and school functionality. In the seventh grade, my second year of being a team member, I was lucky enough to be a part of Dawson’s group of select staff and teachers designated for a trip to Stanford University to achieve the goals of the program just mentioned. From the invaluable workshops for stress management and future planning to the group meetings where we collaborated with other affiliate schools to identify issues that could be detrimenting the success of students, the experience was unforgettable. This brings me to a specific collaboration that we were involved in. Our group, in collaboration with one of the affiliate schools, identified one core issue that resided in both of our schools: productivity. When analyzing this issue, we came to a realization that students’ mental health could be a main contributing factor to this, as the typical student is undergoing anxiety from the daily tasks asked of them. Our individual school group then built upon this analysis of students’ mental health to devise an effective solution: dedicate a week that caters to stress relief. Specifically, the week involved the removal of stress-inducers from the school environment, and one inducer we came up with was technology. The Challenge Success program gets credit for that because we were fortunate to attend another invaluable event during our stay there that had convinced us of the imminent effects of technology usage on mental health. This meant that we had contributed a school day to no technology, which turned out to be greatly rewarding, and it had just contributed to one of the days of this special mental health week. All in all, the week fulfilled its goals of being a refreshing intermission, enabling students to ease their anxiety and be prepared for the weeks to come with a new sense of academic drive. My involvement with Challenge Success demonstrated to me that in something as simple as helping devise a no-technology day, education can enable anyone to be placed into the higher-up rooms as long as they act with leadership, integrity, confidence, and discipline. Furthermore, the Challenge Success experience opened my eyes to how education has the power to connect you with people nationwide and beyond and collaborate with them to learn from their unique experiences and vice versa. As you can probably tell, my experience with Challenge Success at Dawson holds great value to me. This value I hold for Challenge Success is deeply rooted in the fact that I feel it allowed me to consider myself as a leader more than I ever could before.
With my experiences at both Dawson and the first two years at Bishop Gorman, I have grown in more ways than one. The first aspect I want to bring to light is my academic growth. Along with Challenge Success, NJHS was an experience at Dawson that shaped me into the person I am today. Being in NJHS allowed me to be greatly involved in my community. The five pillars of NJHS are scholarship, service, leadership, character, and citizenship, and my experience in the program encompassed each of these. The most memorable task we performed was limiting hunger in Las Vegas amidst the pandemic. We managed to create a PSA for people to donate to HELP, a non-profit organization that held Thanksgiving food drives
. As a result, we were able to get people to donate, which was a rewarding experience, and we became educated on the issue of hunger in our city to help make a difference. When it comes to Bishop Gorman, my education has grown greatly due to the multitude of electives and courses available. One of the most impactful courses for me is computer discoveries. This class that I took in my freshman year educated me greatly on the impact of technology on our society. Specifically, we focused on digital citizenship and created an instructional video for how social media users can maintain a healthy relationship with their technology. We also learned how to code an “All About Me” website and watched the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, which sheds light on how social media is all about profit at the expense of manipulating people’s views on serious issues. I am continuing on this subject this year as a junior in AP computer science principles, so I can’t wait for what’s in store. Another aspect that comes to mind revolves around my social growth. As I mentioned before, my entrance into Bishop Gorman was a big ask to adjust to. A vivid memory that comes to mind is attending the freshmen welcome dance during the first week of school. I’ll admit that I was anxious throughout; everywhere I walked, a face I’d never seen before was either grooving to the music or playing basketball or volleyball in the vast gymnasium. The only familiar faces were my fellow Dawson graduate friends, and the whole time it felt as if we were stuck in a shell of ourselves, hesitating to socialize with any of the other freshmen we’d never met before. Throughout the year, this would drastically change for each of us. For me specifically, I was able to align my interests with my football teammates, basketball teammates, and most of all, my other classmates, who are some of my closest friends years later. I’m glad to say that since my departure from Dawson, and my two-year going on three-year tenure at Bishop Gorman, I’ve managed to uphold a great portion of my friendships I established at Dawson and venture into great new friendships at Gorman. If I were to relive that freshmen dance moment today, the experience would be night and day from what it was freshman year. Year by year, school by school, my social environment has grown tremendously, and I’d like to say that I’ve grown with it. Now, I would like to mention my emotional growth with my experience at Bishop Gorman. One of the first big losses of my life was the passing of my beloved dog Sky about five months ago. Sky was essentially my lifelong best friend, growing up alongside me day by day. The memories I have with her go on and on. But when the news dawned upon my mom and I that she was sick, it was a tough pill to swallow. From that day forward, I made sure not to take every lasting moment with her for granted. When the slightest signs of improvement shined through, the darkest moment of them all struck like lightning. We had to put her down, and it was the toughest decision of my life. The grief was unbearable for the both of us, and I needed someone to talk to. Luckily, spring break had just ended and going back to school, I was able to have a talk with the deacon. He let me pour out all of my feelings and offered great comfort with his words. We then said a prayer together for Sky’s eternal peace in Heaven, and when I came home, I passed his words of comfort along to my mom. This moment greatly grew my faith, and with God being at the center of Bishop Gorman, through the good days and the bad days my emotional growth improves, knowing that I have the Almighty on my side.
I’d like to conclude with this: Independent schools are an opportunity to level up your environment and surround yourself with like-minded people, as you are the product of association. And with these like-minded people, you need to be assets to each other. Along these lines, I’d say with each knock at the door of your future at this stage of your life, open the door. These opportunities that present themselves for you to take risks, to benefit your future, will go away at some point if you don’t take advantage of them. For me, this keynote address was a knock at the door for my future, and if I’m being honest, I leant toward keeping the door shut at first. But my dad gave me the vision I needed to see to capitalize on this rewarding experience. He brought up the 90/10 rule, which basically says that in almost everything, only 10 percent of people will be successful, and these 10 percent of people will get 90 percent of the rewards. Those 10 percent aren’t a shot out of the dark; they are people who take risks and open the door to all of the opportunities presented to them. With this being said, you have the liberty to look toward this experience as a privilege, to go to school as opposed to having to go to school, and I suggest that you choose the initial option if you care about your future. If you look toward it as a privilege, you will establish the right network and blaze a path for success. In third-world countries, children are not offered the privilege of independent schools. In the Jim Crow Era, African-Americans were segregated from schools, let alone independent schools. Even today, most kids aren’t fortunate enough to afford independent schools. Another thing is that I underestimated how quick these seven years of my independent journey have flown by. Just a moment ago, it seemed like I was walking the stage of eighth-grade graduation, and now I am approaching three-fourths of the way of venturing from home into college. Taking all this into account, I don’t take my opportunity and time for granted and count my blessings. And I ask that you do the same. Don’t take it for granted and count your blessings. Thank you.