At Burke High, Alicia Rose found a close-knit community

BPS photo

It’s probably more appropriate to ask Jeremiah Burke High School valedictorian Alicia Rose what accomplishments she didn’t achieve in high school, rather than what she did.

From varsity volleyball and dual enrollment college classes to being a mental health ambassador to finding a new passion on the dance team, Rose, 18, seems to have found success in most everything she has tried. There were also outside pursuits, like the summer program at Phillips Exeter Academy and the MIT Cascade Program.

But when she leaves for Union College in New York this fall, it will be the encouraging atmosphere and tight-knit student community at the Burke in Grove Hall that she will miss.

“We have our issues like any other school, but at the end of the day when we’re all in the auditorium or gym for a pep rally and you find students dancing, singing, or showcasing their talents – every student or teacher will cheer those students on,” she said, adding that she enjoys living close to school and being able to walk there.

“The student-teacher relationships I have here are so good that I can go to any teacher about anything because I feel that support from them,” she said. “We have a very close community at the Burke and we support each other, and I’m going to miss that.”

Rose’s mother, Myra Rose, and her two sisters, Alaina Rose, and Sheneka Forrester, moved to Dorchester from Orlando when she was 5 years old. She attended the MLK Jr. School in Grove Hall, the Phineas Bates in Roslindale, the former Washington Irving Middle School in Roslindale, and then high school at the Burke.

“After 8th grade, I knew high school was where it really started to count,” she said, noting that she was always a good student growing up. “In 9th grade, I was like, ‘Ok Alicia, this is when it matters.’ In high school I really focused on my education.”

Rose, like all the students in the Class of 2023, felt the impact of the pandemic, which shut down classes at the end of their freshman year and through her sophomore year. While on Zoom school, she said she was able to maintain “A’s” with forming relationships with City Year fellows helpingher to stay on track. To lighten things up at the end of the pandemic year, that group had a laugh together due to Rose’s love of pickles: They organized a pickle contest. “We brought in a whole bunch of pickles and had everyone try them and rank them,” Rose said with a big laugh.

She planned to play soccer in high school, but was talked into volleyball by a friend. In switching, she found her game. “Volleyball felt like a small community in an existing community,” she said. “It was great to have that support system and have those girls to talk to and get advice from…I am a very competitive person and I love the games.”

Academically, Rose has participated in the MIT Cascade program and studied Forensic Science and Culinary Arts there. She excelled in dual enrollment college classes with Bunker Hill Community College and Roxbury Community College, and took classes in calculus and computer science with another college-level program.

She was also heavily involved post-pandemic with the Mental Health Ambassadors group at the Burke, a program started by City Councillor Julia Mejia. Rose said mental health had become a big issue for students, and many – including herself – said it wasn’t something talked about in the home.

“Councillor Mejia told us she wanted to get a mental health curriculum into all BPS schools,” she said. “I felt that was perfect. That is what is needed. There are health classes this year, but to have a mental health curriculum to hear about in school and take home and teach to families is really what we need.”

The highlight of her senior year has been receiving the Posse Foundation Scholarship. The foundation is a Boston-based program that supports urban students in Boston and nearby suburbs as they transition from high school to out-of-state partner colleges – including Union College, Bucknell University, Centre College (Kentucky), and others. The program includes a scholarship that pays full tuition.

At first, Rose wasn’t convinced that the program was for her as she and a friend contemplated attending Salem State University. Soon, she became comfortable and excited about Posse, but never thought she would be chosen.

“The night after the last interview I put my head down to go to sleep and they called and asked if my mom was around,” she said. “I got my mom, and they told me I got it, and it didn’t feel real. My mom and I just started screaming.”

Rose chose Union College in Schenectady, NY, because of its law program and because it had a welcoming student body like at the Burke. She said she wants to pursue a law degree.

In August, she will leave Dorchester and the support system of her family and school and head off to a totally new experience in college, something that she admits is “scary. It makes me a little nervous because I have to find my place in a whole new environment,” she said. “But that is really the point of the Posse...We can explore and expand our horizons and still have a place that feels like home.”

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