The Evolution of the Sister Circle

Madison Neal ’09
High school is tough. Your body is changing right before your eyes, classes get harder, the SAT is a constant reminder of all the words you don’t know, and college is a concept that is both exciting and terrifying.  As I inch closer to my 10-year reunion, another terrifying yet exciting concept, I reflect on my years at KO. Although my high school experience was a struggle for its own reasons, the lifelong friends that I made at KO made it all worthwhile.

Maya Frazier and Rachael Alexander are the sisters I never knew I needed. The three of us had grown up in the same town of Bloomfield, and on various occasions, such as church or Girl Scouts, we had seen and briefly interacted with one another before. We never had the opportunity to truly connect until KO’s freshman orientation in September 2005. Ironically, each of us, at separate times of our lives prior to attending KO, had had the same best friend. It’s amazing to think that those three, nervous, freshmen sitting with their parents during orientation in Roberts Theater would later create a bond so tight even an ocean of distance couldn’t break it. We had no clue that it would be the beginning of our lifelong Sister Circle.

I am grateful to KO for providing an environment where we could learn more about ourselves as individuals, which then opened the doors for us to discover and cultivate strong friendships. As three students of color in a predominately white school, the United Students Club was our sanctuary. Initially, it served as a safe space for us to voice our feelings freely. But, as we grew into our own and engaged with other student diversity groups on and off campus, United Students allowed us the opportunity to explore our voices in student leadership.

Throughout the many challenges of being some of the few black girls on campus, yearning to be heard and accepted, as well as the challenges of regular high school life, the three of us grew closer and closer with each school term. Our time spent together eventually evolved from study hall and lunch periods to hanging out with one another after school and on weekends. We spent so much time together back then, that people would sometimes mistake me for Maya, though we three still can’t see the resemblance.

By sophomore year, our underground alias, “DKB,” had formed, so named for the color of our eyes (dark brown) indicated on our driver’s learner’s permit.  We were not a gang, nor a clique; we were a sisterhood. For most high school students, four years feels like forever! But for our four years, we worked together, sang together, danced together, laughed together, and even cried together. Through sickness, we prayed for one another. Through breakups, we held one another and, through victories, we celebrated one another.

Many aren’t lucky enough to find such grounded friendships in high school.  Due to their undeveloped frontal lobes, teenagers don’t always display the best judgment. Hence, they may define “friendship” in terms of the people they take the most selfies with or share the most gossip with. While I can admit to the occasional indulgence in gossip and to the uploading of thousands of photos to Facebook, our bond extended well beyond the superficial.

When we graduated in May 2009, we knew we would be venturing off to three different colleges: Holy Cross for Rachael, George Washington for Maya, and Marist College for me.  It was terrifying to know I wouldn’t have my sisters with me in a new territory - if only to help me navigate the complexities of making new friends. However, there was a certain calm during our last “DKB Sister Circle” that graduation summer because we knew, deep down, that this would not be our breaking point. KO taught us too much about ourselves and about our sisterhood to let any amount of distance or time tear us apart.

Throughout college, we each got wrapped up in our individual lives and experienced a new set of challenges, sometimes going weeks without hearing from one another.  But the holidays, long weekends and school breaks were always our chance to have Sister Circles, catch up, and just be silly - exactly the way we used to.

After college, Rachael and I moved back home, and Maya stayed in D.C. Even with only two-thirds of DKB back home, not much changed. We maintained our Sister Circles even if we sometimes had to Skype-in Maya.

In 2015, Rachael moved to Houston, Texas, and we were back to being spread around the country. Again, DKB prevailed despite the distance.

In November 2016, we enjoyed a DKB road trip and moved Rachael back to Connecticut to start nursing school. Similar to our previous arrangements, Rachael and I were back home, and Maya remained in the nation’s capital.

By September 2017, I accepted a new job in Washington, D.C., and Maya and I became roommates. After all our years of friendship, none of us had ever been roommates, until now! Now it was time for Maya and me to enjoy a city together. It was perfect! She was able to teach me about the city that had been her second home for eight years and, as we expected, we had a blast. By November, Rachael came down to visit, and DKB was back to our shenanigans – but this time, as bona fide adults!

Late 2017, Maya was blessed with a new job opportunity in Saipan, and in January 2018, our DKB roommate dream came to an end.

One life lesson that I’ve come to accept is that everything works in cycles.  Sometimes the cycle is meant to last as short as a week, and sometimes it is meant for a lifetime. For our DKB roommate dream, the cycle was meant to last only for a few exciting months. However, our bond has proven to be built for a lifetime.

Thanks to technology, the three of us will never miss a beat. FaceTime has allowed us to see one another on birthdays. Apple’s iMessage has been the virtual conference room for updates, and social media have allowed us to share and publicly (and sometimes obnoxiously) celebrate one another. Throughout the years, we have been able to adjust, adapt and realign ourselves to make the best out of our various circumstances. Our most recent moves have been a testimony to the old saying, “Distance means so little when someone means so much.”

As I reflect on the past nine years, I’m proud to say KO was not just high school, but rather the place where we learned about ourselves through our challenges. It was where we discovered our passions. And ultimately, it was where we felt safe to be vulnerable, come together, and grow. KO was where I created an extension of my family. KO was the birthplace of the DKB Sister Circle.

Rachael is currently working in patient support services at Connecticut Children's Medical Center and is a B.S.N. Candidate at the University of Saint Joseph (Class of 2018).
Madison is currently the external communications manager at the International Code Council in Washington, D.C.
Maya is a law clerk to the Honorable Perry B. Inos, Associate Justice CNMI Supreme Court in Saipan, Marianas Protectorate (MP).
 
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Located in West Hartford, CT just steps from Blue Back Square, Kingswood Oxford is a private school inspiring co-ed day students in grades 6-12 with a college preparatory curriculum. Empowered students become clear confident communicators, resourceful problem-solvers, and ethical leaders. KO: where unlimited potential meets endless opportunities.
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