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Brooks takes time to lead youth by example

March 11, 2005|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A sophomore anthropology major at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., 19-year-old Whytne Brooks juggles a schedule that squeezes every minute out of a 24-hour day.

The North Hagerstown High School graduate and multitalented musician - she plays the violin, piano and organ - balances her academics with a busy theater performance schedule, in addition to volunteering with local youth.

This semester she's performed in two plays, "The Wiz" and "The Devil and A Slave Child," and she has two more plays on her schedule for this semester.

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The latter was a new experience for Brooks.

"I was the younger version of the play's main female character. It was my first spoken role part in a play. I didn't realize I could do it," said Brooks, who also is a member of Yale's Ethnic Performers Guild.

While she could use her Saturdays for a little rest and relaxation, Brooks is up by 8 a.m. and out the door to New Haven's Wexler Grant Elementary School, where she and other students from Yale's African American Culture House tutor students.

"I'm giving more than I can. It's important to use my talent to do things to help other people out," she said.

After her tutoring sessions, Brooks is off to a local gym to teach an urban-dance class to local youth.

"It gives them something to do and allows for creative thinking and artistic expression," Brooks said.

"It's important to set an example to motivate and help them become whatever it is they decide to become in life."

When she's home for spring and summer breaks, the Hagerstown native continues to teach dance to Hagerstown youth at Sumans Community Center. It's part of an outreach program organized by her mother, Carolyn Brooks, and Ranelle Flurie. Flurie is the artistic director and owner of Hagerstown's Ballet and All That Jazz dance studio, where Whytne once was a student.

She'll teach a dance class there on Saturday morning.

"She's certainly not one-dimensional. She has lots of positive energy and can juggle a lot of different activities and enjoy them all," Flurie said, "To do all that she does - it's not a chore for her, she loves it and she's very humble."

Flurie said Brooks' dedication is a reflection of her upbringing and devotion to her community. An only child, Brooks said she draws inspiration from those who came before her.

"It's good to take a moment and remember our ancestors who didn't have the same opportunities. They push me on, and my community gave a lot to me in helping me reach the goals that I've set for myself," she said.

Whytne's parents said their involvement was a critical part of her academic and social development.

"When she was younger, I explained to her that like mom and dad, she had a job. Her job was school, and like we get returns on our investment at work through a check, she had to earn a return on her education by doing well in school," said Whytne's father, Frank Brooks.

"When the scholarships started coming in, she said, 'Dad, I'm getting paid.'"

Carolyn and Frank Brooks are both of Hagerstown. Whytne plans to attend law school after she graduates from Yale University.

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