NORTH PALM BEACH – A Palm Beach student who recently returned from a 10-day trip to China says she found most minorities want to break down cultural barriers and stereotypes.
Brealauna “Breezy” Leassear was the only African American among about 30 students from The Benjamin School who made the trip in June.
“Traveling to China has affected me by opening my eyes to a culture different than mine,” Brealauna said.
But, she added, “This trip allowed me to appreciate the United States even more.”
Brealauna, 14, and her mother, Gail Kossie, who also went on the tour, said they are grateful to the local community for helping the teen raise more than $6,000 to pay for the trip.
“We’ve been really blessed with Brealauna’s education. The community has been very supportive,” Kossie said.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Coordinating Committee was among the organizations that helped raise funds for Brealauna.
Committee founder Edith Bush said leadership ability can be expanded by exploring other cultures and learning how to treat other people.
“We encouraged her to go and experience another culture because, once you go to college, that’s almost like experiencing another culture, too,” Bush said. “We encourage [our youth] to travel and take advantage of every opportunity that will expand your knowledge.”
It was Brealauna’s first time traveling abroad. “I had doubts about going to China. I had doubts about going to a foreign country,” she said. “But when I got there, I was overwhelmed at everything, from the different architecture to the different dialect and cuisine.”
Visiting the site of the Terra Cotta Warriors and a huge cave in Guilin with beautiful images were among her favorites during the trip.
The students visited the Great Wall of China and the Temples of Heaven, the Olympic site and the Imperial Palace and also traveled to Hong Kong.
Brealauna, who has placed first for the last three years in the MLK Jr. Coordinating Committee’s “I Have A Dream” oratory contest, said exposure to various opportunities may help change the perceptions some have of minority students.
“Minority students have more difficulties because we have to try to break stereotypes,” she said. “If we do one thing wrong, people will assume we are those stereotypes. So we have to work harder not to appear we are walking in the footsteps of stereotypes.”
Kossie said that her family does not take her daughter’s education for granted. Many parents of students at The Benjamin School are wealthy and could afford to pay for the trip themselves. Kossie said her family could not pay for everything so the support of churches and civic organizations has been invaluable.
Tuition cost is about $25,000 annually and Brealauna has attended the private school for the last four years on an academic scholarship.
Brealauna said the school opens doors and helps students broaden their horizons. She said she has had the opportunity to play sports such as tennis and lacrosse and even played on stage in the school’s band with famed saxophonist Kenny G.
“They open doors for performing arts, field trips, etc. I went to Washington, D.C. and visited museums,” she said. “I went SCUBA-diving in Key Largo, which was nice because I’m thinking about becoming a marine biologist. So I’m really focused on science.”
Bush of the MLK, Jr. Coordinating Committee agreed and stressed the importance of parental involvement in a child’s growth.
“Parental support is very important to the development of a child. Then they’re not encouraged by peer pressure,” she said. “They look at their parents at home as role models.”
Brealauna said she will use the experience of the China trip and others to continue to grow as a human being. “I am going to use everything that I have experienced to enhance my learning,” she said. “I will keep striving to