Awesome Washingtonian of the Day Sept 25, 2010
September 25, 2010 3 Comments
Name: Jennifer Barrett
Live in: Bethesda, MD
Originally from: Salem, Ohio but moved here via Portugal, New York City, and Santa Cruz
Profession: Manage a Non-Profit Focusing on Educational Reform; President of Transforming Teaching and Learning Consulting Firm; Philanthropist; Actress; Model; Aspiring Novelist
What you love about DC: Although I’ve lived all over the world, DC is the only city I’ve returned to and is the place that I now happily call, “home”! What I love about DC….strolling the monuments by moonlight…pushing my physical limits on the Billy Goat Trail…kayaking from the hustle and bustle of the Georgetown Harbor to the quaintness of Turkey Run…getting lost in all of the rich history at the Smithsonian…having an experience with my food at any one of Jose Andres’ amazing restaurants…sipping cocktails on the terrace at the Kennedy Center…attending movies on the Mall…being surrounded by giving people who generously donate to their charities of choice…shopping, eating, and drinking my way through Georgetown…attending fabulous events…making the most incredibly diverse, beautiful, dedicated set of friends that I could ever ask for…living in a place that has its pulse on the universe…
My favorite music video: Wow…I rarely turn the TV on. I really love to read if I have any free time (I’m into female British humor right now!). If I was pushed, I’d probably have to say MJ’s Thriller. But, who doesn’t love that????
About Me: I grew up surrounded by strong women in a time when women didn’t always have a voice. My Nana was the high school counselor and THE hospital lab while raising a family of three girls, as well as taking care of her mother, brother, and husband. She never complained and was the sweetest, most giving, pleasant person you’d ever meet. My Grandma was a dedicated teacher AND raised a family of five children, and took care of her own father and her husband. She still cooked large meals every night. My mother was a single mom who worked as a teacher and whose first salary was $10,000/yr – and it wasn’t that long ago, folks! She was so dedicated to her students that she often provided those who were abused or neglected with a warm bed and dinner in our small apartment. Our home, though, wasn’t just a harbor for children, it was also a harbor for any stray or hurt animal that we happened to come across. With my Nana’s help, we nursed a variety of dogs, cats, birds, bunnies, squirrels and even a pony back to health. Thus, I was surrounded by these strong women, dedicated to their chosen professions while instilling a love and respect for all types of life in me.
My grandfathers were influential in some of the same ways, as well as others. Both were also educators (as had been at least one each of their parents), as well as world-reknowned athletes. Papa was a runner and traveled with Jesse Owens, his good friend and trainee, as they were competing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The stories of how he and Jesse persevered, and ultimately survived, in Nazi Germany were undeniably amazing. Grandpa was a fiery Irishman who fought his way into the Boxing Hall of Fame as a lightweight champ. I learned from both to persevere and keep my guard up when the going gets tough…or, as Grandpa would say, to “keep pitchin’.”
My dad, a professor at Penn State, also followed into the education arena. He has received the Teacher of the Year award every seven years (as you can only be nominated every seven years) and has impacted the lives of so many students, being sympathetic to their needs while challenging them to do their very best. His wife, a retired principal and current college faculty, also worked tirelessly in education and now helps to prepare educators as they face a diverse group of students’ needs. I have fun working with her on her courses and dialoguing with her about current educational issues.
It was no surprise to anyone when I decided to pursue an undergraduate and graduate degree in education (GO PENN STATE!). Although I loved working with students and supporting teachers, especially in impoverished areas with high-immigrant populations, I wanted to make an impact on teaching and learning globally. So, I moved into a position that has allowed me to work with schools all over the world, helping to ensure that all children receive a solid, free, public education. By providing supports to ministries of education, state departments, districts, and individual schools, I work on empowering teachers so that they can best meet their students’ needs. If I see a need for a product or service that has not yet been developed, I will design and implement it on my own. Although I currently work at an international non-profit, I am starting my own consulting firm so that I can continue to impact teaching and learning with schools that are in need of help, but that my organization is not yet supporting.
Additionally, I LOVE sports – especially as a participant. My mom founded and coached the first girls’ softball team in my hometown and I played for eight years. My Papa helped me practice and I did so daily. I was also a dancer and cheerleader. In fact, I minored in dance at Penn State. Because I balance the lover side of me with the fighter side, I became a boxer while living in New York City and practiced at a fighting school in Brooklyn where I became one of the top fighters in my weight-class. Now, I love kayaking and surfing, but don’t get to do either much. My new best friend at home is my P90X system and my elliptical.
One of the most amazing things about DC is that it has provided me with the opportunity to support my love for animals and value of life by becoming a philanthropist and supporting my causes through fundraising. Many of you may know me through my work with Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary (PSAS) where I volunteer and also help to raise funds. PSAS is one of the only farm animal sanctuaries in the U.S. and provides a safe haven for abused and neglected horses, burros, goats, sheep, cows, chickens, roosters, pigs, bunnies, and even peacocks! I have learned that any animal, when nurtured appropriately, can build a relationship with humans and with other animals. Norman, the largest cow I’ve ever seen, came into the sanctuary and was nursed back to health while learning to trust humans again. He found a best friend and mate in another cow. After being together for years, Norman’s mate dropped dead one day. He refused to leave the body. After we buried her, Norman removed himself from the herd and stood, alone, behind the carriage house, not interested in eating, drinking, or much else. The vet said that he was in mourning for his loss. I would go to him, hug him, cry with him, and he would lean into me, accepting my support. Eventually, Norman re-joined the herd, but went through the same steps in the grieving process as a human would. This had a deep impact on me. I will never eat these great creatures, or their brothers and sisters, and know that they need to be treated with dignity and respect, as do all animals. It saddens me that they aren’t. I will work tirelessly on animal rights campaigns, and do anything I can to educate others on Norman and his farmmates. I welcome anyone to set up a visit to PSAS and I’ll happily accompany you. PSAS is funded solely on donations, so I ask you to please consider them on your list of charities.
I also support the Washington Humane Society’s Fashion for Paws’ campaign. Tara de Nicholas has done an amazing job, founding a fundraiser that connects fashion with raising money for homeless animals. This incredibly fun event makes a huge impact on the almost 40 animals/day that are abandoned to the shelter. I always honor my rescued companion cats, Max and Tigger, at this event. They are my family here. It’s so wonderful to come home to a rockstar greeting each day from them!
Currently, in honor of my Grandma and my step-Grandmother, I am working on the Key to the Cure event at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chevy Chase. This is the one event outside of the animal-arena that I support each year. The funds raised at this event directly support female cancer patients at Suburban Hospital and provides financial support so that they can heal without worrying about looming medical debt. It’s a truly great cause.
In my “free” time, I act and model – it used to be a career, but I’ve chosen to make it a hobby now since education and fundraising are my true passions. I’ve recently shot a TV pilot and have done several runway shows. I also enjoy spending time with my family that I so adore, especially my nephews Kyle and Tyler. Although I travel extensively for work, I enjoy traveling for fun, and just returned from my first weeks’ vacation in almost two years. I spent a week in Santa Cruz with my aunt, uncle, and cousin who are some of the most important people in my life. Also, I enjoy going to dinner and dancing with my friends, spending time outdoors, and am just beginning to write a novel loosely based on my life – I’ve decided not to write a memoir so that I don’t offend anyone! I’ve focused heavily on my career for so long that I’ve neglected my dating life. But, recently, I’ve put myself back in the dating scene. We’ll see what happens….It’s hard to find someone to keep up with me, but finding someone to run with me would be fabulous!
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