In what ways did your Ursuline education prepare you for the work you are doing now?
Like a reliable rhythm of a metronome, the many protocols of the Ursuline nuns repeatedly demanded my attention to the task at hand whether my mind drifted from class into the beauty of the courtyards or I had failed to polish my badly scuffed saddle-oxfords the night before. Thirteen years they bravely challenged my stellar average academic performance, rightly so, and thank goodness they did. I am especially grateful for the training with Mrs. Mock and the Queen’s Players and Sister Immaculate’s chorus, both with whom I not only found my voice, I learned to listen and observe. For this Ursuline Girl, fierce love, dedication, and cherished influences enabled me to navigate through life where, as we know, nothing stays the same.
I work as a volunteer tutor for inmates, both men and women, at the Santa Cruz County (SCC) Jail in California. Once inmates request services from the Literacy Program of SCC evaluations are in motion. Curriculum varies from learning English as a second language to completing credits in order to obtain their high school diploma. One of my students was the first woman to graduate through the alternative education program of the SCC Office of Education, complete with cap and gown and a correctional officer playing Pomp and Circumstance Graduation March on his trumpet; a proud moment for all graduates and participants.
Disadvantages abound in our society that contribute to the wasteland of educational deprivation, indifference, and poor self-worth for our fellow beings, many of whom land in prison. This scenario destroys families and whole communities. I am the first instructor some of my students have had since childhood. I require upon entering and leaving our most unremarkable classroom that we address one another by name as we shake hands and make eye contact. If a student does not understand something he or she must stop me and let me know. If they do understand they must explain to the class and me how they know it and how they can use that knowledge. My work is to listen and observe, to recognize how each person organizes thoughts and feelings in order to clear a path to learning, liberated to some degree from a difficult past, so that they, too, can interact with the world successfully.
Describe the most significant value you learned from Ursuline Academy.
Serviam. It has always been with me. Some time back I had a not-so-successful hip replacement, which has resulted in chronic pain. Three years out I felt crippled and doomed. But, one day I surprisingly awoke to a reduced level of pain and was so grateful that I turned to my husband and said, “I gotta give back. Who knows how much time I have?” Research led me to the Literacy Program of SCC. The branch that offers literacy to the incarcerated instantly grabbed my heart. Their one requirement of volunteers is a desire to be of service.
Describe Ursuline in one word. Explain.
Sisterhood. My Sioux “Sistahs" of '69 have been my lifetime friends, some since 1956, when we were five years old starting kindergarten with Mother de Chantal. Our parents had survived the depression, wars, and the McCarthy era. Prosperity brought private schooling and carpooling. Television unveiled the news, Lucille Ball, and Elvis Presley. Together we lived through segregation, vaccination, integration; Mao Tse Tung, Fidel Castro, JFK, MLK; Sputnik and Neil Armstrong on the moon; the Cuban Missile Crisis, assassinations, the Vietnam War, riots; the 60s, Otis Redding, the Beatles; Mardi Gras, hurricanes, and the Saints.
I cherish and admire my Sioux sisters. They are brilliant, steadfast women with whom I immediately fall in step when we get together. We can debate, cry, and laugh as the closest of friends. I deeply appreciate our lifetime of kinship, love, and acceptance.
ABOUT NANCY “CHING” BLAMPHIN BRODSKY
Nancy attended Ursuline Academy with her two older sisters Louise Blamphin Price, Skip '62, and Carlee Blamphin, Sioux '66. She has resided in Santa Cruz, California since 1978, with her husband Greg Brodsky and where they raised three sons. Twice a year she visits her mother, family, and friends here in New Orleans. She regularly comes to UA Homecoming Mass and Brunch and the Spring Alumnae Gathering. Nancy was recently honored by the Daily Points of Light Award, established by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, for her volunteer service in literacy for inmates.