By Renee Burke
Live well, Laugh often and Love much. No phrase captures who Brooke was, like this one for me.
Six years ago a pretty teenager walked into my classroom. When I called roll, the voice I heard (I’ll try to do it) say “here” for Brooke Dawkins was not what I imagined. It was deep and raspy more like that of the Cookie Monster, not what one would expect from the petite 14-year-old beauty.
In typical Brooke fashion, she would make fun of herself for it, but I quickly learned that voice was perfect for her. It personified her strength.
She had a way of always making us laugh. Whether it was just being silly, singing aloud, signing everything Megan Fox, or somehow being in every picture, we treasured her company.
One funny thing I remember about Brooke, I hope this doesn’t get her in trouble, is the time she got two tickets out front of Blankner. The officer not only gave her a ticket for speeding, but also for not wearing shoes (many of you may know, she didn’t particularly like shoes).
While she was mad about the speeding ticket, she was irate and flabbergasted that he gave her a ticket for being shoeless. Come on – how many people do you know who can say they’ve been ticketed for driving barefoot? After stewing for just a few minutes, she soon had us all laughing at her story, especially because she was making fun of her feet. While I cannot remember exactly what she said, I can remember the enormous laughter pouring throughout the room.
Brooke’s self-deprecating sense of humor, and how she could brush the bad things off so quickly were such endearing qualities.
Her sense of humor and passion for life was much appreciated in the often-stressful Room 224 (also known as her yearbook home). Brooke had an instinctive sense of how to lighten the mood. When things got tough she’d find a way to entertain us.
For example, one of my favorite Saturday workdays when she encouraged chair racing in the hall. It started with just a few chairs, but when others heard the ruckus, it grew into the staff participating. Those who know Brooke, know she can be fiercely competitive and she wasn’t going to lose at chair races, especially when it was her idea. The holding, pushing and shoving the ensued made for good belly laughs.
Another thing that made us laugh was when she’d complain she didn’t have a boyfriend (which I never understood). Trust me, it’s not that boys didn’t like her; they LOVED her. Some of you in this room may remember the day when a boy opened the door to Room 224 and screamed in “I love you Brooke Dawkins.” This embarrassed her a little and delighted her a little, but completely entertained the rest of us.
Brooke’s influence and friends could easily span cliques. She could be a part of every group and was. She was popular, but not just part of the popular crowd; she was well loved by all. She didn’t have to fit into one crowd or gender stereotype for that matter. She could do her hair with the girls, and probably beat up half the guys in the room with those arms.
She was the perfect girl: beautiful, intelligent, funny, athletic, creative, honest, loyal and dedicated. She was girly enough to be admired by other girls (and to eventually join a sorority – so it’s obvious she could be proper when she needed to be), but tomboy enough to have belching contests against boys (of which she’d win). She was the whole package.
Brooke’s ability to balance her yearbook and cheerleading obligations, along with her academic course load, with such grace and efficiency consistently impressed me. Somehow she not only completed her own work, but she was always helping others. Whether it was fixing a story, taking photos for another staffer, tweaking a design or even assisting with calculus homework (oh, the Calculus homework!), she was there for those who needed her. Brooke wouldn’t let you down.
These are but a smidgen of stories I can tell about Brooke, who I was blessed to teach and spend four years with. I watched her grown from that pretty teenager into a beautiful woman. Her outer beauty, while clearly visible, wasn’t nearly a beautiful as the person she was inside. Her kindness to everyone, her laugh, her creativity, her ability to help others with patience, her sense of humor, her love of family and friends – these are all items that made Brooke the beautiful person she was.
It is very rare for someone in high school to be confident in and embrace her quirks, but she did. She could hold her own in whatever environment she was in. She was a critical member of the publications family, and many others it would seem. Not to mention she was a good editor, learned quickly, made deadlines, and communicated openly. She will be missed.
So, while her time with us was too short, I hope you can take comfort in knowing that while she was here, she Lived well, Loved much and Laughed often.