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Twenty-four years after graduating from Greenhills School, Naveen Kumar and Angela Smedley are still close friends. In this piece, the two talk about their formative experiences at Greenhills, which teachers made the greatest impact, and how they’ve stayed connected.

Naveen Kumar: Hola, Angela! To give readers some background, we’ve been close friends since sixth grade at Greenhills, where we goofed off in Spanish class, copied… er, helped each other with homework, and eventually went to senior prom together. We also motivated each other to work hard and wound up making something of ourselves. Does that sound about right?

Angela Smedley: Oh em gee, you can’t say copied, lol. Now that I’m an attorney I will have to come after you for libel! That otherwise all sounds right, but you left out our adventures at the mall, our legendary final Spanish project featuring the not-sophomoric-at-all characters we created, and the part where we helped each other through the harder times. You were one of the main people I was figuring out life with back then — and that bond can basically never be broken.

NK: I agree, and I’m so grateful that we’ve remained close all this time. One thing we’ve done pretty regularly is see plays together in New York, since I write about theater for work. We recently saw one called “Flex” about a high school girls’ basketball team. The play was awesome (I reviewed it for The New York Times) and it really sent you down memory lane. What did you take away from playing basketball at Greenhills?

AS: It was a great play, but the massive wave of nostalgia that hit me was pretty unexpected. I consider my time on the basketball team to be one of the major formative experiences of my life. You can learn so much from being on a cohesive team with committed coaches like we had—confidence, strength, resilience, perseverance, how to productively engage with teammates even in high-stress situations, and what it means to show up for your team and for people in general. On top of all that, I think my interest in sports really flourished during that time, which is one of the reasons part of my legal practice today is sports litigation. In short, I would probably be a very different person had I not played ball at GH. Did you have a parallel experience in the arts?

NK: Absolutely. The theater (or Campbell Center for the Performing Arts), which opened when we got to high school, was truly a sanctuary for me. I will admit, as you know, that the time in my life while I was at Greenhills wasn’t the easiest. When I came out junior year, in an essay I wrote for Ms Dupree’s English class (that I would give anything to find!), I was the only openly queer person in the whole school. It was the bravest I’ve ever been. I could not have done that without my experience in the theater, and the mentorship of Jim Posante, who made me feel I was talented and could be whoever I wanted to be, and, when I directed a play myself senior year, that I had something to say. He was such a formative mentor, I don’t know where I would be without him. Also, we should talk about Lisa Locicero, she was a real one.

AS: You really were brave for doing that—I admired you for it. And I think I learned a lot from witnessing you do that. How to do something that feels terrifying, how to trust your relationships with your close friends to still be there for you when you do. And it may have been the first time I saw in real life what has now become quite the buzzword: someone daring to be their authentic self. Speaking of authenticity, you’re right—Sra. Lo was a real one. She was so clearly in a place that she loved when she was teaching Spanish. We could feel her love for the language, the culture, and for sharing those things with us. Do you remember she put us onto Shakira long before mainstream U.S. got ahold of her? I remember the joy on her face when she turned the music on and made us learn all the words. 🙂

NK: We had so much fun with her in class! Sra. Lo was one of the most supportive people around when I needed her. And I really drew inspiration from her, especially about pursuing the life you want to live. I wrote her a postcard when I traveled to Spain during college, and she brought it up every time I saw her for years afterward. Are there other teachers who had a big impact on you at Greenhills?

AS: Yes! Katherine Bradley. I definitely wear my Latin nerdery with pride. And funnily enough, it has served me well–you know there are all those Latin phrases we like to throw around in the law. Thanks to Ms. Bradley, I actually know how to pronounce them and what they mean, lol. She actually really went above and beyond and impacted my life in so many ways: she encouraged me to work on the Alcove, she helped me decide between colleges, she coordinated my senior project, and I loved (and probably permanently adopted) both her precision and her measured sarcasm.

NK: You just reminded me that I wrote a style column in the Alcove, rating our classmates’ outfits at the school dance as though it were a Hollywood party. I believe I was also voted most likely to move to New York in our senior yearbook, so clearly our time at Greenhills was formative. I definitely learned how to dream and apply myself there, even if it was in service of planning my escape. But the greatest legacy has definitely been the friendships.

AS: True. Even if you did eventually escape, you can’t deny that we had so much fun and made so many good memories. The people at Greenhills were special. So glad it brought us (all) together!

Saturday, April 24
Open to anyone ages 16 and up. Limited quantities available.
Greenhills is closed for mid-winter break and will return on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

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