The Power of Change


Gabrielle Westbrook, BA’11

Gabrielle Westbrook left her mark on Vanderbilt as a student. Today she’s leaving her mark on Washington, D.C., as a teacher.

As a senior, she wrote the resolution adopted by Vanderbilt Student Government successfully urging the administration to suspend classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in favor of a day of service and commemoration. “Reflecting on my experiences at Vanderbilt, I have discovered a common thread that has sewn my years here together: the power of change,” Westbrook says.

Now serving in her first year with Teach For America, Westbrook is working to change one of the nation’s most underprivileged school districts—in the heart of the nation’s capital. “I tell my students they deserve to be smart,” Westbrook says. “I tell them that no one else can determine their success, no matter their background.”

Westbrook’s message appears to be getting through. “I think they’ve really internalized the message because a lot of behavior patterns have changed,” she says. “The number of proficient students has doubled as well.”

Westbrook wants her students to reach for higher goals. “If a student tells me he wants to be a mechanic when he grows up, I ask him, ‘Why not be a mechanical engineer instead?’”

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  • Eboni Harris

    Hi fellow alumna! I’m proud of you. You have great wisdom and awesome motivation skills. I’m glad that you’ve been placed in the position to share it with today’s youth, especially those who could really benefit it. Way to go, Gabrielle!