Around CampusBush News

Taylor Eskridge ’21 and LiLi F. ’23: Blazing Neurons

Mary Albl, Communications Manager

Taylor Eskridge ’21 remembers the times in Bush Lower School she would struggle with the basics of learning and comprehending instructions. “I was always the kid who asked, ‘Wait, what are we supposed to do?’ after being given an assignment in class,” she said. 
 
During Taylor’s sophomore year at The Bush School, she explained she was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). During that year, she also became connected with Bush’s Support Services, and began working with Sara Carter ’90, Bush Upper School Learning Specialist and Support Services Department Chair. 
 
Support Services is a K-12 department composed of counselors and learning specialists in each division. Sara explained the Upper School Learning Support Office supports all students with strategies for academic success, referrals to tutors, short-term organizational support, and executive function strategies. The learning specialists coordinate learning plans with teachers, students, and parents/guardians for students with diagnosed learning differences. 
 
Thinking back to her time in Lower School, Taylor explained she thought how helpful it would have been to her own development if she would have had an older neurodiverse student help guide her through the many challenges. That thinking, combined with the intensified struggles of the pandemic during 2020-2021, propelled Taylor to do something. 

“I realized that I wanted to help younger neurodiverse students learn to love their brain while they’re young, and prevent them from ever believing they are stupid because of their difference,” she said. 
 
Under the guidance of Support Services, and working the Director of Intercultural Affairs Kimberlee Williams who oversees affinity groups, Taylor, along with LiLi F. ’23, created an affinity group for students with and/or interested in learning differences, that could also serve as a mentorship group for Lower and Middle School students. The group is called “Blazing Neurons.” 
 
“When trying to brainstorm a name for the affinity group, I knew I wanted it to point out the neurodiverse aspect of the group, hence the ‘Neurons’ part of it,” Taylor said. “However, I also wanted it to be punny, and I thought that since Bush’s team is called the “Blazers” it could form the perfect pun. I also think the title “Blazing Neurons'” evokes pride, and lets people know we love our neurodiverse brains, further fighting the stigma against learning differences and neurodiversity.”
 
Sara explained that mentorship and bridging the gap between Upper and Lower School students became a connection, because around the same time Taylor and LiLi started the group, Lower School Counselor Leah Brown was piloting a neurodiverse program in the Fourth Grade. Taylor explained working with the younger students was an empowering experience for her. 
 
“The first day I met with the Fourth Grade students for the mentorship program will forever be ingrained in my mind,” Taylor said. “It was crazy to see how excited they were to be a part of something like this, and how engaged they were in the activities.”
 
Taylor said this club has been a huge success and has impacted the neurodiverse students at Bush that need a space like this, especially during a time period where learning shifted so suddenly due to COVID-19. For LiLi, the need for a club like this was imperative to continuing the learning progress that was already established before the pandemic. 
 
“To suddenly be torn away from the learning environment that I had worked so hard to establish and placed alone in my room learning through a screen was horrible,” she said. “The worst part for me was feeling like I was returning to my Middle School self that thought I was crazy, lazy, and stupid. That's when I began to realize the importance of having others around you who share similar experiences and what prompted me to start a club.” 
 
While Taylor is now an alumna of the school and set to attend Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 2022, having LiLi as a founding member is key to the ongoing and continued support for Bush students.
 
“I was glad to create the group with someone a few grades younger than me, because it gave me hope that she could continue to develop the group even once I graduated, and I wanted to ensure that these groups lasted,” she said.
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The Bush School is an independent, coeducational day school located in Seattle, WA enrolling 710 students in grades K–12. The mission of The Bush School is to spark in students of diverse backgrounds and talents a passion for learning, accomplishment, and contribution to their communities.

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