The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

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Oryan Brown and the Importance of Finding Your People


Oryan Brown emphasizes the importance of community and friendship throughout his upbringing and how it has made him the person he is today. 


Staring at the vibrant colors past the lengths of the window screen, Oryan Brown is lost in thought, reminiscing on the laughter and joy he once felt playing among his siblings, cousins and friends in Jamaica. With sun baking their shoulders and sweat running down their faces, Brown and his friends played among the leafy branches and sweet smelling flowers. Jamaica — Brown’s childhood home — held fond memories of freedom and community alongside the people he loved. 

Now, sitting among stacks of students’ math projects and tests, Brown taps his black-booted foot and thinks about the past. When recalling the circumstances that led him to becoming a math teacher at Poly, Brown said, “I’ve stayed with math and continue to develop a love for it because, within all those changes at a young age, math was the thing that was consistent.” Consistency was harder to find among peers and other students at school. Math filled the gaps in his community.  

Although Brown left Jamaica and came to America for the purpose of gaining an opportunity for a fulfilled future, he still left behind his family and the only home he had ever known. Brown traveled to the United States with his father in the middle of his sixth-grade school year and, when attending his new school in New York, he felt as if he “was playing catch up because everybody else knew each other since elementary school,” he said. Brown’s middle school experience was described as the period of time with the greatest amount of isolation, specifically among social interactions. 

Along with school experiences, Brown soon found that his home in Brooklyn was as different as it could possibly be, compared to his childhood home in Jamaica. The city streets were new and full of strangers, not the safest for a preteen to be out running around. The unfamiliarity of Brown’s new home yielded a lot of alone time, as opposed to the carefree, playful life of the small town in Jamaica. “Once I came here, my Dad wasn’t necessarily the biggest fan of just letting me go out and wander the streets of Brooklyn as a child. There was a level of isolation here I had to get used to that I didn’t grow up in.” Adjusting to this new environment would be something that followed Brown all throughout high school, and even into college. 

With less freedom to explore his surroundings, Brown devoted himself to life at school. He had always excelled in math, and his appreciation for the subject kept him joyful, carrying him through the more difficult parts of his transition into living in New York. Brown shared, “All throughout middle school and high school I would always stay after school and work with [my teachers] on little extracurricular stuff. Through working with those teachers, I think I was able to also learn more about the world I’d now stepped into … [they] could watch out for me.” Brown’s teachers would be his primary source of support until later in high school, and now he hopes to do the same for his students. “A math teacher facilitating that [safe environment] has always been super important. That’s where I grew and expanded a lot. Every day when I’m here doing my thing, I’m always somehow trying to aspire to that, which just starts with trying to build relationships with the kids in my classroom.”

Brown’s choice of college would ultimately reflect this desire to branch out and build community around him. In his senior year, Brown decided to attend Lawrence University, a small liberal arts college in Appleton, Wisconsin. According to World Population Review, Appleton has a population size of 73,532 people, as of 2024. The rural area would be very different from his Brooklyn home, but would ultimately hold Brown’s best memories. He said, “I think one of the best choices I made was going to a small liberal arts college.” College was another place where Brown had a close relationship with his teachers, especially because the math department was so small. Brown shared, “In the largest year that I was there — there would have been maybe 15 math majors, just across all four years.” Brown voiced the attitude of the department as, “We like math majors. We’re going to do everything we can to support you through this and make sure you get through this.” He added, “By the time I graduated, it fully felt like the math department was like a little home for me on campus.”

Lawrence offered a wide range of opportunities that Brown hadn’t had access to while previously living in Brooklyn. “Spending a lot of formative years in New York and then going to Appleton, Wisconsin, was a trip. It was a wild time. But Lawrence University as an institution came at the perfect time for me,” said Brown. His eyes glowed as he recalled the excitement of being introduced to so many new classes and clubs, finally entering a new world that wasn’t solely math related. 

One of the most important experiences for Brown was joining the environmental club, SLUG (Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens). According to Lawrence University’s website, “SLUG grows fresh produce for the Lawrence community using sustainable agricultural methods in the garden, orchard, and apiary. Members of the SLUG house value local, sustainable organic food and cook meals together.” Brown expressed a love for this club all throughout college and said, “Through the garden I met some of the people who are the most important to me today. It was a space and a community where I felt safe to explore any and everything.”

Brown met most of his close friends through SLUG, including Maggie McGlenn, who would come to be his closest friend. McGlenn shared, “I don’t think we ever took the same class, but because there was this other common thing outside of what we were studying, we could talk about what we were learning and explore different ideas with each other – it didn’t have to be that we were both math majors.” SLUG was the basis of McGlenn and Brown’s friendship, but it wouldn’t fully bloom until COVID reached their campus. Brown would soon be a part of a tight-knit circle with himself, McGlenn, and two shared friends, who created many traditions together. “When we came back [from the summer before senior year of college], I was very intentional about, okay, these are my people, and I’m going to make sure that they stay my people.”

Senior year held many traditions for Brown and his friends, with many of these rituals being shaped by COVID restrictions. Through the obstacles they encountered, they made the most out of the pandemic. Brown shared with me about a coffee shop he and his friends would go to every Monday after everyone received their mandatory COVID tests on campus. 

“It started off, as we called it, Tests and Seth’s,” Brown said, pulling out his laptop with a sticker of the coffee shop placed right on the center. He added, “To make us feel a little bit better after the COVID tests, we would go to Seth’s Coffee… I think that was exactly what I needed to happen in those moments.” Brown and his friends also built a tradition around the card game “Hearts.” “We would play the card game ‘Hearts’ every night for ten weeks straight. And by the end of it, we all [got] matching tattoos of a little card,” Brown explained, lifting his right pant leg, proudly exposing the image of a small card on his inner right ankle. 

After Brown left college and spent a few years teaching at various schools, he soon found his place among the math department at Poly. “This department, specifically, feels like a community that I wanted to be a part of, and I am enjoying being a part of. Just the fact that we all share an office and we can talk to each other all the time – look at the wall over there,” he said, pointing to a bulletin board decorated with family photos and personal achievements from those in the math department. “We go out and invest in each other’s lives beyond just the day-to-day teaching here.” Brown’s colleagues feel the passion he brings to his subject and their shared space. Meg Foye, an Upper School math teacher who works alongside Brown, said, “He loves math and he loves what he does. And being around people who love what they do inspires you; it gets you excited.” Brown strives to have a positive impact on the people he works alongside and his students; supporting them through the subject he loves. 

“I’m also thinking about the long term…How can I establish myself in the community and also gain the reputation of being a teacher that students know will care about them and can come to class with their full selves? My goal is that, eventually, over the years, that will become more and more clear. But we’re just starting out right now.”

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