2014 Benchmark Outstanding Alumnus Jamie Carr '93 addressed the Middle School students and their families at their Celebration of Accomplishments.
He encouraged the students to, "Hang in there. Failure is okay, as long as you collect yourself and keep fighting." Jamie recalled that "Mr. Reichart would have us do drills on the soccer field and we would practice falling and getting up. He told us that the team that had the players that got up quickly were more likely to win. I believe he is absolutely right, not just about soccer but about life. In life, you've just got to find a way to get back up again when you fail. The faster the better." Jamie ended his remarks by showing the audience a framed copy of the Emerson poem, What is Success, explaining, "This poem, in this frame, was given to me by an 8th grade teacher at Benchmark and has hung beside my bed ever since." [Read the poem]
Jamie attended Benchmark from 1986 to 1993. After Benchmark, he attended The Shipley School, Haverford College where he achieved Magna Cum Laude with High Department Honors and was awarded the Levin Prize in Comparative Literature. Following undergrad school, Jamie pursued a MS in Counseling and Clinical Health Psychology and chose to complete his practicum at Benchmark. He then went on to earn a law degree from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. Realizing that neither counseling nor practicing law were his passions, Jamie found his niche as the legal and financial Operations Manager for a firm that builds low energy, sustainable, healthy homes in the Chicago area.
It was a performance of the play Huck Finn in the third or fourth grade at Benchmark that began John Alex’s artistic journey. “I felt like I wasn’t good at anything, but I began to find value about who I was and what I was doing. In Middle School, Dr. MacDonald gave me opportunities (as a player in the annual Middle School musicals) and I realized I was actually good at something."
After Benchmark, John Alex attended the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts and then the prestigious Julliard School. Today he lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with his wife, Sarah Brinson, a dancer who is also a partner in some of his business ventures, which include Acting for Dancers, a workshop for young dancers ages 10 to 18, and a filmmaking company, Coal Harbor Media.
Acting for Dancers, recently launched a tour entitled "24 for 24." The intimate two-to-three day in-studio workshops will travel to 24 cities in 24 months. The workshops are designed to help dancers engage their imaginations while learning basic acting elements to enhance their dancing. John Alex explains that while many of the dancers will not become professionals, the confidence and the resilience they learn through these exercises will translate to positive real-world experience later in life. "Arts education develops resilience. For example, if a child is in a math class and the teacher keeps telling him that he's consistently wrong, that boy won't want to go back and try again. He feels defeated. Arts education is about doing it over and over again to develop precision. We can say 'you're doing it wrong,' but after practice, when the child gets it right, they gain confidence. It's about developing your skill set. If they can take feedback in acting class or dance class, they can respond with confidence to other situations in life."
Their film company, Coal Harbor Media, is developing a feature-length documentary called “The Cultural Architect" that follows John Alex and Sarah on the Acting for Dancers tour and looks at the importance of arts education. "The film focuses on encouraging people to define what they are good at and what motivates them," John Alex explains.
In addition to all of these projects, John Alex was recently awarded the $40,000 Captive Scholarship from the Vancouver Film School and is spending 12 months there learning to be a film director. "It's just enough time to get the skill set I need, but not so much that I have to drop the ball on my other projects."