An Independent School • Grades 5-12

The following interview transcript is from a conversation between Jazmyn Scott ’97 and Lakeside magazine editor Jim Collins for "In Our Own Words," from the "Black at Lakeside" Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Lakeside magazine. Photo by Zorn B. Taylor.

Lakeside Magazine:

I'd love to hear about your family background, and growing up, and what your transition to Lakeside was like. I know everyone has a story around that transition.

Jazmyn:

Okay. Well, during the elementary school years, I lived in the Seward Park area and attended Whitworth Elementary School. I think it was probably sometime in my fifth-grade year, I had a friend who I had become friends with because our mothers had done some different community type of work stuff together and so, of course, our mothers would bring us along for different things. She told me — I think she’s a year older than me — she told me that she was at Lakeside. And, as a young kid she was like, “It's a private school, but it’s not a religious private school, so you don’t have to wear uniforms.” She just really talked it up as a really cool experience for her, and so I said, “Okay.”

I talked to my mom about it, and I was like, “Can we check this out?” And we did, and my mom actually agreed that it would be a great opportunity for me. And so we went into the process of figuring out how to apply, and all that. Of course, as a kid, I don’t know what all happened on the back end, but I do remember getting scheduled and going to take the admissions tests, I remember that. And then, I remember being accepted. And I also vaguely remember we were, I guess, a middle-class family you could say. But also, during that time of me transitioning from fifth to sixth grade, that was also during a time when my parents were divorcing. So, it was a really transitional time for me in a lot of aspects. Because, for me as a young person growing up, especially coming through middle school, I lived in a Seward Park/Columbia city neighborhood, super diverse, attended Whitworth, and so it was a really diverse population there.

But one thing that I noticed at a really young age is that, for my household, I had married parents and that kind of family setting that a lot of my friends didn’t have. A lot of my friends had separate households with their mother and their father. So, a lot of them had already experienced divorce and separation or whatever their circumstances were. And so I recognized that difference between me and a lot of my friends and I was like, wow: I felt great about the fact that I had this whole family. And then my parents were in the process of divorcing when I was 12. And so, that was a really life-shattering experience, and at the same time, I’m transitioning from elementary school to middle school, from public school to private school, from a very diverse school environment to a not as diverse environment. It was a really, really, interesting situation.

But I went into it really excited, really looking forward to it. I have this weird introvert and extrovert personality. I’ve always been like that: shy at first, not really, starting to get my bearings or whatever but, one of those things… I think for the other Black students that were there or coming in, it was just like we all immediately connected. And so I was welcomed into that group of folks, so that they could make me feel comfortable, and show me the ropes, or just whatever the situation might’ve been. Because many of them had been there. They started in fifth grade and I came in at sixth grade.

So, it was good, but one of the things throughout the middle school experience that — and I think I mentioned this when our group first met — one of the things that really helped me and other Black students just keep going and be okay with coming to this school despite a number of different challenges, were actually two people who were really important faculty, who were really important in supporting us, Harry Finks and Katy Olweiler. Katy always had her office open and available to us, to just congregate and have a space for us to just be together, and be ourselves, and shut out the rest of the Lakeside noise and the Lakeside world. We basically spent most of our lunchtime in Katy’s office. It was, typically, mostly girls. And so, it was just this group of Black girls, and it was our space to just eat lunch, and chill, and just do whatever. Sometimes Katy would be in there, sometimes she wouldn’t. She would give us the space that we needed or wanted, but she also engaged with us, and checked in on us, and that type of thing. And that was just… looking back at that time as an adult now, it’s just great to know that there was someone who was very intentional about recognizing the needs of a population that is very underrepresented in that environment.

And without just outwardly and blatantly being like, “Here, let me make a space for you Black kids.” It was just very natural and authentic. She did that in a very natural and authentic way. She was just like, "Hey. You guys need something... Here, take my office, do what you need to do." And like I said, she engaged with us, but it wasn’t in a way that wasn't authentic. She's just a really nice person, and so that always stuck with me. And then, I also mentioned Harry Finks. I love him to this day. Just an amazing human being. If you guys have an opportunity to reach out to him either for this issue or for future stories, I highly, highly, highly, encourage that you do.

Lakeside Magazine:

Can you paint a picture of him for me? What did he look like? What did he sound like? What was his manner?

Jazmyn:

Older, white guy, grey, salt-and-peppery hair. A very mild-mannered and warm demeanor. He was the head of the Middle School. And again, somebody who just always checked in on us. How are you doing? Is there anything you need? How can I support you? How can I find you support? Just all of those things. He’s just a very friendly person. And there were nice teachers at Lakeside, but there weren’t a whole lot of people who extended themselves in ways that that Harry and Katy did. They did their jobs, and they did them well, and they were nice, and they were friendly, and beyond that they didn’t really do anything outside of the box. And so, I think that that’s why those two people stand out so much because, being in middle school, those are your formative years. And it really shapes a lot of the direction that your life is going to go in.  I feel like middle school is huge, even bigger than high school.

Lakeside Magazine:

That reminds me that it doesn’t take a ton of people like that.  It just takes one or two to make all the difference.

Jazmyn:

Yeah. Yeah. It really does. And interestingly enough, there were other people... Zinda Foster was in the library when we were there, and I loved her, and her son was same classes as me. She has a huge family and a community so. Black folks, and especially in a city like Seattle, were all connected in one way or another. So, it was great to have that connection, that familial connection. And of course, Ms. Byrdwell — having her there, she was amazing. So, it was nice to see some Black faculty. TJ, of course. TJ was another person who, when we got to the Upper School, we could hang out in his office. And just do whatever. I mean, TJ is just another warm, welcoming, amazing human being. So, we got to extend that energy when we got to the Upper school and do the same hanging out in a staff office when we needed to, as well.

There was a lot that was going on during the time that I came into Lakeside. What else happened? We did a sit-in for, what were we being radical and opposing? What happened in the early ’nineties? It was the Gulf War, yeah. And so, that was a really interesting time, and it was a way that us as really young people from all backgrounds connected on a cause, which was really cool. And I remember that we did a sit-in on a day of school one time. Me and L’Erin, actually, were texting a couple of days ago and talking about this... or actually this was on Facebook.

And there was a huge snow that happened. One year, I can’t remember what grade we were in, but one year when we were still in middle school, we ended up being stranded and having to stay at Lakeside because we all lived out south. And Lakeside’s out there, and so those buses, with the snow, weren’t going to be able to get us home. And then a lot of our families weren’t able to drive to Lakeside to get us in, so we were snowed in at Lakeside and ended up having to spend the night in the library at the school overnight. So, there was a bunch of really interesting things that happened when I was in middle school at Lakeside.

Lakeside Magazine:

What was it like for you to be at school in that environment, and then go home each day to your family in your old neighborhood? Was there any hard transition back and forth each day for you, like some people feel?

Jazmyn:

It wasn’t an everyday hard transition, but from time to time it was. I mean, it was definitely a reminder. It was a weird thing... most kids ride those yellow school buses, and Lakeside has the whole contract with Metro. And so, we’re riding Metro buses that are only for Lakeside students, but that stop at regular Metro bus stops. And so, we would get off these buses in our neighborhood and people would be like, “Where’s the 989? Where does that go? Where’s that coming from?” And so, that would be weird for people. And then just also not being in school with the kids that I grew up in the neighborhood with, that I went to elementary school with. And also, because my parents were divorcing, we ended up moving out of that house that they owned together. And so, we moved. I still lived in the same neighborhood in the Seward Park neighborhood, but we were in a different home by the time I came into fifth.

But still a lot of the same kids that I grew up with; it was still the same general neighborhood. And so, I didn’t go to school with any of them, and no one had ever heard of Lakeside. No one in my neighborhood knew what Lakeside was. The extent of private school knowledge for most of the people that I was growing up around was the Catholic schools, the St. this and St. that. A lot of them went to those different types of schools, but when it came to Lakeside, it was like, What’s Lakeside? And where is that?

That bothered me in a lot of senses because it was like, you catching this bus and you’re going way out there. But for me, my mother was really intentional, and I also just knew what I wanted. And so, we kept a real sense of normalcy and balance in my life so, if I wasn’t doing afterschool stuff at Lakeside —because I did play basketball and stuff — but when I wasn’t doing Lakeside stuff, and I came back into my community, then it was, there were really specific places I went, like to Langston Hughes. Langston… what’s funny is that Langston Hughes was my first job as a young person. I actually started working there after my sixth-grade year.

Lakeside Magazine:

A summer job?

Jazmyn:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I worked there every summer throughout my teens.

Lakeside Magazine:

Would you say you fell in love with the arts through that job? When did you come to love the arts?

Jazmyn:

That was part of it for sure. But my mom’s an art producer, arts administrator and everything. And I’m her middle child and I, probably, out of the three of us, spent the most time around her. When I was growing up, the stage that my mom was at in her career, aligned with those times in my life. And so, I was with her a lot for just all kinds of community and arts-related things. And it was always interesting to me. My mom was always involved with Langston Hughes and with other arts organizations and community organizations, and so, I naturally just fell into these spaces. But for sure, not only did I work at Langston Hughes, but, I mean, before working there, we attended theater camps and afterschool programs and stuff there. I performed as a young person in plays over many years there, and so I’ve always had that exposure. Even in elementary school, I had some really cool teachers at Whitworth, and they would take us to the opera, and musicals, and stuff like that.

And so, I always had this really, really, interesting taste in just the arts. I love opera, I love musicals, I love theater, and I love music. Music is my biggest thing, but music is incorporated in all those things, too. The arts have always been a thing my entire life.

Lakeside Magazine:

Did you take music at Lakeside? Did you get musical instruction there? Did you play instruments or perform in the musicals the school put on?

Jazmyn:

Yep, I did. That’s funny, thank you for bringing that up. Yes. I think it was chorus that Ms. Byrdwell did, and I was in that with her. I did do some of the musicals. I remember doing Brigadoon and a couple of other old musicals at Lakeside. So, I did do that. I didn’t play any instruments. I had played clarinet in elementary school, and then didn’t continue on with it because I had picked up photography at Lakeside.

Lakeside really, really, kicked off my photography, my passion for that. I stuck with photography for a really, really, long time, and actually got some amazing opportunities from sticking with photography.

Lakeside Magazine:

Was that teacher Dale Bauer, Mr. Bauer at that time?

Jazmyn:

Mr. Bauer, Yep. Yeah. Yeah. And then I don’t remember who... wait. Was he in the Middle School or the Upper School? You have to pardon me because my memory and my sense of time is all over the place. So, it might have just been ninth grade that I did photography, but, I mean, it sparked something in me. And so, when I left Lakeside, I continued with photography when I transferred to Garfield. And my mom had a friend who I still know and am in touch with…  she had a gallery and studio space in downtown. And she let me intern. She gave me full access to her space whenever I wanted it. Literally gave me a key, and the alarm code, and was like, “You can come in here whenever you want to and work on whatever you want to work on.”

So, I had access to her dark room, and all of her equipment. I could really work on my photography... In exchange, I was her assistant when she needed me. So, as a result of that, she put on an exhibit one year where my work was displayed in her gallery. After I had finished school and continued on with photography, I did a couple of courses at Photo Center Northwest, and ended up being invited to Cuba to photograph with a small group. And so, I traveled to Cuba and just took pictures for two weeks all throughout Cuba, and then my work was also chosen for an exhibit for Bumbershoot the following year.  That was part of my connection with the music scene… I’ve photographed a ton of local artists and I have an album cover that I did, and some promo stuff that I would do for people.

So, yeah, the photography was big. I don’t do it now, but it really was a thing for me for a really long time. And I attribute that to Lakeside because the instruction was so good and the access to... I mean, it was a great space for the dark room, and all the equipment that was there, and they loaned us the cameras, and just all of that. And so, I really, really, got to explore photography and learn some amazing skills because of my time at Lakeside.

Lakeside Magazine:

I’d like to ask you about why you left Lakeside, but before that: you told me earlier that your mom had a bad experience as a Lakeside parent. Tell me how she felt when she was realizing that she wasn’t being honored or respected as part of the community.

Jazmyn:

Well, she has no problem with... you’re not going to just shut her down because you say, “Well, no. We’re not going to do it this way.” My mom has always been a very involved parent, and of course, I mean, she made this investment in me for me to attend this school. And so, it certainly isn’t appropriate for her voice not to be heard if she raised concerns or had some contribution that she wanted to make. She didn’t bring up any specific incident when she mentioned about her “Lakeside stain.”  It’s just this general thing where you come into an environment where you’re likely the only one. And you voice whatever concerns, or issues, or just bring up whatever you bring up, and it’s like, “Well, this is how we do it.” It was that energy that she received a lot. “Well, yeah, but we do it this way. We do things like this.” And so, folks weren’t really receptive to her feedback, because Lakeside wasn’t interested in reinventing the wheel to make sure that they were serving their entire population. It was more of an indication of them telling us, “You need to figure out what you can do to fit in this space, rather than us doing what we can do to accommodate you.”

Lakeside Magazine:

Was she hearing that from other parents in the parent association? Where would she get that?

Jazmyn:

I think it was, actually, with Lakeside administration and with staff. They would invite parents to come and talk to them. That’s where she was hearing it.

It makes me think about just how hard change is. At Lakeside, you’ve got students who create peer pressure, and peer involvement. And then you’ve got the faculty, and staff, and the administration, and then you’ve got the parent community and the families. And for real change to happen, that whole culture needs to move together in some sense. It wasn’t very cohesive.

Lakeside Magazine:

Tell me, why did you leave... Why did you decide to leave before graduating?

Jazmyn:

By the time I hit eighth grade, I was honestly just over it. It didn’t feel like anything that I may have brought up as a concern from a student perspective around, maybe, how we were treated or anything. It felt like, for the most part, aside from certain individuals, things fell on deaf ears. It didn’t feel like I was in an environment that was open to changing, to make me feel like I belonged there. So, while there were a couple of people who supported that, it wasn’t the full Lakeside community that was really on board. Most people were like, “We want to meet these diversity quotas, but we don’t want to do anything past accepting however many Black students so that we can say, we have this person, a Black student…”

Jazmyn:

It was just like there was nothing that says: these are the changes that we’re making as an institution to ensure that we’re serving everybody. There was no culture of:  let’s better understand people from different backgrounds. It was clear to me that Lakeside was a place that serves the elite and the upper class. And if you didn’t fall into that, then they really had no reason to have to hear, or care, about what you had to say. It was pretty clear who was a priority in that environment. And so, when it came down to getting close to the eighth-grade graduation, I had thought long and hard about how I felt in that environment, what I felt like I needed, and what I knew I wasn’t going to get. And I wrote a speech. I did a speech at the eighth-grade graduation. I wish I would’ve had the time to dig it up so I could share it with you, I might still be able to do that. I think my mom has it, she keeps everything…

I spoke at our eighth-grade graduation and was very, very, honest and very clear about my experience. And said, these are the reasons why I will not stay here. I committed to doing one more year. I wanted to go through my freshman year at Lakeside just to have that experience. I had been there for three years in the Middle School, I wanted to experience the Upper School for at least one year, but then I knew after that I was going to come back to my community and graduate from my mom and my brother’s alma mater, Garfield. So that’s what I did. Upper School was a trip. It was a trip, I mean, in good and bad ways. I mean, it’s crazy to get to that campus and it’s like you’re in this mini college campus, and students are driving BMWs.

Everything about it was just really interesting, but the microaggressions were even worse in that environment. So, it was a lot, and so I knew that I had made the right decision to leave the school after my ninth-grade year. And I don’t regret that. And at the same time, I’m really glad that I went to Lakeside. I believe that being able to experience a variety of different things throughout your life really contributes to the wholeness of a person, and so, being exposed to the different people that I was exposed to at Lakeside, I think just helped me in my life as far as how I’m able to connect and relate to people. I grew up being able to be around anybody, to really be able to connect and understand people.

One of the things that I’ve always done — because I learned this through my experience at Lakeside, and through other life experiences — that before you judge somebody, it’s really important to understand where they come from. Because that is really a determining factor on how they behave, and how they may perceive me, or understand me, based on what they’ve been exposed to.

Lakeside Magazine:

How did Garfield seem to you after having spent your ninth-grade year at Lakeside? What were the similarities and differences?

Jazmyn:

Oh my God. It was hard. It was hard because even though you can grow up in a neighborhood in the community and you can know a lot of people, the school environment is completely different from the neighborhood environment. And so, another thing, I was always very… what’s the right word? I always thought ahead about what I thought a situation might be. So, I expressed to my mom when I told her I don’t want to stay at Lakeside after ninth grade, that this is what I want to do, and we talked about it, and she agreed that that was fine. I also went to her and I said, “Okay. After the ninth grade, can you send me to summer school?” Who asked for that? I don’t know who asked for that, right? In real life. But I was like, I need to be able to have some time during the summer to transition from this private school environment into public school environment, because I hadn’t been in public school since fifth grade.

And I know it’s different, I know how different it is. And so: “Can you send me to summer school so that I can adjust to how that might look, so that when I go into 10th grade, I could be a little bit more prepared?” So, she was like, “Cool. You want to go to school, great.” So, I went to summer school. Back then they did summer school, what was the school? It was some school out north. Marshall or something, no, that was a night school. I don’t know. Anyway, I really actually liked it, because I knew a lot of the people there, but I also met a lot of different people, and I just got to really understand the flow of how public high school works. It’s different than how Lakeside was.

So, when I got into Garfield my 10th grade year, it was still rough, because, again, I came in not in the beginning. Just like when I came into Lakeside in sixth grade instead of fifth grade, I came into Garfield at 10th grade instead of ninth grade. So, a lot of people from my class that had been there were like, Who is she? And then, I did my best not to behave in a way that would single me out, but academically, I did better. So, where I was initially placed, I would end up having to move out of classes for some courses to go into some advanced classes. And that, for anyone who felt like they were paying attention, then looked at me as the snob.

So, I had this experience where there were some girls that I hadn’t known prior, and they watched my movements, and then they saw we were in this class together, and then I ended up transferring out of that class to go into the advanced version of that class, or whatever. And they just started this whole campaign against me that I thought that I was better than everybody else. And so, it just was this ongoing theme for a while where it was like they would want to fight me. And they would just start rumors about me, and just all of these things just because of that. Because I came in, it was like I came out of nowhere to some extent, and then I wasn’t in the same place as everyone else. And so, in the same ways at Lakeside where I may have felt like I needed to behave or act a certain way to fit in, I did a little bit of that when I got to Garfield, where I shrunk myself a little bit. And got into behaviors that no parent would want their kid to, but I was doing things to fit in to some extent. And I allowed that, for a while, to affect my grades and all of that.

Lakeside Magazine:

I think that we all want to find our people, in a way. When you got moved up to the advanced versions of those classes, were you around other smart kids that you started connecting with, more than the other kids that were there?

Jazmyn:

I wouldn’t say more or less. I’ve always had a really eccentric group of friends. I like who I like. And so, I’ve always had a big range of friends, from super, super, really smart, really whatever, rich backgrounds, even prior to Lakeside, to, like, street friends. That’s just always been my life. Even before I came to Lakeside, a friend that I grew up with starting in elementary school, we actually both ended up at Lakeside. She’s white. I have a few friends where we went on the same journey from the same neighborhood, same schools, leaving Lakeside and all that.  And we’re still friends to this day.

So, even though as a young person you do try to do certain things to fit in, for me, it was never leaving certain people behind to be with another group of people. My friends have always been my friends. So, yeah, I didn’t really have to do any of that, but there was, in some cases, a clear difference in who I was in classes with. But for the most part, it was just a great difference, really. I might’ve just been pushed up to take classes with the grade above me.

Lakeside Magazine:

Did you leave Lakeside behind for a while, and then come back and reconnect, or have you always felt connected to the school? That’s one thing I want to talk to you about: why you feel a connection to a school you didn't graduate from.

Jazmyn:

I maintain a lot of my friend relationships, that’s one thing. So, a lot of the friends that I made, I stayed connected with. So, even if they were still at Lakeside, we still stay connected, and maintaining those friendships helped me stay connected to the school. I also tried to stay connected to Mr. Finks, and actually was able to do that up until… it’s been some years, now, but I do believe the last time I probably spoke with him was maybe 12 years ago or so. So, into my thirties being able to reach out and connect with him. And so, because of my relationships with people, I was able to stay connected. Jamie Asaka’s another one.  Jamie came back. So, again, that’s a testament to the relationships that I built at Lakeside. Jamie was one of my best friends, and we met at Lakeside.

Lakeside Magazine:

That was a Middle School friendship? Even as you went off to Garfield, did you stay in touch with Jamie and were friends all along?

Jazmyn:

Yes. Yeah. Me and Jamie caused a bunch of trouble over the years. So, yeah. Her coming back after teaching at the state and all that, when she came back to Seattle, before she came back to Lakeside, I would come and check her out when she was at Meany, the different school that she was at... We talked and she was like, “I think I'm going to go back to Lakeside, and I’m going do this.” And I'm like, “Great! Do it!” Because I never hated like that. I just didn’t enjoy my whole experience there, parts of my experience. And so, I guessed the same for her and a bunch of people. But I think enough of us see the potential that we want to stay connected to support it getting to that place.

It's frustrating that it’s taking so long for us to have been there 30 years ago, and to still be talking about this now is a little bit disappointing. But, hopefully, we’ll be able to be the ones to see it through. But yeah, it was Jamie coming back. She definitely would talk to me about what was going on there, and so I just started reconnecting with the different alumni stuff and, I think, whoever was in charge at the time I had to make it clear I’m like, “I didn't actually stay and graduate, but I still want to be connected. Because I want to stay connected to those friends, and those people, and all that. And it wasn’t a problem. So, I have the benefit of being able to go to reunions when it’s reunion time.

Last night, actually, I happened to be scrolling through some old Instagram posts online and came across the Lakeside 20-year reunion that I went to, and that’s such a fond memory seeing those friends from that time in my life. And we are still connected in some ways, that we’re Facebook friends. We talk on Facebook a lot. And I’m talking about, not just the Black friends, everybody. We still love each other and share memories and all that. And so, that’s special to me that I have these different people in my life that came at a really interesting time in my life. But regardless of the stain, as we’ll put it, that I may have experienced being at Lakeside, it didn’t stop me from building amazing relationships with all kinds of people. And I think about that a lot. It’s super, super special that I’m able to still be connected with so many of those people to this day. And I’m looking at people’s kids growing up, and it’s just really cool. It’s really, really, cool. And so, that alone keeps me connected.

And like I said, I want to see the growth.

Another thing I didn’t mention is that I helped my goddaughter get into Lakeside. And so, she graduated... when did she graduate? She graduated in two thousand, what year was it? I think it was 16.

Lakeside Magazine:

What’s her name?

Jazmyn:

Nacole Abram. Jamie can tell you about her, too.

Nacole’s dad came to me and was like, “Okay: These are the schools.” And I was like, “Well, I'm going to advocate for Lakeside." I was like, “And my best friend works there, so what’s up?" And so I immediately contacted Jamie and was like, “My goddaughter is coming through, please put an eye on her.” So, they have their own relationship. Jamie always looked out for her as well so. But she also had a really interesting time, but again, it provided some great opportunities for her. When she left Lakeside, she went on to NYU Shanghai. And because she got through some of the exchange stuff, she had been to Shanghai and she’d been a ton of different places and was doing all the different language programs and she’s fully a Mandarin speaker, and decided that that’s where she wanted to go.

She teaches English out there. She’s home now because of the pandemic, but when she was there, when she wasn’t in school during when school was off, she would teach English and just... I went out there to see her, and see the campus and all that, and so, a lot of that’s because of Lakeside, because of her time at Lakeside. She had her share of challenges as well, but she was able to also go on to do some really amazing things and still is, as a young person.