Scholarship Breakfast

On November 3, Greenwich Academy welcomed back Fritzie Andrade ’99 to address an audience of financial aid supporters at the annual Scholarship Breakfast. Fritzie, the accomplished Director of Video at New York Media, provided a poignant perspective on her time at GA, now nearly 20 years graduated.  

In her moving remarks, she challenged the audience with her recollections: “The teachers at this school mentored me, supported my creativity, and refused to let me fall through the cracks. They taught me to be tough and never be afraid to speak up or share my ideas. This is a place where girls can be who they’re supposed to be and not who society wants them to be. Shouldn’t we allow as many young women as possible to grow and learn in an environment like this one, regardless of income? What will those women give back to the world if afforded the opportunity?" The room responded with a standing ovation, concluding a truly memorable morning. 

We invite you to learn more about Fritzie below, and we encourage you to read her comments in their entirety and view the video of her speech. 

Introduction

Just think: 15 years of gathering together to feature 20 outstanding alumnae and their stories of foundational starts at GA. And today: no exception.

This past April, our alumnae office hosted an evening in NYC for graduates interested in learning about GA’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. That event brought together 30 participants, including today’s esteemed speaker, Fritzie Andrade, Class of ’99, for open dialog with faculty and staff involved in this important work. Once the program got underway, Fritzie immediately distinguished herself with pointed and thought-provoking commentary, which propelled the rest of us into truly honest and meaningful conversation. We quickly recognized that we were in the midst of a highly capable journalist, someone who knew just how to elicit a story and then weave together the significant threads.

In the early 1990s, thanks to her mother, who worked in the Stamford public schools and was always on top of the best educational opportunities, Fritzie participated in GA’s summer GATE program, now approaching its 30th year of operation and still offering an amazing monthlong program of academic enrichment to 60 talented and motivated public school girls from underserved communities. GATE continues to be fully funded and staffed by GA, with last summer’s faculty including 10 Academy teachers and 30 Upper School volunteer students.

From GATE, Fritzie made the leap to GA entering Group VII in 1993. Quickly immersing herself in academics and the arts, Fritzie shone in the classroom and in every stage production. Notes Fritzie, “I was in so many plays at GA: Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, all the musicals, The Dining Room, Play On!, The Crucible...I can hardly remember what else. My entire high school career consisted of shuttling from dance class to play rehearsal and back.”

We managed to track down GA’s 1990’s drama coach Dianne O’Neill who effused:

“My most cherished memory of the wonderful Fritzie Andrade was seeing her onstage in Scotland during the 1998 Greenwich Academy trip to the amazing Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Fritzie was performing in the ludicrously difficult David Ives piece Universal Language. The play was a tongue twisting nightmare, and in typical Fritzie style, she made it look breathtakingly easy, and thanks to her talent, that show got four-star reviews, and played to a week of packed houses. What a joy to coach she was!”

Following GA, it was off to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, with a major in theater; and, a subsequent graduate degree from City University’s School of Journalism where she was first in her class as well as the Punch Sulzberger Fellow, and Time Inc. Scholar. And then, an increasingly impressive career in video journalism, producing and editing for the New York Times, NBC, Vice Media, and the Gizmodo Media Group, where she served as executive video director of the company websites Gizmodo, Jezebel, and Deadspin. New York Media recently appointed Fritzie its director of video, where she, along with her team of 10 producers, will lead the strategic direction of the company’s video programming for its brands, including Vulture, the Cut, Daily Intelligencer, Select All, and Grub Street.

How many of us turn first to the 36 Hours column in the Sunday Times Travel Section? Well, the ever creative Fritzie produced the video version of the 36 Hours series for the Times, which won a Webby in 2015.

Fritzie has been an involved and helpful mentor for GA’s Career Resource Center, speaking with our young alumnae interested in media opportunities and internships; and after our breakfast today, she will guest lecture at two back-to-back GA film classes. Fritzie, imagine if you were at GA today, where three faculty teach110 film students and our labs boast an impressive 11 edit suites and seven professional-grade cameras. What a launch for our film students! And following class, Fritzie will connect with Upper School students involved in diversity work, as she also did last spring over Reunion Weekend, and which we know will be equally impactful today.

Fritzie, thank you so much for living GA’s motto Toward the Building of Character. Please join me in welcoming, from the Class of 1999, Fritzie Andrade!

Keynote Speech: Fritzie Andrade ’99

 

Good morning! What a pleasure it is to be back at Greenwich Academy, a school that has changed so much and yet stayed the same in so many ways. When Donna Byrnes reached out and asked if I’d be willing to speak at the upcoming scholarship breakfast, I was flattered, but also not entirely sure what I might have to say. Typically young women not that far removed from their high school experience are invited to speak. Me—I’m 36-years-old and have been away from GA for just shy of 20 years. And, like so many creative types, much of my time here was spent as the walking cliché of an angsty teenager who couldn’t WAIT to leave. Back then, as far as I was concerned, Greenwich Academy was just a layover until I reached my final, much more cosmopolitan life. It took at least a decade before I would come to realize just how much my time at this school helped mold me into the adult I would eventually become— into the adult I am today.

In order to understand how much of an impact GA had on this present-day version of myself, I first need to take you back in time. Consider this the flashback portion of my speech.

My parents were married when they were teenagers in Mexico. My father had mostly grown-up in Connecticut and, shortly after the wedding, he convinced my then 17-year-old mother to move back with him. I was born not long after. You might think that the closeness in age my mother and I shared would have made my mom a “cool mom.” In fact, to this day people constantly ask me if my mom is like the mom from “Gilmore Girls.” Let me tell you— she is NOT. Despite her youth, or maybe because of it, my mother was EXTREMELY strict and, driven by an intense fear that I, too, might make irreversible mistakes at a young age, she made sure that I was occupied every minute of the day. Tap, ballet, figure skating, cheerleading, girl scouts, tennis...if it existed within a 20-mile radius, I was probably there. At one point, she even made me attend a stamp club for children even though I’d never collected stamps a day in my life. Summer camp at GA was one of those activities. So, naturally, when the opportunity presented itself to attend this beautiful school on a full scholarship, my mother was THRILLED. Here was a chance for her daughter to receive a great education with an extra long school day and countless extra curricular activities! It really was a mother’s dream come true. In 1993, I begrudgingly left behind my friends and my six-hour school day in Stamford and began seventh grade at Greenwich Academy.

The first year was the hardest. The schools I attended up until that point weren’t anywhere near as demanding as this one and there was a very steep learning curve. The large discrepancy between academic standards at different schools is actually incredibly common, and typically come to light at the college level when lower income students suddenly find themselves in a classroom with students who are significantly better prepared.  In my case, I was forced to face it at a younger and much more fragile age. In an instant I had gone from being the best student in the class to, frankly, the worst. And I didn’t like how it felt. I BEGGED my mother to let me return to my old school. To her credit, she stood her ground and in her classic no-nonsense manner, told me I was just going to have to figure it out. So I did. But I didn’t do it alone. After my mother alerted my teachers to my frantic state, they collectively rallied around me to provide hours upon hours of tutoring and individual attention. Some of them even stopped grading me for a semester to help relieve my anxiety. And it worked. A year later, I was all caught up and speaking French, discovering a love of Shakespeare, and writing research papers on the devaluation of the Mexican peso. When the spring middle school production of “Alice and Wonderland” came around, I was finally comfortable enough with my new surroundings to audition for a part. That year I played the Cheshire Cat in a very unconventional production and I loved it. I had, at last, found my place at Greenwich Academy.

By the time I’d reached Upper School, most of my time outside the classroom was devoted to performing both at and away from GA. In 1998, the summer before my senior year, the Red Chair Players (named after a beat up red chair that used to live in the now demolished black box theater) were scheduled to perform at the Edinburgh fringe festival. It was my first trip to Europe and I was PSYCHED to be traveling across the ocean with some of my closest friends. For two weeks we immersed ourselves in theater culture, meeting actors from around the world, hawking our show on The Royal Mile, and performing every night in front of an international audience. It’s an experience that would be exciting at any age, but as a 17 year old, I was forever changed.

Fast forward six years later. I had graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a degree in theater and had been working at a luxury senior living facility as a move-in coordinator, helping the elderly parents of celebrities ease their way into communal living. My friends had heard me go on and on for years about that magical trip to Edinburgh, so when they suggested we self-produce a show to take to the Edinburgh Fringe, I figured, “Why not?.” For seven months, we rehearsed tirelessly while holding down full-time jobs, raising money along the way by throwing house parties and talent showcases in parts of Brooklyn that had yet to be deemed cool. We settled on Nicky Silver’s ensemble comedy The Altruists. It’s the story of a group of wannabe activist friends who suddenly find themselves in murky moral territory when they decide to cover up a murder. I took on the part of the hyper-emotional soap star Sydney who is responsible for pulling the trigger at the beginning of the play. At the end of July, I quit my job and off we went to Scotland. And wouldn’t you know it? The show was a hit. The reviews were glowing and my face was huge in the paper and we sold out all the performances that followed. We proved ourselves in Edinburgh on our own terms with our own production! This should, in theory, have been the beginning of a happy life in theater for me.

But the plot shifts. Because I had quit my job, I decided to stay in Edinburgh for an extra month. During that time, I began writing dance, theater and rock reviews for a small local publication and, very quickly, realized that I was enjoying writing much more than performing. Now, had I listened to Linda Vasu, my English teacher for three out of my four years of upper school, I probably would’ve come to this realization much sooner in life and saved myself a lot of trouble. But, like I said, I was angsty and stubborn in my teen years. So instead I was 24 years old and coming to terms with the fact that after a lifetime of dedicating myself to performing, I wanted to switch careers. I came back to New York, eventually enrolled in graduate school to study journalism, and quickly and surreally landed at The New York Times before graduating. All this because of a high school drama club trip to Edinburgh.

Now, what conclusions, if any, can be drawn? Greenwich Academy is a place that encourages young women to pursue what they love in a small, safe environment. I can’t say for sure whether or not I would have the career I have today had it not been for my time here. What I can say is that the teachers at this school mentored me, supported my creativity, and refused to let me fall through the cracks. They taught me to be tough and never be afraid to speak up or share my ideas. This is a place where girls can be who they’re supposed to be and not who society wants them to be. Shouldn’t we allow as many young women as possible to grow and learn in an environment like this one, regardless of income? What will those women give back to the world if afforded the opportunity?

I work in the cross-section of media and video production, which as you’re all likely aware by now, is going through a very public shaming. Women in our industry, myself included, have faced all levels of gender pay gaps, sexual harassment, instances of job discrimination and other horrible challenges. Growing up in an environment like the one here at GA, the idea that anyone would think for a moment that women are lesser— it felt foreign. Of course we read about it in our history books and saw it in the world around us, but here, within our bubble, it simply wasn’t the case. Here, every one of us MATTERED. Some might argue that that’s the benefit of an all-girls education. But I can tell you one thing— knowing without a DOUBT that you matter gives you a lot of strength and power in the outside world when people try to treat you like you don’t.

Over the years I’ve worked closely on diversity and mentoring initiatives for women and minorities in the workplace. As a Mexican woman myself, it’s especially important to make myself available to people across the industry, and I rarely turn down requests for phone calls, meetings, or coffee with young people seeking advice.  Women in particular reach out almost weekly asking for tips on how to ask for raises, negotiating salaries at new jobs, or even just about how to deal with an inappropriate co-worker. I guess you could say that in some small way, I’m constantly working to make women in the industry feel like I felt during my 6 years at this school. I want them to feel like they’re important, like they’re heard and like they matter. I want them to feel like they can share their thoughts and ideas without judgment or repercussion. Like they can be the best version of themselves. It’s the greatest gift this school gave me and it’s a gift I hope you’ll continue to give many other promising young women for generations to come. Thank you. 

For more inspiring stories from GA's Financial Aid program, read our brochure:

 

36 Hours in Cape Town, 
produced by Fritzie Andrade ’99

Scholarship Breakfast Photo Gallery

"I guess you could say that in some small way, I’m constantly working to make women in the industry feel like I felt during my six years at this school.
I want them to feel like they’re important, like they’re heard and like they matter. I want them to feel like they can share their thoughts and ideas without judgment or repercussion. Like they can be the best version of themselves. It’s the greatest gift this school gave me, and it’s a gift I hope you’ll continue to give many other promising young women for generations to come."
—Fritzie Andrade ’99

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