Cupcakes and Coloring Sheets: Brace Center Hosts Inaugural Tea Party

Rows of vanilla and chocolate frosted cupcakes, tea bags and hot water dispensers, and an assortment of crayons and coloring pages decorated the Brace Center for the Gender Studies’s first Brace Tea Party last Friday. Students and faculties dropped by the Brace Center in Abbot Campus after All-School Meeting (ASM) to grab a quick bite and a drink, some staying to socialize or study on the Center’s couches. 

The Brace Center Student Advisory Board originated the idea and worked with Patricia Har, Brace Center Director and Instructor in English, to plan the event, according to board member Max Berkenblit ’24. Berkenblit explained that the Brace Center decided to host the event as a friendly way to open up the space for students.

“We just thought it would be a really fun way for people to come in during the school day on a Friday decompress a little bit, with it also functioning a little bit as a study space, just to have a place to hang out with people over tea snacks, which are always big draws for more people to come. We thought it would be a good way to both get people and provide a chill place for people to discover Brace,” said Berkenblit. 

Founded in 1996, the Brace Center was created to provide a centralized space for members of the Andover community to engage with social issues related to gender. Berkenblit said the Tea Party marks a change in the types of events the Brace Center will host for the rest of the year. According to Berkenblit, the Student Advisory Board has decided to host more small events similar to the Tea Party rather than hosting a few larger events.

“This year, we were focusing more on these Brace Tea [Parties] instead, which require less board members to plan [than big events]. It’s a lot easier on everyone and it’ll allow for a lot more people to come to Brace over the year, instead of just coming to three bigger things and study hours,” said Berkenblit. 

Sakina Cotton ’24, another member of the Brace Center Student Advisory Board, shared her experience with spending time in the Brace Center. She described the Brace Center as a space that students could use to relax and enjoy games.

“My favorite part was when we did a mini deep dive in Brace, [into the] closets or the kitchen. It was cool seeing really old stuff in Brace and it was kind of Halloween-y in and of itself. Seeing the event play out, it was nice to have all the good energy that people brought, in making the space their own, because [Brace is] still what others make of it, and people just [having] fun with it,” said Cotton.

Jaylen Daley ’25, who attended the tea party, encouraged other students to consider visiting Brace, which he described as a safe space for members of the queer community. Comparing it to the Office of Community and Multicultural Development (CaMD), Daley expressed hope that more students would change their idea of Brace as a remote space on campus. 

“I just hope more people come to Brace as a resource. It’s mainly the people who live very, very deep in Abbot [who visit]… I feel like it’s really important, especially for people that are a part of the queer community, to utilize that space because it’s really safe. It’s like an extra CaMD that’s really not talked about… I really hope that a lot of other people on campus [will] come to this space and hang out because Brace deserves the love,” said Daley.

 Cristina Donovan ’24, another attendee, also expressed enthusiasm about the event. They described the coloring sheets, tea, and timing of the event as a useful opportunity for students to destress in a friendly environment.

“I think it’s very hard to find free time at [Andover], so after ASM when we’re all by the chapel, it was a good time to walk over… [and we] definitely had enough time to get lunch. I find it really enjoyable. And the timing worked out… I will definitely be going back, because I love [the] people, and they did have good tea,” said Donovan.