Just five years after his Shipley graduation, Nate Bronstein ’08 is already on track to embody the key Shipley mission of generating compassionate participation in the world.
Though Bronstein wholeheartedly attributes his Shipley experience with solidifying his now-lifelong commitment to leadership, his service-oriented mindset actually originated well before his tenure at Shipley began.
“It’s cliché, I know,” says Bronstein, “but ever since 9/11, I’ve always had a strong interest in serving my country in one way or another.” With a deep-seated drive to give back to his community, Bronstein sought out ways to serve, including joining the student government at his middle school.
When he arrived at Shipley in 2004, Bronstein was already primed to join Shipley’s student government, where he eventually became Shipley’s All-School President in his senior year. “As I hit high school, I started to realize that politics and policy were where I could have the biggest effect, and where my skill set would be most suited,” he says.
But Bronstein’s Shipley experience went well beyond an excellent education and community-service opportunities. “Shipley became a home away from home for me,” says Bronstein, who names Mrs. Hoops, Mr. Klein, Mr. Simpson—who ran the Model UN program in which Bronstein was active—Mrs. Pendergast, Mrs. Deitrich, and Dr. Piltch as just a few of the members of faculty and administration who became mentors.
“Shipley was the first time I truly had a genuine community of people who cared about me and were competent and intelligent and wanted to make change, as well,” he says.
That caring and support became crucial to Bronstein during one of the hardest times of his young life. “I was the All School President during one of the toughest years of my life—it was the year my father passed away,” he says. “I remember the school really did absolutely everything they could to support me, including canceling classes so everyone could show up at the funeral.”
The Shipley community’s demonstration of compassion during such a trying period gave Bronstein a fresh understanding of just what leadership could mean. “I realized leadership wasn’t just a buzzword or a title in an organization, but an actual connection that you serve for and with people,” he says. “That defined my sense of community and the role I wanted to play in it.”
Taking to heart the lessons learned and interests sparked at Shipley, Bronstein moved to Washington, D.C. to study at American University, which is ranked one of the most politically active schools in the country.
Never one to shy away from utter immersion in his work, Bronstein pursued multiple degrees in political science and international relations, Spanish and creative writing, and advanced leadership studies. “I once again had a very leadership-based experience,” he says, “serving as the student body president and head of a number of other organizations, including leadership roles in the Model UN at American, the improv troupe, and Colleges Against Cancer.”
In recognition of his studies in youth civic engagement, which has since become the core of Bronstein’s focus, he was also a Truman Scholarship finalist, a huge honor in the world of student leadership and service, and was the commencement speaker at his 2008 Shipley graduation ceremony.
Beyond his academic and extracurricular responsibilities, Bronstein began a collaboration with his student body president predecessor at American University to create Cahoots
, an online platform that—once it’s up and running—will assist student organizations with effective communication. Thus far, the team has created an information architecture, registered the company as an LLC in Pennsylvania, and taken it through civic incubators. “There’s a severe technical lack in the tools available for people to start coalitions, create projects, and make significant scalable change,” says Bronstein. “We sought to create a one-stop network for making change in the world.”
Now on his next stop towards affecting change in the world, Bronstein has placed Cahoots on hold to serve as a member of Teach for America in Philadelphia as a full-time middle school science teacher at Young Scholars Frederick Douglass in North Philadelphia. “I feel like I’m making a tangible difference,” he says. “When you’re in policy, you spend a lot of time talking the talk and now I get to walk the walk a little bit.”
Though teaching might seem like a departure from Bronstein’s policy-focused trajectory, he feels it’s just another step towards becoming an effective leader. “I think teaching is part of the leadership experience,” he says. “In my mind, the single greatest way to solve all of our national and world problems is to attack it at the source, which is this growing gap of youth underachievement and disengagement.”
Concurrently, Bronstein is earning a master’s degree in education at the University of Pennsylvania during his two-year corps experience and will then immediately follow that degree program with a double masters in social policy and public administration at Penn's prestigious Fels Institute of Government.
Always the multitasker, Bronstein also recently signed with an acting and modeling agency and is currently a model for Forman Mills, too.
For the foreseeable future, certainly, Bronstein will be incredibly busy. But beyond academia, his career path remains somewhat indefinite and certainly open to options. Though politics or policy change may seem like the obvious choice for a professional career, Bronstein is no admirer of the current political landscape. “The level of political gridlock, dissatisfaction, cynicism, and lack of values and morals in the system are things that keep me up at night,” he says. “But I know that that’s where I’m headed, and that’s where I’ll end up.”
Ultimately, Bronstein’s greatest ambition all ties back to his earliest endeavors to give back to the world. “My goal is to be able to build a world, or at least make some kind of move towards a world, in which kids can be happier, safer and have the resources they need to make a bigger change in this world. I just want to build a better world for our kids,” he says.
But no matter where Bronstein’s formidable drive propels him, he’ll forever ascribe the foundation for his climb to the support he received during his time on the Shipley campus. “Shipley was the catapult that launched my career,” he says.