“It’s all so surreal,” says Brailen Burch. “I didn’t think I had a chance. It was crazy.” The surprise of this recognition came out of nowhere. “I just didn’t think I would be the student of the month.” But Brailen’s School Counselor, Selinna Echavarria, believed his shot at the prestigious ColorsVA Magazine student of the month award was just as good, if not better, than anyone else’s. So, she nominated him because, she says, “Brailen is very consistent. He is very devoted to his schoolwork and definitely takes advantage of his time wisely while in high school.
Brailen certainly stands out among his high school peers. “He is one of the most considerate and respectful students I teach this year. He is willing to work with anyone, and he never seeks to better himself at the expense of others, instead seeking to make those around him better,” says AP Government and Senior Scholars teacher Diane Skole. “Brailen has a depth of character and a moral center that I admire, and he leads not by judging others, but by welcoming others.”
Brailen is a senior at Patrick Henry High School with big vision to continue his education at Virginia Tech this fall. He wants to be an architect. “Ever since I was a young boy, I loved building houses on Minecraft,” Brailen shares. Brailen thinks Virginia Tech is the right University to help him fulfill that passion. His tenacity, determination and vitality would certainly help him get there. His mother, Chwanda McLaughlin, knows Brailen can handle anything that comes his way. “Brailen’s a good kid and we don’t have any trouble out of him,” she says. “He’s humble, honest and very hardworking in and out of school.” Brailen’s an enterprising person. And, his life mantra proves that. “You can’t control the situation you’re in, you can only control your outlook on that situation,” he says. That outlook on life came after a soccer injury ended his soccer playing days. However, the injury strengthened his passion for the sport and his passion for life. “I started helping and doing other hobbies. I loved drawing and building, too,” he says.
Brailen’s teachers say he exudes and demonstrates much poise and above all, great character. Brailen strives for excellence in all that he does and he represents himself with confidence. Teachers and many other adults watch and encourage other students to learn from Brailen. “He’s on top of his applications. He comes and visits me, not only when he needs something, but just to build rapport and relationships, and that’s respectful,” Echavarria adds.
“I have always been impressed with Brailen’s inquisitive nature and his desire to continually improve,” says Drawing and Studio Art teacher, Johnathan Murrill. Brailen actually likes improving. “A lot of people come to school and they get good grades, but I like school. I like learning new information,” he says. “I get to learn about topics I want to know about. I have the desire to learn and get better.”
As a senior, Brailen has demonstrated leadership, offering advice to younger, providing artistic advice during critiques and participating in spirited discussion.
Brailen’s character is what sets him apart from those around him and makes him a worthy of ColorsVA student of the month. Brailen’s mother could not agree more. “I’m very proud of Brailen,” McLaughlin adds. “Brailen has a village that helps raise him. He has great role models in his life. I do not do this on my own. He has wonderful stepparents and a father who is present to help pull it all together. I’m thankful, very thankful,” she says. Brailen is a fine example, not only for his peers at school, but to his younger brother as well and that is a good example of things going right in the world. McLaughlin says, “Now who wouldn’t be proud of that? Who would not be proud of that?”