“Not your average American high school story” is how Virginia Gamma Bianca Navarro Bowman describes her experience at Phillips Academy Andover. It was an easy decision for Bianca to attend Phillips as her mother, Virginia Gamma Chandri Navarro, had also attended. She went to the boarding school as an excited 14-year-old. Bianca knew Phillips had an academically rigorous environment that allowed students, like her, freedom to choose classes that best suited them individually. She also gained the “college independence,” which meant living in a dorm, waking up, going to class, responsible for her schedule and, of course, living with people who eventually became her best friends.
After graduation, Bianca was prepared for college, but not emotionally ready for it. She pursued another not-so-average experience. Instead of immediately going into a four-year institution, Bianca took a gap year. Bianca went back to live at home as she wanted to figure out if education was a viable field for her. Bianca spent six months gaining experience in a jumpstart preschool literacy program serving as a Teaching Assistant and focusing on bilingual education. Through a connection her mother had, Bianca found a family in need of an au pair for their daughter. Bianca moved to Madrid, Spain, for six months to teach English and American culture to the daughter. Additionally, Bianca completed coursework to receive an English as a Second Language teaching certification. After the year of exploration, Bianca reaffirmed her future career working in education and was ready for the College of William & Mary.
Both of Bianca’s parents attended William & Mary so it was familiar to her. It also peaked her interested to attend school at a place she often visited as a child. She arrived to campus and loved the feeling the community gave her: people who cared deeply for one another and were passionate about what they were doing. I believe this is what William & Mary calls “The Tribe.” It is not only their mascot, but it is their feeling of family.
Bianca found additional support and family when she joined Pi Beta Phi. Her mom loved her own Pi Phi experiences, but stayed unbiased during recruitment. Her mom admitted after Bianca received a bid that she would have been sad if Bianca did not join Pi Phi. From Phillips Academy, College of William & Mary and now Pi Beta Phi, Bianca teases, “ I am turning out exactly like her.” I know she would not have it any other way. Chandri came back to William & Mary for her 30th anniversary Homecoming and celebrated with her Virginia Gamma sisters. After seeing her mother’s joy, Bianca said, “It made me excited for the next three years.” But I think her mother has actually proven Bianca has a lot to look forward to with her Pi Phi sisters for the rest of her life.