It’s a simple message, but a powerful one.
For 2020 Brunswick graduate Jean-Bernard Zoungrana, it’s a message that may well underpin a life that has seen him move from an early childhood with immigrant parents in New Rochelle, N.Y., through Brunswick, right on up to the storied turf at Harvard Yard.
Zoungrana’s parents immigrated to New Rochelle in 1981, hoping to start a family.
It took 10 years, but the couple was finally blessed with two boys, and when the older boy entered fifth grade, he joined the REACH Prep program and began considering private school.
After sifting through their options, the two brothers landed at Brunswick and never looked back.
Twelve eventful years later, on the verge of graduation, Zoungrana used his Senior Voice to counsel his classmates about opportunities large and small, including the simple decision to say “yes.”
“Every decision we make leads to another and another that can open millions of doors to worlds we can’t even imagine,” he said.
As an example, Zoungrana told a story about how saying “yes” on a particular day in elementary school led to a lifelong passion for music.
“I specifically remember one day when Nicky said I should come to this after-school program and learn how to play music,” he told his classmates. “At the time, I loved singing, but I didn’t know how to play any instruments besides an African drum my dad had up on our wall.
“I said yes, and that was arguably the best decision I’ve ever made. At the first meeting I was given a bass to play and I fell in love with it instantly. This grew into me teaching myself to play the guitar and piano, which are things I love to do in my free time, but would never be able to do had I said no to that opportunity.”
Zoungrana nurtured his passion for music all the way through high school, tackling roles in the musicals Hairspray and The Music Man.
He also found time to play three years of varsity football and led the team in receiving as a senior.
Lacrosse was another opportunity to which Zoungrana said “yes” – and it proved rewarding in an entirely different way.
“For me, lacrosse gave me the amazing opportunity to connect with so many more people whom I would otherwise not be as close to or even know. With this huge network I built, I had a family even larger than I could possibly imagine.
“That being so, when my mother passed away in April of 2018, I felt anything but alone.”
Graduating Cum Laude, he was also named National Football Foundation Fairfield County DeSantis/McDougall Chapter Scholar-Athlete.
He served as president of Cause4Paws ’Wick, and as a mentor at the Waterside School Club in Stamford.
His brother, Lazare ’15, played lacrosse at Virginia and graduated in 2019.