Community grapples with Robert Kraft’s alleged crimes and his donation to the school

Sidonie Brown, Arts Editor

Robert Kraft donated $100,000 to the African American and Latino Scholars Program (AALSP) during the fall of this school year following a nearly two-year long process of planning. After news broke out in February that Kraft had allegedly solicited prostitution, faculty and students came together to discuss what ramifications his actions would have on the grant.

In a letter written to Headmaster Anthony Meyer on Nov. 9, 2018, Kraft presented the high school with the Kraft Opportunity Fund for Brookline High School African American and Latino Scholars. Currently the chief executive officer of the Kraft Group and owner of the New England Patriots, Kraft graduated from Brookline High School in 1959.

According to Stephanie Hunt, the Program Coordinator of the African American and Latino Scholars Program (AALSP), the purpose of the grant is to provide the AALSP class of 2022 with enriching academic opportunities and resources throughout their time at the high school. By following the same students over multiple years, the hope is to see more students of color involved in areas of the high school that are currently and have historically been lacking in diversity.

Kraft wrote in his letter: “While it took awhile for the initiative to take shape, I hope it will address the inequities in access to opportunities that traditionally exist for this population — and ensure the scholars have as rich a high school experience as their peers. I also hope this pilot initiative will provide the success data that can attract additional support for future students.”

Robert Kraft graduated from the high school in 1959. He is known as the CEO of the Kraft Group and owner of the New England Patriots.

According to Assistant Headmaster Hal Mason, this donation is the largest individual gift that the high school has ever received from a single donor. When Kraft first reached out to Meyer, there were no plans as to how the $100,000 would be used.

“This grant is great because it {comes from} somebody that understands Brookline culture and therefore knows that we like to have freedom in such things,” Mason said.

In February, Kraft was charged with two accounts of soliciting prostitution at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida as part of a larger investigation into possible human trafficking within Florida massage parlors. (No evidence of trafficking has been found at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa at this time). For the faculty involved in administering the Opportunity Fund and the students that it was made to benefit, these accusations opened conversations about the use of the money and the actions of who it came from.

On Wednesday, April 10, Hunt and AALSP Teacher Leader Oyeshiku Carr met with Meyer, Dean of Faculty Jenee Uttaro and Superintendent Andrew Bott to discuss the future of the grant. Among other possibilities, they considered returning the money. According to Bott, a few people had reached out to him concerning the allegations against Kraft.

“Do we hold the funds and continue to spend them as planned or do we look for different funds to support the same thing?” Bott said in an interview that took place before the meeting.

In the end, the faculty decided to continue along the plan outlined in the Opportunity Fund.

“Ultimately we decided that what’s best for our students is to keep the money and to do good work with the money,” Hunt said.

Prior to this meeting, Hunt and Carr had sat down with the students on the other end of the grant to hear their opinions and take their stance into account for the final decision.

“It was really powerful sitting with the freshmen, and you know obviously they understand the gravity of this situation, but they also understood that this money could be used to do really good things,” Hunt said. “None of them had these delusions that Mr. Kraft was this perfect man leading right into it.”

To AALSP freshman Ali Arvelo, the news involving Kraft was disappointing but did not come as a surprise. She said that she worries about what message will be sent by keeping the money.

“I honestly feel conflicted because that money would help our program a lot in teaching us about different opportunities we have. But it’s—I wouldn’t call it dirty money—but it’s not money from the kind of person that I would want,” Arvelo said. “So I’m not sure if we should accept it or give it back. I just don’t know.”

The African American and Latino Scholars Program has used money from the Kraft Opportunity Fund for Brookline High School African American and Latino Scholars to go on a field trip to NESN; however, recent allegations against Robert Kraft have spurred debate as to whether or not to keep the money donated by Kraft. SCHOLARS OF BHS INSTAGRAM

The AALSP class of 2022 has already begun to use the Opportunity Fund to fund enriching experiences. According to Hunt, they have spent a day at the New England Sports Network (NESN) headquarters in Watertown and have visited the architecture and design firm Perkins+Will. On top of these field trips, the grant funded a panel of three women of color on their experiences in the field of technology, and it will provide the money necessary for participation in the Latino and African American Tenacity Challenge, an annual academic competition.

For Hunt, it has been exciting to see the students form connections with professionals and start conversations about their future. An example of this was when Arvelo went on the trip to NESN and learned about the varied career opportunities within television.

“At first I didn’t think I could do anything related to live television,” Arvelo said. “But I learned that there were so many different facets of that kind of career that I think that opened just a lot of options, so I was grateful to go on that field trip.”

Looking forward, there is an ongoing discussion taking place around how to balance the portrayal of Kraft’s behavior with the positive influence of his donation.

“The superintendent’s office is currently working on how to recognize the donation and to recognize the positive work of the donation,” Hunt said. “{But} to not let this news story and the actions of Mr. Kraft overshadow the work that is being done here.”