Karen Frillmann, Class of 1975, spoke fondly on the years she spent at Martin Luther School, explaining how she credits the religious education she was exposed to for the success in her career. Karen attended SUNY Oneonta after Martin Luther School, pursuing Literature and Education when she soon realized her passion for story-telling. She was able to produce and perform readings at the campus coffee house that she felt were important for people to hear and understand. She finished her credits at WNYC, and started working there full-time right after graduation. She is now the Executive Producer in the Narrative Unit, working in Radio and Podcasting at WNYC. She has worked on a number of documentaries which shed light on social issues such as inequality and racism in our communities.
Q: Karen, what were some of your most memorable experiences at MLS?
Karen: What was remarkable about MLS is that it was a friendly and warm place to go to school - warm in the sense of how people interacted with the each other. After graduation when I heard how other people experienced school with cliques —this didn’t happen in my experience at MLS. It was a safe place... it was a small place. I played on the basketball team there, I ran track, I took advantage of the athletics, and that was very positive for me. The general atmosphere of the school was nice and I don’t take that for granted given what a lot of other school atmospheres sounded like.
Q: Who were some of your favorite teachers at MLS?
Karen: I remember Diane Armstrong in English, Mr. Boos for Algebra, Mr. Bitten for World History and Rev. Benke.
Q: Have you stayed in touch with other Alumni?
Karen: Yeah, I was just in Maspeth the other night for the Spring Soirée and I saw a number of Alumni including Mark Hoffacker and Steve Jones who was honored. Facebook has also been a great way for all of us to stay in touch and see where everyone is now.
Q: Karen, based on your experience why would you say MLS is the Small School – Smart Choice?
Karen: The less that children become a number and can be seen as individuals instead, the better. The learning environment is better. Children get attention and I think that is a very positive aspect vs. going to a bigger high school in New York City. You are able to develop as an individual.
Q: What is a piece of advice you have for current MLS students?
Karen: Stay engaged – it is very hard when you're in high school because it doesn’t seem like it matters. Take every opportunity you have there. You're learning and you're figuring out who you are what you care about. If there is something you feel interested and engaged in, cultivate it... go after it and pursue it outside of the classroom. If you read something that gets your attention, go find more by that writer – it's all in your control and your power. So often you want teachers to do it for you, but it's up to you. If you find something that fascinates you or inspires you – pursue it. Take advantage of what is there.
Q: What is a piece of advice you have for graduating MLS Students?
Karen: I hear so much about college and choosing the right college. I do think getting some college education is really critical for getting into certain professional worlds. I started my very first job as a Secretary, so don’t be afraid to take a job that you think is below you. You don’t know who you will meet or what you will learn. Take a job in a place you are interested, even if it’s the lowest entry level position. Find a way to get your foot in the door and see if it is right for you.
Q: Why would you recommend MLS to parents looking for a new school today?
Karen: There are teachers who really care here – that was the experience that I had. I think the culture of the school is a positive one. I do think every person is different but I think the school was a very steady, consistent place. I think the positive culture really does come because it is a Lutheran School – it's part of the DNA of the place. In many ways you learn to get along with people and to treat people respectfully – all life lessons that are important – it helps people get along in the world.
Karen fondly remembered her school years, and hearing stories from the Bible that spurred her passion for story-telling in her career.
Karen: From the time I was a small child I was steeped in the stories of the Bible – I knew them and heard them over and over. I was always fascinated by these stories. I was always taking them apart and finding out what they were about, what was I supposed to understand from them, and what the meaning of the stories were. The power of story and the ability of stories to be transformative was something I learned as a child and I'm very aware of that."
Karen's work is available on iTunes and on WNYC's website. She recently finished a piece titled "Caught," which is about kids in the juvenile system. You can listen to this here. Social issues have always been very central to the work she does, and she believes strongly that people need to be aware of the inequality and racism that exists in our society. She also produced a podcast series called, "There Goes the Neighborhood," which you can listen to here. Karen has also been active in promoting swimming in the Hudson River near Beacon, NY. "I worked with the late, great Pete Seeger who was a Founder of our organization. Every year we have a one mile cross-river swim. This year the swim will be on July 28th, 2018." Details for this event can be found here.
We are all inspired by the incredible stories Karen is telling today to create change in our community. Thank you for being a part of our MLS family, Karen.
To see more of our Alumni stories, visit our Cougar Blog on the new website.