Alex Rosenthal + Joey Bertagna '12
Friends for Life: A GUS Story
The annual sixth grade trip to William Lawrence Camp was designed to build community and relationships. For Alex Rosenthal and Joey Bertagna, GUS ‘12, the goal was accomplished but not exactly as planned. As brand new Glen Urquhart students, the two boys found the idea of “going off to a camp for an overnight on the second day of school kind of terrifying,” says Bertagna. To deal with the anxiety, he and Rosenthal bonded with each other and three other new students, Liam Prior, Sam Corbett, and Evan DaCosta.
Their nervousness turned out to be unfounded and the trip to William Lawrence is now among their treasured memories of GUS. The bonus is that the friendships born of the occasion have grown and endured throughout their middle school years, their high school years apart, and now during college.
Although Rosenthal and Bertagna are both at Harvard College, they are in different graduation classes since Rosenthal spent a gap year in Southeast Asia and Israel.
Catching up with them in Harvard Square in May, it was easy to see the depth and ease of their friendship. They are sure that they and the three others will be friends for life. “We can come back together and we may have not seen each other for four months but it’s as if we hung out yesterday,” says Rosenthal. “I don’t see that with other friendships.”
“I feel like GUS fosters those long term friendships,” adds Bertagna. “There were 15 or 16 boys in our grade. We were all friends but we sorted into smaller groups. We five were always hanging out. We shared years of intense time together.”
“With GUS being so small, you knew every single person so well,” Rosenthal continues. “It was an experience unlike what you have in high school or college. If I ran into anyone from my GUS class, i’d feel totally comfortable and know where they were coming from.”
Both young men realize the rarity of their long term friendship with each other and the other three GUS alums. They may casually say to other friends, “That’s my friend Alex from middle school” or “That’s my friend Joey from middle school” and others look at them with some incredulity. “You mean high school” is often the response. “No, middle school!” they repeat.
There was, however, one occasion that challenged the Rosenthal/Bertagna friendship, the pals share. Rosenthal table-topped Bertagna and Bertagna tattled on him to Head of School Mr. Nance. For the uninitiated, table-topping involves one person crouching behind the victim while a third person pushes the victim over the human “table.” Admittedly, that was not the only time either boy got in trouble. Bretagna was once chastised for throwing an orange at his older brother (he still doesn’t understand why his brother got in trouble, too), and Rosenthal “got yelled at” for not wearing a belt on Bread Day.
Rosenthal and Bertagna fondly recall many GUS traditions. “Bread Day, the Boar Cup, May Day, the Cereal Bowl were all great,” said Bertagna. “Oh, and Grand Friends Day.” Rosenthal added, “All the trips we did were so great. I was never into the outdoor stuff, but they were great experiences.”
Recalling academics, Rosenthal is grateful for how GUS expanded his perspective. “Before I came to GUS, I thought I knew what I liked,” he said. “GUS opened me up to so many different things that I wouldn’t have considered. It made me more worldly.” Bertagna appreciates the interdisciplinary approach, particularly with the humanities in eighth grade. He missed this kind of “crossover in different courses” in high school, he says, recalling the White Shirt project as another valued example of the GUS approach.
Perhaps the happiest memory, though, is of the Boar Cup competition when Rosenthal, Bertagna and the rest of their team - their usual posse of friends - lip synced to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” while decked out in boas, oversized glasses, and popped collars. “I think it helped us win,” says Bertagna. “We won by five points.” Rosenthal adds, “I think we won by more.” “Maybe we didn’t win at all,” Bertagna concludes with hearty laugh.