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July 1, 2024

New York City Ballet Director of Relationship Marketing Dustin Brauneck ‘99 visited SPS in May.


For Dustin Brauneck ‘99, coming to terms with his sexuality as a teenager felt “like discovering I was the villain in my own story.” At St. Paul’s School, he found refuge in German language classes and the SPS Ballet Company, but it was during a three-month independent study with the American Ballet Theatre in New York City during Sixth Form winter that he found a sense of identity, in the form of a youth group at the city’s LGBT Center. He returned to SPS from his ISP determined to be for other gay students the role model he had wanted for himself, establishing the School’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA; today the Gender Sexuality Alliance) just six weeks before his graduation. Now the director of relationship marketing for  New York City Ballet, Brauneck visited Millville in May to deliver a chapel talk and to visit with SPS art students and current members of the GSA.

In his chapel talk, Brauneck recounted his previous experience of standing before the School in the Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul, anxious but eager to bear the burden of others as he invited his fellow students and SPS teachers into a conversation about how to address the topic of homosexuality. “That day brought a sense of belonging unlike any I’d ever known,” he said. “For years, I had contributed in the classrooms and dorms, rehearsal studios and stages, but I didn’t feel like I belonged until I could participate with authenticity. By opening myself, I allowed others in … . Decades later, I still draw upon the self-discovery, validation and support I gained in that process.”

Brauneck’s message in chapel was about the power and importance of community, and the role everyone at SPS can play in creating a sense of belonging for others. “Whether you identify as queer or not, we can all think of a time when we felt we didn’t belong,” he said. “Maybe you weren’t sure people wanted you somewhere. You didn’t feel enough, that you didn’t feel seen. Maybe it’s hard for you to start a conversation or you feel aimless. I’ve come to realize that community is the answer … a web of shared experiences connecting us with people we often don’t even know. It’s the foundation of compassion, how we understand and empathize with other people, and this is one of our greatest tools of peace and happiness. We don’t resolve conflict by retreating towards our differences. … Anyone can be an ally. Take the time to notice how others are feeling. Acknowledge the people around you. Be kind and foster inclusivity everywhere. Remember that each of us is stronger when we all feel that we belong.”